Goodbye, 2016.

In my personal social media echo chamber, everyone is talking about how much 2016 sucked.

I’m not disagreeing.

So what do we do about that.

Though there’s no going back now, I tried anyway, and to my surprise uncovered a number of special little moments that I’d forgotten amidst this month’s tweets about nukes and Israel.

I share these moments now for a couple reasons:

  • To get back up-to-date on my out-of-date blog. (Oops.)
  • To remind myself that, despite a year full of global tragedy, political mayhem, personal overcommitment, and pulling weed after weed after weed in a mint field, good stuff happens.

Unless we make an effort to both curate and celebrate that ‘good stuff,’ I think we risk missing it.

Given our current cultural climate (and well, the climate, period), I don’t feel we dare do that. In a world so fragile, we dare not waste a single beautiful moment, however small, however trivial.

So here are 16 moments from 2016 that remind me, anyway, to celebrate and savor that fleeting crazy ‘good stuff’ that’s going to keep our world spinning, God willing, come January 20.

From me, to you, may your holiday be filled with love, love, love.

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1>> The childlike joy of a snow day is simply something special. 
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2>> With Hans’ sister & brother-in-law relocating to Brooklyn, 2016 brought many trips to the big city for long walks, Broadway shows, and summer night concerts.

 

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3>> Hans’ brain is amazing, so he dreamt this old office space into a destination cafe, and a few months later…
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4>> ..there it was! I completed a lifelong goal of becoming a snobby barista and even gained some new best friends in the process.
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5>> Christina ended her college career with a zillion accomplishments, which we welcomed as reason to reunite the Hofer clan.
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6>>Little did I know, 2016 would be the year of out-of-town guests. 6/7 of my immediate family made the trek to Lancaster, plus other relatives and friends from across the country–including dear Brook! I did my best to curate a true Lancaster experience (note, cows).
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7>> And for all those days that my family and friends couldn’t cross the miles to reunite,  I felt grateful for the Sommer-Weaver family’s support and love.
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8 >> Do work trips make me officially an adult? Multiple jobs took me on multiple work trips to Colorado, California, NYC, and above, a PRiMA trip to Washington D.C.  We don’t have that Tony yet, but we’re working on it… 😉
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9>> Best friends wedding equals best friends reunion. 
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10>> Alicia came to Lancaster for a solid month-and-a-half to help bring the Menno Tea Mint Field and Cafe to life (and to be the best friend to me that she always is). Our time together ended with a special trip to dear Jake’s hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. 
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11>> When my parents came to Pa., they reminded me of how fun first-time experiences still are as an adult. This included kayaking and the U.S. Open.
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12>> Then there was Hugo, the worlds cutest Airedale Terrier, who is now a million pounds heavier than pictured here.
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13>>Lancaster Mennonite entrusted me with the best kiddos in the world. I directed the Lancaster debut of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” 
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14 >> I could easily make top 16 moments just from this November trip to Peru. In addition to Machu Picchu (#15), we visited coffee farm/ers (pictured above), spent a few days at the northern coast near Ecuador, and explored the sprawling city of Lima with (new!) dear friends Andrea and Scott of One Village Coffee. Maybe I’ll blog about this in upcoming days.
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15>> A solid best friend for every single day of 2016 is a special thing, indeed.
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16>>Broadway tenor Adam Pascal marked the close of the PRiMA 2016 season–my first full calendar year on staff here. It’s a little fun to be a little starstruck. 
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>>And a bonus, just for me. Sometimes something as silly as chopping off your hair and shaving half your head signals a personal victory of self discovery, self care and growth. 

Life’s not so bad. Here’s to the year ahead,

-Vanessa

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Sensitive skin

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Colorado Springs. It’s hailing. You know, like it does. There is light guitar and a sorrowful tenor playing on the stereo system. It’s afternoon here, but evening in my brain and body.

I try to keep my blog a friendly sort of personal. This has been a polite place for stories that feel okay to share with strangers, since strangers some of you are.

Today, though, I tiptoe across my own homemade line.

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It has been an emotional 2 months for me. I’ve been on a healing journey, I guess.

As I dig into it–it, this dreamlike piece of my past that I tuck far from your sight–I’ve found sensitive terrain. Like newly exposed flesh, it flinches with exposure, it stings when touched, it bleeds.

I don’t know how to make that sound less cheesy–or gross–except to assure you that the healing is significant, its impetus painful.

So here I am: in the midst of asking the whys, the hows, in the midst of some serious digging, some raw skin, some fresh tears. Then, a trip across the country to visit the Motherland, to step onto the home turf. Oh, but of course. What timing. This is how it goes, yes?

And then,

“You show many emotions, Nes, but weakness is not one of them,” Mom says to me.

We’re sitting on the porch, patio chairs sliding forward and back, forward and back. There are morning doves cooing and the faint sound of cattle in the distance. Wind ruffles my hair, because in South Dakota, there is always wind. And I feel my heart buckle, like ankles buckling under knees, knees buckling under thighs.

In this one moment with Mom, I feel so keenly my aloneness–then and now. I feel the sadness of lost opportunity because I see that I inadvertently left you behind in my time of need. And still–still now!–I do not know how to invite you in.

What is it about going home that strips a person of their carefully crafted facade? What is it about going home that demands you to see, not who you are trying to be or are today, but the person you always were and the person you will inevitably fail to become?

Oh, home of mine, how anxious I am to leave…and yet…how I want to stay here, hidden away from the world amidst your tall grasses and knobby wind-bent trees, nestled between creek and culvert, shielded by the glow of the sun and the sparkle of an endless prairie night sky.

Silver Lake sunset bike ride

Yet my journey, this journey, painful though it may sometimes be, has me elsewhere today. Maybe tomorrow, too. Maybe forever.

As much as I need you, I equally do not. For as much as I love you, I despise you, too.

For as much as you are a part of this time of healing–as much as I crave that knack of yours for making sense out of everything, for putting a Bible verse on every situation and a reason behind every misstep–this is not yours.

While I remorse that I could not have had you there, when I needed you so, and that I cannot let you in now, like I wish I could–perhaps it is for the better.

You’ve been where you need to be, maybe. Just close enough. Just a flight away. Just a car ride. Just a phone call. Just before the Rockies and just after the Mississippi.

Just sitting on the front porch, rocking.

Forward and back, forward and back.

Waiting for me to talk.

The tomato slicer

I was reminded tonight of one of my first ‘real’ jobs in high school.

I was one of, I don’t recall exactly, perhaps ten or so locals who were selected to be sandwich artists at the very first Subway to arrive to my hometown.

We were interviewed and selected amidst plywood, power tools and tarp, as the building, tacked onto the end of the town shopping center along Highway 81, was not yet finished.

On the first day of training, I cut my finger on the tomato slicer. Not wanting to embarrass myself in front of the Subway elite (they’d come up from Nebraska to train us), I tried to hide the injury. I kept my eyes glued on the presenter teaching us 101 kitchen safety and meanwhile pushed paper towels against my finger to try to stop the flow of blood.

My friend Lori, who was also in training, had a better angle on the stack of paper towels. She casually slipped me sheet after sheet, as a I discretely slipped the bloodied ones into the trashcan beside me that was holding the tomato discards.

I remember it took a long time for that cut to go away.

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photo: Marnette Hofer

Homesickness is a funny thing. When I first left for school, I anticipated it. Now, going on eight years later, I don’t see it coming before it arrives.

Homesickness slips its way through the seams into those cracks of anxious anticipation, quick change or slight hesitation. It drips and it drools, and I don’t really know what to do with the mess.

Mostly, it frustrates me. It feels like an Achilles heel, for lack of a more original comparison, and I become irritable, feisty even, about this reoccurring weak spot.

I’ve learned so much about you, Pennsylvania, and now and then I want to shove it back your direction. I want to tell you a thing or two about South Dakota, because you don’t know.

In South Dakota, when you see a line of cars coming down the highway you know that a ball game just finished. And when Dad has to wait for a car to turn off our gravel road onto Highway 81, he grumbles, because waiting for traffic is not normal.

In South Dakota, you don’t call your aunt an ant, because that would be an odd reference to her size.

In South Dakota, appetizers are only for holidays and dessert, 9 times out of 10, contains flour.

In South Dakota, the beach is at the river, keeping your gold-level rating at Starbucks is impossible since the nearest is an hour away, and hugs are just for family and close friends that you haven’t seen in a long time–and Grandma, always.

In South Dakota, spring is dictated by the weather, the moistness of the ground and district basketball games.

Daylight savings changes when you eat supper, because it effects how late the farmers can stay outside working.

Geese signal the turn of the season clearer than billboards.

Sunrises remain as beautiful as ever, but the air–uninterrupted by noise or building– carries a palatable freshness your lungs have been craving.

And you step into that beauty and breathe deep, knowing soon, new life will spring in the fields that surround you. Soon, the days will grow longer, and you will fill each fuller to accommodate.

I hate that my childhood home is somewhere that is not near anyplace anyone is going.

Yet, if it were any closer, I fear it would lose its desolate charm.

Oh, how strangely amusing and absolutely enchanting it is to have unintentionally frozen this soft, sweet place in my mind as though it were a golden twilight never to be had again.

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photo: Marnette Hofer

Here is a horrible comparison:

Sometimes homesickness feels like a cut from a tomato slicer.

It’s just the most ridiculous thing to miss something so imperfect, and yet, I keep holding the paper towel to it, trying to pretend it’s not there,

secretly terrified it will never stop bleeding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoe scuffs

I travelled nearly halfway across the country last week to sit on the end of a wooden bench in a shoe-scuffed middle school gym alongside a dozen middle school girls basketball players.

Am I crazy?

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I should start by being honest; while I loved the sport, I was never that good of a player. My high school teammates can attest to that.

I fouled a lot.

For those of you who don’t watch basketball, this essentially means I hit people.

I think it was because I was angry. Probably less so at the person I was tackling and more so at myself. Why was making my body do what I saw so clearly in my brain that difficult?

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The long and short of my high school basketball experience, in one picture.
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HS basketball with one of my younger sisters.

My younger sister was and is the better athlete, with multiple knee surgeries that I believe earn her the title permanently.

She’s a certified coach and the coach that extended an invitation for me to join the elite ranks of middle school coaches last winter.

My certifications?

For starters, my team pep talks in high school were a thing of legends. Certainly they must discuss them still today.

More notably, the team voted me “most inspirational” all 4 years of high school. That includes the year I quit the season early to be in a musical.

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“Most inspirational” coming into the game with my best friend and my sister.

I’d like to think that these very noteworthy achievements are the reason my sister felt I deserved to join her team.

Though I kid, I did give a lot of pep talks last winter during my inaugural season as assistant coach.

There’s nothing like funneling more emotion into an already emotionally-charged middle school sporting event.

After rejoining the bench this last week, I quickly fell back into my old role, my pep talk spirit still perfectly intact, seemingly untamed by my newfound East Coast sensibilities.

“That isn’t an injury,” I proclaimed to the player who had limped off the court with a painful-looking floor burn that covered half her lower leg. “That’s a battle scar!”

“And what do you do when someone gives you a battle scar?!” I barreled on. She looked up at me with wide watery eyes, sniffling, gasping, tears streaming.

“You score on them!!” I roared.

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Unexpected experiences are the most delightful thing, aren’t they though?

If I had my way, I’d never sign up for them. Yet, these experiences come charging at me.

Thank God, too, because I can’t imagine how dull my life would be otherwise.

Coaching is Exhibit A. While on paper or in the summary version I’ll give folks in Lancaster, it may seem obscure to travel so far for something so trivial, I beg to differ.

This was an experience I value, then and now, because it was an experience I didn’t know I could have. It was an experience offered graciously by someone else and shared with a mighty fine group of ladies.

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The ‘A’ team welcoming me back last week.

I recently took a personality test that told me that my personality type, when at its healthiest, is self-creative, “able to transform all their experiences into something valuable.”

I like to think that, at least sometimes, this is true. Today’s post is a good example. Here’s an unlikely experience I found value in. Enough value, in part, to travel 500 miles westward in hopes to hold onto it, to relive it again.

Today, though, I also acknowledge a new challenge. This is one I have to keep pushing myself on–and maybe you do, too.

The challenge of letting go of the past is something my personality type isn’t so keen at, so say the results.

I’m severely sentimental, what can I say.

However, It’s time to let other experiences come at me and to embrace them.

I guess a starting point will be my new job. For those of you trying to keep tabs on me, you may have noticed I joined the staff at PRiMA. I’m passionate about this company because they have ‘skin in the game’ (sorry, couldn’t help myself) trying to ‘cultivate culture’–to  use theatre as a way to create lasting experiences that enrich the community and, simply, inspire.

They’re (we’re) looking forward, which I think is pretty neat and, actually, super ambitious.

So hey, if you get the chance to coach a middle school sports team, I triple dare you to do it. Go out there and yell your lungs out, and come back and realize that this little thing was the best thing.

…and that now it’s time to move forward.

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A farewell candy-themed note from last year’s MS bball team.

The Top 12

How do you begin to process a year of life?

By looking through thousands of low-resolution cell phone photos, apparently.

I leave 2015 with an odd feeling in my stomach and a lot to think about. It wasn’t as though it was all perfect. But amidst so much hardship in our world, I feel uncomfortably grateful.

Here’s my meager attempt to make sense of how I’ve gotten from point A to B, and to celebrate, just a little, last year’s milestones.

12 tops moments from 12 months

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(1) I taught K-5 music in the Goshen Public School System beginning in January 2015. On weekends, I commuted to Chicago to continue work in the theatre scene.
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 In Goshen, I  (2) reconnected with some of the most significant people in my life and learned, again, that I am absolutely a horrible skier.
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I had the crazy opportunity to (3) assistant coach MS girls’ basketball with my sister. This involved driving a minibus.
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A new season signaled new adventures. (4) Spring trips took me to WV, PA, OH, IL and even to the top of a creaky wind tower in SD.
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(5) I ran a half-marathon in Chicago. My first race of any kind, ever (and it sort of kicked my butt).
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I spent some time in SD over the summer, during which (6) I organized a theatre camp in my hometown, with gracious help & support from many.
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(7) I officially became my own business, VM Writing Services, LLC. I feel fancier now, yes.
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(8) I moved to Lancaster, PA, over the summer and (8.5) discovered a new theatre scene I’m jazzed to continue exploring.
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(9) Autumn on the East Coast included first-time trips to NYC, the Chesapeake Bay, Phili and the Atlantic Ocean.
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I loved going back to Goshen to (10) see my sisters, visit dear friends in ChiTown and (10.5) ride in a two-person plane for the 1st time, flown by Niles, in which I got to see my alma mater from above.
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(11) A trip to Peru with Hans & Niles was one that I will never forget, during which I surprised a dear college friend, Brook…
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(12) …saw spectacular views, explored the jungle, struggled with Spanish, tried new food, thought I might die on multiple occasionsand met new people I look forward to seeing again soon.
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And finally, a bonus, because you don’t do any of this fun stuff without the guidance, love, mentorship and support from many. Any moment with family and friends is a moment to be cherished…especially when dealing with this crazy crew. 😉

The adventure certainly continues.

A humble and heartfelt Happy New Year from me to you!

Christmas Letter 2014: A Filterer’s Review

If you had a conversation with me in the last 1-3 years, you may have experienced the following:

(1) I asked you a question immediately.
i.e. “Jane! How are you? Tell me about your life!”

(2) I answered your question with a question.
i.e. “Hi Vanessa, how are you?”
“Jane! How are you? Tell me about your life!”

(3) You got to the ‘real news’ after Hour #2, near The Goodbye, or possibly oops! I was going to tell you just now, I promise….
i.e. “Oh yeah, by the way, moving to Indiana in a week.* So that’s that. See you tomorrow?”

I am highly selective in my openness. Call it life experience. Call it a personality trait. Call it ‘something I’m working on’ or ‘something I love about myself.’

Personally, I’d choose mysterious, but I reckon close friends would opt for something along the lines of annoying.

But I’ve made a discovery this year. Just now, actually.

Being a self-prescribed filterer proves problematic when attempting to write an overview of an entire year…unless, that is, you’re okay with people thinking that your greatest accomplishment in the past twelve months was not killing a kitten.

(Which is…incidentally…true…but….)

Can anything I write in such a short, scrappy thing as this end-of-December blog post successfully reflect the incredible 365 adventure-filled days come and gone?

Well, gall-darn-it, it seems I better try.

“When will you write your Christmas letter? Are you going to write a Christmas letter? Will you write your Christmas letter soon? Will you post it on your blog? Will there be pictures?”

Oh my, what an ego boost!

Please, everyone, one moment, one at a time!

The adoring fans (cough *momanddad* cough) anxiously await the top 7 of 2014.

And so, on their behalf, here I go. As honest a Christmas letter as I can filter:

7 Honest Highlights from 2014
In no particular order

(1) Schmeckfest

I hope that, at least once in your life, somebody gives you a really awesome reason to go home and spend some time figuring yourself out. I hope this time reminds you how wonderful your hometown is. I hope this time helps you heal. And I hope this reason to go home also includes (1) a musical and (2) a German food festival. Because. I mean. Really. Yes, please.

(#1) Schmeckfest: Where the cast becomes family...especially if you're already related to over half of them.
(#1) Schmeckfest: Where the cast becomes family…especially if you’re already related to over half of them.
(#1 continued) A time to be home. Photo cred Marnette Hofer & Jeremy Waltner
(#1 continued) A time to be home. Photo cred Marnette Hofer & Jeremy Waltner

(2) Sweet solitude in the city studio

Learning to live alone is like learning to live with a roommate. The endless (internal) chatter, the dirty dishes (all your own), the laundry, everywhere (how is that all mine?!)….

It is the same game but with one less teammate to split the bills.

And there’s a new lineup of lessons to learn. About responsibility. About just being without doing. About the importance of playing music and calling Mom and Dad regularly to prevent insanity. Lessons on how the dishes really don’t get done on their own.

(#2) Studio in the city
(#2) Studio in the city

(3) Smoked-out eyes

I could just tell you how extraordinary my time in Colorado this summer was, but I want you to be my friend after you finish reading this. So instead, this:

Everything comes at a price. So if you have the opportunity to spend June in the Rocky Mountains singing camp songs, sharing your faith story, and breathing in the freshest air known to humankind—all alongside your SISTER–be forewarned that your eyes, like mine, might possibly react to the campfire smoke and you may start to go blind over the next 3 months.

(This is the most recent theory from Mr. Eye Doctor (Date12/22/14) in the ongoing sight saga. See previous blog post.)

Oh, and you might also end up in the hospital, but that’s also old news. Moving on!

(#3) Summer adventures to Colorado
(#3) Summer adventures to Colorado
(#3 continued) But remember, I paid for this trip!
(#3 continued) But remember, I paid for this trip!

(4) Sister-in-law

My brother’s wedding was beautiful. Yes, even the slightly cold-hearted Vanessa shed a few tears. The puffy white clouds, the Indiana farmstead, the vows that might’ve been stolen from a manifesto written by a great 18th century philosopher…And we couldn’t possibly be more delighted to have a new sister in the family. Guess what? She’s just as weird as we are!

(#4) Welcome, Lynelle!
(#4) Welcome, Lynelle!

(5) Stage endeavors

I am currently reading “Fire Starter” by Danielle LaPorte (shoutout to Rachael for the recommend). LaPorte packs her book with inspirational one liners written in big, bold text. These mantras splatter ambitiously over entire already-bigger-than-normal pages. This is the stuff for anyone who is genuinely energized by a good ol’ fashioned pep talk.

LaPorte encourages doing what is easy. Quality easy, she differentiates, not cheap easy. She says, “your hunger will lead you home.”

My hunger leads me straight to theater.

In 2014 I didn’t try for my big break to get on Broadway and I didn’t try to edge out the competition to become the youngest casting director and I didn’t fight to be the newest exec. on the Chicago scene.

I did follow my hunger to a steady stream of projects and experiences that taught me triple what I knew about this art in 2013.

And I did watch theatre continue to make important waves in people’s lives on a variety of platforms–from the tundra of South Dakota to the ‘gritty’ Chicago theater scene.

(‘Gritty,’ I’ve learned, is the word of choice when trying to describe what theater is like in the Windy City.)

I love that. Can I have quadruple the experiences of 2014 for next year?

Highlights in the stage world included finishing a casting internship at Goodman Theatre, officially joining the team at Two Birds Casting, being a lead in a musical, and most recently, joining the staff as a project assistant at Sideshow Theatre Company, a talented ensemble that I’ve been eyeing since I first moved to Chi-town in the fall of ’13.

(#5) All my world is full of stages. Hopefully always.
(#5) All my world is full of stages. Hopefully always.

(6) Sideswiped—NEVER.

This might seem a little silly to list when you only have 7 points; but highlight #6 of 2014 was using my bike as my primary mode of transportation in Chicago–until the weather turned to below freezing (I’m not THAT admirable)…AND NOT GETTING HIT, ever!

I clearly recall people running off the sidewalks in college to get away from the terror known as Vanessa-on-her-bike. So to aptly and comfortably soar down busy city streets, weaving in and out of traffic during rush hour, was just about the greatest accomplishment for me, ever.

(#6) Redefining myself in the little ways.
(#6) Redefining myself in the little ways.

(7) Some pretty special people.

You’re in grad school. Florida. The city of Chicago. The city of New York. Washington D.C. The ‘burbs. In Freeman. Around Freeman. Nearish Freeman. Going to Freeman soon. Colorado. Kansas. Good ol’ Goshen. Trying out shifty Elkhart. The coast (take your pick). Africa. Europe. Latin America.

Should I keep going?

I’ve taken some good-natured grief for all my moving around. (Mainly from the people who keep having to help me move my stuff. Which is fair.)

But seriously, look where you are!!!

I am, through-and-through a wanderer right now. (Hey, not all who wander are lost. #Truth.) And when you’re a wanderer asking big impossible questions, it can sometimes feel like there’s not a lot to hold onto.

What happened to clarity? To black and white? To high school schedules where the toughest pick was Chemistry versus Yearbook?

(How did I get away with that?!)

But you, wherever you are, keep me exploring, keep me honest, and keep asking me to share what I’m up to. You keep giving me excuses to visit new places. To try new things. To open up and tell you what I’m thinking and feeling.

You made 2014 awesome, exciting, heartbreaking, confusing, adventure-filled, so on and so forth, and I love you all every bit as much for it. Your care is humbling.

(#7) All of YOU, plus the many, many others I didn't embarrass by taking their picture.
(#7) All of YOU, plus the many, many others I didn’t embarrass by taking their picture.

I can only hope to return the love in the year to come by sleeping on your couch, Google chatting with you, and maybe, just maybe, posting some semi-humorous blog that might make your smile.

It’s the little things, right?

The merriest of Christmas to you from me and my crazy little kitten.

Merry Christmas from this tag team!
Merry Christmas from this tag team!
The Little Things
The little things.

And sincere wishes for a safe and adventurous 2015 for you and your loved ones.

Until the next post,

V

*This is actually true. Gotta go, see you tomorrow?

That one time I thought I was going blind.

I don’t remember when I started losing vision. But I do remember the time I drove twelve hours from South Dakota to Indiana and I couldn’t read any road signs the entire way. Around hour eight or nine I thought, huh, I probably should go to an eye doctor, this sucks.

“Which is better?” my optometrist asks. “One…or two?”

I squint and lean my forehead hard against the headpiece. “Gosh, I’m not really sure,” I start.

“One….or two?” he tries again. The rows of letters morph slightly on his command. “One, or two?”

“Well, they’re both pretty blurry…”

He clears his throat. “One…or two?”

“The same?” I say.

“One…or two?” Is he changing something here? “One, or two?” he repeats. I mean, I think he’s changing the rows of letters on the screen, but…is this a joke? Is this what optometrists do for laughs?

“One or two?” he says, again, again.

“Uh, one?”

This is a lie.

“I mean, maybe two?” Another lie.

“I am so sorry,” I finally blurt, “but I just can’t read either. It’s just totally blurry.”

“This one is blurry?” he asks.

“Yes.” I say.

“And this one is just as blurry?”

Is he cueing me? What am I supposed to say?

I feel like I’m going off script and it’s causing some tension.

He goes back to his table and looks at my file. He sifts through papers. He goes to the computer and does a little clicking. For added effect, no doubt.

“Well, I’m not sure what to say. No matter what I do I can’t get you to see 20/20 out of that left eye. It’s just not responding to anything I’ve tried. I just, I don’t know…”

I am no expert in optometry, but I quickly and efficiently translate this jargon to mean, roughly,

“You are going blind and we can’t help you.”

The panic that hits is enough to summon tears, instantly.

But nothing, nothing, dear friends, pales to the terror that ensues following what he says next:

“No more contact lenses. You must wear your glasses.”

It was like getting blasted by a gust of wind on a -30 degree day in a South Dakota corn field.

“Glasses?” I whimper.

“Absolutely,” he says, confirming that my world was officially coming to an end and the sun would never shine again. “From now on, until we can figure out what’s going on here, and then probably for awhile after ’til we getcha healed.”

“Forever?” I squeak.

“For awhile, yes. Unless you want to go months and months without 100% vision, which I don’t think you do. And here’s a list of the drops you’ll need to pick up.”

He hands me a piece of paper marred with his ugly scrawl. I hate you eye doctor man! I think. Your handwriting sucks!  I silently jeer.

But inside, I knew who was really to blame.

Nice work, Vanessa. Re-wearing your one-day-only contact lenses day after day for 12+ hour days while working at a smokey, dusty, grimy (and beautiful!) summer camp in Colorado. Nice work.

Later, I unearth my glasses and put them on with shaky hands and shallow breath.

It’s okay, Vanessa. Only wear them when you absolutely have to. It’s okay.

I institute the following routine, effective immediately:

Leave house in the morning, glasses on. Use glasses to see keyhole to lock apartment door.

Take glasses off.

Use glasses to see if ‘WALK’ sign is lit, safely cross road.

Take glasses off.

Use glasses at train station to read how many minutes until next train.

Take glasses off.

Ride blind to yoga. Smile at all blurry people, everywhere,  just in case it’s someone I know.

Use glasses to find little woman symbol to ensure entering the correct locker room at yoga. Use again to find correct studio.

Take glasses—

Wait. Crap! I realize my error just as I am entering what would’ve undoubtedly been a truly therapeutic child’s pose. Crap, crap, crap, I mutter, removing the lenses from my face, all the while wondering if I hurry if I can make it–

“Welcome to class! My name is Zeamarious and this is your 60-minute C1 class…”

I set down my glasses next to me on the floor in defeat. I force myself to breathe out everything in one cleansing breath of community, the whole situation, the stupid glasses. Ujjayi Pranayama, breath of victory, breath of fire, here we go.

Sometime about mid-class, Zeeamariousjz (whatever his name is) comes over to offer some hands-on assists and adjusts.

“Breathe,” he coos.

I awkwardly half-nod in my downward dog. Oh yes, how I need to breathe!

And then:

Crunch.

Or snap.

Or something. Some horrible, wretched noise. I don’t even know. Are there words for such sounds?

“Oh my, oh my I am so sorry!” he says, panicking. “Oh gosh, oh, oh dear! I am sorry, I am very, very sorry!”

“It’s okay. It’s okay!” I say, refusing to leave my downward dog. The best. damn. downward. dog. ever. oh. my. gosh. he. just. stepped. on. my. glasses. everyone. stop. staring! please. just. go. away. downward. dog. focus!

A few flow sequences later, I venture a terrified glance while in a convienent forward fold. There are multiple pieces. This is not good.

After class, Z-man offers to pay. And since yoga teachers are obviously the top 1% of our society (right ahead of casting administrators), I kindly decline his offer.

It rained on my blind walk home.

Which was fine, because I couldn’t see with or without the rain, so whatever.

Go ahead. Pour.

And pour it did.

At home, I call half-a-dozen places until desperation sets in. “I know I don’t have an appointment. I know it’s Saturday. But I can’t see. I don’t even know how to get to your little stupid store, please say you can help!!”

“I’M FROM SOUTH DAKOTA I DON’T KNOW WHERE ELSE TO GO.”

It was getting ugly.

I did, eventually, find replacement glasses on that Saturday thanks to a shady little shop in a shady little neighborhood with very young but very friendly front desk folks. I contemplate driving to get there. I take a taxi, instead.

You’d think, at this point, I would have a newfound appreciation for those pesky glasses of mine.

But even with fixed frames, I was still absolutely hellbent against wearing them. Yes, even the slightly-better replacement ones. In the weeks to come, I went to blind coffee meetings. I went to blind shows. I even did a blind dinner date. Blind casting? You better believe it.

“You look nice!” said my coworkers. “Sexy secretary!” a friend tried.

But I couldn’t be convinced.

Why?

How ridiculous am I?

Even was beginning wonder.

But really?

You know how childhood feels forever ago? Even when you’re in your 20s. Your ‘high school you’ feels like a total punk who you don’t really want to meet again. And whoa, that elementary you? Ha. She can stay on the playground where you last saw her and her matching sweatsuit, the side pony tail, the Kool-Aid mustache.

But when I was forced to wear glasses gain, I felt like I was a kid again. I felt that time of my life. Is that crazy? But I did. All at once I remembered those years of being made fun of for having lenses three-times the size of my eyes. (Which for owl eyes herself here, is saying something!)

Now, even as a 20-something, with glasses, outfits that I thought looked pretty dang good suddenly looked awful. With glasses, I was pretty sure I gained 20 pounds each time I put them on. I might’ve even lost braincells, increased risk of disease, who knows. My face shape entirely morphed.

Needless to say, I didn’t want to bump into you on the street unexpectedly. Sorry.

And yeah, it was pretty pathetic.

But so many years of being teased when I wore glasses–whether in good fun or not–was apparently still in the back of my brain. That was elementary school. My speech impediment and big glasses.

I was carrying that with me. All of that.

As a 20-something walking the streets of Chicago.

Who knew?

Sometimes personal growth happens and it’s so slow and so subtle no one else notices. You don’t even notice! You just look back one day down the road and think, wow. I’ve grown up. Huh. That’s good.

And other times it hits you in the face. Well, right in the eyes, actually.

Other times life makes you put back on your glasses, literally change your vision, change your perspective, and see, whether you want to or not, the baggage you’re carrying around with you that you really, truly don’t need.

What else is there? I wonder. What else is there that I can let go of?

What else should I work through before some other organ becomes inflamed and forces me to figure out my insecurities, ready or not?

Here’s my thought of the fall, for you. Exciting, I know.

Take a moment and look back. Use your vision while you have it. Consider where you’ve come from and what that means. Then let it go.

Process. Reflect. Let be.

I think sometimes even just realizing is enough. Being aware is something. It’s a step in some direction.

Or do what I do, and wait until you have no choice but to step back and put on your old frames.

My eyes are getting better, by the way. It was just inflammation, nothing permanent. I still deal with headaches, etc., but I’m optimistic a couple more visits to my beloved optometrist and maybe a change in prescription will do the trick. Gosh, how terrifying it must be for those who do deal with serious eye loss. They have all my empathy and all my respect.

In short (here’s the secret moral of the story–HA! And you thought you already knew it!), we need to hang out again. Especially if we just met this fall…It is very, very possible I still don’t know what you look like. Sorry.

(Oh, and heads up, don’t put your glasses on the floor at your next yoga class.)