Monday, March 21, 2011

the power of four.

Listening To: Cinder and Smoke by Iron & WineLine Obsession: Kendra stared out the window of the SUV, watching the foliage blur past. When the flurry of motion became too much, she looked up ahead and fixed her gaze on a particular tree, following it as it slowly approached, streaked past, and then gradually receded behind her. Was life like that? You could look ahead to the future or back at the past, but the present moved too quickly to absorb. - from Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Shadow Mountain, 2006

Hey there lovelies. Sorry for last week's unexpected hiatus. This here blog will be sparse for a couple of weeks while I throw my heart into the Connection chat. I'll tell you more about it as the day draws closer. I've received some emails and comments asking about possible recordings from the session I'll be doing. (Which is titled: If Cinderella Wore Cowboy Boots) (Heh. :) You people are so sweet. Recordings will not be available (cause it's just a small session) (and cause it's me leading it) BUT I will do my best to recap what I'm talking about, and write about it on here. You just won't have my twang to go with it.
It's a win/win for you, is what I'm saying.
Remember how I told you I would try to embrace brevity and do some shorter posts to keep you entertained during wacky weeks like these? Obviously ... I have not yet mastered that skill. Brevity is still my nemesis. (Gravity too.)
Today's post is, in fact, quite the opposite of brief. But I think the length is worth it. And I hope it encourages you to brag about the people you love, and share a scone recipe, down in the comments.
Quick Admin Note: I've noticed more spam in the comments lately. I don't know if this has to do with our readership growing slightly (there are like 15 of us now instead of 10) or if it's just a random fluke. Regardless, the spam is no fun. It's like the virtual version of a grape juice stain on the carpet. (Spam + Grape Juice = Breakfast of Champions) (That was possibly the grossest joke I've ever made. Do you have brothers? I blame growing up with The Rogue Accountant for all my outbursts of gross ;) I try my best to delete the spammy comments out of our otherwise fun conversations. Most of it is harmless, just annoying. I've only discovered a few comments with some sleazy content. That said, there is always a chance I'll miss something. If you ever see anything smarmy in the comments, my apologies. Let me know and I'll delete it pronto. If the spam keepts getting flung-eth, I'll enable comment moderation so you don't have to deal with it. I would rather not do that though. For now, just overlook the dumbness.
Today, I do not want to write about spam.
Today I want to write about Hannah, Roya, and Carrie.
All three of these chicks share the lucky (and highly coveted) distinction of having been my college roommates. And by “lucky and highly coveted distinction,” I mostly mean “long-suffering commonality.”
Like, they deserve t-shirts that say, “I Survived Natalie’s Psycho-Mess-Fest of a Dorm Room.”
This is us back in college:
As you can see, we were very sedate.
We all convened at Hannah’s house last weekend for Roomie Reunion 2011. I asked Hannah if I could take pictures of her house for the blog, because I know you will flip over it. Hannah happily agreed. I’ll scatter a few pictures throughout this post (and save the others for another time) but you should know these things: 1.) Hannah's house is a dream house. It is old but revamped. High ceilings. Multiple fireplaces. Thick, wavy glass in all the windows. The glass bends the light just so, until every room looks like a painting. I've been there a bunch and I still wonder around with my mouth agape, trying to take it all in.

2.) Hannah can decorate like an HGTV pro. She doesn’t just have a knack; this could seriously be her career. It probably would be her career if she didn’t love her present career so much. Southern Living should snatch this girl up. (Unless snatching her up involves moving her far away from here. That would be no good.) (I would cancel my subscription, SL. Mark my words. *stink eye*)
Since you might not know these girls as well as I do, allow me to describe my college roommates to you:
Hannah looks like she walked out of an old movie. As KT Tunstall would say, "She fills up every corner like she's born in black and white." She has long, wavy-dark hair and expressive eyes. She has a charming southern lilt, something between that lyrical clip all mountain girls have and a refined, deep-south drawl. She's gorgeous, is what I'm getting at.
And Hannah is a story-lover. There are stacks of books all over her house - against the walls, crammed into shelves, stacked on the mantles. If you dropped in for a visit, and she walked you through the house, pointing out the many displays of swankness ...

... she would also point out various books. And she would try to find the right one for you to read. She talks about books like they are experiences. I love that. The four of us all have that in common actually; the obsession with books and stories. Hannah also has a place in her heart for storytellers, which I am truly grateful for. Hannah used to (excitedly!) read all the short stories I wrote for my creative writing class during college. She still reads my work. She still flips over it. She remains one of the few friends who has read my fiction. From then, to now, she has been one of my biggest cheerleaders (I maintain that there is a slight bias to her fandom but she assures me this is not true ;). Fact: Hannah is a cheerleader for all the people she loves.

I love Hannah because she reminds me to run at the world with an open heart. Because she chooses joy. Because she looks at the world like she’s always trying to find some sparkling new discovery tucked up inside it. I love her because she squeals over stuff with me: good novels and strange recipes and gorgeous songs. She is a girly-girl, major. I’m certain she could run a marathon in 3-inch heels. But, heels shmeels, the girl’s got grit. She’s tough as nails, as they say in these parts. Hannah's favorite show is the one where they pick the strongest man on earth – you know the show where guys pull down redwood trees with their bare hands and such? Hannah could be on that show. She’s like Wonder Woman. If Wonder Woman wore frilly skirts and baked quiche.

The quiche pictured above actually came from a bakery. Quiche photographs so pretty, doesn’t it? I appreciate that about Quiche. I do not, however, appreciate the egg-puff. I tried this one because it looked delicious. I’ve tried them before. Sadly ... I still don’t like the egg-puff in the middle (which is, sadly, what makes it a "quiche"). I prefer my eggs folded into brownie batter. If quiche is your thing though, I’m certain that one would have blown your mind.
This is the kitchen where Hannah bakes her magical concoctions:

The door to her cupboard was open because someone had just raided the granola bar supply. I have no idea who that someone was. *dusts crumbs off sweater*
Next I will tell you about Roya. Roya’s dad hails from Iran (he came over for college, fell in love with Roya's gorgeous mama, and stayed put), so Roya looks like a real-life Disney princess. She looks like Princess Jasmine, except she doesn't have a magic carpet or pet tiger. Roya has olive-toned skin and dark, glittery eyes and a personality so big I’m not sure how it fits inside such a tiny person. She is loud. She is wild. Roya is a rocksong. A party girl. And a prayer warrior.

Roya prayed for me and with me through some rather dark college moments that smashed my heart all to pieces. She was also quick to stomp into my room and crank up the Coyote Ugly soundtrack. Because she believed busting a move was also a form of healing. (She was so right.) I love her because she taught me it was okay, and necessary, to dance even if you don’t know how. Especially if you don’t know how. She taught me not to be so uptight. She taught me how to wear dark eyeliner and how to drive in heavy traffic. She reminds me to be in the moment: to react BIG, to stop shying away from life and take hold of it. Roya is not one for flimsy living. She takes life at an all-out run.
In fact, she convinced Hannah and Carrie to go run with her on Saturday morning.
I followed them in the car and ate a scone. I shouted things out the window like, “Seriously? That’s as fast as y'all can go?” *honks horn* *nibbles scone*

Mmmmm. Scones. Nom-nom-nom.
I’m kidding, by the way. I didn’t follow them in the car eating a scone.
I sat on the couch and at a scone while they ran. And that’s a fact.

FYI, scones? They are divine! Like a sweet version of a biscuit. I could have sworn scones were hard. Biscotti-hard. Maybe that's because I tried to bake them once and they came out the consistency of concrete bricks. These scones were not that way. This summer, when you need a roadtrip with your roomies, haul it on over to the Tellico Bakery and try their scones. And their quiche, if you're down with egg-puff. You will thank me.

Hannah's mom was like a super-chic fairy-godmother in high heels, dropping in just to bring us delicious goodies from the bakery. She and Hannah were (unintentionally) wearing the same shirt. How fun is that?
My bffMelanie and I do this a lot - end up unintentionally wearing the same clothes. We have had many battles of paper, rock, scissors over the years to determine who has to go change.
I’ve saved Carrie for last. She won’t mind. Carrie is gypsy-pretty. Meg White pretty. Indie-girl pretty. She could walk in a room wearing a tank top and scruffy jeans and make a supermodel feel like a grub worm in comparison. As if the pretty isn’t enough, Carrie is also world –conscious (she did relief work overseas). And she is brilliant. Crazy brilliant. Carrie devours books. And she doesn't just consume them; she processes them in the most imaginative ways. Carrie spent a major portion of our senior year writing her honors thesis: about how a child’s view of their parents affects their view of God.
I spent a major portion of my senior year watching Smallville, thinking about Tom Welling and how he was pretty much the best thing that ever happened to a flannel shirt.
Not only does Carrie not apologize for her brains, but she doesn’t use her smarts to belittle people. She uses her powers for good. (Note: I consider sarcasm "for good." But I guess that's debatable ;) I love Carrie because she reminds me to not be materialistic, to say heck no to accumulating more crap and, instead, to stay connected to what matters–to God and people and to art that challenges and impacts and means something.
Did I mention that she's an artist?
Gracious. Carrie's work will blow your mind. Do you see the wreath on this door?

Carrie made that for Hannah. Out of sheets of music.

She’s working on a blog and an Etsy. I cannot wait until both are finished and I can give y'all a more proper introduction.
So that's just an itty-bit about my college roomies. They are incredible women. I would feel blessed just to know them. The fact that I get to call them friends … makes me feel so blessed I don’t even know how to wrap words around the feeling.

I almost feel guilty about it, in fact. Because I can’t even begin to list the ways they’ve made my life more fun. My college experience wasn't a good one. Even though I've made peace with it, and moved on, I still don't like to think about it much. Or write about it much. But I would do that whole mess again if it meant meeting them. In fact, if I think about my college days only in terms of the friendship we all had (and have) ... I would say it was spectacular. A degree was not the best thing that happened to me in college (though it was definitely the most expensive. Can I get an amen?). They were the best part. And we had some seriously fabulous adventures.
I don’t think I was ever the friend to them that the were, and are, to me. I’m still not sure what I brought to the table back then. Or now.
This weekend, I brought wine and dark nail polish. That’s something, I suppose. ;)
And while we did our nails and drank a glass of wine (or 2) (… maybe two and a half …), we mostly talked about the same things we talked about back then:
and God
and our families
and what we hoped for
and what we dreamed about.
We talked about who we wanted to be. About who we missed. We talked about all those big secret dreams and hopes that keep us up at night; only whispers for now. The kind of whispers that catch fire when you say them out loud.

(My bag is the tan one. That's the other birthday bag. I adore it.)
We shared a mirror again while we put on mascara.
We listened to Vampire Weekend.
We ate our combined weight in Italian food.
We looked at old pictures. We took new pictures.
And all the miles between us, and all the years since we first connected, didn’t seem so far away or far apart anymore. Instead, those years settled like dust over the pages of a story that keeps getting better every time you read it. The best friendships are like that, aren’t they?
When we were juniors in college, Carrie and I painted a mural on the walls of our dorm room. We painted giant purple mountains that reached up to the sky. We painted green grass that rolled into forever and bright, blooming trees. Not trying to brag, or anything ... but the end result was rather awesome. Whenever the admissions types gave dorm tours, they always brought girls by our room. Because they wanted those girls to think that every room in the dorm was that awesome.
I’ll never forget the time we spent painting those walls. (Or the days all four of us spent trying to paint over them when we moved out. We stupidly used oil paint on the mountains … big mistake. Even now, I shudder when I smell fresh paint. )
Maybe because of our age, or maybe because of the paint fumes, I think we believed the world and our future and everything in-between could be just the same as those walls: whatever we painted it to be.
There have been some blue-sky moments, fer sure. First books and weddings and babies and jobs and pets and degrees and houses and wacky-mini-achievements that only your friends know how to properly celebrate. And between all that there is just a whole lot of regular living that is pretty stinking sweet too; regular living is the very, very best part. Anybody can celebrate the milestone stuff. True friends can make every single day a party. We have celebrated hard. We have laughed until our abs cramped. (This is good, as laughter is pretty much the only exercise my abs get.)
But there have been loads of crappy moments too, the sort of stuff we wish we could permanently paint over: broken dreams and unexpected twisty-turns and bad-painful goodbyes. Push and pull, always.
Always, together. I am so grateful we are still doing this together.
This is us, eight years after that crapfest also known as my “Higher Education” came to an end:

Aren’t they gorgeous? Here’s to thhh. Here’s to thhhh
*steels self*
Here’s to a year that marks a significant passage of time.
Here’s what the sky looked like when our weekend ended:
That was a proper ending. Because it made me think about the mural we painted a million memories ago.
Because it made me feel like the world was a little bit limitless again.
I hope you'll brag about your friends down in the comments. And then I hope you promptly shut down your computer, pile into a car with those friends, and hunt down a funky little bakery that sells scones. (And then send me a recipe ;) I hope you run after this day. Make the kind of memory you can look back on and smile over. Paint a sunset on the walls.
Happy springtime to you.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to your friends! While you sell yourself short as far as the type of friend you were to them in college, I'm guessing that you were and are equally as great to them. I'm starting to think that this is the mystery of friendship. Why do people like us and we like them? I don't know but I am glad that I am similarly blessed with my friendships.

    Speaking of scones, did you see the Pioneer Woman's latest scone creation last week? My best friend and I might try to make them tonight!

  2. I so have to talk about my friends on my blog!!! Most of my best friends live our of state or at least 3 hours away :( It hurts sometimes and I miss them dearly. I think I'll just have to blog about them!!

    Your friends sound so wonderful! Next time y'all have a weekend, I'll be the party crasher!!! Maybe even bring the movie 'Wedding Crashers'! Haha!! JK JK!!!

    Hannah's house is so beautiful! It makes me want to go through all my Momma's SL magazines!!! (BTW~ I thought I'd let you know that I am watching the good ole Duke boys!!!! Hehe!)

    All your friends sound amazing! I was actually drawing stuff today and thinking of what I was going to paint.. purple mountains maybe?? Just not on my walls :) Purple moutians and pink polka dots just don't mix haha!

    Random moment! I actually hate pink, well, not hate hate, but strong dislike, yet my room is COVERED with it!!!!! Weird right??

    Anywho, lovin' the blog and what exactly is the Cinderella in Cowboy Boots???? Name caught my attention!!!!!

    Lovew ya! Keep writing!!!!!

    P.S. I never had a scone, but I'll follow my nose :)

  3. What a sweet post for your friends! :)

    P.S. I love scones. Every week when we go to the farmer's market to sell during the summer, I always buy a blueberry lemon scone from one of the bakery vendors. It's amazing- it reminds me of Fruit Loops (which I haven't had in years and years), only better. :)


  4. Leigh, I nearly typed "Leigh - do you have a scone recipe?" in this post. Because it seems like the kind of savvy you would know something about :) Let me know how the pioneer woman recipe turns out! I'm so with you on friendships - on the wonderful weirdness that happens with connecting to another person. Isn't it cool how sometimes you just know you're going to be friends with someone? I love that but, like you, I don't understand it either. Love your new profile pic, btw! Super chic. (... maybe it isn't new. Maybe I'm just an idiot and I haven't noticed it. Still chic though :)

    Haylie Jo, it tickles me to no end that you and your mother appreciate the Duke brothers. Also love what you said about your friends. The distance part can stink so much, but I think sometimes writing about them makes them feel so far away. Thank goodness for all the ways we can stay connected now, right? Also, I kind of get the pink. I love the color yellow as an accent but I never wear it (cause it makes me look sea-sick). I think sometimes what makes you go "meh" in general can look great in a room. I bet your room is too fun! :) Polka dots? That's just fabulous.

    Kristin, I heart Fruit Loops. Fruit Loops are one of those weird things I crave rather frequently. A scone ... that tastes like Fruit Loops ... sounds too good to be true. That's like Willy Wonka magic happening, right there :) Must try one of those! You always recommend such fun stuff!

  5. I loved this post so much! As always your writing made me laugh out loud, think, and smile. I loved getting to "meet" some of your friends. They all sound like beautiful ladies! And I loved your description of Hannah's accent. It almost made me drool. I'm quite the fan of southern accents. In fact, 80% of me commented a while back about a recording of your talk because I love your unique perspective on life and your wise words. The rest of me just wanted to hear your accent! :) I also loved that you threw in that KT Tunstall line; love that song!

    This definitely has inspired me to want to write a blog post about my best friends. I've known one of them, Katie, for 15 years, and my other friend, Michaela, for just 3. Katie is the quirky (in a good way) one knows everything about me. I know I can be myself around her and her family and talk about anything with her. Michaela is the one that keeps me grounded and inspired me to dig deeper in my relationship with Christ. And she's my cheerleader! :)

    Thanks for a great read Natalie!

  6. i love scones. i just wanted to get that out first.
    friends. friends rule. all of mine are brillant, and not just the british "too cool for school" brillant but the 4.0 GPA brilliant. they are funny. and talented. and some of them tell great stories, while others aren't afraid to goof off. some quote books and movies no one else has seen (except me) in the proper voices, and some join me for an entire conversation of inside jokes or give me the "cheese touch". i have one friend that always makes me feel better, everytime i need encouragement i email her and vent. i have another friend that always makes me laugh. always. even when life is a mess. I love my friends so much...

  7. That was a really good reminder about enjoying the moments in our lives, however short or long they may be. One day, they will have all gone away and we'll wish we had enjoyed them just a little bit more. :) I'm always too quick with things. This will remind me to slow down. :)
    Thanks so much!

  8. Loved. These. Pics.
    And I want to marry Hannah's hardwood floors.

  9. If you had asked me for a scone recipe in your post, I would have died with laughter and then promptly emailed one or two to you:) PW's Cinnamon Scones are AMAZINGLY delicious and not complicated to make at all (

    Good eyes on the profile picture- I just changed it last week I believe.

  10. Natalie, this evening I started reading Paperdoll. I have only read one chapter, but I am already in love with the book. I almost cried on several occasions...just reading the first chapter!

    So far, this book is really home for me. I really am an ordinary girl...

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  12. Natalie,
    I love that when you brag about your friends you don't hold back. Your friends sound absolutely amazing!

    It's kind of late so piling into a car with my friends is not possible, but I will brag on them just a little. My friends are the biggest blessing to me. Some of my friends (like my cousin Charity) have been by my side for as long as I can remember. While others have entered my life at the exact moment that I needed them. A literal answer to prayer. They've all been there for me. They've stayed up late to call, text, or read a ridiculously long email. They've never stopped praying for me, and they've been the biggest encouragment. They've reminded me that God is Faithful, and every time they've told me that they've been right. We've made some crazy memories that cannot be forgotten. They've done so much more for me than I've done for them. My heart overflows with joy that I can call them my bffs.

    On a completely different note, I have never had a scone but am now compelled to try one sometime.

    Have a great week!

  13. Natalie, I love love love your heart. You inspire me be a better thinker and writer and lover of God and people every time I read about how you process and remember the world.

    This one definitely a million and one ways, but especially in that bittersweet way that remembering has. The crazy-ridiculous adventures (and messy dorm-room-ness) of college and the moments spent huddled in quiet places hugging through tears...and the friends I am SO thankful for.

    Girl, you best stop thinking you don't bring anything to the table...because I know that you know that's not really true anyways. But I get what you're trying to say.


  14. Courtney, you are a doll! If I could record it just for you, I would. You'd get a kick out of the twang :) My fam all went on vacation to Canada one year. Every time we stopped at a fast food place, people crowded around my dad just to hear him talk. Love what you shared about Katie and Michaela. You should definitely turn that into a full out post!

    LF, love what you said about your friends quoting movie lines. My brother and I have joked that we mark our various friend groups by the movies we quote. It's like it becomes a language of it's own, isn't it? :) That made me smile. Your friends sound positively wonderful. I ADORE the friends who always make me laugh.

    JBJ, you should see the house. You would freak. You have that design savvy too. I'm not a decorator even a little bit, but I like to champion those who are.

    Ashley, I'm that way too, for sure. Love the way you phrased your comment. I move at a clip through everything - I just go FAST. God's been teaching me so much about being settled lately - about what it means to really live out the day instead of running through it.

  15. Leigh, I knew you'd be in the know! :) I'll give that a whirl sometime. Sometime when lots of people are here (sweet stuff is a major weakness for me so I try to only bake when people are here ... else I consume it ALL ;). Thanks for this link!

    Just Me, thank you so much for taking the time to share this with me! I'm so glad Paperdoll is encouraging you. It's always sweet to hear from someone who battles the same issues I do. Just prayed for whatever it is that's breaking your heart, and had you in tears, as you read chapter one. I'm sure you already know this, and don't need my nerdy reminder :), but you are not anonymous to God. Praying you feel His love in a BIG way today.

    Sara, this comment is so sweet. Did you show it to Charity? I love to hear stories like that, about friends who've been friends forever :) Every example you listed was so encouraging to me. Made me want to be a better friend. I know your people are so blessed to know you! (And, for real. Go get yourself a scone.) (Just not a concrete one. ;)

    Katie, thanks for your kind words about this post. You nailed it all with "bittersweet." I love that word. Maybe it's the whole *whispers* 30 thing ... but so many relationships and memory-moments have felt that way lately. Do you ever go through seasons like that? When we had our roomie reunion, I remember we talked about people we knew going to college and how they seem so YOUNG. And how we thought we were so smart and savvy back then :) I think, as I get older, what matters weighs more in my heart than what I regret or what I wish I could forget. That makes me happy.

  16. Natalie,
    I have not shown my comment to Charity, I figure she'll come across it sometime. And if she doesn't I'll direct her to it ;) Glad I could be an encouragment. And I will definitely make an effort to get a non concrete scone sometime in the near future :)


  17. Hey Natalie!

    I do love my room, but I just hate that everyone assumes my favorite color is pink. They then think I'm one of those girly girls who is afraid of dirt. I'm SO not. I love green and I'm a country girl! haha! And I'm sure you don't look THAT bad in yellow :) My mom hates me in yellow for some reason, but I love it haha! I bet you look FAB in blues and reds :) And who couldn't love those Duke boys? ;)

  18. Wow. Natalie, you make me so hopeful for my future with my friends. Thank you for openly sharing your poetic heart. You've been encouraging me for so many years, through this blog and through SUSIE/ BRIO magazine.
    In Christ, who loves you,