We Need to Save our Libraries

A lot of people have lost their jobs or worse in the current pandemic. I’m fortunate: my family is healthy (so far) and provided for (so far). 

Back in the spring, the library system where I’m a part-time storyteller informed us that all our summer reading programming was going to be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite only being required to produce a couple video programs over the summer, my department jumped in and started producing 3+ a week. Because that’s what librarians and library workers do – they usually do more than the job requires.

Before I started sharing these videos to my personal page, many of my friends probably assumed my job was reading books to kids. I do that sometimes, but storytime is (in person) an hour-long program of stories told, as well as songs, a few read-alouds, and fun and educational games. I’m a newbie storyteller. The people I work with have been doing it for 15-20 years. They are masterful. The kids love them. Young adults come to the library to tell them how much they loved their storytimes when they were littles. Their lasting impact is visible in the children and youth they’ve patiently helped, week after week, year after year. The library is a safe place and a good place, and they make it that way.

All of this could stop as early as next week. Our city is experiencing a severe budget shortfall and almost all library employees are slated to be furloughed indefinitely.

I know what you’re thinking – what do people even DO at the library? Why do we have libraries? What good are they?

  1. Libraries are centers for literacy. Literacy makes or breaks a society/community/nation.
  2. Libraries and librarians provide support to teachers and schools and homeschooling families.
  3. Libraries provide resources, all FOR FREE. Like these:
    • Computers
    • Internet
    • Classes
    • Community engagement/community hub
    • Research helpers
    • Knowledge of/access to helpful community resources (for the homeless; for job seekers; for parents; for seniors; etc)
    • Educational programs 
    • After school programs
    • Help finding books you like, or books your child would like, or books/resources for your child who is learning to read
    • Foreign language books
    • Braille books
    • Movies
    • Books
    • Books
    • Books
    • Books you don’t have to pay for
    • eBooks
    • Audiobooks
  4. Libraries don’t censor. The good, the bad, they are the keepers and defenders of the Stuff Humanity Writes. 
  5. Libraries are safe places for kids to hang out and discover things they enjoy. Better than a parking lot, right?
  6. Librarians often help kids with their homework when they have no-one else to help them
  7. Librarians are friendly, helpful, and work very hard for their patrons. Patrons walk up to the circulation desk or the staff desks and get greeted by name. Librarians and library workers know the community, and serve it in official and unofficial ways.

If you think that people don’t use libraries anymore, consider this one fact: as soon as we re-opened for curbside service in June 2020, our regional branch began circulating THOUSANDS of books every week. This is just one example. I have more, and you are welcome to ask me.

Something has to give during a pandemic. It should be libraries, right? Libraries are a luxury commodity, aren’t they?

People use libraries to look for and apply for jobs, print resumes, leases, legal documents, get tax forms, etc. Parents come to libraries asking for books of a certain reading level, or subject matter. Students come to libraries to do their school projects. Teachers come to libraries to supplement their student resources. People experiencing homelessness or unsafe home environments come to the library to ask where they can get help.

But those things are just luxuries. Jobs, education…people don’t need those…

A city in an economic downturn NEEDS its libraries. A city with a struggling education system NEEDS its libraries. A city with a new influx of homeschooling families NEEDS libraries. 

That’s my ideological defense of libraries. I’d like to talk about my personal experience now.

I grew up going to the library, checking out 20+ books a week and reading most of them. A few years ago, I was looking for a part-time job that wouldn’t conflict with my afternoon music teaching. I applied for a very generic library assistant job posting and ended up as a preschool storyteller at the Avondale Regional Library. At first I didn’t think it was going to be a good fit, because I’ve never worked with kids that young –  but boy, was I wrong. I’m so glad to have been wrong. In addition to experiencing some personal growth and creative rehabilitation (maybe I’ll go into that another time), I have had the opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with some incredible people. Work in the library is not as glamorous as I thought it would be (I have a strange idea of what constitutes glamorous, I know); it’s harder, and more complicated, and more frustrating. But we have a joke: 

“We don’t do this job for the money.”

Of course, we do work for the money, because that’s what work is. But it’s not very lucrative. It’s a labor of love: loving the ideal, loving the community, loving the young reader who comes in asking for books about “the abdominal snowman.”

If I lose this job, I will be OK. But I will also be very sad. I’m not sure the library can come back in the same way after the pandemic if we have to shut down. My long-term plans may not include a library career, but I do try to surrender each step to the little piece of the path God illuminates in front of me. This was a piece of the path I did not expect, and I’m very grateful to it. I hope I can continue to do it for just a little bit longer. 


New Study Suggests Millennials Just Another Generation

We might not be as special as everyone thinks we are.

The latest research from the University of Surprisingly Obvious Conclusions (USOC) makes the shocking claim that the Millennial Generation (recently redefined as having been born between 1980 and 1996) faces challenges and intergenerational conflict that are not unprecedented in all of human history.

“It’s been rather earth-shattering for the whole team,” Comm Onsense, Ph. D, shares, herself a Generation Xer. “For years, generational research has been operating on the assumption that Millennials represent a new paradigm for generational change. But the research is clear: Millennials are just another generation.”

The controversial paper from Dr. Onsense and her colleagues, Drs Nothing Neu Underthsun and Wat Gosaround Comsaround, presents a wide body of evidence supporting the hypothesis Millennials are subject to the same economic and social cycles as most generations.

Dr. Comsaround explains, “Each new generation faces a set of conditions and challenges that are slightly different from the ones the previous generation faced. We believe this is because each generation has a signficant impact on economic and social norms, especially as industrial and technological advancement changes the landscape, so to speak. As each generation comes of age, they are different than their parents, simply because their parents are diferent from their grandparents. It’s a beautiful cycle, when you think about it.”

The USOC team embarked on the years-long study to discover the origins of Millennials’ singularity. “We thought it might be something in the water,” Dr. Onsense says. “All the research was suggesting that Millennials are either the worst generation ever or the best.”

What they found, though, was that Millennials are just like all the rest of the human race.

The paper concedes that the rapid technological growth of the past half-century presents a new context to which all generations must learn how to adapt, especially as it continues to change. But at the core, humanity has not changed.

“Children have always lived differently from their parents,” Dr. Underthsun explains. “And parents have historically been discomfited by that. But our research shows that social differences from one generation to the next are not only a given, but also they don’t represent a massive psychological change. People work, people are lazy; people fall in love and sometimes they don’t; people invent things; people behave differently in other cultures; people seek happiness and comfort and fulfillment. We’re all human, just born at different times and in different places.”

The Moment I Became a Feminist Christian

It’s 2003 and I’m in the eighth grade. One of the administrators at the small Christian school I attend is substituting for our absent Earth Science teacher. Modeling the qualities of soft-spoken and strict so often found together in good Baptist women, she purses her lips, surveying the room of seven awkward teenagers, and asks,

“Would someone like to open us in prayer?”

(Translation: somebody volunteer to pray out loud now.)

All eyes strategically redirect downward. Don’t make eye contact. Making sidelong glances at my classmates, I wonder if any of the three boys or three other girls will volunteer. I know I’m not going to. I’m going to stand my terrified ground until I or some other unhappy victim gets chosen.

“I’ll pray.” Sarah*, the class high achiever and all around Really Nice Person, pipes up.

Relief washes over me.

Sarah prays beautifully. Listening, I wonder how somebody can be so articulate spontaneously. When I have to speak in front of people, my mind wipes to a complete blank (something I will never outgrow). But Sarah is as well-spoken as any practiced adult leader. And at this moment, I adore her for volunteering to pray when it was the last thing any of the rest of us wanted to have to do.

“Thank you, Sarah,” the administrator says after we all say Amen. Her eyes dart around the room again before she continues. “But I think I speak for all of us when I say that it’s more comforting and reassuring for everyone when a man prays.”

I feel sick.

Sarah’s face is impassive and she nods quietly at the administrator, as if in agreement. Unable to help myself, I glance at the boys, each one beet red, shuffling their feet, looking down.

I feel angry.

It’s in this moment that I first encounter the too-prevalent notion in Christian circles that a woman’s spiritual worth is less than a man’s. That the best of women is not as good as anything from a man.

For the first (and not the last) time, someone has told me,

“Because you are a woman, your voice doesn’t matter.”

I don’t know what that moment meant for Sarah. We weren’t good enough friends for me to feel comfortable asking. But fifteen years on, that morning in Earth Science is still a liminal moment for me. I see its echoes and reiterations all the time, especially after serving in occupational ministry. It still makes me angry.

I understand that the administrator was probably trying to admonish the boys for not volunteering to be leaders. But she did it by demeaning our female classmate; she did it at the expense of the God-given worth of each girl in the room.

She also did it at the expense of my respect for her, although now when I look back I feel sorry for her more than angry at her. I know now the only way she could have arrived at the belief that women are worth less spiritually than men, is by being taught it. Not just by men, but by other women as well.

If I call myself a feminist Christian, it’s not an adherence to a political ideology. It’s because it’s been presented to me, for years, that the extra specification is necessary. That “women are worth as much spiritually as men” is not an inherent and active belief in all Christian circles.

As loudly as that moment rings in my memory, louder still are the empowering voices of the women who taught me I could do anything and be anything. My mother, grandmother, sister, aunts, friends, and spiritual leaders. The women who told me and showed me that my voice, my brain, my heart, are worth just as much as anyone’s.


*Not her real name

Photo by Kasper Rasmussen on Unsplash

The Secrets to Adulting

Here it is – all the advice you will ever need to be a successful human, RIGHT HERE in one blog post!

You’re welcome.

Also, I’m kidding. (I hope that was obvious.)

When I was a kid, a teenager, even a college student, I believed that adults had their shit together in some magical way that descended upon you at age 23. Like, a big hairy half-giant knocks down your door on your twenty-third birthday and says,

“Yer an adult!”

And then you are.

But actually, it turns out, experience just creeps up on you slowly, and I’m beginning to believe I’ll never actually have my shit together. The difference between me now and me 10 years ago is, I’m okay with that.

There’s no trick to adulting. You just do it. You just try. But there are things that you learn, that help.

Take my advice with a grain of salt, because I’m only on the front end of my journey.


Don’t apologize or feel guilty for your choices

I’m not a morning person. I like mornings, and I’ve tried to be an early riser, but I just seem to be most productive at night. Fortunately, I have a flexible schedule. I’m often tempted to feel guilty for sleeping in, but if I can work 7-10PM instead of 7-10AM, why shouldn’t I?

This is maybe one of the most liberating things I’ve discovered in young adulthood: I don’t have to apologize for doing things differently.

Take care of yourself

This is a subject that warrants a whole blog post, or a whole series of posts, and it directly follows the above advice. If you don’t prioritize your mental, emotional, and physical health, you will break down, one way or another. You might have to say no to things in order to achieve this this goal. You might have to do something that scares you, like (God forbird!) go to a good counselor and work through some baggage.

I care so much about this, and about you taking care of yourself, that I’m going to send you to go watch this TED talk on emotional health RIGHT NOW.

Prioritize what you love

Another way to phrase this: say “No” to good things in order to say “Yes” to better things. There are a lot of really awesome and very cool things to spend your time pursuing. Things that are worth pursuing. But what are you called to? What are you most passionate about? What keeps you up at night (in a good way, not in the anxiety-driven-insomnia kind of way), what gives you energy instead of taking it?

Is that thing, the thing that makes your heart beat faster, worth rearranging your life for?

If it is, then do it.

Are We Still Talking About the Election?

I know, I know. It’s that perpetually sore spot. The toe you keep stubbing over, and over, and over again until you just want to chuck the whole coffee table to the curb, except then what would you rest your feet on while you Netflix?

I didn’t weigh in much on the US presidential election last year – not here, and not very much IRL (in real life – because this is all imaginary, right?). In truth, there was just no way I was not going to be horribly disappointed by the election. So I did what emotionally healthy people do – I pretended it didn’t exist.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. And I can’t pretend that, horrible disappointment inevitable or not, there could have been a result that would have made me slightly less unhappy.

But I don’t have faith in political elections. I’m sorry, I am no Leslie Knope.

Let me briefly tell you why and then we can all go back to icing our stubbed toes.

There once was a guy named Socrates. Or Plato. Well, Plato was Socrates’s student and wrote down everything he said but we’re not actually sure if Socrates said it or Plato said it and wanted it to sound like Socrates said it.

Plato wrote a book in which Socrates talks about the ideal society and how it would be structured, right down to each little trifling detail like how people should work out at the gym.

I read this book in high school (and again in college), so there’s not much I remember about it. There is one thing, though, that has always stuck with me.

Socrates’s ideal republic would actually be ruled by a king.

Not a king in the monastic dynasty sense. The king would be appointed, not born into the role, and the king would be a philosopher.

(Yes, a philosopher decided that a philosopher should be king. Are you surprised?)

This philosopher king would be wise and benevolent and, most important of all, would not really want to be king.

He (or she) wouldn’t seek office. He would have to be drafted, called up, compelled to serve his (or her) country for a time.

Socrates’s logic for this important quality is that the people who seek power are most often the people you shouldn’t trust with it.

I’m pleased to say that the United States once had a Philosopher King of sorts. And, even though he may have been our last Philosopher King (you can debate that if you want), the decisions he made prevented another monarchy or dictatorship.

George Washington wanted to go home after the war and just be a farmer. But the Constitutional Convention begged him to serve in the office of the president – an office he nor anyone else had campaigned for. A military man, he felt a duty to serve his country when called. They begged him for a second term. They begged for a third term, and he said no, and set a precedent for term limits.

(George Washington also wasn’t a member of any political party.)

I’m not here to talk about George Washington, though apparently I am doing just that. I do want to add, though, that he had feet of clay like every human person and his feet of clay are not what I intend to discuss.

Rather, I want to discuss – or propose, perhaps – the benefits, the possibility, the feasability, of a political leader who does not seek power. I am sure that every person campaigning for political office has a platform of serving the people – how else would they get elected? – but can you really look at recent elections and say the candidates were more concerned with serving than winning? Can you look at the US Congress, paralyzed by the fear of not getting re-elected, and say they prioritize the people they claim to represent?

Is a Philosopher-King* ever possible, except by fluke? Is it desireable? Would you vote for someone who didn’t even want office?

And what do you do, friends, when you get so sick of politics you want to bury your head in the sand?


*Let’s consider King a gender-neutral term at this point please, for the sake of discussion

Perfection Paralysis: Why I’m Scared to Write

I am so sorry. It has been almost three months – three stinkin’ months, folks! – since I last blogged. I won’t delude myself into thinking that I have a huge contingency of fans who hang on my every word, but I know there’s a steady, faithful group of you who like to read what I write (why is that, again? But I love you so much) and I apologize for not even trying to put something remotely interesting up here for you.

Let me tell you the little story of why.

I’m scared.

The end.

Do you want the long version? Okay. Deep breath. This blog is now on my resume. It’s linked to my portfolio – in fact, given that my portfolio is just a collection of disconnected samples I’ve done for different groups, you could say this blog IS my portfolio. Proof of writership.

I’ve been writing for a long time, but in the last few months decided that I didn’t want it to be my “side thing” anymore. I have upheaved my life to make this happen and it has been – and still is – kind of crazy. I think I’m crazy. Am I crazy?

I don’t regret this move, but the worst part about it is every time I get on here to post something I start to overanalyze it. Is it social-media worthy? Is it SEO-friendly? Is this whole blog nothing but hot air? If a publisher reads it will they shake their head and move on to someone else’s pitch?

Thoreauing as a writer is not really an option in the age of the internet. Otherwise I would be holed up in an off-grid cabin with no one but my cat and some white-tailed deer for company.

This post is my desperate attempt to break the cycle. This blog has been an outlet and a friend, the fertile ground that encouraged me to keep writing when I thought I couldn’t, or shouldn’t. I would really and truly hate to abandon it. I would hate to approach writing here as a chore, or worse, as a job pitch. I want to write for myself, and I want to write for the people who want to read what I write. I don’t want to try to convince folks to like my writing. You either do or you don’t. Read or leave.

Basically, I am saying “screw you” to my inner neurotic fearful perfectionist. This blog has never been about perfection. It’s always been about honesty.

And honestly, that’s what it will continue to be.

I promise.



I’m fed up with Swagbucks, Ibotta, and other “cash back” apps

I have a, um, limited income. Comes with being a writer and working in the non-profit world. I have enough, but I’m always looking for ways to save money here and there. I compare price per-ounce at the grocery store, take advantage of BOGO deals when they come around for my usual purchases, and have cash back rewards on my credit card. I’m obsessed with Thred Up, a website that carries secondhand designer clothes (and if you click that link, you will get a $10 credit, and if you spend that credit I will get a $10 credit. Just a disclaimer. Be warned, though, it’s addictive!).

I started using Ibotta sometime last year, and signed up for Swagbucks a few months ago. For those of you not familiar with these apps, Ibotta partners with companies to give you a “rebate” when you buy specific items and scan your receipt to prove your purchase. The rebate varies from $0.25 to $10.00, depending on the cost of the item, and once you reach $20.00 in rebates you can get the money sent to your PayPal, Venmo, or purchase a gift card.

Swagbucks has a similar system, but beyond just purchases they have surveys and “content” (i.e. ads) that you can participate in for “Swagbucks,” points that add up to cash. The nice thing about Swagbucks is you don’t have to reach $20 to redeem your points. You can get a gift card as low as $3.00.

Ibotta and Swagbucks have helped with my Amazon addiction. Also known as my ebook and music addiction. Between the two of them I’ve probably gotten close to $75 in Amazon credit (and used it all, alas).

But I think for me they have outlived their usefulness, and are now time-wasters and money-wasters. Let me tell you why.

You get the most bang for your buck with Ibotta if you refer friends, because with your referral code they get $10 in credit, and when they redeem their first rebate you get $5 in credit. I guess if you have a ton of friends you can keep this going for a while, but I’m kind of tapped out. What the hell, though, if you want to try it here’s my referral link and yes I will get credit if you use it.

Here’s how Ibotta can actually cost you money, though. It’s great if they are featuring rebates on items you normally buy at stores where you normally shop. The pitfall is if you buy an item or choose a store just because of the rebate. This is an old, old marketing trick. “Filet Mignon is 20% off today? I must buy Filet Mignon!” Did you intend to buy Filet when you went to the store today? No? Well now you just spent money you didn’t need to, even if you spent less thank you would have if you’d bought full price Filet Mignon.

Or, and this is what I realized I’d been doing, you pay more for an item by purchasing it at a store with rebates rather than going to a store with overall cheaper prices. For example, I might look at the current rebates featured and see that a specific brand of chicken breast has a $1.00 rebate at my favorite nice grocery store. “Hooray!” I think to myself, and go spend $6.00 on chicken breast for a $1.00 rebate instead of going to Aldi across the street and paying $3.00 for the same amount of chicken breast.

(Side note, if there is an Aldi in your town you should be shopping there.)

I can’t believe I’ve allowed myself to be taken in this way. Ibotta can be useful, and you CAN make money on it, but if you truly want to to be frugal, it’s worth doing your research and having some self-control.

I’ll probably keep using Ibotta, sparingly, but what really bugs me is Swagbucks. The only way to make any money there is to spend money. Buy this $14/month luxury subscription and get $15 in Swagbucks! Donate $40.00 to this charity and get $40.00 in Swagbucks! Most of the time you’re breaking even, or getting on another company’s mailing list for a few bucks.

Then there’s the surveys. Hundreds of marketing research surveys, they say. What they don’t say is the surveys are often looking for very specific candidates and if you don’t fit you waste 5 minutes answering their qualifying questions and earn 1 swagbuck as reward. You know how much 1 swagbuck is? $0.01. If you do qualify, you are very lucky to get a 30 minute survey that rewards you 100 swagbucks, or $1.00. Best case scenario, you are earning a couple bucks an hour.

If you have that much time to waste, you could get a job that pays at least minimum wage.

The time when Ibotta and Swagbucks are going to work for you – and ThredUp, for that matter, and any sale or discount – is when they give you the opportunity to gain or spend less on something you were already going to buy at the cheapest price anyway. Cash back apps are not evil, but I’ve found they waste my time (especially Swagbucks) for little reward, or at worst encourage me to spend when I don’t need to.

P.S. This video from Bite Size Psych explains why we fall for marketing tricks!

Why you should be an academic

I sent this meme to my friend the other day:


I dare you not to laugh at it. I dare you not to watch it over and over again and giggle every time.

I was not being a good friend, because after a long string of HAHAHAs and a ROFL or two, she replied,

“Stop making me laugh!! I’m writing a grad school paper and I need to be academic!”

“BUT,” I countered, “could this GIF not be academic? Could we not look at dear wiggle cat and friend Shaq and ask, Why? Why is it funny?”

Is it funny because every cat owner has seen their cat do the same thing?

Is it funny because Shaquille O’Neal was a legend on the basketball court?

Is it funny because of Kazaam, the 1996 classic starring Shaq as a sassy genie?

To give a truly academic answer,


I’ve done time in academia and, despite the pages and pages of research and structuralism and semiotics and seminars and the tiny print in the dusty books and hours spent on JSTOR, I did enjoy it. It gratified my innate tendency to take every little thing to the farthest possible conclusion.

The farthest possible conclusion? Let me demonstrate.

If the above GIF is perceived as funny by cat owners due to their familiarity with the gesture, what is it about the gesture itself that is amusing?

Perhaps it is found amusing because the cat’s posture and dilated pupils indicate extreme eagerness, contrasting with the generally indifferent mood most cats seem to prefer.

The author hypothesizes that the cat owner recognizes this as the pre-pounce wiggle, and the concept of a cat pouncing on Shaq, juxtaposing its tiny size against his legendarily massive bulk, can be characterized as absurd.

However, this does not conclude that the GIF displays features of classic absurdist fiction, the genre of literature in which characters fail to find purpose or meaning in life. Rather, it is absurd in the sense of the familiar dictionary definition: “Wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate.” (Webster 211.)

What I learned in graduate school is that anything can be academicized. (Is that a word? If not let’s make it one. I’ll call Webster.) Anything can be academicized because of anything you can always ask the question: Why?

Why is this situation this way?

Why is this TV show popular?

Why do people care about the Kardashians?

You can do research into the social, economic, and cultural factors. Who is watching the Kardashians? Who is following them on social media? What do those people have in common? How does psychology factor into this phenomenon?

Boiled down, academics is just asking questions and looking for answers. And then asking more questions about those answers. Because everything is always infinitely more complex than it appears at first glance.

And isn’t that in itself, divorced or not from the ivory tower, a worthwhile pursuit? Is that not what the reputed father of western philosophy did, Socrates himself? He called himself “the gadfly,” because of his persistent question asking of others.

What if we all gadflied? What if the next time your friend said, “Pizza is my favorite food,” you asked, “Why? What do you like about it? Do you prefer thin crust or deep dish? Why that? Where did you first eat pizza? What kind of toppings do you like?”

Okay…maybe we wouldn’t have any friends. But for every ridiculous thing that is academicized (and believe me, there are plenty), there’s another worthy question waiting to be asked. It’s probably not about pizza. But maybe it is. Regardless, there is always more to discover.

I don’t think I am in the minority as someone who wants to truly, deeply understand all the layers and machinations of the world. The further into it we dive, the more beautiful the world is. The more wondrous her people, and the more significant their deeds.

Self-love, Makeup, and Beauty

I’m a no-makeup girl who wears makeup.

Wait, what?

First off, why is O! Wandering Folk, supposed proponent of the deep and philosophically weighty, talking about something so superficial as makeup?

There’s no digression here, my friend – I believe there’s a deep root and eternal proportions to everything.

Let’s rewind a bit, shall we? My mother did not teach me about makeup. It just wasn’t a thing in my family. She didn’t wear much, if any, and when I looked at her face – her freckled nose and light eyebrows – all I saw was beauty.

I remember at an open house night for my middle school, she noticed a sixth-grader with a face full of makeup (and glitter, as was the trend in those days) and shook her head, saying to me, “Girls this age are just so naturally beautiful, it seems a shame they feel like they have to wear makeup.”

I often have that same thought. I look at women with heavy makeup caked on and my heart sadly wonders – why is she hiding herself?

Through most of high school and college I wore little to no makeup. I often wore foundation, because I have acne, and I went through phases of playing around with a very, very small amount of eye makeup. That was it. My best friend was – is – a pro at cosmetics because her mom taught her how to use them well. She would occasionally beg me to let her give me a makeover and I’d consent reluctantly – although the root of our friendship is actually her chasing me shrieking around a sleepover trying to brush me with body glitter.

My friend would proudly pronounce my makeup done (sans glitter) and tell me to look in the mirror.

“It looks really nice,” I’d say, truthfully, because it did. Then I’d slowly add, “but it doesn’t look like me.”

Fast forward through this unnecessarily long story, to grad school. I got irritated with people assuming I was a “fresher” (UK slang for freshman, I quickly learned). One day I wore eye makeup and someone passing out brochures stopped me in the street – “How old are you, 22?”

“Oh! I’m 23!” I answered eagerly, not caring that he was trying to sell me something. I was just glad he didn’t think I was 17.

I started wearing makeup almost every day. That was the start of my journey to learning that I can present myself to be perceived a certain way, and thus the start of my struggle between changing my apperance to garner a more desireable perception, or being as comfortably “me” as I wanted to.

Perception is something, I learned, that you can manipulate, if you know what you’re doing. And there’s power in that – enticing power. But it’s also wearying. Wearying for the effort it takes. And wearying for the idea that your “unaltered” appearance might not reflect how you feel on the inside.

It goes beyond makeup, of course – wear a pencil skirt and heels and you’re a power woman. Jeans and Converses and you’re youthful and carefree. A cat eye is chic and a red lip is classically bold. Too much makeup and you look like you’re trying too hard – or you’re too easy. If you know what I mean.

But it’s not all about deception. And that’s why I still like to wear makeup, even though I feel confident enough now that I don’t feel like I need to wear it. The older you get the fewer shits you give (which gives me great joy anticipating how few shits I will give when I’m actually old, because, I’m still quite a youngin in the scheme of things). No, I’ve grown to like the creativity of it. How my makeup and wardrobe choices can give me a certain type of confidence, or express a facet of my personality. Today I feel punk. Yesterday I felt like Audrey Hepburn. Tomorrow I’ll feel like a wild woman and I’ll just wear moisturizer.

I still feel sad sometimes when I see girls or women wearing a lot of makeup. I understand it is an avenue for creativity, a means of self-expression. But I think that too often these are the buzzwords used justify hiding, or self-deprecation. Well-done makeup is beautiful. A completely natural face is also beautiful.

I love to see those “celebrities without makeup!” photos. Recently in the news for going sans makeup are Alicia Keys (all the time now!), and Adele in an apology video made for her fans. Makeup trends make everybody look the same, I think – and that’s a real shame, because I believe beauty is found in variety.

So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not against makeup, and I’m not against no makeup. I like both. I do both! What I am against is hating your uniqueness, fearing the opinions of others, feeling the need to hide, or thinking you have to alter yourself to be beautiful.

In the interest of full disclosure, and because you read all the way down through this Wandering, here’s my face. I struggle with self-love, like all women, but I’ve learned to give myself – and my face – the kindness I deserve.

An “everyday” office look.


And just me, clean and ruddy.



It’s life-giving and hard to find.

As I mentioned earlier, recently I finished a book called The Hiding Place, a true story about a Dutch woman and her family who were sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews during World War II.

Toward the end of the book she describes her first night in a bed after being released from the camp and her almost indescribable awe at sleeping in a real bed with sheets – clean sheets, no less – after months of sharing a flea-ridden cot with five or more other women and only a thin blanket.

Reading this I paused, emotion caught in my throat.

Every night I sleep on sheets.

Clean, soft white sheets on my big, comfortable bed, with all the blankets I’d need, and air conditioning and a ceiling fan for a hot night. Any night of my life that I spent otherwise – and believe me they are few – were done so completely voluntarily.

I thanked Jesus for my sheets when I slipped between them later.


Driving to an annual checkup the next morning, I marveled at the rush-hour traffic, especially since there were still so many cars when I was heading in the opposite direction of most commuters.

Then I recalled the time I spent working in Atlanta and when I lived in the metro DC area. The worst traffic day in Birmingham is better than the best in those places.


The wait in the doctor’s office was just as long as usual. Wait to get called back. Wait for the nurse. Wait for the doctor. All this effort seems so annoying to have to go through once a year for such a trivial medical problem. Even more annoying to have the problem in the first place

While I lay back letting the nurse give me an EKG that I knew would be normal, I thought of all the many, many people in the waiting room whose EKGs would not be normal.

I am so healthy, to be so assured of a normal heart rhythm, and to hear from the doctor, “Ok, well, we’ll just see you in another year!”


It’s almost my twenty-seventh birthday and in my region of the States that puts me in old maid territory. Not saying that’s right, it just is what it is – most people in the South get married in their early twenties.

Sometimes I feel a little taste of bitterness about this – but then I remember I really, really love my life. If I had married at age 23 – I would have made some very unwise choices. Instead, I’m independent and happy.


It’s hard to find perspective when your vision is filled with what you’re currently experiencing. Even the suggestion to “get some perspective” can have you lashing out like a cornered animal (or maybe that’s just me). But a moment of perspective is the clear strike of a bell. Before it even quits ringing your emotions are changed – just with that one thought, the thought that’s hard to find, and easy to forget.