An Open Letter to Rachel Dolazel

 

Rachel,
The first time I remember hating the fact I was not a fully white girl was in 3rd grade. A girl, also named Lauren, entered into my small private school, and the boys just adored her. In my opinion, we were both the same – we both were singers, we both were on the volleyball team, we both were outgoing and loud and funny. But I remember sitting in class staring at her and coveting her blonde hair and fair, freckled skin.

 

“I wish I was white.” I thought to myself. Now, many years have passed since this time, and I’ve wrestled a lot with race and racial identity. I don’t wish I was fully white, most days.

 

I remember learning about slavery, and tearing up because I knew those were my ancestors. I remember that time the girl in my 6th grade class told me I couldn’t hang out with her and her family because I wasn’t “black enough.” I remember the times I sat in my room and cried because a boy told me he just “wasn’t attracted to black girls.” I remember how jealous I was when my cousins got their hair braided and I couldn’t, because I didn’t “have the hair for it.” I remember the times when people laughed and truly were puzzled at me on the dance floor in high school because I wasn’t a great dancer. I remember that when I started the “Africa and AIDS Awareness” Club at school and Kyle said “of course you’re starting that club.” I remember looking at my full black cousin and being incredibly jealous of her body – complete with the “benefits” of being a fully black woman (just sticking to the cultural stereotype I was raised in, not that I am saying this is a true thing). I remember being followed in a makeup store because of my skin color. I remember a friend sending me a text when the new emojis came out with a skin-tone that was far darker than I perceived myself to be and even though she didn’t mean it, her “omg look it’s you!” text stung. I remember, more recently, not even knowing how to verbalize and articulate how I feel about all of the violence against black individuals that has been taking place because I didn’t feel “qualified (AKA “black enough”) to have a valuable opinion.

 

These are all the experiences I’ve had to live with as a mixed-race child. I never felt white enough and I never felt black enough. I always identified with a certain ethnic group (white) and was always perceived as another (black). But I learned to embrace my skin. I learned to fight back when people told me what I could and couldn’t do based on the color of my skin. I learned to cherish the fact that I have a diverse heritage, and I can celebrate things from both sides of my family. I decided that I was beautiful – and even though I don’t need a boy to validate that – I will admit that there’s a little piece of my heart that is healed when a man tells me that they are very much attracted to my skin color. I decided that I would be an advocate for HUMAN rights, regardless of skin color.

 

Rachel, you have not lived these experiences. You chose to identify as a black woman, and you have all sorts of reasons why and how you did this, and there are lots of articles that dissect those reasons. I don’t need to restate those arguments. What I’m wanting to communicate is this – you will never understand what it means to be a mixed-race woman in your deepest core. You will never wrestle with the tensions of being “not white or black enough” but being able to do NOTHING about it. What you are doing here is exercising your white privilege and trying to capitalize on the (and I say this with great sadness) very few benefits of being a black (or, mixed-race) person. You made this choice to get ahead. All the advocacy you did and the impact you made could have been done as a white woman. What a powerful testament that would have been to have a white woman, Howard educated, passionate about civil rights, and working toward the equality.

 

Instead, you built your foundation upon deceit. Lies. Actively choosing to change your appearance (tanning, frizzing hair, etc.) to “fool” others. This in itself is proof – you knew you were not black. Even the fact that you can’t engage in conversation without diverting from the facts or articulating a realistic argument…you must know. 

 

There is so much more I could say. I hurt for you. Trust me, I know what it’s like to confused about where you fit in, or what others see in you. I know that you wanted to be there for your family (she claims a lot of this was for her son’s benefit). I know you wanted to feel accepted and loved by the black people in your community. I get it.

 

But I am also hurt by you. You don’t get to choose to be black because it fits with your life-plan. You don’t get to tan your skin and frizz your hair and claim to know what we’ve fought against and for. You just don’t.

 

I hope you learn from this. I hope you grow and re-create yourself and your life and get everything you so deeply desire. I sincerely appreciate your heart and passion for furthering civil rights – but why not try that as who you were created to be? I hope you are able to see yourself in a new light – an honest, authentic space. From a space that you are so uniquely and individually given the gift as you to occupy.

 

With love,
Lauren

This blog is sort of about 50 Shades of Grey, but also not.

By now we’ve all seen dozens of articles about the movie 50 Shades of Grey, and if you’re like me…you just want it to stop. (So, thanks for reading this one).

First.

I did not read the books. Well, correction. I read the first page of the first book and there was a sentence (that was not intended to be funny) that made me LAUGH OUT LOUD for about 5 minutes and then I realized this was going to probably be what the whole book was like so I stopped reading it (pretty much no one in the world argues that this book is actually good from a literary standpoint…so I think it’s fair to say that my assessment of the content is true). It’s just plain bad writing. And moral thoughts on erotic novels aside, I just generally hate reading poorly written books. So, I didn’t do it.

Second.

I did see the movie last week.

(SHOCK AWE TERROR JUDGMENT)

I wasn’t going to see it. I had enough conversations with people about why it was so horrible, and for the record I do think it was, in fact, so horrible. But, curiosity and boredom got the best of me, and I saw the film one afternoon. It was me and a bunch of senior citizens in the theater (so I’ll just let you imagine how awkward that was).

It was bad. Really bad. Like, “wait, does anybody take this seriously right now?!?!” bad. Now, I usually have pretty low standards for “romantic movies.” I am a professed Nicholas Sparks lover and spend a great deal of time watching romantic indies I find scouring the deep abyss known as Netflix. So even with my low taste…I thought this movie was horrendous. I will not be seeing the film ever again, nor will I support the franchise in any other way. But the purpose of this post isn’t to apologize or to give you a plot summary of possibly the most boooooring movie of 2015.

Because I am glad I saw the movie.

What?!

I know, I know. Don’t get me wrong. It was a poorly written, sex-filled, violent movie. I should NOT have seen it. I will never recommend it to anyone. But I do things I shouldn’t. Hear and understand when I say I am not trying to justify my actions.

Instead of reveling in a shame spiral and lying about having seen the film…I’m trying to find something redemptive in this process. It’s not the ideal scenario. I know. But, I can say that this film, and the hysteria surrounding it has caused me to think through a few important things in my own life.

Here are some lessons I am taking away from this whooooole shabang:

1. It’s important to talk to your friends/community about healthy sex.

It’s easy to sit behind the computer screen and piously judge others for their sex life. But here’s the thing…we all are capable of doing crazy stuff in the name of “love.” This story is about a girl who encounters a man who woos her – with his good looks, money, and good sex. I mean…those are all things I am super into (don’t lie, so are you!). So, while it’s easy to be AGAINST all that the movie is portraying, I also understand the pressures of being single and wanting love and sex and to feel good. It’s not a bad thing. This movie caused me to think about it – what would I do if someone I was attracted to wanted me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with? How would I deal with it? Would I be strong enough to deal with it?

It’s rare that I talk about healthy sex with friends. But I should be talking about it WAY more. I should be asking questions and forming opinions about what I think is OK and not OK. Just this week, I’ve had lengthy conversations with a few of my most trusted married lady-friends…and it’s blown my mind. My questions aren’t weird. My struggles aren’t “out there.” My desires are valid. These conversations have given me the ability to voice what goes on inside my head. I think as a single woman – this is the perfect time to start establishing a healthy sexual identity. Because let’s face it, when a super babe comes into my life…if I haven’t done the footwork and if I don’t feel confident in my boundaries/desires…I probably will have a WAY more difficult time saying “no” to things I am fundamentally not comfortable with or, on the other side, asking confidently to try things I am interested in.

I think it’s important to be talking more about this stuff.

I mean, like actual face-to-face communication (or if they are long distance, pick up the phone. Send a Facebook message. Something). Use your words. Articulate with a close and trustworthy friend of the same gender what you are thinking, feeling, and questioning. In Christian circles, this might seem incredibly taboo – but I would argue it’s incredibly important, and it’s already been a life-changing thing for me.

2. Do your research or shut the heck up. 

It makes literally ZERO sense when you argue something on a principle that you just feel. I saw many people on social media arguing that the only conceivable way someone could be into BDSM was if they were abused as a child. This is so untrue, it is baffling. Through conversations this week, I learned of a few Christian (and a few non-Christian) friends that are very into CONSENSUAL “kinky” sex. I giggle like a little girl when I type that…but it’s true. And you know what? Their sex-life is THEIR business. I think that we can all safely say that abuse is not cool. Non-consensual violent sex is not OK. I chatted with a member of a real BDSM community, and they shared with me that the majority of folks in the community would 100% agree that the film depicts an abusive relationship because it is very loosely consensual. If you asked them about it, you’d likely find that the motto of any BDSM community member is safe, sane, and consensual.

SO if a couple mutually wants to engage in S&M or something of that sort…I’m just not fully convinced that’s a bad thing. I am CERTAINLY not convinced it’s because they had abusive upbringings or something traumatic happen to them.

We have GOT to stop claiming things as facts that are clearly a GREY area (pardon the pun) just because we feel a certain way about it. Kinky sex within the context of a healthy and consensual relationship is none of my business. And it’s none of yours too. 

Saying things like “only people with traumatic pasts could ever be into that kind of sex” or “a NORMAL person would never do that” is not cool.

It makes us look bad. It makes us look uneducated.

3. Take the log out of your own eye, please. 

Before you judge someone on a movie they will (or won’t) see… check yourself. It’s easy to demonize something like a movie – ESPECIALLY ON FACEBOOK – and ridicule (in a highly passive manner, might I add!) people who interact/engage with that movie/artist/TV show/etc. However, there is nothing more detrimental to your cause than hypocrisy. When I see people declaring on Social Media that 50 Shades of Grey is THE WORST MOVIE TO EVER HAPPEN EVER…I am ever so perplexed because I’ve seen many of them publicly profess their love for shows like Sons of Anarchy, Weeds, Dexter, Game of Thrones (all highly sexual and violent shows, in my opinion) and every Judd Apatow movie ever…I can’t. Why 50 Shades of Grey? Why THAT movie? Because everyone is telling you that’s what to think?

Bad. Reason.

Think critically about what you watch. Or listen to. Or laugh at. Or Google search for. Make sure your conscience is clear (and probably your social media accounts) before speaking out and publicly shaming someone about their personal tastes.

4. Communicate with love. 

Sex is a really, really, really, really hard thing to talk about in a loving way.

I am just now figuring out how much of my views on sex have been negativity shaped by the peculiar “Purity Culture” that I grew up in. I am reading a fantastic book and will be writing a full blog on this…but in short:

Be careful with your words. Please use loving language. Don’t tell people they are dirty or damaged because they like a certain kind of sex. Don’t tell people what they enjoy “STEMS FROM AN EARLY CHILDHOOD TRAUMA” because you don’t know. You are not the expert of “healthy sex” (I am writing this to an audience that is primarily NOT MFT’s or licensed sex therapists. If you are one of those things, then disregard. You probably ARE a sex-pert and that statement doesn’t apply to you. But let’s be real. You’re probably awesome and non-judgmental anyway!).

I hope and pray that my thoughts cause you to think critically about something so often brushed under the table. If you ever want to talk, I’m here and willing. Peace, my friends! 

-L

Some Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is the strangest. Also, can we talk about how creepy this Vintage Valentine is? It might just be me…but cannibalism isn’t super romantic.

But back to my thoughts on Valentine’s Day. I mean, I love candy. Like, a lot. Especially Candy Hearts. So it’s the perfect, most glorious holiday in that regard. I also love Nicholas Sparks, wine, and Celine Dion so I feel like February 14 allows me to have some sort of justifiable celebration of being a single lady, and I indulge in all of those things.

I’m indifferent though, compared to lots of people I know that have an active, passionate hatred of Valentine’s Day. They all have reasons – and I totally get them. I do believe it’s a really hard day for people who are newly single. Maybe they’ve lost a loved one. That’s traumatizing and hard and I can’t even comprehend what they are feeling on this day. Maybe they’ve just ended a relationship (or worse, been broken up with). Yeah. This day is a hard day.

I’ve never had a Valentine. So for me, the sting of the day isn’t fresh. It’s all I know. During a night of restlessness last night, I thought about what Valentine’s Day has been like in the many seasons of my life.

In elementary school – I mainly was concerned with two things. I wanted to have the BEST Valentine’s to pass out to my class (My poor mother. I was incredibly selective and probably drove her crazy in our search for the ones I was willing to hand out.) I was also very interested in the candy I would be getting that day. After school, I would organize it – chocolate, the BELOVED Candy Hearts, heart lollipops, and then all other inferior types of candy. I usually gave those to my brothers, because I am SUCH a nice person. I never really was “sad” on Valentine’s Day because who could be sad with a shoe-box full of treats and cards that said hilarious things like:

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In junior high school – people started having boyfriends and girlfriends, so Valentine’s Day was a little bit bigger of a deal. I remember the girl who had the locker above mine arrived at school to find pink streamers and heart stickers covering her locker. She started crying and asking all of us girls around her:

“Oh my gosh! Who do you think did this?” she asked, bouncing around in a giddy whirl.

“Um, probably your boyfriend. He probably did it. But, I mean, that’s just a guess.”  I responded. Sharply.

Her boyfriend accidentally taped the streamers in such a way that the girl couldn’t get her locker open, and they had to call the janitor to help her. She was late to class.

Sucker.

Anyway, in junior high boys still were smelly and awkward so I wasn’t devastated I didn’t have a Valentine. My dad always bought me a cute stuffed animal and a box of chocolate, and I enjoyed them both in a sweet naive haze of contentment.

High school was a little bit harder. I had my first “boyfriend” but we broke up before Valentine’s Day and got back together after Valentine’s Day. The timing has always been curious to me, but whatever, I don’t like to dwell on the past (read: that’s all I like to do). People planned really cute Valentine’s Day dates and had massive bouquets of roses on their desks. Most of these days are a blur, but I did have one traumatic Valentine’s based experience that is important to share with you.

I grew up in a great youth group and we had lots of really fun traditions. One of them was playing “The Dating Game” on the Tuesday night before Valentine’s Day. While I was an underclassman, it was just funny to watch the older kids have to go through the process of answering awkward questions and selecting their date. However, there was one thing that I thought would be interesting. After the “pairs” were selected, our youth pastors took them to Spaghetti Factory and we filmed their “date” to show in Youth Group. It was like an MTV-reality show and always so, so funny. I would never have admitted it, but I wanted to be a contestant. How great of a story it would be…getting paired with a cute boy from my youth group and thus starting a wonderful life together…

So my senior year. It happened. Now, I may have rigged it so that my name was in the hat over 100 times (and by may, I mean I did). But whatever the case – I was chosen. I got the chance to pick a Valentine for the first time ever. It’s a long and horrific story, but I ended up being betrayed by all my horrible friends who egged me on to picking a sweet, yet incredibly awkward boy to go on the date with. This boy was ACTUALLY in love with me. He entered the game because he thought this could be his chance. When he won, he was elated because he thought it was a real date. He proceeded to call me every day before hand and he even showed up at my house to ask for my dad’s permission to date me. Ugh. I don’t want to be mean, and like I said, he was a sweet kid. But this was all just too overwhelming. We went on the date and just to make it really clear that I was not interested, I wore a velvet Medieval dress and barely talked to him. He brought me roses and asked me every 5 minutes if I needed anything.

I don’t tell this story to be rude, but just to highlight my ONE SINGULAR Valentine’s Day date experience. Dinner with a awkward boy (who borderline-stalked me from that night on) in front of my youth pastor and a camera crew, and eventually my whole youth group. Go big or go home. That’s how I roll.

In college, Valentine’s Day did become a day I didn’t look forward to. Couples took it more seriously, so extravagant dates were the talk of all the coupled ladies in my dorm. Both of my roommates had boyfriends, so it was fun to watch them get ready for dates…but this is probably when the Nicholas Sparks/Wine (er – juice?)/Celine Dion mix started happening.

It wasn’t all bad though – my sophomore year, we had a Valentine’s Day part at my best friend Alicia’s house. We ate WAY too much and one of the boys there ended up asking for my friend’s number and now they are married. It’s precious.

College was a sweet time, because even though I was single, I was surrounded by a group of girls that all commiserated and celebrated with each other. Being bummed about not having a significant other isn’t as bad when you have a community surrounding you. I’m grateful for the dozen (or so) girls who were my Valentines in college. We ate together and laughed together and drank together and if that’s not love worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

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And now…post-college. Well this is a tougher season. I’m entering my mid-later twenties and a good chunk of my friends are married or in serious relationships. Someone told me the other

“Lauren, I don’t know one person that goes to as many weddings as you!”

Me neither. Trust me.

It can be pretty shitty, if I’m honest, being single in this season of life. But as I was reflecting on this Valentine’s Day – I was reminded how great and fulfilling of a life that I live, single as I may be.

I travel and go wine-tasting and make music and buy clothes and read for hours and drink expensive coffee and live with wonderful girls and go to shows in LA regularly and blog and can get my Doctorate and can choose to watch Netflix all day if I wanted. These are things I hope to continue to do when I am in a relationship – but I do fully understand that they are 100% easier to do now since I am unattached. And it’s a choice I have to make daily, but I am choosing to be grateful for that.

This season of life is unique and important, and so even though tomorrow will be a day when lots of girls are getting chocolates and romantic dates and flowers and streamers on their lockers, I won’t be sad waiting for someone to decorate mine. I’ll be enjoying a wonderful day like any other day – a day to be cherished and lived to fullest.

As should you, single or not.

Because we can – single or not.

This post is dedicated to all my single ladies, all my single ladies <3

Some thoughts on church shopping.

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So, I’ve been church shopping.

That’s a weird thing for me to say because I’m pretty much a serial Church monogamist. Of course since I’m a worship leader, I get the incredible opportunity and blessing to visit lots of other local churches and attend services every now and then – but for the most part, I’ve been going steady with one church for almost a decade! This is of course, only the church I attend on my own. The church I grew up at, which is still my parent’s church and a place that I love very dearly, was my home for close to 15 years.

So you see, me and my two churches, we go way back.

But recently I left my job at the church I was attending and tried to figure out if I wanted to still attend as a congregant. It’s been a lot of back and forth – mainly because it’s a great church and I have a great community there. Most of my most treasured moments as a follower of Christ can be traced back to something having to do with that church. Life lessons and epiphanies happened after hearing a message and praying with a pastor. Heart breaking and mending and transformation happened often as I worshipped my guts out alongside hundreds of other young people. I learned what relational ministry is like – walking with a group of ladies for nearly 7 years in junior high/high school group. I could go on. This church was important to me for so long. It is a very special place and part of me kept wrestling with why I would ever want to leave.

But as I transitioned out of the church and started working a “normal” job and adjusting to a life not in “vocational ministry” … something shifted. Like I said, it is a great church. I don’t mean any of this reflection to imply that I had a negative experience, because while there are things that I don’t fundamentally agree with, it is not a negative separation. I just think I am changing and growing and requiring different things from a church community. And that’s OK.

Anyway, all that preface to say, I am in the market for a new church.

I’ve gone to a few different gatherings. Some are very similar to my old church and others couldn’t be more opposite. I have made up my mind that I will be open to anything. The fact that a church meets in a certain building, or is comprised of a certain type of people, or is “known” for a certain thing should not hinder me from trying it out – this is my mantra.

It’s a very weird thing – being the new person in a church. In the haze of vocational ministry, I’ll admit, I forgot what it’s like. I forgot what it’s like to walk into a strange building (typically after struggling to find a parking spot!) and be greeted by people who don’t know you at all but smile at you (God bless you, sweet greeters) and to have to find a seat by yourself (praying that you’re not disrupting the “usual” seats for regular attenders. (yes, that’s a thing I have done) and follow along with a service that is foreign to you. It’s all very weird. I don’t know how people do it for much longer than I have been doing it.

But there is something beautiful, I’m learning, about this “church shopping” phase. I’m learning more about my personal theology, first of all. For me, sitting in church and trying to listen to a message was always a little tricky because I was always watching the clock and wondering when my cue was to come up for worship or making inside jokes with fellow pastors or dealing with a pastoral issue or just generally zoning out and only really tuning back in when the teacher says something “Amen” worthy. Yikes. Did that little run-on make me look like a horrible person or what? But it’s true for me, the more comfortable I am in a place, the more distracted I get. The more responsibility I have in a church setting, the harder it is to turn that “off” and just listen and receive. I don’t think I’m alone in that…it seems to be the plight of lots of people in ministry that I’ve talked to. But, when you’re hearing a fresh message from someone you don’t always learn under – I find it’s easier to listen and really comprehend what the teacher is saying. I’ve found that I blatantly disagree with a lot of what I’ve heard some pastors teach. But that’s not the point, really. I believe my theology is being sharpened in this process. In the uncomfortable space of learning under a new teacher – I am forced to really think and process through what is being said. Granted, if you’re not a seminary graduate and overall hyper-opinionated theology nerd…this might not be something worth celebrating. But for me, it’s wonderful.

Secondly, it’s such a wonderful and freeing thing to not be known. That sounds like kind of the antithesis of what church is supposed to be…but in this season, it’s magic. I can sit in a room and worship and learn and then leave. No one wants more from me. I have no responsibility in the service. It’s refreshing. As someone who was intensely involved in the actual weekend gatherings in  both churches I attended, it’s nice to be able to just sit. Listen. Pray. Sing. Leave. Of course I still love to sing and lead worship, and that’s something I am absolutely looking for in a new church, but there is freedom and a unique humbling that happens  in being the “new” person, especially in that context – and that’s a really welcomed thing in my life.

Lastly, it’s just cool to see what other people are doing. I went for so long subscribing to a particular method of doing church that is great…but I will admit that I began to think it was the standard of great that all other things ought to be measured by, and that’s really unhealthy. It’s been incredible to see how other churches worship and take communion and pray and teach and do small groups and youth ministry. My eyes are being opened to the beauty of God’s church – in all it’s variety and nuances.

I know that I am looking for a small(er) community of mature christians. I know that I value inter-generational and preferably inter-cultural gatherings. I know that I have a craving for great teaching and sound theology and am looking for a place where that happens on a weekly basis. I know that I love singing and leading worship, and that’s a “serve team” I will always be interested in joining.

But I want to find it. I want to find the place where I feel “home” and “family” and “welcome” and “happy.”

But other than that. I’m open. My parents would also like me to seriously consider a church where there are lots of eligible men to marry. But considering I went to the “meat market of Orange County” church for nearly a decade and am still single…I’m not thinking this is a smart addition to the list for now. Me and church boys are not a thing.

If you’re in the same boat – know I am here to support and encourage you. It’s a good place to be, no ties and unattached, but it can also be dangerous. Let’s not slip into the perpetual “we will figure it out someday” mindset and get lazy. Let’s actively pursue community and truth and love in the body of Christ like we are called to.

Also, I should mention that another serious item I consider is the quality of donuts available at the “Welcome Table…”

-L

 

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A little reminder for myself. Because that’s what a blog is for. Right?

I just ran into my 8th grade English teacher.  I don’t specifically remember her class, but I do remember that English was consistently a favorite subject of mine throughout junior high/high school, so I’m sure I liked her. Anyway, when she asked me what I had been up to since leaving her classroom…I told her.

Side Note: I’m not sure if she meant like…a full description or just the Spark Notes. However, in the moment, I thought to myself this was the best response. 

Well, I went to Edison for high school. I transferred mainly for the MUN program, but my parents also wanted me to experience public school. I did ASB and Theater. Oh yes, and track and field. Ha. Briefly. But in high school I decided I wanted to be a journalist and write/report in Washington DC or something like that.

Then for college I ended up at Vanguard University (unintentionally) and studied Communication. During those 4 years I made great friends, was really involved on campus, starting leading worship and doing youth ministry at a really great church, and pretty much decided I wanted nothing to do with politics. I did, however, still love reading/writing so I thought I would probably do something in that field.

After an internship in LA, I went back to school and got my MA in Theology/Education at Talbot Theological Seminary. During that time I researched and wrote a lot on youth culture and why people my age are the way we are. I also worked at a church in the Communications department. Oh yes, still wanted to be a writer, too.

Now, I’m working at my Alma Mater, living in Seal Beach with a few great girls, and working toward getting into a PhD program for Communication Studies. I want to teach college students that words are a powerful thing and well…I guess I have you to thank for that. Since you were my English teacher and all.

She filled me in, she’s working in a school district and stays close with a bunch of people from the school she used to teach at. She’s here at this coffee shop every Thursday night because she has therapy. Bit of an over share – but I would say the same thing so I applaud her style. A friend was waiting for her (awkward…) so she said she had to leave. She walked out the door and waved through the glass. I could tell she was filling in her friend. Her very patient and kind friend (sorry!)

There were two things that stuck out about this particular conversation. Because, trust me, I did not write all that out just for the hell of it (or to impress you, for that matter).

One. I truly do have her and all the other English teachers and professors I’ve ever had to thank for who I am today. I know that being a teacher is excruciating work, but I bet knowing that there’s a girl that genuinely gets giddy at the thought of hours spent in the library or a used book shop scouring the shelves for new additions to her very quickly growing personal library makes my past English teachers smile…just a little bit right?

Two. In reading this blog back to myself, I can’t help but think… I’ve done some cool stuff. I don’t say this to brag…no, not even close. It’s important to remember this stuff because I almost exclusively dwell on the one or two things that I haven’t done or don’t have (read: spouse, bank account that doesn’t consistently make me feel like a child, the eating habits – and consequential figure – of someone not obsessed with bread, etc.) and I discount every amazing thing I’ve uniquely gotten a chance to do in my life. Each season of life is sweet in it’s own way – and I truly am #blessed (CRINGE – yes, I just said HASHTAG BLESSED!!!!!) to have been able to do so many things that I love and believe in over the course of my life.

So, I wrote this little blog because I need to remind myself that my accomplishments are cool. My story is exactly what it’s supposed to be. It’s mine. I need to quit comparing and remember that I am the luckiest girl in the world for being able to do so many things I love all the time.

“I’m so proud of you, Lauren.”

You know what? I’m proud of me too.

-L

1.19

Today is Martin Luther King day. 1. 19. Despite the color of my skin, I rarely take time on this day every year to really think about what we are celebrating. It’s more than a blank square on a white calendar, beckoning fun and vacation day plans. It’s a day – a collection of moments that people of ethnicities can be thankful for this pioneer of civil rights.

Was Dr. King perfect? No. But I think that a person’s moral failures ought not always discount the wonderful things they did in their lives. It’s all about grace, I think. So I’m thinking about it today. Race. Civil Rights. Sacrifice. Liberty.


I’ve never really experienced racism. I mean I am sure that people have thought racist things about me or ignored me because of my skin color (or the fact I’m a woman, or I’m heavy, or for a plethora of other things that make me “different”) but I can count on one finger how many times I’ve actually noticed it and had to live through it.

One time I was in a makeup store and there was a lady that followed me around the entire time. In my mind, at first, I thought she was just being helpful. But she never spoke to me. She never asked if there was something I needed help with. She just followed me. Every time I reached out for a product and my gaze shifted to her watchful eyes – she pretended to be doing something. Fiddling with the price tags or shuffling brushes around. Anything to make herself look busy.

It became kind of a game, if I’m honest. I stayed so much longer than I normally would have, perusing and thinking about how difficult it must be for her to continuously look like she was doing something other than follow me and keep an eye on me. When I finally got up to the register, the other woman working (there were only the two of them that day) was sharp. Short. I think she was the one who instigated it …

“Hey go keep an eye on that girl.”

I can’t really explain it except by saying that it felt wrong. I felt like I had done something wrong, and shouldn’t be in that place at that moment in time.

“Did you find everything ok?” “Good.”

She finished my transaction – $15 and some change since I really had only come in to buy face powder  – and bid me farewell. I swear the other lady kept eyes on me until I exited the building, you know, to make sure I didn’t do anything on the way out.

“Have a nice day.”

I walked to my car and just sat there for a while.

You know what would have made my day nice, lady? If you and your co-worker hadn’t treated me like a criminal. If you had paid attention to the other 10 women in the store, all of whom were doing the same exact thing as me and all of whom have the same propensity to steal as I do. That would have been a start. You know, to having a nice day.

I called my mom after a while and explained to her the situation. She was gracious, protective. She told me to call corporate and complain – because she’s awesome and supportive and wanted the girls to pay for what they had done.

Then, I cried. Maybe not on the phone with her, but on the way home.

I cried because I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed for myself and for the two women who let prejudice get the best of them. I cried because I was mad and sad and confused and hurt. I cried I just wanted some stupid face powder and I was treated like a thief. I cried the most though, because I knew that this was a blip, a single solitary act of racism in vast ocean of a myriad of kinds of racism – not only against my race – but against so many others.

Even now, these words feel petty. I have never really told people about this experience because it feels so silly. So what Lauren, you were followed around in a store. That’s like a -1 on the scale of traumatic experiences. When I think back to the days when Martin Luther King and others had to fight to even be allowed in a store, I am humbled. When I think about the fact that nearly every part of my life would be dramatically different (e.g. I wouldn’t be born, since I’m a product of an interracial marriage) had people like Dr. King not stood up for civil rights – anything that I go through seems magnificently trivial.

But I know better. Because civil rights issues are paradoxical in nature: all about comparison and not about comparison at all.


My friend Kristen and I saw a play the other night. It was called “The Whipping Man” and it was a post civil-war drama about a wounded Confederate soldier (Caleb) who returns home to find only two of his Jewish father’s now emancipated slaves (John and Simon). The story was beautiful and the play was mesmerizing (pardon the breaks in dialogue, I didn’t want to give any spoilers, and I also wanted to save you from reading a 2000 word blog post), but one part of dialogue stuck out to me.

CALEB: … Where were you? I’ve seen planation. Have you? I’ve seen slaves breaking their back in the fields. When have you ever broken a sweat? The only cotton you’ve ever touched is resting comfortably on your back right now … I know what war is. I lived it. What did you see? What did you live? I was starving to death at Petersburg and you were safe at home, reading novels. Yes, reading John. And you have my mother to thank for that. ”

JOHN: I taught myself how to read. Your mama taught me ABCDEFG and by the time she got to H your father put a stop to it.

CALEB: Because it was against the law.

JOHN: I wonder if that was the reason. Already before she started to teach me, I was asking questions. Like when was God going to set us free like he did the slaves in Egypt. Or whether Nat Turner was our new Moses. That’s when our lessons ended. But I kept reading. I poured over the books of the Torah. And I kept asking questions, if only to myself. You ever read Leviticus?

CALEB: You know I have.

JOHN: Then you’ll remember this: “Both thy bondman and they bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. They shall be you possession and ye shall take them for your children to inherit themselves. They shall be your bondmen forever. But over your brethren, the children of Israel: Ye. Shall. Not. Rule.” You remember reading that?

CALEB: Not enough to memorize it.

JOHN: It certainly got me thinking. Were we Jews or were we slaves? Were we the children of Israel or we just the heathen that were round you? Because we couldn’t be both, that was clear … it was never ours. It was given to us and it could be taken away with just some careful reading of Leviticus.

[ … ]

JOHN: This is not my family!

SIMON: Only family you know.

JOHN: Not by choice.

[ …]

SIMON: You know all the other slaves from round here. You know we had it a world better than they did.

[ … ]

SIMON: …But you and Caleb got to be like two peas in a pod. Didn’t see one where you wouldn’t soon see the other … like two peas in a pod.

JOHN: It wasn’t a friendship, Simon. Not when one friend owns the other. Orders him around. Sends him off for whippings.

SIMON: We ain’t talking about whippings.

JOHN: Why not? … Why is we were a family, did we get whipped like all the other slaves in town?

All slavery was slavery. It didn’t matter where the slave was on the plantation or a house slave. Someone owned them. Their lives were not their own. Fundamentally, all slaves were the same. I haven’t stopped thinking about this idea since I watched the play.

In the same way that all racism is racism. My tiny experience with two women who made a bad choice and the experiences that minorities have around the globe on a daily basis are all fundamentally the same. Fundamentally wrong.

And then I think, what a disservice it would be to Dr. King and all those who fought for my liberties to diminish my own experience with racism. To keep quiet and pretend like nothing happened. Because it did. I believe they wouldn’t want me to think that my feelings were any more trivial than the aches they felt on a daily basis. Because while it’s a comparison game: the rights of the majority versus the rights of the minority – it’s also not a comparison game: their pain versus my pain. Racism is a sick thing that makes a group of people kindred, but the pain of inequality is our pain. The ache for equality is our ache.

So today, as I reflect on all of this – I vulnerably admit the hurt lingering from that day and a few other days I’ve felt like less of a human being because of the color of my skin.

But I also boldly and with a heart full of gratitude embrace the rights that are now mine because of men and women like Dr. King. I can’t control what others think of what my skin color means, and I am a realist at heart – I understand things will never truly be the same for people of color (and really all minorities, if we think about it) but I can choose to celebrate the freedom I do have and never forget what it took to make that my truth.

-L

[excerpt of The Whipping Man courtesy of Matthew Lopez]
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The top 5 reasons why applying for a PhD program is the scariest thing ever.

It’s a Saturday morning of a three-day weekend and I am up researching more school. I’m such a nerd I can’t even handle it.

One of my goals for this quarter was to begin looking into what moving to Seattle would look like practically. As I began dreaming about it, I felt the stirring that I should not just be asking when I would move there, but what I would be doing if I were to go.

Since I want to teach college students, I have always known I would need to get my PhD. Since I only graduated last May and just landed a great job, it’s been off my radar for the time being. However, as I began to think about a move, I began to think about moving somewhere for what comes next – a PhD program.

It’s really surreal, thinking about getting a PhD at this point in my life. Some have told me I should wait and just enjoy the time I have as a single girl with little to no responsibility. While I agree, these are the years I should spend doing lots of fun things – I’ve known for years that I want to teach, and this is just something that is inevitable. Sure, I could wait a few more years, get 5+ years of work experience, etc. and then apply for programs later.

Or, I could get back in the game…now. I could apply for programs over the next year and see what happens. I could write Fall 2016 (so, still nearly two years away) on my calendar and plan towards that. I could start the process of getting my PhD.

That’s insane. Not in the “oh, look at me, I’m getting my PhD” kind of way, but rather in the “holy crap, can I do this?” kind of way. Because my brain works in lists, let’s look at the top 5 most terrifying things about applying for PhD programs.


1. Most likely, I will be moving away

If you know me, you know that I want to move out of CA at some point in my life. However, this has always been something I’ve dreamt about, but never acted upon. Moving is scary. The thought of leaving my friends and family is really hard. Although I know that I will end up regretting staying here my entire life, the thought of actually leaving is pretty nerve-wracking. Will I stay in touch with people? Will I hate where I end up and want to move back to CA? Am I cut out to live anywhere else?  And the more irrational and FOMO-tinged fears: All my friends are going to forget me, I just know it!

2. I mean…it’s a PhD program.

When I was getting my MA, there were periods of time when I didn’t have time to shower – let alone have a normal social life. “I will get back to you when this paper is over” was a pretty normal response to – oh, everything in life. The workload in this type of program is really, really time-consuming (duh), and I am curious how much of a normal life I’ll be able to have over the next…err …however long (If anyone has insight, I would greatly appreciate it!). I don’t know the specifics, but I do believe that my life will undergo some MAJOR priority reorganization that I am not prepared for.

3. Which brings me to my next point, this will take a long-ass time!

3.5 years of UG. 3 years of grad school. 4-5-6 years of a PhD program! I will have been in higher education for nearly a third of my life by the time I finish. I mean, I love school. But that’s a lot of school. That’s a really, really, really long time-commitment. Like I said, no better time to do it than now, but still. So. long.

4. This makes is stuff real. Like, real real. 

I’ve known for a long time I wanted to work with college students and I always had the inkling that I wanted to teach college students. My whole post-college plan has basically revolved around me becoming a professor. BUT, it’s been fairly hypothetical. With my BA I can really do anything (thank you, Communications degree!). With my MA, there are a few options, including full-time ministry (which obviously I have no interest in doing, but that was maybe a possibility at one point during the program). In my mind, this program seals the deal. You get PhD’s to teach (for the most part). I wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars and hours on something that I wasn’t going to pursue as a career. I would be solidifying my future – which I am super OK with. But it’s still pretty scary.

5. This will be the most rigorous application process I’ve ever been through. 

I pretty much knew I’d get into my top two schools after high school, and when I went in for my MA, there was a very slim chance that I’d be denied (thank you, private Christian schools).

But with this process – it is inevitable. I will get rejected. I will be told that my grades aren’t good enough or that my GRE wasn’t strong enough or that my personal portfolio doesn’t stand up against the other applicants. Fun fact: on average, nearly 200 people to most of the programs I want to get into. 4-6 get admitted. FOUR TO SIX. That’s terrifying.


But, as you can probably tell, I’m not letting those things stop me. I am embracing the terror and choosing to be positive. True, all of things are really big things and the main reason for this blog is to process them. So here’s what I am thinking…

The plan is to take the GRE on April 18th, and start the application process soon after that. Most schools have a December/January deadline, and most programs only admit students for the Autumn quarter/semester. So, I’d be looking at a Fall 2016 start time. I will have been working for nearly four years at that time, and would probably relocate and quit working outside of the academic world.

Oh, and I forgot to say what. I am looking into Communication Studies programs focusing on Interpersonal Relations/Media and Culture. Ask me about it. It’s what I love and there are some truly great programs for it!

I know, I know. This is getting detail-y and blah blah blah…but the point is that I am officially expanding one of my goals. Not just looking into moving to Seattle – but looking into PhD programs there (and a few other places as well). It’s highly terrifying, but simultaneously exhilarating, and I cannot wait to share the journey. Mainly via social media. Because, it’s me. What did you expect? #LaurenDoesPhD

-L

I am: Lauren Rebekah

I mentioned that one of my goals for 2015 was to create a “Personal Manifesto.”

According to the dictionary, manifesto means: “a public declaration of policy and aims…” It comes from the Latin “manifestus” meaning obvious and if it strikes your fancy picture a gorgeous Italian man saying “manifestare” because that’s what it is is Italian. Its synonyms are words like mission statement, platform, and pronouncement.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I love these grand proclamations. And yes, this is going to be one of those, but more important. This is my manifesto. This is the public announcement I want to make about who I am as Lauren. Sure, I don’t know it all now and I most assuredly will change. But there are some things – fundamental things – that I know are true of me and will always be true of me. I don’t mention these things lightly. I sat with each of these. Collected evidence and reflected on whether or not I could truly say they define me.

Here she is. Here is the public declaration I am making about what is true of me (written in a wonderful coffee shop in Greenlake, Seattle, 1.4.15).

Preamble //

I don’t have to apologize for who I am. I love what I love. I get energy from what I get energy from. I feel the way I feel. I am who I am.

I don’t have to make excuses because I’m different. People will love me despite my flaws and quirks, and some might even love me because of them.

I don’t have to try and be all things to all people.The world needs me. Lauren. Not the false, self-constructed version of myself I think is what the world wants. Lauren. Pure, unfiltered, raw, authentic, Lauren.

I don’t have to invest in anything that makes me feel bad about myself. I am surrounded by love and that love will fight for me, just as I am. That’s what it’s about.

Proclamation//

Lauren is a: Talker. Fixer. Laugher. Thinker. Leader. Writer. Bookworm. Theater Nerd. Singer. “Kids Person.” Blunt. Hopeless Romantic disguised as a someone who “doesn’t really care about that stuff…” (occasional) Hot Head. Networker. Driven. Deep-Down Compassionate Soul. Enthusiastic and (Easily) Excitable Gal.  Loyal Friend. Letter-writer.

Lauren is: Loved. Valued. Known. Seen. Heard. Trusted. Respected.

Lauren is ________________.

These are things I am sure of. It’s soothing to release them into the world and make no apologies. Here Lauren is, everyone.

-L

 

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2015: Quarter 1 Goals

It’s freaking 2015.

Isn’t this the year that is famous because it was on Back to the Future as “the future” or something? To be honest, I feel like every year I see something pop up on Facebook stating THIS IS THE YEAR for that movie, so I’m confused.

But whatever – new year. Hello.

If you know me, you know I’m big into dreaming, resolution making, and the ever popular bold statement. Hell, last year I announced that I was giving up media for an entire year. That lasted for 3 months (which I think is a solid effort, if I do say so!) but was a flop after that. I’ve set a few other goals, like my 24 while 24 (notice I did NOT do a 25 while 25…with intention) and so on. I’m not great at following through when it comes to this stuff, and I recognize that. I wanted this year – 2015 – to be different.

My brilliant friends Krysta and Ruthi created this wonderful goal-setting tool that I’ve been using and telling literally everyone I come into contact with about. It’s broken into quarter systems – which is great for over-promisers/over-dreamers like myself. I’m not bound to the 12-month time frame, but there is a tangible end date in sight. I won’t explain it all because the girls do a GREAT job explaining it on their site. Please, PLEASE go check it out and grab their START tool. You won’t regret it.

All that to say, here are some of my goals for Q1 of 2015 (Jan-March). There are different categories, and while I didn’t set goals for a few of them, I did set some goals in a majority of the categories. Figured I’d go big this first quarter :)

Spiritual

1. In the midst of a season of dryness and confusion about where God is calling me in life/if I believe that he does that – all I can cling to is His word. Sadly, since graduating with my MA in Theology last May, I’ve found myself barely reading my Bible. There’s lots of feelings I have about that, but mostly I just feel dry. Thirsty. So one of my goals for this quarter is to read /study through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This has always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible, and I am earnestly seeking God’s voice in this text. I will be using an app that I was initially blehh about, but have discovered is pretty useful called She Reads Truth.

2. I need to find a spiritual director/mentor. In relation to all I said above, I need someone to process what I am walking through with me. I feel like I’ve been in my head a lot since finishing Seminary and leaving my job at the church I was at for nearly 8 years…so I would love to talk with someone about it.

Work

So, I have work goals, but they are super boring. I’ll let my boss deal with those ones and spare y’all the details.

Personal Development

1. Remember when I told you I was writing a book? Yeah, well the topic might have changed, but the desire is still there. I want to start dreaming about that again – as it’s been nearly a year since I’ve really written anything that I care about that could be book potential. I want to start writing for myself again. I have the time, I need to just. do. it. Creativity is something that I wrestle with, but I feel a new sensation since returning from Seattle a few days ago, and I want to work off that momentum. So expect a lot more blogs and a lot more promises of a book in the future :)

2. A la Shauna Niequist, I want to create a “Personal Manifesto” of sorts. I actually wrote one while I was in Seattle, so once I edit it and make it sound pretty, I’ll throw it up here. Look at that – I’ve already completed one of my goals, hooray! Basically, it’s just a list of things that are true about me. Always. Who I am. What I do. What I care about. The things that won’t ever change because they are so ingrained in my very being that they just simply make me, me.

Investment (what am I spending my time and talent doing?)

1. Beer and Hymns is a gathering of people that includes those two things: drinking beer together and singing hymns together. We’ve been doing it for about 6 months now, and I’ve just been asked to be a part of the “leadership team.” I will be spending significant time doing a few behind-the-scenes things and I want to really take ownership of them because I love Beer and Hymns and the community it’s created.

2. If you know me, you know I’m a theater geek. Through a random series of events last year, I got connected with an organization that puts on a few events each year called Broadway Knights. I am stepping onto the leadership team in a role that feels like it was tailor made for me! Combining my love of theater, administrative prowess, and general bossy-ness into one big responsibility. I want to spend significant time pouring into this organization because it’s my first step back into the theater world that I love so dearly.

Physical Well-Being

So I have a goal in this category. But it’s personal and I am not the kind of person to share massive “fitness goals” online – so I’ll go ahead and keep it private. But I mean, don’t we all want to not eat junk food and lose weight and run a marathon or something?

Financial

1. This is not my favorite category to dream about, which probably means it’s the most important. There’s no big story here – I simply want to pay off my credit card debt, and in order to do that I need to stop using credit cards. Period. It won’t be that hard, but it will take a refocusing and more attention spent to how and where I spend my money.

2. I also have a goal set of shopping less to “feel better” about stuff. I am a MAJOR retail-therapy gal, so when I’m stressed or sad or something in between…I typically hit South Coast Plaza or Target. I’ve decided I want to get my ass in the chair of a coffee shop and WRITE through these feelings or read or spend time with a friend or do LITERALLY anything else besides spend money on clothes I don’t need or other random items that I think will soothe my aching whatever. Retail therapy – a way of the past. 

Exploration

P.S. This category was a favorite of mine! Figures.

1. I was so excited to move to Seal Beach because it’s close to Long Beach and I was itching to be in a bigger, more eclectic city during this mid-twenties phase of life. If I’m honest, I have not taken advantage of this wonderful city at all! I want to explore more – head to new coffee shops, restaurants, parks, and local things that make Long Beach awesome. If you have suggestions, throw them my way. Better yet, let’s do something together!

2. This goal is secret because it’s a surprise :) But it’s awesome.

3. So, if you know me, you know I have a little crush on a city called Seattle. Ok, it’s a big crush. I recently took a trip there and it sealed the deal. I want to move there. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, but I have started to and want to continue thinking about what moving there would look like practicually. So far, it’s been “pie in the sky” “I love rain and grey and bookstores” feelings – but I’m much more practical than that. I need to start looking into potential and ACTUAL plans. PhD programs…jobs…what it would mean to settle down there…all the fun logistical things that ruin the dreamy dreams I can lose myself in. I’ve already got some pretty cool things in the works – but like I said – nothing happening for now. The goal here is just to begin thinking practically about moving to Seattle/Washington (because I fell in LOVE with Bellingham so I could consider that as well) and putting this goals on paper as a starting point.

 

See, that was fun right? What are your goals? If you need to talk through them with someone/have someone keep you accountable (read: text you at all times of the day asking how you’re doing with _____________ because that’s my style) let me know. I eat that stuff up and would love to hear what you’re dreaming toward this year.

-L

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Embrace your inner #HotLadyNerd

I was in Seattle recently. Of course, I had to document my trip (#laurendoesseattle in case you were wondering) on Instagram. I had a friend text me in response to my posts. They were mainly of bookstores, coffee shops, the vintage Broadway record collection I am building with purchases made in Seattle record shops (because they HAVE them…long live tangible forms of music!) and even a photo of my new – err, old – typewriter,

Anyway, my friend sent me a text that simply said:

Lauren. You are the biggest nerd I know. 

Now, in my formative, pre-pubescent years this comment might have dashed my fragile spirit. However, I took this as a huge compliment, and here’s why.

I am a huge nerd. Evidence below:

  • 9 times out of 10 I will choose the library over going out.
  • I have an obsessive disorder called: “Must know every piece of Broadway Trivia ever.” This stems from my past as a theater geek.
  • I never have less than 2 books and 2 journals in my purse at all times. I have a fear of being somewhere without anything to read or write with.
  • I get positively giddyat the thought of 3 solid hours in a coffee shop reading or writing or studying.
  • I have dreams (DREAMS, not nightmares) about going back to school. Even after 4 years of UG and 3 years of graduate school, the thought of papers and study sessions and scantrons makes me elated.
  • The number of bookstores that I visit over any other form of “entertainment” in a new city is really staggering. Like, I went to 6 during my trip to Seattle. SIX.

The list really could go on, but all that to say, my friend is right. I am a huge nerd. Over strong black coffee at a cute LA cafe, my lady friends Taryn and Amanda made the decision with me: we are huge nerds. After all, we had just finished viewing an exhibit of old typewriters owned by famous people…

We are all vastly different, but we all have one common factor: we cherish our intellect. It’s important to us. It’s important that we spend time cultivating it. In a world where women are told it’s not about what you know but what you look like – we say a resounding “HELL NO!” It doesn’t have to be books or Broadway or anything like that. Whatever it is – whatever makes you YOU – that’s worth investing in. Being cool is overrated. HIGHLY overrated.

We choose to believe that being an intellectual is hot. And we made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t forget that. In the midst of fashion and beauty and boys and culture and what Hollywood tells us a woman ought to be – we cling tightly to our inner nerdom. For us, that looks like keeping each other sharp. Going to exhibits, museums, libraries, lectures. Chatting about world issues in lieu of Bachelor drama. Starting a book club and reading together each month. That is how we can support each other’s nerdom.

As I got to thinking about it…I have a lot of super nerds for friends.

Disney Nerds. Theater Nerds. Science Nerds. Star Wars Nerds. Harry Potter Nerd. Music Nerds. Instagram Nerds. Bible Nerds. Tech Nerds.

The list goes on and I am a better person because I know each of these ladies.

A new hashtag (duh) that I am excited about. It’s a chance to celebrate geeking out over _______ with my gal pals and I know it will get it’s fair share of use this year.

#HotLadyNerds is here everyone. Use it (don’t abuse it) and celebrate all things nerdy with me this year :)

-L

[image via Pinterest]