Finish All the Things!!!

Last month was an auspicious beginning to the new year. I finished five (count them, FIVE!) projects over the course of the month. This includes the long awaited “It’s Thunder,” which I finally got off the needles and blocked. I’m mostly happy with it. The color is gorgeous, though I now wish I had made it out of something a little tougher than single-ply merino. It shed like crazy while I was blocking it and I’m worried about pilling down the line. Still, the color is gorgeous and it feels great against the skin. I’ve worn it all weekend and to work on Monday! Once again, I haven’t done the color justice in the iPhone photo, but I’ll try and wrangle someone to help me take pictures in better lighting soon.

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I also finally got around to doing Michelle Wang’s Thicket. It took a few tries to get it right. My first attempt was just the wrong yarn for the project. My second attempt was ginormous. So for the third attempt, I cut out the sixth repetition of the chart and now it looks much less like a lunch lady’s hairnet. I’m also adding a pom pom, because pom poms are great. Now that I have the tools to make them, I have to resist the urge to put them on all of my hats. They’re just so fluffy! I used leftover Cascade 220 from a previous project. It’s not luxurious, but it is so warm and cost effective.

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Speaking of pom poms, I also finished a second Into Trees from Pom Pom Winter 2014. I made one for my brother for Christmas and loved it so much, I decided I needed one for myself. The pattern called for earflaps, but I elected not to add them on, which makes it feel at least slightly more professional. I used a Cascade blend of silk and wool. It feels so soft and the pom pom looks like velvet. I couldn’t be happier with the result.

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Next time: WIP shawl with tosh 80/10/10!

 

 

News – BT Winter 2015 is Out!

As many of you probably already know, Brooklyn Tweed released their Winter Collection yesterday. You know what that means… KNIT ALL THE THINGS! The collection is broken down into two sections “Mode Eclectic” and “History of Art.” Mode Eclectic takes its inspiration primarily from Dianne Keaton in her classic performance in Annie Hall. (I must confess, I still haven’t seen this movie.) “History of Art” was inspired by a staff trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The whole collection is worth a look. They always make the prettiest Lookbooks anyways. It is very sweater heavy, not that I am complaining, because BT sweaters are the best. My first pullover was one of Jared Flood’s patterns and my second was by Joji Locatelli and appeared in Wool People 7. I also have an amazing Julie Hoover cardigan pattern that I still haven’t found the right yarn for. You see why I’m fighting the urge to queue all of them?

My favorite from Mode Eclectic would probably be Cordova. It has lovely, modern cables and the back is just as interesting as the front. I love Michelle Wang’s patterns. I’ve knit several of her accessories, but I’ve never done a garment. I will have to be careful, because I find that I struggle to get tight enough to match her gauge. Still, totally worth it.

My top pick for History of art is Carpeaux. The shaping is very architectural and there is a lot of thought put into the decreases on the back and the drape of the collar. Jared Flood is a true master of shaping garments to fit the body just right. His attention to detail is obsessive, exact and miraculously easy to follow. I know this would be a joy to knit. I also want to make it in that same rich, red color.

One thing I will say is that BT is getting a lot better at building in incentives for using their own yarn in their patterns. They are playing a lot with color in very specific ways in this collection (see Shui-mo). They are utilizing both Shelter and Loft at the same time (see Marshall). It’s a very smart business move, and one that larger companies like Rowan and Debbie Bliss have done for ages. However, it feels slightly different, coming from the BT team.

While it feels like a money grab when Debbie Bliss does it, it feels like a desire to generally bring great yarn and great design together in an intentional way. Maybe it’s because (in terms of volume) Brooklyn Tweed is still a “smaller” company. Jared Flood started as an independent designer. He wrote for other yarns for a while and it feels like he came to the conclusions that he wanted complete creative control over the design process. His line of yarns feels like a natural extension of his sensibilities.

All that to say, I will be buying a lot of BT yarn when I have money, and I will be knitting a whole lot of sweaters once that happens.

I’m Back!

I’m terribly sorry for dropping off the face of the planet as far as blogging is concerned. I had some personal things to take care of that kind of got in the way of sitting down and getting any writing done. Then I took off for a long weekend to Electric Forest, up in Rothbury, MI. Now that the festival is over and my life seems to have found a new equilibrium, I thought it was finally time to sit down and chat to the dear void of the blogosphere.

I haven’t been able to get much knitting done either, so this post will be more about some odds and ends that I made for the festival and all the cool inspiration that I found there as well. Firstly, I made a garland of gingham rags that we hung up at the campsite. It was massive and caused the front seat of the van to look like Jo-Ann Fabrics barfed in my lap, but it ultimately gave the campsite a nice touch. (Aside: I will never go camping again. EVER! If I go to EF next year I’m definitely laying down the extra cash to get a cabin.)

Then I also made these ribbon necklaces for my brother and some of the others in our group. The boys ended up stringing them from their ears and using them as beards. They proved to be quite popular and got a lot of compliments, so they wore them the entire weekend. I even put bells on them to make them jingle. 

But my work paled in comparison to some of the other ingenious things others made. The thing about Electric Forest is that the line between artist and audience is a little blurred. There are paid performance artists that wander around, but there are also audience members that just show up in costume and sometimes you can’t tell the difference. The producers build really cool installations in the forest, but the people wandering through add their touches as well. There are official performances, but then you’ll find three kids sitting beneath a tree, singing along to a ukulele. It’s one of the most unique experiences that I’ve ever been a part of. 

In knitting news: Gold Across the River is almost done and I’ve completely another skein on the Hartford sweater. 

Aiming For Success On OKCupid – Lesson 1

After over a year on OKCupid, I feel as if it’s about time I bestowed a little wisdom.

When it comes to internet dating, I’m a little wibley-wobbly. At one moment, I am a massive fan. The next, I despise it with every fiber of my being. I have tried both Match.com and OKC and, for once, you get what you don’t pay for. Match is full of boring people, playing it safe and they all seem to be hundreds of miles away. On OKC, you can find hundreds of people in your area and many of them are actually interesting and might even share some of your interests. As far as internet dating goes, I have had much better luck on OKC than anywhere else. My last, semi-successful relationship started there and I’ve had several great first dates as well. 

The main problem with OKC is the insane number of messages that flood my inbox on a daily basis. Now, this is the main problem with heterosexual internet dating in general; women are spammed by more men than they can count and men scramble to get any kind of attention from girls who would, in real life, actually be in their league. I could go into the details of how this reflects an overall problem with gender roles in modern society, but that’s another post for another time. Right now, I want to focus on some practical tips.

Every so often, I will post a pair of screenshots from my inbox. The first will be an example of how to get deleted. The second will be an example of how to get a second look. Following each one will be a run down of what works, what doesn’t and why. Of course, this is just my personal opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt, but as a woman who has to weed through a lot of crazy to find gems of decent human beings, I think you can learn a little bit from what I have to say.

DON’T!!!

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1. Text speak. It’s annoying. If you have read a woman’s profile and she hasn’t used a single emoticon or purposeful misspelling, then you probably shouldn’t utilize them when sending her your first message. It makes you look immature and just a little dumb.

2. This is so general it hurts. Granted, I do mention that I am a fan of coffee in my profile, but so did about 50% of the other people on this site. 

3. “Hit me up.” Just no…

4. Match percentage. Anything under 70% hardly gets a look. Anything under 50% usually gets instantly deleted. Message people you’re compatible with.

DO!!!

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1. This is much more specific! And he goes beyond just a cursory response to the contents of my profile. He crafted a creative response to my “Message me if…” And for once, I’m okay with the emoticon.

2. Vocabulary. This one has a decent grasp on the English language, and uses a variety of creative sentence structures and vocabulary choices. I’m particularly fond of “jive” for some reason.

3. Questions I can respond to. Now, I do get a lot of the, “What do you like to write about?” variety, but since I am a writer, I like talking about my writing, even if I do have to repeat myself. I’m vain, what can I say? But, what I really love are his questions about my gaming habits. He doesn’t just say, “I like Civ too.” He dives right in and starts recommending other games by the same producer, and asking questions that further the conversation. I’m a big fan of that. That is very good.

4. 74% match. It’s not terrific, but there’s some promise there. It’s enough for me to check out his profile.

So, to sum up our lesson today: Be specific. Be clever. Ask questions that further the conversation. Shoot at compatible targets.

Happy Hunting.

 

Time Won’t Slow Down – My Decade Long Love Affair With Matt Thiessen’s Voice

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My adolescence was that of the Awkward Church Girl. Okay, not the average ACG. Though I did occasionally wear skirts down to my knees, I was much more likely to be seen in baggy jeans and a Christian band t-shirt. Yes. I had several Christian band t-shirts.  

I was never very good at being a modest church mouse. I had no interest in cooking, or cleaning, or especially children. I had strong opinions and a loud voice to proclaim them with. So I became the other breed of ACG, Awkward Church Guy. I was just one of the dudes. I read Lord of the Rings, played Age of Empires I, II and III, and listened to Relient K. 

I frickin’ loved Relient K. 

Matt Thiessen was the narrator of my adolescence… and my dream guy. With his dirty blonde mop top and his big puppy dog eyes, he was not your average Awkward Church Guy. But he was my favorite type of Awkward Church Guy. His lyrics, even then, revealed an unsettled relationship with his God and his Religion. Behind clever word play and a biting sense of sardonicism, Matt Theissen hid his narrative of struggling to be both the good Christian boy everyone expected him to be, and the brilliant, overtly irreverent, man he knew he was meant to become.

I remember the first time I found that orange and gray CD with the black and white shot of the band slouching against a wall, (Ramones style) just like how our parents told us not to stand. I let it spin and from that first hyperactive drum intro, I was hooked. Relient K sang about all the things I was feeling. My frustration with the hypocrisy of church infighting was there in “Down in Flames.” The humming hook of “Breakdown” gave a cadence to just about every groan of futility that I uttered. Then there was the line, “I’m still trying twice as hard to satisfy myself on my own,” which seemed to be the underlying frustration of my religious experience… It was all there, right down to the giggles that “May the Horse Be With You” never failed to induce. Heck, it still makes me giggle.

That was 2001. That was The Anatomy of the Tongue In Cheek. I was 12.

A few years passed and I got a little older, but not very much wiser. I was still an ACG of the highest order. I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye and I asked my parents for a promise ring. Though one of Matt Theissen’s mood rings would have probably done me more good. The concept of romantic relationships terrified me, and yet I felt an unquenchable desire to embark on one with… well someone… I frequently found myself holding my guy friends at arm’s length physically, while intellectually and emotionally getting as entangled as it was possible for a fourteen year old to get. I had all of these new sexual things buzzing around in my psyche, and nowhere constructive to direct them. Simultaneously, I was learning all of these new things about God, and church, and what was expected of me as a young Christian woman. Even though I tried to pretend to squeeze myself into the mold, I was internally busting every seam. 

Once again Matt gave word to all my frustrations, “I’ve been banging my head agains the wall for so long it seems I got knocked out.” More often than not, I found myself socially and religiously face down, tasting the coffee tinged carpet of “Falling Out.” “I was thinking, overthinking” every interaction with the opposite sex that I had, and found myself becoming more an more reclusive, limiting myself to the few guy friends that I knew and trusted. Little did I know, most of those guys had a crush on me at one point or another. 

I was trying to make sense of all of it, but more often than not, I found myself touching the positive with the negative end and finding myself alone in the dark of my room, crying with the effort to not satisfy my urges myself. But in those dark moments, I still had Matt’s voice telling me that at my worst moments, I was understood by a God that anticipated all my failures and loved me anyways. “You’re the only one who understands completely. You’re the only one who knows me, yet still loves me completely.” In a subculture full of lies and secrets, his honesty let me know that I wasn’t the only one who was hurting. 

That was 2003. That was Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right… but Three Do. I was 14.

The following year, I was a freshman in high school. It was quite possibly the peak of my awkwardness. I spent half of the school day at a program for kids that were gifted in math and science. I was fairly gifted in math and hopeless at science, so for me it was more an exercise in humility. For the first time, I worked hard on assignments only to get Cs and Ds and even the occasional F. 

It kind of sucked. 

Once again, Relient K was my escape. I had a royal blue walkman and I spun Mmhmm every day on the bus ride from Math/Science Center back to dumb school. I can’t help it, I have to type this whole chorus. Forgive my moment of fangirling.

 

I’ve been housing all this doubt and insecurity,

and I’ve been locked inside that house.

All the while you hold the key,

and I’ve been dying to get out,

and that might be the death of me.

And even though there’s no way of knowing

where to go,

I promise I’m going, because

I gotta get outta here.

I’m stuck inside this rut I fell into by mistake.

I gotta get outta here, 

and I’m begging you,

I’m begging you,

I’m begging you to be my escape.

 

Looking back on those days, I can see the beginnings of the melancholy and anxiety that have nipped at the heels of my adult life. At the time, I was just another teenager that was miserable for no good reason. The hardest part for me was that I knew I had no reason to be miserable, and that just made me more angry with myself. It was a strange cycle. But on those afternoon bus rides, with my head pressed against the cool glass of the bus window, I still had Matt’s voice reminding me that at the very least, “I’m a little more than useless.” 

Heck, I still put that song on when I’m angry at myself. And that still happens way more often than I care to admit.

That was 2004. That was Mmhmm. I was 15.

A few years passed. I survived high school somehow. Just like the vast majority of teenagers, I miraculously made it through those four years with only a few scars and personality ticks. And for the remaining three years, Relient K remained silent. I had three glorious albums and one okay premiere album to sustain me through those years. 

I stubbornly refused to date, though I had awkward, emotionally intimate friendships with guys from church. We would talk about music, and books, and how, as soon as we graduated, we were getting out of this pit of a rural town. We would joke about how we were going to run away together. 

Then I graduated and my best graduation present to myself was Five Score and Seven Years Ago. That, and a friend of mine and I finally came right out and said that we liked one another. (Actually, I might have ultimately forced him to say something, now that I think back on it…) We started dating and made our first attempts at developing an awkward, stunted, suppressed kind of sexuality that probably was psychologically worse for us than just giving in and “doing it.”

Still, in spite of the awkwardness and the fact that we were attempting our first ever relationship over a long distance at the same time that I was going to college for the first time, I kept trying to make our story fit “The Best Thing” and “I’m Taking You With Me.” 

I found myself alone at a Christian college where no one ever touched me. 

Starved for real contact, I found myself crashing against the edge of my sanity on several occasions. And even though I was doing everything that I thought God wanted me to do, I understood Matt’s strained repetition of, “I have not been abandoned, no I have not been deserted, and I have not been forgotten. I need you. I need you here. I need you now.” But when I was being honest with myself, I wasn’t sure if I was crying out for God, or just another human body. 

Matt and I both learned a bad habit; that the best thing to do was to keep quiet and hold yourself together, because solace did not come from confession. There was always someone else hurting more than me, or struggling with something more important than my problems. So, I just bit my tongue and tried not to upset anyone with my seemingly frivolous issues. 

That was 2007. That was Five Score and Seven Years Ago. I was 18.

Then it was 2009. I missed Forget and Not Slow Down. I was 20. I was done with “Christian Music.” It was the beginning of my disenchantment with the Evangelical Christian establishment, even though I didn’t see it coming. That’s a story that is too long for this already lengthy story. But I’ll give you the truncated version.

I had a hard time going to church. I started going to an Episcopal Church. I broke up with the boyfriend. It was rough. Turns out he was a bit of a manipulator. I got out of it in one piece, but missing a few chips. I tried to tell myself that I didn’t need a soul to hold, and life remained beautiful, but church and school were getting increasingly ugly. I only went to church about once a month or so, but being Episcopalian, they were just happy to see me when I was there. They loved me for my brokenness. 

I tried dating another friend. He started going to church with me. He kind of took it over. I let him because I’m passive like that. After three weeks, I broke up with him. He made my social life a little ugly, including at church. I stopped going. 

I studied abroad. I became sexually active for real this time. I liked it. I somehow managed to graduate from college, in spite of flunking one Bible class and passing another by the skin of my teeth. I was done with all of it. I was living with my parents and fighting with my mother about my lack of church attendance. I was drinking. A lot.

Then I kind of got my shit together. I got a job. I got a boyfriend who was actually pretty good for me, at least in the short term. My parents found my birth control. I moved out. I mostly got the drinking under control. I was living between a coworker’s spare room and my boyfriend’s place. I was doing okay, but I still had my rough days, all things considered. On one of those rough days, I pulled up Relient K on Spotify. I needed to hear “Little More than Useless.” 

Low and behold, there were two Relient K albums I had missed! One of them had only released a week or two before, and good God, was it beautiful. Back just like a boomerang, Matt’s voice was in my head, narrating all the things that I was afraid to say. And he was singing about sex! And bars! And one night stands! Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had spent some time soul searching and came up empty. 

We were both a long way away from “My Way or the Highway,” that was for sure. But we were actually better for it. We were finally free to be the broken people that we had always been in secret. Matt was about as messed up as I was, but he was finally free to be upfront about it. He was confessing that he never meant to be a part-time lover at the same time that I was breaking up with my boyfriend because I was falling in love with another man (and because it’s not love when you go through my phone).

In its honesty and openness, Collapsible Lung was more balanced than Relient K’s previous albums. Instead of his previous bi-polar waffling between cheery happy church boy, and angst-ridden teenager, there was a self-conscious kind of confidence that knew it deserved a shot at honesty. For the first time in the twelve years I’ve been listening to this man’s words, Matt Theissen sounds happy. Or at least healthy. Okay maybe just honest about where he’s at, which is about as close to happy as most people can get. 

I’m there too. I can’t say I’m always happy. My mind is not exactly what one would call healthy.  But I can finally be honest about who I am, and where I’m at. I don’t know where God and I stand, but I do know that I’m closer to figuring that out than I was as an ACG. I’m on the up and up.

 

I’m getting by with my collapsible lung, 

and it’s a good time 100% of the time, 

and I’m like a ladder with a missing rung,

and it’s a slow climb, headed back to the sky,

and I’m feeling backwards when I’m trying the most,

and I hope I haven’t heard the last words from the Holy Ghost,

cause I think that I’m supposed to be well on my way by now.

 

I do the twist with my replaceable hips,

and turn you right round,

and dip you down to the ground. And now,

I want to grow old and rub your tired limbs, 

and take it easy until we whither away.

Until we whither away.

 

Between the miles of open road,

I lost sight of what might matter the most.

I stumbled into the great unknown,

and found that time can’t slow down.

I take a breath and then take it in

to think of places I’ll go, I haven’t been

to poor my heart into everything.

I’ve found time won’t slow down

 

I’m feeling backwards,

and I hope, 

I haven’t heard the last words.

No no no

Cause I think I’m supposed to be 

well on my way-ay-ay.

 

To pour my heart into everything

I’ve found…

 

Between the miles of open road, 

I lost sight of what might matter the most.

I stumbled into the great unknown,

and found that time won’t slow down.

 

This is 2013. This is Collapsible Lung. I am 23.

I fucking love Relient K.

Why I Don’t Make In-App Purchases Anymore

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Warning: I am about to indulge in a curmudgeon rant.

I will probably sound like a crazy cat lady.

You have been warned.

I have a beef with in-app purchases. They are not just a minor annoyance to me. They are distracting enough that I have abandoned games I otherwise loved because of them.

In my opinion, the main purpose of gaming is cognitive stimulation. Games keep our brains busy when they would otherwise be dormant or occupied by something less useful. The best games are fun because they challenge our minds with puzzles that are solvable, but challenging enough that we have to put conscious effort into them. Sometimes we have to try multiple times until we solve the puzzle, but, the more effort we put into the game, the more satisfied we are in the end.

Smartphone games are specifically great for this. We spend a lot of our down time on our phones these days (or at least I do… Anyone? Buller? … Buller?). Just think about some of the greatest recent successes in smartphone games: Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Plants Vs. Zombies. Each of them have been downloaded to millions of phones and they have generated piles of very real dollars for their creators.

Part of the financial success of games like Candy Crush, is the fact that you can spend real money to get fake money to spend on upgrades within the game. These upgrades either get you past impossible levels or make difficult levels insanely easy.

This is where I begin to have a problem.

When the difference between getting from level five to level six is just $.99, it’s very tempting to press that little button in the right hand corner. (It’s always in the right hand corner.) But when we do that, we are not just circumventing a needlessly hard level, we are circumventing the entire point of gaming.

Through paying that $.99 we are teaching our brain that all problems are easier to fix with money than with hard work. The money actually seems to hurt less in the moment than spending a frustrating ten minutes on figuring it out on our own.

Now, I confess, I am fundamentally lazy, and paying to get beyond a certain level that I just can’t wrap my brain around used to be very tempting.

Until I took a second to think about what I was telling myself with that purchase.

I was telling myself that I was not smart enough to figure it out on my own. I was telling myself that my wallet was more powerful than my brain. I was lying to myself and myself alone about my skills on a game that I played in private and did not share with anyone else. There is no alternative universe in which that makes any kind of sense

….

Any kind of sense!!!!!!!

At this point, though, I need to make an important distinction. I may hate in-app purchases, but I love buying expansions.

Take Starcraft for example; The Heart of the Swarm was totally worth paying more money for. It furthered the plot of StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty. It added countless hours of gameplay. It was worth every penny. But it was a different kind of purchase than what I’m talking about. When you buy an expansion, you are paying the creators of your beloved game more money to further your experience within the world they created for you.

You are paying the designers, writers and programers to add on to their creation and bring you more fun challenges to puzzle over. You are not paying to bypass the primary purpose of the game. It is the later and not the former that needs to stop.

I recently downloaded Plants Vs. Zombies 2. I was surprised to see it was free, seeing that the original PVZ was somewhere around the sum of eight dollars. Once it installed and I set up my profile, I found out why. PVZ had succumbed to the in-app purchase epidemic. You can now purchase coins that allow you to add more powerful plants, or use more power-ups. Now, in classic PVZ style, you can bypass that process by earning coins through the course of gameplay, but it’s a whole heck of a lot harder, let me tell you. You also have to earn keys to unlock certain levels, and they are even harder to come by than coins. (You can buy those too!)

I was surprised at my level of disappointment when I discovered this about the game. After a moment’s thought, though, I understood the intensity of my feelings. Classic PVZ grows increasingly difficult and the boss levels are near impossible on a legendary scale. I have spent over a week working on the same boss level, trying every combination of plant and power-up that I could think of to finally arrive at that sweet combination of protection and firepower that resulted in the death of the great ZomBoss. There was no way around it. I had to just keep pounding my head against the brick wall of the challenge until I broke through or broke my head. Eventually I broke through, and it felt awesome! I solved the puzzle! Winner!

Now, I arrive at the final level and if I get frustrated enough, all I have to do is spend five bucks on power ups and zap every zombie that walks onto my screen with lightning. I don’t have to plant a single plant if I don’t want to! It’s Plants Vs. Zombies, not Almighty God of the Bottomless Wallet Vs. Zombies. And the fact that I could pay my way out of the challenge, zaps it of much of its power to make me feel like a winner once I do actually beat it all on my own.

Seriously, I would have rather paid the eight bucks up front. I would have happily payed the team of people that worked tirelessly on this app to bring me a fun, challenging game that stretched my imagination and problem solving skills.

I will not pay for cheats.

Stop the in-app purchases.

Just stop.

Homesick

I stood in front of the vintage-style microphone, breathless. I hadn’t sung a solo in over a year. No one in this room besides my partners had ever heard me sing before. What if they thought I was a poser? I didn’t play an instrument. I was just a singer, covering a song done much better by real musicians with way more indie cred than me. What if I burst the bubble of the illusion of the hip, confident American who had dove into their world like she’d always belonged there?

To my left, Mark, the handsome open-mic manager introduced us, chuckling a bit at our pseudo-band name, “The Pit of Distraction.” As he sat down, his dark brown eyes watched me, curious. He crossed his pale arms over his black cutoff t-shirt that read in white letters, “Live Fast, Die Young.”

I glanced over at him, nervously, and then looked out at the crowd. I knew everyone in the front row. They all smiled encouragingly, except Connor, who never smiles. Jake gave a cheeky whoop and Lucy cheered, “Chelsea!” Giggling, I rediscovered the location of my lungs and took a deep breath. I nodded to Charlotte, who began a gentle strum on her borrowed acoustic.

“A year from now we’ll all be gone. Our friends will move away,” I sang. It was a song of friendship and impending separation. A song I now understood all the better. That row of beloved Scottish faces watching me, cheering me on, they would be gone in less than a month. To put it more accurately, I would be gone; returned to a home that now felt so foreign.

Earlier that night at the radio station, the same group of friends had played me off the final New Music show of the semester. It would be the very last New Music show of my painfully short career as a member of Air3 Radio. Leigh had said something sweet about my enthusiasm and how much everyone would miss me, and Jake played the song “Isn’t She Lovely?” I teared up and choked out some romantic mush about how I loved them all and wished I could stay forever. There had been hugs and kisses all around and even some of the boys got a little teary.

Now, singing the words, “I miss your face like hell,” I not only thought of all the dear friends and family I had left stateside three months prior, but I also thought of all the friends right in front of me and all the other dear people who had made me feel so at home in this blustery, rag-tag corner of the world. Johnny, who was shocked to finally find someone as passionate about contemporary Scottish music in the person of an American exchange student. Kat, who loved to take me shopping and dress me like her own life-sized Barbie. Luke, the Irish protestant who believed his mom’s religion but wore his dad’s rosary beads and decided he loved everything about me except that I was leaving at the end of the semester. Annamarie, my best friend and traveling buddy all across the British Isles, who was just then standing next to me, singing delicate harmony as my voice began a slow crescendo.

“Rivers and roads, rivers and roads, rivers till I reach you,” I repeated over and over until my voice exploded with all the belting gusto only a girl raised on musical theater can muster. Yet it cracked, right at the end. Not even years of training could capture all the love and loneliness and yearning packed into this little heart. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I couldn’t imagine life without them again.

Ending with a shaky, whispered, “Rivers till I reach you,” I closed my eyes, so full of a riot of feelings that I didn’t quite know what to do. As I stood there, unsure, terrified, my friends, my dear friends burst into applause. Opening my eyes, I gave a quivering smile and stammered, “Cheers, guys.” I ducked around the mic and dashed over to their waiting arms.

“That was amazing, you guys!” Lucy said. “Why haven’t you sung before now?”

Jake’s curly beard scratched against my neck as he held me tight and chirped in his little Yorkshire accent, “You can’t leave! I won’t let you! You can live in my closet. No! I’ll live in my closet. You can have my room! You just have to stay.”

The last time he had held me this tight was after he had just seen his ex for the first time since their break-up. The poor boy had sobbed into my shoulder as Johnny patted him on the back and I cooed some meaningless condolences in his ear. Again I found myself, holding him back, murmuring reassurances. I would be back. This wasn’t the end. I’d return before anyone even thought of missing me.

But that was just a dream we all shared. It was a lie we told ourselves to keep from crying. It’s been months. I’m broke. There’s no chance I’ll make it back to Scotland any time soon. Yet whenever I catch myself humming “Rivers and Roads” I remember Jake’s beard, Lucy’s smile, Mark’s curious eyes, and I promise myself I’ll make it back. “Nothing is as it has been, but I miss your face like hell.”

Later that month, at the end-of-semester awards party, the collective members of Air3 voted me “Best Newcomer.” Never had I felt so loved or so wanted by any group of people. I had become one of them. They had made me one of them, welcoming me into their world, though I was a foreigner and a novice. In Scotland, I learned the real meaning of brotherly love. It’s when people bring you in, no matter who you are or what you look like or what background you come from and they make you one of their own. This little craggy land at the end of the world has been downtrodden, ignored, mocked and misconstrued by the rest of the world since the Romans wandered into it thousands of years ago. It made them tough, independent and suspicious of outside influence, but it gave them a soft spot for the outsider, the reject, the foreigner willing to approach them on their own terms. Scotland is a land where you will never be homesick but you will always be homesick for.