To my adopted extended family,
It’s funny, because you’re sort of my real extended family because Michael married Emily. So since he’s my brother-in-law and you’re his family, it’s like we’re family-tied. I have the hardest time trying to explain that to people. But my heart really gets it.
I guess it’s kind of weird that I’m almost 21 and yet today I was playing leapfrog with you. It’s a weird I can live with, though. Because you are some of the best things in my life. And when I say “my life” I don’t mean right now. I mean ever. Always. You are the best. I never could have imagined our current situation- you and me and Michael and Emily all living on the same property, two minutes’ drive or 6 minutes’ walk away. It’s just one example of how God takes things that scare me (moving to the country) and turns them into things I adore.
I’m so sore right now. When someone suggested we play football on our knees, I had this thought that I probably shouldn’t ruin my jeans. But I played anyway. Because I can buy new jeans and my sore knees will be back to normal tomorrow. But this? This absurd experience of scooting across a sandy field on our knees and looking laughably stunted as we tackle each other is going down in the venerated book of Good Times.
When we played Red Rover (my first time since age 8ish), I squeezed your hands tight- partially to keep our chain together, and partially because you are my favourite kids and I love feeling like your sister.
When we made hot chocolate from scratch, I sang Pompeii with you and was glad of the cold weather and warm friendship.
I’m just so thankful for you. My family and your family and the joining of us through Michael and Emily. Thanksgiving isn’t for few weeks yet, but I find myself feeling this way all the time. When you hold my sister close, Michael. When you show me how itunes works, Josh. When you break the line of scrimmage to run and keep Caleb from shutting his fingers in the car door, Andrew. When you half-hug me whenever we pass, Sam. When you quote the same phrase 3 times in a row, Noah. When you show me sandcastles, Abby. When you say “Grace! You’re home!” when I get to your house, Caleb.
I love you. I don’t always tell you stuff like this because I guess I’m afraid you’ll think I’m sentimental. And I am. But I don’t care. I look at your dirty faces and I see your patchwork hearts and I love you with everything God has made me and all the ample love with which he has deluged my soul. I don’t know what time will do to us, but I hope to keep you close. You are my family now. You and your parents and the new baby who has yet to make an appearance. The Lord has done great things for us and I hope you notice even the tiny ones- the brightness of the day-moon in the afternoon sky and the sprinkling of leftover cocoa powder on the counter and the way people laugh when they feel secure. I notice them and I remember them and I keep them locked up inside me so that whatever happens, wherever we go, whatever we become, I will always have a piece of you with me.
Good times indeed.
there I was lying on the carpet,
raised on my elbows, making bookmarks
precision knife poised like a tiny javelin
red squeeze marks on my knuckles
the promise to come downstairs electrified solitude
and as my bedroom reverberated with strains of his symphony
Tchaikovsky cradled loneliness with reverence
there were the Proms in their last week
and I leaving for a two-week vacation,
voices and orchestras made me fade
blowing wide their memory
the anticipation of leaving intensified festivity
and as the walls reverberated with strains of applause
Petroc Trelawney described the Albert Hall with reverence
there you went leaping over garden rows
spiking the volleyball, sipping your milkshakes
fresh haircuts, tan and taut legs
stretching my heart
and the thought of me ever going from you- or you from me- energised camaraderie
and as the Honda reverberated with strains of your mirth
no one listened to your laughing with as much reverence
almost-healed blisters from chopping down trees with Andrew
walking barefoot in short-clipped grass and red garden soil
Anna browsing Pinterest
boys throwing pebbles at my window
dirty cowboy hats in the garage
all hands on deck in the garden with rakes
Dad “forcing” people to put their banana peels etc. in plastic compost containers
sudden spring and sneezing in hay
everyone sprawled out on the Lathams’ couches watching Phineas and Ferb
Sam owning everyone at video games
the bounce board
Mom wheeling Caroline around in the stroller in the afternoon
Alan poring over library books and lining them up across the living room floor
Noah helping me play Lego Batman
Josh going back to old subjects when everyone else has moved on to another topic of conversation
“Guys don’t really like a ton of people. Girls are like, “I love everyone!!”” -Sam
lots of yelling. all the time.
borrowing Emily’s camera
random power outages
spotty cell phone service
bumpy dirt roads and radio turned up loud
throwing the frisbee
spontaneous dinner parties
Emily’s homemade bread
Caleb dancing to Gangnam Style
cuddling and tickling on the couch with Noah and Abby and Caleb
sunset light filtering over the hill behind Michael and Emily’s house
“I can’t wait until you make your pickles again, Grace.” -Anna
Alan eating too much peanut butter every morning
Caroline and Sam tickling each other with grass
the way Alan screams with his tongue out when he’s hurt himself
Andrew wearing The One Ring on a chain under his shirt
Abby’s glass collection at the fort by the free-running course
that one piano app on Michael’s phone
“There are these magnetic mushrooms… but they go to sleep during the day so you have to give them a coffee bean..” -Michael
Josh and Andrew’s garden-dirty hipster shoes
medieval philosophy lectures and silhouette bookmarks
getting poked in the ribs
broccoli and cauliflower plants between the blackberry rows
crowding around Michael’s television watching the extended Lord of the Rings
everyone annoying everyone else
everyone loving everyone else anyway
hugs and head-kisses
“Long live the walls we crashed through! I had the time of my life with you.”
What with having graduated last May and all of my family’s <british accent> mental </british accent> activities this spring (read: baby sister born in February, slightly-less-baby sister getting married in two weeks), I found myself whizzing through the semester with a sorry lack of NCFCA. I had all these plans last year… plans to coach speech and debate, plans to go to as many tournaments as I could… plans. We plan, God laughs. But as it turned out, even though I didn’t get to plug into the league as early in the year as I would have liked, I was able to attend the two last Region 4 tournaments of the year, as an alumni judge. And oh, blimey, have I missed this. Walking around in the same facilities in which I competed just last year brought back so many memories. I have three years’ worth of those memories. When I was competing, I kept a document solely for the purpose of chronicling some of the small ones, the unimportant ones, the kind of memories that spin the world. Perhaps now is a good time to revisit them. But prepare yourself: there are quite a few.
First tournament ever! I did NOT like my clothes, especially one day when I wore a maroon-ish argyle blouse. =P
My first speech ever in this league occurred on the third floor in room #360.
Christina Hastings and I were constantly quoting Wall-E at each other… specifically, “You look GORGEOUS!”
With little practice, no feedback, and no club to call my own, I managed to break at this, my very first tournament.
National Open, 2009-
I got my first 1st place ballot at this tournament. In Apologetics. I remember being shocked.
Since I didn’t break, this was the only tournament ever when I timed a semi-finals speech round.
Alamo Qualifier, 2009-
Late one night, at our host house, I was getting ready for bed when the power suddenly blacked out. Completely and totally. I brushed my teeth in the light of my cell phone. And it was freezing cold, just as a plus. Turns out, someone turned on the microwave and for some reason it shorted the system. I believe that Mr. Hastings had to go outside in the freezing cold (and rainy) night to flip it back on.
This was the tournament when I tried to take lots of pictures of people who matched each other. (partners or otherwise)
Paul Putman and I walked through the halls singing songs from Mary Poppins one afternoon!
The four Pevensies were created. ❤
Sometime during prelims, I wrote my first ‘Timing TP’ poem while timing Maisano/Upham against another team I can’t remember! They’re probably in my records somewhere.
The gym was on the second floor, and it was often in use when we were competing. NOT a brilliant plan on the part of that church. =)
I was so tired on the last day that I literally tried to take a nap under the stairs. But people found me, and we ended up taking an awesome group ‘sleeping under the stairs’ picture.
Frisco practice tourney, 2009-
Here is where I learned the ‘Roll’ game, where you can get people to roll on the floor if they’re not doing the ‘block’ properly. The things we do sometimes… 😉
It was so frigidly cold during the tournament. And since we had two competition buildings, we students perfected this sort of mad dash from one to the other, holding our suit coats tightly closed.
DFW Qualifier, 2010-
One of my HI judges at this tournament wrote that I should consider wearing a more generic outfit to fit my performance. I had been wearing a grey pencil skirt, a white button-down blouse, and black heels at the time. How much more streamlined can you get? =)
During lunch one day, Paul Hastings came over to finish my leftover food, and he tried to force me to write cryptic notes to place in Owen Stroud and Nathan E.‘s instrument cases. I actually gave in… but I made the notes less cryptic than he had intended, i.e, “You did great in extemp (he wasn’t doing extemp). Love, Paul Hastings.” Paul ripped out his name, and put it in anyway. 😉
There was an incredibly tempting grand piano in the foyer that we were told not to touch. That was a trial. =)
It’s hard to believe something could be so convenient, but there was a room PERFECT for dancing and containing an upright piano :right: next to the fellowship hall. We taught the Virginia Reel and the Patty-cake Polka and the broom dance, and more! Plus, the vivacious timer lady sang with our live accompanists. What fun.
National Open, 2010-
During the accidental break between LD and TP finals, I ate dinner at the Pei Wei about 3 blocks and 4 parking lots down with a bunch of friends. When we got done, we walked back in the dark. And it was incredible.
Timing TP 2 was written at this tournament. Little did I know what would happen to it!
I learned the Highland Polka during TP finals. =)
Tim taught me how to two-step in the hallway, much to the amusement of the hall monitor.
The tournament staff had warned us to look out for snakes on the campus (Concordia). And one day when Owen and Molly and I were meandering along the paths for some reason, we spotted one eating a lizard. It wasn’t very big at all, but Molly and I still kept our distance. I had my back to Owen while I was watching the snake, and he suddenly lowered his voice and said, “Grace, don’t move.” So I didn’t. =) But I barely had time to register his urgent admonition before he laughed and said ‘just kidding’. =D
Tim told Caroline and I the ‘awkward waiter’ story. Historical moment. =)
Caroline brought her pink bubble wand… and… we used it. “You two will be the death of me!” -Tim
At the hotel on the Navy base, we had a large bag of sour skittles. I ate many. And read someone’s book about dragons at the same time. 😐
Also at this tournament, I nearly forgot to give my speech during a round. I was sitting around talking blissfully, when Christina came up and announced happily that she was done for that round. I was all like, “oh, yay!” until I realized with an audible gasp that I WASN’T done, and the building in which I was to speak was all the way at the other end of the campus (Regent University). I ran all the way. (and I wasn’t late, after all)
Their library was directly adjacent to the fellowship hall. I had the best of times foraging through all the books.
I did not participate in the massive game of ‘Ninja’ which happened on the last day and filled the entire front courtyard area! I did, however, dance the polka and Posties Jig with members of various regions.
It was myself and about 5 young men, standing in the chapel on the second floor and exchanging stories of how we had almost died.
While executing a particularly difficult move in my HI, I stumbled and almost fell flat on my face. That’s never the best thing to do when you’re worrying about whether your judges will penalize you for it. None of mine mentioned it, though!
The first day ended so early (8:00pm, I think), that a lot of us stayed to dance the Virginia Reel for another hour or so. =)
National Open, 2011-
A little timer gal asked Ben Amason what she should draw. He suggested Grendel from Beowulf. But at her protests that she couldn’t draw a ‘monstrous spirit’, he told her to draw a bunny. A few minutes later she came back with a picture of a cat sitting in a tree. =P
“Breaking in Extemp…. Brandy Clayton.” -Mrs. Hudson
Right before the awards ceremony, Sarah Maddux had to leave to go back to A&M. She had a few guy friends with her, and I was teasing them about not letting them take Sarah back. Abruptly, this one guy says to me, “We will pay you some really wonderful compliments if you’ll just do us a big favour. Can you let us know who won TP finals?”
“Oh, sure! I’ll text Sarah.”
Then this guy whom I’ve never seen before in my life begins to shower me with the most extravagantly exaggerated compliments:
“Thank you so much! Your eyes are like twin amber sunsets over stretches of misty forests….” etc. and so on. He took my hand dramatically as he continued. How he was coming up with all this off-the-cuff, I had no clue. He must have used this tactic on others before me! I was laughing extremely hard, but I managed to get into the part a bit, fanning myself with my hand, and acting faint with happiness. It was some kind of hilarious.
I still can’t believe that I got 2nd place in OO and thus qualified to Nationals. So flooring. Also, I picket-fenced two rooms: OO and TI.
After the awards ceremony, ARC had planned a ballot party at our hotel, but Kathryn, Anna, and I wanted to go to IHOP with YSA and LOGOS and 19:14. So we convinced Mrs. Macdonald, and lovingly ditched ARC for the time. That night was amazing. We stayed until at least 1:20, laughing our heads off about everything.
Austin Qualifier (TX State), 2011-
What do Predestination, Catholicism, Science, and the 4th Dimension have in common? They were all exciting conversation topics when Avery and Nathan and I sat around a table for the better part of 2 hours. It’s unbelievably wonderful how we can be kindred spirits and true friends even when we disagree.
Jason Halvorson was happier than I was when my DI advanced to finals. The kid is adorable. I love him a ton. Also, he sent a bunch of us into spasms of laughter when he jumped into our conversation circle (sitting on the sidewalk outside before awards) and dealt out high fives, saying, “Hey, it’s all my homies!!”
I literally sobbed through the entire last half of my DI in semis. I love crying in dramatic productions.
Owen and I went into a back room with Molly to practice the Timing TP song before performing it for everyone, and we had the BEST time singing it in ridiculous operatic voices.
Having never received a 1st place award in speech before, I was thrilled to get 1st in OO and TI. (Because of this, I received an invitation to the THCS banquet in Austin, which was a formal affair with disgusting salad and hanging out on balconies.)
Abilene Qualifier, 2011-
I began to feel pretty sick on Wednesday night during script submission, and it worried me that I might have to pull out of multiple events. But God was so amazing and He pulled me through it.
Debating (only time ever) was such fun. Mostly. I went against some super fun and skilled people, like Kelton Brisack and Graham Wegsheid and Brady Clayton. How I ended up with 2nd place speaker, I have no idea?
Alison L. and Elizabeth C. appointed themselves to be my ladies-in-waiting. =) Alison: “Grace, you are going to have all the nations fighting over you. Can I get front row seats?”
The gym floor was a slightly rubbery surface, and I was quite excited when I discovered that marbles could bounce super high on it.
Brooks Clayton was my trash-emptying buddy. =) We made all the rounds during TP finals.
I got a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 5th&below in every impromptu room.
Saw on a white board: “Wear short sleeves; support your right to bare arms.”
Alison guarded me from men a lot. Whenever she saw me in a group of mostly guys, she got all defensive and hilarious. Apparently, I am very vulnerable according to her. 😉
Caroline came to see me, and we sang Broadway songs outside for roughly an hour. ❤
Got first in Thematic for the 3rd time in a row… ((what? cool.))
My last tournament in Region 4, and I was still meeting people! Worthless? Never.
You can read about my experiences at Nationals here. =)
My head was spinning faster than the wheels of the truck as the country roads took me away from home. I forced myself to slow down on the curves and tried to remember if I was forgetting anything. The easiest item to forget is the cell phone charger, but even that was tucked away between a curling iron and a book I needed to return. My mind was parched for the purple scent of pine trees. They have this way of expanding the sky and putting parentheses around the stars and reminding me that I’ve forgotten the mountains.
Sometimes I wonder why I’m the only one who shivers with delight upon entering that ugly church. I’d like to have it on a key chain, address it in diminutives, and write a song about each of the horrendously-painted walls. Exhilaration is sitting in a corner in the depths of its environs and listening to all the memories jostling each other above my head. “Hi, remember when we danced the Scottish polka and lamented the loss of those pointless hanging branches?” “Oh, yes I do, and don’t you recall walking through the hallways in hose and nearly falling down the stairs every time?” Are memories more indigenous to any other place on earth? The place was rampant with them.
The clicking of a pink pen woke me up and I found that I was on the other side. Separated from my former self by a table and a judging philosophy, I told my face to be responsive and tried to look official. Several people felt the need to tell me that I looked closer to sixteen than nineteen, but I preferred to pretend I didn’t care. My name tag was blue, my Converse were yellow, and the world was at my feet for a weekend, even when I slipped on the stairs. Incidentally, there’s only one letter’s difference between “stairs” and “stars”.
Strange Scottish accents kept us up until four in the morning, along with debates about debate, Whataburger shakes and way-too-loud-for-a-small-truck music. We reveled in each others company, and oh, how I had missed you all.
And suddenly a new scene clicked into focus like a slide on one of those paper discs that pop into those hand-held magnifying picture things. I cannot remember what they’re called to save my life, but they’re made of plastic, and you squeeze a lever to flip to the next slide. I think you could get them at McDonald’s sometimes. At any rate, a new scene clicked into focus like picture on one of those enigmatic devices, and we were wandering around in the dust of a noisy carnival– petting baby alpacas, eating over-priced funnel cake, and watching people fail at impossible-to-win games. And we went to the auction and cheered and clapped and enjoyed the excitement for exactly twenty minutes… and then it was all just noise. What is it about a person whistling loudly enough to wake the dead that makes me want someone to hold my hand? A borrowed jacket and “camelot” written on my arm kept me sane.
I personally don’t think it’s fair that Best Buy carries “Torchwood” and not “Doctor Who”. But eating Chik-fil-A fries while sitting on the edge of a potentially pretty landscaping plot which was flooded with greenish plants that dipped their fronds in our ketchup honestly made up for it. We toured the Conroe shops (I bought books), and then it was back to the carnival for dizzying rides and hanging upside down in our seats while taking iphone videos and bending a few rules on the ferris wheel.
I think you’re all pretty sort of marvelous. You sweep away the dust of Being from my life and remind me where I’m going. You accost me on my journey and make it beautiful. It was a jolly holiday- worthy of British adjectives and accents. (Surely it’s not our fault if the Indian guy at the gas station was confused.) We’ll do it again sometime.
Or maybe we could go out sometime… for texting and scones.
(If you get that reference, I will hug you.)
It’s my favourite way to commemorate the year just past. I hope you enjoy the following collection of quotes from 2011.
Dad: Now, this is a narrow street, so watch how I make this U-turn. *makes turn while explaining* Okay, so see how tight that was? Sometimes U-turns are illegal, though, so you know not to make those.
Me: *looking back* Uhhhh… I’m just now realizing that there was an “illegal U-turn” sign back there…..
Dad: Oh, really? Oh. … Yeah, it’s hard to make U-turns on tight streets like that. They put those no U-turn signs up for people who don’t know how to make turns like that. Thankfully, I know how to do it safely. SO it doesn’t really apply to me.
Anna: Come this way, Alan!
Alan: To Isengard, to Isengard!
Me, pop-quizzing the family on vocabulary: ‘Extraneous’. The root is “extra”, which means “out”….
Emily: OUT OF A TRAIN!!! ….um, out of CONTROL! Like, extra “reign” eous.
Mom: Oooh! Extra rainy!
Dad: You’ve been a good boy during devotion tonight so far, Alan!
Alan: I would be happy if you finished.
“Alan, don’t swing the sword around. Just point it at people.” -Dad
“You are being especially clever tonight.” -Emily, to me
Me: (looking at senior photos) I can’t pick one!
Christina: It’s because you’re just too lovely and photogenic.
Me: But you don’t mention those 300 pics you deleted.
Christina: Well… we just won’t talk about those!
“The topic I’ve chosen today is self-worth. Now, judges, *pointing* you’re ugly, you’re fat, and YOU’RE stupid. Now listen up, especially you, the stupid one.” -Luke (*spoofing impromptu*)
Nathan: Grace, are you a yankee?
Owen: Of COURSE she’s not!
“Yay, my cupcake is here! I will kill it!” -Emily (at a rehearsal for the battle scene from Beauty and the Beast)
“Death is only romantic when the SINGLE person dies.” -Alison
Anna: The reason there’s paint all over the floor is because Michael..
Michael: I did NOT make paint angels on the floor, Anna.
Anna: *laughing* No, no, it’s just, (*to me*) Michael kicked the bucket!
Michael: *he and I chuckle* I’m standing right here! Don’t tell lies.
Anna: I’m not! He kicked it! It was an accident!
Michael: Well at least I didn’t do it on purpose! *he and I laugh again*
Anna: *totally confused* …and it spilled everywhere.
Michael: Ugh! Gross!
Me: Hahahaha! Anna, do you know what the phrase, ‘kick the bucket’ means?
Me: It means to die.
Anna: …*starts laughing*
“I have a photographic memory. In my mouth.” -Isaac
Nathan: Well, if you have to go, I don’t want to keep you.
Me: You just want to throw me away??
Nathan: How did I know you would say that?!
Me: Because you’re you and I’m me and we get along. =)
Alan: Awww, look at yourself!
Alan: Because yourself is pretty!
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.