Saturday, June 18, 2016

lumos.

It took us 7 hours to drive from Atlanta to Orlando to start the last bit, and spotlighting feature, of our vacation. Hours passed, and while I tried to wrap my mind around Orlando, I could barely comprehend that what happened had indeed happened. I kept my eyes open from the time we passed under the sign that read, "Welcome to Florida - THE SUNSHINE STATE" until we left. It seemed unfair that a state that boasts its brightness should have to endure such darkness.



“Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” - Albus Dumbledore

I fancy myself someone who believes in spreading love and positivity - to be a light for others. I may not always be the best light or the brightest light, but a light I try to be. It's an obligation I've taken upon myself from a young age; the sense of urgency was instilled in me from different influences ranging from (but not limited to) church, my favorite Switchfoot lyrics, personal healing and books like Harry Potter. Only a couple of days before we headed for Orlando for our second honeymoon to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, two tragedies occurred that shook me to my core: one the murder of Christina Grimmie, the other the massacre of an LGBTQ safe haven. Lives taken so quickly.

What I saw rise from it all was something greater, though: flags at half mast, colors and rainbows decorating buildings and sidewalks, pride parades stubbornly and bravely marching on, and people appreciating what and who they have. Love. When I think about the people in my life whom I love, I think about our laughs, our hugs, our smiles, our "I love you"s. I'm thinking about the love they give me, and the love I try to give them in return. And despite how hard it can be sometimes to see it, we all deserve happiness. We all deserve those moments of light.

Even now I sit in a strange limbo where I foolishly want to believe I'm somehow safe from all of this, even when it's so close to me. Before our long drive down - hours of these thoughts haunting me - I was comforted by family that said it wouldn't happen in an actual park. Not with so many people, in broad daylight, and so much security. As if that changed or meant anything for the events that transpired before. We're all just grasping for comfort and hope amidst disaster. Danger is always a distant feeling until it's staring you in the face. We can't predict what others will do, but what we learn from all of this matters more.

Orlando drew nearer, and I looked to the sky. Hues of blue, purple and orange were setting against the clouds. To my left was a rainbow - a double-rainbow even. "An arc of spectral colors, usually identified as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, that appears in the sky opposite the sun as a result of the refractive dispersion of sunlight in drops of rain or mist." A show of light, peace, resolve, promise.

Monday evening, after the events in Orlando, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando held a night vigil at Hogwarts castle. Everyone lifted their wands and lights in respect of those lost. Just as everyone at Hogwarts had done when Dumbledore's life was lost. Knowing this warmed every part of me, but also broke my heart tremendously.

I got a simple spell today: "Lumos." The spell of light. Because it reminds me of Dumbledore's words, of flags at half mast, of spectral light beaming across a tearing sky, of the hugs I've shared, of billboards that say "#OrlandoStrong" or "#OrlandoUnited" in remembrance of neighbors, of singing "Love alone is worth the fight!" at the top of my lungs, of To Write Love on Her Arms, of God's love, of your love, of my love, of the love and brightness I see when - days after tragedy - Tripp and I celebrate our love through a replica of a story that taught us love (HP world). We may not be able to stop all tragedy, but we can certainly fight against it with love. I didn't just get this for Orlando, but Orlando made me realize that I had been sitting on it for too long.

We can be a light for a world. We can brighten shadows. We can BE love. Please, please, please hold onto your light.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Vacation VI: That Time I Got Drunk In Diagon Alley

Okay. So I didn't get totally drunk.

I did get a buzz, though.



But really, get the fire whisky paired with apple cider (if you're of-age). Yes, I was also drinking butterbeer at the time. It's not alcoholic. It's okay.








It was our last day in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We will be back (again, again), though. <3

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Vacation V



Harry’s head was swimming. Hagrid, meanwhile, was counting bricks in the wall above the trash can. “Three up... two across...” he muttered. “Right, stand back, Harry.” He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella. The brick he had touched quivered — it wriggled — in the middle, a small hole appeared — it grew wider and wider — a second later they were facing an archway large enough even for Hagrid, an archway onto a cobbled street that twisted and turned out of sight. “Welcome,” said Hagrid, “to Diagon Alley.” 
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 5: Diagon Alley 




I still feel very lucky that I am in a time where an entire world that I have known and loved for years is tangible. I can visit Grimmauld Place, Gringott's, Honeydukes, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Sugarplum's, the Three Broomsticks, Hog's Head, the Leaky Cauldron, Madam Malkin's, Ollivander's, Gregorovitch's wand shop, the Owl Post, Quality Quidditch Supplies, take the Hogwarts Express and see and explore a bit of Hogwarts. I can be there.

There are so many other places and experiences that I am missing when I list the ones above, and I've done this before when it was just Hogsmeade. But I hadn't been back since. Coming home is such a wonderful feeling. I still have two more days to bounce between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and I feel so, so lucky to be here and see this. I feel so, so lucky to be with Tripp seeing this. I even crept into Knockturn Alley for a few darker kicks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Vacation IV

Because we can't forget about the little faces of our vacation:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Vacation III: That Time I Cut My Hair

THAT TIME I CUT MY HAIR! While things have been very busy for us - three days in Valdosta, three days in Atlanta, and soon to be a trip to Universal Studios - we have been doing our best to see as much family as we can, while occasionally slipping in some friend time that we can. But really, that's been incredibly limited. What time we did have to devote, there were a few people on our list we knew we needed to hit that were basically family. My best friend Chelsea was one of them. And, per our conversation some months ago, Chelsea cut my hair into a "layered lob" for the summer! This is the shortest my hair has been in years. (Seriously, I think I was a kid the last time, and it was only this short because my mom was tired of how thick my hair was and made me cut it off.) It's a strange adjustment, but I'm really loving it. I'm sure that I will let it grow out again, though. For context, this is what my hair looked like before while straightened, at least (you can also see it in previous posts). It's so nice to have something so low maintenance now.

In addition to that time with Chelsea, I had a dinner with her family - who are basically my second or third-family - met up with an old professor, and spent a lot of time with Tripp's family. I touched on that in my last post, but I definitely left out the trips to Zaxby's, Chick-Fil-A, only hinted at the trip to Cracker Barrel, making time for a lunch with a friend at Barberitos, and how I still feel like there's 20-million other places that we haven't been that I would like to go back to before we leave. Since arriving in Atlanta, the focus has been on my family, and having a nice brunch with Melody and her - now our - friends Liz and Victoria at a place in Griffin. When people visit me, our focus point for a visit is around food. Either I am cooking you something, we're cooking together, or we're hitting up a great spot together. I did not expect the same treatment. Honestly, I was content and hopeful for those places we've missed. But Melody surprised me by taking me to Griffin for a place called Baker Street Cafe that had an excellent pimento, cheese and tomato eggs Benedict. I almost threw down on a mimosa because hey-o its brunch! But I was doing that thing on my list in my last post about catching up on my water intake, so I didn't have time. My parents even took us to a place in Madison called Town 220 that I'm really surprised isn't in Seattle somewhere. It seems like it'd be a great fit. Their crab cakes starter and their veal entree just melted in your mouth. It's been so nice coming home. Even if the heat is slowly killing us. I just wish I had enough foresight to get more pictures of more people.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Vacation II



Things we have learned so far on our vacation:

  1. There is absolutely a such thing as "coming home." 
  2. You can finally reach a heavenly place that will serve you grits and sweet tea and won't look at you sideways for asking for it. (In other words, I'm happy we are back in Georgia where sometimes food just makes more sense.) 
  3. We forgot that your car feeling like an oven after sitting in the parking lot for 10 minutes is a thing. 
  4. Sleep is very important.
  5. So is staying hydrated with actual water. No, sweet tea isn't a substitute, as it turns out. 
  6. As much as you want to eat the rest of that country fried steak you brought home at 11:30 p.m., wait until tomorrow's lunch. Your stomach will thank you. 
  7. Meeting up with old friends is good, but make sure the maximum amount of your time is spent devoted to family. 
  8. Spend quiet time together whenever you can, it may not come often when you're visiting others. 
  9. Sleep is very important. 
  10. Sleep.
More to come.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Vacation



Sometimes, the best thing for your mental health is to get away to somewhere familiar. Tripp and I have headed South for Georgia to spend time with family. It's so nice being back. (We're also going to be taking a second honeymoon to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.) More pictures and posts soon!