Trying to Live Freely

I turned 23 last week.

For the first time in four years, I didn’t have finals (to take or to study for) on my birthday. That was nice. The rest of the day, I was informed, I spent like an 80-year-old lady.

happy 80-year-old lady.

But continually in the back of my mind as of late has been the upcoming anniversary of my graduation.

One Year.

And it’s crazy to think about where I am now and where I thought I would be by now. If you would have asked me then, I would be living and working in DC (or a smattering of other cities that I was interested in). Though now, with the current political climate, I am thrilled that I am not living there.

I was not going to be living at home. I was not going to be living in Goshen.

But here I am. For better or for worse. I made a commitment to myself last fall to begin settling down. I didn’t know where I was going, or if I was going anywhere. But I knew that what I was doing, this aimless living was not “abandoning myself to God.” I needed to trust that living here was a task given to me. And having a sermon series at church and a Sunday school series that felt like God was grabbing me by the shoulders and trying to knock a little sense into me also helped.

We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. Source

So I did. In the beginning of the year, I began volunteering as a small group leader in middle school ministries at my church. And you know what, that itself was a wonderful surprise. I adore the girls I help lead and I have more opportunities on the horizon at church. Like so many points in my life have been, I know that I will look back on this time and see God’s fingerprints.

Like so many points in my life have been, I know that I will look back on this time and see God’s fingerprints.

Nevertheless, I struggle with contentment and feeling certain that this is where I’m meant to be. It’s that always how it seems to go? Or am I alone in this? “O me of little faith.” I still often feel like I’m driving around a roundabout. And it’s frustrating just going around and around. I like directions. I like to know where I’m going.

“We have a lot less control in life than we wanna believe. because no amount of personal control will be ever enough to ensure our safety. No amount of control will ever remove our fears.” –Carl Frost, pastor at Revolution Chuch, Muncie, Indiana speaking at Commonway Church, Muncie, Indiana

Wondering where or why. Just… waiting in place. And part of me is terrified I’ll never leave this place. And part of me is terrified to leave. I yearn for adventure and independence but enjoy the proximity to the known and my family. I see my friends moving on and taking steps in their lives and I still feel… stuck.

Yet as I find myself making more commitments in this place, I wonder if I’m not on a roundabout but on cruise control instead. (Call me a pendulum, swinging between stuck and coasting.) Not in a rut, just… heading to the next exit. And I have to accept that I don’t know when that is or where it will lead me. This is not a dead end. I’m not a fan of uncertainty. Spontenaittey is not my middle name. No matter how much I like to pretend I can just go with the flow. My friends can attest to that.

“I can only fly freely when I know there is a catcher to catch me. If we are to take risks, to be free, in the air, in life, we have to know there is a catcher. We have to know that when we come down from it all, we’re going to be caught, we’re going to be safe. The great hero is the least visible. Trust the catcher. – Henri Nouwen

May I learn to live freely here. Like a child tossed in the air by her father, may I learn to always trust the catcher.

Advertisements

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast

If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Mr. Potts, Belle’s mother, or why the entire town just conveniently forgot there was a castle in the woods this adaptation hold some answers.

I had high expectations going into this movie because I loved the live-action adaptation of Cinderella they did a few years ago. While the story Cinderella (and Beauty and the Beast) has been remade countless times. I felt that this particular Cinderella excelled in the same way that Ever After (telling the same narrative) did as well: elaborating more upon just the idea of a pretty face. The Prince meets Cinderella in the woods and decides to marry her, or at least wants to pursue her, from that encounter. The writers gave her determination to “have courage and be kind” even in the face of adversity. They gave her personality, strength, and a mind of her own.

But while the Cinderella archetype had room for elaboration, the Belle character has often remained the same. She loves her family, no matter what and displays it when she takes her father’s place in the castle. She loves to read, and she’s feisty and angry toward the Beast, but as he softens so does she.

Despite the standard “more developed” character of Belle, I thought Disney did an excellent job with this remake.

We are able to see more into Belle’s relationship with her father, which I adore. They present Maurice as less crazy than usual, which I appreciate. Belle helps her father with his inventions and creates some of her own, which was something new. I had wondered what (if any) songs they would add in from the Broadway musical, and the one I missed here was “No Matter What“. Aside from the townspeople thinking Belle is just odd, they also display some cruelty early on, which I think gives more insight to why they were so easily pulled into the mad mob.

A few notable notes for me:

The first introduction to the (beautiful) enchanted castle, of course, gives us a glimpse of the loveable cast of characters living there. Initially, the animation of Mrs. Potts and Chip bothered me. Because the characters need to actually look realistic, well, as realistic as anthropomorphic housewares can be, their facial features needed to be more subtle.

Another song missing for me was “Home”, after Belle takes her father’s place at the castle, but it does present itself in the background music, which I appreciated.

The beast has more personality than I’ve seen in another adaptation, which aids in the narrative of the growing friendship between Belle and the Beast. There are some insights into his childhood and upbringing that explain how he came to be the man he is. And like the animated version, the library scene is as endearing as ever.

I had the thought during the ball and the title song, Beauty and the Beast, that it seemed odd not to have Angela Lansbury singing it, but Emma Thompsons did well with the iconic song. Though I did think her speaking voice was weird, it didn’t sound like her at all…

On the topic of singing: obviously, Audra McDonald was stupendous, and the rest of the cast did well too. However, at times Emma Watson’s voice disappointed me. It wasn’t the quality but rather the believability that she, in that exact moment of the film, was singing. The audio just seemed separated from the scene at times.

The enchantress in this adaptation gives the Beast one more item (aside from the rose and the mirror): an enchanted book. If you’ve ever wanted to know what happened to Belle’s mother, this scene is for you. Heartbreaking, really.

One thing I wasn’t counting on in this film was ever feeling a bit of pity for Gaston. But if you watch LeFou during “Gaston”, you’ll see him giving money to the tavern patrons to get them to sing along. Perhaps, Gaston is not as loved as we have always believed. Or, at least as I always believed. And as for LeFou, I never watched the videos or read the articles about this “controversy”. I did however, pay particular attention to him for this reason. But ya’ll. I don’t know what the big deal was all about, it’s no worse than some other Disney characters.

Oh, and don’t forget the man in the beginning who has forgotten something, but can’t remember what.

2016 Reading Challenge Review

So I had a bit of an overly optimistic view of how much I would be able to read in 2016. But in the end, I chose to stick with my Goodreads challenge of reading 30 books.

My final tally was 29 completed books. Not included in that count were at least three books that I reread. So depending on how you’re counting, I read 32 books this year. Below is a visual list of all (except the rereads) that I finished.

Screen Shot 2017-01-01 at 7.46.49 PM.png

There’s definitely a lot more fiction in this list than I realized. Probably because I have a pile of non-fiction setting beside my chair waiting for me to pick them up and give them a chance. 10 of the “inspirational-fiction” books I read were also loaned/recommended to me to read.

And you know what? I flew through them. I drank them up like I was in a literary drought. I wasn’t. I had loads of books to read, and several I was in the middle of but felt a little uninspired to continue. I always loved to read, and I’ve always been a fast reader. But this summer and fall when I was feeling like I was in the depths of despair, I really needed some of those books. I call them “Fluff”. ‘Cause they’re just kind of like marshmallows: sweet, contain no nutritional value, tasty, and occasionally I wonder if I’m wasting my time. But they gave me a bit of a respite from the workings of my mind. Books are love. Anyways. If you want my thoughts on a specific book, let me know. Otherwise, here are a few I would recommend:

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
This also came out as a film this year, but left a lot to be desired in the adaptation. And if you watched it and were disappointed or angry, please read the book. They left out so many details and character characteristics [see: flaws]  If you need an easy read (probably bring some tissues), give this a shot. “Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith – Rob Bell 
I’ve heard it said more than once that Rob Bell kind of went off the deep end, theologically speaking. I’m not really sure what that means, but this book was written before any of that supposedly went down. I learned a lot in this book and it gave me a lot to think about. “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”

My Imaginary Jesus:
The Spiritual Adventures of One Man Searching for the Real God . – Matt Mikalatos
Goodreads suggests it’s a bit of “Monty Python meets CS Lewis.” The author has a lot of Imaginary Jesus’ in his life. Created from his own imagination to fit who he thinks Jesus is.  You follow the author in his adventure to rid his life of his fictional creations and find the Real God. “That’s the danger of following an imaginary Jesus,” Daisy said. “The more committed you get to him and his plan, the further afield from the real Jesus you get. Your earnest attempts to be committed to your imaginary Jesus actually move you away from Christ.”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking- Susan Cain 
As an introvert in a time in my life that required a lot of extroversion (job search) only to work in an industry that actually houses quite a lot of introverts. The world is weird. Anyways, this book helped me to feel less crazy. “Everyone shines, given the right lighting.” “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”

Enchanted Inc. [series] – Shana Swendson
I actually read the first three of these books when I was about 13 or 14. I reminded myself what happened and then continued on through the rest of the series. The books are set in modern day New York City (most of them) where Katie, a Texan girl turned New Yorker, discovers that she is so un-magical that everything the magical community uses to veil their presence. Which means she’s very valuable to them. And the male lead, reads as completely adorable. “Any man who would deny you dessert isn’t worth having.”

Behold the Lamb of God – Russ Ramsey
25 chapters for the days leading up to Christmas. The book is a wonderful narrative of the Christmas story. I recommend you also listen to Andrew Peterson’s Christmas CD: Behold the Lamb of God. I plan on rereading this every Christmas season. “When the angel Gabriel stood before Mary, the hypothetical gave way to the real. The ordinary stories all at once glistened under the extraordinary light of this celestial storyteller.”

I’ve decided to give myself another Goodreads challenge, only this time I want to try and read 35 books.

Currently I’m reading (because I’m crazy and read more than one book at a time):

  1. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren
  2. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – Michael Pollan
  3. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God – Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller
  4. The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky – Ellen Meloy
  5. Mere Christianity – CS Lewis

And on my to-read pile:

  1. Design for Real Life – Eric Meyer & Sara Wachter-Boettcher

  2. The Curious Case of the Missing Figurehead – Diane Noble

  3. The Sacred Search – Gary Thomas

  4. The Barbarian Way – Erwin Raphael McManus

  5. The Irresistible Revolution – Shane Clairborne

  6. Sex God – Rob Bell

  7. Silence and Beauty – Makoto Fujimura

  8. Intentional Living – John C. Maxwell

 

What books did you enjoy reading in 2016? What books are you looking forward to reaading in 2017?

 

New Job + New Thoughts

Hi.

A lot’s happened. And the last few weeks have been kind of a blur.

I got a job working from home for a company called Foxio. I cut off a lot of my hair. The weather decided to remember it’s December in Indiana. So now it’s cold + snowy.

It’s a transition working remotely, but I do enjoy what I’m doing. It’s a small company, but it’s what I want to pursue with my career: front-end web development + design.

I accepted the position right before Thanksgiving. Not to be corny… but talk about something for which to be thankful. I began December 5th with a week on-location for job training. It was overwhelming. I still have a lot to learn, but my coworkers are great. While there, I was able to stay with a friend and meet others for dinner. Those friendly faces helped a lot.

So I’m remaining in my hometown for now. And it’s not a bad place. There’s some really good tacos, excellent bakeries, a wonderful downtown, and one of my favorite coffee shops. I’m proud of where I come from.

But still inside me there seems to be a feeling of discontent. I’m still itching to get out on my own. And I’m trying to to work with that. Having a remote job as a first position is a bit unusual, and I can’t help but feel like God has some sort of a plan in mind.

So until then, I’m trying to find how I belong here, where I am. I’ve lived through the summer and autumn with a one-foot-in-one-foot-out mentality. Though I’ve been trying to settle in, now that I know I’m staying for the time being I suppose I feel a little more committed.

I’ve found a small church/Sunday school in which I’m beginning to feel at home. I’ve helped out with an event at church… and been informed that I will be asked back. I’m making plans months ahead. Maybe I’ll start taking a yoga class…

I suppose I’m nestling for now.

The Sun Comes Up And The World Still Spins

This post is about the election. And I might swear a little.

You don’t have to read it. But I needed to write it. Because it’s been a week and I needed to talk about it. So I’m writing it instead.

sunshine

People have been saying singing 2016 sucks. And some will say this is the cherry on top. The icing on the cake.

Donald Trump is going to be our president. –Hillary Clinton

Honestly, I never paid much attention to politics.
I was too young for it to matter to me.
I was too young to vote.
I lived in a self-constructed collegiate bubble.

Now I’m out of college and I know I should be paying attention. This is my future and it’s happening now. But this campaign. This mud-slinging. The shit they threw at each other might have come from different directions but it all looked the same. Shoulda listened to Washington ya’ll. That two-party system.

Call me uninformed. Call me ignorant. Call me irresponsible.

No man’s ignorance will ever be his virtue. –Sara Bareilles, Seriously

I just wanted the anger, the hate, and the bitterness to be over.

Tuesday, I woke up and voted. I didn’t get a sticke and I’m sad about that, TBH. I went into a two-hour interview and emerged with a migraine. I somehow made it home, ate dinner, and was asleep by 7pm.

Wednesday, I woke up at 4am to go to work. Before I crawled out from beneath my toasty warm bed, I checked my phone to see what the future of my country would be for the next four years. I went to work. Tried to toe the line between the democrats and republicans. Came home. Napped. Ate some pumpkin pie. But boy, oh boy. I should not have gotten onto the internet. How my heart broke.

I wanted the anger, hate, and bitterness to end.

Oh my naïveté.

The polls break down the votes like they are tossing blame on demographics. This article sheds a lot of light on that Rural/Trump confusion: How Half of America Lost its F**king Mind, if you’re curious/angry.

The hatred on Facebook. The shame people are throwing on their peers. This belief that anyone who supported a candidate that differed with your own, is a miniature version of that candidate… how did that get started? A mom on my newsfeed reported that her second grader came home from school upset the day after the election. Other students were telling her that Hillary was a “baby killer” after she voted for her in their classroom elections. Second graders. This poison has spread so far.

Yes, our government could use some help. Yes, our country has some problems.

“So how did our politics get so poisonous? I think it’s because we overdosed, especially this year. We drank too much of the poison.

“We take a little bit of it so you can hate the other side. And it tastes kind of good, and you like how it feels, and there’s a gentle high to the condemnation. And you know you’re right, right? You know you’re right”   –Stephen Colbert

You know, at times, I’ve despised living in what feels like the middle of nowhere. It makes the job hunt rough. It means that weekend activities are virtually nonexistent. But with the anger that is sweeping our country, the protests, the violence, it’s looking pretty nice. If you don’t hear from me, I’ve moved down the road and joined the Amish. Besides, they seem to be getting along with other people quite nicely. Can someone start a kickstarter for me so I can buy a horse?

Fear.

It’s a dangerous word. It spooks the herd. And we all bleed in the stampede. – Sara Bareilles, Seriously

People are afraid.

People are afraid, acknowledge that and don’t brush it aside because you might not be. When someone says their worried about their safety because of their government, that’s a big-ass deal. And if you don’t understand why and someone tells you it’s because you’re privileged, don’t get upset. The word “privilege” gets tossed around a lot and it makes a lot of people angry because they think it reflects poorly on them. But it’s not an insult, it just is. It can be a hard thing to understand without all of negativity attached. I recommend reading Of Dogs and Lizards: A Parable of Privilege. Seriously, stop right now and read it. Now. I’ll wait.

So people are afraid and I’m afraid too. I’m afraid of the opposition between brothers, friends, and countrymen. (Hellooooo, holiday season.) I’m frightened for the future of our nation. I also put my pepper spray back in my purse today. I’ve been in a crowd where a gun was drawn, where thankfully, there were cops nearby. And yeah, there are those who speak on moving… but the grass is always seems greener on the other side. Justin Trudeau might look fine, but you can’t tell me it’s all roses in Canada (the politeness, Tim Hortons, and amazing Hersey Kisses aside). My fear may not be the same as your fear. But that doesn’t diminish the reality of either.

Science Mike of the Liturgist podcast posted this last week:

“…Based on the campaign rhetoric, huge swaths of America are scared of our President. They fear for their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And how can you, … be an agent of peace? Especially those of you who follow Christ–how are you going to “do unto the least of these” in the age of Trump.

I will reflect alongside you.

With love,
Mike McHargue”

An agent of peace. Doing unto the least of these. A new podcast I just discovered told this story in their first episode:

“So there a town in France that for hundreds of years has been practicing an ideal called “radical hospitality”. Their commitment is very simple: if someone knocks, they open their doors. So WWII comes around and after a lot of running around French Jews come knocking and this town just did what they always did; they didn’t take a political stance one way or another, they didn’t think about it: someone knocked on their doors and they let Jews in.” –Vanessa Zoltan, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

Spread love. Do unto others. Do unto the least of these. The holidays are coming, not that you need a reason, but spread the love. Bake some cookies. Visit your grandma. Call your mom and tell her you love her. Bring your best friend some Starbucks. Rake an neighbor’s yard. Send a letter to someone you love. Share some good in the world. And Penny + Sparrow just released their first Christmas album. There is still some good in the world.

So I’m putting my faith and trust in God. And checks and balances still apply, no matter who is in office. And if you don’t live in America, please, please, keep us in your prayers.

My Dear Wormwood,

Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

Keep up the good work,

Uncle Screwtape

–CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters

 

Empty Rooms are Honest Places

I like to think I have good taste in music. And so do a lot of my friends. (Not just because they agree with me.) Except for K-Pop. I just can’t do that one, sorry Lyssa.

But even though three people were telling me how amazing Penny & Sparrow are for the past four years, I just couldn’t seem to get into them.

img_2918

A week ago Sunday, I went down to Indianapolis to see one of my favorite bands perform: The Oh Hellos. I’m slightly obsessed. It’s fine. Also in the building that night were both Switchfoot and Relient K. I will never not find this a funny.

And the friends that went with me were those dang Penny & Sparrow fans.

And guess who was opening for the Oh Hellos?

That’s right.

GUYS. I’ve been listening to Penny & Sparrow (almost) exclusively since.

There was this very nice parent-aged couple we met as we were waiting for the concert to begin that said they were really only there for Penny & Sparrow. The husband told me about how clear Andy Baxter’s voice is and that they’ve been to see them perform several times. This couple also let me and Morgen move in front of them so I could see a little bit better. #faithinhumanity

So my curiosity was peaked.img_2938

And I fell completely in love.

Two guys. One guitar.

Hilarious. Amazing stage presence.

Beautiful humans.

Thoughtful lyrics. There’s more to them than an initial listening will provide.

Hauntingly wonderful vocals

Can I say… soul-stirring? Maybe heart-stirring.

Though the concert was standing room only, I would love a chance to hear Penny & Sparrow in a more relaxed (see: chairs) setting. Because the you have to listen to them. And I think that is why I struggled so much to enjoy them before. I never took the time to understand the music. And I guess, I still don’t really “understand” everything. But I’m listening and not just hearing.

The music moved me folks. And I encourage you to let it do the same to you. Some things I recommend:

A Beginners Guide to Penny & Sparrow  <– Read this!

Serial Doubter
Honest Wage
Patience, First & Patience, Please
Fantine

Take a listen, for your own good.

Then after the mellow sounds of Penny & Sparrow, yes, I rocked and jumped and danced to The Oh Hellos.

img_2936

The energy level of this band when they perform is off the charts.

The banjo player acts like he’s rocking out on an electric guitar.

They’re jumping.

They’re dancing.

They’re singing their hearts out.

I don’t know how they keep it up, but I’m ever so glad they do.

 

I’ve said once, I’d gladly be a groupie for the Oh Hellos and just follow them on the road. And I still would. But if they don’t have an opening, I’d gladly trail behind Penny & Sparrow too.

fullsizerender

In Which I Meet My Pen Pal.

Hey-o.

In case you didn’t know, I have a pen pal that lives in London, Ontario. We were matched up through Ali over at aliinbloom.com through something she called Bloggers Offline. Marlee, my pen pal, blogs over at marleeandyou.blogspot.com.

Well, Marlee got married in the beginning of August and I was extremely honored to have been invited. Yeah, this post is long overdue. But anyways, here’s my recap of my trip to our northern neighbors. It’s long. I’m kind of sorry. But I need to write it down for myself. (And if Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, I’m pretty sure Canada is the friendliest) And shout out to all of those cashiers that helped me with Canadian coins… all so shiny… all so similar in size…

Day One: First Things First
My friend Olivia drove up from Cincinnati to come along and be my plus-one-road trip-buddy (there was no way I was going up there alone) and the trip North was pretty uneventful… until we were stuck in line to cross the toll bridge. It was 90* outside, very slow bumper to bumper traffic. And I look down and my engine nearly overheating. I mean, what do I know about these things?! But after a frantic call to my father and making it very clear that we could, in no way, pull off to the side of the road… we turned everything off and opened the windows. Yes, I’ve been told that having my air conditioning on was stupid… no I didn’t realize that. Anyways, we made it across the bridge finally and through customs with no issue. Changing my mindset from miles to kilometers was hard, but despite a missed exit, we made it to the house where we were staying with no big issues.

After dinner, the Murrays pulled out a large map (yes, map) of London circled some streets and places with a yellow highlighter and Olivia and I set out to explore. We took a stroll down Dundas street before heading home, catching some of opening ceremony for the Olympics and crashing into bed.

Day Two: Wedding Day (What a Day)
I woke up with some serious wedding jitters… not like I was getting married or anything. No, I was nervous about going and meeting Marlee! What if she didn’t actually want me to come? How awkward was this thing going to be? We left in plenty of time to pick up an iced cap from Tim Hortons (we were given strict instructions to try one) and some Timbits before heading to the wedding. We were complemented on our outfits as we left Time Hortons, reaffirming that Canadians are the nicest people ever.

img_2691

We got to the wedding way too early, but I hear from a window above where we are waiting, “Oh my gosh! It’s Kelly!” I turned and looked up too see Marlee + bridesmaids at the upstairs window. We exchanged little waves and my wedding jitters went wayyyyy down.

The ceremony was so sweet. And her dress!!!! SO CUTE. It was her mother’s wedding gown that she had altered… and added pockets, of course. She was beautiful! In-between the ceremony and the reception, we made some new friends with two sisters and enjoyed hanging out with them the rest of the afternoon.

img_2694

And after the bridal party + family were done taking photos, Marlee brought the photographer over to where we were chatting under a tree… and we finally got to meet each other!!!! 

meet-and-greet

“You’re really here!” and “You’re really little!” were two things I remember she exclaimed as she gave me a big hug. It was a very happy moment. I think we’d have fun together if we lived closer together… and you know, in the same country. Then we headed into the reception. I’ll skip the play by play for the rest of the wedding and give you some highlights:

  1. Marlee made all of the cupcakes and they were AMAZING.
  2. There was a candy bar and we learned that:
    • American Smarties = Canadian Rockets
    • Canadian Hershey Kisses are 1000x better than American
  3. After the toasts, Cory and Marlee said a few words… and I was thoroughly embarrassed when I was pointed out. (Thanks, Marlee.) So much for staying in the background! 😉
  4. I met Marlee’s friend (and bridesmaid!) Daniella!
    img_2721I heard a lot about her from Marlee’s letters so I was excited to meet her! I also set her up as a pen pal with my friend Morgen. And she told me where to find nice stationary while I was in the area. True friends. Daniella blogs hereMorgen blogs here.
  5. I really enjoy dancing at weddings.
  6. Marlee and Cory are just the cutest. 

Olivia and I both felt a little like we had just ran a marathon… well maybe a 10k. We met a lot of people in very little time and decided to head out. I knew that my neighbor back home (we were staying with his parents) told me to make sure I had poutine and his favorite place was in a mall near the wedding location… and so was the bookstore Daniella had recommended for stationary shopping.

So we wandered around the mall. Ate some poutine (french fries + gravy + mozzarella cheese curds). I took a photo, but it’s not really very photogenic. And got a much needed cuppa at David’s Tea. Seriously so friendly… and so, like the American millennials we are… we took a selfie with them.

img_2742

Next was Indigo… it was like Barnes and Noble… but with more stationary. We both gasped with happiness when the employee that led us to that wonderful area… she asked if we could do it again, because that was fun! We browsed for a looong time.

Then we headed back, shared stories with the Murrays, and headed out one more time to pick something up from Marlee’s house mom’s house (and no, I didn’t need the address, I’ve got that baby memorized by now). It was the sweetest bag (no pun intended) of maple syrup related items! (That was very Canadian of you 😉 ) I also got to chat with her mom a little bit more 🙂 But sleep was very welcome that night, although I didn’t want to go to bed and end such a wonderful day!

Day Three: Take Toronto by Storm
img_2760
We decided to explore Toronto on Sunday. We drove the the westernmost metro station and parked (free parking on Sunday! woo!) and for $12 we were both able to get day passes for the metro. More on that later.

img_2769

We started out by exploring the Distillery district. It was full of neat boutiques, galleries, cobblestone streets, and some cute cafes. We walked, shopped, talked to a milliner, and grabbed lunch + coffee. The rest of the day is kind of a blur. A blur of way too much walking, accidentally finding a mall, and extremely painful feet. The thing is… we were in the mindset of walking and stopping to see things… and also forgot we had metro passes. We walked 10 miles that day. Seriously.

Food highlights included: macarons (also the first time we were able to sit down in a very long time.), savory crepes for dinner, and a 30 minute wait for ice cream (which, while very Instagram-able was ultimately a bit of a let down).

food

We took the metro back to where we parked our car and headed back to London. I had to stop once to get coffee at (where else?) Tim Hortons on the way back. It was also there I discovered the Coffee News isn’t just in the USA.

Day Four: There’s No Place Like Home

We packed up, bid farewell to our kind hosts, and headed out. But before we left London we had to make two stops. One, to the grocery store to pick up some candy. Actually we went to get Hershey’s Kisses, but we picked up a few other things we didn’t recognize. Then, we made one last stop at Tim Hortons. I got an Iced Coffee, and I think that was my favorite drink that I tried. And a few more Timbits…so many kinds, so little time. We need some more Tim Hortons in the states. See: closer to me.

img_2776

Mr. Murray had given us a token to get us across the bridge, so we breezed through that pretty quickly, but the border took a little bit longer. When it was finally our turn, we figured out why…

What my neighbor had told me was very, very, true. The border is much friendlier when you are entering Canada… the Americans are really brusque on your way back in. But we made it back home despite having to go around Detroit because we missed the first I69 exit off of I94. But we made it. Safe and sound. And if you made it to the end of this post… I hope you are still safe and sound.

I had a blast in Canada. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet my pen pal and blessed to have such wonderful people with whom to stay. Like seriously, I asked them later if they accept grandchildren applications.