When your life resembles a carefree dance

There’s a song that tells us that “life’s a dance you learn as you go,” and I’ve always known that it’s full of truth.

Yet I’m just now letting it all sink in—you know, more than 20 years later.

Cue “I’ll Be There for You”

Two of my precious forever friends and I went to a park Saturday morning to catch up and also to take a picture on the Friends couch. When we arrived, we saw a handful of people dancing on the stage used for local performances and, as we later discovered, apparently Saturday morning yoga, as well.

I was immediately intrigued.

I started walking faster, excited for the possibility of dancing with some new friends (they weren’t aware of these upcoming friendships just yet), but I was slightly disappointed when I found out that it was an exclusive group. I spoke with a man who wasn’t dancing but looked like he was part of the in-crowd, and he told me that it was a professional dance group that travels around the country to teach dance to kids. The dancers were there this particular morning to shoot a promo video, and it wasn’t exactly open to the public (e.g., a feisty redhead who loves people and loves to dance).

I asked him if we could all dance together when they were finished recording, but he didn’t seem as enthusiastic about that idea as I had hoped. When the group had a small break a couple of minutes later, though, I asked all of the dancers if we could dance together just for a bit, and before I knew it, we were going at it free style.

And that’s the only way I know how to dance—with no rules or structure or expectations of any kind.

That moment of dancing with complete strangers who all have their own unique stories while my sweet friends watched and cheered me on was exactly what I needed that morning. I’ve had more on my plate lately than I likely should, and I’ve felt bogged down. I’ve also been dealing with some things in my heart that have been rather heavy on my emotions, as well. You know, life stuff. It’s tough sometimes. But being able to let go of everything for a few carefree moments felt like that moment when you’re swimming and have been holding your breath too long underwater and finally make it to the surface and breathe in fresh air that’s full of more life than you can explain.

I don’t do organized dancing well. I’m not a fan of knowing what move I’m going to do next or trying to think too hard about what steps I’m supposed to take. It’s too stressful, and it’s not me. I’d rather just go with my own flow and surprise myself. (However, not everyone supports that, and I once was kicked off of a dance floor at a very strict line dancing place in California because I wasn’t doing the line dance going on at the time.)

So why can’t more areas of my life be like my dancing—absolutely no idea what’s coming next but with no worries about not knowing?

We’re trying not to be too shocked by the dinosaurs around every corner in Jurassic World.

Life is always going to throw unexpected things at us, and it’s OK not to know what’s on the next page of your story. I used to read the last page of a book first so that I knew how it ended. I hated surprises. But in the past few years, my life has been filled with more transitions than I ever thought possible, and I’ve come to (almost) love the element of surprise that each new day holds. Sure, sometimes it’s truly frightening, but it’s mostly intriguing and beautiful.

Are there some mysteries in my life right now for which I wish I could go and read the last pages to make sure that everything turns out OK? Absolutely. But I’m not supposed to know that yet.

I’m not Marty McFly, and I don’t roam around with a genius named Doc who has a DeLorean that can take me to the past or the future, so there’s really no way for me to know what’s going to happen next. And I’m finally OK with that. I don’t read the last page of a book first anymore, because it’s going to end the same way whether I know what’s going to happen or not. It’s more important to focus on the story that leads up to that ending—after all, it’s all of the stuff in between that helps make the story what it is.

Our stories are uniquely ours, and we don’t always need to know what’s going to happen next year or next month or next week or tomorrow or even within the next couple of minutes. It’s OK to live in the unknown and dance without any structure whatsoever, even if it means you get kicked off of a dance floor every now and then.

Because your story will often end up better than you ever could have planned it, anyway.

Because your life is not a cookie-cutter creation

Your life likely looks completely different than those around you and maybe even completely different than you thought it would years ago.

It’s crazy to me that she doesn’t even realize how much she’s capable of achieving.

And you can trust that that’s probably a good thing.

I went to the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Nursing graduation on Friday to see one of my girls graduate and receive her BSN degree. This young woman has been through quite a bit since I’ve known her when she was a freshman in high school, and she has handled every single trial and heartache with such grace and tenacity. I’m so proud of the person she’s become and can’t wait to see how she continues to change the world.

As I was sitting there listening to all of the accomplishments of various individuals in the program and thinking about how impactful nurses are, I had a brief thought of near regret enter my mind: Maybe I should have been a nurse. While I love helping people and supporting and encouraging them, I don’t think it’s exactly the career for me. That’s a lot of pressure to keep people alive—after all, I can barely keep myself alive.

I was having a conversation with someone on Saturday, and we were talking about various things about us and how we got to where we are now, and I said something I wasn’t really expecting to hear myself say: I wish I had kept playing soccer. I don’t like having regrets, but it’s one thing that I admit that I’d like to change about my past.

On Sunday, I went to my sister’s indoor soccer game, and for the second time that weekend, I wondered what my life would have been like if I had stuck with soccer. I was always pretty good at it growing up but then quit to focus on other sports in high school. I think there’s a little part of me, though, that has always wondered what might have been. What if I had continued to play? Where would I be now? The obvious answer is on the cover of a Wheaties box and inspiring girls across the world.

More realistically, it might have simply changed my college experience and where I went if I had decided/been good enough to play at that level.

I can “what if” until I’m blue in the face. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t pursue soccer, and I’ll never know what would have happened if I did. Or if I became a nurse. Or a million other possibilities of things I could have done. My life would be completely different in a number of ways, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Besides, I’m in the now and need to live and be fully present in the now—not in the past or the future or a place and time that don’t actually exist.

Update: I’m not on the U.S. women’s national team.

We all make so many decisions on a daily basis—some seemingly small, others more monumental. But even those small decisions can be life-altering. Every single choice we make helps us get to the next steps on our journeys, and I think it’s so wonderful how unique and different all of our stories are. I’m fairly useless in the kitchen, but I do know that people who bake cookies and cupcakes are able to use special tools to make all of their desserts look alike, especially for occasions like bridal and baby showers and other festive celebrations. I think it’s really neat that God doesn’t do that when he creates people—He makes each person so special in his or her own way with a story that is completely different from every other human’s on the planet.

And I honestly believe that it’s really great that we often have no idea what’s in store for us.

I used to hate surprises. Like, truly hate them. I always used to read the last page of a book before I would even consider beginning it because I wanted to make sure that I was going to like the way it ended. I played it far too safely in so many areas of my life because risks meant unpredictable outcomes. Somewhere along the lines, though, I realized that not knowing where each choice I make and action I take are going to lead is so much better—for both my heart and my mind.

With the exception of Back to the Future (although that one did give me a little anxiety), I’m not a huge fan of movies about time travel or people switching places and messing with other people’s lives (I don’t like any version of Freaky Friday), mainly because I don’t like the idea of people being able to alter their pasts to change their presents. I know that many of us would like to be able to change the situations in which we find ourselves, but the struggles and storms are necessary to get us to the better places we need to be and to shape us into the individuals we were always meant to be.

It’s OK if your life didn’t turn out to be the way you thought it would. I don’t know all of the reasons why we have to go through the things we have to go through in life, but I do know that there’s purpose in everything—in every joy, every sorrow, every celebration, every season of mourning, every hope fulfilled, every broken heart, every success, every failure. Everything.

I’m not a nurse or a professional soccer player or a Grammy-winning singer (that was a pipe dream—I have zero musical talent) or an actress or a SportsCenter anchor or an Olympic athlete (I was so bad at gymnastics that they asked me to leave, and my sprinting career died when I realized that I’m not actually fast) or married to my lobster (thanks, Friends).

And I’m thankful for that.

My life is far from perfect—there have been some really tough mountains I’ve had to climb and moments that I’d rather forget than remember. But if Miley Cyrus taught me anything worth learning in life, it’s that it’s all about the climb.

We can’t actually hop in DeLoreans and go alter our pasts in hopes of changing our current situations, but we can use those times to learn and grow and guide our future decisions and actions.

And we can trust that everything that’s happened in our lives thus far is all part of the perfect plans for the unique and special journeys that become our own beautiful stories.

I get by with a little help from my friends

The Wonder Years was a great show for so many reasons—the life lessons, the hope, Kevin and Winnie, the Arnold family, Paul.

And the theme song, of course.

Life is full of ups and downs—or “peaks and valleys,” as many people like to call them—and it’s nice to have your people around for those times. They’re there to celebrate with you and share your joy during those positive times, and they’re there to walk alongside you and offer you shoulders to cry on during those dark periods.

Last Friday was one of those not-so-great days when you just want to crawl into your bed and hide from the world for as long as possible until you muster up the strength to get up and eat Popsicles or candy or something else that doesn’t hold a significant place on the food pyramid (which I think should be discussed with the creators of that thing, by the way). I wanted to forget about the things I couldn’t forget, and I wanted the hurt I was feeling to magically disappear.

But that didn’t happen.

Two of my friends from work texted me that night to check on me, and even though that didn’t make everything go away, it reminded me of something: We need our people.

I went to a get-together on Saturday that I had been looking forward to for a couple of weeks. When I first started running and competing, I met a lot of different runners in the area and started to make new friends. One of them invited me to run with his group, but someone else advised me not to run with that group because they were too fast for me, and I wouldn’t enjoy it (yes, we were adults, not in middle school). I went, anyway, and she was completely wrong. Sure, they were definitely too fast for me, but they didn’t care about that. They were so nice and fun and encouraging and wanted to help me become a better runner.

They did that and so much more—they helped me become a better person.

Laz thought we were at a GQ shoot.

Over the years, life changes occurred for all of us (as they always do), and we don’t all run together like we used to. But the friendships and care for one another are still there, and that’s what it was always about, anyway. We’ve supported each other when we’ve been at our worsts, and we’ve cheered with one another at our bests. These are the people you want in your tribe in every moment you face. So I was more than excited to be able to spend time with some of them on Saturday.

Dalton and Steve are honestly two of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet. They love people like they should, and it’s contagious. And when they ask you about the things going on in your life and how you’ve been doing, you know they aren’t simply asking out of social protocol. They actually care. They can make you smile without even trying, and you walk away feeling like you opened a pack of Starbursts that was full of only the red ones, the best flavor of them all.

Then there’s Laz, who picks on me more than anyone I know but in a way that makes him one of my best friends for life. He really has one of the kindest hearts there ever was, and you know his teasing and goofiness are simply ways he shows people how much they mean to him. He uses laughter as a method of healing, and it truly helps.

I also was able to catch up with Fonz and see Disco, who are two people who would do just about anything for anyone. They may hop onboard Laz’s OOC (out-of-control) ship, but you can’t help but smile when they do because I’m pretty sure neither of them has any maliciousness in them at all.

Spending time with your people won’t make all of your problems go away, but it sure helps you get through them because you know they’re not going to let you face them alone. We can all be messes at times, but it’s nice to know there are those who care enough to love us regardless and to accept us as we are and wherever we are. We don’t have to cover up who we are or what we’re going through. We need only be us, and that’s enough.

God sure knows what He’s doing when He sends people into our lives.

What would you do if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears, and I’ll sing you a song.
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.

But even if you do, your people will still love the song just as well.

I’m not going to Wimbledon next year

Some situations in life don’t always go in our favor.

Example: my tennis tournament.

As I mentioned last week, I entered into a pretty foreign world over the weekend: the tennis tourney world. While I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, my friend Wendi—who plays a lot and is really good—hit with me Thursday evening and offered me some pointers to help prepare me. There were only four women total in my division, so it was set up as a round-robin style, which meant we were all guaranteed three games. It was spread out over three days, so I had a match Friday night, a match Saturday morning and a match Sunday morning.

And each day was complete with varying emotions.

Day 1: Anxiety

I didn’t really think about the tourney much at work Friday until it was almost time to leave and actually play. And then I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I’m pretty tired by the time Friday afternoon rolls around, and I typically like to do nothing after work (other than go straight home and put on my comfy clothes), so the thought of this tennis match was sounding less appealing by the second.

But I had a mission, and I needed to complete it.

I got to the club a little early, checked in and tried not to act like I was completely out of place (though I’m pretty sure my running attire gave me away). I met my opponent, Tami, and we began walking to our assigned court. As we were walking, my sister showed up, and I felt a sense of relief. It was comforting to know that, even though I was facing something a little intimidating, I had her there with me.

Apparently there’s a pretty standard warmup tennis players do before their matches. I was not aware of the routine, so when Tami said things like, “OK, want to go long now?,” I could only respond with, “Sure!” My sister was in the spectator section laughing at the scene—I would have, too.

Tami beat me Friday night, but all of the games in each set were really close. She was so nice and encouraging when she found out after the match that I had never played in a tournament before (and that I never really play outside of tournaments, either). And my sister took some great selfies of her reactions—commentary included—throughout the match. I thought she had been texting the whole time, which she had, but she was texting me all of her photos and comments.

I chatted with my sister a little after the match about everything going on in our lives (because, you know, she is GETTING MARRIED this Friday), and it made me feel better to talk to her after losing.

Day 2: Excitement

I woke up Saturday morning and went running, and I noticed I was a bit sore in muscles I didn’t know existed. But I was looking forward to my second match. I had that first one under my belt, and I also knew some of my friends would be there to support me, so I was feeling ready for it.

The fatigue was beginning.

I got to the club early again so that I could request to the man in charge to let us have a court that was spectator-friendly, because some of the courts have no place for people to watch. He ended up giving us a prime court and my second opponent, Marla, and I made our way there.

I had a nice crew out there that day—Amanda, Laz, Disco, Fred, Fred’s boyfriend (Jacob), Mandy, Mandy’s son (Tyler), Jason and my mom—and it turned out to be a pretty competitive match. The first set even went to a tiebreaker, which was fun.

I lost, though. Again.

But I really liked that match. It gave me a little more confidence, and I felt more inspiration to keep trying in the moments when I really didn’t want to. It was really hot, and my body felt tired, and toward the end of the match, all I could think about was how much I wanted froyo.

But I had my people there, and they were making me smile through the pain.

Even though I lost, I walked away with a joy that overshadowed the disappointment. People I truly care about were there for me—I mean, they drove all the way out there to sit in the heat and watch me play a sport I don’t play in a match I wasn’t likely to win. That thought made me feel better after losing.

Day 3: Discouragement

The final day of the tourney wasn’t nearly as positive as the first two. First, it was a very rainy and dreary day, which always makes me want to stay on my sofa all day. Second, my match was moved to the indoor facility but was delayed more than an hour, and I didn’t find out until I got to the club, which meant a lot of sitting around and waiting. The thought of “I could easily forfeit and go home and nap, instead” ran through my mind more than once.

But I knew I couldn’t do that.

When my final opponent, Sonya, and I finally made our trek to our court, I was trying to get myself a bit more motivated, but it wasn’t really working. I just wasn’t feeling it Sunday morning. I wanted to hit the fast-forward button and be finished with this mess.

When the match got underway, it was much of the same story: a bunch of close games (one with seven deuces) but an overall loss for me. I’m going to be honest and say that there were multiple points during the match when I thought about not trying anymore so that we could get it over with more quickly, and I could go home. But for some reason I kept trying, which was frustrating, because I still lost.


My dad was at that match, and though it was nice to have him there supporting me, I felt bad all of those people had come out there to watch me lose. That did not make me feel better after losing.

Over the weekend, I did something I’ve never done before. I faced situations that were almost sure to end in failure. I lost when I really wanted to win (even just one match). I experienced joy, pain, frustration, fear and a multitude of other emotions.

But complete defeat wasn’t one of them.

We’re going to face times in life that leave us feeling hurt and confused—and sometimes all alone. Those are the times we have to dig deep within us and dive for whatever shots come our way (by the way, I only ran into two fences trying to make shots that really were never going to happen), knowing that we don’t have to go through the messes all alone. People will be there for us to help us smile through the pain. And even though we can’t hit the fast-forward button to get through the messes, we can still feel better after losing.

Because love may not be a good thing in tennis, but it sure is good everywhere else in life.

Details, change and last place

I learned three important lessons recently: details are often important, it’s necessary to adapt to change, and coming in last isn’t the worst thing in the world.


Apparently I need to pay more attention to details. In my job, I have to, otherwise bad things could happen—like typos or facts that aren’t actually factual. I don’t know if it’s because of this that I sometimes let the details in other areas of my life simply fly over my head. I’m sure they’re important (I know they’re important), but my mind tends to wander and daydream, so there are certainly times when those needed details escape me.

Like last weekend.

I normally attend the 9 a.m. service at my church, and I typically don’t get there super early, but I figured since it was Easter weekend, there would probably be a lot of people there who usually aren’t there, so I thought 8:30 seemed like a good time. Plus, I’m on the safety team and wanted to check in to see if there were any special instructions for the holiday services.

I was walking by one of the doors, and a volunteer woman asked me if I was going into service. I said, “Oh, are you already letting people in?” (Usually they don’t open the doors until 15 minutes before the service starts.) She said, “Well, not for the 9:30 service, but if you still want to go into the 8 o’clock service, they just finished worship and haven’t started the sermon yet.”

Wait, what?

As it turns out, they had changed things up (and I’m sure there had been multiple announcements, posts and emails about this that I somehow didn’t let soak in), and I was either 30 minutes late to the first service or an hour early to the second. I decided to be late, even though I hate being late to things. It actually turned out to be a good thing because I got out of church in time to meet my parents and my sister and her fiancé for brunch that I thought I wouldn’t be able to attend. I still didn’t like that I had missed the beginning worship and whatnot, but at least I know for next year. Note to self: Pay more attention.


It also turns out that I need to be better about adapting to change.

Like, a lot better.

It was a hard change to lose this one at work last year.

I was in a company bowling league, and last Thursday was our last night of the season. We’ve been sitting in last place for a while now, and there was pretty much zero chance of us getting out of that spot (more on this to come). One of my teammates thought it would be good to change up the lineup for our last three-game series of the year. Normally I am lead-off bowler, which I had gotten used to, but I was moved to last. I’m pretty sure it threw me off—I bowled my absolute worst game of the season.

We changed the lineup back to the original for the final two games, and I bowled my normal average.

There are some changes in life I can handle. After all, I made a huge career change last year, and it’s turned out to be something I’m very comfortable with and happy about. But there are definitely some changes I need to learn to be better about handling—you know, like a bowling lineup change. Or moving. I am fine with where I live now, but lately I’ve had feelings of regret for leaving where I used to live. I miss so many things about it and am having a more difficult time than I would prefer adjusting to my new area.

Change is hard. I know it can be good sometimes, and there are other situations in which it’s not so great, but we still have to learn to get through it somehow. Things could change again soon, but we have to live in the moments we have—even if it throws us off for a little bit.


I don’t like losing. I mean, I don’t know many people who would claim to like it, but I really am not a fan. So, it was a challenge to accept that the Spare Bears were in last place for most of the bowling season and had no hope of climbing anywhere else. We’re not even that bad, and I still don’t understand the scoring system, but somehow, someway, we sat in last. Dead last.

Oddly enough, though, I didn’t walk away from that season feeling like a loser. It was more the opposite, actually, because of the people I got to spend my Thursday nights with each week. Fred, Green, Zeppy and Beanes are definitely the type of friends you want in your life. There was a lot of ridiculousness that went on at our table each week, and it made the losing much more Spare Bearable.

Thursday night bowling taught me about humility, boldness, friendships, trust and so many more concepts. And it taught me that you can lose and win at the exact same time.

Life is full of details, and it’s full of change, and it’s full of losing—but it’s the people you experience all of these things with that make it all worth while.

Don’t let flour defeat you

There are a lot of things that are more challenging than they seem.

Like baking cookies.

For the first time in my life last Wednesday, I made cookies from scratch. Like, actually from scratch. I bought eggs. And flour. And sugar. And baking soda. And baking powder (apparently there’s a difference). And vanilla extract. And icing. And sprinkles. And butter (I even had to stop a random stranger in the grocery store to ask if butter and Crisco sticks are the same. They aren’t. I did enjoy her facial expression when I asked her if she had ever baked cookies before, though.) I also bought mixing bowls, measuring cups and a whisking set. It was an expensive grocery trip.

I had found a recipe for sugar cookies online, but I was slightly concerned about attempting this feat without an expert supervising me. The prep time in the instructions said 15 minutes. It took me 45. I don’t really want to talk about my dislike for you, flour—just know that my kitchen and my clothes are not thankful for your excessive need to go everywhere. I have a new respect for pioneer women who churned butter with nothing but their brute strengths. And can I just point out that cookie dough gets stuck in a whisk really easily but then doesn’t get out of it as easily?

This was a lot different than making break-and-bake cookies.

These are obviously cookies.

I made a gigantic mess in my kitchen, and I set off zero smoke alarms. I ate way too much raw cookie dough and only slightly burned my finger once. I spilled vanilla extract on my hand and licked it off, and that was a HORRIBLE idea. But somehow, someway, little balls of fully mixed cookie dough made their way onto those cookie sheets and into the oven.

And they turned out to be real cookies—edible ones.

I was in a bit of pain during the baking session. The day before, I had gone to the hospital right after work because of a ruptured ovarian cyst and had gotten home rather late that night. I was pretty drugged up on pain killers at work on Wednesday and was able to function (though I’m pretty sure I said some strange things), but I didn’t want to try to bake cookies for the first time with hydrocodone keeping me going. Tylenol is kind of wimpy and didn’t help much, so the baking thing was probably a little less enjoyable than it would have been under more normal conditions.

I’m not the next world-class baker woman (I could Google to find out some actual names of examples, but I’m not concerned enough), but it was fun to make something for not just me. Other people got to enjoy them, and I think they might have actually enjoyed them. I know I didn’t solve some world issue or cure any diseases. In fact, I did something that more people than I could ever count have already done a great number of times. But it was a challenge for me. There was a process that I didn’t necessarily like that had to be completed before the icing and sprinkles could make their appearances.

And I guess that’s a lot like life.

Sometimes what we have to endure along the way to better things is not as enjoyable or as easy as we would like it to be. There might be messes. There might be pain. You might get burned. You might use the question “WHY?” way more than you thought possible. You might want to set flour on fire before realizing that’s probably not a wise decision.

But then when a good thing comes out of it all, you realize that whatever came before was completely worth it—especially when you get to enjoy that moment with people you care about.

Not going pro in paintball

Sometimes in life, it feels like you’re hiding behind a thin wall on the edge of a battlefield with no means of defense.

And then there are times you are literally doing this.

It had been a pretty long time since I had played paintball. I had previously only put on all of my camo gear for such an escapade once, and that was in high school—which was a very long time ago. I have to be honest with you about something: I wasn’t very good back then. I think I would fare better in physical altercations rather than combat involving weaponry. When I was growing up, we used to settle sibling disputes in the Merrill household with boxing matches that typically ended with me tossing my gloves and going at my brother with bare fists.

So, I’m not sure why I immediately jumped at the idea of playing this game (I’m not sure what to call it, really) when my friend Jackie and I were trying to find something to do and came upon a Groupon deal for some discounted paintball action. I mean, why not?

I possibly have some reasons now.

We started off with some adventure before we even stepped foot onto the battlegrounds in our matching hiking boots (totally unplanned). It was somewhat of a trip just to get the facility, and we encountered a muddy situation along the way. We were less than a mile from our destination when we started down a dirt road that led to the paintball place. However, because of the recent torrential Texas weather, it wasn’t a dirt road anymore—it was straight up mud only. We should have turned around when we saw the abandoned Mercedes stuck on the side of the road, a victim of mud too deep for the stylish ride to handle. But, no. I kept driving. We trudged into a section I wasn’t sure we’d make it through, but I knew it wouldn’t be wise to continue into what I saw ahead of us. So, we turned around and took a roundabout way (probably at least 13 or 27 more miles or so) that finally got us through the gates to what would be a rather interesting and memorable Saturday afternoon.

Your typical dream team

The first thing we did (well, besides take a pre-paintball selfie—I know, vanity is ruining our society) is make friends. This is key in life, so I decided it was key in paintball, too. I mean, you don’t want to feel isolated on that battlefield out there. The four gals behind us in line—Taylor, Britney, Kelsey and Bre—became those friends for us that day. And trust me, those homegirls had our backs.

After we got all of the instructions/rules from Gunner the ref, we made our way to the first playing field, which was a “capture the tower” game. The first team to make it to the other team’s tower wins. For some reason, no one wanted to be the person up top in the tower (you’re supposed to have two people up there), so I said I would do it. Some guy gave me an extra container of paintballs in case I ran out, and I made my way to the top as soon as Gunner said “Go!” That game wasn’t too eventful for me as I basically blindly fired from the top of the tower. The other team won that round, so I guess I didn’t hit too many of them. Then we switched sides, and I didn’t want the tower role anymore. I should have taken it again. I got nailed in the chest and the finger, and then I was shot three more times as I was walking off the field with my hands in surrender. Thanks, bros.

My finger started swelling and turning an interesting shade of purple/black, and I kept checking with Gunner to make sure I wasn’t going to have to get an amputation. (I’m not dramatic.) I agreed to play another game, but I was suffering some serious pain. Gunner started telling us about the scars he’d gotten playing paintball. He was not helping the situation.

The next game was simply called “woods,” and we made our way out to the trees. Right before we began, I noticed my gun wasn’t working. It had air. It had paintballs. The safety wasn’t on. But I pulled the trigger, and nothing happened. The game started. I yelled “Gun check!” like Gunner had told us to do if we had gun troubles, but no one came to help me. I hid. I stayed behind a thin wooded wall for the entire game because I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t shoot at anyone, and I was sure to get hit at this point if I tried to go anywhere. A 12-year-old boy who seemed to be very afraid joined me, but I think he might have been afraid of more than just paintballs. I tried talking to him, but it didn’t go so well. So, I spent the rest of the game thinking about how pathetic and helpless I felt. I couldn’t do anything for my team—I couldn’t cover anyone, I couldn’t get players on the other team out, and I couldn’t move because I would just help lose more for my team. I didn’t like that feeling. Finally, some guy from the other team came within inches of my face with his gun and said, “Surrender!”

Umm, obviously.

It’s not fun to be so alone and defenseless. It makes a person feel really small and not that important. It’s scary. It’s nerve-racking. It’s frustrating. It makes you feel like you’re in a glass case of emotion.

But you know what I realized later? I was never actually alone. There was that 12-year-old boy who wouldn’t talk to me (but I’m not really counting him). There was Kelsey, who kept coming back to check on me and to make sure the young kid was alright. There was Jackie, who offered me her gun to play another game if I wanted. There was Bre, who did the same. There was Britney, who kept asking me how my finger was. There was Taylor, who offered to run with me and find the best hiding place possible. I had people. Sure, I had to surrender, but my people were there waiting for me in the field when I got out. We were a team, and we were in this thing together.

Life can be scary. Life can be nerve-racking. Life can be frustrating. Life can absolutely put you in a state of high emotions. It can leave you feeling alone, defenseless and very small.

But you’re not.

You’re probably going to get pelted with quite a few paintballs every day, but it’s important to remember that you’re not out on that battlefield alone. There are people who will cover you. I hope you have a Kelsey on your team to look out for you. I hope you have a Taylor to care about you. I hope you have a Jackie to go on adventures with you, get stuck in some muddy areas and help you along the way. I hope you have a Britney to check on you. I hope you have a Bre to make sure you have what you need. I hope you surround yourself with people who will always be there for you. We all need these people.

Because camo doesn’t actually hide us like we think it will.

Keep those Allen wrenches in your life

There are many things we don’t like to hear people say to us (e.g., “We need to talk”), and some of these things come in the form of questions.

Like, “Will you help me move?”

I hate moving. It’s seriously one of the most frustrating and often stressful processes, and it’s definitely not my ideal way to spend a Saturday during college football season—or any season, for that matter. So, I can imagine the excitement of the crew I asked to help me with the promise of zero monetary compensation but maybe some food. I had a solid team, though, and all of these gems were willing to offer their man (and woman) labor. I had my dad, my sister, Theo (my sister’s boyfriend) and my friend Laz to help load everything from my old apartment to the moving truck and my dad’s car, and then my friend Kiet and his son replaced Laz to help unload when we got to my new apartment.

You might be wondering why I simply didn’t hire movers. Easy. 1. They are expensive. 2. I had a horrible experience with movers a couple of years ago, and that ruined it forever.

Instead, I make people I care about suffer. (Just kidding—I don’t think it was that awful for them.)

This move ended up being not too bad. We started at 11 a.m., and I needed us to be out of the old apartment by 12:30 p.m. so that we could be to the new one by 1 p.m. at the latest. My AT&T setup window was between 1 and 3 p.m., and I just couldn’t risk it. I think the best thing about the entire move, though, was the people I had with me that day. They all played vital roles to help me, and it’s warming to think how much they genuinely care.

We didn’t get a group pic, so here’s my pink tool set

Mr. Meticulous — If you ever have to move (or do anything that involves strategic planning and orchestration), then you want my dad there. He just knows things and makes things magically fit places you didn’t think they would. He also spent a great portion of the day disassembling my bed frame and then putting it back together. Granted, he did get a bit upset with me when he found out I had a set of Allen wrenches in my tool box after he’d been asking for one for a while. I’m sorry, but I didn’t know which one was the Allen wrench. Yes, I put my bed frame together with my own two hands, but it’s from IKEA, so there are only pictures and no words. I know what the wrench looks like, but I had no idea what it was called. But, regardless, my dad came in clutch on Saturday (thanks in part to my pink tool set). We all need people in our lives who want to make sure things are done correctly—not because they want credit or self-satisfaction but because they truly care about us.

The Decoy — My friend Laz is one of those people you want in your life. Always. He’s trustworthy and energetic, and he will make sure to make enough jokes to keep everyone laughing. He picks on me more than I can explain, but my dad says it’s good for me and defends him. He makes situations that aren’t necessarily fun seem more enjoyable than you’d ever imagine. He even started calling himself “THE CHAMP” as he and Theo were carrying my sofa down the garage ramp. (It didn’t fit in the stairs. Picture the Friends “PIVOT” scene.) As soon as Laz would make a trip downstairs, he’d be right back up asking, “What do you need me to do next?” He may treat me like a kid sister he can pick on at will, but he’s one of the best friends I could ever ask for. We all need people in our lives who makes us find joy amidst the struggles.

The Silent Force — Theo is a pretty quiet fella sometimes—especially compared to the aforementioned one—but his positive attitude and kind heart are louder than any words a person could say. He just kept moving stuff without being asked and helped my dad with the bed frame. He’s also an engineer, so he’s kind of a genius when it comes to making sure everything fit in the moving truck. He didn’t have to be there that day, but he was. I’ve always known he’s a great guy, but he keeps showing more and more each day just how big his heart is and how wonderful he is to my sister and all of the people in his life. We all need those faithful people in our lives who remind us what love is and what love does.

The True Ones — Kiet and Tanner (his son) showed up at my new place and didn’t waste any time in helping us get things unloaded. My dad was so impressed with how fast they were able to clear out the truck and his car. Kiet is absolutely one of the most genuine and caring people I’ve ever known, and it’s obvious that his son is a direct reflection of him. They are both so thoughtful, and Tanner is more polite than any high school boy I’ve ever known. We all need people in our lives who remind us that, while there’s a lot of bad that happens in this world, there’s a lot more good out there that doesn’t make the headlines.

The One Who Keeps You Going — I’ve mentioned many times before how important my sister is to me. One thing she’s always been so great and consistent at doing is giving me the best pep talks that ever were. She’s straightforward but not in a way that makes me ever feel bad. In fact, she makes me feel more confident. When I thought we weren’t going to finish in time and that I would have to make another trip out to my old apartment to finish loading things and to do one last sweep through before turning in my keys, she stopped and looked me in the eyes like I was crazy. “What are you talking about? You’re not coming back. We can get this done. Go grab some clothes to put in Dad’s car. We’re making this happen.” And she was right. Whenever I am overwhelmed with life or feeling down about anything, my sister has a way of making me remember that I’m stronger than I think sometimes. We all need motivators in our lives to be there with us when it feels like the world has turned and walked away.

The people in your life have been put there with specific purpose. No, it’s not so they can help you move or to benefit you somehow. It’s so you can have a community of people you deeply care about and who deeply care about you. It’s so you can know the true meaning of love and what it looks like in action. We all have our own roles we play in each other’s lives, and we need one another. I need my Mr. Meticulous. I need my Decoy. I need my Silent Force. I need my True Ones. I need my little One Who Keeps Me Going.

And you have people you need, too.

Life isn’t meant to be spent alone. No, we don’t have to be besties with all of the individuals we encounter in our daily situations. But when we find those special ones who warm our hearts and challenge us to be better people, we need to hang on to those ones. They are the keepers. They are the Allen wrenches we’ve been searching for.

And they will forgive you when you don’t know what an actual Allen wrench looks like.

When you need to be pulled around the rink

You can learn things in life at the strangest places.

Including old school roller rinks.

I went to a birthday party for Maddie (I’ve mentioned her many times before), who is what I refer to as one of my “forever friends.” We’ve been friends since we were 3 years old, and she is one of those people I know will always be in my life. Seeing as how she’s known me so long, she really gets me, and she never fails to be there for me when I really need her. Simply put, she’s a forever friend.


Maddie joined me in the Dirty 30 Club (or 30 Flirty and Thriving–or whatever you want to call it) on Saturday, and there was obviously only one logical way to celebrate this milestone in her life: living it up at a roller skating rink. When she first told me this is what we were doing for her party, I will admit that I was pretty excited. Call me a kid of the ’90s (because I am), but I love going to roller skating rinks. You get to jam out to music while going round and round a gym floor surface, and at some point you completely forget your age and remember the reason you’re there: to have fun. I thought it was pure genius to celebrate entering the grown-up decade by taking it back to the rink.

Maddie is one of those individuals who knows everyone. Seriously. I don’t think there’s a person she doesn’t know. (She probably knows you.) So, I knew there would be people at her party I don’t know and some I do. When we started skating, the married and dating couples were paired off, while those who had come together were making their laps with one another. I had come by myself, so I was skating on my own then stopping and chatting with various people but trying not to third wheel it too much.

I try not to let my mind go here too often, but because I’m one of the only people in my life I know who isn’t dating, in a relationship or married, I couldn’t help but let the thought cross my mind: Will I ever have someone to skate with me? While I don’t mind being single–even if it is for the rest of my life–some moments are more difficult than others.

And skating all by yourself is one of those moments.

But then, out of nowhere, Maddie came speed skating beside me, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me with her around the rink. This happened more than once throughout the night, and when Maddie knew how excited I was when “Shake It Off” started playing (never mind that I requested it specifically), she skated/sang/danced with me all around the rink for the entire song. (I told you–she gets me.) Plus, earlier in the night when I had told Maddie how awesome it was that she had been issued skates that lit up, she left and came back with a glow bracelet for me to wear. She’s always looking out for people. She also participated in the rink races with me. Usually only the little kids take part in the races, but I like to, as well. They’re fun, and there’s no real pressure. So, when no one would step out on the floor with me, Maddie did, and we lined up next to three young girls who kicked our tails. I got fifth place. (If you just did the math there, you can judge me all you want. I have no shame.)

I was reminded that night why it’s so important to have forever friends–they pick you up and pull you along when you need it most. They dance with you. They step on the starting line with you. They are simply there with you and for you.

Life isn’t meant to be spent alone. Even Jesus had men He surrounded Himself with to do life together. My pastor at church on Sunday was talking about serving others and the way we can live in order to serve in the way Jesus served. We focused on the passage in which Jesus somehow used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed thousands. As I sat there, I thought back to the night before and how much Maddie is like Jesus in the way she serves people, especially those she cares about most. I was reminded of how often God shows Himself through other people. In a moment when I needed to get away from my thoughts of lonely skating, one of my best friends swept in and brought the fun.

We all need people in our lives. Even if you end up single forever, you won’t ever be completely alone. You’ll have those forever friends who will come alongside you and give you the encouragement you need to keep your head up and your hips swaying to the beat.

And you can always count on someone to step away from the sidelines and boldly step on the starting line, only to be dominated by kids more than half your age as they leave you in the dust from their skates’ wheels.

And that is true friendship.