Any way the wind blows.

Favorite TshirtI recently asked a friend about her favorite song— what was it and why? She couldn’t answer my question.

“I like a bunch of songs,” she replied. My husband, when I asked him a week later, gave me a similar response.

Yea, but which one, two, three, etc. is/are your all-time favorites? I consider favorite song/s to be a very telling trait of a person’s personality. Let me be clear, I don’t mean, “What’s your favorite song of today’s music?” More like, “What’s your favorite song/s of all time?”

While your favorite song may change depending on your mood, time of your life, or even day of the week, there most likely is an internal que — whether you realize it is there or not — of your most cherished songs. Songs that, when you hear them, create an almost magical effect and you can’t help but be 100 percent you. Everyone has a favorite song, or a few favorite songs, even if they don’t truly understand why or how.

I was asked on a job interview what my favorite animal was. My initial thought was, “Ok, weirdo.” But considering this was a job interview, I took a few seconds to give it some serious thought. I like dogs, but so do most people. I took into considering the fact that I don’t currently own one, and I normally only go gah-gah over cute, small dogs, which to me doesn’t mean I’m an all-around dog lover. Oh, and I’m slightly (kinda, sort of, like a lot) allergic to them. So there’s that.

In those few moments of silence, I thought, “What animal exists on this planet that I completely nerd out for? That I will scale the length of three kitchen chairs to quietly press my face to the window and internally squeal with excitement?”

The answer: bunnies.

I love bunnies. As a kid, I collected bunny figurines and stuffed animals. I read bunny books, like “Rabbits Rainy Day” (the first book I was ever given at the tender age of four) and “The Adventures of Peter Cottontail.” My favorite holiday was Easter. I say the word “bunny” as opposed to “rabbits,” because I grew up a Bugs Bunny fan. It just stuck.

When they asked me why, I had to pause again for a moment to reflect. I never owned rabbits, even though I secretly want to, especially now that I learned they can be house trained to use a litter box! I only ever experienced live-action bunnies in glimpses when my parents would drive down the road near our house or when I rode my bicycle. Specifically wild cottontail rabbits — I saw a puff of a tail here or a full body sight for two seconds before they disappeared into the grass, ditch, or soybean field across from our house.

Bunnies Chill under rose bushesIn Illinois, there was a cottontail bunny family that lived underneath a large grass mound at the edge of the golf course behind our house. Even now in Texas, we have a family of cottontail bunnies living underneath a large evergreen pine behind our house. There are three of them who enjoy our backyard in the evening, one of which can spend multiple days chilling underneath our rose bushes. Another chose to have her baby bunny nest in our backyard, which was not as fun of an experience as I hoped. I’m pretty sure at least one of the two babies survived. Both of which my husband and I stepped on. And our hearts broke.

To answer the question as to why I love bunnies: because they are cute, fast, smart, and can often go unnoticed. But even with all of their cuteness, they are still wild animals with the sole purpose of survival, which is to be respected. And if you don’t agree with me, read “Watership Down” and prepare to have your mind blown.

While I eventually didn’t get the job — I’m secretly glad I didn’t. It would have required me to write in a windowless room and not interact with people, which would have been a nightmare for me, even if it was only six minutes from my house. — I’m thankful to be provided the opportunity to reflect on the “favorite animal” question. Yes, in the moment I passed it off as a weird question. While it’s still not my preferred “favorite” question to ask, I recognize now in hindsight it’s far more insightful than I originally thought.

I find it funny that there are two different kinds of people: the ones who can easily recognize their favorite animal, but can’t recognize their favorite song as opposed to the ones who can easily recognize their favorite songs, but can’t recognize their favorite animal. So whichever question you find harder to answer, I ask that you dig in and really think about it — as seriously as I dug into the “favorite animal” question, even though I didn’t initially like it. Even if you think it’s dumb and meaningless, it can actually find some very valuable insights buried within yourself.

And while we’re at it, here is my list of favorite songs. The songs that when they come on the radio or pop up in my Pandora/Songza stations, cause me to totally lose my shit. I know the order of these songs will change depending on my mood, but they left impressions on my soul for the past 20-something years. I’m looking forward to, in time, adding songs to this list. Please keep in mind; I wasn’t able to immediately throw this song list onto the page. It’s been at least a week of my really grinding through it in my mind to create it.

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. This has been my favorite song since the seventh grade. I’m normally singing it in my head at least twice a week for no apparent reason. Much like how I have scenes from “The Little Mermaid” or “Aladdin” playing in my head, which is surprisingly often.
  2. Lip Gloss” by Little Mama. This is my Friday jam! Yes, I know it’s a song written by a 17-year-old girl about her lip gloss. But how perfect is that?! It takes me back to when I was in middle school, and my only care was about my lip gloss. And yes, even as a grown woman, I still get excited over my favorite shade of lip gloss. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is probably why I’m an Independent Beauty Consultant. Shocker, right?
  3. Take it Easy” by the Eagles. It soothes my soul. And that’s all there is to it.
  4. She’s in Love with the Boy” by Trisha Yearwood. This was the first taste of a love song I could relate to as a child. I was four years old when the song was first released, but it played on the radio for years. It wasn’t until middle school, when I had my first real crush, that I truly understood it. Also in middle school, I witnessed what my sister experienced with her first boyfriend and our overbearing mother. I knew the focus of the song was most likely a struggle I would experience first-hand. Yup, a self-fulfilling prophecy even as Kindergartener I knew would come to fruition.
  5. Vidalia” by Sammy Kershaw. Can you tell I was raised in the ‘90s by parents who loved country music? Sammy Kershaw was a local to the small town in Louisiana where I grew up. My mother went to high school with him, she had his CDs on repeat in her vehicles, and he played a concert in our town every year. It just sounds like home to me. Plus, it’s a song about a woman as compared to an onion — you can’t get more Louisiana than that.
  6. Faint” by Linkin Park. This is from my dark and brooding years in late high school. Just the fact that I describe it like that makes me laugh out loud! But that’s a story for another time. This song just lights my fire! Believe it or not, I’m a pretty anxious person on the inside. I hide it very well. When I’m feeling frustrated, weak, or experiencing crippling self-doubt, I listen or even just think about this song, head-bang a good bit, imagine a lyrical dance to it, and I feel better. It’s how I roll.
  7. Slow Motion” by Juvenile. This song goes completely against my firm stance of disgust for society’s objection of the female form and women in general. But it’s so damn catchy! My husband was the one who pointed out to me how I can’t help but dance in the car when this song comes on the radio. Whether I’m driving or not, it doesn’t matter. I will do a body roll and wiggle my butt in the car seat. Every. Single. Time.

Other favorites include “Dirty Laundry,” by Don Henley, “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John (and the Sara Bareilles version). But who really cares what my favorite songs are, you know? In all sincerity, I want to know what your favorite songs are and why! And while we’re at it, throw in your favorite animal. You may discover something new about yourself, or you’ll discover what your next pet will be. Either way, it’s a win-win.

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#PrayforLafayette

#PrayforLafayetteThere are no words sometimes.

Words to truly describe the loss of our daughters, our mothers, our sisters, our wives, our friends when they are taken too soon. No words to describe the feeling of agony when specifically such a sincere yet powerful creative spirit is stolen from a community. No words to define the internal struggle when the sense of safety is lost forever. No words to describe the pain that has been cast upon Lafayette by such a cowardly act.

But I have to try. Because it’s tearing me open from the inside out.

When acts of violence, domestic terrorism, hate crimes occur in this country, it’s easy to cast it away as if it could never happen to you, your home, your loved ones. This is a feeling Southwest Louisiana can never claim again. The town of Lafayette, recently deemed the “Happiest city in the U.S.” experienced its first of senseless acts of violence last night. A shooting at a movie theater that has since left two women dead, one in intensive care with five gunshot wounds, and six others injured.

All they know of the shooter thus far was that he was a 50 something-year-old drifter who was staying at a nearby hotel. He took his own life.

But I refuse to focus on him. I can’t. Because my heart and soul are mourning the loss of the women. I tried to type “victims” just now, and immediately deleted it. They are not victims. They are human beings. They are creators. They are friends. They are lovers. They are so much more than “victims.”

They were innocent bystanders to this one coward’s rage. They were engaging in the freedom of a good evening with friends, something that we Americans take for granted and never will again. One, treating herself to a funny movie with her best friend for some much-deserved girl time, while her husband and child awaited her return that evening. The other, enjoying a movie with her boyfriend during her summer break from college.

Lafayette is not a huge city, but with the rise of social media, it’s so much smaller than it used to be. I knew of one of the women who lost their lives yesterday. Although I never had the opportunity to meet her in person- she is the sister of an acquaintance and the friend of a cousin- I know of her spirit, her passion, her work, and her beautiful soul, all of which has inspired me more than she could ever know. My heart truly mourns for the loss of these wonderful people, and my prayers go out to their families and friends.

The struggle also exists in the loss of security. Southwest Louisiana, a.k.a Cajun Country, is known for its laissez-faire attitude and its “Laissez les bon temps roulez” approach to life. Many outsiders see it as a little piece of something special, different as compared to the outside world. Good food, good friends, good time. But to many, it is home. And when your home is stripped of its sense of safety, you fear.

#LafayetteStrongYou fear each other. You fear change. You fear resentment. You fear your home. It’s a very tragic feeling that is resonating in the hearts of so many right now.

The coward who is responsible for this tragedy, he wanted to incite fear and pain into the lives of others. I pray the fear is one day replaced by love. And while today, specifically, that may not be the case, I hope and pray that one day it will be. #PrayforLafayette

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 21:12

How to Politely Respond to Serious Shade

BuyMeLunchI recently experienced girl-on-girl hate. She threw some serious shade at me. I’ll admit, it came as a shock.

A little bit about me: I try to get along with everyone. It doesn’t matter their age, race, gender- whatever. None of that really matters, because we’re all human beings in this world, you know? I try to live my life through the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

I also think back to the Thumper analogy, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

I just returned from a large direct sales cosmetic company conference, which the focus is about Enriching Women’s Lives and celebrating people to success. To experience such unnecessary shade from a woman I didn’t even know, it was like a slap in the face.

Of course now I know what I would have said, because I was up half the night re-playing the scenario in my head. It would have sounded something like this, “I don’t think I properly introduced myself. My name is Kera Brossette, and I don’t let people talk to me like that. Your attempt to belittle me has not been taken lightly. I’d like to point out that you are a guest at this table, and I was asked to be here. So if there is somewhere you’d rather be, I suggest you go there.”

Did I say that? No.

Do I wish I did? Yes.

Define: throw shadeInstead, of standing up for myself, I sat there quietly with my head down as I processed what just happened. And then I ignored it. Something tells me other people ignore these types of rude comments from this woman, which is why she feels empowered to voice them.

It bothers me that I gave this woman, who I didn’t know and who clearly has no respect for me, to have power over me. Her few words kept me up half the night, just stewing and oozing in my subconscious. I refuse to let someone have that kind of control of me in the future.

To help myself and those, who like me, are slow to process hateful shade, I want to share a few words of advice that I’ve found from researching this topic.

  1. Either Respond or Don’t. Keep in mind that some comments are rude without intent to harm you. He or she may not know any better. But when a comment is targeted at you, and you are personally insulted or feel belittled by the comment, he or she has a right to know that.
  2. If you do choose to respond, Speak Assertively. Assertive does not mean aggressive. Speak with power and confidence to show the bully you are not a push-over. Be careful not to add insult to injury, or you may entice the bully to continue with his or her shade.
  3. Share your Feelings. A person may disagree with your opinion, but he or she cannot disagree with the way their words made you feel. Also, this technique assists to help those who are so blatantly unaware of how their actions affect other people.
  4. Disengage when Necessary. The aggressor may be quick to suck you into his/her own toxic behavior. I suggest either walking away or giving the bully an excuse to leave/exit strategy.

I also came across some recommended comebacks, some of which I don’t agree with. So I give you my edited, slimmed-down version of successful responses to difficult people. You can read the full list of 12 comebacks for dealing with difficult people. Tell me what you think of my version of their list, and their list while we’re at it, in the comments.

  • Excuse me, but did you actually just say… (Feelings Summary with Assertiveness)
  • Well, I think we’ve reached the end of this conversation. (Disengage)
  • Did you mean to be that rude? (Assertiveness)
  • I think that was a bit rude or You just offended me (Feelings Summary with Assertiveness)
  • I’m sure you didn’t mean for that (question) to be rude /inappropriate, but that’s how it sounded. (Assertive)
  • I don’t really know how to answer that. (Disengage)

I have been told that the most successful women lift each other up. Powerful women don’t walk over others, they celebrate them. They are the type of women who recognize talent and choose to mentor for the purpose of work improvement or succession training.

The sad reality is this is not always the case. Remember, the only way to vanquish the workplace and non-workplace bullies out there is to show them you are not one to be bullied and to stand up to injustice.

Things that make you go, “Ewwww.”

We could tell when we pulled in the parking lot; this town’s chicken finger restaurant was mostly a “youth” destination. But I love chicken fingers and dipping sauce, and so we didn’t hesitate. Just as we walked in, I remember mentioning to my husband over my shoulder, “There are a lot of teenagers in here.” That was all.

After we ordered our chicken boxes, I choose to go to the bathroom to help “make the food come.” This is a common practice I enjoy, because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s worth a shot.

As I’m walking to the public restroom of the fast-food restaurant, I couldn’t help but hear a conversation among a group of what sounded like high school girls getting together over summer break. You know what I mean. It’s about five or six girls and they all are wearing t-shirts, too-short shorts, and flip flops, with the exception of one who is trying harder than the rest. Messy pony tails/buns with an over-use of curse words.

Just passing by their table made me giggle a little. We all remember what it was like to be like in a group of teenagers: laughing too loud, over-analyzing everything, harshly judging everyone, and cursing to sound cool. Now let me clarify, I hated high school kids back when I was in high school. To recognize that stage of life, as a “been there, done that; I’m about to turn 30” moment felt almost sentimental. I know moments like that will happen over and over in my life, so I took it in.

After using the bathroom like a normal human being, I was washing my hands at the sink with my best former public health employee etiquette as I could muster (like flush the toilet with my foot, turn off the faucet with a hand napkin- all that jazz). I should mention that I don’t consider myself a germophobe. My husband is a germophobe. For example, he makes me wash my hands as soon as I get home, will disinfect the shopping cart, can’t handle raw meat- kind of germophobe. But when you work in the public health field, you can’t help but know too much. Let’s just say I learned way more about oral-fecal transmission that the average person, and I am more wary because of it.

I was still in the middle of my 20-second “Birthday Song” hand wash, when one of the teenagers from the table in the restaurant flew through the door and dodged right into a stall. No biggie.

But then I heard it, and my eyes widen in disgust. She put her keys/wallet combination and her cell phone on the floor of the public restroom while she used the stall<insert: cringe and dry heave>.

I had a silent battle in my head, mostly filled with, “Hasn’t anyone ever taught you not to do that!” Think about it for a second. We’re in a fast-food restaurant where you eat chicken fingers and french fries with your hands. Even after she washes her hands, the bathroom floor scum will be on her cell phone and her wallet, which she will carry back with her to the table. And then proceed to eat her chicken fingers with piss-stained hands. This is how public health outbreaks begin, people!

I want to use this story as an example of what not to do and provide 5 fast facts about public bathroom hygiene:

  1. The toilet seat is not the dirtiest part of the restroom. While most dangerous germs found on toilet seats are the likes of Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and E. coli, those germs can only harm you if provided direct contact with your genital tract, or unless they enter through a cut or sore on your lower extremities. Also, keep in mind that germs don’t survive very long on the surface of the toilet seat because they are disinfected often.
  2. Beware of the spray. When you flush the toilet, a powerful spray is flung in all directions. This spray contains the remnants of the contents of the bowl (your stuff) along with any other lingering bacteria (other people’s stuff). Not awesome. It’s advised that you close the lid before you flush while at home. Or if you in a public restroom without a lid, open the door before you flush so you can quickly get out of the way of the poop spray.
  3. The underside of the toilet seat and the floor is the germiest surface. Ah ha, no here’s the kicker! These surfaces are cleaned the fewest times during public business hours. The floor can contain the worst of the worst type of germs: strep, staph, E-coli, coliform, rotavirus, and MRSA virus (which is potentially fatal). Remember, there is usually a hook on the door in ladies’ bathroom stalls for a reason: to hold a purse. And if there isn’t a hook in the stall, you can keep your purse around your shoulders. Or in the case of youths who don’t carry purses, at least the top of the toilet paper dispenser! The sad truth: keeping your phone/wallet in your own lap or in your hands while you use the restroom is cleaner than setting it on the floor, because it only comes into contact with your own germs. When you set it on the floor, it comes into contact with everyone else’s germs.
  4. The second-to-most germ-infested surfaces in restrooms are where your hands touch most often. Think toilet flush handle, stall lock, faucet surfaces, soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser, just to name a few. What’s most surprising is that the place where you wash your hands may be the most likely for bacteria because the water keeps the germs alive. When possible, use a barrier to touch these surfaces, like using your foot to flush the toilet and using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
  5. There is a right way to wash your hands, which also means there is a wrong way. The wrong way is to simply put the fingertips under running water and call them clean. Honey child, you ain’t fooling anyone when you do that. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises you rub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds (which is determined either by counting or by singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head). Be sure to scrub both sides of your hands, and get in between your fingers and under the nails. When soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer. But keep in mind that over-use of hand sanitizer in between hand washings will leave a film on your hands that actually attract germs.

And here’s the Cliff Notes-version for all you skimmers out there: leave the stall as quickly as you can after you flush to avoid contact with “the spray.” Don’t put anything on the floor of a public restroom. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a paper towel, and use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door handle.

Congratulations, you survived a trip to the public restroom! You’re welcome.

Transplant Profile: Kera in Illinois

*This article was originally published on March 31, 2014 by Staying Southern.net, created by Lauren Creagan, and can be found at http://stayingsouthern.net/2014/03/31/transplant-profile-kera-in-illinois/*

Lousiana Rice Field
Photo by Kera, taken while riding in a car.

Name: Kera Simon Brossette (pronounced “See-maw” “Bro-say” in Louisiana and apparently nowhere else)

Born: Kaplan, Louisiana

Occupation: Communication Specialist for the county health department

I currently live in: Bloomington, Illinois

When I go back to the South: I look out of the window a lot more than when I grew up there. I find myself getting excited to see an egret. Those creatures I grew up dodging as a teenager driving on my way from school are somewhat weird and foreign to me now, and I hate that. These little things that I took for granted when I was young are so special to me now, more than they’ve ever been. Spanish moss hanging from the trees, sunlight gleaming off the crawfish ponds and rice fields, the smell of crawfish boiling, pulling up at a gas station and ordering boudin– it’s the little things.

When I go back, I always: Stop at Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers first (and will schedule driving stops around the nearest Raising Cane’s).

I miss: Meeting a person for the first time, and then hugging them when you leave!

Being Southern has helped me: Connect with people on a human level. I’m an open book, and I show my faults mostly through humor, because that’s the only way I know how. I’m also honest with people and show sincerity — that’s how I was raised to find a friend in everyone.

Morsel of wisdom to other Transplant Southerners: Learn how to cook the meals you grew up loving! There will be some trials, some errors, and some big fat failures. But, when you finally get it right, it’s all so worth it! Plus, it will help you keep your sanity when your Southern friends post all of their meal pictures on social media.

The Proposal – 2011

Mornin' SunshineIt was just another day at the beach for me. Rayce woke me up the day after our five-year anniversary with a smile on his face. He rubbed my back, like he always does, to coax me out of sleep. I opened my eyes to sunlight streaming through the French doors directly in front of my bed. I smiled at him, sat up and looked straight out of the doors to the beach that lay outside. We were on vacation with his family at Gulf Shores, Ala., and it was time to drink some French vanilla coffee.

The day before, like I said, was our five-year anniversary.  I woke him up that morning in the room across a living area from mine. We didn’t share the same room when we stayed with his family, because we’re not married. We didn’t do much the day of our anniversary, since it was the first full-fledge sunny day at the beach after one day of straight rain and then cloudy skies. Rayce and I hung out at the beach the entire day with his family. We held hands; we even walked down the beach to look at the fancy houses in a gated community just passed the 11-room rental beach house in which we were staying.

That night, Rayce and I dined out at a restaurant in Orange Beach. I love his family, but it was nice to just be with him for a little while. That night, I begged him to spend the night in my room since it was our five-year anniversary and his family would never know. He told me it was against the rules, so I went to bed while he stayed up and talked with his cousins. I didn’t mind that much, because I love him.

But all that was on Tuesday, our anniversary. On Wednesday, July 20, the day after our anniversary, my vacation took a drastic turn which sent me on a roller coaster of emotion, because of which I couldn’t be happier.

After I ate some breakfast casserole his family made, I took my French vanilla coffee to the porch swing. The days prior, Rayce and I sat out on the second-story swing to read the news on our phones, while I finished my second cup of coffee. The swing faced the road and was outside of Rayce’s bedroom, which he shared with his male cousin and his cousin’s golfing buddy. I told him on this day that if he asked me to marry him within the next year, we could share a bedroom on the next family vacation. He laughed, and I didn’t mind because I love him.

We made it out to the beach around 10:30 a.m., which we discovered was a little too early, because the breeze hadn’t kicked in. I wore my new Victoria Secret bikini, which I only bought because I thought it would make my boobs look good—which it did. It’s the only bikini I own with sequence on it. It’s a light turquoise color, and I deemed it my “Princess Jasmine if-she-was-a-stripper” bikini.

I wanted more of a tan, so I sat my beach chair out in the sun, while Rayce lounged underneath an umbrella. I downed a bottle of water, and he went through two beers. I was pretty eager to go on our walk, which we determined we’d do every day to get some exercise, because I thought it would help cool me off. I didn’t want to get in the water, because I worked so hard earlier coating myself in SPF 30 sunscreen. I asked Rayce a few times if he was ready to go on our walk, and he told me later. But I didn’t mind, because I love him.

Almost to noon, Rayce walked back up to the beach house to use the bathroom, and he told me that when he returned we would go on our walk. I fell into sort of a heat-induced coma at this point. I heard his mother’s cell phone go off a few times, but didn’t think much about it because I was too hot.

By the time Rayce came back to the beach, it was my turn to use the restroom. When I returned to the beach, Rayce was already standing and pointed in the direction we walked the two previous days. I told him maybe we should walk in the other direction to see the other part of the beach. He said he wanted to walk in the same direction as the past two days, because he likes to look at the big fancy beach houses and dream.

Stoll on the beachRayce stood closer to the water and took my left hand. He told me as we started our walk that we didn’t hold hands enough the day before on our anniversary. I said “Hell yes, you didn’t hold my hand enough.” I’m pretty sure I did a little skip as I said it, too.

As we walked past the big beach houses in the gated community, we talked about what we liked or didn’t like about each one. There were about 10 beach-facing houses we evaluated. We agreed on the one with a greenish Spanish-tiled roof and a large bay window as our favorite. After the last house, the beach turns into a wildlife sanctuary. A little barbed wire fence expands the length of the sanctuary, of which we walked a good ways past. We saw a snorkeler who was meandering his way in the same direction as us just a few feet into the water. Rayce seemed very annoyed by his presence.

Look at all dem fishesBecause the wildlife sanctuary was right behind us, there were a bunch of heron birds, some as tall as to my shoulder, watching for fish as the waves broke the shore. I found these majestic creatures very distracting, as I was both fascinated by them and scared of them. Rayce said he’d protect me if one would come after me, which I thought was cute. Rayce spotted a log and suggested we sit and rest there. I thought that was a splendid idea, that way I could get better pictures of the herons.

The day before when Rayce and I took our walk down the beach, I collected a few seashells. When we were sitting on the log, he spotted a shell right behind him he thought I’d like. I mean, sure it was in good condition—not too broken or anything—but even with it sitting halfway in the sand, I could tell it didn’t have anything special to it. I need a wow-factor, some kind of cool design or odd coloring, to pick up a shell. So I told him I didn’t want it. He kept egging on, like “Are you sure?” I didn’t mind, because I love him. But I didn’t take the shell.

“Rayce, that shell looks like crap.”

Then he turns around and points out a cork sticking out of the sand near where the non-impressive shell was.

Buried bottle, y'allOh my goodness, I completely nerded-out at this point. I got so excited that we found a bottle buried in the sand—just like in the movies! After I dug it out with my hands, I saw there was a little note inside. “Oh boy,” I thought, “it’s going to be a letter, and we’re going to respond to the letter and bury it back!”

I told Rayce maybe we should wait to open it at the beach house so we could share the surprise with his family. He said it could be a love letter or something not meant for us, so we should open it there and return it if needed. I was too excited to argue, and I didn’t mind because I love him.

He opened the bottle for me, because I couldn’t get it open. When I had the little rolled-up note in my hand, I remember laughing while saying, “Oh wow, look! Psh, someone burned the edges to make it look old. But clearly it’s not old, because it’s wrapped up with a bread twist-tie.” I’m a little bitch sometimes.

I was a little confused when I opened the note, because I was expecting a letter format. But it wasn’t. It was a few sentences written in seemingly familiar hand-writing which read, “Five years ago, I was hopelessly trying to figure out how to ask you out. Now for the past few months, I’ve been going crazy waiting to ask you this…”

The first thing that popped into my head as I was reading the note was, “That’s weird. Somebody’s trying to ask someone out on the freakin beach?!” When I turned to express that thought to Rayce, he was down on one knee with a little black box in his hand.

He could see my deer-in-headlight eyes through my sunglasses. For a split second, I remember thinking, “That better not be earrings in that box!” He then asked, “Kera, will you marry me?” as he opened the box to reveal a ring.

My heart started racing, completely shocked at what was taking place. My mouth was wide open, with my eyebrows practically touching my hairline.

“Er… Are you serious?” were the first words that came out of my mouth. Yes, when being proposed to on the beach by the man I love, I say that. Mais jamais.

He goes, “Don’t I look serious?” And then I really looked at the ring, a marquee-cut yellow gold diamond ring. Mind you, we hadn’t previously looked at rings, but I made it quite clear since the spring what I wanted—a marquee-cut diamond in yellow gold; not a three-stone ring, but not a solitaire.

I stared with my mouth still wide open and started crying and laughing.

He goes, “Well, you need to answer my question.”

And I yelled, “Yes, yes, yes! I’ll marry you!”

We hugged, kissed, and I brushed the sand off of my hands in order for him to put the ring on, which fit perfectly. We then sat and discussed whether or not we were ready for this, how he couldn’t wait for me to find a job in Bloomington and how he’s been scheming since the fall of last year. He had the ring since March. He asked my for my parents’ permission to marry me when he went down to Louisiana by himself at the beginning of May for a friend’s wedding. They had to keep it a secret when I visited them at the end of May for my birthday.

Everyone at the beach house knew. EVERYONE, which explains why his cousins and sister weren’t really talking to me—they didn’t want to let it slip! His mom’s phone kept ringing because the people in the house kept asking questions and they were trying to coordinate our walk with unannounced visitors. He got up at 6 a.m. to write the note; his step dad burned the edges, and he and his mom buried the bottle that morning. We walked down the beach the day before so he could scout-out a spot and get me used to taking mid-day beach walks.

I tried to contain my composure as we walked back to the beach house. I kept thinking, “I’m engaged!” And that feeling of anxiety since everyone in the beach house were waiting for our return.

Yea, that composure—I totally lost it as soon as we stepped through the beach house doors and everyone yelled in celebration. Rayce’s mom came up and hugged me and I cried, hard. I showed the ring to his family, and we took a few pictures, even though I knew I looked like a hot-mess with my red nose, watery eyes and falling-apart braid. Then Rayce reminded me I needed to call my mom, because she knew to expect a call after 1 p.m.

I could barely work my touch-screen phone because my hands were shaking so much. I called my mom and it just kept ringing. I said out loud, “C’mon Rita Mae,” while thinking, “This is a very important call. Pick up the phone!” and not looking forward to having to explain the whole experience over the phone.

Just as I was getting impatient, my mother, father and sister round the corner of the kitchen. My mouth dropped open. Gosh damn it, he did it again!

I cried for what seemed like a thousand times more as I hugged my family, who traveled from Louisiana in secret that morning to share in my engagement. Rayce was scheming with my sister, Jena, to make it happen. Rayce’s dad even showed up!

I reread the note for everybody to hear, but I got choked up when I read the second sentence, to which I informed them through my tears, “Oh, you can read it.” I called my friends to tell them the news before they saw Rayce’s cousins’ posts on Facebook.

And that’s it. My parents stayed at the beach house over night and left the following evening after spending time on the beach, watching Jena and me parasail and eating ice cream. Jena stayed with me until Saturday, when we left for Illinois and his family drove back to Louisiana.

Since that day, I’ve been in awe of Rayce and the amount of effort he put into the proposal. He takes great care of the things he loves, which is evident by this story. I knew he loved me, but that proposal showed the extent of that love, which I am honored to have, and how far he’ll go to prove that love through time and effort. I never thought a man could love me that much.

I gotta tell you, I notice everything I do with my left hand now because of the ring. I find myself staring into it at times, amazed that he kept it from me for so long in order to give it to me at just the right moment. It’s the most perfect ring I never imagined owning. It’s pretty noticeable, but classy. And it’s beautiful, like his love for me.

We don’t have a date set (I don’t even know what season I want to get married in). We don’t know where the ceremony will be (somewhere in Louisiana, but our families are three hours away from each other, which could be troublesome). Regardless of our current cluelessness, I’m sure it’s going to be a great, surprise-filled journey together.

Which I don’t mind, because I love him.

Celebration of life and what most likely will be – 2011

During my work week reporting whatever is thrown at me, I’m in some pretty awkward or otherwise uncomfortable situations. If it wasn’t for my sense of humor. And Friday was a doozy, but luckily it involved the demographic I’m oddly comfortable with thanks to the years I tagged along with my mother on her home health visits.

I’m talking about elderly people. I get along really well with elderly people.

Now if you’re reading this at the age of 50 or 60-something and are starting to get offended by my 20-something-year-old babble, cool your jets, please. I attended a birthday party for a 104-year-old and a 106-year old. I can call them old.

HappyOldLadyI was invited to the party held at one of the nursing homes in the town I work in as a member of the local media to highlight the special occasion. Among the two century-plus January birthday residents were other residents who were 90 or older present to partake in the festivities.

The residents enjoyed sweets—cake, chocolate covered strawberries, donut holes— and were entertained by the local middle school choir (which was actually much better than what you are thinking of right now). Some chatted with visiting relatives, while others snoozed in their wheelchairs. One 90-year-old woman with a mustache told me how she would much rather a sandwich than cake, because she was really hungry. Another had to wipe the drool from her mouth every time she formed the letter “s.”

One woman and I had a make-believe conversation, as I struggled to ask for her name since she was in the background of one of my photos. I didn’t understand what she was saying, and it was pretty obvious that she had no idea what I was talking about either. But we held hands and smiled at each other for about a minute, exchanging dialog that neither of us understood.

When the nurse stepped in to help, she asked me, “Are you alright?”

I answered, “Oh yea, we’re fine. We’re just having a pretend conversation.”

I did not find humor in these occurrences at the time, and I still don’t (well, it was funny when the make-believe conversation lady spit her tongue at me. I laughed). I’m just trying to paint a scene for you.

But what I did find hilarious and inspiring was one 90-plus-year-old lady who was happily making train sounds. She wasn’t making them to herself. She wasn’t sitting quietly letting conversations go on around her. No. She had something to tell you. And she told everyone, “The train in Naplate goes woo-wooo every night!”

This lady—who was very little with no teeth and sat in a bed-like wheelchair to accommodate her crippling body—belted “woooo-woooooooooooo” and she didn’t care what you thought.

I’d also like to point out that the 104-year-old man and the 106-year-old woman were very coherent. They knew what was going on. They’d answer your questions and reflected on their lives (but neither one could hear worth a damn).

If I had the opportunity to choose which of the extremes I’d like to be if I mature beyond 90 years, of course I’d chose the sharp-as-a-tack, walks-around-the-nursing-home-for-exercise, out-lived-both-of-her-husbands 106-year-old woman.

But something tells me that I’ll probably end up like the woman yelling “wooo-wooo” in the corner to anyone who will listen. And I hope when that day comes, a silly camera-wielding reporter will make the same horn-pulling gestures I did to acknowledge that someone did listen.

Resolutions, sort of – 2011

In case you don’t already know, I made my friends’ Valentine’s Day card this year. I spent about six hours in a span of two day pouring all of my creativity into the cards, and I’m very proud of them. But most of you don’t know why.

For the New Year that just passed, instead of creating resolutions that I’d never stick to or personality goals that I use as a cop-out, I made a bucket list. My list consists of five very seemingly average things that I have never done but I have made a goal to do this year. Most of these came out of a conversation with a co-worker, Greta. Here is what I wrote about it in the Jan. 6 edition of Ottawa Delivered.

“1. Sleep in a tent — I had very bad allergies as a child and my mom was a nurse, so I’ve never slept outside in a tent or at an overnight camp. Plus, my dad is not a Boy Scout or a hunter, and neither is my boyfriend. Maybe my boyfriend and I will attempt an overnight stay in one of the many local parks, but I doubt it. So I plan to buy a tent and set it up in the back yard. Hey, I’m all for baby steps.

2. Dye Easter eggs — Greta was shocked when I let this one slip. My parents aren’t crafty and as said before, were not into holidays. So Greta invited me to her mother-daughter tradition of Easter-egg dying in April this year. Bring it on Mrs. Lieske, I’m a fast learner.

3. Make my own Valentine’s Day cards — I don’t think this one is very shocking. My valentines in school were all store-bought. But I made my own Christmas cards this year, so why not tackle the holiday I despise the most for the sake of checking off a resolution?

4. Utilize a public laundromat — Another one that surprised Greta. Excuse me for always having access to a clothes washer and dryer. Technically, my apartment even has a washer and dryer on site that is shared among eight apartment residents, but I’ll let Greta take me to the one she goes to. It’s called staff bonding. That’s how we roll.

5. Ice skate — I’m not sure how I missed this one, honestly. My friends had ice-skating parties when I grew up, but I always seemed to miss them. But since I now live in the frozen north, I’m pretty sure I can’t get away this one for very long.”

The Buggy Incident- 2010

Rayce and I visited my friends who live two states away. Our plan was to meet half-way between our 5-hour distance. The only problem was I forgot about the time change. What was supposed to be a two and half hour trip turned into technically a 4 hour trip (one way, which included traffic) with only one hour of visitation. And then turn around and go back (gaining our hour back, but still). Because of my lack of planning and understand of HOW TIME WORKS. Dang it.

After our visit was complete, we decided to use the bathroom in the Wal-Mart directly across the street before we hit the road. The bathrooms in the back of Wal-Marts are usually the cleanest.

Right after Rayce parked his car and turned off the engine in the Wal-Mart parking lot, I noticed a shopping cart being pushed by the strong wind heading directly towards the front passenger side of Rayce’s car.

Now stop. Before I tell you the actions that followed that brief moment, let me first tell you about Rayce and his car.

I remember when I first pulled into the parking lot on my first date with Rayce, the first thing I noticed was his truck. It was nice. It was clean. It was lowered. He had fancy wheels.

I thought, “Oh no, he’s a truck guy.”

And I was right.

Rayce read truck magazines. He was an online truck forum. He researched ways to properly clean his truck to not scratch it. He had a closet devoted to his truck’s cleaning supplies. He bought a buffer (and uses it about twice a year) to polish the truck’s paint to get rid of the scratches. He avoided puddles in a parking lot if he had just washed his truck. He and his dad performed all the maintenance and alterations to his truck (more male bonding). He parks in the farthest corner from all other cars everywhere we go (so careless idiots don’t put a door into it or rub their purses on it). He bought a supercharger for his truck (that was very expensive) that only lasted 6 months. He bought 22-inch wheels for the truck (which were very expensive) that he has yet to sell. He’s only raced with me in the truck once (and that’s all it took for him to never do that with me in the vehicle ever again).

Luckily he’s not an asshole-y truck guy. He wouldn’t put tacky stickers or fake accessories on his truck and brag about it. He wouldn’t egg-on a race with someone (everyone did it to him. No seriously, they would). He wouldn’t cruise around town in his “cool truck.”

His care for vehicles is obvious, but when you really get down to it—he takes care of what’s important to him. Any large investment, even the dehumidifier for the basement, he takes time to research online to find exactly what he wants. His CDs and cell phone have no scratches on them. He washes his bedsheets every week. He takes his shoes off at the door. (All of these traits will make him an excellent husband)

So, when it was time for him to purchase his own vehicle and sell his beloved truck his father gave to him, he—like he always does—researched. He found the one vehicle that he was totally ga-ga for and can recite every detail about it from where it came from, its engine power, its gas mileage and why the window controls are in the center instead of on the door (and since I’m his girlfriend, so can I). His Halo and Xbox accounts are named after it. When introduced to neighbors, he was referred to as “the guy with the black car,” to a nodding response of “Ohhh, yea.”

3__Runaway-Shopping-CartSo this beloved car, that he purchased with his own money and has cared for through the winter (even though it killed him to drive it with all the salt on the roads), was in danger. A torpedo was in the water, and it was a wind-propelled Wal-Mart buggy aimed right at us.

I saw it first. I gasped, “Oh no!” My protection instincts took over. With reflexes like a f***ing ninja, I opened the door as quickly as I could and tried to put myself between the buggy and Rayce’s four-wheeled darling. I held out my hands to take the blow of the shopping cart as it speeded its way to impact. I managed to stop it right before it hit the opened door. My right hand and wrist hurt from the force.

And that was it. I laughed about how close of a call that was and walked the buggy back to the cart-rack so it wouldn’t get caught again in the wind.

When I get back to the car to get my purse, Rayce is standing by his car with the driver’s door still open. He says four words that made me feel like the best girlfriend in the world.

“You are f***ing awesome.”

The look on his face was priceless. He was impressed/shocked/happy/excited. He told me (and I truly believe him) that he never loved me as much as he did in that moment. He wanted to buy me something.

It’s crazy the things that you love about a person. I don’t love the fact that Rayce makes me walk such a long ways because he parks so far from the door. I don’t love having to talk him out of buying something for his car (which I do far less now than I did back when he had his truck). I don’t love when it takes him all weekend to detail his car.

But I do respect him for it. It’s who he is, and he will never change. All I can do is support him, because I love him and know how important it is to him.

I will gladly step in front of 500 shopping carts in order to keep him happy.