baby sister

baby eyes


5 cousins at Sea World in 2003 and 2012

So many things have changed, but some things have stayed the same.

And happiness follows us everywhere we go.

art history

There’s something you should know about me.

I like to draw whales. HOWEVER. When I draw whales, I always draw them…

with band-aids on their tails.

Yeah, I’m serious, and yeah, I know it’s peculiar. (and awesome)

And here’s why.

Burt Dow is a deep sea fisherman. One day he accidentally gets his hook stuck in a whale’s tail.

He pulls it out and puts a band-aid on the wound. But the other whales notice, and before long he’s surrounded.

Soon a surprised Burt discovers that they’re all eager to have band-aids stuck to their tales like the first whale! (Apparently that comrade of theirs was quite the war hero.) So Burt deals out band-aids to all the whales. I think I remember that some of the band-aids had stripes.

And they all lived happily ever after. Assuming the band-aids were waterproof.

So there you have it. A poignant history of art inspiration. Ask me to draw a whale for you sometime. 😉

Captain Jas. Hook

“In person he was cadaverous and blackavized, and his hair was dressed in long curls, which at a little distance looked like black candles, and gave a singularly threatening expression to his handsome countenance. His eyes were of the blue of the forget-me-not, and of a profound melancholy, save when he was plunging his hook into you, at which time two red spots appeared in them and lit them up horribly. In manner, something of the grand seigneur still clung to him, so that he even ripped you up with an air, and I have been told that he was a raconteur [storyteller] of repute. He was never more sinister than when he was most polite, which is probably the truest test of breeding; and the elegance of his diction, even when he was swearing, no less than the distinction of his demeanour, showed him one of a different cast from his crew. A man of indomitable courage, it was said that the only thing he shied at was the sight of his own blood, which was thick and of an unusual colour. In dress he somewhat aped the attire associated with the name of Charles II, having heard it said in some earlier period of his career that he bore a strange resemblance to the ill-fated Stuarts…. But undoubtedly the grimmest part of him was his iron claw.”

“Thus Wendy first laid eyes on the dark figure who haunted her stories. She saw the piercing eyes and was not afraid, but entranced.”


I took a week off from real life. I wandered up and down the bank of the Frio River like a wanderer come home, stepping on the same ground I visit every year. I remembered a game I made up when I was very young: trying to walk as far as possible without touching anything except cypress tree roots. I spent my childhood here, and somehow I managed never to take it for granted. It’s the simplest place in the world, a combination of peaceful and exciting that I needed so much. When did I turn into a grown-up with a life to escape from?

You would love those sprawling cliffs and the deep water below them. When you swim ten feet above the lazy catfish parties, it’s like you’re alone in an aquamarine mystery, and the mystery is more beautiful than the answer. I don’t think there is an answer, and that’s why it’s beautiful. The breeze turns the stillness into contented energy, and little ripples kiss your upper lip again and again like there’s no tomorrow and all we have is now. The past is gone and the future will never come and no one cares. You just swim into the 4 o’clock sun. You see poetry in everything. And for once, you exult in being alone… but then you’re not alone. Because your little sister and your fabulous cousin come and play seals right next to you, and then you exult in being not-alone. And you swim through the ripples to the diving log and pretend it’s a ship. Sometimes you can feel a fresh-water spring under you and it’s so COLD you scream and everyone thinks you saw a snake and then you laugh at them.

Then it’s eleven in the morning on another day and you’re alone again, down by the rope swing without much sunscreen, building a waterfall and channels for three hours. When you’re finished, it’s a quality establishment, and that sunburn on your back? It hardly matters. And your chipped fingernail polish? It doesn’t matter at all.

There’s a big hill from the upper campground to the lower campground, and it’s perfect for riding your bike with no brakes. People talk about throwing precaution to the wind, but I don’t think that’s what happens. I think the wind whooshes around you so fast that it snatches your precaution away from you, whether you’re holding it tightly or not. And I never hold mine tightly on that hill anymore. I’ve been hurtling down it at top speed ever since I was nine years old.

You would love the annual catfish-fry… sitting on rocks with fishing poles all day long, baiting with hot-dogs, naming the fish you catch, and throwing away the “stanleys”. And then at the end of the day, you haul your stringer back up to the cabin and your dad tries to show you how to clean the fish and it’s disgusting but now you’ll be able to survive in the wild. If you had a knife. And matches or flint. And cornmeal and Lowry’s salt and oil to coat the fish with. I fried them this year, and it took forever.

Oh, and then when you feel like it, you can walk up to the office and charge any number of ice-creams to your family’s account.

It was a week of enchantment and detachment. When being alone didn’t ever feel lonely. A week of painted rocks and curious fish and family and hardly any other campers to bring my mind back to the present. I don’t think I took a week off from real life, really. I think I took a week of visiting it. Maybe paradise is what’s really real, and everything else is simply the contrast material.

Scratch the maybe.

Ah, but the contrast material always seems so very contrasting when I come home. When I was a kid, I used to be sad to come home because home wasn’t as fun. But now I’m sad to come home because home is so much less home. It’s so much more complicated. Here is where I have to think about the future and figure out how to deal with the past. Here is where alone always feels lonely. But I tell myself to get a grip and wear a smile, because even while I miss that carefree river, a River of Life is flowing inside of me and I only have to look to the Source to realize that I will never despair and I will never let go. Even when all I want is to fade, there’s colour holding onto me that won’t let me give up. I can’t stay in paradise, but I can carry it with me always. And I will.

“owl” things bright and beautiful

Emily and I spent a very diverting afternoon sewing miniature owls and listening to nearly every song ever released by Owl City. The owls’ names are, in no particular order, Mr. Popper, Ruth, Romeo, Owlfred, Wimberley, and Ludwig. If you can guess which name goes with which owl, you will win points. =)

NCFCA memories part 3: farewell

So it’s over. There will be no more sitting on dirty carpet waiting to speak after the 4th person on the list. No more spending all day in suits-of-many-layers and stiff black shoes. No more rushing back to the common room to grab a forgotten apologetics box. No more using the convenient phrase, “Um, I have to go give a speech now,” in order to escape an awkward conversation. No more scarfing down Chick-fil-a sandwiches before the next round.

And part of me feels pensive and slightly plaintive. But the loss of the above facets of competition is nothing to me, because it’s YOU I care about. You priceless, ridiculously wonderful people. I don’t want to lose you, and I foresee myself going to great lengths in order to avoid that. =) But “whatever way our stories end, I know you have re-written mine by being my friend.”  We seniors are ready to move on, but our readiness is due so much to what we’ve learned from our fellow competitors and comrades.

And I will never forget what you have been to me. “I thank my God every time I remember you.” -Philippians 1:3

More (for everyone I love in the NCFCA)

I remember the beginning
I was a little bit scared.
I was ready for the judges…
But I was so unprepared.

I had been warned you were skillful…
That competition would be tight.
But no one warned me you were wonderful!
I got a shock of delight.

Because you’re so much more than a first-place award.
You’re defined by more than your I.O. boards;
The joy in your eyes is a smile in a thunderstorm.
I felt that spark when I first walked through those doors.
And you’re so much more than a balanced chart.
You’re business-attired works of art.
You scribbled your names on the flowpad of my heart
And I’ll never forget it, even when we’re far apart.

I remember returning
How could I stay away?
We were comrades and allies
And this was our heyday.

We dropped our defenses,
And picked up guitars.
And we whirled through the season,
With songs, words, and linked arms.

And I loved you, ’cause you’re so much more than a first-place award.
You’re defined by more than your I.O. boards;
The joy in your eyes is a smile in a thunderstorm.
I still feel that spark when I walk through those doors.
And you’re so much more than a balanced chart.
You’re business-attired works of art.
You scribbled your names on the flowpad of my heart
And I’ll never forget it, even when we’re far apart.

You’re so much more than I was looking for.
You’re so much more….
Than I could have hoped for.

Now life is so picturesque
Since we’re all here again.
But my time’s almost up–
I’m nearing the end.

Now I’m one of the Seniors.
We almost wish we could stay.
But we are stones full of promise.
And this league is our trebuchet.

Thank you for being so much more than a first-place award.
And defined by more than your I.O. boards;
The joy in your eyes could bring a smile to a thunderstorm.
I still feel that spark as I walk out of those doors.
And you’re so much more than a balanced chart.
You’re business-attired works of art.
You scribbled your names on the flowpad of my heart
And I’ll never forget it, even when we’re far apart.

 And I’ll never forget it, even when we’re far apart.

This video is a commemoration. A reflection on times of revelry and revery. A wistful celebration. And it’s for you. You are NCFCA.

And because I knew you, I have been changed. For the better. For good.

(p.s. I wanted to get everyone in this slideshow. I really tried. Unfortunately, there are people I know I missed. If I’ve talked you you more than 3 times, you really should be in this… so mentally add yourself. 😉 This video is for you, too.)

NCFCA memories part 2: Nationals

I have a blast at tournaments. Every time. So when I walked onto the airplane bound for Boston, I was expecting to enjoy the experience thoroughly. Nationals was my last tournament, after all, and I knew it would have to be fantastic. But little did I expect the deluge of blessings and joy that hit me in the face that week. It was practically perfect. We saved the best for last.


In order to get through security at the airport on the way to Boston (BOSTON!!), I had to take all the bobby pins out of my hair because they kept setting off the metal detector. Awkward.

Some of us sang Phantom of the Opera songs in the dark while exploring the college campus Monday night.

On Tuesday we organized a trip to downtown Boston (love that city). That afternoon, Nathan Exley happened to hand me a dogwood flower when he had finished examining it. I tucked it into my belt, but by the end of the day it was pretty dead. So in the car (squished with 3 other girls in the backseat) on the way back to the college, I decided to throw it out the window. Alison pretended to freak out, saying, “Grace, that flower could be the symbol of Nathan’s and your relationship! You can’t throw it away!”
“The flower is dead. What does that say?” I returned. There was some loud laughter. And then I threw it out the window, while we continued our giggling.

Owen and I gave an impromptu concert in the music hall, and the Kawaii piano wouldn’t quit ringing with that one annoying note….

The moon was heart-stopping Wednesday night.

Alison flipped out when Johnny tried to pick up a candy wrapper or something for me. And I couldn’t stop laughing while I was trying to explain her philosophy regarding guys and me.

Friday night’s train of events topped all else. It began in the music hall where Owen, Johnny, Josh, Nathan Exley, and I sat about in chairs talking of music and art while flipping through music books left there, presumably, by the college students. After an hour or so of that, we headed back to the cafeteria to grab all the flotsam and jetsam we had stashed there. But 10pm is far too early to head back to the dorms, so some of us simply transferred our belongings and ourselves to the tavern (it didn’t sell beer) next to the cafeteria. Owen and I sat across from Caroline, Johnny, and Josh, and I cannot even describe the fun we had singing along to tavern-appropriate songs, reading Shakespeare sonnets, hacking Josh’s facebook, making snarky comments about junior colleges (I added like 5 quotes to my quotebook that night), listening to Sinatra, and watching scenes from My Fair Lady and Singing in the Rain. At 11-something, we heard a lot of giggling coming from the direction of the door, and without further warning were accosted by a bevy of mothers who were having a singularly fun evening. I cannot even describe the hilarity that ensued as they surrounded our booth.
Mrs. Thompson: None of us have had a drink! I promise you!
Johnny: I think you :need: a drink! Something good and stiff!
After some time, things settled down and we listened to Rachmaninoff and Ravel until exhaustion pulled us into our dorm rooms.

I broke to finals in Thematic. It felt so strange to ask the judges “are you all ready?” for what I knew was the last time.

After LD finals, a large portion of Region 4 took off for the beach. I was a little bit enamoured of the place. It was the most fantastically fun and beautiful beach I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. We took off our shoes and scrambled over the salt-water-smooth rocks; some of us nearly killing ourselves… several times. Danger enhances delight. We found the stairs of Cirith Ungol, but we went down instead of up, which I guess meant that Frodo’s quest had failed. We slipped on seaweed, took pictures, laughed at each other, collected rocks (okay, that was only me), and bought ice cream before heading back for awards.

The ballot party after all the proceedings had finished was… bittersweet. I won’t deny the tears. But I will assert that NCFCA has been worth every twinge of pain, and a hundred times over. We seniors decided to take what Owen called an “Elephant Walk” (?), but of course we were joined by a lot of non-seniors, which was fine by me. We wandered around the campus until after midnight; climbing fire escapes, walking on “ruins”, listening to ducks that sounded like moose, talking about cannibalism (not my fault), and probing the boundaries of sanity. Back at the dorm building, we watched Batman Begins until 3am, and said our disoriented “goodnights” which were also “goodbyes”.

Some tournaments are better than others. Nationals was the best of all.


In the light of my last ever regional tournament, this is really all I have to say to the people in Region 4:

country trees

The trees in my yard are not noble. Sometimes I sit staring at them, noticing how much they could use a good rain, and I wonder if they envy their distant cousins, varieties of maple, beech, or pine, and wish they could wear such blooming veils of leaves, and tickle their neighbors with branches sheathed in such sturdy and supple bark. The trees in my yard are like the people in my town– rugged, hardy, and familiar with drought. They don’t flaunt their elegance, since it can’t be found in the blunt organization of their boughs. They weather the world with a matter-of-fact grimness, like maiden aunts who know their bridal day will never come. But sometimes, when a storm knocks at the horizon and the wind sweeps through like an upstairs maid shaking out the rugs, I catch the trees in my yard laughing to each other, as if to say, “Life is one enormous practical joke, and isn’t our part in it supreme?”