This weekend, my cousin Bess came to Dallas to visit me. We spent her first night here watching all three Jurassic Park films in anticipation of Jurassic World‘s release. I chose to view our immediate fixation on movies in a positive light: our family is very media- and story-oriented, so really, we were honoring our ancestry. After all, this was not the first time movies were central to my memories of Bess.
When I was very little, I loved the Ernest movies starring Jim Varney. So did my brother Roy and my cousins Andrew and Bess. One night when we were visiting them in Atlanta, we rented Ernest Scared Stupid, in which Ernest must destroy a bunch of trolls on Halloween. It is the most absurd film to ever exist, culminating in Ernest dancing and kissing said evil troll. The four of us peered over blankets, laughing as though we weren’t actually terrified. I vowed never to watch a scary movie again. Continue reading
*a McGarrah, Monahan, Newton, and Wineinger hybrid
Eight people spending a three day weekend together can be a recipe for disaster. Staying in a single bedroom with four double beds while sharing a tiny kitchen and tinier bathroom makes it even more likely to fall apart. Anticipating a sun-filled weekend of outdoor play only to experience cold rain ought to have been the final straw. The fact that these seven friends embraced the disappointment and close quarters with grace and humor is exactly why I love them so dearly. Continue reading
I once heard that it is important to be close to your siblings because that is probably going to be the longest relationship of your life. Parents die and spouses come later, but siblings can stick around in your life for 80 or more years. Which is FINE BY ME, because my brother is the coolest person on the planet.
Roy is four years older than me, and I think I’ve always been in awe of him. My childhood memories center around a common theme: stumbling through the woods after Roy and his friends, watching movies that Roy thought were cool, playing the games that Roy got excited about. Don’t get me wrong, I had my own nerdy little shy world, but so much of who I am is an effort to imitate his awesomeness. Continue reading
Mallory and I both lived in Senegal at the same time, working for the same organization though in different cities. She knew the girls I was working with, so occasionally we would all meet and hang out in the capital city of Dakar. I got food poisoning from a sushi restaurant one weekend, and when I suggested she sleep in a different room because I would be vomiting all night, she said, “Nah, it’s fine,” and fell asleep. Her chill reaction immediately made me want to be her friend. Continue reading
Nearly five years ago, I created this dance video while I was living in Senegal. Today, I am traveling to Tennessee to visit a whole bunch of people who lent their groove thangs to the making of this work of art.
There’s so much I love about this video. There are, of course, my hilarious and beautiful friends awkwardly dancing in restaurants, grocery stores, and on rooftops. There are the “oh no, how do I fill this space?” moments where I single-handedly address the camera. But mostly, I love how so much of my Senegal experience is captured in these tiny moments.
That’s the school room where Liz and I taught English and practiced the Kochibama skit with high school students. That’s the rooftop where we sang hymns until the sun set and I couldn’t see anyone’s faces. Those are the birthday decorations for Liz and Kim’s combined birthday party, hosted in the guest house in Dakar where I once had horrifying food sickness. That’s my tiny bed with the mosquito netting I used regularly after hearing about a lizard snuggling into someone’s pillow. Those are the pictures of friends I brought, assuming I would be paralyzed by home-sickness, only to find a new family in Fatick.
My Fatick family. I shared life with them for five months, and that could have been the end. But I love them, and five years later, I never want to stop hanging out with them.
Because I move often, it can be hard to keep close friendships for a long period of time. This is why Lindsay means so much to me–we have been friends for 27 years and counting. Because our mothers were friends, Lindsay age 2 and Tricia age 0 were destined for friendship. However, a two year age gap is a lot more meaningful when you’re tiny, so it wasn’t until adolescence that our friendship truly took off.
When I was in 8th grade, Lindsay was amongst the high school girls who kidnapped me during the Sunday School hour. She and Sarah took me to see the first Spiderman movie, at which Lindsay screamed “Toby!” at the screen during a pivotal moment. I loved riding in her car (whether in the seat or in the trunk), because her driving skills made every ride feel like a roller coaster. Continue reading
Today is my mom’s 57th birthday! She was born thirty years, twelve hours, and one minute before me, and I am so grateful that of all the moms in the world, she is mine.
Families are weird. DNA and experiences tie you together in a messy ball of weaknesses and strengths. Although I have inherited my mom’s insecurity and self-doubt, I have also inherited her gentleness and kindness. I admit that at times I have resented my mother for being human, but I am learning to be grateful for the ways she has shown grace and courage in being my parent. Continue reading
Moving to rural West Africa to work for five months with a missionary family that you’ve never met could go catastrophically wrong. Luckily for me, the family I worked with were the Forsythes. Made up of six people who could speak four languages in order to connect with Senegalese people by discussing daily problems and spiritual significance, the Forsythes could be an intimidating bunch. However, they are also delightfully weird, and this makes them infinitely relateable.
Kimberley and Travis Forsythe are a power couple of emotion (Kim) and logic (Travis). They get things done, whether its arranging to get a new generator for the local hospital or starting a kids’ Bible study in their front yard.
The fact that I love Travis is astounding, since our first conversation was about how he enjoyed shooting stray cats for his neighbors. My overlooking this horrific hobby ought to demonstrate just how great he is in every other area of life. One afternoon when I was napping at their house, I woke to see he had moved two standing fans from the living room (where he was) to the foyer, so I could sleep in a cool breeze.
Kimberley began as a mentor, and while she still very much is one (she helped me decide to go to Greece by reminding me to “never make a decision based on fear”), I am so happy to call her my friend as well. Her passion overflows whenever she talks about God, her family, the people she loves, or the hurt in the world. She has a childlike joy that is infectious to be around, just like her wonderful laugh. Continue reading
Fatick, Senegal – March 2010
One of the most powerful bonds between people is formed when people who feel like outsiders find solace in each other. This is especially fun when there is nothing connecting these people other than the fact that they are outsiders.
While I lived in Fatick, there were fourteen people in the city who were “toubabs,” and eight of them were on our mission team. There were three other Americans in Fatick doing work with the PeaceCorps. There was one Korean girl who worked at the hospital and two Japanese girls who taught at one of the schools. “Toubabs” are people whose light skin obviously differentiates them from the local Senegalese. Any further national divisions were often hilariously wrong. I was usually recognized as being from the United States, but only because I am tall. My housemate Liz, also from the United States, was usually assumed to be from Japan, because she is short and has dark hair. But no matter what, whether from Asia or America, we fourteen were all “toubabs.” Continue reading
I tend to have an unhealthy view of romantic relationships, either by idolizing them and assuming marriage will solve all my problems or by demonizing them and assuming marriage is a playground of horror. Thankfully, I have men and women in my life who model healthy relationships. None more so than my grandparents, Harold and Jean Stark.
I once asked them to describe the hardest thing about marriage. “Oh, it’s not that hard,” Grandma said.
“What? Come on. What do you fight about?” I asked.
Grandpa drummed his fingers against the table. “We don’t fight.”
Grandma covered his hand with hers, cutting off the repetitive noise. “Stop that, Harold. Well, I get mad with how fidgety he is. But that’s pretty much it.”
I think there is a 100% chance that they have fought at some point in their marriage. But after 61 years of living together, I find it extremely adorable that those times of animosity have faded into something inconsequential. Continue reading