Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Take a Long Drive with Jordan Taylor.

Along with approximately 359,954 other people (and that's not counting their other social media followers), you may be familiar with a little YouTube team called Blimey Cow and their series "Messy Mondays". I don't even remember when I started following them, but I think it was back in 2011 because I remember being amused when I learned later on that several of the people I met in Nashville knew them personally. Between their videos that balance hilarity and conviction better than just about anything I've ever seen online, and how friendly and appreciative they were when it came to their fans, I knew that I wanted to keep following Josh, Jordan, and Kelli in whatever their endeavors were in the future.

So when Jordan announced that he was officially making his own album, I knew I wanted to be a part, so I pledged on his Kickstarter. Doing so got me early access to the album, titled "Long Drive," and let me tell you, it's better than I could have ever imagined it would be.

Jordan's vocals entrance you from the first note of the first song, as if his voice is washing effortlessly over the music. Each song flows flawlessly from one to the next, as if it really is one story told in pieces over a single car ride. There is a similar smoothness in the instrumentation of each song that binds them all together, yet each song is still completely unique in its mood and tone. With the start of each song, I never once felt like I'd heard anything like it before, but there was a constant sense of comfort and serenity throughout the entire album. However, even in the midst of the feelings of comfort and calm, I still caught myself wanting to dance to his music. There are very few bands or artists that I know of that can strike that balance so well.

Knowing and loving The Vespers for several years is probably at least partially to blame for my love of supporting independent artists, but I can 100% honestly tell you that even if I hadn't known about this album in advance to support it on Kickstarter, I would still have bought it if I found it on iTunes or heard about it through a friend. I definitely got my money's worth on my pledge, but more than that, listening to Jordan's album just makes me happy. And isn't that what we all want when we listen to music, to feel something? If we don't feel something when we hear it, it's just noise, not music. Jordan definitely made music, and pretty incredible music to boot.

And as an added bonus, I was able to email Jordan some questions to post here on the blog as an interview. :)

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You have a beautiful voice, Jordan! Have you taken voice lessons, or is that all just natural talent?

J: Wow, thank you! I took voice lessons leading up to having to record vocals for the album.

What made you decide to do an album with vocals? The original music I heard from you was just instrumental, and I loved that, as well.

J: I wanted to do an album with vocals because it just felt right. I don't really know what else to say, but when I was trying to figure out about doing a fully instrumental album, I just felt like I needed to add lyrics to a lot of the songs.

My favorite track on the album is "Every Detail." What was the inspiration for that song?

J: The inspiration for that song was just summer nights where you like someone and have no worries and nothing seems like it could ever go wrong.

Which song was the most difficult for you to create both instrumentation and lyrics?

J: Either Separation or Don't Let Me Go were both difficult to come up with the lyrics for. If we're talking about instrumentation though, maybe Long Drive or Feet of Shadows.

Which one was the easiest?

J: The song that probably came to me the fastest was Home.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

J: My favorite song kind of changes depending on what time of day I'm listening to it, but I'd probably have to go with Need Each Other.

Were there any artists or bands that were inspiration for you going into these songs?

J: Yeah, definitely Jimmy Eat World, Ryan Adams, and Relient K. Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

When did you start playing the guitar?

J: I probably started playing guitar like 8 years ago or so.

Have you always wanted to make an album, or was this at one point just a hobby for you?

J: Playing guitar and making up songs still just feels like a hobby to me honestly, and I kind of like it like that. I haven't always wanted to make an album, but when I feel like I have something to say, then I write it down and overtime that accumulates into an album.

How was the experience3 of having Josh help you throughout the creation of the album?

J: It was great! Josh is very good at planning things out and executing. Without Josh, this album would have never happened. We've always worked well together, so it was awesome to have something new to work on together.

Why did you name the album "Long Drive"? I've always loved learning why artists and bands pick the album names they do, so I'm curious.

J: I picked "Long Drive" because the whole album kind of revolves around a car ride, and because I realized that that was happening as I was writing it, I named it after the song that naturally encompassed that the best.

Do you have dreams or plans for another album, or are you still basking in the enjoyment of finishing this one?

J: I can't say that I haven't thought about it. I definitely have, but yes, I'm still enjoying this album and the aftermath of its completion. It's nice to just have some time where I can relax and make up songs without the stress of having a due date, even though a due date sometimes makes the creative juices flow a lot better. Possibly at some point if enough songs are created to release a full length album again, then I'll make another one.

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Go get Jordan Taylor's debut album "Long Drive" on iTunes, check out his website messyjordan.com, and say hi to him on Twitter @Messy_Jordan.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hypocrisy or Humanity?

It's not a secret that humans can be hypocrites. Call it human nature, or sin from the great Fall, whatever you want. We can be hypocrites. We say one thing and do another, whether we intend to or not.

So I was quite intrigued when my friend Jon (from the Anima Series) published a blog post titled "A Confession of Hypocrisy: My True Story" on Friday. He is hands down one of the wisest people I have ever met, so I was curious to see what he had to say and what he had been a hypocrite about.

Except then I read the post, and I didn't see hypocrisy in it at all.

I've linked to the post, so you can read it for yourself, but here's the gist of it: Jon's blog focuses on encouraging people to create their own art and take risks, but he struggles with a lot of fear in creating his art. He called himself a hypocrite because he was encouraging people to be brave but wasn't being brave himself.

I understood what he was feeling before I even finished his post, so I sent him an email saying such. Later, I realized that I think the best thanks I can give him for being so vulnerable and open and actively fighting his own fear is to be honest about my own internal conflicts.

I feel like a hypocrite sometimes, too.

There have been many days where I have freely told people that I am grateful for my life and the story God has given me, and that I know who God is because of this story and not despite it. But in my head, there are also many days, especially the past couple of months, where I have begged for a break. I've exclaimed that "I just don't want to do this anymore!" and "Pick somebody else!" I have been struggling with my faith, grappling with what I know to be true about God and what it means when my life looks the way it does. I feel that I couldn't say the first statements about being grateful and knowing who God is and actually believe it. Hypocrisy hits the hardest when I have friends tell me that they don't know anyone with stronger faith than me, or that my faith in adversity is something everyone should learn from, because to me, it feels like my faith is in shambles.

Several months ago, however, my dear, sweet best friend Clayton opened my eyes to a perspective that I am still fighting to remember. Saying one thing and feeling another doesn't necessarily make you a hypocrite; it makes you human. If you feel a certain way about God or fear or whatever it is you're struggling with, but you know that the opposite is what is true, then stop being so hard on yourself because we're not going to get it right all the time. When I tell people the good comments on how I feel about my life and my story, those feelings are just as real to me when I say them as what I am feeling right now. Jon knows that he is right in saying we should all be brave and take chances, and that is just as real of a belief to him as the fear that he struggles with.

I honestly think Jon said it best, in his response to my email. (What can I say? The man has written and self-published two books!) "Encouraging others about the goodness of God even when we struggle to feel it is not hypocrisy, it's FAITH." There have been many times when I've given encouragement to those around me and it turned out to be the exact lesson I needed to hear myself.

We have to believe in what we know to be true, even if our brains can't totally rationalize it and our hearts don't feel it. Because that's what faith is. Hebrews 11:1 says "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." If we had all the answers, if we handled the struggles of this life perfectly, we wouldn't need faith. We wouldn't need a God if we could get everything right on our own. But because we are broken, fallible people, we need a Savior who promises to make us whole and clean and enough.

God was the one who created humans, all of our messy emotions included, so He knows our hearts. I don't believe that a Father as purely good as God would get mad at us for being scared or angry or frustrated. He just wants to help us through it, just as an earthly father wouldn't get mad at his kid for feeling any of those things. The God I know doesn't ask us to be perfect, or not to struggle with our feelings and faith, or to get it right all the time. He just asks for our hearts. And if we can do that, if we can get that much right, He'll take care of the rest and carry us through whatever darkness we face, whether it be internal or external.

So Jon, when you read this, I just want you to know that your fear and your struggles do not make you a bad leader, or a bad example, or a bad friend. They make you human. Congratulations. :)

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Friday, June 26, 2015

LOVE WINS


I have dreamed of and waited for this day for years, but I am far more ecstatic than I ever thought I would be. When your best friend is gay, there is a whole new level of pain and frustration in knowing that they are seen as second-class citizens, not afforded one of the most basic rights that you are given. This day and this news means infinitely more to me now because of my friendship with Clayton. I know that this is far from the end of the road, but this is a huge step forward.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Be quiet. Be still. Be fearless.

I hear a lot of people say that the fear of death and the fear of public speaking are two of the main fears in my generation, but I disagree. I think it's the fear of silence. We refuse to turn off our computers, turn off our phones, log off Facebook, and just sit in silence, because in those moments we might actually have to face up to who we really are. We fear silence like it's an invisible monster, gnawing at us, ripping us open, and showing us our dissatisfaction. Silence is terrifying. - Jefferson Bethke Jesus > Religion

Jeff was on to something. Silence terrifies me. It's the late nights when the rest of the world is asleep that are the prime times for me to get lost in my head. It's the days I'm too sick or in too much pain to leave the apartment that the loneliness hits me like a tidal wave and I forget the community that I really do have. I often chalk it up to being a result of my 100% extrovert personality, but the truth is, I think I spent so much time alone growing up believing I had no one that I could rely on that I can't stand to be alone now for fear of the memories and the scars overtaking me.

I had a seizure on Monday afternoon in the subway station on the way home from a doctor appointment. This was one where I had no aura or clue that it was about to happen, so I got off the elevator at my platform, walked out, and landed face first on the concrete. Physically, I was fine after a dose of morphine and several ice packs at the ER, but emotionally, I felt wrecked all over again. So yesterday afternoon, I texted Clayton, because he's the person I bounce my feelings off of when I need to get them out and have a friend on the other end.

We talked about a lot, but then, during it, I started getting this feeling that I just needed to spend some time in silence, no noise, no distractions. He agreed to text me after a few hours, because he knows just as well as I do that too much time alone can be a detriment to my sanity. Clayton texted me right on cue, asked me how I was, and this is how I responded...

"God's opened my eyes and my memory to a lot of stuff. How easily I forget what He's done. At first, there was a lot of me talking and rambling and wondering if my words were just stopping at the ceiling. But then my mind kept going back to the night I got baptized, and how alive I felt, how real and alive God seemed, how the guy who baptized me told me to promise him that I'd never forget how I felt that night. I think this is why I chose "fearless" as my word at the beginning of the year, without knowing what was coming. God isn't asking me to have perfect trust or expecting me to live without doubt. He just asks for my heart, same as He did that night in Nashville. All He's ever wanted was my heart.

"I was chasing healing when I'd been made well, fighting battles when you conquered hell, living free but from a prison cell." God is the exact same God as He was the night I got baptized. I feel like He's asking me to recall the girl I was that night, to rekindle the fire I had in my belly and live like I know I'm saved, because that's where the freedom is. He's telling me to be quiet, be still, be patient. To remember that even when I wonder where He has gone, all I have to do is look at the people supporting me through this valley to remember that He cares, because He is in each one of you using you to keep the flame in me from dying out and show me that I am not alone in this wilderness."

I had no idea at the time how relevant those words would be, but about 30 minutes after our conversation, I left the apartment to go get food and fell down a flight of stairs. It wasn't a good night for me mentally, and I struggled to remember the truths that I had just said. When I got home from the ER, once again everything turning out okay save for some nasty bruises, all I could do was sleep. I didn't sleep much because every position was so painful, but about ten minutes after I woke up this morning, Clayton texted to check in. We spent a little over an hour on FaceTime, and I accepted the fact that I'm depressed right now. I've moved past the stage of being angry at God, and now I'm just very sad and tired. So it's a good thing I have therapy tomorrow.

Instead of talking about the same feelings about my health stuff, the conversation actually focused on the heartache I've been feeling over the friend I lost. That's messing me up just as much as the attacks on my health and my body. It makes me feel like I'm back in high school, remembering so clearly how every time someone back then would do exactly what this person did now, I felt worthless and abandoned and terrified to trust anyone else for fear they'd do the same thing. But throughout today, and doing a lot of thinking, I realized something important:

The people who love me are not the people who hurt me.

And more than that, I realized that I don't have to ask God to make me fearless in facing just the health stuff. He will making me fearless in facing this person leaving without me knowing why, fearless against the thoughts that their actions try to make me believe about my worth and my identity, and fearless in trusting friends like Clayton to give me the ability to believe that those relationships are authentic.

I've spent so long being scared of finding out that my trust was misplaced that I've completely forgotten what it feels like to put my heart into something without wondering what might go wrong. I've self-sabotaged enough relationships that when I didn't do anything wrong, my instinct is still to believe that it was my fault. I got so good at pushing people away that it absolutely rocked my world every time someone pushed right back, so determined to love me even though they could read the fear in my actions.

I've been so down, angry, frustrated, sad recently that on top of all the other fears and stresses and worries that have been bouncing around my head, I've been wracked with this fear that with as much as I've been talking to him and relying on him lately, that Clayton will one day he'll decide that I'm too much or he's tired of it and leave, too. When I told him as much this morning, he smiled and told me some story from Doctor Who that ended with him saying, "Mal, if you think our friendship is so weak that you could chase me away, you've got another thing coming."

Two phrases have been in my head throughout today.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
Be still and know that I am God. from Psalm 46:10

God whispered things in the silence. All it took was for me to be quiet and be still and wait. In the quiet and the stillness, I knew that He will help me be fearless in everything that I am facing.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Dear future me, never take this for granted.

Growing up in the church that I did with the experiences that I had with the people there, and during the months between my baptism and when I finally decided to try church out again and found Theater Church, I never could have imagined that church would become the most beautiful part of my week or that I would cherish a church community the way that I do now. And while I loved Theater Church and the people I met there, honestly, they don't even hold a candle to my City Grace family and the way they have impacted me this past year. I can't imagine life without them.


This is Leonidas, Isis, and Marcelo. These three came to New York all the way from Brazil and I'm so thankful that I've gotten to know them. It makes me so sad to know they'll be going back to Brazil this summer, but I adore them and we have memories that will stick with us. Like the City Grace retreat. And them singing me Happy Birthday in Portuguese yesterday. :) We're going to make the most of the time we have left, I know that much.


This is Ambrose. We only have really gotten to know each other recently, but since then, he has been such a great support to me. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I have to accept that my friends are here for me and walking with me because they want to, because they love me, not out of pity or anything like that. Ambrose is the perfect example of that here in New York. He asked me how I was doing yesterday after the service, and that turned into a rather long conversation. I apologized for dumping so much on him all at once, and he immediately responded, "No, no, I'm glad I can be here for you to talk to." I don't know if it will ever stop blowing my mind to know that other people consider it an honor and are grateful to be able to walk with me through this difficult story I've been given.

I hope it doesn't. I hope I never get used to it. I hope I never get accustomed to people like Ambrose and the way they refuse to let me go and are constantly available to pull me out of that dark hole when I start slipping. I think one of the greatest gifts you can get in this dark, broken world is to find people who are there for you and are invested in you and your life no matter how bad things get. And I have that now in spades. After I spent so many years incapable of believing that I would find love like this one day, I hope I never get so comfortable that I take it for granted.


Stephen was taking a picture of Steven taking a picture of me and Ambrose, but he also kind of took a picture of me and Ambrose, too. I find it rather trippy.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

On hurtful comments and expecting respect.

I learned something recently: You want a very quick way of getting over a crush on someone you know you can't have? Have them make jokes abut something they know is a very important and sensitive topic for you.

Since the day I became a Christian, I have taken the stance that I will respect whatever my friends' beliefs are, and all I ask is that they respect mine. That was largely because a) the Vespers treated me that way as they supported me and we were friends in the 14 months between meeting each other and me getting baptized in Nashville, b) I knew what it felt like to have Christianity shoved at you and I didn't want to become the very person I despised growing up, and c) my two best friends at the time were Matt and Ryann, and Matt was a lifelong atheist and Ryann was, at best, agnostic, I believe. The people in my life and my relationships with them have always been my number one priority, and I never wanted to jeopardize or lose them because of differing opinions or beliefs.

To me, true friendships involve a lot of respect on both parts, and if one person calmly and kindly asks a friend to please not make jokes about something to them, if that friend really cares as much as they say they do, then it's not an outrageous request and it would be kind and polite to do that. There's a difference between stating your opinion and making jokes knowing that it will hurt or offend a friend. I've always known Matt is an atheist, and Matt knew within a day of me getting back from Nashville that I had gotten baptized there and what it meant. Really, I can only think of one time in the 3+ years since then that I have gotten frustrated at him because I found something that he said about Christianity offensive. But the difference between then and now was that he wasn't saying it directly to me, he said it on Facebook, so we quickly worked it out and I got over it.

The person that hurt and offended me recently made his comments directly to me, with no one else around. And when I reiterated the fact that he knew from the beginning that I am a Christian and calmly and politely asked him not to make those kinds of comments/jokes towards me, he responded "I can't make that promise." I think that was more hurtful than the comments he'd made about God and my religion, because it felt like he was saying he doesn't care about my feelings. And if you don't care that your words have consequences, I'm not okay with that, either, especially when you're someone who says you love me. How can a person say they love someone but not care if they hurt their feelings about something that is that the very core of who they are?

Like I said, to me, there is a difference between stating your opinion and making jokes that hurt someone. Matt and I have had discussions about religion many times that didn't make me upset. Holly doesn't believe in God, and when I told her what had happened, even she said, "You don't mess with someone's religion." I wasn't trying to make him a Christian, or telling him not to be himself, or deny his right to free speech, I ASKED him not to make jokes directly to me. And I don't think that was an unfair thing for me to say, considering that up until that time, he had seemed understanding of our different beliefs. I've listened to what he had to say about his beliefs and never said a mean comment about them even though I don't understand or agree with them at all, and all I did was ask for the same courtesy.

But he didn't seem to care. And honestly, that leaves me rethinking our entire friendship and what I thought I knew about him. Someone else I spoke to about it who actually thought it was unfair for me to ask him not to say certain stuff to me said that maybe this just meant we shouldn't hang out anymore. Which maybe that is the solution. He's been a great friend to me in many ways, I don't deny that, but hanging out with someone who shows little regard for your feelings is pretty toxic for anyone. I know I'm sensitive, but I spent a long time letting people treating me however they wanted to, and I've finally learned to expect respect from people in my life.

The fact that I got over my crush on him is just gravy.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

I'm engaged! Or something.

Tonight I hung out with Christian and his girlfriend Tara for a little while. We were meeting at Spiegel. Tara got there way before Christian did because he was running late, so we had a lot of time to just sit there and talk and get to know each other.

Spiegel's two walls facing the street are just glass, which is great for people watching. Tara and I were sitting at a table up against one of the walls.

In the middle of our conversation, I spotted this guy walking towards the glass by the bench outside and bending down, so I thought he was just stopping to tie his shoe out of the way of passersby.

Except then he tapped on the glass.

I looked over, and he was down on one knee, motioning like he was opening up a ring box, pointing at me and blowing kisses.

I immediately looked over at Tara, and we both busted out laughing.

I looked back, and he was still doing the same motions.

I still couldn't stop laughing, but I blew him a kiss just for fun and he smiled big and then got up and walked off.

Stay weird, New York.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

So. I turned 23 a few days ago.

I love birthdays. All birthdays, not just mine.

Monday night, I went to dinner at one restaurant and dessert at Spiegel with Holly and her work-friend-who-is-now-also-my-friend Maureen. I had invited several other people but they all had to cancel, and Maureen ended up getting stuck in traffic without a phone to call us, so for a while there, I thought no one showed up to my birthday.

But we ate and we laughed and we shared a bottle of wine and Eddie from Spiegel sang for me even though he hates singing and it was lovely. Holly is taking me to the spa on Monday! Which I am super excited about.

And then there was more drinking and laughter and awesomeness in the apartment until I passed out at about 11:30.

Tuesday was spent, uh, shall we say, recovering from Monday. :)

Yesterday, I was no longer in "recovery" mode, but right off the bat I had a seizure at Spiegel, so I mostly just laid around and watched Netflix all day. Holly has gotten me hooked on the TV show Bones, and considering what a crime drama nerd I am, I can't believe I've never watched it before now.

Today, I went to therapy, which was good. My counselor this time has helped me more in two sessions than the one I had last time did in an entire semester. Then, I went to Kmart and got toilet paper and new headphones, and ended up pretty much getting the toilet paper for free because of Kmart's rewards (yay!). Then it was more sleep and more Bones.

Tomorrow, I should get to hang out with Christian and his girlfriend since they were unable to come on Monday, so I'm really looking forward to that. :)

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

I've been waiting for this.

Over the 6+ years of this blog, I think it's safe to say that it's been well-documented that Holly and I haven't always a good relationship, or a relationship at all, really. Which is a big part of the reason why I expected living with her to be much more difficult than living with a stranger. (Silly, silly me.)

It wasn't until we moved up here that we became the kind of sisters I often used to wish we were. The sisters who didn't just get along, but who enjoyed spending time together and confided in each other. I actually really like having her here, especially considering everything that's been happening.

I used to think that she showed up at ERs or came to the hospital with me just out of a sense of duty, because of the fact that even when we don't get along, we're still family and that's what family does. It never really occurred to me that she really could be concerned for me and worried about protecting me. Once, one of her ex-boyfriends told me there were several times where he had to hold her as she cried over fear of losing me or something bad happening to me, but honestly, I thought he was exaggerating or making something up to try and make me feel bad (which, if you knew the context of the conversation in which he said that and the history of our interactions with each other, wouldn't be far-fetched). I truly did not believe that she was that emotionally invested in me, because she'd spent so many years seeming to cut herself off from the family.

Well, turns out that ex-boyfriend was telling the truth. Last weekend, I fell in Spiegel's bathroom and hit my head and got rushed to the hospital as a trauma patient (no worries, everything is fine), and when you're in a trauma room, no one but medical staff is allowed in there. The doors were shut and for the first time, Holly wasn't allowed to be with me. When they brought me back out of the trauma room, the look on Holly's face was like she'd seen a ghost. It was honestly unlike anything I'd ever seen from her. Until a couple nights ago.

Because then, we were talking, and she told me that sometimes she still has nights where she wakes up in a cold sweat because of having nightmares about me getting hurt or dying. To say I didn't expect that would be an understatement. While I definitely do not like scaring anyone, especially my family, it actually really hit me in a good way to hear her say that. And that's only because it showed me that I never really had my sister figured out like I thought I did. She's very good at putting up walls and not letting people see or know what is really going on with her, which pretty much explains the first 22 years of my life with her, but I think moving here together and being so far away on our own has helped us both to tear down walls we had up to shut each other out. We haven't had a choice but to rely on each other.

Family is hard. But as messed up and dysfunctional as mine can be, and all the tense history it holds, particularly with me and my sisters, I'm still really grateful for it. I feel like, with Holly, I'm finally getting the sister relationship I tried so hard to get before, the one I hoped and prayed would come. Who would've guessed that moving 600 miles away was all it took to make it happen?

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Now I remember why I liked living alone so much.

Because living with people, especially strangers you never asked to live with, is HARD. I thought living with Holly would be the hardest part. WRONG.

This apartment has turned into World War 3, all over a stupid shower mat.

I don't know about you, but I was raised not to throw away something that someone else bought, even if we've both been using it.

Ugh. Holly has numerous escape routes, but at least for the next two months, I'm stuck in this hellhole with that big old bucket of crazy.

In other news, I don't know that I've ever been more grateful for my sister. If it weren't for her, tonight would've turned out a whole lot worse.

It's just two months. I can do two months.

I don't have any other choice. All I know is that I cannot live with her again once our leases are up, and considering this is the only place that would rent to me, I better spend every night praying she gets the heck out, because I don't deserve to have to live with a bully. I thought I left that childish crap behind in North Carolina. I guess I was wrong.

One day at a time. At least I'll have the Anima project that I can finally get back to now that it's summer to keep me occupied in my room for the weekend.

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