"Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place."
-- Unknown

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weekly writing assignment from Mama Kat: Share one piece of great advice you’ve received from someone who knows stuff…

Wow – it seems like I’ve only been posting assignments lately… I guess I haven’t taken the time to do much else. Sorry about that. Maybe I’ll get back to regular updates eventually. In the meantime, enjoy (or skip?) my response to this week’s prompt.

Why is it that we rarely take advice from people who have obviously had more life experience than ourselves? Or is that just me?? I’ve always been a “learn as I go” kind of person – and while that has provided some interesting (though sometimes painful) memories, I could have spared myself many headaches (and a lot of heartache) if I had just listened to some of those golden tidbits that had been passed my way over the last 25 years.

One of the greatest pieces of wisdom ever shared with me came from my mother. Growing up, Mama told me (on numerous occasions) that “friends will come and go but family is forever.”

I never really paid much attention to it – naively believing that the people I called friends would always be my friends. While a select few have remained a part of my extended family, the vast majority of people I once considered friends have, indeed, come and gone (sometimes multiple times over the past several years).

I had to learn the hard way that some “friends” are actually mere party buddies – there for a good time, but suddenly unavailable in the face of a crisis. You can call them at 2 or 3 in the morning if it’s to invite them out or suggest a bar crawl, but not to have a meaningful conversation if something is truly bothering you.

And that’s fine as long as you understand the dynamic of your friendship and don’t start counting on them for anything more than a fun night out.

The last part of her statement has also proven to be so very true: family is forever, or at least mine is. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve screwed up over the years, or the number of screaming fights I’ve had with my parents. I’m sure I’ve embarrassed them, let them down, stressed them out and generally driven them crazy. But when it comes down to it, I’m always forgiven and loved all the same.

And I’m so thankful for that. It’s good to know that at any given time, no matter how late or inconvenient, I can call my parents (either set) and spill my heart to an open ear. It’s a wonderful feeling – knowing that no matter how bad things get, I have four people who are always, always on my side. Always proud of me. And always just a phone call away.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Seven houses in five years...is that a record?

Weekly writing assignment from Mama Kat: “How many homes have you had? Write a journal entry about ALL the places you’ve called home in your life.”

Look, let’s be honest here…if I were to write about ALL of the places I’ve called home in my life, you’d still be reading this time tomorrow. I’ve only lived in five different cities, but have had a multitude of houses in each one. Four or five in the Mobile area, two in Madison, MS, two in the Birmingham area, seven in Troy and three since I’ve been in Andalusia – so we’re up to nearly twenty, right? Yeah… we’re not going into all of that.

What I will do, however, is give you a brief overview those seven, short-lived college homes: the good, the bad and the absolutely crazy.
  • Hamil Hall: My freshman year, my friend Christen and I decided to do the dorm thing together. We packed up our belongings and crammed them all into a little 10x10 cinderblock room. A few short months later, I was trying everything I could to get out. We shared a community shower with the whole hall, including the entire girls soccer team, who repeatedly washed their muddy cleats in the sink and shower stalls. YUCK. The heat NEVER worked. And then, of course, there were the bugs. No thank you. Next home, please?

  • The Paden House: Unfortunately, since we were freshmen, we were required to live on campus for our first year. Luckily, a room came open in one of the school’s on-campus houses. Think of it as a sorority house for girls who decided not to go Greek. We had a formal dining room, work out room, living room, kitchen, big back deck and semi-private bathrooms. I spent the second half of my freshman year here. Then I met Kailie – a wild child who quickly became my very best friend. By the beginning of summer, we were looking for somewhere off campus. Somewhere we could have… large study groups. *Ahem*… So, bring on home number three.

  • Park Street: Imagine our delight when we discovered a brand new, two bedroom, three bath townhouse less than a mile from the fraternity houses school. The house was great – we had a big back deck and covered front porch that we shared with our very cool neighbor, Clint. For my grades, this house was the beginning of a long downward spiral. We never slept. There were people at our house nonstop. By happy accident, we discovered that the window in my room offered easy access to the roof. We had cookouts, bonfires, card games… all of the necessary social events for college students went down at our house. It was all going along swimmingly until Kailie found out she had a little bundle of joy on the way. So mommy-to-be packed up her stuff and high-tailed it back to her parents’ house – leaving me with no living room furniture. Queue Brooke – long time bestie from back home. Less than a month later, she moved in and the party resumed.

  • Troy Place: At the end of our lease, Brooke convinced me to move into an apartment complex with two other girls. Now, I’m not sure how many of you realize this, but FOUR girls sharing ONE apartment… not a genius idea. In fact, it could possibly be the worst idea in the history of the world. Brooke and I lived with Erica, a grad student from Oswego, NY, and Julie, a general screw up from Nebraska. I don’t say that lightly, as I typically get along with pretty much everyone. But y’all…this girl drove me insane. My parents came to visit one day, and she answered the door in a pair of boyshort underwear and a bra. In front of my step-dad and then nine year old brother. It’s not her fault, really. That’s pretty much all she ever wore. As she laid around the house eating candy and bossing people around. The girl would call you ON THE PHONE when you were a room away to ask you to get her a glass of water because she didn’t want to get off the couch. And she hocked lugies in the kitchen sink…Anyhow, three short (yet waaay too long) months later, I was desperate to get out of that apartment. So I packed up and headed to home number five.

  • Forest Acres: My friend Jennifer had a three bedroom trailer and graciously offered to let me stay with her for awhile, so I could escape the crazy. My goal was to find a one bedroom apartment somewhere close to the school, but there was a waiting list. So for about six months, I lived with Jen. It wasn’t horrible. She was a sweet girl, even though she and her boyfriend would get into screaming fights and slam doors, stomp around and cause general mayhem on a regular basis. But it was fine for the short time I was there.

  • Thomas Circle: Finally, a one bedroom apartment came available and I was once again on the move. This place was SMALL. And old. And generally not very well taken care of. But it was MINE. And I loved it. Downstairs was a tiny little living room and even tinier kitchen, all in one room. The stairs led straight up into my bedroom – no doors, just a railing that looked down to the stairs. I had an itty bitty little bathroom. And two closets. I stayed here for awhile – until the rampant street parties that took place in front of my building were taking a toll on my sleep and making me pretty irritable. By this time, I’d been through my party phase and was in the “graduate and get the hell out of Troy” phase.

  • South Brundidge Street: And for the finale: House number seven! It was an old home near “downtown” Troy with a huge front porch and even bigger back deck. I lived here with two of my best friends, who happened to be sisters. The house had…. Charm. You know: sloping floors, unfinished baseboards… but it didn’t matter much to any of us. The deck was perfect for sunbathing, and there was a doggie door that led to our fenced in back yard, so the puppies could come and go as they pleased. Oh, I almost failed to mention that I lived in the living room. It was only a two bedroom house, but the living room was really long, so I built a divider and made half of it a bedroom. It was pretty cool actually. I bought a few unfinished doors from Lowes, a handful of hinges to connect them all, and a gallon of paint and got to work. Then I found some of those nifty wall transfer things with the words “Live long, love much, laugh often” for the side that faced the living room. It turned out pretty cute. And waaaaaay less expensive than any room divider I could’ve bought. My roomies were great, I liked the house and everything was finally feeling normal.

Then I started my internship and moved to Andalusia.

There are SO many stories I could tell you about each of these homes and my five long years in Troy – but this post is already ridiculously long. Aren’t you glad I didn’t attempt all twenty? You’re welcome.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Interesting... or not

The extremely sweet mommy-to-be, Trudy at Third Time’s a Charm, has bestowed this lovely little award upon yours truly:

In order to accept, I have to share seven interesting facts about myself. Unfortunately for all of you, the word “interesting” is loosely interpreted as “random” in my book. So – interesting or not, here are seven things you might not already know about me:

  • I’m double jointed in my left thumb. You would think this makes me a killer thumb-war opponent, but it does not.

  • When my feet are cold (which is pretty much all the time), I get insanely excruciating cramps in my toes and up the side of my foot (from the big toe back through the arch). I’ve been getting them since I was a kid. I vividly remember sitting on the floor of my room in elementary school and crying because I couldn’t make my foot stretch back out. Now I feel it coming and know to stand up IMMEDIATELY and start stretching my toes.

  • People have a hard time remembering my last name. It’s Irish and starts with an O. You’d think it’d stand out in their memory. But in the last few months, I’ve answered to O’Keith, O’Rook, O’Rourke and O’Malley. HINT: None of those are right. And it’s funny because all of them could have been avoided if people would just call me by Heather. You know, my first name. Instead, most people I’ve met here greet me with my last name. So it should go, “Hey! O’Quin!!” when I walk into a room. But it rarely ever does. Now it’s become a huge joke, so I doubt I’ll ever actually hear my real last name again.

  • I used to check behind the shower curtain every time I went to the bathroom to make sure no one was hiding there. I don’t know why that used to worry me so much. Too many scary movies as a child, I guess. I still check the closet in my room before I go to sleep. Some paranoias never die.

  • I have horrible veins. No one has ever (ever) been able to draw blood from my arm. Ever. I tell people not to even try anymore. All blood work must be done from the top of my hand. And even those veins suck. They’re tiny and they run from the needle. This had led to blown veins, which are about the grossest thing I can think of. Imagine watching the top of your hand swell up like a big blue golf ball of trapped blood. Then imagine hearing the nurse nervously laugh and say, “Oops, let’s try the other hand.” And then having it happen AGAIN. Yeah. Did I mention I had to have blood work done yesterday? New doctor. New nurse. Thankfully no disasters this time, but I still broke out in cold sweats from sheer anxiety.

  • You can’t tell from my pasty-white profile picture, but I have an unhealthy addiction to sunshine. Even fake sunshine. I know it’s bad. I know it ages my skin. I know it can cause cancer. I know. But it feels so good. And it makes me happy. So… bring on the UV rays.

  • I am the most unorganized person I know. It’s borderline ridiculous. No. It’s past ridiculous. Every now and then I reach a breaking point and get everything super sorted. It usually lasts about two days before things are gigantic disaster again. The bad thing is that I KNOW what a mess things are, yet generally don’t take action until I absolutely cannot find something I’m looking for. Then I get frustrated, throw a mini tantrum and swear that I’m going to get things put back in their proper place.

  • AND (An eighth fact! As an added bonus!) Yesterday, a friend told me that I don’t know how to be serious. He’s wrong, of course. I just generally choose NOT to be serious. I tend to answer questions that I don’t like with sarcasm. Shoot – I often answer the ones I do like with sarcasm. I smile and laugh a lot in person, and I tend to say silly things when I’m in a good mood. If that means I’m not serious, then I’m not sure it’s something I want to be anyway.

So, there you have it. Don’t you feel enlightened now? Weren’t those facts just the most interesting things you’ve read today? No? I figured not…

And now I’d like to pass this one along to Scarlethue at A Beautiful Truth. Because I think she’s a pretty interesting chick (and I bet you would too!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Weekly writing assignment from Mama Kat: Welcome to the most shocking rose ceremony in writing prompt history. Please award roses to the ten people (or items) in your life that you’d like to continue pursuing a relationship with.

Shall we begin?

Vitamin Water 10 (flavor “Go-Go”), you keep me hydrated and alert on days when I need an extra boost. The quirky wording on your label never fails to amuse me, and your delicious berry flavor never lets me down. Will you please accept this rose and remain my favorite morning (and afternoon) pick-me-up?

Sheldon Cooper (from the Big Bang Theory), your complete lack of social skills — paired with your cynical attitude and penchant for all things nerdy — keeps me laughing uncontrollably every Monday night. Will you please accept this rose and remain my favorite self-centered theoretical physicist? P.S. I promise to sing “Soft Kitty” to you when you’re sick…

Burberry Brit Red, you have been my favorite perfume for quite some time. Unfortunately, you were a limited edition, which makes you very hard to find these days. You can play hard-to-get all you want, but your long-lasting wonderful fragrance will keep me scouring stores and on-line perfume outlets to find you. Will you please accept this rose and continue bringing me compliments of, “Oooh, you smell good!”?

Flintstones Vitamins (Plus Iron), I will never be too old for you. For whatever reason, you are the only vitamin I can actually remember to take. Maybe it’s your fun character shapes or your tart, fruity flavors. All I know is you provide me (and anyone over the age of four) with 11 essential nutrients and 83 percent of my daily iron – that’s equivalent to five cups of spinach. Will you please accept this rose in the hopes that one day my iron level might actually be high enough to get me past the pre-screening part of donating blood? I’m tired of being turned away with the people who fail the “have you slept with anyone with herpesyphilitis in the last six months” survey.

Luke Bryan, I don’t care that your songs are waaay more country than what I typically like – you’ve had me hooked since you told me you could hotwire my tractor and plow up my land (And grow your own groceries and salt cure a ham. And wrestle hogs and gators with your two bare hands.). You ooze “good ol’ boy” charm – and that smile sure doesn’t hurt your appeal. Will you please accept this rose and keep me shamelessly singing along to songs about farms, hunting and all things country?

Well – that’s about all. I didn’t make it to ten, but I think I have my priorities in line. Vitamin Water, Sheldon Cooper, Burberry Brit Red, Flintstones Vitamins and Luke Bryan… what more do I need?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ten of life's most important words

My parents gave me this ring at Christmas, and it’s quickly become a permanent fixture on my hand.

I love that – from a distance – it looks like a simple silver band. However, when you look closely, there are ten words inscribed that serve as a gentle reminder of the important things in life:

Soul “Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” – Oscar Wilde

“You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” – C.S. Lewis

Wish “To a resolute mind, wishing to do is the first step toward doing. But if we do not wish to do a thing it becomes impossible.” Robert Southey

Faith “Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” – Kahil Gibran

“Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.” – Author Unknown

Spirit “Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than material force, that thoughts rule the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beauty "Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” – Ashley Smith

ImagineImagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein

"Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass.” – Paul J. Meyer

Dream “You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'” – George Bernard Shaw

Peace “Peace is not something you wish for; It's something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away.” – Robert Fulghum

Hope “In all things it is better to hope than to despair” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Love “And in the end, The love you take is equal to the love you make.” – The Beatles

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Different, yet somehow the same

It’s funny how some people you think you’ll never hear from again can suddenly (and effortlessly) waltz back into your life.

Over the course of the last couple of months – and more specifically, the last week or two – I’ve reconnected with someone I haven’t talked to in nearly six years: my high school sweetheart.

The night of the Iron Bowl, I got an unexpected phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, I was nearly floored at who was on the line. We talked for almost two hours.

During our recent conversations I’ve learned that a lot has changed for him since we broke up in 2004. He’s been married and divorced. Joined the Coast Guard. Moved across the country and back again. And he’s lost his southern accent. (Although he says I’ve found it in abundance.)

But some things have definitely not changed. He’s still the same good-natured guy he always was. He’s still upbeat and ridiculously funny. And he still has the ability to keep me talking for hours on end, like no time has passed at all.

In some ways, it’s strange to talk to him now – but mostly it just feels really good to reconnect with someone who was once my very best friend. Enough time has passed that we can communicate without the tension or emotions of a fresh break up. I think it’s good. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed laughing with him.

He’s known me for so long – he knows my dreams. The things I want to do in life. Places I want to see. And he readily pointed out that I haven’t really followed through with many of them. He asked me what I was waiting for and told me I was wasting precious time. I guess he’s right.

I don’t know if we’ll continue talking, or if this rekindling of our long-lost friendship is only temporary – but I hope this is only the beginning. He meant so much to me for so long. It would be great if we could be friends now, after all these years.

What do you think? Are any of y’all on speaking terms with an ex?

Monday, January 4, 2010

...and now I need a nap

Whoa – what a weekend! It was face-paced, exciting, wonderful and tiring. Very, very tiring.

I spent most of Thursday believing I had no plans for New Year’s Eve. Nonetheless, I went home from work that evening and got ready, just in case something came up. Luckily for me, it did. In a big way. In a last minute decision, a friend and I jumped in the car and made tracks to Destin to ring in 2010 at Baytowne with some of our friends. It was fantastic.

(Imagine this, PACKED with people celebrating New Year's Eve... I forgot to take pictures, so this one I found through Google will have to work.)

If you’ve never been to the Village at Baytowne, let me help you out with the visual. It’s a cute little resort village that’s made up of bars, restaurants and shops. At night, you can hear a wide range of music floating from each venue as you walk down the lamp-lit streets. Dueling pianos at Rum Runners, an acoustic blend at Fat Tuesdays… and of course, my favorite: The Funky Blues Shack, which is where we all eventually wound up at the end of the night.

After a late (very, very late) night, we drove back to Andalusia in the early morning hours so I could pack and make my way to Birmingham to spend a few days with my family. While I was there, I shopped (and shopped and shopped), had lunch with an old friend and went to our family’s annual holiday concert: Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

(A little rough, but taken with my phone... those orange blobs are fire balls. Gotta love the pyrotechnics.)

This year was my sixth time to see them, and I’ve yet to be disappointed. Every year, I expect to grow tired of seeing the same show, but I never do. It’s always amazing, and I always leave with a smile, feeling as though I’ve been thoroughly entertained. Our second row seats this year were pretty great, too. Those guys put so much work into what they do – and I know they must end each concert completely exhausted. They run around the stage with so much energy. And they do 70 shows in 60 days… which obviously means they often do two a day.

And now, after a very high-energy weekend, I’m back in my sleepy little town.