staying relational [nc series] : in real life

People…please tell me that you’ve had completely geeked-out moments when you’ve gotten to meet someone in real life who you’ve previously only known through the invisible world of the internet and felt that this experience was probably on the same level as finding out that your favorite ice cream is healthier than kale covered in quinoa boiled in green tea?

The second thing didn’t happen, but the first one did!

While I was in North Carolina, I was given the wonderful opportunity to meet my very favorite blogger, The Carpool Queen. And by “given the wonderful opportunity” I mean I sent her a long fan letter that would have alarmed most people emailed her and asked her if perhaps we could get together while I was in her general vicinity. And she didn’t call the cops said yes!!!

This is where a picture of our coffee outing at Jubala would be placed if I wasn’t so beside myself that I remembered to take pictures of something other than the brewing system:

…and the coffee

Way to play it cool, slick.

But lack of photographic documentation aside, it was one of my favorite coffee outings to date – and not just because the coffee was to die for. First, it’s a wonderful experience to meet someone who you’ve followed online for years, laughing and getting teary-eyed and gaining perspective through daily blog posts, and then find yourself in the middle of that same set of emotions while sitting across from the real person, being given valuable lessons about your own life. Second, it’s validating to know that this thing I spend all of my free time doing isn’t just wasted space on the world wide web. Meaningful relationships can be made with people you probably wouldn’t ever have known otherwise, and I really think that’s what makes blogging so special. Sometimes it’s more about the unexpected community that forms around a thousand stories about check-out lines and bad daytime TV and failed recipes than the stories themselves. And third, I’m just so glad to know Susan in real life now. And not only because she introduced me to both Jubala AND Savory Spice Shop (where I purchased Mexican Cocoa and Honey Powder and will need to go back for refills on both asap).


(I’m so glad I captured this stunning picture…of a door.)

But mostly because if I grow up to be anything like her, I’ll be thrilled.

THANK YOU, CPQ! The effect your kindness has had on me can’t be overstated.

(And, as per yesterday’s post, neither can the accuracy of your culinary recommendations.)

staying creative [nc series] : GARDENS!

[This post is basically for my dad, who loves nothing more than when I take pictures of flowers. Happy Belated Birthday, Dad! Hope you like these!]

I am a passionate person by nature. Like…really passionate. I rejoice over mango butter in my oatmeal and cry during every. single. episode. of Extreme Home Makeover. I let out audible squeals walking through my neighborhood, seeing all of the beautiful old houses and flourishing gardens. And don’t even talk to me about the Packers…

So, I think in an act of self-preservation, my brain slows down to half-power when in the presence of something over-the-top exciting. Otherwise, I’d blow a fuse from sheer enthusiasm. Does this happen to anyone else? I can literally feel a shift in emotion…it’s like a computer going into sleep mode. Example #1: When I discovered lover.ly (full post to follow…but OH MY WORD) I literally had to walk away from my computer…I couldn’t even begin to explore the website!…I was so overwhelmed with excitement. And then I went from this: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to this: […]. Because my brain, it knows. The boiling point is near.

(The men in white coats should be here any second now.)

Example #2: My ENTIRE TRIP to North Carolina. I’m not even kidding.

It started when I put my hand out the window as I was crossing the border from Virginia to North Carolina and it did not return to me frostbitten. The air! It was warm! I was so excited!!!

SO EXCITED!!!

And for the next 4 days…I would have continued to be out of my mind excited about life, and therefore, out of my mind, if I didn’t experience everything on half-power.

Which bring me to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. There are few things I love more than the beauty of God’s creation. And then photographing said creation. And then walking around in tranquility with almost no one else around. And then not wearing 18 layers because it’s actually warm outside.

So I’m really glad I took these pictures because without them, the whole Gardens experience would have been somewhat of a blur. Here’s what I saw, apparently:

And ditto for the gardens along the Bolin Creek Trail…the roses! So stunning!

Clearly, I need to go back to North Carolina and experience all of this at full-power.

Or, you know, not be crazy and experience things the first time around.

But let’s be real here.

staying out of rochester [nc series] : north carolina

I understand why in your mind you’re going to Carolina, Mr. Taylor.

And can we just talk about those last two for a minute? I thought New York was filled with trees, but North Carolina is filled with TREES. Oh my goodness! I LOVED all of the greenery!

And the flowers…OH, the flowers!!!

Later today, we’ll take a little non-Instagram tour through the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and the Bolin Creek Trail. Yes…I actually whipped out my real camera on this trip.

But oh, North Carolina, you did my heart good.

(My stomach, too. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.)

Going to Carolina in My Mind,

Beka

staying real : i’m going to MTH 2012…tomorrow morning

SO…

this is going to be short and anticlimactic because I need to go to bed soon because I am driving to Chapel Hill, North Carolina at 5am tomorrow morning because even though I didn’t get the full scholarship to Making Things Happen I decided to go anyways and I haven’t blogged about it at all or really talked about it at all even though I’ve known for the past 3 weeks that I’m attending because I’m nothing if not a champion avoider of a variety of emotions and I am scared out of my mind to go to a workshop in which we discuss dreams and life goals because the things that I’ve been making happen recently include forgetting to shower on a publicly acceptable basis and finishing the entire series of Gilmore Girls for the I-don’t-know-how-manyeth-time-because-I’ve-honestly-lost-count and that’s not really a ringing endorsement for lofty ambitions so I couldn’t bring myself to think about going to MTH which explains why I couldn’t write a sappy blog post about how much it means to me to go to MTH and how excited I am which explains the subsequent absence of all chocolate substances that were once in my pantry.

Whew.

And since I still can’t talk about it in a way that is not a paragraph long run-on sentence…that’s all I’ve got. However, I do have three short thoughts to offer in exchange:

1. This has nothing to do with anything, but I feel compelled to tell you all that I thought today was knife sharpening day at Williams Sonoma. So I put my favorite knife into an over mitt which I then put in my purse because how else do you transport a large chopping knife but in an oven mitt inside your purse and went off to the mall hoping and praying that I didn’t get a) pulled over for any reason and searched or b) set off a security alarm inside the mall and searched. But I took comfort in knowing that there is safety in numbers so at least my fellow culinary store patrons would come to my defense if I were hauled off to prison for oddly concealing odd weapons.

Imagine my surprise when I arrive at Williams Sonoma and it is NOT knife sharpening day after all. It’s just a regular day. So now I’m not walking around with a large knife in an oven mitt in my purse to have it honed to perfection by the kind employees at Williams Sonoma. I’m actually just walking around the mall with a large knife in an oven mitt in my purse.

Between the hair dresser and Wegmans this has really been a banner week for me. I think my days of being allowed out in public are numbered.

2. You guys all pack food when you are going on a road trip, right? Like a dozen granola bars and microwavable oatmeal and squeeze packs of peanut butter and trail mix and a variety of tea bags and chocolate milkshake mix and three packs of gum and bananas? And package it all up in old oatmeal canisters so that it’s separated by meal times? Right?

3. You guys all contact your favorite blogger who you’ve never met in person or had a conversation with before and ask them if, oh hey, maybe you could descend upon their lives while in their general geographic area next week? Right?

I think this entire post can be labeled under “new low.”

In other news, I’ll be posting through saved drafts this week…and then I’ll be back with an actual recap that is longer than one sentence but shorter than War and Peace next week.

I hope.

Have a GREAT week, everyone!

(And if those of you who pray could pray for my safety/sanity as I travel, I’d surely appreciate it. And if you could also pray for healing since I JUST realized that Chick-fil-A will be closed tomorrow because it’s Sunday therefore thwarting my plans for an imminent reunion and breaking my waffle-fry-lovin’ heart…that would be great too. )

beka stays out of rochester : lancaster, pa

When I was a teenager I went to a church dinner with my parents. It was one of those church dinners with table games, one of them being the game where everyone at the table answers a list of questions and the rest of the table has to guess who each answer belongs to. One of the questions was, “If you could go on vacation to any place in the world, where would you go?” Most people listed exotic locations: Fiji, Madagascar, Switzerland. But I was 14. And I could only think of one place I wanted to go.

Southeastern Pennsylvania.

I was pretty much a dead giveaway.

Now, over a decade later, I might pick a few different vacation spots. Italy and Greece and Australia come to mind. But if I could pick anywhere in the world to live, literally anywhere, my answer would still be the same.

Southeastern Pennsylvania.

This is one reason why.

The other reason may or may not include the frozen empire devoted to Dairy.

But really, this is why:

1. I have lots and lots (and LOTS) of family there, family who I’d really love to know better.

2. People are warm, friendly, and funny.

3. Seasons are warm, friendly, and temperate.

4. It’s close to the epicenter: Philly, NYC, DC. (Hello, professional sports.) And Albany and Boston aren’t too far away, either!

5. There’s something peaceful about Southeastern PA. Maybe it’s the farm land. Maybe it’s the presence of Sheetz. Maybe it’s the Amish pies: both shoo-fly and whoopie. Whatever it is, it’s wonderful.

Last week my mom and I spent a few days near Lancaster visiting family. We ate. We laughed. We came home with Tastykakes.

It was well, it was well with my soul.

Dear Rochester, if for any reason you decide you no longer want me as a citizen, please ship me directly to Pennsylvania. I’m happy to stay here…but you know, a girl needs to keep her options open. Just FYI.

beka stays out of rochester : san diego

In my mind I’m goin’ to Ca…lifornia.

Sorry, James. I had to take some creative liberties. Carolina is nice. But it’s time for an imaginary Out of Rochester trip to somewhere a little farther west.

San Diego, in our brief week-long fling, forever cemented itself as one of my favorite places on the planet. Now why I’m sitting here at 11:30pm looking through old pictures and California dreamin’ instead of, you know, actually dreaming, is a mystery. It’s something that I’ll probably ask myself again in about 6 hours. Chances are this won’t seem like such a great idea then.

Cabin fever? Lack of recent travel? Vitamin D deficiency? Residence of TJ’s and Pinkberry and Jamba Juice and Ikea? All valid factors that could be causing my current (re)obsession. Whatever the reason, if I could be instantly transported to anywhere at this very moment, I think it would be right here:

http://bekagphotography.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/img_37931.jpg

Your turn. If you could be whisked away to anywhere in the world, where would you go? Would it also involve sunshine and happy people and endless fresh food? Emphasis on endless fresh food? Do tell!

(Also, if you can’t see these pictures, can you please tell me? I pulled them off of facebook because I didn’t want to hunt them down on my hard drive, so if for some reason that makes them invisible to the rest of the world just let me know and I’ll post the real pictures.)

beka stays faithful : reflecting on life post-roadtrip

-post-road-trip-time-line-

november: come home. sleep in bed, not van.

december: jump on treadmill, repeatedly. celebrate christmas, enthusiastically. pretend to be vegan.

january: new year’s surprise. visit hospital. chop firewood.

february: win super bowl (vicariously). return to roberts.

march: launch new blog and website.

april: overhaul wardrobe; just say no to decade-old clothing.

may: freshly pressed.

june/july/august: work, move, work, move, work, implode.

september: launch…new blog (that sounds so familiar…)

october: get busy. in the PG way.

november: get ridiculous. not in the black eyed peas way.

Oh what a year it has been! Honestly, it’s been nothing like I thought a year after a sizable life event would be. I’m not exactly sure what I thought it would be like, but I think I assumed it would be more settled. Which I find to be a logical assumption, seeing as how I had just spent three months covering hundreds of miles each week in a circular trek around the country. I think I also assumed that the mini van would be a magic portal through which all of my problems would be solved. I’d enter in September wondering what to do and where to live and exit in November with answers, experience, and 10 fewer pounds.

I think that’s what we call being young and stupid.

The experience of the roadtrip is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I learned plenty of things I expected to learn (how to harvest potatoes and shovel manure), a few things I wasn’t planning on learning (Texas road rules, a raw foods primer), and one thing I never saw coming (nouns, I’m looking at you).  I met so many wonderful people. I saw so many breathtaking sights. I figured out how to survive off of dehydrated foods and hot beverages.

I was able to see a dream become a reality.

That, in and of itself, made the trip worthwhile, not to mention the host of other factors that made it worthwhile. All in all: the roadtrip was a victorious endeavor. Mark it down as a W.

This is the part where I’d like to wrap a bow around the year that followed. I want to say that it was equally ambitious, life-changing, and just plain cool. But the truth is that it was a year. A year that defies tidy summaries. It was a year in which I was granted unbelievable blessings: having my dad’s health restored, watching the Packers win the Super Bowl, growing as a blogger and photographer, forging new relationships in an old place, deciding to stay and wholeheartedly embracing that decision. But it was also a year in which I struggled. Mightily. I tried to figure out what it means to be consistent in the midst of anything but consistency. As unlikely as it seems, I really think there was more change after driving through 30 states in three months then there was during the whirlwind tour of the country. Since last November I’ve lived in four different places. I’ve worked (at least…I’ve honestly lost track) seven different jobs. I’ve started and stopped a thousand new life plans. In short: I’ve floundered.

Life pre-roadtrip looks linear: I had one job. I lived in one place.

Life during-roadtrip looks adventurous: I set out to accomplish something and saw it come to beautiful fruition.

Life after-roadtrip looks…messy. I’m working an ever-increasing number of jobs. I’m living in one place but I’m hardly ever here. I have a million and five goals but no clear-cut career. I’m trying to stay but finding it difficult when there’s so much to DO.

Perhaps this is the problem. The same unbridled determination that carried me around the continental US still lives in me. I still have the intrinsic desire to do big things. But right now, all of that drive feels somewhat aimless. Like revving a parked car. The motor is running, the engine is raring to go, but there’s no forward motion. I’m throwing energy and enthusiasm around like crazy, but it feels directionless. And what’s left is a bunch of overzealous clutter.

Or, more likely, perhaps this is the problem. I’m reading Watch for the Light, a book of advent readings, and this selection from Henri Nouwen’s Waiting for God has me written all over it:

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere (hello, defining life direction for YEARS). The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. (Hello, this blog.) Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive.”

“We want the future to go in a very specific direction, and if this does not happen we are disapponted and can even slip into despair. That is why we have such a hard time waiting: we want to do the thing that will make the desired events take place. Here we can see how wishes tend to be connected with fears.

But Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes. They were filled with hope. Hope is something very different. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. Therefore, hope is always open-ended.

I have found it very important in my own life to let go of my wishes and start hoping. It was only when I was willing to let go of wishes that something really new, something beyond my own expectations could happen to me.”

Waiting. Patience. Letting go. Gets me every time.

I sometimes feel like I’m the kid on Christmas morning who runs down the stairs to the tree and methodically shakes every box beneath. What’s in the shiny one? What’s in the big one? What’s the BEST one? The kid who is so caught up in figuring out the gifts that await that she misses out on the gifts that are already happening: there’s a feast going on the the dining room, complete with baked french toast and hot chocolate. There are people hugging and laughing and celebrating the joy of being together. There’s a palpable, blessed tension in the air from the profound meaning of the morning.

But she can’t see the forest for the (Christmas) trees: her efforts to guess the gifts are not only futile, they’re foolish. All the while, the gift-giver knows what is in each wrapped box. He knew exactly what she wanted and needed and picked the gifts out accordingly knowing that each would be an individual delight. He has a purposeful plan of which she is to open first and which to save for last. He won’t hold any back or make her earn them by guessing what’s inside. That would be antithetical to his cause; he carefully selected each one and derives joy from giving them freely.

So why can’t I let God give me each gift when he’s ready to give it to me, instead of shaking everything underneath the tree? Why am I trying SO HARD to figure everything out when he already has it all figured out, and perfectly so?

That, my friends, is the mystery of this post-roadtrip journey in a nutshell. If the story of the roadtrip was defining nouns, then the story of the year that followed was learning how to let God write the sentence.

I think it might take longer than a year.