T-SHIRT GIRL

 

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Dear Thursday,

I’ve always been a T-shirt and jeans kind of girl. There are few childhood photos of me in anything else. As a kid, I was the definition of a tomboy: never without my signature ponytail and always barefaced and sun kissed. Even now, when I’m home alone, you’ll find me with my hair, too long, pulled back in a braid; the freckles on my nose exposed—not dulled by powder or foundation—wearing a worn-out pair of jeans and an old T-shirt shirt from my husband’s side of the dresser. Sometimes I wonder: if this is how I dress and what I look like when I’m most comfortable, isn’t this who I am? Why do I smear on eyeshadow and dust my cheekbones with bronzer on the weekends? Why do I dig a skirt out of my closet and a pretty, girly top to wear before going out in public? Does dressing up and looking cute really make me feel better about myself, or would I feel more secure in my usual T-shirt and jeans, because a T-shirt and jeans is who I usually am? Do clothes matter? Does mascara make a difference? Is appearance worth anything?

I want to look good; I don’t want to be a slob. But I also want to be myself, regardless of social standards or trends. How can I do that—how can I own my T-shirt and jeans, bare face and ponytail without sacrificing my God-given femininity? Because a woman is what I am, but a tomboy is who I am.

I want to be both.

MR. + MRS. BALIN

Dear Thursday,

Two weekends ago my little sister got married. A relationship 6 years in the making, she and Bryce finally share a last name. It’s been a long time coming.

Kayli and I were there for their first look. I was supposed to be taking photos, but the elation of the moment was almost more than I could handle—stray tears blurred my vision and I had to stop clicking the camera’s shutter more than once to blubber and wipe my eyes. I used to feel embarrassed by displays of emotion; refusing to let myself feel openly joy or sorrow; choosing instead to look straight ahead and plod forward. These days I let it all out. I’m not an equivalent to the star of a Spanish soap opera—I don’t sob and wail and pull at my hair—but when the tears flow, I let them. Sometimes progress in life is marked by silly things: for me, in my life, crying in public is progress.

Kirsten and Bryce, your whole wedding day made me teary. In my own marriage, I learn something daily—about love and sacrifice, blessings and hardships, boundaries and adventures. I’m so excited for you to experience those things together. If being together is something earned, you’ve earned it more than any couple I know.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Balin!

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A HORSE OF COURSE

Dear Thursday,

I’m practically a modern day Laura Ingalls Wilder. Living in my little house on the prairie, blue sky and open space all around me, loyal dog, loving husband, garden plot in my front yard—what do I need that I don’t already have?

Why, a horse, of course. *

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*These are not my horses. (I just wish they were.)

 

RAINY DAYS ARE FOR WRITING LETTERS

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Dear Thursday,

It’s raining today. For me, rainy days are for writing letters.

I believe in words, being intentional and the disappearing art of the tangible.  Writing a letter is all of those things. As fun and as useful as social media can be, I unapologetically loathe the culture of convenience and insincerity it contributes to, and I’m protesting. I’m writing letters. A letter in the mail may not seem like much of a rebellion, I know, but I think a letter in the mail means astronomically more than a “like” on Facebook—-and honestly, that’s all I’m shooting for: real life relationships and creating something tangible once in a while. Words, and using them intentionally. Taking time to send something to someone I care about instead of posting on my Instagram account. Because just as scrolling through Wikipedia doesn’t equal reading a book, getting a letter in the mail and getting a comment on Twitter will never be comparable.

My rainy days will always be for writing letters.

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I LOVE CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK

 

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Dear Thursday,

There are many things that irk me about living in my hometown.  The fact that I’m stuck here for the foreseeable rest of my life, the fact that I know everyone and their great aunt whether I want to or not, and the fact that—outside of cows, swathers, a run-down movie theater and a bowling alley—there’s a limit to what you can see or do here.  But—can you believe it?—I also have a list of things I love about living in my hometown.  Near the top of that list, is Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake is an old friend of mine.  I learned to cross country ski on her snow-covered rim, I loved fishing off her sparkling shore as a kid, and my first “real” job just out of high school was as an activity agent on her tour boat crew.  She’s both a spectacular and a familiar spectacle to me, inspiring my awe and my nostalgia.  Summer is the time of year when you can hike down two miles of switchbacks to Cleetwood Cove and swim in the clearest, possibly the coldest water in the nation, or walk along Castle Crest trail and admire the abundant wildflowers, or hike to the summit of Wizard Island—a curious, almost mystical phenomenon—but even so, she’s always been my favorite in winter.

Winter dumps an average of 44 feet of snow on Crater Lake, burying her entire 33-mile rim—making all but Highway 62 and the road to Rim Village (which are cleared by constant plowing) inaccessible to vehicles. I love how the trees, heavy with snow, look like something out of a Doctor Seuss book.  I love watching the wall of white on either side of the road grow taller and taller the further up I drive, what used to be, the face of Mt. Mazama.  I love the thrill when I finally reach the top and behold the lake, surreal, the bluest water and the whitest snow, nestled in a crater that must be the shape of God’s thumb.

I love Crater Lake National Park.

This winter we didn’t make it there until December, but we brought friends.  After years of drought in Southern Oregon and very little snow—even for Crater Lake—it was good to see her rim buried by several feet.  Looking around, I was struck by how sentimental I feel about this place.  I felt as though I was introducing new friends to one I had known for a long time.  One who knew me as a child, and now as an adult, who remains the same—beautiful as ever—and beckons me back to visit her every year.  We stood on the edge of the rim in a huddle and shivered in the -20°F windchill before running stiffly back to our car, and even though my face hurt and I couldn’t feel my fingers, I smiled as we drove away.  I almost waved.  Until next time, old friend, I thought—until next time.

Thanks for making my hometown someplace special.

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ONCE WAS A GIRL

Dear Thursday,

Once, there was a 19-year-old girl from a small town who had big plans and big ideas.

None of them included a boy on one knee and a ring in a hand-carved box.

Or marrying the boy and moving back to her small home town in Southern Oregon.

Or arriving there, amongst the pastures and the rows of alfalfa, and wondering what on earth she was doing with her life—second-guessing everything—feeling alien and ordinary at once.

It’s an odd place to return to: a small town where nothing has changed, yet everything has.  People have moved on, but then, not really, because they’re still stuck in the same old ruts.  The cows are still here, and the tractors, and the farmers and the dairymen.  Also the yellow Rabbit Brush and the sharp-smelling Juniper trees.  But the little girl who grew up in the small town—the little girl who was me?  She’s gone.  I’m still looking for her.

It’s time to look forward.

This is where I skinned my knees riding bicycles on dirt roads, where I learned to drive a stick-shift, where my favorite childhood dog is buried in the back yard.  This is where I learned to be honest above all—to work hard—to see the blessing in every circumstance.  This is where women still bring homemade pies to church potlucks, the post office lady is my grandmother, and people wave when they pass each other on two-lane country roads.  This is where I grew up, where I live.

This is who I am.

Once, there was a 23-year-old girl from a small town who had big plans and big ideas.

None of them included the simple beauty right outside her doorstep.

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MY PLACE

Dear Thursday,

I’ve already failed my goal of posting on this blog each Thursday not once, but twice.  Two Thursdays in a row.  In the past, such a faulty start would have offended my perfectionist ideals so badly, I’d have scrapped the whole thing before it even began.

Well, no more.

Dear Thursday is my personal stand against all of the false starts, the unfinished projects, the ideas that never came to fruition.  It’s my place to document, to process, to create.  It’s my haphazard way of fighting back the self-consciousness, the pride, the feeling that I must be a certain person, achieve a certain thing, reach a certain height of success before I can say or do anything of value.

So I’m not quitting.

And I didn’t write a post over Thanksgiving week, because I didn’t have the time.

And I didn’t write a post last week, because I forgot to.

And I’m writing one now—at 2:49PM on a Sunday afternoon—to make up for it.

And I’ll see you next week, Thursday.