my other college roomate...

anyway, on to my other college roommate, dina (who by the way does not have a roman nose, which is today’s very weird toponym “word of the day” and there was just no good way to work that into this post).

robyn and i were sophomores and were in a dorm room and shared a bathroom with another room with three girls in it. one of the three girls was dina. she had been put in that room and didn’t really know those girls and she kind of knew robyn and i from the year before and so she spent a lot of time in our room. which was fine with us. she just happened to be the funniest person in the world. 

at night, robyn and i would climb into our loft beds (with spiral staircases, we had the BEST loft beds that some girl’s dad had made her and her roommate the year before and we had bought them from her) and once robyn and i were in bed, dina would stand on a chair in the middle of the room and entertain us with some story, interpretive dance, or recitation of a poem. ok, it was funnier than it sounds (or were we just deliriously tired from taking photos of ourselves with taped up noses or from wearing crowns all day? who knows?).

what robyn and i were beginning to suspect (and would then spend the rest of our lives noticing) about our sweet and entertaining suite-mate, dina, was that whatever normal people are made of, she wasn’t made of. and i mean that in a really nice way because she has photos of me like this.... 

yes, whatever normal people are made of, dina is not. because in a world that in increasingly dark, she sparkles. figuratively and literally sparkles with a joy and an excitement and a joie de vivre that if she knew french would make more sense to her...

she lit up our dorm room whenever she was in it. and then robyn and i convinced her to live off campus in an apartment with us (we lived at #4 and so our favorite thing to say was “there is more at #4”.) dina didn’t have a car so she shared robyn’s red car and my blue car. dina and i shared a room and the only time she didn’t sparkle was before her shower in the morning. in fact, i was NOT allowed to speak to her until she had showered. i was a “happy waker” and liked to wake up and immediately begin to discuss important events like what to wear that day, what episode of “little house on the prairie” was showing, or how i hadn’t studied enough for a test. dina liked to wake up and shower and not discuss life issues before she was fully alive. 

we were in the same major (education) and we had most of our classes together, so i was able to observe this sparkle thing that she does a lot. and whatever she had, i wanted it. whatever she was on, i wanted to take some.... i planned to stick close and watch and figure out what was so magnetic about her personality. 

and i have stuck close (figuratively if not literally) for some 20 odd years now (some of those years more odd than others). and all i can say is that my original assessment was correct. whatever normal people are made of, she is not. there is something in her that sparkles...

she lights up a room, a conversation, a snowy porch, a walk on the beach, a stone lion, a podcast about audiovisual stuff, whatever she is doing, wherever she is... it is the brightest place in the world. and i still can’t figure out how she does it. but i have some clues to follow and i make a heck of a nancy drew...

  • don’t care what other people think. care about what God thinks.
  • but do care about other people deeply. cry with them, pray for them, laugh with them, share your heart with them. make time for them. community is hard work, but it is worth it.
  • sing. a lot. even if you wouldn’t win american idol. sing. make up songs. learn new songs. and sing loud.
  • read great books. read the Bible. read lea’s blog. 
  • don’t love the bubble.
  • be an incredible mother and treasure EVERY moment, scrapbook the hell out of everything. say a bad word every now and then just to shock the system.
  • don’t forget to be an incredible wife. make that a priority. 
  • learn lessons sometimes the hard way. learn them. move on wiser. don’t look back.
  • get grace. even if you can’t walk up stairs without tripping doesn’t mean that you can’t let grace define your very essence. 
  • don ‘t sleepwalk through life... LIVE the thing. don’t settle for status quo, aim higher than being “just fine”.

one of my favorite new songs reminds me so much of dina. she isn’t always the most “graceful” of girls so when i heard the first line about walking and stumbling, it made me smile. even though she sometimes is walking, stumbling on her shadowfeet... she whispers of a well-lit way (actually she SHOUTS of it and GLOWS with its possibilities). and wherever i find her... i find her in Christ... still standing. and most of the time dancing and singing....

Shadowfeet by brooke fraser
Walking, stumbling on these shadowfeet 
Toward home, a land that I've never seen 
I am changing 
Less and less asleep 
Made of different stuff than when I began 
And I have sensed it all along 
Fast approaching is the day 
When the world has fallen out from under me 
I'll be found in you, still standing 
When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees 
When time and space are through 
I'll be found in you 
There's distraction buzzing in my head 
Saying in the shadows it's easier to stay 
But I've heard rumours of true reality 
Whispers of a well-lit way 
When the world has fallen out from under me 
I'll be found in you, still standing 
When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees 
When time and space are through 
I'll be found in you 
You make all things new 
When the world has fallen out from under me 
I'll be found in you, still standing 
When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees 
When time and space are through 
I'll be found in you 
When the world has fallen out from under me 
I'll be found in you, still standing 
Every fear and accusation under my feet 
When time and space are through 
I'll be found in you 
When time and space are through 
I'll be found in you 
When time and space are through 
I'll be found in you

the ONE reason that i would consider sending my children to furman university (and paying the price of the tuition) would be for them to make friends like the friends that i made there. i pray for a dina and a robyn in their lives. i also pray that maybe they would be a little bit like these women that have defined friendship for me for several decades. i pray they would sparkle and light up lives like a dina. that they would have the style and graciousness of a robyn. and that they would have the blessings of life long friends.

the ending of my favorite musical camelot ends with king arthur saying these lines...

“one of what we all are. 
less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea.
but it seems that some of the drops sparkle.
some of them do sparkle.”

dina is one of those drops that sparkle. she has lit up my life for over 20 years. my world is brighter because she reflects the Light into it....

and dina, i have a new adjective to describe you now, you aren’t really a flirt, you are just sparkly. and you can’t hide sparkle... nor would anyone want you to...

on to my "higher" education days...

on the good news side, i have figured out what “toponym” means, on the bad news side. it is going to be REALLY hard to work today’s word of the day in on this post. but i am all about doing things that are hard for the glory of the Lord and the amusement of my tens of blog readers...

as most of you know, i went to furman university, home of the purple paladins, and a school that while i am VERY proud of being an alumni, i don’t wear their initials very often (figure that out on your own). i entered that school my freshman year, ready for a toronto blessing to occur when everyone found out that i was on campus. alas it did not....

however during my freshman year, i met a gal who would become my roommate for the next three years and we would have lived together forever had adam not intervened by marrying me. he may be thinking of reconsidering his position on this, but as you can tell from the below photo, robyn is married herself and i don’t think dr. paul would like it if i moved in on him and those adorable twin girls. 

as you can also tell from the photo, robyn is drop dead gorgeous. and look at that uber cool outfit she is wearing. a white outfit with nary a grass stain on it... welcome to my college years, people. my mom and dad would even refer to robyn and “lea’s beautiful roommate” (i can’t wait to hear what my other roommate, dina, has to say about that. in a later post i will tell you what they called dina...) 

anytime mom and dad would talk about robyn to someone else, they would mention how BEAUTIFUL she was... great for the daughter’s fragile ego. and then there was robyn’s wardrobe.... imagine that sense of style being your roommate. the only redeeming factor was that she was NOT an early riser, so if she had a class before noon, she wouldn’t look quite that good. i encouraged her to take all 8 a.m. classes. i am a good friend like that.

she did have a style all of her own. she also had the most fabulous shoe collection. i wore a size 8 and so did she, but she had a foot somewhere between an 8 narrow and an 8 normal. i was an 8 normal. so she bought 8 narrow shoes and i wore them around for a day to stretch them out and then they fit her well. that is just the kind of thing that a gal does for her beloved roommate (and a chance to wear really great shoes for a day).

i will say that once robyn wore a gray dress that was NOT flattering on her. one time she didn’t look good. one time....

when i went to visit robyn one summer in the SMALL (one stop light) town that she lived in, she gave me these directions to her house... “get off of the interstate at exit 38, go down the road for a few miles. stop at the gas station and ask them where ben’s house is”... so when i stopped at the gas station, the two guys sitting in front of it yelled over to my car, “hey, you must be robyn’s roommate, we’ve been waitin’ for ya.” 

for fun, robyn and i rode bikes through the cemetery in her little bitty town. still to this day, i don’t know how a former watermelon princess from yemassee, s.c. achieved that sense of style and grace. but she did. it gives me hope for my girls. then again, robyn’s mom and sister had that same sense of style and grace, so my girls may be out of luck... more reasons for them to spend time at rah-rah’s house.

but there was more to robyn than a sense of style and her stretched out by me shoes. there was a kindness and depth to her, a sense of right and wrong, a genuine love for others, a reluctance to wake up in the morning, a tendency to stay up WAYYYY to late, and just a whole lot of fun. and in the years since college, i have seen her grow into a woman who is part college roommate and part hero.

robyn was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late 30’s. she had been to (i think) her first mammogram and they found it then. it was treatable, but frightening nonetheless. i still remember that phone call from her. i wrote down everything that she said on the back of some envelope. i think i wrote it to keep my hands from shaking.

dina and i did a triathlon (the danskin susan g. koman one) to celebrate robyn’s strength and her overcoming of breast cancer. during college whenever we had walked all together in a straight line, we called it walking 3 abreast. we thought we were funny (we still think we are funny). it was ironic that dina and i did the entire triathlon as 2 abreast. and we even called robyn while we were biking (not the safest and i am sure it hurt our time, but suffice it to say that we weren’t in first place anyway). 

robyn went on despite many odds to become pregnant with twins. and then those twins were SO anxious to come out and meet dina and i, that she had to be hospitalized for a good portion of her pregnancy. to say that it was a hard pregnancy would be an understatement. but look at those two girls and you know she would do it again in an instant. she is a wonderful mother, a loving wife, and an incredible business woman. really, i don’t know when she took business classes in college (must have been in the afternoon), but she is very business savvy. she was holding back on dina and i.

she also studied fashion in nyc after college and then came back to the south and went to medical school (ok occupational therapy school, but i still maintain that she is a doctor). talk about mulit-faceted! i swear that she could do anything that she set her mind to doing. except wake up early. 

the funny thing was that as much as my parents LOVED robyn, her parents LOVED me. robyn and i could wear the exact same outfit (we did start shopping together and had some matching outfits... i know we were weird. shall i also tell you about how we both learned to sew and made shorts with each leg a different fabric print? and then there were the formal dresses we made for one dance, i still shudder to think that we wore them...) anyway back to the fact that we could have on the same outfit (in different colors, of course) and her mom would say that my outfit looked SO great and not say anything to robyn. i love her mom. and i love shrimp curry and the two are forever intertwined in my heart and mind and taste buds.

robyn’s dad went on the heaven this year, just like my mom. seems that we still have things in common. reasons to be friends, reasons to comfort each other, and reasons to celebrate the fact that a girl so full of style and grace became roommate and life long friends with one unstylish and graceless me. she taught me so much but mostly i know that wearing navy and khaki is “tough” (which in robyn’s mom’s language means “very classy and very good”).

it is a funny thing for a friend to turn into a hero. looking back on our friendship, i should have seen the signs earlier. all that beauty and grace came from a confidence in who she was and in the God she loved. it is no different today. she has faced everything with beauty and grace. and she is not only my roommate and friend, she is one of my heroes. and i would walk a mile in her stylish shoes any day... and i have done that just to stretch them out for her before.


3 things i learned in college...

i was with  a group of college students yesterday (which is nothing new, i am with a group of college students EVERY day) and one of them asked me what i learned in college that i use everyday in my life. i had to think for a minute, but i came up with three things that i learned at my dear alma mater, furman university in greenvile, sc.) that shape my life and thoughts on a daily basis. 

only one of the things came from a class in my major and the other two came from electives that i took (as my dad said to me as he looked over my list of classes for a semester,  “lea, you put the liberal in liberal arts”).

#1. from an education class that was in my major...

this lesson begins as my roommate, fellow education major and coconspirator in most crimes, dina, and i were late to class one day (ok so we were late to class on a frequent basis. hey, we were coconspirators in crimes, we were very busy). as we walked into class, our professor dr. blazer (who we LOVED and who we thought was rather fond of us until this little incident) asked in a loud and irritated voice, “WHY did you girls CHOOSE to be late to class?” 

we attempted to defend ourselves with a plethora of excuses that we felt presented overwhelming proof that we could bear NO responsibility whatsoever for our lateness (the universe was to blame being the main theme of our diatribe). dr. blazer maintained that it was OUR CHOICE to be late and that we needed to CHOOSE to be on time for this day into the future or their would be dire consequences (insert dire consequences music here). 

soooo, like the good southern baptist girls we were (no comment from anyone on that please, this is MY story), we were on time the following day. only to discover that there was NO one in the classroom. however there was a note on the board saying that class was moved to another room. by the time we reached the other room, guess what... we were late. 

we attempted to again justify our lateness with the “we didn’t know the class was moved and so this is certainly NOT our fault this time” speech full of passion and righteousness. to this valiant effort dr. blazer calmly said, “it was still your choice. if you had chosen to be on time yesterday, you would have known that we were moving class today. your lateness today was part of the choices you made yesterday.” 

well, this seemed totally unfair and unkind to us (at the time) and we couldn’t believe that a teacher who we thought cared about us would judge us in this way. but i can not tell you how many times a week, that speech comes back to me as i realize how right dr. blazer was and how grateful i am that she tried to teach us that lesson. i use her very words with my own children all the time as i attempt to teach them that our choices MATTER and our choices have consequences. some consequences are immediate (the late to class that day) and some come later and with unforeseen results (late to class the next day). 

dr. blazer was kind and wise and she was right. it was my choice to be late that day and i hope that she has forgiven me (as for dina, she will have to make her own apology, if she so CHOOSES). 

#2 from the ending of “taming of the shrew”

i did foreign study my junior year at furman and studied shakespearean literature (putting the liberal in liberal arts again- thanks dad). while we were discussing the play “the taming of the shrew”, the professor from stratford, uk was explaining how the final speech by katherine (the shrew that is “tamed”) can end the play on a depressing note (she is beaten down and bested by her husband) or a triumphant note (it is all a joke and she has triumphed and made a great marriage). the theme of the whole play can be changed by how the lines are read. 

i remember writing in my notebook in nice swirly letters “her attitude can determine if it is tragedy or triumph”. and then i looked at what i had written and thought that i certainly was a genius and would be touring the country soon with speaking engagements galore based on my incredible insight at 20 years of age. ok, so i was a bit overdramatic even at that age... 

but nevertheless, it is something that has influenced my life. no matter the hand i am dealt (the lines of the play that are given to me), i CHOOSE the way that i say them (linked to my dr. blazer story on that one, didn’t i? you are reconsidering the genius part, aren’t you?). everyone can leave the theater of LEA depressed or in a great mood. i like the latter of the endings. i also wished everyone paid $$$$ to enter the theater of LEA to hear my lecture on “shakespeare changed my life”, but that is not happening.

#3 from photography class

let me just start by suggesting that EVERYONE should take a photography class! the skills that i learned in that class i use all of the time to document my family and life and i am so glad that i ventured into the visual and creative arts arena by taking this class. i LOVE taking pictures and i LOVE LOVE LOVE taking good pictures.  in this photography  class, i learned how to take good pictures and after i tell you the secret, i guess you really won’t need to take photography class, so ignore the previous caveat about EVERYONE taking photography class and change it to EVERYONE should read my blog (and send me $$$ to see my show at the theater of LEA). 

here is the big secret and life lesson from furman photography class 101. 


in class the professor showed us some great pictures from LIFE magazine and told us how many shots each photographer had taken that month. it was in the hundreds and they had gotten only that ONE photograph published. she said that if we got ONE good shot out of a roll of film (24 pictures for those of you who never shot film), then we were doing much better than those professionals. “if you don’t take good pictures, keep shooting. you will get a good one eventually”, was her advice to us novice photographers. and she was right (and thank goodness for my digital camera and my 1000 shots per card). 

so i keep shooting, i keep taking pictures. i keep writing. i keep reading. i keep getting up when the alarm goes off.  i keep telling my 10 year old son to brush his teeth every morning and every night. i keep telling my teenage daughter that she is so beautiful. i keep telling my 8 year old that she is my baby. i keep telling my husband that i love him more today that when i married him 17 years ago. i  keep telling myself that God loves me and that He forgives my 999 bad shots everyday and that He smiles at the 1 time i get it right. 

because of my furman education i know that i have to CHOOSE whether this all is a comedy or a tragedy and i know to keep shooting. i hope to leave you laughing. i hope to leave behind one good shot to all of the bad ones. and i hope that you learned some lessons in college or will learn some lessons in college. thank you furman and go paladins...