Phenomenal Woman

I’ve been casually writing this list in my brain for months. At one point I was planning to post it back in March during Women’s History Month, but because I’m me that definitely didn’t happen.

SO – August it is!

I wholeheartedly believe that female friendships are the most important and meaningful relationships of my life. In modern discourse it’s easy (and lazy) to categorize females as catty and competitive and perpetually pitted against one another. There’s enough room for everyone at the table. I’d be lying if I said that sometimes they are just that. But, more often than not – these relationships are encouraging and deep and long-lasting. And they deserve to be celebrated.

When I attempt to define myself, it’s impossible to do so without acknowledging all of the women who have impacted me and nourished me and held my hand and steadfastly been my biggest cheerleaders.

The Strong Female Role Models Every Gal Needs In Her Babe Crew : 

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HCHS baby faces. We’re #1. Look at those lil chubby cheeks. (Additionally – Can we talk about how I thought gold eyeshadow was a good choice at the time? Upon reflection, I look like I’m in the early stages of jaundice.)

Your Ride or Die: (Do the youth still say that? If not, has it been long enough for me to be able to say it’s a cool and vintage phrase?) I’ve known Deidre since we were 10 or 11. Which, when I stop to wrap my brain around it, is amazing. 16ish years of friendship. Over half of our lives. We’ve been through basketball try outs and spring musical auditions and oodles of AP classes and backyard camping trips and faux-Top Model photo shoots and school night concerts and purple hair dye and unicorn club and college boba dates in Gwinnett because it was kinda-almost-ish a halfway point between Oglethorpe and Brenau and one time I dropped a staple gun on her head and it made the most godawful sound so I know it hurt something fierce but I’m still alive to tell the story. Her family has become my family. I’m so very grateful for this friendship because she knew me before I became a fully formed person. Growing up and fumbling blindly into becoming who you were meant to be is terrifying and daunting and Really. Hard. But having someone to go through it with you and go “Hey. Is this normal?” is so helpful.

Honestly, any one who knew you when you had braces and questionable pistachio green Chucks is a forever friend. Deidre reminds me of how far we have both come, from our humble Bumble roots. (Note to self: Humble Bumble would be a great band name). She is my favorite foodie date. And my most trusted fashion advisor. She doesn’t talk about her feelings often and I am forever writing run-on sentences and flowery love letters to the people in my life. She shows her love in other ways though. And I’m so grateful to have a friendship that has been a consistent backbone of most of my life and endured through everything.

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As an addendum, lemme praise her mama. Deidre’s mama is the most welcoming person I know. She taught me everything I needed to know about being a warm and loving host and a lot about being a genuinely good person. Nights spent at the Chateau are some of my favorite memories. I am so lucky and grateful to have her as my Magic Mom. The older I am, the more I value friends that have become family.

Your Person: (The irony is not lost on me that I’m posting a video from the West Wing and talking about the Great Dane). I really can’t fathom what cosmic Ogle-gods placed Line as my suitemate, but I’m forever indebted to them. When Rett died, Line was the first person I texted. She’s almost 5,000 miles away. I know a lot of really brilliant people, but I wholeheartedly believe Line is the smartest person in most rooms. But it’s so rarely a condescending kind of smart so you can’t even be mad about it.

The first memory I have of Line happened two months before we met. The summer of 2008. Around June or July. I’d just gotten my housing assignment and it was so exciting. Freshman dorms at Oglethorpe are two bedrooms, four people. In Traer, it’s two bedrooms connected by a bathroom. And I remember showing Deidre my housing assignment and being really confused about Line. ‘That’s not a person’s name. Is it pronounced Line like..A line?’ (It’s not). (Unless you’re me and pronounce it that way on purpose to make some really great puns). Line came into my life and centered me. She makes me want to be more. And she calls me on my bullshit. It’s really hard to become fluent in BW – but Line is. She knows me down to my core. The first time I went to Denmark, Line met me at the bus stop with a cold beer and a Danish flag and that evening we went to a graduation party and they played ‘Party in the USA’. (On the real – Danes are just as annoyingly enthusiastic about that song as Americans. Maybe that was just for my benefit but MAN. I choose to believe that Miley Cyrus brings people together, y’all).

Just knowing that this Great Dane exists makes me more calm and hopeful. Sun-Line fills my life with adventure and culture and new experiences but knows that sometimes the best way to spend a day is by watching half a season of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ on Netflix.

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I can best sum up Line with the following, which is taken word-for-word from this article:

“Some geniuses have the unfortunate issue of shining so bright that they blind others. Your light shines on us and illuminates us too, instead of blotting us out. Your intellect is the type that doesn’t intimidate. It invites us in, makes us feel comfortable and we feel smarter and more inspired for being a part of your conversation. You seem to see the potential in every single person you engage with, you do not underestimate what any human being has to offer.”

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Cheesin’ and wine. Rockin’ the big/little game since 2009.

The Lighthouse in the Storm: When Erik died back in 2011, everything was jumbled and surreal and fuzzy around the edges. There’s so many missing memories of the months that followed that I’m probably grateful I can’t piece together. My big sister came to my apartment the night he went missing and sat with me and cried with me and then made me eat food. A few weeks prior to all of it, Amanda and I had been talking about red lipstick and I was saying how I wasn’t sure I could pull off red lipstick – but I wanted to try. I think it was the day of the memorial service that she gave me a Mac red lipstick called ‘Brave’. I don’t think I’ve ever asked if giving me that specific color was on purpose or not – but I still think about it. In an simplistically cheesy way, it made me feel braver than I was. I’ve made a bunch of questionable and dangerous decisions – and I own all of that. But Amanda is the dictionary.com definition of a big sister. No matter how many times I stumble, she stands with me.

The first time we met was when I was elected to a spot on Programming Board back in freshman year. I don’t remember when we became real friends but I do remember how absolutely intimidated I was. We got our first (well..only) tattoos together. Mine took five minutes…Hers four hours. She bought me my second legal drink. (…And third..And fourth..etc etc etc.) I’m not ambiguous about the fact that I joined Sigma because of Amanda and she has fought for me since day one. If you’ve ever thought I was a good sister or even just been appreciative of my presence – go ahead and thank Amanda for that.

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Your Old Soul: The one who sends you 40 texts in a row and writes you poems and listens and understands and doesn’t judge you for  keeping her up all night laughing about ridiculous webmd articles about body hair bleaching and is much too wise. I’ve told Hope this before many times but I keep on coming back to it because it’s the best possible way to describe Hope to other people: You know how when you’re in a group and trying to solve a problem and everyone is yelling out their ideas because they think they have the solution? But they don’t. And then a lull settles over the crowd? Hope fills that lull. She isn’t the loudest voice. But when she says something, it’s usually the best option. It takes a minute for everyone else to catch up and think through a situation,  but then they realize she’s right. The first distinct memory I have of Hope is telling a story to her in my car and having her be so moved that she started crying. Hope is smart and intuitive and can fit her entire fist into her mouth and honestly y’all that’s terrifying to watch and I obviously made it her contact picture in my phone. Hope makes me feel brave and worthy. You can tell how passionate Hope is about something by counting the number of times she says she hates it. (And by how often she types about it in all caps. Truly. A visionary.) Gambling’s definitely not my thing, but if it were, I would bet on Hope every single time.

I like women who are hardworking and deeply flawed and persistent and big-hearted and tough and vulnerable and just trying their best. I like women who are unapologetic about who they are and what they want. And I hope, to some degree, that the women I have in my life reflect back on me.

xoxo

BW

Middle Distance Runner

My friend, Chelsea, wrote a mile by mile blog last year after her first half marathon. If you know Chelsea, it’s 100% written in her voice. If you don’t know Chelsea, her literary voice is equal parts humorous and relatable. Her post was running (ha) through my brain during my own race. If you want to read my inspiration, and I highly recommend that you do, check it out here!

 

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When in D.C…

My general feeling before a race begins is to be so intimidated by everyone around me. My illogical thought process is that everyone else is a real runner and that so far I’m fooling them, but eventually they’re figure out that I’m a fraud. Since I hadn’t run any official half marathons, my corral number was waaaaay in the back. Corral 25. It took about an hour from the official start time of the race for my group to begin. Which is a whole lot of standing and looking around and being nervous/excited.

Mile 1: Feelin’ good. Feelin’ fresh. Feelin’ like standing on the bow of a ship and yelling ‘I’m Queen of the World!’ Everyone is so amped and I’m looking around and blinking a lot and mostly just wondering how I got here.

Mile 3: There’s only two ‘Hamilton’ songs on my playlist. “Guns and Ships” and “My Shot”. They played fairly close to each other. And the elderly lady that I was near who didn’t have earphones in gave me the greatest look.

Mile 4: Taking a sip of water and running is way harder than it should be. At least 60% of that water ended up spilling on the road. You live and you learn and next time you get a  CamelBak.

Mile 6: Mile 6 is right around cardiac hill, which is a fun nickname for the worst steep incline. I knew it was coming because Kendall had warned me. But then when I saw it from around the bend, my brain shut down and all I could think was the word “NOPE”.

There’s fun race signs all along the route, but right after conquering that hill, there was a sign that says – “One day you will not be able to do this. Today is not that day.” Too real, y’all. Too real.

Mile 7: “Whiskey is for winners. Champagne is for Champions.” Mad respect to anyone that can take a shot during a race. I’m not one of those people though. The craziest shot I take is of that gross lukewarm lemon-lime gatorade.

Mile 7.5: I’m slowing down. Against everyone’s brilliant advice, I went into this race with a goal time in my head. And I knew I wasn’t going to achieve it. At a certain point it just became about taking it one foot at a time and getting to the finish line. And then Leon Bridges’ “Smooth Sailin” starts playing and my brain goes “YES. That hill was a bitch. But you’re over halfway done. Everything is great. It’s generally flat from here on out. WARBECCA.”

Mile 8: I’m feeling the burn. Everything hurts. I start to question my whole running choices. I’ve been laughing recently about this HuffPost article about Jeb! Bush and how on the campaign trail he had turtles in his pockets and gave them out to children. (Toys. Not live animals. I was concerned, too) And when asked why his response was, “Slow and steady progress. That’s what that means.” So I channeled my inner-Jeb! (Which is probably the only time I’ll ever type that sentence).

Mile 9: I look down at my fingers and they look like lil link sausages. I kept on flexing them like that would de-sausage them. Didn’t work. My fingers have never swollen like that before – but the internet tells me it’s perfectly normal.

Mile 10: “Born to Run”. My eyes get a little misty. But it put a spring in my step.

Mile 12: I have literally the greatest aunt and uncle on the planet and I’ve never been more appreciative of Hershey’s chocolate in my life.

Mile 13: Now I have to look like I was totaaaaally running the entire time to get an A+ finish line photo.

Getting that medal in my hands made it all worth it.

Post-race chocolate milk and a banana? Nectar and Ambrosia.

 

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Doin’ it for the bling.

Post-Race Extras:

  1. I totally yakked after getting off the Metro. Am I real runner now?
  2. I was dreading the moment when we got back to the hotel room and I had to take my socks off. There’s no predicting how gnarly post-race feet can be. I only have one horrible looking blister though, so success!
  3. Kendall and I bonded over the fact that we both waited entirely too long to buy new running shoes and have them broken in by race day. The tread on my Nike’s was completely worn down. This was their last race. Thank you for your service.
  4. After the race and a shower, we went for brunch and I felt very emotional about the hamburger in front of me. I may or may not have had watery eyes after taking my first bite.

 

Post-Race Feels: (Written the night after the race)

Everything in my body feels achy right now. There’s an episode of The West Wing where the President (who, spoiler alert: has MS) loses feeling in his hands before being unable to move his entire body. The paranoid/mentally plan for the worst side of my brain has this terrible vision of that being me tomorrow morning.

The running community is the most warm and welcoming group of people I’ve ever been a part of. And while I don’t consider myself a proper runner most days, I’m consistently inspired by the people I get to run races with. From the spectators to other athletes – it’s such a beautiful celebration. There was a really great moment in this race around mile 3 where you cross a bridge and then loop back around. So when you’re going over the bridge, people who are about 5ish minutes ahead of you are crossing back into the city. And everyone is sticking their hands out for high fives and yelling encouragement and it’s just really beautiful when human beings build each other up.

This is the part of this post where I brag about Kendall. Y’all. It never would’ve crossed my mind that I could do a half-marathon if Kendall didn’t exist. She’s my running role model. And my running sensei. I’m like that cute lil kid with doe-eyes and big dreams and my white karate belt and she’s my far wiser teacher who is patient and encouraging. In this metaphor, a full marathon is a wood block and I know that one day I’ll be able to roundhouse kick that wood block and break it but that day is not today and Kendall’s going to keep on holding it up until I can do it. And that’s beautiful.

Post-Race Lessons Learned for Next Time: 

  1. EAT. I think my brain thought there would breakfast provided. Running 13.1 miles with nothing in my system was such a poor choice. (To be fair, I did have some energy chews every 4 miles. And a shot-glass sized portion of lemon lime gatorade every 3? miles. And then mile 12 chocolate.) I never expected to PR this race, but I think if I had made better choices, that would have been reflected in my time.
  2. Races are just as much a mental test as they are a physical one. Multiple runners told me (HI CHELSEA), but my body forgot this on race day.
  3. Be confident enough to stick to your own pace. My race day problem is that I get so energized by everyone around me that I convince myself I can run faster than I actually can. I do the same thing during training runs when I pass other runners. I have a tendency to speed up and show off.
  4. Bring blister band aids so you don’t have to buy off-brand overpriced ones at the CVS.
  5. Adrenaline is great. But it’s an intensely fickle lover. I went into this with my longest run being 10 miles and the wishful thinking that race day glitz and glamour would get me through the rest. This didn’t happen exactly. I was a car running on an empty tank with miles to go until a gas station.

 

xoxo

BW

A Big Enough Sky

If you had told me ten years ago that I would willingly be training for a half marathon, I would have laughed and responded, “…That sounds like a lie.” And yet, here we are.

Even by the most generous of definitions, I was not an athletic child. I liked books more than most things. However, I did play softball for two years. (Full disclosure – it was a church league. So – Pretty sure there wasn’t a strenuous process to getting on the team).

Was I was any good? Who knows.

Did I hit the ball…ever? I don’t remember.

What position did I play? Sometimes short stop. Mostly outfield. One time catcher.

There are only a handful of things that I actually remember about playing. Firstly, somehow I always got the wrong memo about what color uniform we were supposed to be wearing. (To be fair, the shorts were reversible – red on one side, black on the other, so I could easily switch my shorts to the right color). Secondly, one time we were at practice and catching pop-flys and one hit me in the face and busted my lip open. My mama was in the the car at the time and didn’t get out. (“I knew you would be fine. They would’ve come to the car if you were dying. You walked it off. We put some frozen peas on it later”.)

Do you know how many presidential fitness tests I failed? So. Many. Did I make any attempt to get better? Nah. I think my logic at the time was mostly ‘I’m good at a lot of things. I am not good at sports. That’s okay.’

I didn’t start running until a year-ish after I got diagnosed with MS. And in some weird way that may not make sense to anyone but me, running is about control. It’s my way to prove to myself that I’m in charge of my body. I don’t know who I’ll be in the future or if my body will destroy itself. Anything could happen. But, for now, I’m choosing to run a half marathon.

Running 13.1 miles is really hard. I’m  not ready yet. But I will be. And I like a challenge.

Fair warning, there’s a 72% chance that I’ll burst into tears when I cross the finish line. Unless I’m dehydrated. Then I’ll probably just look around like a lost duckling until someone hands me a clementine and my brain can process success.

Fitness is very emotional, y’all.

T-Minus 37 days until race day.

xoxo

BW

Ways to Go

 

Sometimes there are instances where my thoughts have already been written by someone else. This is one of those times:

“As an artist, there are moments when I find that I have become comfortable with an idea, an experience, or even a specific word, I want to disturb it and excavate it more thoroughly. Or I am disturbed by something and want to seek comfort in writing through it and sharing it with others. Lately, I’ve started to think that this motto might also serve as a way to exist in the world. As a guide for how we might try to build. When black men and women are being murdered in our streets, when there is sexual assault on our college campuses, it is our job to disturb the comfortable. To force those who consider themselves blissfully unaffected to engage, acknowledge, learn, witness, and act. To challenge spaces that need to be challenged. And it is also our job to seek ways to comfort those who have been disturbed. To provide for those who have been victimized by natural disasters or unnatural violence and tragedy. It seems to me that I am always trying to learn how to hold myself gently, but also hold myself accountable, as well as do the same for the people around me.

Sometimes it is hard to believe that we can be working on the same thing. Sometimes the way you build is so different from the way someone else does. You want to be big and visible and radical and loud, someone else wants to work quietly, under the radar, out of the public eye. It is possible to have many front lines in the same war. It is possible that the people you disagree with are really trying to do the same work, trying to build the same future, even if we see it different ways. You can lay bricks until walls are constructed, until a temple is built. Or you can dream towards a temple until you figure out which walls to build and which bricks to lay. You can shape behavior until it changes minds. Or you change minds until it shapes behavior. You create options by choice and example.”

The full text of this speech can be found here!

xoxo

BW

Fireproof

“I would say that my mother is the single biggest role model in my life, but that term doesn’t seem to encompass enough when I use it about her,” – Mindy Kaling

The year was 1995...

The year was 1995…

For the better part of my childhood, my mom was a single parent. And while raising two children on a single-income can’t have been an easy task, I don’t actively remember ever wanting for anything. I went to camp and on vacations and owned the entire Babysitters Club book series despite the fact that I’d never babysit anything a day in my life. And even though I didn’t wear socks to school for years or comb my hair for about six months, it wasn’t because we couldn’t afford socks or I didn’t have ample access to a hairbrush. That was merely my stubborn Travis genes bubbling to the surface.

My mama is the most hardworking person I know. She is generous and big-hearted and a never ending river of kindness. She taught me words like jalopy and quality Southern phrases like ‘ear bobs’ and ‘nose bucket’ and ‘jaw jackin’. (If you’re not fluent in mama Karen, that translates to ‘earrings’,’someone who’s real nosy’, and ‘running your mouth mostly just to hear yourself talk’).

From my limited understanding, raising a child is such a wholly selfless act. I’m not at a point in my life where I can wrap my brain around making something and loving something that deeply. But I am grateful to have been raised by someone who is more than capable of it.

When Rett died, there was a period of about six weeks where I was at my mom’s house every afternoon after I got off work. I had to make to-do lists to even give her a reason to get out of bed. But, little by little, everything was a little less raw than the day before. I don’t think she’ll ever be a whole person again because I think when you love someone and lose them there’s a piece of you that goes, too. However, time and again I’m reminded of her strength and grace and cross my fingers that I possess even an iota of that same strength.

Happy birthday to my effervescent, fearless, ‘is-she-really-61-damn-those-are-good-genes’ mama.

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xoxo

BW

Sweet Home Alabama

I was always going to have to write about this, it’s just taken me some time to process exactly how and what I feel I need to say, or even, more basically, what I feel. I’m going to be processing for a while.

My stepdad, Rett, died three months ago today. At home. From a subdural brain hemorrhage. And even as I type that, it feels like I’m lying or writing a story. It doesn’t feel like reality. I was the one who found the body. And I was the one who called 911. And I’m the only one (excluding the police and paramedics) who saw the body. And I can’t unsee that. And I’ve said to countless people that I’m forever grateful that my mama didn’t come home to find her husband dead. I stand by that. But it doesn’t negate the fact that that’s something I had to see and that I have to carry with me now. And it can be really heavy.

I consider my stepdad my father. Because he was more of a father than my biological father – so he deserves the title. Rett was unfailingly kind and big-hearted. He had his demons and he had his faults and I think at a certain point he lost all passion for life and became a shell of himself. The past few years have been immensely hard on me and mama because it’s one health problem after another and all of them could have been prevented. I hate when people die and all of a sudden everyone forgets their faults. The faults are what make you a person instead of just the idea of a person. But I understand now why it’s easier to focus on the good and let the bad go. The bad weighs you down and death is heavy enough as it is.

Graduation

 

Rett taught me how to drive and change a tire and chop onions and cook a steak to perfection. He taught me about modems and routers and endlessly mocked my lack of geographic knowledge. I know entirely too many Tony Bennett songs from riding in the car with my stepfather. The only thing he loved more than Alabama football was my mother. He taught me to expect the best and to get the best – whether in buying a computer or picking out wine. He believed in me so unbelievably much. Even when it was unwarranted. And even when I had no idea what I was doing. He was a logical person and my mother is emotional – and I’m somewhere in between the two.

I made him dinner the night before he died. And I told him I would see him tomorrow to make him dinner again. I can’t think about it too hard or too long because it makes my heart feel overwhelmed. I don’t know if that’s a healthy way of coping or not. But it’s all I’ve got.

The part that breaks me every time is that he died alone. No one was there to hold his hand. Or make sure he knew that he was loved. And even as I’m typing this, I’m crying, because it’s just a lot.

My stepdad had a cookbook, probably from his bachelor days. It’s homemade and the pages are all typed on a typewriter (which tells you how old it is). And it’s full of all these recipes that my mama and I remember him for – things that he’s been cooking for us for ten, fifteen years. And every month on the 22nd (or as close to the 22nd as we can get – we’re busy women), we pick a recipe out of the book and cook it. And we call it Daddy Dinner.

It’s not perfect – but it’s a step to healing. Ever forward.

xoxo

BW