I Went Speed Dating

This past Saturday.... I went speed dating. Speed dating. Having quick, four minute conversations with a multitude of men, in hopes that there may be a "spark" with one or two that leads to.....finding Mr. Right??!?! I don't know about that. What I do know, is that I love talking to strangers. And here is an evening of strangers that ALL SIGNED UP to talk to each other. Oh glorious day. Speed dating has been on my bucket list for oh so long, especially since we now live in the age of match.com and tinder....these are not pictures, but real, breathing humans sitting down to have a nice chat. And when I found a living social deal that knocked the normal $30 price down to $13 AND it was happening at a restaurant IN Reston, well.....

So Saturday night found me walking into a bar/restaurant in nearby Lake Anne Plaza. After checking in, I had about 15 minutes of waiting/mingle time before the event kicked off. As there were a couple of open spots at the bar, I walked over to claim one. The bar stools were white leather chairs that were a bit too tall, a bit too slippery, and all my thoughts of an elegant and graceful perch turned quickly into a shuffled and shifted awkward but final landing. I shrugged it off and proudly stuck the nametag with my name and my assigned three numbers on. The woman sitting next to me turned and said, "I haven't put mine on yet." She pointed at the name tag next to her wallet on the bar. We quickly introduced ourselves and spent the next few minutes talking. Nicole works for the state department, has lived all over the world, and has tried speed dating a time or two before.  We joked that even if the night was a dud in the dating department at least we made a new friend. :o)

For the speed dating portion, we were placed at long tables, the ladies all on one side with the men sitting across from us. The men rotated from seat to seat so that everyone met everyone. There were about four less men than women which allowed the gals random, four minute breaks throughout the night. Although, with the next "date" happening in two chairs only inches away, it was difficult not to listen in on the guy who was about to be your next conversation.

To keep track of each date, we were given a piece of paper with columns to write the person's name, number, and any comments we could make to jog the memory later on. I tried to keep track of the main topics we talked about so my paper looked a lot like this:

103....... Dan........ Trader Joe's. Name tags.

And so the dates went. A man slipped into the chair across from me, we introduced ourselves, and found something to talk about until a bell was rung and the moderator called for the men to move once more. Jose sat down before the official time began, cheating the system a bit by beginning to ask me what sports teams I rooted for.....(in his defense, we were in a sports bar with the walls lined with tvs showing various games)....

There was charming, energetic Dan. Young, contractor Henry. Indian food loving Kumal. Conversations took on singular themes. Some never moving past, "What do you do?", "Where are you from?" and others straying into "What do you like to do in your free time?" or the REALLY random ones "If you were a tree, what would you be?" Mike, a bit older than the rest, quite possibly in his early fifties, sat down across from and audibly sighed, "You never know with these things," he said, "There were no age parameters on this event." I could only interpret that he had gauged my age well below my actual 30 years and that only put a wider gap in his mind than what he had hoped to find. I could only laugh as I told him I had signed up for the event knowing that there would be wide "age" range and that it was fun to have short conversations with so many different people....I then quickly asked him what were some of his favorite places and the topic turned safely to the Caribbean and cruises....

At the end of the evening, the moderator encouraged us to mingle more, enjoy the restaurant, and exchange numbers with anyone we wanted. My pre-speed date friend Nicole and I stood up and immediately found each other to compare our dates and observations. A phone number exchange, a promise to hang out soon, and a cold walk to the car in heels and the night was over.

The next day, we were sent a link in which to create a quick profile (throw in a pic and any info that might help a guy remember), and check off the guys we were interested in. If the guy checked off my name, we were a mutual match and allowed to message each other. Since no one caught my heart that night, I decided to "shotgun" it and check off everybody to see what hits I got.....and that's when old Mike came through as a match....ahhhh!!! I forget that real people are on the other side of the internet. :o) It's like Tinder all over again. Well, at least they were real people in my mind to start. A couple of other matches came through along with a dinner invitation....if anything pans out, maybe, just maybe I'll share. 

40 Years

40 years and two days.... that's how long my parents have been married. 40 years of raising kids, moving houses, working jobs, and loving each other through it all. It is more than enough reason to throw a party. So we did.


And by "we", I mean I drove into town the afternoon before, swept a couple of floors and cleaned the downstairs bathroom....and my sister did all the rest. All the cooking of pastas, salad, and desserts galore!, along with the inviting and direction giving and keeping track of some 30-40 people who said that they were coming. She is quite an excellent party planner.

At least I took really pretty pictures. Especially of the food.




And the people. All the lovely people.

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There was a brief moment Saturday afternoon when I realized how many amazing people who have walked alongside our family were in one place. The deep rumble of my old pastor's voice floating down the hallway to the laughs of some of my mom's best friends, to the kids occasionally galloping through the room on their way to play hide and seek. When we gathered everyone to say thank you and to toast my parents, my dad summed it up when he said, "if you are here, then you are important to this family."


And my parents. Who have shown me what it means to love, to support, to be committed to one another. Who meant it when they said "I do" forty years ago and look ahead to the next decades with excitement and purpose. I wish for them all the happiness this next year can bring until we are celebrating year 41.


Plus can we just talk about this?!?!?


40 years adorable.

That Time I Drove To Pennsylvania to Play Music


A couple of weekends ago, I set out on my only planned road trip of 2015 to play music....up to what I assumed was middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. And while I certainly drove past many abandoned gas stations and cute, eclectic roadside diners....Selinsgrove is actually quite an impressive place.... mountains and cow fields that back up to neighborhoods that surround the local shopping choices of panera, starbucks, applebees, and target. :o)

I met Pastor Bob last year at Wild Goose Festival.... he was in the tent next to the cute boy I wrote that catchy song about, and definitely within the family of "neighbors" from that weekend. We stayed in touch through social media over the last year and as I looked to do some sort of trip this fall, we reconnected and he invited me to his church, Sharon Lutheran. I shared in morning worship and then did a "house concert" with some local youth; we ate pizza and took over the coffeehouse area at a local university. Imagine the burly male students who showed up with the expectation of watching Sunday night football finding instead..... me and my guitar. :o) Poor fellas.

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And other than the fact that the moment I drove across the state line my seasonal allergies waged ALL OUT WAR on my unsuspecting sinuses, it was a beautiful trip up the coast, to get to know the Doll family, be among the autumn foliage, and share with students. This past year has been so focused on making friends and establishing roots, that I forgot how much joy I find in travel and adventure.....on my way home I drove through just a small piece of Gettysburg, to embrace a bit of history before I rolled back into Reston right on time for the next meeting.  I'm going to have to figure out how to make these trips happen with more frequency next year........maybe just settle for one big trip driving to Alaska?


The Hiatus I Didn't Know I Was Taking

Well.....it's been a while friends. A good and root settling season, but one in which music played only a peripheral role...and I didn't really see it coming.  It has been absolutely beautiful to build relationships, be a little homemaker, and learn the delicate balance of juggling multiple jobs and sleep and sanity (which I love almost every part of!). But there's something about the approach of Autumn that settles me back into scheming and dreaming. Three years ago I was playing my very first "singer-songwriter" gigs.  Two years ago, I looked ahead to moving back home to Virginia.....and this time last year I was across the country, headed to experience firsthand life at the Mexican/US Border. So I am not surprised as the temperatures dip and the leaves begin to fall, my heart looks to the next adventures.....which ONLY involve a bit of travel, songwriting, and music creating....no moves in my immediate future! :O

So if I wasn't writing, gigging, and traveling over the last 10 months, what exactly was I doing?

A lot.

Infiltrating Reston has proven to be a great generator of stories and new friends. I've made friends through purchasing furniture on craigslist, through swing dancing and book clubs...I've gone speed dating, and museum volunteering and attended cocktail parties and learned vodka can make me feel paranoid enough to think I've been roofied (which clearly I wasn't).... I've hosted dinners in my home and met a boy from out of town who turned out to be married with three kids.... I could go on.

But to celebrate the end of this self-declared hiatus, I will simply share what life has been in few words and many pictures.

Restoration Church. This community has my heart. We love and learn and meet new people together and continue to take risks and dig into the community around us. Last weekend we had a booth at Oktoberfest where we face painted over 500 children and adults. I had never face painted before.... but I proudly learned the art of a delicate unicorn and a cute tiger and tried to hold my own on the requests of dragons, spider-mans, and ninjas.



Swing dancing. What began as a very simple way to force people to be my friends by seeing me in class every week for two months has led to some of my dearest friendships here in Reston. Plus I've fallen in love with the dresses, the music, the WWII airplanes, and showing up to dance with WWII and Vietnam Vets who are flown in to Washington DC to visit the memorials as a part of the Honor Flight programs....who knew that slipping into some crinoline and leaving red lipstick imprints on an 80 year old man's cheek would become my preferred way to spend a Saturday?!



Family. I have no real words to express how much I love getting to see them at least once a month if not more. How it's no big thing to find a break of a day in the schedule and head down to Colonial Beach for an overnighter. Or to meet up in Fredericksburg for a movie and dinner. Complete game changer.



The odd jobs. Both Arise Campus Ministries at George Mason and substitute teaching have given me the opportunity to meet people, share my story and feel grounded here in Northern Virginia.


And so the hiatus is officially over. I've got a few blog posts in mind and next month I have a mini trip up to Pennsylvania to share with a church and youth group and a couple of house shows lining up through the end of the year. I'm also starting to scheme a potential cross country road trip to include the Northwest and maybe up to.....Alaska?!?!??! for next May/June..... if you are anywhere between Virginia and the Pacific Ocean and you have an interest in hosting a house concert, let me know!!

Time can only tell what the next stories will be.......

Road Tripping Through Indiana

I love long car trips. Even the part 3/4 of the way there when thoughts of "I'm never going to make it, I might as well pull over and homestead right here" seem rational. Even the busy travel plazas where parking is impossible to find or the long stretches where finding a bathroom seems an impossible feat. I was a little out of practice when I took off last week to see many lovely, familiar faces in the midwest, but it felt SO AMAZING to hit the open road with a few planned stops for the week and lots of space to meander and catch up. So I hit Indy last Sunday night, and cruised through Bloomington, Greenwood, and South Bend before spending a few days in Fort Wayne. I didn't realize how much I missed these friends.....such beautiful people who allow me to crash back into town and leave again in a flurry of energy sometimes a mere few hours later. They. amaze. me. Just a few highlights.....

Driving the Indy 500 Speedway

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My friend Matt had tickets to the brickyard 400 on Sunday, part of the tickets was a pass to drive a street legal car around the track the morning after. He headed into work Monday morning, so Candace (wife) and I used the pass for me to drive NewGuy a whopping 30 miles an hour on a bonafide race track! The stadium was completely empty except for a few other cars in front of us and the occasional volunteer waving us through. The rules were simple: keep moving at 30 miles per hour and no stopping for pictures. I like to say it was the most exhilarating 10 minutes of my morning. :o) You could feel the slant of the track and clearly see in some spots where cars have hit the concrete. I never realized how big the inside of a racetrack actually is.... there is a whole museum and half a golf course and then some all tucked with the 2-2 1/2 miles track....crazy!!

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo



Heading to Fort Wayne meant reuniting with some of my favorite littles in the whybrew children. We made the most of our day together by running around the Children's Zoo; feeding giraffes, riding the train and looking at baby lemurs....so precious.

The Lake



Everybody goes to "the lake" in Indiana.....which really means they have a favorite lake in the great expanse of dozens of lakes in the area and feel no need to specify. My friends, the Worthingtons, purchased the CUTEST cottage originally built in the 1920's with stones pulled out of Crooked Lake. We spent Friday eating grilled chicken and riding their boat, catching up on all things life, jobs, church, retirement.

All the Others



I am incredibly thankful for everyone I was able to see in the short span of five days. There were lunches, coffee dates, and drinks at night to cram the stories and questions of 7 months into the week. In many ways this trip was a bit of practice as to what leaving Reston is like....who keeps the keys, who feeds mitch, who do I call when something breaks..... of which all were answered. :O) It is a happy feeling to have this new and budding community here to call home and so many friendships spread across the country. It was as beautiful to leave as it was to return.....can't wait to see what comes next!

The Big Move

It's been almost a month since I was handed the keys to a second story beauty of an apartment with lofted ceilings, two bedrooms, plenty of windows, and a shaded balcony.  In the midst of some sort of intense cold/flu/virus thing, I barely acknowledged the occasion before I was on my way to Colonial Beach to begin the process of moving....in this case, multiple trips up and down the 95 corridor dragging beds, boxes, and a cat to our new home. My parents are. Undeniably. Rockstars.The day we brought the first load up, a few friends met us in the parking lot to help unload. As we pulled out boxes, an older neighbor parked nearby and watched for a moment. Secretly terrified we had parked in her reserved spot, I walked over and asked if we had. She said no and pointed to her apartment across the way. She introduced herself as Dottie, and I gave my little elevator speech about moving to Reston to work with a new church.  She looked me straight in the eye and said, "I've been praying about finding a new church."


We chatted a minute more about the neighborhood and location before I promised to visit her soon....everyone I have met here has been delightful, parking lot conversations are one of my new favs.

It was the next day that I tricked Mitch into the car and took him to a strange new land full of different noises, smells and MUCH much more space than the shed. He spent the first few days under the bed. Overwhelmed just a little?

This apartment is quickly becoming home. I've "lived" many places before, considering them temporary solutions to land me where I want to be. But this..... I want this place to be filled with laugher, friendship, community. And so we've already had overnight guests, dinner parties, cookie baking afternoons, and playdate mornings. The contractors have been out to fix the shower, clean up the broken fireplace door left shattered on the balcony and a new water heater has been installed. I found a dark gray ikea couch on craiglist that somehow mostly fit in my Rav4 and each day some small piece of the apartment is organized, sorted, unpacked or cleaned. Nana came for an overnight visit and we spent four hours wandering the beauty and magic of Ikea to pick out curtains and pillows and the various odds and ends to style and organize. I've raided my parents attic a few times over and am keeping my eye on the local yard sales and thrift stores.... I hope to share the stories as I settle in....like the friends that have been made over buying an end table.... OR like if I actually manage to grow any vegetables in the pile of pots I pulled from the dumpster.

And before you think this new adventure has been all daisies and roses, I must confess there was the afternoon that first week where I laid in the middle of the floor in tears because I couldn't find a working cable jack for the internet which meant a very expensive visit from the comcast people to which I yelled about how much I hated comcast and thought about how easy it would be to pack up Mitch and move back to the shed because THESE THINGS DIDN'T HAPPEN IN THE SHED...... not my proudest moment. But then I found a working jack and all was well.

I can't even imagine the stories to come.... :o)

The Golden Birthday


I have been 31 for a month now....and have been meaning to share about my very special GOLDEN BIRTHDAY!!! What is a golden birthday? It's the year that you turn the age of the day you were born. I was born on January 31. So 31 ON the 31st! It only happens once, and hopefully it's not too late for you to celebrate yours!!!

Last year, I welcomed in the 30's quietly. I had just moved back to Virginia, it snowed way more than the average year, Nate's school had burned down... everything was different. The 31st was on a Friday, so Nana and I picked up Nate from school and headed to Fredericksburg. We played some games at Chuckie Cheese and when my sister got off work, we went to Outback for dinner. I later headed on solo to check out the Fredericksburg Singer Songwriter monthly showcase.  I hadn't made any local friends until the next day when I met "birthday friend" Rebecca, whom I promptly invited to dinner at my house that night.


But THIS year, I wanted to roll all the good things from the past year up together in one ball of amazing birthday fun. So I played that Fredericksburg Singer Songwriter Showcase, spent the late evening out on the town with many friends, made a couple of new ones, and then spent my Saturday birthday at home among family with a dinner party that was quite reminiscent of childhood birthdays....presents, cake, and walks down memory lane included.

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I am so incredibly thankful of the gift the past year has been. The year 30 was good to me; time to explore music, to travel, to live and love simply, and to spend time with family. I'd like to think the next year is coated in golden tones.... a special season of new and unknown. Can't wait to see what year 31 brings.

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When the Church is Not a Building: Snow Days

Snow Days. What every elementary, middle, and high schooler hopes and waits for.... But we keep catching these snowstorms on Saturdays. Which gives no one a day off from school and gives every church the opportunity to worry about services, parking lots, road conditions.....

Since Restoration meets in an elementary school gym, we go by what the county mandates. And when the 6/7 inches fell all day Saturday and the county officially closed for Sunday....we put plan B into action.

Live stream.

From Tim's basement.

I called up Woody, who was on for percussion, and made my way through the slushy muck over to Tim's house. He had cleared an area in the basement of wii remotes and furniture, and squeezed his laptop in amongst the markers and crayons on a little craft table across the room. We ran the songs, talked through the order, and with a back drop of stairs and batman signs (left over from a six year old's birthday party the day before), we hit live and went for it.

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Leading worship for an online community is definitely a different experience. There was no one in the room except for Tim, Woody, and I, and yet by the amount of texts and emails we were receiving, we knew our still new community was online and with us. This was not the typical live stream in a big church in front of a congregation in which people can observe the gathering from their homes..... This was low tech, stripped down, absolutely no fancy tricks or gadgets....we were hopeful to facilitate a time of worship; prayer, singing, and teaching in the living rooms of people we have come to love so quickly and dearly.

What a great reminder we are not the building we choose to worship in. And how beautiful that with a little creativity and willingness to do something different, we were able to be together as a community. By our counts, we had just as many, if not more people join in during the actual live stream as we have had these previous Sunday mornings. AND I had some New England family tell me they were on with us....not to mention my host mom Sharon, who conveniently tuned in from some resort she's currently at in CANCUN! If we can provide an opportunity for so many people in so many different places to connect with God.... well, maybe these snow days aren't so bad after all.

And because the temperature warmed up Sunday, we still headed out for lunch after our live stream.... I mean, Sunday lunch out waits for no  one. :o)