She’s 32 and Single. There Must Be Something Wrong With Her.

I recently saw a video on social media where a man stated, “My father has a rule. And I am not saying that this rule is accurate. But just look at your life and apply it, and see if it is accurate, gentlemen. My father told me that if a woman is over 32, has never been married, never had any kids, there is something wrong with her.” The room went into an uproar at his words. “I am not saying it’s right and I am not saying it’s incorrect… every time I have applied this rule, it has been accurate.”

If you are a single woman, in your early 30s, and love the Lord— like me— then you have probably heard, at least once, that when you are happy being single and need no one else but Jesus in your life, that’s when the man of your dreams will show up. Just when you weren’t looking for him.

I don’t think my girlfriends, because yes I have heard this multiple times, meant to imply that for the past 13 years (since my last serious boyfriend) I haven’t been happy. They were sharing their story. For them, this was their reality. For them, this was their truth. But just because it is true for one single lady who meets a man when she is least expecting it just after she is at peace with being single, doesn’t mean it will happen for everyone. Can I be real? I wish people would stop perpetuating the lie that there is something wrong with being single in your thirties. Especially, in the church. Because when you hear a lie often enough, you start to believe it.

The video went on with a reply from an older woman. She took the microphone with authority, looked directly at the man and said, “Tell your daddy (loud cheers from the crowd) that if you find a woman that is 32 years old, doesn’t have any kids, never been married… Tell your daddy, that she’s educated and that she is planning to make financial decisions so that she can afford the children that she has and send them to college. Instead of having them standing at the bus stop, she can drive a Lexus to work. Tell your daddy, that the woman is a boss.”

I smiled after I saw watched this video. And then I watched it again. I think it gave me a longer pause, made me stop and reflect, because I am 32 years old. I thought about my life and immediately began composing a paragraph in my head of what I would write in response to this video if I was the commenting type. It went something like this:

I am debt free. No student loans. No credit card debt. I have my masters in Education. I’ve taught children all over the world on two different continents outside my homeland. I have lived in four different countries. I’ve traveled to 25 countries. I have built friendships with people across the world and kept those friendships going strong even after years of living in different places. I have learned how to ask for forgiveness and help and how to share my faith again and again and again. But oh… right. There must be something wrong with me because I am not married.

I’ve been thinking about this even more lately because a friend of mine recently moved to a different country and is feeling lonely. She shared with me that when she feels lonely she usually thinks that if she just had a boyfriend she would be happier. She wouldn’t be lonely. She quickly stops these thoughts because she knows it’s not true. And she has people in her life to tell her that those thoughts are not true.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been many, many times over the years when I have wanted nothing more than the man of my dreams to just walk through the freaking door already. I have felt that same loneliness and thought that the only solution is a husband. I desire to get married. I do. I have come to the point though, where I am so satisfied with where God has placed me that when I feel lonely I don’t immediately think, “If only I had a man.” I think, what can I do to enjoy this life I have been given? Who can I spend time with? Who can I encourage and who can I ask for encouragement from?

Please, don’t hear what I am not saying and get it all twisted. There are times when I am more actively pursuing a relationship and there are times when I am too busy to care. I am open to a relationship. I just don’t need one to be fulfilled. I want one. I just don’t want it to make me happy. Because I already am happy.

As a single, Christian woman in my early thirties, I am not an anomaly. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with me.

I know because my daddy says…

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“Didn’t you notice it was a manual when you got in?”

My stomach dropped as I climbed inside the rental car and saw the gear shift stick between me and my passenger (friend!), Alicia. By looking for the cheapest rental car possible, dang you frugality, I had accidentally booked a manual car instead of an automatic. My mind flashed back to me at 21 years old convincing four girlfriends that I could drive the South African terrain into Swaziland in a manual car, conveniently forgetting to mention to them that I had only learned how to drive manual the summer before on country back roads. I like to think I handled that road trip well, but I also think I was more fearless at 21.  It’s been over a decade since then and I had driven manual plenty of other times, but I not on the “other side of the road” since that African road trip.

Bringing myself back to the present I took a breath and stepped out of the car, practically sprinting back into the car rental office. “I am fully capable of driving a manual car,” I smiled at the receptionist. “I was just not mentally prepared for it. Do you have any automatic cars available for hire?” Her no wasn’t sorrowful at all, more annoyed. I smiled again and went back outside.

“I can drive a stick shift, Alicia.”  I said aloud, more for my benefit that hers. Her response was immediate, “I believe you! I can’t help at all as I don’t have a clue how to drive manual”. She was super supportive, even when my mind went blank and I forgot to push down the clutch when attempting to start the car. Haha, oops.

Driving manual is like riding a bike, really. It all came back as I started driving around Hobart, even while using my left hand and driving on the left hand side of the road. As soon as I began to pick up speed, however, the car refused to accelerate. I had the pedal to the metal as they say, and it started going slower instead of faster. What? My first thought was that I was doing something wrong. We had just entered onto the highway after I had barely made it over a hill when I pulled over onto the shoulder. I took a deep breath, once again telling Alicia that I knew how to drive a manual. I am a safe driver, I am! After I gave myself a pep talk I tried again. This time we were halfway up a hill when I had to pull over again, the stupid car just wasn’t shifting gears and accelerating the way it was supposed to. Whyyyyyy? I looked in my rearview mirror at the abandoned car behind me, also on the shoulder of the road. I tried again and again to get the car started and moving forward and every time I tried we rolled backwards. Cars, trucks, monster trucks, bigger than monster trucks were flying past us around the curves on the highway. Some honking, all speeding.

Swallowing my pride and after many nudges from Alicia, I finally agreed to call the car rental company. I had a short, curt, and demeaning conversation with a receptionist, let’s call her Kasey, who at one point said, “Didn’t you notice it was a manual when you got in?” Kasey was convinced I had it in reverse, I wasn’t, but my second guessing nature and natural inclination towards I must be the one doing something wrong, had me agreeing with her. Telling me that the worst thing I could do was to panic, Kasey instructed me to try and try again. I actually wasn’t panicked, I was irritated. Alicia was extremely calm this whole time, both of us keeping our nervous energy on the inside (aside from my terrible shaky leg on the clutch).

I ended up rolling backwards into the left lane of the highway around the abandoned car (still rolling backwards mind you) and back onto the shoulder in order to avoid smashing into it. To say we got a few more honks would be pretty accurate. Finally, Alicia succeeded in convincing me to call roadside service with a simple statement, “It’s not safe.” I agreed, this was ridiculous, and absolutely not safe. How in the world was I able to drive a manual for the first 15 minutes of this journey (not to mention the last 12 years) and then forget? How does that work? I was frustrated and grateful, at least we were still safe.

When the police officer pulled over on his motorcycle I can fully guarantee that I had never been more grateful of a cop stopping behind my vehicle in my entire life. I beamed at him, relieved as I rolled down my car window. After explaining the situation to Steve, (real name because he is AWESOME) he began coaching me through what to do, even though, I promise I knew what to do! Steve changed his mind halfway through his instructions and asked me to get out of the car.

Less than 1 minute of sitting in the rental Steve shook his head, got out of the car and said, “The clutch is gone, this car is broken.” VINDICATION. And relief. Also, I am not a mechanic and I know next to zilch about cars so for all of you reading this who already guessed that the clutch was gone, good job. I am happy for you. I called the rental place back and wouldn’t you know, Kasey completely changed her tune when I explained what transpired since our last little chat. She promised to get a tow truck to us immediately and then hoped we would ‘stay warm’ in the chill Tasmania winter. Jee, thanks.

Steve stayed with Alicia and I the whole time, stating he couldn’t leave “damsels in distress” and called for another cop car to come and block the lane further down as cars continued to speed around the curves. He gave thumbs up to the cars being safe and opened his arms wide to the more reckless drivers. Seriously, I love Steve.

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Almost 30 minutes later two men in a pick up truck showed up to tow the car… interesting. “I can smell that!” One of them said towards Steven as he neared the car. Neither men said a word in our direction as Steve ushered us to the back of their truck, what a good person he is. Steve pointed out the oil leaking from the car and I heard one of them tell the other, “Probably needs a whole new gearbox.” We sat in the truck as the car was hooked up. Silence. One man sat in the broken car to steer it behind us while the other merged the truck on the highway. Silence. “So are you Jason, or is the other one Jason?” I asked referring to the name Kasey had given of who was picking us up. “We both are.” Then. Silence.

By the time we got back to the car rental’s office I was fuming. What kind of car rental loans a broken car. In all fairness, I know that you can’t predict when a clutch will go, but surely some kind of safety tests are in place before cars are hired out so you can try not to hand over a worthless car. We stood for a good 10 minutes in the office waiting for Kasey to come and speak with us. She finally emerged and without preamble started explaining how she had given us an upgrade and an automatic car was ready for us.

I gave her a hard look. “I am sorry, I don’t know if I am ready to get back into one of your cars.” Kasey looked a little taken aback and said, “We give our cars safety checks before they go out, there is no way to predict when a clutch goes. People rent out manuals without knowing how to drive them. The last person who rented the car must have driven it to the ground. We are not blaming you.”

“Of course not, it’s not my fault,” I mentioned a few other things about how we lost half the day already, etc. “No one even asked us if we are okay,” I shook my head not believing how this huge safety hazard didn’t even make a blimp on this car rental’s radar.  Kasey paused and looked at us. “That’s just the boys. Are you okay?” She asked quickly. Not exactly flippantly, but not with any deep conviction either.

I held back my anger as I realized I actually appreciated her no-nonsense attitude and really wanted to head out to the Tahune Airwalk. It didn’t hit me later as I was driving the automatic out on the open road that just a few hours before, they said they didn’t have an automatic car. Hmmmm…

In the midst of the silent guys coming to get the car I didn’t get to properly say goodbye to my hero of the day, Steve. Thanks for everything, Steve!

We made it to the Tahune Airwalk.

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Lemonade- Not the Beyoncé Kind

Hi Family! Hi Friends! Hi Strangers!

It’s been a minute, I know. But I am stretching my fingers and cracking my knuckles (yup, literally just did that) and itching to get back on this keyboard.

Living in Melbourne, Australia for the past eleven months has been a whirlwind of adventure, excitement, disappointments, incredible favour— speaking of which I don’t know how the world of Commonwealth countries are able to tolerate American spelling, it just looks wrong to me now, and I am American! How does 31 years of American spelling look wrong after only 11 months? Okay, so there are some things that America got very, very right, I still can’t do Celsius and I love measuring things by inches, pounds, and miles, I do, though I know there is a huge controversial debate on the States going fully metric—errr.. Back to my time in Australia being a whirlwind, I think the biggest shock for me is that I am still getting shocked… culturally. See what I did there?

A couple of weeks ago I went to the movies with two people who have become kind of like my Australian siblings. When I first met my friend and coworker, Alicia’s, little brother, Michael, I creepily whispered, “Be my brother.” and then forgot about it. Apparently, Alicia’s mum (I still prefer mom!) heard it and thought it was funny, which I was obviously trying to be, and told Michael later… he thought about it and said, “Yeah, I’d be her brother.” Ba-da bing ba-da boom, I got myself a little brother.

Back to the movies. We were eating burgers beforehand. Alicia ordered herself a classic burger and a Sprite, and she got a burger and a sprite. I ordered myself a classic burger and a lemonade, and got a burger and a Sprite. What the heck? Tell me this, does coke have another name other than coca-cola? I think not. But in Australia, Sprite is also called lemonade and lemonade is whatever brand of the lemonade it is (Lift, Solo, blablabla). I was super confused when I got my Sprite and stuttered on about lemonade. Meanwhile, Alicia is holding her Sprite and I am holding my Sprite and wanting the Lift lemonade I see clearly behind the glass cooler and the confused cashier is saying, “I can change it for you” but not moving to do so and because I am so flustered I just say, “It’s fine” and walk away. Why did I do that? I really wanted lemonade! I mean Lift! I mean, whatever!

You may think, what a silly thing to have culture shock about. But when all of those silly things add up and every day you’re feeling like you are missing the joke, or the inside knowledge on something, it can be pretty taxing.

It’s the beauty of living abroad. And though I wish the moments didn’t happen quite as often as they do, I love it when they happen just the same. Does that sound contradictory? Well, welcome to my life.

Are you a lemonade or a Sprite person? Shoot, never mind, according to Australia those are the same thing.

Cheers!

How to Speak Australian

Truth be told, I am still learning how to speak Australian. Before I moved here many people told me I would have culture shock, even though this is an English speaking country. I believed them. Except, I didn’t really believe them. I mean, I knew. But, I didn’t know. You know?

My first day of teaching Year 5 (translation: 5th grade) proved to be the most culturally shocking. It felt like every other word that came out of my mouth was an ‘American’ term that they in turn had an ‘Australian’ word for. I said sweater, they said jumper. I said sneaker, they said trainer. I said sweatpants, they said trackies. I said braid, they said plait. I said candy, they said lollies. I said markers, they said texters. I said backpack, they said bag (I flipped out on them at that point, “If you understand what I am saying enough to correct me, then don’t correct me. One of our classroom agreements is to, ‘Celebrate Our Differences’ are you celebrating our differences right now? NO YOU ARE NOT. If you really don’t understand what I am saying then ask politely, otherwise don’t say anything.” The class went pretty quiet after that. For about 10 seconds.)

They still accidentally correct me if I say a word ‘differently’ than they do. Data, inquiry, maroon, Adidas-turns out that one Americans do say wrong because it’s an actual German company and it’s NOT pronounced the way we say it!-but all the rest is tomato or tomato.

I have started a list in my phone to keep up with my Australian colleagues. There are times when they text me or I have conversations with someone and I get very confused. For example, “She shouts all the time” does not mean someone is yelling. ‘Shout’ is when you pay for someone’s meal or coffee. I know right?

Here’s just a few more (really this is the very shortened list):

Ta- Thank you
Wag/Wagging- skip or skipping, “Wagging school to go sight seeing I see” is a text I got once.
Bogan- hicks
Sticky beak- being nosey
Lollies- anything that I would call candy
Arvo- Good afternoon
Pash- to make out (I didn’t learn that one from experience)
Cuppa- hot drink (often tea)
Daggy- worn out, uncool, unfashionable
Woop-woop- Middle of no where (my assistant principal taught me that one!)
Sweet as/good as- I don’t want to finish that but it means something along the lines of: awesome! nice! really great!
Fair dinkum- Are you serious? Are you telling me the truth?
Horse riding- Horseback riding (seems incomplete without the back to me)
Aluminium- spelled differently, said differently. Al-Ū-min-ium. So weird.
Herb- pronounced with the H
Maccas- McDonalds (they like to shorten everything. I had people calling me “Mel” that hadn’t even met me in person yet)

And instead of saying, “Hi, how are you?” as a common greeting, everyone here says, “How ya going?”

Not only am I rewiring my brain to do everything opposite… I still say, “left, left, left” in my head when I am walking on the sidewalk or trying to figure out what side of the road to get the tram on, but I am learning how to greet in another language. Good ‘ol Australian English.

Snail Mail Making a Comeback

For half a decade I have had a very faithful pen pal. We met in South Korea on August 20, 2009 and lived together for 10 days in a small dorm room as we were acclimated to our new jobs and country of residence. That random room assignment has given me a gift that keeps on giving. Christina has inspired me through her adventurous spirit, and her letters, and her gift of photography, which you can see on her blog. I am grateful for her faithfulness in writing me letters, because sometimes it takes me months to write back, but she never gives up on me.

A week after I received Christina’s letter in the mail I got another letter from a best friend since childhood. April blogged about sending something in the mail to someone you miss. I read the post and loved it and secretly hoped she would write me a letter one day soon, and then guess what showed up in the mail?

Thank you friends. I love my letters.

A few days after I got my letter from April, I received a package. Mail! It’s the best thing ever.

When I left Korea I had a group of beautiful friends form a committee (without my knowledge) to plan my going away party. As part of the party (before, during, and after it I should say)  the committee asked my church community to write me letters of encouragement. They printed out pictures and put together a massive binder of the letters and pictures and verses. You know you have teacher friends when you get a book of encouragement organized to last a whole year. I am not allowed to open the letters as I please, they are set up for me to open 3-4 a week.

Thank you Dyanne (those pictures, yay!), Tammi, Zara, and Delia. Thank you especially to Delia for putting it all together and for mailing it to me instead of making me carry and extra 12 pounds of weight to Australia. Thank you for knowing me so well. I love and miss you all.

Accent? What Accent?

I spent three weeks in Texas when I was 14 and when I showed up to the ranch that, unbeknownst to me until I got there, had been donated to YWAM by Melody Green (the person I am named after) one of the first things a Texan said to me was, “You’re from Michigan.” Not a statement, an observation.

“How did you know that?” Confusion. Probably the best look to describe my face.

“I can tell by your accent.”

Mind blown. At this point in my very sheltered, country-living upbringing, I had met very few people outside of the States and I thought the only accents that existed were British ones. Because those were the only people I had met outside of the USA.

I had an accent? Me?  It took a minute to wrap my head around the idea. Once I realized that everyone has an accent to someone else, well this revelation was the beginning of my journey to becoming more cultured. A journey that hasn’t stopped since leaving Michigan, the home of my accent, and living in South Africa, South Korea, and now… Australia.

The people I am in cahoots with the most are diverse and come from a broad range of countries and backgrounds with a variety of accents. This has caused me to forget accents exist. I meet someone and once I get to know them I think, “That is how so-and-so sounds.” Their voice becomes like the color of their skin, their eyes, their hair, it’s not an “Australian accent” or a “Kiwi accent” or a “British accent”, it’s “Danielle’s voice” and “Joanna’s voice” and “Ryan’s voice”. This in turn has caused me to forget that my voice isn’t “Melody’s voice” to strangers I meet. It’s a very thick “Michigander’s accent” that may have become slightly convoluted by years of international living. I’m sorry, is that one too many quotation marks? I’ll move on.

For example, when I order at restaurants or chat with cashiers at Woolworth’s a strange pleasant look usually crosses their faces as they pause. “What accent is that?” A lovely woman asked me the other day when I was shopping for groceries. I told her where I am from and she said, “I was going to say America, because I just visited family there, but I didn’t want to offend you in case you were from Canada.” Haha, those sensitive Canadians. I told her it’s always okay to guess Canada first, because if they are from my neighboring country they will be so happy that someone guessed Canada before the USA and if they are from the States they won’t be bothered too much. And people say Canadians are the nicer ones (okay, okay, usually true…).

I was ordering food at a restaurant when a handsome waiter started bantering with me (not unnecessary details) and asked where I came from. He then proceeded to try and guess which state, and he didn’t say California or New York. Mad props. He guessed Colorado and another state that I can’t remember. This impressed me greatly as the majority of Aussies I meet don’t know where Michigan is.

While living in South Korea I started losing the ability to remember skin color. When people asked me what someone looked like that I just met I would sometimes have to guess if they were Asian or Caucasian because I would actually forget. Now, I am losing the ability to pick up on accents. It’s a wonderful thing, living abroad.

10 on 10 Project, I have not failed you.

Tomorrow is September 10th. I missed posting pictures on June 10th, July 10th, and August 10th. I will not fail in September, and yet if I do forget or don’t have time because there are other important things on my mind, that’s okay too. Part of me is ready to drop the 10 on 10 project for the rest of 2016 and start up fresh in 2017. But “starting fresh” or having pictures to document every single month isn’t what the project is about for me. It’s having archived memories to look back on and see my life and my photography, two things I love very much.