Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Starbucks and me just being relaxed

Location: Starbucks, I've stopped on my way home to redeem my birthday drink :)

Time: 2:30 PM, after seeing Neila and painting for a really nice therapy session

Mood (1 to 10, 10 = fantastic, 1 = absolutely horrible): 6, better than 3 hrs ago because I am making decisions and deciding to live my life and not care that I'm walking into a Starbucks (with maybe 2 people even sitting inside) in my house slippers, and not caring :P

Last Meal: I ate cereal this morning

Coffee: I had one small cup at like 11, and I'm at Starbucks drinking a grande peppermint mocha. :) I can tell that I needed more coffee. xP

General schedule of the day: Tonight, Alex and I are going to hang out, whether we go out to dinner or hang out at his place, I'm not sure. We're going out either tonight or tomorrow night.

Objective: I'm writing here so that I can figure out where I am at the moment, and what I feel like I want to do with the rest of my day. I want to get into a headspace where I can decide what will be helpful for me when I feel "meh" and "ugh" like this morning and so many other mornings. Like knowing that coffee really helps.

Dump Zone:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Productivity is the bomb

I want to document this because this morning, I'm feeling great. I'm proud of my accomplishments and confident in my abilities. I was so proud this morning of my idea to use my hand mixer to whisk the milk in my coffee and make it frothy—I don't understand why it made me so gleeful to see the bubbles and the fact that I didn't make a mess when I used the mixer in a coffee cup. But it was so great. x) I couldn't stop smiling.
And lately, I've gotten on top of several things that had been weighing me down. The mountain of dirty dishes and the sea of dirty laundry were finally dealt with, and while I'm still working at both of them on the daily, it's such a relief to not feel so overwhelmed about them anymore.
Also, I found a face soap a couple weeks ago, and this morning I used it and my face feels so soft and clean!
There's also the issue of food and groceries. I'd been avoiding spending money, but then I just didn't have any food. I especially needed meat. But yesterday, I did a Walmart grocery pickup, and it was great.
So now I have clean dishes and a countertop that's not cluttered, fresh clothes to wear instead of worrying about not having anything clean, a good cup of coffee to get me up this morning, and a kitchen stocked enough to get me a yummy, protein-rich, nutritional lunch.
This afternoon, I'm going with my coworkers are the restaurant to a food show in downtown Cincy. I'm excited, and I also don't know what it will be like. But it'll be good. :)
So here I go, I'll see if I can post pictures later.
^_^ yay for productive mornings. Thank God.

—ACS, September 25, 2018

Monday, August 27, 2018

I research randomness

Oh memes...

So I was just watching my daily meme vids, laughing to myself and taking screenshots of the best ones that I'd want to save & share.
Please enjoy a representation of my meme humor:  (1) random human comedy, (2) mental health jokes, and (3) puns.

(my apologies for the strong language)

     I've been saving memes from "meme dealers" (like those facebook pages where they repost things from tumblr, and twitter posts, or those vine compilation videos, or this one app I had called Smile that had pretty clean funny content, or what I watch these days, just meme awards videos on YouTube, and etc) for years. And, since I transferred all my files from laptop to laptop as I got hand-me-down computers as a teen (and then my very own Mac after HS graduation), I still have all of the thousands and thousands of memes and text posts and random funny content that I laughed at 10 years ago. I have ones from probably the beginning of my internet days.
     But anyway. Those were the ones from today.

     And then, there's this one: it made me laugh out loud a couple days ago when I saw it in another video, and I saw it again today in the same video as the previous memes and decided to find out what it was about.

     I want to see this video! Haha it sounds so sad!!

     So I looked it up, and this short bit was what I found first:

     It's 6 seconds, and there's garbled Japanese narration in the background, and I have no context...

     But then I looked at another Google result, and this one made more sense:

     Poor raccoon, haha. But he learns on the third try! yaaaay

Anyway. This reminds me of how I had decorated my half of our window when I was at Liberty in the motel-dorm, The Annex, with printed memes. I wonder if I have a picture...I still have all of the little papers from when I moved and took them down. 

....I just spent like an hour looking for pictures of that, but completely forgot what I was there for, so I ended up saving a bunch of photos from my Google photos in the cloud. xD
Like this, at least this one somewhat relates to my search, but it was the wrong semester:

And then I looked in the right semester, and I did find a picture of our window (hehe):

Rachel (left) and leaning-over-to-make-the-names-readable me (right)
But that was before we decorated the window. Hmmmmmm. I still have a folder of the memes I'd printed out to put in said window.

Ah, and here's a picture I had Rachel take when she pointed out that I was very dainty (or maybe she used a different word) in the way I'd pointed my toes, and it looked like the a photoshoot with a big fancy dress or something:

Okay, I'm going to stop getting stuck looking through old screenshots of Snapchats from Alex, and finish up this blog post...which is kind of a mess now...lol. 

Here are a few of the memes I had in my window:

     I loved all the music-themed ones, because in addition to being a music student myself, my roomie was into music as well--she would have made a great music student, but she had mechanical engineering to study, and that 5-year major takes a lot of intense work. 
     But yeah. :) ...The following poem resulted from my attempt to close this post quickly. It failed, but the poem was fun to create. x)

That Meme Section

Enjoy this selection 
from my meme collection,
which began as a study on culture.
If you have an objection 
to an imperfection, 
I apologize for anything vulgar.

So upon inspection,
if I find a connection
relating to anything crude,
I'll make a correction,
for I respect the protection
of any who have not yet viewed.

But my own election
is simply deflection
of content that sometimes disturbs;
They come my direction
and escape detection:
Sometimes I don't notice bad words.

—ACS, August 27, 2018

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Coffee shop pt3


A Job Offer!

"Hey, just wanted to update everybody--I just got out of my interview with The Main Cup coffee shop/restaurant in Milford, and I have a solid job offer!! I'm so excited!!
It's going to be the same number of hours & rate of pay (a bit more actually) as my nanny job that I did during the school year. I could look for a part-time job to supplement it if I need to, after working there for a few months and figuring out what I need. :)
After learning the details of the job, I now know that I am even more qualified and prepared for it than I believed I was at first. It's more food prep than barista, and I'll get to use my ServSafe certificate knowledge. I'm going to be in a learning environment, and I'll get to work with a chef and several other people in a close-knit group in the kitchen. I might get cross-trained on the Front of the House positions as well.
It's really more than I could have hoped for. Thanks for praying :)
It's a coffee shop that's expanding into a restaurant that serves weekend brunch, so the new building is going to open around September 22nd. The manager/consultant who interviewed me said he'd let me know by next week when I would start training, but most likely it will be 2 weeks before opening. So I'll probably start working the first or second week of September."


I was really expecting that I'd have to spend a lot more time looking for a job before I got one that worked for me, or even a job that would call me back. But here I am, all set to make enough money for rent and utilities and everything I pay for while living on my own, and it hasn't even been 2 weeks since I found out I needed to get a job for the fall. God is so good. =)

--ACS, August 22nd, 2018

Thursday, August 16, 2018

I finally got to use my Pokemon card!

So this week, I'm babysitting one of my second-cousin's kids, like a second-niece and second-nephew or something.

     And her little girl, who's 8 years old, is a total kindred spirit when it comes to all things nerdy. I don't know if I'm allowed to give her name online, so I'll call her Skylar. 
     Skylar's gotten into Pokemon from her dad, and their family has a huge collection of Pokemon cards. Like, a 3-inch binder with pages and pages of them, plus the three Poke-decks that they play from. And the cover of her binder has a picture of about 15 Pokemon that she drew herself! It's so cute, and it totally makes me wish I'd played Pokemon when I was little. She knows all their names, and all their evolutions (she calls them "evolvements" and I don't know enough about Pokemon to know if that's what they call the next one up, or if I'm right in thinking that they're called "evolutions" instead. Hehe). 

     So I have a Stufful card, and it's one that Alex bought at Toys-R-Us and gave to me. It's a really cute Pokemon, and this one has an ability called "Baby Doll Eyes" where it can keep the opponent's Pokemon from being able to retreat on that turn. Its secondary ability is a tackle that does, like, extra damage, and that's really good—After you've used Baby Doll Eyes and trapped your opponent, you can do that tackle and they can't get away from it.
     I had no knowledge of this before Skylar's dad told her she should teach me how to play Pokemon, since I was showing her Minecraft (she picked that up lightning fast, by the way). So she got out her personal Poke-deck and her mom's deck and set it all up at the kitchen bar for us to play. 
     I was so lost, and I had that newb feel hitting me as I had to ask her to explain each and every move to me. But she explained them all, and the cards and what they were for, each time I asked. She's a great kid.
Appraising my Pokemon card
     Soon after she set it all up, I told her, "You know, I have a Pokemon card. Just one."
     "Really? What card is it?" she asked, instantly interested.
     "I think...I know it has babydoll eyes, but I don't know..." 
     She was confused, and when I went to my purse and pulled it out of the pocket where I keep business cards, I said, "Stufful. That's the name of the Pokemon."
     "Oh, Stufful—can I see?"
     And from there she wanted to take it out of the shrink wrap cover that it was still sealed in, and she carefully slid it into one of her extra sleeves. "You can keep this," she told me, and she continued to inspect the card. "This is one of the last Stufful cards they made," she said, pointing out the number 110/149. I asked, "So there are only 149 of those cards? And I have one?"
     She then explained that there are 149 different types of Stufful Pokemon cards, and that this one has the Baby Doll Eyes attack and the Tackle attack. Then she went to her deck and pulled out another Stufful, which had a different illustration and a different set of attacks. I was intrigued. 
     Time flew by as Skylar showed me how to attack with the cards in my deck—how to set them up on my "bench"—and how my Stufful could be played at the end of a round (idk what they'd call it, a match maybe?) when the opponent Pokemon's HP was low enough for that damage from my second attack to take it down. It was so fun! 
     One of the greatest things that I've experienced has been finding that connection that someone shares with me. 
     Sometimes it's discovering that another student grew up with the same Abeka homeschool curriculum that I did (it was at a Knowledge Bowl competition, and both of us knew the answer to a question about who invented the automatic reaper from our history book in 5th grade, because we could picture the exact spot on the page that talked about Cyrus McCormick). Other times, it's finding out that another MK has a common love of Tolkien and other fantasy series like The Inheritance Cycle. Once, I met the guy who had grown up with the books, and had first read The Fellowship of the Ring when he was about 11, just like me! (can you guess who that was? 😊)

     I got distracted on this post but I'm finishing it up so that I can write more posts and have them come in order... x) I had a fun time with these kids, and I can't wait until I get to see them again.

—ACS, August 2018

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Coffee shop pt2

Update — They called me about my resume and wanted to schedule an interview!!

It's not until the 20th, but that's alright. It gives me time to apply to other places, too, just in case that one doesn't work out. I'm so excited!!

Right now I'm struggling with the desire to make it a habit of going to that coffee shop in the mornings, just because I love the atmosphere, and because I want to get to know the people—staff and the regulars—so that if I work there, I'll have them in my memory already.

But coffee is expensive. And I don't know what the pay will be. Their website says that they do Belgian waffles every Saturday morning, and I'm especially interested in coming in for that. They say they go fast, and to arrive early.

It's a dilemma! 😣(Lol I love these emojis, the alternative text for them is hilarious. "Persevering Face" for that one, whereas I would have named it "mfff, ugh" or something lol.)

Anyway :/ How much money can I afford to spend in my efforts to acquaint myself with a potential workplace? I spent like $5 on the coffee that I bought as a courtesy on Tuesday when I went in to ask about applying. Smallest size, too. And it was so delicious. πŸ˜‹(lol another emoji, this one is "Face Savoring Delicious Food"—very appropriate.)

I'm about to record all my gas station receipts (I just always stuff them in my car's little cubby above the stereo, you know, where I keep my Altoids) from the past month or two, and while I do that, I'll be keeping this in mind. I really want to go back to that coffee shop, but I don't want to be a rude customer who doesn't buy coffee and/or brings their own and uses the free wifi 😬("Grimacing Face", yes yes.) Maybe I can budget a weekly or bi-weekly visit, and maybe they have a cheaper drink option that I would feel better buying. (On Tuesday, it was one of their specialties—a "Purple Rain", a vanilla lavender latte. Sweet hallelujah. I'll need to hope that I'd burn a lot of calories as a barista if I'm gonna work in a place with such heavenly decadence. 😡["Dizzy Face"—I would have called it "Mind-Blowing Excitement" or "Miraculous, Shocking Discovery" or "Disbelief And Ecstatic Realization"]......I think my Adderall and coffee is starting to work, haha. Anyhow. I am definitely going to Planet Fitness today, not only because I'll most likely have the motivation to go and the energy to work out with FIRE IN MY VEINS, but because I was going to cancel my subscription, but realized that I'd already paid for August.)

So yes. I'm excited about possibly working at The Main Cup, and today is going to be a go-and-get-'em day for me I think. I've already begun recording receipts, starting with gas stations and then all the Walmart ones, and I'm about to finish that here in a bit.

Please pray for me as I start a new job in the next month, whether it's at this coffee shop or somewhere else. The last time I got a job in the summer (last year), it was too much all at once and I had to leave after barely three months. I'm doing so much better right now, especially thanks to the Adderall, so I have a good feeling about getting a job this summer. :) Thank you for all of your support, guys! I love you all!

—ACS, August 8, 2018

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cleaning the kitchen

Today I'm doing the dishes.

     There really aren't as many as I feel like there are when I pass the kitchen on my way to my room and avoid looking in the sink for fear that the guilt of leaving them there will descend upon me and keep me from being able to slack off in bliss.
     There really aren't that many.
     In fact, I counted the number of forks, spoons, and knives that I own, because I always feel like I need more (and not just because I dirty them up and don't wash them). Man, I look bad in that picture. Anyway. I counted them and discovered this: 
     Ugh, I don't have an even, consistent number of anything! I texted Alex the results and just said..."So this is...kind of...blegh :p I will enjoy having enough money to properly stock a silverware drawer someday."
     And he agreed...I think he has, like, one fork and a spoon? I feel like he must have more than that, but that's all I remember seeing in his drawer when he moved into his new place a couple weeks ago, and I haven't seen any more since then.
     I'm proud of even having any silverware at all. There's a story to how I acquired such a random assortment of silverware, and it begins with Project Grad, 2015.
     It's not really very dramatic like I seem to be making it. But I wanted to add this picture that we miraculously remembered to take while we were there.
     "Project Graduation" was a tradition at our high school, and was a big lock-in party after the graduation ceremony for the seniors and their friends. Each senior was given a ticket and two friend tickets each, and that was the only way any underclassmen could attend. I picked Alicia and Tori, and while I wanted to invite our fourth friend, Mahliya, who was a freshman like Alicia and my brother Rickey, she wasn't allowed to come, and that was too bad. :/ But those three were my best friends from public HS.
     So this party had lots of fun activities, a buffet of food like pizza, oreos, and brownies, an art table stocked by our school's art teacher (I think, if I remember right), and--biggest of all--a bouncy house obstacle course in the gym. It was pretty sweet.
     Aside from getting to run around all night drinking soda and riding tricycles through the cafeteria and the gym with your best friends, there were also gifts for each of the graduating seniors. Since the party was parent-organized and wasn't school-funded, it depended wholly on the group of moms and dads of that year's seniors to raise money for the bouncy house rental, the food, the tricycles, and the games. They also put as much of the funds as they could into the gift baskets. Thinking back, not only was I blessed to be a senior when Miss Pam was on the Project Grad planning team, but I was also lucky (blessed!) to be at that small town school where everybody was somebody, and each student was personally thought of when they graduated and given such a wonderful graduation present.
     That year, the "baskets" for the gifts were these black duffle bags, and they were filled with things a kid might need once they moved out, either on their own to start a career or into a dorm at college. I brought almost everything that I got in that gift basket with me to Liberty, and the few things that I didn't need (like a discounted laptop that had half the capabilities and features of the Mac that I bought later that summer) were easily exchanged at Walmart for in-store credit. I sold that credit to my parents and put that couple hundred toward my own computer purchase, and it's been a magnificent deal. I'll never forget how incredibly I was gifted on my graduation. Thank you to anyone reading who made that celebration happen.
     These are some of the treasures that I found waiting inside my very own duffle bag:

  • a big plastic turquoise bowl (my favorite color at the time!) that I would definitely use as a popcorn bowl
  • a little bottle of Tide laundry detergent (I was going to need to have my own at the dorm)
  • a set of Ziploc-brand plastic containers with lids (great for organizing things in my desk, as well as saving leftovers in the fridge)
  • a drawstring net laundry bag (I also got a couple other net laundry hampers, including a three-section one from my grandma that makes it easy to organize clothes by color)
  • Other things that I can't remember right now
  • Silverware from the dollar store (the ones where a set of 4 forks is taped together and sells for $1) including:
    • 4 knives
    • 3 forks, tape cut open to remove one of the original 4
    • 3 tea spoons, also with tape removed
    • 3 dinner spoons, also with tape removed
     It turned out that they only had enough for each student to get 3 of each utensil, and there wasn't an even number, so some people got to have the full set of 4. 
     That's the story of how I got some of my silverware. But the whole story continues a year later in the summer of 2016.
     I couldn't find a picture from the wedding itself without going on Facebook, and I mostly want to post pics from my own photos, but this is from a wedding in Wisconsin that my friend and I (pictured above) were bridesmaids in. We flew up with her mom and stayed in the bible school's dorm, which was in the same building as the reception and was right up the hill from the chapel where the ceremony would be located. However, since it was a dorm we were staying in, and we came up a few days early to help prepare for the wedding, we needed to be able to prepare our own food while we stayed there. I don't think we knew that when we were packing, because we ended up buying pots and pans and cheap dishes to eat from while we were up there. Her mom actually carried a cast-iron dutch oven back on the plane. I contributed on this shopping trip by getting a cute yellow coffee mug from the dollar store and some silverware: knives, teaspoons, and forks, all sets of 4 that were almost the same as the ones I already owned.
     Now that I think about it, I should have another fork somewhere... I know I got 3 when I graduated and I'm pretty sure I bought 4 in Wisconsin, but I don't know where the other one is. Maybe it's lost in my apartment, or maybe while I was at Liberty, it got swept up with someone else's belongings when we were dividing everything up as we moved. Who knows.
     Anyway. I dropped everything an hour ago to count my silverware and then write about it, aaand now I've been blogging and haven't finished the dishes. I can put away the ones that have dried, though, and I won't have to dry them with a towel. πŸ˜€I would always rather let them drip-dry than have to dry them off. It's because I'm lazy. But anyway.
     I'm going to get back to doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen and throwing away expired food from the fridge and taking out the trash. I'll see you the next time I get excited about a memory, or how my day is turning out, and just have to share it.

—ACS, August 8, 2018

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I'm in a coffee shop

(My email to Neila after she recommended that I walk in and talk to Jim or Jill about applying to this little coffee shop down the road from her counseling office:)

Hey!! I’m in my happy place :)

And Jill gave me a card with their website so that I could send in a resume. She said that they’re having open interviews in a couple Sundays, so I’ll be coming in for that. I ordered a decaf Purple Rain latte (the lavender and vanilla flavor! so good!) and I’m hoping that I can update my resume here and then send it. 

I think I need to upload it to Google Docs so that I can email them a link, since the “Contact Us” page on their website doesn’t have an option for directly uploading files.
Thank you for recommending them to me! It turns out that they’re only hiring 21 and up, so that’s perfect for me. I am very excited and I really hope it works out. I might just hang out in this coffee shop anyway, it has a hipster Christian radio coming through the speakers right above my table and it’s so pleasant and familiar to me. 

Sipping coffee (very, very delicious coffee), listening to the sounds of the regulars chatting and laughing with the baristas…it’s such a nice little spot right now. And I was carrying my Lord of the Rings hoodie, and when I sat down and took out my laptop, it was just a bit chilly so I was able to put it on.

Can I express just how relaxing, invigorating, calming, enthusing, and lovely this is right now? 

Ashley Spence

"The Main Cup in Milford grinds their own their own beans", photo from Yelp!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Photo Prompts: The top 20, Photo #4

~For all freewriting-based blog posts, see the tag #Wells Of Thought: Notions and Expositions

*cough* So.....This one is really, really long. Instead of ≈1,000 words, I peaked at 3, no...4,312 words today. o_o WAIT NO let me add 9 so it's 4,321. 😁
I go off on tangents about the following topics: Grandma's earliest memory, why I don't use foul language, how sheltered I was, what it was like going to public high school, why French horn is hard to learn, a teacher who was a mentor to me in that time, the difference between an optimist and pessimist and why I'm an idealist, how I feel about my parents arriving this evening to visit for the weekend, and finally, a list of 10 things I'm proud of myself for achieving (which you might think are kind of lame or sad, but no!!! I take pride in the battles I've won. No more depression, worthlessness, and self-pity for me.)

Here's prompt #4: 2014-B


     Haha... there's quite a story behind this one. 
     But right now, it's making me think about Grandma Spence's earliest memory that she shared with us at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, where she begged her older brother Kenny to let her ride on his horse...I can't remember what his name was, and I googled 'names for horses' and none of the names on the first article sounded close enough to jog my memory. It was just a week ago, no, 6 days ago, and I can't remember her horse's name. :( 
     Anyway, Grandma tells this story about when she was three years old, and her brother, who's my great uncle Kenny, had a horse of his own out there in the country. She always wanted to ride the horse, and not with her brother, on her own. I don't blame her, I wanted to be a big girl when I was three, too! Haha. My uncle Kenny was about 10 years older than her, and he always said no because she was so little, but this time he said yes. 
     When she tells the story, she says that when he got home and was inside the gate, usually the horse would just trot back up to the stable, without having to be told where to go. So her brother decided that would be a relatively safe solo ride for his sister Donna. He hoisted her up on the saddle and told her to hold on to the saddle horn and don't let go no matter what
     But as these stories wouldn't be such well-remembered if everything went the way it was supposed to, that's not what happened. 
     I can imagine her at three years old, I don't know if she had blonde hair when she was born, or if it was always brown, but pictures from her childhood are so cute. I bet she had a determined look on her face as she sat there, holding on as tight as she could. And then when big brother let go, and...the horse...shot off for the pasture instead.......I bet she looked pretty heroic as she held on tight to that saddle horn. My uncle Kenny ran after the horse, yelling, "Just let go, I'll catch you!" But of course, she was determined not to let go! 
     He didn't catch up until it had run all the way down the hill through the trees and to the meadow (if I'm remembering her story right.) He stopped at the fence, and brother Kenny finally reached her and helped her down. 

     When Grandma told us this story last week, one of my dad's cousins asked if she "got back on the horse," or if she was afraid to ride after that. She shrugged and said that she had her own horse once she was big enough, and she rode all the time, but she didn't get back on her brother's horse for a while. 
     This picture makes me think of that story not only because of the horse, but because it was a time when someone else also told me it would be an easy ride, and that it would be fine for me to get up on a horse, untrained, and also bareback... We weren't thinking at all, and my friend said her dad could saddle the horse up as soon as he got home, but I wanted to sit on a horse now, and I didn't care if there was a saddle or not. Riding bareback was...how would you say it without the a-word.... It was something impressive and cool and dramatic if you rode without a saddle. 
     ...I keep thinking one of these days I'll be able to just say the "language words" that already come to mind that express certain situations perfectly, but my social qualms still keep me from uttering them, for fear that if my mouth were to become used to forming the words, that they would slip out unbidden at inopportune moments. But then... You know, I'm just going to go off on a tangent to talk about foul language. 
     I grew up super sheltered, like, the first time I heard the F-word was when my mom was having "the talk" with me when I started puberty, and she told me it so that I wouldn't, I don't know, hear it somewhere and repeat it? I don't know. But it was like, Dad was out of town and she and I had a slumber party and we talked about maturity and modesty and chastity and chaperones and dating, all on a level that an 11 year-old could pretty much understand. But yeah, she might have asked me if I knew what the F-word was, and I'd barely even heard that there was such a thing, and I said no. So she started to spell it--and then backed out at the first two letters--and said it rhymed with "duck." And then I whispered the word that rhymes with "duck" that starts with 'f', like, "...F...uck?" And Mom freaked and hushed me like "Yeah yeah, don't SAY it, it's a very, very bad word!!" She told me that it was a crude term for sex, and that was her segue into explaining in simple terms the way that God's perfect creation of love had been tainted and corrupted by mankind. A beautiful thing between man and wife was now used as a curse and "intensifier" (my dictionary app, WordWeb, that I've been using since I got my first iPod Touch when I was 13, used this term in the definition of any bad word I'd casually look up. I see a bad word and I think "intensifier," and that kind of describes my feelings about bad language. It intensifies what you're saying. Whether you should intensify it or not is what the issue is about. 
     So yeah, there was that first encounter, and then I didn't think about it again until I started getting on the internet and would see uncensored memes and text posts. It shocked and repulsed me at that age, but then, after we came back to the States and I went to public frikin high school, man. Those first two weeks, as anyone will tell you who knew me then, I was just in shock. One thing that shocked me was the way the teachers were accustomed to the students' propensity for foul language and, while they wouldn't just let it slide, there was definitely not a strong consequence or reparation. 
     (I'm really breaking out the thesaurus here, I love when I get to do this. It's half of why I love blogging. But I'm using Thesaurus.com instead of my hard copy...why?? I have it sitting on the shelf...Oh well. No time to grab it now, I need to finish this up so that I can start doing the dishes and cleaning up for when Mom and Dad arrive this evening; they're going to be staying at my apartment for a few days while they're passing through. I'm really excited but I've been busy helping Alex pack his stuff and move to his new place, so I haven't done any dishes since my brothers left from their visit on Tuesday morning. Rickey and Noah and Alex helped me wash everything Monday night, and I absolutely adore them for it. I think that if washing dishes could always be a social event, I'd be less biased against it in my mental motivational processes.)
     Anyway. The first two weeks of school in the US back in August 2013 were crazy...Not the craziest since, but definitely the most stressful in their unexpected nature that I had experienced up to that point. In that first week, at age 16, I started learning to drive standard with my Dad, because he wanted us kids to learn stick first before driving an automatic, and he'd bought the sedan just for that purpose. Also in that week, I jumped into picking a class schedule (thankfully we were there to start the year and I wasn't completely jumping in at the middle of the semester or anything), learning my teachers' names, and locating the classes, bathrooms, gym, and most important--the cafeteria. Haha. 
     I also started learning French horn, because I'd always wanted to play as many instruments as I could have a chance to learn, and now that we were in the States where we had a school to attend that had a high school band, I could finally have lessons on something and play with other people! I'd had piano lessons since I was 5...I talked about that a couple posts ago, I believe...and I taught myself basic guitar when I was 14 and one of our family friends lent me her guitar while they were away for a year...My brother gave me his old recorder from kindergarten, and I sort of played around on that... And now I was getting to have real lessons on a brass instrument. It was really difficult, and not in the way that learning an instrument is difficult when it's the first one you've ever had lessons on. I knew how to read notes, and I was even reading in the treble clef (lower instruments were in bass clef, and I can read that but it wasn't as natural to me at that point). What was hard about it was the ambresure...embrechure... Ugh. (Google is one of my best friends, it understands me and magnifies my thoughts into cohesive language. Ahem.) 

Embouchure: the use of the lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in playing a wind instrument.

     So yeah. The hard part was the embouchure, having to learn how to make that buzz with tight lips, AND steady airflow that was ALSO angled in the correct direction for the note I was playing, WHILE pressing the right valves for the fingering of that note. And...You know what, I'm going to go off on another tangent. Miss Sarah Graham, you don't read this blog (because barely anybody knows about it anyway), but you are an amazing woman. Your encouragement to me, both in my 20-minute lessons during this first week and in your involvement with my learning during the rest of my two years of high school there, it's stuck with me. I know that my self-esteem, personal worth, and confidence in my ability to succeed, in time and with practice, were strengthened greatly in that short time you had with me. Of the people who've impacted my life, you've been one of my greatest mentors. You watched me toil through that first semester of lessons before I was ready to join the rest of the band, and you encouraged me with both advice and stories of your own struggles. Your transparency and your support made me who I am today. I'm not sure exactly what that is yet, haha, but discovering who God made me to be has been easier because of the time you invested in me. 
     The embouchure was hard, and it was kind of discouraging that I didn't pick it up right away. Driving stick was hard, I stalled A LOT and was hesitant to slam on the brakes because I wanted to be a "smooth driver" and create a comfortable riding experience for any passengers. Finding my classes was kind of hard, too. French horn lessons, driving lessons, and my class schedule which was constantly folded up in my pocket: these concrete routines helped me to cope with those abstract variables, such as: making friends, when I only knew one girl who was a senior and had very different interests (cough, sports, ahem), deciding what to wear for the ever-shifting Arizona temperatures, and talking to literally anybody.

My gosh, I'm almost at 2,000 words, and these were supposed to be "a picture's worth 1,000 words" types of deals. I guess I'd better attach a couple more pictures so I can keep going. ;)

     Talking was hard, because the talking I'd done previously had been in relationships with people who I knew through my parents who were, for the majority, in the same tiny minority as I was. I did talk with other people, such as the college-age girls who came to practice their English with us and became great friends. But that was also a relationship with someone who I knew through my parents. Learning to establish a relationship based on simply the commonality of peers was brand new to me. In person, that is. I attended an online high school and chatted it up with all the other chatty kids from around the world that attended the online academy. We even Skype called sometimes, but most of us had pretty scrappy internet, and we were also in numerous timezones, so those group calls were rare. I keep up with those online friends from time to time, and I've met a few of them in person as well.
     Peers. Interacting with peers in person. Interacting with peers, in person, whose backgrounds didn't resemble mine in the slightest. I didn't think it was going to be 'scary', the way kids think the first day of kindergarten will be scary. 
     I remember crying during math in 1st grade at a new school, and also crying (in math class, too, actually) in 7th grade at a new school when a boy wouldn't stop whispering, during class, trying to force to me thank him for saying "God bless you" when I sneezed, but I was shy and hadn't been able to get the phrase out because I was awkward and didn't know how to interact with boys because I had an irrational fear, a phobia, of what might happen if I did talk to a boy...my gosh, that one was embarrassing...ha. 
     I started crying, and I couldn't keep the tears from welling up in my eyes, and I actually raised my hand and the teacher (who was kind of eccentric but was the best teacher for that rowdy group, and who threw me a farewell party three months later when I left) asked me what was wrong, and I honestly don't remember what happened but whew. I was so glad when that panic of a moment was over. He did get in trouble to some degree, idk if he was like, sent to the office (I feel like it wasn't that severe), or if the teacher just gave him some sort of "What the heck, man? Stop distressing this young lady, she's new and she's an MK!" That was a common phrase at that school about me, since it was the private school affiliated with our church there. 

     Anyway. I didn't think it was going to be scary this time, because I wanted to keep my chin up, stay positive, be optimistic. But I'd experienced lapses of emotional control on stressful occasions at a new school (besides the fact that I am an emotional human being and feel things very deeply anyway), so I should have known. But I'm also an idealist, and I tend to like believing that the best and easiest sequence of events will occur (also known as naivetΓ©...I tried to spell it "naivety" and spell check allowed that, too, but the spelling I googled looks more grandiose. ha.) More than an optimist, who, in my book, looks for good things, notices the positive outcomes, and uses that to frame their expectations and their perception of reality, and very far from my definition of a pessimist, who looks for bad things, notices the negative outcomes, and frames their expectations, their perception of reality, and their impression of how life is treating them with these unfortunate circumstances. I guess I do 'look for good things and notice positive outcomes,' but I don't do as much looking, as I'm caught up in my daydreams and well-wishes, and am not overly concerned with whether this or that was good or bad. If I'm going to talk about something coming up, like my parents visiting, for example, I first consult my impression of what I hope it will be like, not what good or bad things I think can happen. I think about how I feel, and I feel excited to see my mom and dad, proud of my own little apartment here, a little anxious about letting them into my sanctum, the "physical manifestation of who I am", as Jordan Peterson says about one's bedroom...and I'm dreading having to do all those dishes and pick up all the clothes off the floor and clean up the clutter...well, no, that's actually enjoyable, because it's organizational and there's "instant gratification" that Mom talks about, haha. But there's a time constraint! That makes me feel anxious. And I perceive an expectation--which my parents may or may not have--of a clean environment and signs of my good mental health, manifested in the way I conduct myself (and I'd better be conducting myself in a manner which looks a lot like Mom's manner of conduct, at least in the areas of food prep, household cleaning, hygiene, and yeah..... I feel like Mom expects everything to look great, and like if my apartment doesn't meet her expectation, she is going to think that I'm as healthy of an adult as she'd hoped for me. And I don't want Dad to be disappointed with the way I don't keep it neat and organized all the time...) 
     But you know what? As an idealist who can slip into anxiety when her ideals seem unattainable, I'm going to flip those thoughts around. There's a time constraint? Well, I'd have time for all the cleaning I want to do if I'd just close up this blog post, or get to a good stopping point and return to it later. I'm perceiving expectations? Well, I can just text Mom and tell her I'm doing okay even though I'm not keeping up with laundry or dishes or picking up blankets and folding them. I'm doing a lot better at some things that were stressful before. I'll make a good list I can be proud of, and then that'll be a nice positive ending to this blog post. Haha, and maybe later I'll add the story that goes with the original picture, lol. 

Little Successes
The battles fought and mostly won in the war of mental health.
  1. I'm keeping up with taking out the trash when it gets full or smelly or before I leave on a trip.
  2. I'm rinsing and scraping food off of dishes and not leaving the crumbs around on the table or counter to attract ants anymore.
  3. I'm putting food back in the fridge and not forgetting it out on the counter like I've done with creamer or something I just cooked that needs to be put into a container.
  4. I take my evening meds every single night, and I mostly have a handle on getting refills on time instead of procrastinating and then panicking when they run out...
  5. I know how caffeine and sugar affect me, and I monitor my caffeine when I'm on my Adderall so that I don't get that horrible antsy, fidgety, agitated feeling.
  6. I keep creamer or milk in stock.
  7. I haven't run out of gas or kept myself from going somewhere because I didn't want to refill (for either the anxiety of how much money I'd have to spend, or the social anxiety of the getting out of the car in a dirty, smelly, wide open place, and being in close proximity to strangers who might be weird and who might stare...social anxiety or anthropophobia, fear of open spaces or agoraphobia, fear of germs or bacteriophobia, fear of smells or olfactophobia... I can list fears that used to keep me from stopping for gas until the last possible second. I guess the fear of failure that running out of gas and having to call for help would imply is worse than the sum of those other fears. Anyway. I overcome that by being OCD about where I get gas and trying to make sure I always get the cheapest price that I can. It helps me cope with the other stuff I think.)
  8. I don't beat myself up about maybe saying something kind of stupid in a group that nobody gets and doesn't make anybody laugh. I've learned to reverse those thought patterns, and a year of therapy has helped teach me to fight back with "these people love me; they don't wish I wasn't here; nobody notices my 'failures' or thinks of me as 'a failure' if I say something kind of stupid; I'm going to keep contributing to conversations today and I know that I will be glad I didn't shrink back because of a little thing like that that doesn't matter."
  9. I am working at standing up for myself when I have an opinion that matters to me, instead of never wanting to share opinions that I feel strongly about so that nobody can hurt my feelings. I still don't speak out a whole lot, but generally that's because there aren't many occasions for debates or serious, critical, relevant moral discussions. Usually, I'm just defending my rules as a babysitter when I'm with the kids that I've been nannying on and off during this summer, and that's the closest I get to standing up for my "opinions." I don't even call them opinions there, because it's stuff like "do your homework" "because your mom put it on your chore list" "because if you don't keep up with studies and learn things, your brain won't be ready to absorb things when school starts back up" "just do your homework" "do you want to get in trouble when your mom comes home and sees you didn't do your homework all day", etc. Heavy sigh. I just prefer harmony when I'm with friends, and the most arguing I find myself engaging in is usually just the general joking type, where I lay aside the rules I generally follow that keep me from making outrageous statements or drawing faulty conclusions from flawed data..... What am I even talking about anymore? I don't shrink back for fear of rejection or disagreement when there's something important to say, I guess. Not as much as I used to. On to the last thing on the list of things I'm proud of getting better at, lol.
  10. I accept the responsibilities that come with living on my own. Paying bills and rent, maintaining quiet hours for the sake of my neighbors, keeping myself from lying in bed all day, knowing that no one will get me out of the house except me, and cooking relatively nutritious and varied meals for myself... These are the things I was working to accomplish so that I could be ready to move out, and I've done so well. I mean, sure I haven't eaten anything today except my coffee, and I'm procrastinating terribly as I've been on my blog since 10:49 AM and it's 2:04 PM now, but hey, I got out of bed. I took a shower! I updated my hair color, too, as touching it up often is important to keep it looking sharp. I made coffee and drank it before it was too late in the day. I took my Adderall (sure, it was later than it should have been because I turned off my alarm at 9:30 when it went off and then got distracted and forgot until 11). I've been drinking water, too! I've got a water bottle here and I'm taking good sips. 

If this sounds depressing or sad to you that these are the things I'm proud of, I'm sorry but that is not my intention... Celebrate the little things with me, and be happy for the good instead of dwelling on the negative side (which I avoid like stepping on fallen ice cubes in the kitchen while wearing socks!) And thank you, by the way, for reading my rambling updates and freewrites about these old pictures. 
     There's a lot more things I could list that I'm proud of, too, like how well I've learned how to drive in a big city by myself, and how I'm making friends and putting in the effort to plan times to hang out with them... But 10 is a good number, and those are the things that I interact with on a daily level. And also I have a maximum of 4 hours now to wash the dishes, organize my dirty clothes to put them in the wash once my parents get here with more quarters, and plan a dinner that my mom can eat (she can't have carbs!). 
     So I'm gonna close this off, close my windows so I can blast some music through the speakers, and open my motivational reserves to get this stuff DONE. :)

Here's a potato.

--ACS, July 27, 2018

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Photo Prompts: The top 20, Photo #3

~For all freewriting-based blog posts, see the tag #Wells Of Thought: Notions and Expositions

Here's prompt #3: 2014-A


     This was a picture from when Dad was teaching us kids how to change the oil in the car. Of course, it was nice having a car lift in the shop back home, but since I'm moved out now and I don't have a car lift, I've gone and paid to have my oil changed.
     We all had to take pictures to illustrate how to change the oil, and the idea was that we would then take each photo and make a caption for it, and thus create our own instructional slideshow to use for later. I started working on the captions, but I really needed help with it. I was trying to remember the list of instructions from looking at the pictures I took, and I had so many that I was pretty overwhelmed with the thought of writing the directions from memory. 
     There were no consequences for not completing the slideshow, but I always wished that I'd been able to do something to lock that lesson into my memory, since the suggested method didn't work out. 
     This makes me think about my previously undiagnosed ADD, and how I used to view unfinished projects and unfulfilled promises like this one. I thought that I struggled to complete stuff sometimes because I was lazy; I thought that my dreams of doing something else were wrong, and that I should fight against my instinctual reluctance to do things the way I was told. 
     I was really interested in knowing how to change the oil in the car. Dad always told us how much money he saved by doing the maintenance on our vehicles himself, and in our house, saving money was the highest of virtues. Saving money on things was right up next to obeying your parents and studying the Bible and telling people about Jesus. It kind of stresses me out just to think about it. 
     I completely understand why my parents placed such a big emphasis on that, though. Just like I wrote about the other day, they received their income not in a salary related to their performance, but in donations from churches, friends, and family who supported us so that we could do God's work. So it was God's money. And we couldn't spend it however we wanted, but we were under the pressure to spend our limited funds the way God wanted. I grew up knowing that my parents couldn't buy us Nutella at the store from the imported German chocolate section because they were saving up and only buying the minimum that they could budget for food. 
     Not buying Nutella must have been a thing, because that's what I always think of as the golden standard.... If you buy Nutella, you must be rich. Because if you're budgeting, you don't buy Nutella. If you can't decide whether something at the store is okay to buy on a budget or not, you just ask yourself, "Is this as frivolous as Nutella?" And if it is, you don't buy it. 
     These days, I'm having to budget for myself. It's hard! I've made some mistakes. But in the end, I've discovered some pretty cool tips.

     Did you know that you can get two medium, 2-topping pizzas for cheaper than one large, 5-topping pizza at Domino's? They don't even have a large, 2-topping deal going right now. I ate off of those two medium, 2-topping pizzas for a week, including when Alex came over for dinner one night. That's pretty good for $5.99 each. 
     Did you know that buying a whole chicken is cheaper than buying the same weight of meat in thighs or chicken breasts? But you also have to have the time to chop it up. So guess who bought the cheapest thing of chicken breasts for her chicken noodle soup the other night? :P 
     Did you know that buying a half-gallon at $.49 is exactly half the price of a gallon of milk at $.98? That's good news for me, as I like getting both whole milk and 2%, and can't possibly drink a gallon of either by the expiration date.
     Did you know that the powdered form of Carnation breakfast drinks vs the bottled form is cheaper? The 12-pack of 8-oz bottles is $14.98 (at $1.24 a serving), but the powder value pack with 22 8-oz servings only costs $9.98 (at $.45 a serving)? I finally figured that one out when I was shopping with Alex a few weeks ago.  

     Anyway. I took a break from writing this post and now I don't know what I was going to say next. But tonight I have to clean up my apartment (which will be fun) and wash the dishes (which will not be fun because I'll want to be done already but there are SO MANY dishes) for when a couple of friends come over. I have ingredients to make a lot of things, but recently I've made chicken noodle soup, and it was yummy. I think I should make that again, but I'd need more chicken stock! 

     I took another break. 
     I just said goodbye to both of the girls, we had dinner and played Uno for almost two hours, and it was so much fun. The timeline wasn't what I thought it was going to be exactly, but it worked out anyway: I got off work later than expected, stopped at Walmart for chicken stock and a stock pot on my way home, realized I left my phone at work and just got my stuff and came home, started cooking the chicken, made great progress on the food as I hurriedly cleaned up everything, hid my dirty dishes in a laundry basket in my closet, washed bowls and utensils for cooking the meal, and then the girls arrived after I'd been home for just enough time to not be embarrassed by the mess that was left. They liked the chicken noodle soup (and it was almost done by the time they arrived, too). 
     To bring it back around to the photo prompt, my dad (and both of my parents) worked really hard to prepare me for living on my own. Whatever things I was able to retain, I use daily, and I'm so grateful for the strong sense of the need for a good work ethic they imparted to me, among many other things. I work every day to live up to that work ethic, and honestly, Adderall has been helping me to achieve it. It's really something.

--ACS, July 18, 2018

Monday, July 16, 2018

Photo Prompts: The top 20, Photo #2

~For all freewriting-based blog posts, see the tag #Wells Of Thought: Notions and Expositions

Here's prompt #2: 2013-B


     Some of our friends were moving to a nearby town and decided they couldn't bring their piano. If I remember right, their new house had a baby grand, and this piano was an upright. It needed to be tuned, though, so we called a piano tuner who came to our house. I remember asking if I could watch him, and he actually turned it into a little lesson in acoustics and tuning. He showed me "A440" which is 440 Hertz that they tune the A4 to (I think it's A4) and then base the rest of the piano off of that note. 
     My parents still have that piano, and I make good use of it when I'm there. :) When I was five, I started piano lessons and continued them with different teachers as we moved, until 10th grade when there wasn't a piano for me to practice on. I could have gotten a teacher, and I could have practiced on the keyboard that was in the house we lived in for those 8 months, but I couldn't bring myself to play a keyboard without weighted keys. Thinking back, I wish I'd had lessons anyway. Ten years of lessons prepared me to continue through college, but I stopped practicing at 16; since then, I haven't been able to regain that level of proficiency that I'd reached. Now, I don't have my parents paying for music lessons, and lessons these days are more than the $5-10 we paid for an hour back in the day. 
     I just checked the local music store's lesson availability, and a 30-minute piano lesson costs $25. One gives hour lessons for $45, but still... $10 for an hour is nothing compared to $45, and I'd need a way to practice every day, which would either mean paying for practice room space in the studio, buying my own keyboard, or driving up to Alex's parents' house to play their piano (if it worked out for them). 
     And now I've lost the opportunity. I had a semester of piano lessons while I was at school because I knew I wanted to get back to the level of proficiency I'd reached, but it wasn't helpful. At that time, it only served to increase my anxiety, and I failed my lessons because I was so overwhelmed with the pressure and high expectations from my teacher that I shut down if I tried to find motivation to do my hours of practice. I know now that it was ADD that was preventing me from reaching my potential and taking advantage of the opportunities I had at the time. 
     Why does everything cost money? Sometimes, I wish we still lived in a trade economy, where I could provide a good or service in exchange for piano lessons. :P I really don't know enough about economics to make any kind of statement like that, though, so I guess I just wish that my existence, my efforts to make my life livable, and my desire to make the world a better place by helping others were sufficient to compensate the service of furthering my education and musical talents. But the world doesn't work that simply. I could apply for a scholarship, and that's the best I can really do if I'm going that route. 
     But that's the kind of mindset I inherited when I grew up as an MK with parents who were financially supported solely by friends and churches. I never knew the concept of working a job that I would only do if I were being paid to do it. I thought that I would grow up to do something that I believed was worthy of my attention, focus, and dedication, to such a degree that I would do it for free, simply because it enriched my life and gave me satisfaction to know that I enriched the lives of others. But there's literally nothing besides church ministry that works that way. 
     Was I made to have a career in the church? What kinds of talents could I employ, and what job could I make myself the best candidate for? These are the kinds of questions I catch blowing by in the wind every once in a while, and if I chase them, I find myself wondering what I have to offer besides serving in the childcare department, helping with the audio/visual tech booth, and, if I practiced, maybe joining the worship team as a guitarist (which is what they need right now). I've already followed that thought through: I serve weekly in our church's childcare, I volunteer monthly for the A/V team, and I tried out for the worship team last year, only to hear that I needed lots of practice, not only in guitar but in voice. 
     I'm unable to make a career out of the things I've naturally gravitated toward, and, while I'm grateful for the nanny job that I've had this year, it's barely paying enough for me to make it on my own, and it also leaves me wishing I could do more. I feel like I could be so much more, and that while I still have so many things to learn about being a nanny, I wish I could develop my skills in other areas, too, that don't appear in that job description. Watching kids all day rarely gives me a chance to do other things I want to get better at: music or writing or editing or cooking or encouraging peers... I'm left feeling like my body is wasting away because the only part of it that I'm using daily is my left arm. 
     A few days ago, I got into looking at the Free ads on Craigslist. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to personally pick up any of the furniture items I was interested in since I just have my little Camry. There was a piano that looked beautiful, but it was so heavy that I had no chance of finding anyone able to pick up and deliver it to my apartment. 
     While I know that a lot of my hopes seem to fade when it comes to the realization part, I also know that just because I can't get what I think I need or do what I want to do, doesn't mean I'm not going to have joy or fulfillment in this life. God knows what I need, and God has a plan for what I'm meant to do, and He's in control and is allowing these dreams of mine to fade so that His plan can form a new dream inside my heart.

—ACS July 16, 2018

(this is over 1,000 words by 103 but I don't care. It reached completion, yay!)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Photo Prompts: The top 20 moments of the past 6 years, told by my camera roll, Photo #1

~As I write today, I'm listening to the "Stranger Things" soundtrack (I found it here on YouTube). Thought you might want to listen along. πŸ˜Š

First off, here's some definitions (Wikipedia):

"...a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic....Some writers use the technique to collect initial thoughts and ideas on a topic."

"A technique known as Freeblogging combines blogging with free-writing with the rules changed so that the writer does not stop typing for long periods of time."

     Hey! So, what were those pictures I posted last time? I didn't give them any explanation, and the only captions were the years they were taken. Are they just random pictures? Actually, no—all of them held special significance for me, and, while I did want to convey what each picture meant to me, I ran out of time. 

     Today, I thought of freewrites. I used to do a whole lot of those back in high school, especially in my Creative Writing class. Good writing prompts are just too hard to pass up, and
 these pictures have to potential to make some really good journal entries. "A picture's worth a thousand words," and I have tens of thousands of words just burning a hole in my pocket. I've got to spend them before they're all blown away. And, who knows? Someday, I might polish these freewrites up, connect them with some narrative, and publish another book. :) Mom would like that, haha. 

~For all freewriting-based blog posts, see the tag #Wells Of Thought: Notions and Expositions

Here's prompt #1: 2013-A


     As I sit and think about this photo, I can close my eyes and travel back in time to that very day. 

     When I flew with my family back to the States, we had a 4-hour layover in Tokyo, Japan, and I took a lot of photos there: pictures of some cha-cha's (off-brand M&M's) in my hand, held against the bright airport windows, showing the silhouettes of other passengers; some pictures of my suitcase, also taken artistically with my cheap camera; and just some goofy ones with my brothers. 
     In the picture there's a little bit of my personal item, the bag I used as a purse back then in 2013. I think I got that from my 14th or 15th birthday before we moved away from the town I'd lived in for 6 years. It was only 8 months after that move that we were on this trip. I remember pencils making holes in the lining of that purse and coming through the netting of the outer design, and I would always catch them when I heard the twing-twankle of the pencil falling on the tile floor behind me. I'm pretty sure I put my pencils in a pencil case before flying, so that I didn't lose any of my precious Ticonderoga brand pencils. I mean, we were coming back to the country where you could buy those at any store, but they were still valuable and I didn't want to lose them, haha. 
     This ticket was for the domestic flight from DFW up to Kansas City, where Dad and I were stopping to pick up a minivan that we were going to be borrowing for the year. I remember that, when we drove to pick it up at the person's house, we parked in the driveway, which cut through a hay field. I thought it was really pretty being out in nature, especially on a farm, as it reminded me of my grandparents' house back in Texas that my mom and brothers were getting to enjoy while I was on this extra trip. As it was the beginning of June, however, the pollen from that field just hit my dad like a brick wall the moment he opened the rental car door. His eyes teared up immediately, he started rubbing a red itchy nose, and his voice got hoarse and strained from his throat starting to constrict. That was pretty awful. We did the paperwork as quickly as we could and left with the new minivan, but Dad was still having an awful attack of allergies. We stopped at the first pharmacy we could find along the interstate on our way down to Texas. 
     The reason I went on that trip with my dad was that I wanted to stop in a town in northeastern TX to meet a boy. Yeah, he was my boyfriend, but the young-love relationship ended that next February, and I don't even think about the kid anymore.  
     (Am I at 1,000 words for this picture yet, or do I have to keep with this topic and talk about my ex from 10th grade? Nope...not even 500 words yet. Oh well, I guess it would be good for me to at least write a summary.) 
     We met online through a mutual friend. He was another MK, and he was also interested in writing, which was how we started talking. Looking back, I can only see how blind I was—I thought it was a selfless, mature relationship that we had started, but as it was my first actual relationship, I had only my good intentions and my optimism with which to form a bias. Later, I had negative experiences, trauma, and pessimism with which to judge my interactions with guys. That didn't do me any favors, either. 
     And nothing really changed until I decided this: that I was going to stop making swift judgments of a man's character that were based solely on my biased interpretation of his attitude, and that I would no longer use this judgment to sour my words and attentions toward him in an attempt to protect my heart. I was doing this both by shutting down any flirtations he might be thinking to show, and by putting to death any attention I might be tempted to give. 
     I was afraid of being loved and of loving, because both appeared to be one slip-up away from a web of self-pity, blame, and resentment that I would be stuck in for the next year. 
     But I changed. I called it my 'foreign policy', and I absolutely threw it out the window. That's no way to treat other guys! 
     Just because a guy comes off "cocky" the first time he meets the group doesn't mean that any confidence he exhibits is truly coming from a heart of self-centered arrogance. 
     Just because a guy appears "soft-spoken" and seems to avoid conflict doesn't mean that any kindness he shows you is truly a sign of a pedestal that he's put you on. 
     Just because a guy is good at guitar and gives off a "pastor's-kid" vibe doesn't mean that he's compensating for a troubled relationship with his heavenly Father by looking churchy.
     People are complicated, and first impressions from strongly biased positions are often very wrong. I used to give everyone a chance, and to see the potential good news in every negative situation....And when I let one thing change that, it was hard to reverse some of its effects.

     But as soon as I let go of those shields of defense, I could finally open my eyes to see people more clearly. And, of the couple of guys I met on the day I made that change, I saw the heart of one whose confidence was contagious, whose kindness was genuine, and whose faith was honest. 
     Alex is the one who encourages me, and he's the one God's used to push me closer every day toward the person I am meant to be.

—ACS, July 13th, 2018