Tag Archives: boarding school

Twenty-one reasons why.

5 Aug

I just got back from spending the weekend in Virginia. I went to visit my best friend Skidmore to celebrate her 21st birthday with her. Since today was her 21st birthday, I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to her. So Skidmore, here are 21 reasons why I love you (even though there are so many more):

  1. You are the truest friend I’ve ever had, and I’m so grateful every day to be able to say that I have someone like you in my life.
  2. You are the least judgemental person I know. I still remember the night at Salem when I finally opened up to you about my past. You were the first person I opened up to, and realizing in the very beginning that you would just be there to listen meant so much to me.
  3. You’re the best hugger I know. Seriously.
  4. You’ve helped me realize what it means to believe in myself. Even though I still have pretty low self-esteem, I’m working at it, and your belief in me to be who I truly am gives me strength.
  5. You love Taylor Swift and country music as much as I do. Who else can I belt out Josh Turner with?
  6. You’ve converted me into a VT Hokie football fan. No words can describe how much I love that. ūüôā
  7. You introduced me to Middleman, even though we haven’t watched it in forever. I still want a teddy bear suit though!
  8. You’re a kickass apparel designer. Seriously…the dresses you made for the fashion show were amazing.
  9. You have a giant Scrabble board made out of duct tape. We’ve been best friends for 5 years, and I still can’t get over your amazing duct tape skills.
  10. You’ve fully supported me while I’m working on my memoir, and I’ve loved your feedback. There’s nothing I can say to express how much it means to me that you’re invested in my writing.
  11. You have the best dog in the history of the world.
  12. You’ve helped me develop a sense of style, and for the first time ever, I actually really love shopping for clothes. Who ever thought that day would come?
  13. You love Jodi Picoult as much as me. One of these days we’ve got to go to one of her book signings.
  14. You’ve made me see that true friendship can’t be broken by something as simple as distance.
  15. You’ve helped me realize that I can literally talk to you about¬†anything, and that means so much to me.
  16. You introduced me to foot massagers and back massagers. They’ve changed my life.
  17. You are an example of a true Salem sister. I’m so glad that Salem brought us together, but more than that, I’m glad that we have proved that true Salem bonds can never be broken.
  18. You’re probably the most unique person I know. Actually, I take that back…you are the most unique person I know.
  19. You introduced me to Sid, who is an amazing photographer and took some great pictures during my first photoshoot.
  20. You introduced me to V8 Fusion. My life will never be the same.
  21. You are the most amazing best friend I’ve ever had, and I’m so happy that I get to say that you’ve been in my life for the past 5 years. I wouldn’t be who I am today without you, and I love you so much!

 

 

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When in Ireland, find home in the most unlikely places.

17 Jul

Twice in the past week I have heard two different Irish cover bands play “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. Other than “Wagon Wheel” being one of my favorite songs in general, it’s also a song that speaks of North Carolina, my home state. It’s just so weird to think that twice in one week I’ve heard a song that instantly has me thinking of North Carolina, Asheville, the mountains, bluegrass music, and the place that I feel most connected to. I’ve realized that even when I’m in Ireland, I can still receive the strong pull of home.

There are mountains here in Ireland, but they are nothing like the Blue Ridge Mountains that I call home. Every so often I find myself searching for the blue hue that holds so much security and comfort inside me, only to slowly realize that the specific color that holds so much emotion for me cannot be found in the mountains here. At the same time, however, I think if the Ireland landscape was more like the landscape that I’m used to at home then it would make it that much harder for me to leave next week.

It’ll be hard to say goodbye to a place that I feel has taken root so quickly in my soul. Before coming to Ireland, I was a bit hesitant. I didn’t know if I would like it or not. I had no idea what to expect, other than the fact that I was looking forward to seeing the green beauty that I had poured over during all the times that I watched P.S. I Love You. No words can describe how amazing it has been to realize that home isn’t always one specific place. When I come to think of it, I’ve found home in multiple places.

My first home was in a small town in South Carolina. It was where I grew up, and even though it has now become a place that doesn’t hold very much meaning for me, it will always be the place where I first learned about life. I think of riding my Barbie Jeep, my gocart, and my four-wheeler. I think of making mud pies in my Barbie kitchen. I think of my childhood friends…and the friends that ended up not being very friendly towards me. I think of finding my love of theatre, which is also when I realized that it was possible to have another family outside of my immediate family that was there to love and support me just as much. I think of growing up, of the days that I lost myself in books because I needed a way to escape the days when the pain was too much. I think of the nights when I made my own little space in the bottom of my closet that was equipped with a light, blankets, a pillow, a book, and a pencil and paper that I used in order to write away what I was feeling. I found security sitting in my closet…with the realization that the harsh world lay just outside. I found out what it meant to dream.

My second home was Salem Academy, an all-girls’ boarding school in North Carolina. Though I didn’t consider it my home until my senior year there, by my senior year I didn’t want to leave. It took a year to find my own place, but once I did, I knew that I’d never be the same. I found a part of me…a part of me I hadn’t really embraced before. I found my true self…or at least the beginning of my true self. I wouldn’t have been able to embark on the journey of figuring out who I truly was were it not for my best friend Skidmore. I met her during my junior year at Salem, and she was the first friend that I discussed my entire life with, the good and the bad. Skidmore was the first person I completely opened up to, and having someone who reacted so positively to all that I knew I needed to say was also something that was necessary. Without Skidmore’s love and non-judgemental acceptance, I wouldn’t have been able to start to figure out who I was…or what the meaning of home really was.

My third home is, as a whole, North Carolina….but more specifically…the Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville. I’ve always been a mountain girl, but I’ve never been able to say that I have had the chance to live among a landscape that I love….until last August. And being in Asheville makes home feel even more real to me because I’m in such an artsy city…while also knowing that it is a mere 5 minute drive to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway…or the place that makes me feel completely alive. Writing has done the same thing…given me that feeling of being truly alive. Therefore, being able to write among the landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains…it’s unreal, and yet, it’s what I’ve been doing.

It’s hard to imagine that Ireland has, in a way, become another home for me. And yet, I’m not all that surprised. I can’t think of one person that I know who has come to Ireland and not fallen in love with its beauty. But it’s more than just the beauty. It’s the people…it’s the quaint little village towns and the college cities…it’s the pubs and the pub atmosphere (which, I’m surprised to report, have held more character and comfort than I ever imagined), and it’s the music. I’m a true music lover, and I listen to music every chance I can get. Here in Galway, live music can be found all over the city on every night of the week. I love that opportunity. It’s probably one of my favorite parts about being in Galway. It’s not just live music every night though…it’s free live music. For a true music lover like me, it can’t get much better than free¬†good¬†live music every night!

So even though I’ll be leaving a home next week, I’ll also being going home to a place that I love more than anything in the entire world. Despite the fact that I’m leaving, I know I’ll be back. A place can’t take hold in my soul so quickly and not be a place that I don’t plan on returning. I don’t know when, or under what circumstances, but I know that I’ll be back. I can feel it. After all, there’s only so long that you can stay away from home, even when, sometimes, home has the ability to be so many different places all at once.

Beyond The Waves by Elizabeth Marek: A Book Review.

6 Jun

During one of my many trips to my favorite used bookstore in Asheville, I came across¬†Beyond The Waves¬†by Elizabeth Marek when looking through the bargain books. After reading the synopsis on the back of the book, it seemed like a book I’d like, but more than that, it seemed like the type of read that I’d pay much more than one dollar for. I’ll take the deals where I can get them though!

Psychologist Abby Cohen is still reeling from the loss of her beloved daughter when another young girl arrives in her life-twelve-year-old Miranda, who appears at Abby’s hospital mute, terrified, and completely alone. In her struggle to connect with this deeply disturbed child and unravel the mystery of her past, Abby must grapple with her own frozen self.

Numbed by grief and on the verge of losing her relationship with both her husband and little boy, Abby finds herself tempted to leave behind what is left of the family she once cherished. But something about Miranda and the bond that has begun to form between them awakens Abby’s capacity to feel, and reminds her of the power-and the limits-of love.

The way the characters of Abby and Miranda came together in order to deal with the demons of their different pasts was moving to me. I was most drawn to the character of Miranda simply because my heart ached for her and the mysterious past that she seemed to be very troubled by. Through much of the book, Miranda was afraid and alone. Though that was heartbreaking for me, it was also a very huge reminder of why I want to be a counselor myself. Psychologist Abby Cohen tries throughout the book to connect to Miranda, despite the fact that Miranda seems very frightened and alone. However, that’s all the more reason that I strive to connect with others. Though my past wasn’t as extreme as it could have been, it wasn’t easy. I spent so many years afraid, in pain, and surrounded by doctors and parents, and yet feeling utterly alone. When I was going through my intense physical therapy and 3 intense surgeries, I wanted someone who understood or at least could be there to remind me that I wasn’t alone through all the pain. Studies show that every person benefits from a strong support system. Though I had support from my parents and other family members, that wasn’t the kind of support I was looking for. Even though at the time there wasn’t a friend who was aching to understand, what I didn’t know at the time was that the support was coming.

My support came during my junior year at Salem Academy when I met my best friend, Skidmore. Skidmore was the very first person I completely opened up to in regards to all the details of my past. Every memory of pain, fear, loneliness….Skidmore knows it. Realizing that I had someone to share everything with was big, but once I began to understand that Skidmore longed to know so that she could understand who I truly was, I practically never stopped talking. I mean, it came out slow (the details of my past), but it felt so good to tell someone. Telling someone about my pain, fear, and loneliness and having them not judge me or feel sorry for me, but just love me….scars and all…that’s what I had been looking for, and I found it. Though I know have other friends who are an equal amount of support, no one knows as much as Skidmore does. Once I said everything single memory in detail once, it seemed like enough. I mean, my other friends know me really well too, but I guess you could say that since Skidmore was the first person who seemed to want to understand me for exactly who I was, that’s what she got: the stories of pain and fear that I carried around for so long without telling anyone. The stories that, though they don’t define me, are the truest form of the difficulties I’ve faced that I can possibly show.

Two Years Ago…

27 May

Yesterday I went to Salem Academy (the boarding school that I graduated from in 2010) to see the Class of 2012 graduate. I had a few really good friends who were graduating, and graduation is always a great way to see fellow Salem Sisters who have also graduated. My best friend Skidmore, who graduated from Salem in 2009, came to the graduation too, and I loved seeing her.

As I was sitting in the audience watching the Class of 2012 graduate, it surprised me to think that 2 years had already gone by since I was sitting down in the May Dell in a white cap and gown getting ready to embark on a new phase in my life: college. I remember my graduation day so perfectly, as if it was yesterday. I was so excited, and yet I was also incredibly, incredibly sad. I wasn’t ready to leave the one place where I finally had felt like I belonged only to have to start over again. I didn’t want to leave behind the friends I had made or the faculty and staff who had shown me what it meant to truly follow my heart and chase my dreams. And yet, I was excited for what college would bring. I was anxious to be in a new place with all new people who would all be on their own path of self discovery. I was happy to be done with the grueling academics of Salem, but knew in my heart that without them, I wouldn’t have been as prepared for college as I felt at that moment.

As I sat in the May Dell in my cap and gown, looking up at the all girls’ boarding school that was founded before the United States achieved independence, I was proud. I was proud to be part of another group of women who, though leaving Salem, would continue to think back on Salem in the years to come, relishing in the wonderful memories that shaped our lives. On that day 2 years ago, I was happy. I didn’t think that I would cry until I looked up to see my mom crying. However, in that single moment, all the sadness of what I was leaving behind hit me. But as I shaded my eyes from the sun and listened to girls from my class speak about their fond memories of this place, I let the tears fall. I cried knowing that the young women who stood around me would always be in my heart, even though we were all about to head off to colleges at far ends of the country, and even far ends of the world. And at the end of that day, I left Salem knowing that I’d be back to visit and that I had made some of the best memories and friends that I could have ever imagined.

When the graduation of the Class of 2012 was over, I felt a strange sense of deja vu. It took me a moment to realize that it wasn’t my graduation day, but the graduation of a class that I first got to know as freshmen during my first year at Salem, my junior year. Though it felt sad to see them leave the place that will always be home for me in my heart, I’m happy to know that one of my friends from the Class of 2012 will be heading to Asheville in the fall. It will be so exciting to have a fellow Salem Sister with me once again. Someone to explore Asheville with and talk about Salem with, and most of all, someone to create new memories with, even though both of us know that the memories that will forever bind us are those that were created in a place in North Carolina that I was able to call home for 2 years of my life. However, with my friend coming to UNCA in the fall, it’s as if something incredible has happened: Salem has become both my past and my present.

Pigs In Heaven By Barbara Kingsolver: A Book Review.

20 May

Earlier this week I finished¬†a second book by Barbara Kingsolver,¬†Pigs In Heaven. I loved¬†The Bean Trees¬†and Kingsolver’s writing so much that I just had to read more by her.

Pigs In Heaven is a follow-up to¬†The Bean Trees. However, you don’t have to read¬†The Bean Trees first to be able to follow the storyline of¬†Pigs In Heaven. Here’s the synopsis of¬†Pigs In Heaven (according to Amazon.com):

Six-year-old Turtle Greer witnesses a freak accident at the Hoover Dam, leading to a man’s dramatic rescue. But Turtle’s moment of celebrity draws her into a crisis of historical proportions that will envelop not only her and her mother, Taylor, but everyone else who touched their lives in a complex web connecting their future with their past. With this wise, compelling novel, the acclaimedNew York Times¬†bestselling author of¬†The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees,¬†and¬†Animal Dreams¬†vividly renders a world of heartbreak and redeeming love as she defines and defies the boundaries of family, and illuminates the many separate truths about the ties that bind us and tear us apart.

I can without a doubt say that I enjoyed¬†Pigs In Heaven more than¬†The Bean Trees, but honestly I think that’s because I had already gotten used to Kingsolver’s writing style and I was eager to hear more of Taylor and Turtle’s story together after first meeting them in¬†The Bean Trees.¬†Pigs In Heaven definitely didn’t disappoint.

Even though I was drawn most to the character of Taylor when I read¬†The Bean Trees, when I read¬†Pigs In Heaven, I connected most with Taylor’s mother, Alice. I think I connected with her most because her strength and strong belief in herself was evident through the fact that she left a marriage that she was unhappy in so that she could¬†be there for a person who was struggling more, her daughter. Alice’s need to be there for her daughter, while also knowing that she had reached an age where she was expected to stand on her own to feet is something that really stuck with me. All teens go through those times with their parents. For me, the most notable was when I went off to boarding school. For most other teens, it’s when they go off to college. When I was first at boarding school, it was hard to adjust to not having my parents around. I remember the months before I left and how I was dying to get out of the house, but the second day I was away from them, I found myself sitting on my bed in my dorm room crying for a mom and dad who were three and a half hours away. Though I know that these feelings are normal, it’s not any easier when you realize you have to pack up and leave behind the people who have believed in you since before you were even born. How do you walk away from a love like that?

What I’ve realized, and what was discussed in Pigs In Heaven, is that even when it’s hard to leave home and go out on your own, you can still look back to your parents for guidance and support. In¬†Pigs In Heaven¬†Taylor relied heavily on Alice when she was in a really difficult spot, but yet Alice was the one to pull away when she realized that Taylor had to walk ahead alone with her own daughter that she loved as much as Alice loved Taylor. It was touching to see the support that Taylor and Alice had for each other, while also seeing how much they trusted that each of them would be okay. Even though I’m not a parent, I know from the standpoint of a daughter how hard it is to realize that it’s finally time to take your own responsibility for things, rather than relying on your parents. However, for me, my parents will be here to support me no matter what, and yet they’ve given me the wings that I need to fly.

I definitely, definitely recommend this book. Go read it! Now!

Tuesday’s Tunes: Katie Armiger.

15 May

In yesterday’s Monday Musings¬†post, I mentioned that I discovered a new country artist, Katie Armiger. She isn’t really new, but she’s new to me since I hadn’t heard of her before. Two of her songs, “Scream” and “Unseen,” really stuck with me.

I think I was just drawn into the songs because of Katie’s voice. As I was pushing the replay button on YouTube, I was reminded of how much I love to sing. I’ve always been the kind of person to sing anywhere. I always have music playing, so anytime there is a song playing that I know, I’m singing. When I was in high school, I took voice lessons (which I loved) and then when I was at Salem for my junior and senior years of high school, I was in Glee Club, and I really loved that too. Since then though, I haven’t done much in regards to singing, other than just singing on my own time when I’m doing other things. When I go back to UNCA for the fall semester, I think I may look into joining the women’s acapella group. I’ve always loved acapella music, and I might as well try out. It couldn’t hurt.

Anyway, here are 2 of Katie Armiger’s songs, “Scream” and “Unseen.” I couldn’t pick one over the other.