A Message to a Stranger

Everyday

This goes out to the man who was jogging on the sidewalk outside the YMCA this morning.

Dear Stranger,

Today was your day. You got up this morning with a smile on your face. You ate a power bar, pulled on your jogging clothes, laced your tennis shoes, and hopped out the door.

You looked out at the Houston humidity and you said, “I dare to take you on.” After thumbing your nose at the heat, you embarked on what was most certainly a joyous run. Your workout soundtrack consisted of the sounds of children’s laughter as they made their way back to school, birds singing as they built their nests, and the soft trumpets of some impatient commuters on their way to the office. You ran your little heart out, huffing and puffing as you turned the corner to pass the local YMCA. Drenched in sweat, you refused to give up. “I can do this. Just a few blocks more.”

And then, from out of nowhere, a wall of water enveloped your already wet body. Confused, bewildered, and soaked, you quickly glanced to the street on your left. You watched as a small Scion continued its way to the YMCA parking garage, hitting almost every puddle in the street gutter on its way. But you didn’t stop running. Despite the smell of street water that seemed to penetrate your very being, you kept going. But there was a little less pep in your step as you rounded the corner and headed back home. Your almost-perfect morning run had been ruined by an anonymous driver.

And for that, I am sorry.

Sincerely,

The Scion Driver Who Was In Too Much of a Hurry to Notice

photo

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Why Everyone Should Have A Pen-Pal

Lists

My first experience with a pen pal was in my elementary school years through a program set up by the amazing people at American Girl–don’t try looking it up, they discontinued the program several years later, probably because they had yet to discover the art of pen-pal background checks. Anyway, I was paired with a lovely girl whose name and hometown I do not remember, but at the time I was stoked to be connected to her. We exchanged letters for about a year and I dreamed of the day we’d be able to meet in a Disney Channel Original Movie-type way.

However, my perfect pen-pal dreams were shattered when I received a letter that explained that she no longer had time for a pen-pal. Her reason? I would have taken parents’ divorce, Olympic training, cramming for the Scripps’ National Spelling Bee…anything but the answer she gave me: “I have too much homework.” My little heart was crushed. Fine. Whatever. I acted like I didn’t care, when in reality I was devastated.

10 years later, one of my friends was heading off to Hawaii for college (poor guy) and asked me if I wanted to be his pen-pal. The bitter little girl inside me winced. Pen-pals? But don’t we have Facebook and emails for that sort of thing? I decided to give it a chance and maybe, just maybe, redeem my failed childhood experience. Best decision ever.

Why Everyone Should Have A Pen-Pal:

1. You get real mail.

In the pre-Internet world it was SO cool to get a letter in the mail. I remember waiting for the postman and praying that he would have something for me. It’s like finding an extra gift under the Christmas tree with your name on it.

2. Good things are worth waiting for.

Forget instant messaging, Facebook chat, and Twitter. Being a pen-pal takes a lot of patience. Not only do you have to wait for your letter to get to your pal, but then you have to wait for them to send a letter back. Even if the postman will brave wind, sleet, snow, and hail, it will still take a good week for you to get a response. But it’s a great surprise when it finally does come and you get to rip open the envelope and read what’s inside–a lot can happen in a week!

3. Exercise your brain.

This being the modern world, my friend and I are friends on Facebook and follow each other on Twitter–he even reads this blog! So I have to think twice as hard about what I’m going to write about since he basically knows everything I’ve been up to (well, everything worthy of posting to the inter-webs anyway). That always makes for some fun letter-writing because you’ve gotten all the surface-level stuff out of the way and you can get to what’s really bothering you, like world hunger or turtle necks.

4. One word: Stationary.

I absolutely love stationary. Oftentimes I’ll roam through stores like PaperSource and Papyrus just to look at all the beautiful cards. But, I’ve never had the need to purchase any. Until now, that is! It’s fun to spend a good 30 minutes trying to cram a whole weeks worth of information into a pretty card and slip that sucker in the mail. I like to think I’m sending them on a tropical vacation. Aloha!

So maybe my dreams of pen-pal perfection didn’t come true when I was ten (I hope whats-her-name regrets losing a potential long-distance BFF), but I’ve definitely come to respect the pen-pal process. It’s been a great exercise to write letters again and actually put pen to paper–instead of pixels to screen. I’d suggest that everyone find themselves a friend who lives in a different state (or even just a different city) and try it out. Comment on this and let me know how it goes! Or maybe just write me…

Dear 9-year old me:

Everyday, Lists, Ponderings

Dear 9-year old me,

Right now you are 22 years old and about to graduate from college–congrats! College is great by the way, you really enjoy it. Anyway, on the verge of your jettison into adulthood, I decided to write to you to give you some well-needed advice. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. There’s just some things that I think you should know that might have made these past 13 years a little different:

Wear dresses. In a few years you decide that you don’t want to wear anything remotely girly because the little boys won’t want to play with you. That’s just stupid. True, you end up with a bunch of really awesome guy friends in high school, but you miss out on a lot of key girl lessons that prevent you from really understanding girl-kind. Plus, people pick on you in high school for looking like a ragamuffin all the time. Believe it or not, the majority of your wardrobe in college is made up of dresses and skirts. Talk about irony.

Don’t dress your little brother up in dresses. It may be cute now, but you’ll pay for it later when he’s taller and stronger than you. (However, the picture of him in the tutu is still a family favorite so that one’s okay.)

Broccoli is really tasty. I’m serious, it’ll become one of your favorite foods. Actually, a lot of the foods that you think are gross end up being seriously delicious. Except for paté, stay away from that stuff.

Do more musicals. You’re good at them and meet some of your best friends doing them. When you get older you get so busy with other things that there isn’t time to do much theater. Besides, there is just a small window of opportunity to qualify for one of the Von Trapp kids…

Don’t be so shy. I know you don’t like to put yourself out there, but there are a lot of things you’ll miss out on because you’re afraid of making mistakes or what other people will think of you. You are an extremely bright little person with a lot of great ideas so share them. What’s the worse that can happen? I’m not going to tell you but it’s really not that bad.

Surprise! You’re an introvert. That means that you like to think… A LOT. This may not mean anything to you now, but you spend the majority of your youth thinking you’re an extrovert and that’s the reason why you get overwhelmed all the time. Oh, and there’s a difference between being shy and being introverted, so don’t use it as an excuse. It’s rare to find introverts who understand their extreme talents for introspection, so take advantage of it now.

Growing up is more fun than you think. I know you’re afraid of puberty and going to high school and having to act like a grown-up all the time, but you’ll change your mind. Yes, there are days when you miss making mud pies and playing dress up, but there are a lot of things to look forward to, like driving, wearing adult clothes, and getting to see whatever movie you want.

Don’t take your family for granted. I know you love your family now (you always will), but make sure to really cherish the moments you have with them and etch them into your memory. When you get older the memories of the times you are all together will become more valuable than you can imagine. Also, whatever happens, remember that it’s not your fault.

Be 9 years old. You’re just a kid, so try not to put so much pressure on yourself. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend your high school and early college years with an anxiety disorder because you think it’s up to you to keep the world turning. It’s not up to you to keep Mom and Dad happy or the family together or your friends from failing–that’s not your job and it will never be. Also, your future career doesn’t care what your GPA is, so you won’t need to worry about that too much.

Learn to love yourself. You try so hard to be perfect for everyone else that you forget to be the person God made you to be. Yes, you’re awkward, and no, that doesn’t go away, but you find friends who love you for it and wouldn’t change you for a thing. God will use your crazy ability to blurt out random facts and your disabling compassion and concern for others to do some truly amazing things. Stop comparing yourself to your sister, everyone else will do it enough for you. You are you. You are nerdy and bad at small-talk and socially-awkward and creative and talented and smart. Just watch out for your sophomore year of high school, because that awkwardness is inevitable and embarrassing…but you’ll live (consider burning all photo evidence, though).

Don’t regret anything. I don’t. You’ve done pretty well for yourself, kid. You got me where I am today and, although there were some cavernous bumps a long the way, I wouldn’t change any of it. You go through a lot in the next 13 years (gathering enough material to fill at least two seasons of an HBO miniseries), but know that you make it out alive and you learn from it all. Just keep doing what you’re doing now and everything will end up working the way God planned it to. God’s plan may not look like something you want to sign off on, but He takes you on an amazing ride that will change you for the better. He seems to know what He is doing.

Sincerely,

Me