Rain, Coffee, Jesus

It’s a yucky day here in Athens. It’s the type of day where every college student wakes up for class, looks out the window and decides that they aren’t going. Thankfully, my teachers felt the same way and cancelled class before I had to struggle with the decision myself.

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Curled up under my heated blanket, I sipped my coffee, grabbed the Bible and dove into my devotion. I began journaling on the pages, underlining important sentences, and reading the scripture that was paired with the daily lesson.

New York Times Best Seller, Ann Voscamp wrote an awesome devotional titled “One Thousand Gifts”  – a book reflecting on finding everyday graces. The 250-page book, filled with sixty devotions and a journal fortunately ended up in my hands Christmas morning when my Dad gave it to me as a gift.

What a gift it is…Not only because of her amazing skills to write about God’s love, but because of the amazing way that God spoke to me about His love through her words.

Voscamp began her journey with a dare to count one thousand things that she loved. One thousand things became one thousand graces and one thousand graces became “One Thousand Gifts.”

Her love for the Lord is evident in every word that was carefully structured into the book. Today’s lesson began with the thought provoking question, “What initially sparks God’s anger?”

Sinfulness?

Thanklessness.

Thanklessness leads to the fall – sin.

Eve’s thanklessness led to her eating the one fruit He doesn’t give to her. Voscamp refers to this thanklessness as the “catalyst of the fall.”

I grew up in a Christian household. I prayed before every meal and went to church on Sundays. Through the repetitive singing of  “Jesus Loves Me,” I’ve known from a young age that I was loved by the Lord. From every blade of grass, to every mountain, I recognized His presence in the world.

Although I could see God in everything, I often forgot to thank Him.

After each devotion, I add a few of my own graces to the list provided in the back.

It’s amazing how many blessings God gives us- so many blessings that stretch far beyond the confines of the numbered list that is provided in the book. What is even more amazing is how much we should be thanking Him. From every breathe we can take, to every person we love, to every ability we have in this life, He deserves praise for it.

So to end this short post for the day, I want to quote something that Voscamp wrote in today’s lesson.

“Turn in thanks and everything turns- and God doesn’t turn away.”

Stay thankful,

Ansley.

If You Give A Homeless Man A Sandwich…

Hey y’all.

If you aren’t already smiling because God gave you another day on this beautiful Earth, at least smile because the sun is out. Finally, I can wake up, look out my window and know that straightening my hair is at least an option. (For those of you who don’t know, curly hair and rain aren’t exactly best friends.) Although I didn’t enjoy the rain last week, I did enjoy the cool weather. There’s nothing like a pea coat, scarf, boots and being able to see your breath in the mornings.

Despite what the forecast was last week, one of my days was filled with sunshine.

For those of you who have kept up with sweetteaandserendipity over the years or those of you who know me personally, you know that nothing tugs on my heartstrings like the homeless. You have probably seen this in a few of my older posts…

You can say, think or believe whatever you would like when it comes to the subject of homeless people. However, at the end of the day, you are probably saying, thinking and believing those things with a roof over your head. Despite the reason that people are having to reside on the street, whether it may be self-causing or just an unfortunate situation, I think that you should never pass someone with a cardboard sign and not hand them a dollar.

I don’t hand homeless people money or buy them things so that I can write about them on here.

God says that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). I don’t only believe this because of my religious views but because it is evident in every step that I take as I walk away from that corner, bench or coffeeshop after making a new homeless friend. I want each of you to be able to feel that too…

I want to tell you about my latest experience with the kind man that I met downtown last Saturday afternoon.

After eating Mellow Mushroom with a few friends and watching the Dawgs win (finally), I was making my way back to my car when I heard a raspy voice that would make most girls run. This raspy voice, maybe given it’s tone by one too many cigarettes, asked me for some money. My friends continued to walk on but I was intrigued. This wouldn’t be another handout that I satisfied with a transaction of a dollar.

Although I probably frighten my elders by saying this, the homeless man with one eye seemed like a friendly one and who doesn’t love making new friends more than me?

I told this man that I didn’t have any cash but that I would love to buy him some lunch. Although I knew this would put a good dent in my bank account, I continued to let him choose where he would like to eat. After a few blocks of walking and talking about the woman he loved and thought was “prettier than a pearl,” we ended up at Subway. I will say, I turned quite a few heads walking in with a one-eyed black man who was taller than the trees on Clayton Street.

We walked up to the counter and I said four words that I thought I would soon regret – “Get whatever you want.”

I stood back and listened to the sound of my bank account draining as I watched him order a foot long sub, 2 bags of chips and a large drink.

As we walked out of the chain restaurant, I knew I had most likely overdrawn from my bank account. It was the first time that I had ever felt sick to my stomach after doing something for a homeless person. I felt awful.

Before parting ways, the sweet man taller than the trees told me that I had the prettiest hair he had ever seen (Keep in mind that I have curly hair and it was raining). My hair looked like a mop. Before I could even say thank you, he took his fingers, that were long enough to wrap around the neck of a guitar twice, and began running them through my hair. I would usually freak out. One, because of the fact that my curls would frizz, and two, I didn’t know where these long fingers of his had been. But that day, I didn’t care.

Beginning to end the conversation and go about my day, I heard him say one last thing to me – “Can I have a hug?”

I never really thought about it until I met this man downtown. Unless, I was joking or throwing a pity party, in my 20 years, I don’t think I have ever had to ask for a hug. Thankfully, God has given me people that hug me daily.

Touched enough by the situation, I walked back to my car and got in with my four friends who were a bit confused about what had happened on the corner as they watched from afar. However, as I clicked my seatbelt and started the right playlist, what I was about to see from afar was much better than what my friends had just witnessed a minute before.

Across the street, I saw the man I was fortunate enough to have just met indulging in that steak and cheese sandwich…along with another man who he had given the other half of his sandwich and bag of chips to.

My favorite children’s book was If You Give A Mouse A Cookie – the tale of a mouse who asks for a cookie and continues to beg for more.

I feel like it’s almost a shame that we read that book to children because obviously, that’s not true.

Stay kind and generous,

Ansley

Chasing Manhattans

“New York, New York. It’s a helluva town.”

Hey y’all. I hope that you’re having a wonderful morning. It’s a beautiful morning in Manhattan. The air is humid, the trash bags on the sidewalks have magically disappeared and the constant honks from taxis are beginning to grow in volume. New Yorkers have started to invade the streets, flood the subways, scoot into taxis and ignore jaywalking laws. Although New York is just now waking up, I beat the sun to the finish line this morning. It was in the middle of the night that something hit me. Something that I never expected would hit me. I hate New York City.

 

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Your eyes are not deceiving you. You read that correctly. I hate New York City.

My time in the city is coming to an end. No more hailing cabs, subway delays, blistered feet or cluttered living. Sounds like a good thing, right? Right you are! Truth be told, I hate hailing a cab and I hate the subway system. Driving my car from point A to point B would be much easier and cheaper. My feet may finally forgive me for all of the walking that I have put them through the past two summers and I will finally be able to breathe in my own bedroom.

On Friday, my plane’s wheels will hit the runway in Atlanta, Georgia- home. I’ll drive myself down I-75 in a car. I won’t take the subway. I will walk inside my house. I won’t take the elevator to the eighth floor and walk into my apartment. I will lay in my queen sized bed in my own bedroom. I won’t lay in my tiny bed in my apartment where I live with three other girls.

Southern living sounds good to me right about now.

After spending my second summer here, I came to the conclusion that maybe New York isn’t the place for me. Maybe I’m meant to be on the coast somewhere, or a different city, or a different country, or a boat in the middle of the ocean. For a long time now, I figured that I had it all figured out. If someone asked me my future plans, there was no hesitation in my answer. With the flip of my hair, I would pridefully say that I would graduate college and move to New York City to pursue a career in the media. I realize now that New York may not be the answer anymore.

It’s funny how life throws you curveballs, isn’t it? For those of you who haven’t caught on yet, life has more than curveballs in its pitching rotation. Life has thrown me a few sliders, change-ups and fastballs lately, too. Although I’ve made a few line drives, I wouldn’t say that I’ve hit them out of the park.

People are probably reading this and shaking their heads. All that time and money in New York City and Ansley Gentry doesn’t even want to live there. 

It’s true. I don’t want to live in New York City. There- I said it.

However, there is something glamorous about throwing your arm up in the air and having yellow cabs race toward you. There is a rush like no other running to catch the subway before the doors shut. There is a sense of comfort in knowing that you are going home to three other girls who have had a long day in Manhattan, too. Last but not least, there is something majestically melodic about the sound of heels on Manhattan pavement, regardless of whether your feet are bleeding.

New York City has lit a fire in me that no fire extinguisher, fire blanket, or bucket of water could put out…

Which is why I hate New York City. I will never be able to settle for any place less.

There is no place like Manhattan. In no other city can you order a real-deal bagel at 3 in the morning, accidentally walk onto a movie set, find a Starbucks on every corner or see the Empire State Building lit up in all its glory. However, I think that Manhattan is more than the physical landmarks that are actually on the island. In no other city can you find yourself like you can within the Manhattan limits.

So much has happened during the past ten weeks that I have resided here. I have made so many new friendships and reunited with old ones. Thanks to the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, I realized that I am actually pretty good at rowing a boat. After a few broadway shows, I learned that any song that is sung a capella results in tears rolling off my cheeks. I realized after hours and hours spent at the Met, MOMA and other museums that no matter how hard I try, I’m not a fan of art. Thanks to the HBO Film Festival, I realized that the best movies are from the 70’s and 80’s.

Thanks to the inspiration that NYC gives me, I realized that I am irrevocably in love with writing- no matter how much I fight it. I’m excited to say that I used this past summer to work on a novel. That’s right! A novel that has been a long time coming. I look forward to eventually being able to share it with you. (More to come on that later.)

These realizations made me wonder. If one single city helped me realize all of this about myself, maybe there are other Manhattans out there. Some that will inspire me more and make me fall harder than I already have.

On July 19th, I watched my teenage years fade in my rearview mirror as I hit my twenties head on. The big two-zero. Twenty. Even though I have a long life in front of me, every birthday sparks a life evaluation, no matter how successful you are at the moment. It was the first time that the clock striking midnight frightened me a bit. At 12:00 in a booth at Junior’s on W 45th Street, during the singing of Happy Birthday, I realized that I have no idea where I’m going in life…and I like it.

Ten years from now, I may be across the world on a beach somewhere. I may be in Georgia raising a family. I may be hailing a cab on the same corner that I am today. Wherever I end up, it will be a place that lights a fire in my eyes like Manhattan has.

Regardless of what people tell me, I think it is 100% okay to wade in uncharted waters. In fact, I think that’s what we are destined to do. Maybe one day, I’ll find myself wishing that I had listened to them but for now, I’ll continue to chase Manhattans.

You Can’t Be Afraid Of What You Can’t See

New York City is filled with inspiration. I expected that I would find plenty of inspiration in this amazing city but I assumed that it would be in the art form- music, fashion, art.

 

What I didn’t expect was that it would be from a man on 23rd and 5th as I walked out of the subway station this afternoon.

 

After soaking up the sun in Central Park with a friend, we came up out of the subway station in front of the Flatiron building. Considering that it is a very busy area, the corner was filled with people of all kinds heading in all different directions.

 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walking into the street while the light was green and cars were speeding toward him. At first, this didn’t affect me. I thought that the man was your average New Yorker who was too impatient for the white man to appear on the opposite side of the street giving him permission to walk. However, I soon realized that this was no “average” New Yorker. In fact, this one stood out more than the rest of them….he was blind.

 

My instincts kicked in as I jumped towards him yelling that it was a green light. As I touched him, it was almost like his warmth spread throughout my body. Behind his hat and opaque glasses, I would estimate that he was in his 50’s. He softly smiled and thanked me but as I walked away, I felt his hand reach for mine and I soon realized that our arms were intertwined like branches of a tree.

 

We walked across the next two blocks with locked arms discussing how our day had been. Every once in a while I would interject that there was a curb or something to step over. I watched in amazement how he maneuvered his stick in front of him. After we got to his destination, he thanked me and continued on his way.

 

I almost regret departing from him so soon. I hope that he got to wherever he was going safely and that he found other people to help him cross the street.

 

I realize that there are many blind people in New York City- all over the world as a matter of fact. However, this one man made all of the difference to me. I didn’t even realize the effect that he had on me until well after we said our goodbyes.

 

Your 20’s are a scary time. I was just reading an article today about growing up and how frightening it is when you realize that your hometown isn’t your home anymore. Although I love New York City and Athens, it still is scary to me every time that I leave home. It’s hard not to focus on the fact that I am maturing everyday. Managing my bank account, filling out forms and making mature decisions are all things that are on my list of responsibilities. It is terrifying….

 

Although balancing a checkbook and job applications are intimidating, I think the scariest part of leaving the nest is not knowing what lies ahead.

 

But maybe that’s the best part…

 

I think that this man taught me more than how to use a stick to measure the height of the curb in front of him. He taught me the importance of being brave. It hurts my heart that I will never be able to tell him. I hope that he runs into other people and affects them the way that he did me.

 

We should all be encouraged to step out on a limb and see what’s out there…and we should do it with excitement and courage much like the blind stranger that I met today. He wasn’t afraid of the taxis and buses that were speeding towards him because when you think about it…you can’t be afraid of the things that you can’t see.

 

The Man and the Juicy Cheeseburger

“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” – The Polar Express

As my first blog post of the New Year, I want to tell you about an unexpected and life changing encounter that I had January 20, 2015.

It was an average Tuesday. I was headed home from class, having my own personal concert in my car and thinking of the things that I needed to do that afternoon. As I was approaching the Kroger beside my house, I figured that I would make a quick trip to the store before dinner.

When I turned into the parking lot, I noticed a homeless man on the corner with his dog. Knowing that I didn’t have any cash, I avoided eye contact. However, in my peripheral view, I noticed in his hands a cardboard sign that said something about a “juicy cheeseburger”. I instantly thought that he was being a little picky if he was specifically asking for a juicy cheeseburger so I proceeded to park and go about with my grocery shopping.

I have always had a heavy heart when it comes to the homeless. When I was living in New York, I found myself giving away almost 30 granola bars to homeless people that lived near my building. Despite the reason that they reside on the streets, we only have one lifetime and it kills me that many people spend it without a roof over their heads.

While inside Kroger, I couldn’t get the homeless man and the dog out of my head. In order to do my good deed for the day, I decided to buy some things that I would take to him. I picked out a few granola bars, bottles of water, peanuts, other snacks and a bone for the dog. Little did I know, my good deed would stick with me much longer than just one day.

For safety reasons, I called my mom and told her that I was going to speak to this man. As soon as I got out of my car and began approaching the two, I saw the dog struggle to get up and walk towards me. The dog was old and gray and the cataracts in his eyes resembled pearls. I knelt down and began petting him and speaking in my obnoxious baby talk voice. “You smell the bone that I got you don’t you? Yes you do.”

As I looked up at his owner, I realized the dog was not the only one who was old and gray. His owner was too. I found myself sitting beside this old man under his tree and giving him the little snacks that I had purchased. When I realized that my mom was still on the phone, I began to get up and go about my day until that cardboard sign caught my eye. Written in fading, black marker were the words “Visit with Juicy Cheeseburger!”

As I stood up and the man realized that I was leaving, he yelled in his scratchy voice “Cheeseburger! Come here!” It then occurred to me that his sign was not asking for a juicy cheeseburger. In fact, he didn’t ask for anything at all. The dog that was struggling to approach me was named Cheeseburger.

I pointed to his sign and asked if the dog’s name was Cheeseburger. Just when I thought that the elderly man would give me a simple answer to confirm the dog’s name, he threw me a curveball.

“Yes. This is Cheeseburger. We just want someone to talk to.”

On that little corner, with the man and Cheeseburger, I caught myself holding back tears under that tree.

When I finally realized that my eyelids weren’t doing their job anymore and began letting the waterworks flow, I figured that I should head on home before I came off as crazy. I asked him if there was anything else that he needed. There were numerous things that he could have asked for that I would have willingly gotten: a toothbrush, deodorant, another food, etc.

Instead, he asked for prayers for Cheeseburger. Not himself, but his furry friend.

In The Polar Express, Tom Hanks coins the phrase “seeing is believing”. Although Tom Hanks is an amazing actor and I love that movie, I now do not believe that saying is true.

Stay kind,

Ansley

Welcome to New York 101

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What is fall without a Taylor Swift album? The pop sensation tends to release an album every other fall which leaves me wondering whether the turning of the leaves indicates the changing weather, or if they just countdown the days to Swift’s upcoming release. Swift recently dropped her latest album, 1989. A catchy mix of songs intertwined with sounds flashing back to the 80’s. Being a music nerd, after Swift’s release, I found myself in a committed relationship with the computer screen obsessing over why she wrote each song, who it was about, and where she was when she wrote it. Swift’s new sound has been influenced by her recent move to New York which she explains in her opening track, “Welcome To New York”.

I read an amazing article written by Sophie Gilbert who stated that “Taylor Swift’s New York Is Not Your New York”. Which I totally agree with…Much like Gilbert says, Swift will not experience the creaky floorboards, the rats, the Sex And The City feeling every time that she goes out for drinks.

However, the amazing thing about New York is that no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you have, New York is YOUR New York.

I am going to break this down for you using the lyrics to the chart topping song “Welcome to New York”.

“Welcome to New York, it’s been waiting for you”

If there is any moment that I could relive day by day, it would be the moment that I moved to the city for the summer. Nostalgia overtakes me as I remember looking out of the plane window that early summer morning on my 6 A.M. flight. I kept looking at the islands that my plane soared over thinking “Is that it?”…Nope. “Is that one it?”…nope. But the moment that I saw that beloved city, I knew…THAT was it.

I exited that plane with more confidence than a model on a runway. I didn’t even know where to get my luggage, but I followed the other passengers on my flight and imagined the things that they had planned for their day in that big city. I hailed a cab and possibly had the best, and most expensive ride in a car that I have ever experienced.

My driver dropped me off on the corner of 3rd and 23rd, where I encountered two homeless people, my heel getting caught in a steam grate and an extremely nice maid, Estella Bird, who helped me tote my two suitcases to my small and not so charming dorm room.

As a result of my sleepless night that I had in the Atlanta airport the night before, I was in desperate need of a power nap. However, the honks of taxis and commotion on the street was stronger than adrenaline in my veins. I was restlessly awake and anxious to find my grounds there in Greenwich Village.

I wondered through the grid of Manhattan and found myself in places I had never seen, places that I wanted to see, places that I probably didn’t need to be and places that I felt that I had belonged all along. Though my body was in mission mode, my feet took a beating and suffered the rest of my stay there in that concrete jungle. In fact, getting out of bed in the morning and onto my feet was an actual fear. The touch of my foot on my scratched and beat up hardwood floor made every inch of my body hurt…

“It’s a new soundtrack, I could dance to this beat forevermore”

My feet hurt. I had no money for $400 shoes or $20 meals. I didn’t know how to work the subway or how I liked my coffee. I didn’t know what “on line” meant and I didn’t know what the lights on top of cabs meant…but I liked it.

My reasoning for venturing to NYC (other than the fact that I knew I was destined to be there) was a class at New York University, a music journalism class that I knew that I would thrive in. The confidence that was coursing through my body at the airport dissapeared when I found myself wandering through the village to find the building that my class was in. Trying to maintain the status as a Manhattan resident, asking for directions was a last resort. However, I blew my cover that day while trying to navigate my way to Cooper Square.

When I finally found my building, the “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” realization set in when I had to show my student ID (which I whipped out like it was a police badge) and take an elevator to the 6th floor just to get to my classroom, filled with all girls. Girls that weren’t draped in nike shorts and big greek t-shirts. Girls that wore heels and did their hair and makeup perfectly before stepping onto the streets to get to class. I was in a room full of girls whose eyeliner didn’t smudge and mine had already sweated off.

My teacher, Will, who works for Rolling Stone introduced himself and explained the things that we would learn in the class that we had registered for. We did the whole “first day of class” thing where we talk about ourselves and had to choose the words carefully to make our very best impression. As I listened to the biographies of other girls, I realized that I didn’t know as much about music as I thought. I wasn’t as good of a writer as I thought. It challenged me.

A girl sitting next to me, outspoken with an accent, introduced herself. She was from Michigan and came to the city for the same reasons that I did. At the end of her self description she said “oh yeah, and I need friends so my name is Natalie…”

And I took her up on that. I found myself standing next to her at a window after class taking a picture of the village skyline like two tourists. Natalie and I figured out that city together. We paid $15 for movie tickets to sit in extravagant theatres with balconies, walked 40 blocks looking for food and found oursleves eating at the “touristy” Olive Garden in Times Square, sunbathed on the Sheep’s Meadow, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, and looked hopelessly for people who had made a name in that city and hoped that we would someday too.

“Everybody here wanted something more, searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before”

No matter where you are in New York, physically or emotionally, you are not alone. Not at two in the morning, not at a coffee shop, park, or in your own home, where you generally live beside, under, and above someone else in your building. Everyone in New York is searching for something… A name, money, “Labels and Love”, change.

I was searching for myself.

I found that the Manhattan skyline seen from the Brooklyn Bridge or the top of 230 5th makes me tear up. I found that an expensive cup of coffee is the same thing as a cheap one on the street. I found that giving money to homeless people truly makes me happy. I found that street and subway performances make me feel like a child. I found that the feeling I experience after leaving a concert is how I want to feel every day. I found that you should always invest in good shoes. I found that survival of the fittest is a real thing in New York City. I found the character that I am supposed to play in this storybook called life.

“The lights are so bright but they never blind me”

T. Swift and I differ here. I hate to break it to you but the lights are really bright and get pretty annoying when you live on the second floor and have cheap blinds. We can’t all live in a Tribeca penthouse…

“Like any great love, It keeps you guessing, Like any real love, It’s ever changing, Like any true love, It drives you crazy, But you know you wouldn’t change Anything, anything, anything…”

New York City contains the 4 “R’s”: rats, roaches, rubbage and rude people.

I experienced the rats first hand…

One nights as I was getting off of my aching feet and into my cheap bed, swaddled in sheets that were too big, I got a call from my friend Natalie. I answered the phone and wondered how quickly she would judge me when I told her that I was comfortably in my bed at 10 o’clock in the city that never sleeps. After a quick and convincing phone call, I found myself in heels, a dress and out on the streets not even an hour later. I was headed to a rooftop bar that Natalie and her friend Kevin had wandered to the top of. As I reflect on that glorious night, I realize that I probably shouldn’t have been wandering the streets alone and unsure of my destination but, if I could do it again, I would. I was a character in Sex And The City, out for drinks with my best girlfriends. As if I didn’t think that I looked good enough, the comments from homeless handouts that I strutted past only made my head bigger.

The sound of my department store heels sounded like department floor heels on any old floor. However, the sound of my department store heels on the New York City streets was easily mistaken for Louboutins. As I reached my destination at 230 5th, I realized that it was nothing special. Just a regular Manhattan highrise with suited men opening the doors (just because no girl in heels should have to open the door herself). I found my way to an elevator filled with men in suits that cost as much as my dorm room rent and tall brunettes who resembled porcelain dolls. When the elevator doors opened, the other passengers exited like it was something they did daily and this small town girl caught herself without breath and a tear in her eye. The Manhattan skyline was on display for me as if Van Gogh painted it himself.

I was high society. I enjoyed my night atop that building gazing at the skyline while listening to pretentious lyricless music playing in the background. Too loud to talk across the table but loud enough to lean in close in order to have intimate conversations. I was too poor for drinks that average at $16 dollars but I drank my lemon water like it was spiked. As we left that rooftop, I felt like I was almost leaving New York altogether. Seeing the skyline from that angle was like a first kiss. I knew I would never experience that feeling again and no matter how many times I mustered up my money to return to that bar, it would never take my breath away like it did that first night.

We wandered the streets back to Madison Square park where Natalie, Kevin and I all parted ways. The three of us were not at all intoxicated but New Yorkers passing us on the street never would have known. We were laughing uncontrollably, still floating from the high we had recieved towering above the city like that. Our laughter halted as we noticed a moving trashbag on the sidewalk next to us. Our curiousity grew as the bag continued to twitch. I think that we all knew what was on the opposing side of that black plastic but we had to see it with our own eyes. A few seconds later, two rodents escaped from the bag across our shoes leaving Kevin with a remnant of an aching arm swearing it was a result of a heart attack. So there I was on a New York City sidewalk in patent, black, department store heels with rat tracks on them.

New York City has roaches. Correction…New York City has flying roaches. They like to catch you when you feel like you’re in a dream walking the streets of Manhattan and then they fly down in front of you just to snap you back to reality. After class one summer night, as Natalie and I made our way through the village for food, one of those little suckers flew down in front of us just to make sure that we were in our right minds. The most memorable part of that insect so rudely interrupting our night was the fact that Natalie had no idea what a roach was. And her world was forever changed…

Like any other city, New York City has rubbage. Unlike any other city, New York throws their trash on the sidewalk until picked up in the morning. I’m assuming that my readers know what trash smells like…not exactly a scent that Yankee Candle wants to cram into their overpriced jars. You can only imagine the smell of the trash during the hot summers.

New York City is called home by many “rude” people. Correction: New Yorkers know what they want. As much as I hate to make this statement, it’s hard to stay off the “rude” bandwagon. After living in the city for a few weeks, you catch on to the fact that obeying traffic and pedestrian laws is merely a suggestion in Manhattan. Walking fast and knowing how you want your coffee, down to the amount of foam on your latte, is a must. However, do not fall into the Manhattan whirlpool. New Yorkers are fast but enjoy a southern accent and manners every once in a while.

“You can want who you want, boys and boys and girls and girls”

People in New York City want who they want. I got to experience gay pride week and what an experience that was. The Empire State building is not the only colorful thing living in that big city. With that being said, NYC is called home by many beautiful people.

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I’m convinced that NYC was built from the ground up with the wave a wand. It is magical. It is challenging. It is molding, for it will mold you if you let it. Do not let Times Square become annoying, for it is amazing that that many watts of lights or people can be shoved into a few blocks. Do not let Central Park become any old green space, for it is 51 blocks of that small island that replaces all the oxygen we destroy. Do not let highrises become the norm, for they aren’t. Though it seems like they were made with pure fairy dust, they were built with hard work and passion and claimed their territory on the New York City skyline. While in New York, you should wonder if life even exists once you cross the Hudson.

At the end of my stay there in the city, I could hail a cab at ease, I learned that “on line” meant in line, I knew exactly how I like my coffee, I could work the subway system like a regular, I had lunch with author of Inside The Dream Palace, Sherill Tippins at the Chelsea Hotel, I had conversations with multiple publicists and interviewed one of my favorite bands, Misterwives, I could give directions to tourists, I got compliments on my outifts that I dared to wear, and made my mark in that city of dreams.

My wish for those who embark on an adventure to that island that crams 2 million people into 33 square miles is that you arrive a tourist and leave a tourist.

My heart belongs in that smelly, yet magical, rat infested, grid of Manhattan.

Stay tourists, my friends.

God Sends Us Angels

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As my first blog, I did not intend to be so sentimental. However, it is the holidays and I am filled with Christmas cheer (and tons of food). The holidays are such a blessing. They are a time for our bodies to relax and recoup with a cup of hot chocolate, glass of wine or even a bottle of beer for some. Whatever your “cup of cheer” is, the holidays are a time to spend with the people that you love. Whether they are spent with tons of presents under the tree or no tree at all, it is a time to step back from our busy lives and observe what the good Lord has blessed us with.

Thankfully, the Lord has blessed me with more than I need. I have more presents under the tree than I need, more food than my tummy can handle and more clothes than I can wear. Best of all, I have more family than my house can hold. I am tremendously blessed with the gift of family. Every person in my great, big family brings something unique to the table. Whether it is my Aunt’s loud humor or my Uncle’s need to argue, I love them all the same. However, the holidays would not be the “Most Wonderful Time of Year” without one specific person.

 

Jay Kesler once said “Young people need something stable to hang on to – a culture connection, a sense of their own past, a hope for their own future. Most of all, they need what grandparents can give them.” Unlike many people today, I can gratefully say that I have grown up with and still have all of my Grandparents. While they are all special to me, my maternal Grandfather, “Papa” is a one of a kind. From his need to always love on someone to his urge to witness to others, my Papa is the epitome of someone that is special.

 

Edward Blount, a sibling of three boys grew up in Waycross, Georgia (a.k.a. the middle of nowhere). He served in the Marines and, shortly after that, he graduated from the University of Georgia. He married his wife Katie and had three Daughters: Susan (my mother), Sarah and Katherine. No worries! I’m not writing this to give you my Papa’s biography. I am writing this to explain to those reading how to be the best person that you can truly be. In order to do that, I believe that you should take after my Papa.

 

My Papa is a big man. No, I do not mean rotund. I mean that he is 6’3 with long arms, long legs and large hands. In my opinion, he is the record holder of the world’s best hugs and, if you are around him for 10 seconds or more, you will find out. My Papa feels the need to love on people. Not in a creepy predator way like I am sure that some of you are thinking. My Papa is loving in a tender, caring, and affectionate way that unfortunately, many people in this world don’t experience. Whether he is scratching your back while you are sitting near him or he is kissing your best friend’s hand that is meeting him for the first time, my Papa is a loving man.

 

My Papa is a giver. Think of the most generous person that you could imagine- someone that could give you a present on your darkest day, on your darkest hour in order to cheer you up. That person that you have created in your mind is my Papa. Because our world is so fast and busy, many of us resort to the dollar amount of a gift to determine how important someone is to you. My Papa is not the type of person that will spend a hundred dollars on a gift for you. He is the type of person who will spend so much thought and so much time on a present that nothing will ever compare. Whether he made it with his own two hands or he fixed something that you broke years ago, my Papa is the best gift giver that you will ever find.

 

My Papa likes to quote. However, because he has said these two phrases constantly since the day I was born, I tend to believe that he coined the two phrases. If you ever hear a cute, old man with white hair saying “I love you to the moon and back” or “Have I told you lately that I love you?” then you have been lucky enough to cross paths with my Papa.

My Papa is a reminder. The introduction of the cell phone to him was probably the best thing that we have done. Because my Papa has now figured out a way to text with his abnormally large fingers, we are constantly reminded of how much he loves us. Whether it is a picture of us or one of his favorite quotes, my Papa is constantly wanting to share with his family that they are loved by him.

My Papa is an angel. If you are thinking of someone in white light with wings, then you are thinking correctly. He is an Angel of God. How do I know this? I know this because of the words of wisdom that the Lord shares via my Papa. If you go to Meme and Papa’s before lunch time, you will get there in time to witness my Papa’s study time. My Papa is a deacon of his church and Christ follower in private and in public. Speaking of angels…Have you ever found a drawing of an angel on your car? Dinner table? If so, God led you to one of his angels.

My Papa is not just my Papa. Although I am lucky enough to share some of his DNA, my Papa is everyone’s Papa. As a child, when my younger brother’s friend said he didn’t have a “Papa”, my brother’s response was “You don’t have a Papa? Everyone needs a Papa! You need to get a Papa”. I think the words of that little boy were wise beyond his years. If I have learned anything in my short 18 years of life, it is that I am lucky to have lived 18 years. Also, if you are lucky enough to be breathing, you should spend the time that you have on Earth with people that you love. And who better to spend it with than one of God’s angels?