There are two things that I know to be true about change:
1) it’s really hard.
2) it’s so good.
Today marks my last day as an employee for the GRAMMY Foundation. Three years ago, I booked a one-way ticket from Nashville to LA to join the “GRAMMY Family” full-time.
I watched the GRAMMY Awards growing up, and every year my dream of one day attending the show became more vibrant. Never did I think that I would celebrate my 25th birthday holding an all-access pass to the telecast and official after party. It was one of those moments that exceeds your expectations of life, and I think that it always will. I hope that you get to experience some of those “pinch-me” moments. The ones where you realize that the dreams that you didn’t even know that you had, are coming true.
I had plenty of those during my time with the GRAMMY’s, you know, those “is this real life?” moments. From dancing with Bonnie Raitt backstage, to 3am work nights (that were actually a lot of fun), to having your ultimate pre-teen (and adult) crush, Justin Timberlake announce the launch of a program that I had been working on for 3 months. Dreams on dreams on dreams…
But you can only stand on a ledge for so long before you take the leap, or you retreat back into comfort. Some of us will stand in this space for a day, a month, or even years. But sooner or later a choice has to be made.
I took a leap from my comfort zone to start my adventure in the City of Angels three years ago. Now, I’m taking another leap into a different journey. It is with a bittersweet step that I’m leaving the Recording Academy for an unwritten chapter and unknown territory. I’m beyond excited about the opportunities and possibilities that have opened up over the last few weeks – and no, I’m not going anywhere. I will still call LA home for the unforeseeable future.
BUT that doesn’t mean that I’m not going places…
On Thursday, I’m embarking on a cross-country road trip with my incredible friend Jessica Erin. We are seeking adventure, good people, incredible sights, and unforgettable experiences. Along the way, we will be stopping to work out and eat healthy…we are calling it our #FitTrip. This blonde and brunette are in for 6 days of ridiculous fun, and you should, without a doubt, follow along.
andddd because that isn’t enough social media to follow…let’s throw a spotify playlist in there, because…music! It’s open for good road trip additions…please feel free to add some good (or bad) music that we need to listen to. We will be spending just a few hours in the car: shrd.by/SpD5w3
I promise this is the last thing…but here is the list of cities that we will be going through, if you have suggestions of places we need to see/go, please comment below!!
For those of you that are still reading this…thank you. I love you all, and I couldn’t have made this leap without the overwhelming encouragement of your friendship.
“I’ve sat at a table across from my mother and she has said to me, “Not everyone wants what you want.” And I was forced to swallow hard and see her truth as truth– not everyone wants to get out. Some of us are wanderers. Some of us are fine where our feet are. Some of us wander in the hopes that our feet will finally whisper, “Stay right here. Here is where you need to stay.” – Hannah Brencher
i have been thinking about Hannah’s words and her blog post about moving a lot this week. and when i say a lot, i mean like this whole idea of change has kind of invaded my entire space over the last few days. this is partially because i have had this exact conversation with my mom, and partially because i am coming to a harsh realization that i am in a weird state of movement right now. like the ground is shaking below me and i’m grasping for anything to keep me still.
i may have moved to Los Angeles 3 years ago now, but i feel like i am just now grappling with the real turn of it all. the transition from one place to another. this may be because LA is a place where the dreamers migrate to, people are in and out and they rarely plant their roots here. the city of angels tends to look like a short vacation to never never land (trust me, you want to click that link) where the kids play out their childhood dreams without any parents or mentors around to guide the way. it is hard to feel settled or grounded in a land of fantasies, a place where everyone leaves and is really only here for selfish ambition. when you view a place as a temporary landing place, you will never feel at home.
moving here was not an easy decision. i said good-bye through many tearful nights. i left a full life of amazing community, life-giving jobs, and beautiful freedom. but at the age of 24, i was looking for more, i was scared of the comfortable bubble that i had found myself in the middle of. i wasn’t ready to settle in & let Nashville be the last chapter in my book of cities. i’m a wanderer, and my feet needed to move.
homesickness had never been a companion of mine until recently. i place most of this blame on my beautiful niece and nephews, but i also point my finger towards the pain of missing out. selfishly, i think i wanted my friends to halt life until i came back. until i was done with my wandering years and i was ready to return as the prodigal child. i wanted the celebrations upon my return (and i received them during my first few visits home). but life wasn’t meant to be put on hold, and i can’t control where this life takes myself or anyone else.
the sting of transition is hitting hard as i realize that life back home is moving on without me. new relationships have been formed, people have changed, and i haven’t been a part of it. selfish thoughts? absolutely, but i’m being honest in saying that this is why my heart aches right now, and i also don’t think it’s wrong to want to be missed. we all long to be wanted, but i’m learning to place the blame on my wandering feet instead of the humans that i left. i have changed, i have grown, and i have found new friendships as well, but because i am the girl that always thought she would return to her bubble, it is somewhat jolting to discover that it isn’t the same, comfortable space anymore.
distance is a hard obstacle to overcome and in a society where social media rules, we can follow along with our friends’ lives without making an effort, without working on the true connection of friendship. we are lazy and we use the double tap of a thumb to say ‘hello’ to a ‘best friend’ who lives 2,000 miles away, because taking the time to make an actual phone call is just out of the question.
life is fluid and always changing – it’s a hard lesson to learn. we can’t keep people from changing or hold them back from the life that they were meant to live. moments cannot be kept in a box and pulled out on a rainy day. every single minute is fleeting. people will not be around forever, and some friends are placed in your life for a single season. but this is a really grand reason to hold on to the humans that we have right now. treat them well. make the best of the season that you’re in, it’s going to change sooner than you might think. (James 4:14 states it pretty clearly: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”)
make the call. book the trip. cling to the ones you love, and realize when it’s time to let them go. don’t be afraid to grow and change. be careful with your wandering feet, listen for the whisper that may tell you to stay. and be prepared to be okay with that.
these are the phrases i am telling myself today, and every day moving forward. and no, this is not an attempt to make an announcement about my life, if i’m staying, or if i’m going – this is a simple outlet to tell you where i am right now. today, on April 22, 2015 as I sit in Los Angeles holding onto God as the transition shakes around me.
for those of you that know me, you know that i have a major fear of commitment.
i cry with all major decisions. no matter how much i pour over a pros and cons list, i’m too scared to make the wrong decision and make a commitment for any length of time. what if i end up hating it? what if i’m stuck? what if, what if, what if…
I’ve realized now that in life, it’s very rare that you are permanently STUCK with anything (although this thought still doesn’t make my life decisions much easier). However, there are a few things that I will have for the rest of my life on earth (and the life after):
– my family (and how thankful I am for that)
– my relationship with Jesus
– and tattoos
yes, tattoos. I got my first one when I was 18 (with my mom), and i just got my third one this week, and it’s my favorite by far. It’s in honor of my Granny Jo who passed away last year. I knew that I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t sure what. Then I remembered that my favorite things that I have left of her are her notes. She would send a card for EVERY occasion, and sometimes just randomly. I cling to these notes so tightly now, so I decided to create a way that I could carry them with me.
Love, in her handwriting, from the very last letter she wrote me – just a week before she passed. Just looking at this photo brings tears to my eyes. It was a commitment that I didn’t have to think twice about – a rare moment indeed.
you were wonderful, harsh, dreamy, dark, and lovely. you were a brown paper package wrapped-up in string, filled with new desires, new dreams, new friendships, and new challenges.
you greeted me with unexpected loss. one that broke my heart and tore at my soul. one that brought me home to spend time with family and see friends that lift me up. one that helped me evaluate how i live and taught me to hold onto the ones i love a little bit tighter.
you brought me new community. new lives were brought to me that helped me appreciate my moments in this “new” city. through sport, through serving others, and other common interests, i found new humans to enjoy.
you became a challenge. i broke my leg and suddenly found myself on a surgeon’s table with two crutches as my new best friends. i was in pain and helpless. i was humbled to ask for help, and thankful for those who willingly would.
you put me in awe. when one of our friends ended up in the hospital after a tragic accident, it was astounding to see how we rallied, not only for him, but for each other from scattered places around the country. my heart was full.
you welcomed me with adventure. i was able to go to nicaragua without crutches just two months after surgery. we went as two girls open to the doors that swung our way. we experienced beautiful moments, and fell even more in love with that country.
you were filled with gorgeous, new views. with a California camping trip, and a road trip up the coast on route 1.
you knocked on my door with reminders. after various reunions, i discovered that distance will not steal friendships. whether it was through a beautiful union of two humans, or just for a Nashville ‘galentine’s day’ – we danced, we sang, and we lived.
you awakened my mind with new dreams. some to be told and lived out, others that may always remain a dream.
you were filled with laughter, late night cocktails, painful tears, spontaneous decisions, and confusing conversations.
lessons were learned, questions were asked, answers were lost, and life was lived.
so thank you, 2014. your moments are forever in my memory.
’tis the season to celebrate. we do that in all sorts of ways, most include lots of eating and giving gifts to one another. but what if you decided to use that money to build gifts for a stranger? i’m so thankful that I have friends that are willing to sacrifice to make the world around them a little better.
I started writing this the day after I got back from Nicaragua. With the passing of my grandmother, my writing was halted, but I wanted to keep the spirit of this post the same. That is why I have not changed some of the references in the following words…
As I sit here in my office in Santa Monica, it is hard to imagine that just over 24 hours ago my friend, Cami and I were still in Nicaragua. The contrast of the two worlds sometimes makes the last eight days feel like a dream. And it’s an amazing, life-altering dream that is hard to put into words.
This wasn’t my first trip to Nicaragua, in fact, this was my 4th time to this beautiful country. However, it was my first time on the ‘front lines’ of some of the real issues in the capital city, Managua. My other trips involved loving on kids in the morning, and laying by a pool once 3pm came around at a beautiful compound built for missionaries. Don’t get me wrong, those trips were amazing in their own right, and opened my eyes to what real poverty and desperation looks like which completely changed my life. But this was different.
We slept in the same neighborhood that the children we worked with lived. We ate the same food, walked the same streets, and had the same drunks and thugs as neighbors for a week. This community is considered by some as the “ghetto” of Managua. We were not allowed to go outside of the school’s walls without a “bodyguard.” We were not to be on the streets in the dark at all, yet children as young as 5 run the dirt alleyways until 11 pm (or later) without supervision.
We were completelty immersed in their culture, and I loved it.
The first time we got to meet the children, they greeted us with hugs without even a second thought to who we were or if we even wanted to be hugged. You could tell their hearts ached to be loved, to be noticed. None of their clothes matched, their skin was covered in dirt, their eyes were heavy, but their faces carried smiles. With every hug and kiss on the cheek, my heart ached more for these kids.
We started out the week with a little clean-up project at the school. We wanted to engage the kids in doing the work with us, and give them a sense of ownership over the new ‘landscaping’ and clean play area. They helped gather rocks, pick up trash, kill cockroaches that were the size of my fist (true story), and planted flowers.
We were pleasantly surprised with how much they enjoyed the work, and it was fun to see the children in action and get to know them in this relaxed setting.
The next morning we were able to visit a project that we had worked with during my first three trips to the country. It was amazing to see how much the children had grown up and how some of them remembered us from our past visits. I brought them some brand new soccer balls and in true Nicaraguan form, the garage was immediately cleared out for them to play an exciting game of futbol.
The afternoon brought another new experience as we got to meet all of the children involved in the project and witness what a normal day at the school looks like. Children go to school year round in Nicaragua, so the kids that attend this project go to public school in the morning. This project was established to feed the hungry kids lunch, keep them off of the streets, and provide educational re-inforcement.
First, all of the kids come for lunch. This is cooked by one person, who’s name is Julio. He is the ‘groundskeeper’ of the school who also doubled as our bodyguard for the week. Meals almost always consists of rice, beans, and ketchup in some form. Yes, ketchup. If you are lucky, some plantains will be thrown in there (yay for carbs!).
Once lunch is over, the older kids go home, while the younger kids stay for their afternoon class. The ages in this class range from 4-10. The teaching consists of the teacher writing math problems, or stories up on the board, while the children simply copy them. That’s it. Most of them don’t even know what they are writing down. And someone of them can’t even write their letters or numbers correctly. Even though there was a language barrier, it was surprisingly easy to help and encourage them through their challenges. We were desperate to provide a more efficient way to help these kids learn. And with exciting news, we learned that after we left, some of our money was used to purchase workbooks for everyone!
The afternoon consisted of two hours of the same kind of teaching, just at a somewhat higher level. Cami and I were challenged to go back to high school when some of the older girls had questions about their algebra homework. It’s still pointless (my apologies to math teachers all around the world).
Everyday looked the same from the outside, but each day was a new experience as we became more comfortable with the community within and beyond the project’s walls. We befriended our neighbors, and became close with our host, Tom’s family. We learned more about the culture, and the real needs of each of the children and their families.
One particular story captured my heart. Pictured above is precious Yaritza. She is seven years old, and a complete terror :). She reminds me a lot of myself at that age, always wanting to be the center of attention. But I could see the deep sadness in her eyes, and knew that her behavior was merely an outpouring of the life she had been handed. She lives with her dad who is a drunk, her mom who is a prostitute, and her aunt (22) who tries to provide for the family by selling food on a street corner. Yaritza was always one of the dirtiest children in the class, and the most stubborn. She stole my heart.
While on the trip, I decided to become her sponsor. I am so excited to get to know her and love on her from afar until I get to see her again.
On the 4th of July, we decided that we needed to throw a true American party. We bought 300 hotdogs, an obseen amount of rice, and some classic fireworks to entertain the entire community. We enlisted the kids of the project to help us again. It was so fun to see how serious they were about their tasks. I got yelled at more than once for my bun-splitting skills. If the bun broke in half, they were not happy with me. They wanted it to be perfect. I would simply shrug and exclaim “accidente!!”. They would just roll their eyes and laugh.
It was a joy to watch the children serve their community, but it was heartbreaking to see poverty stricken people face-to-face. There are several kids that the project can’t serve, due to financial or scheduling reasons. Do these children simply go hungry? Do the babies have a way to get proper nutrition? How many of these drunks and theives are parents to the faces that I have grown to know and love over the past 7 days?
Everyday presented us with a new challenge that we dreamed about overcoming. What can bring real change in this broken community that seems to be content with their brokeness?
Thank God for the blessing of technology and ways to communicate with those that are working on the front lines every day to combat these obstacles. I love continuing these conversations from afar.
Although we go days without a real shower, without a good nutritious meal, without many of the luxuries we are used to here in the states, I am always desperately sad to leave this country and its people.
It’s a harsh reality when re-entering a first world life. I landed at LAX with tears in my eyes, as I overheard people complaining about petty things. Yet, here I am almost two months removed from the trip, and I am again complaining about those same meaningless things right alongside of them. That is why I strive keep these children in my thoughts and prayers daily. It is a beautiful thing to realize that they help me as much, if not more, than I get to help them. Their joy helps me to find joy on the dark days and their smiles help me to smile through the tears.
A HUGE thank you to everyone who donated to this cause in honor of my birthday in February. None of this would have been possible without you. We were able to clean the school, and update the landscape to make it safer for the kids to play in. We bought each of the kids a Spanish, children’s Bible – all of their faces lit up when they got their hands on something of their very own. We fed the entire community on the 4th of July, and we got to take the kids away from their neighborhood on an adventure to a beautiful park for the day. We were also able to leave money to purchase the much needed workbooks, and provide funds for meals over the next month.
Each and everyone of you had and continue to have a part in this journey. I am excited to see what our God has planned for this community, and how you can be involved. You never know, you could end up in these children’s arms before you know it.
If you want to hear more about the trip (there is a lot more to tell), please feel free to shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to visit my friend, Cami’s blog as well to hear about the trip from her perspective. You can view the re-cap video that she created below.
performing is no stranger to me. while i never fail to get nervous, i have sung at my fair share of events. whether it has been in a musical, at a major sporting event, or in a small dive bar – i’ve done it. although singing at an SEC football game was nervewracking, it pales in comparison to the event i sang at a few weeks ago: my granny jo’s funeral.
she was a spunky woman full of southern class and charm. she was a sports fan, an unwavering democrat, and i’m pretty sure that Neil Diamond and Tiger Woods were here two favorite humans (yes, even after the Tiger Woods scandal – “he forever changed the game of golf,” she would say in his defense).
she used her life as a service to others. her days were filled with volunteering, serving on various boards, and cooking meals for events. i remember being at her house one day asking what she was up to and she responded, “well, i didn’t have anything to do on tuesdays, so i started volunteering at the hospital.” because heaven forbid she rest a day. she genuinely enjoyed using her talents and time to serve others, and she was the type of person that i wanted everyone to meet.
Little Women is one of my favorite movies, and when i think of Granny Jo, i am often reminded of the line at the end of the movie when Fredrich says to his love, Jo… “such a little name…for such a person.” she was a true one-of-a-kind<–read more about her here.
here favorite people to serve was her family…especially her grandchildren. we all have unique memories of her that have spun us into the people that we are today. unbeknownst to anyone in the family, Jo had her funeral planned out, down to the last detail. the only people she wanted officiating the service were her four grandchildren.
when i first heard the news, i was somewhat upset. i had thoughts like, “how in the world did she expect us to hold it together?” and “this is going to be a blubbering mess.”
she wanted me to sing “Amazing Grace,” following my brother’s beautiful prayer, that had me in tears. once i reached the stage, knees shaking, it took me a moment to reel in my emotions. i couldn’t look out into the crowd without seeing a life that she hadn’t left an imprint on. it was the toughest two minutes of my life.
my cousins followed up with some perfect words while attempting to sum Jo up through their tears, but if i do say so myself – the service was beautiful, personal, and a true celebration of the incredible woman she was. the church was standing room only, and i’m not sure that there was a dry eye in the house. as someone mentioned to me after the funeral, she was showing off her legacy, letting the world see what she was leaving behind.
i love that. and i feel so honored to be a part of Betty Jo Crass’ legacy.
a special note of gratitude to everyone that has made these past few weeks a little bit easier. it is so comforting to know that we have each other in these tough moments of life. feeling loved goes a long way. you will never know how much every note, text, flower, and hug has meant to everyone in my family. love you all… xoxo