A November Letter

Dear friend,

There is something about the fall that makes everything seem deeper, isn’t there? Maybe it’s the cool air dancing on your skin or the urgent knowledge that you have to hold onto this perfect in-between time before the frost and ice come and overstay. It could be those spicy, pumpkin-y, rainy, baked sugary smells that make you take notice. Maybe it’s just the feeling of change that can’t be dodged as it envelopes the air. Maybe it’s the holidays that make you remember what really counts. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I know it happens to me every year.

Things with me are fine. I’m learning how to be a wife and also a human. I know I’ve been away a long time and haven’t written to you. I think there’s a period of time when you start a new life that requires you to cocoon yourself in it until you know what it is. That’s what I feel like, anyway… like a new world has started. I still don’t know how to balance things yet. I’m learning slowly. But it does make sense as to why my friends would marry and disappear from my life before. Going from a “me” to an “us” is tricky. It’s especially complex when you dive into another culture outside of your own. You are jolted with shocks from all unexpected angles regularly. It can be quite invigorating and quite terrifying all at once. And sometimes you forget entirely because it doesn’t matter at all. Isn’t it beautiful how two worlds can collide and create something confusing and fresh? I really do love change. Sometimes it racks me with anxiety, but it always erodes at least one of my rough edges a little.

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t think I would be good at being famous. I always thought I was very confident. This is actually untrue. I am fueled by praise. When I am boiled down to only my own self-love, without external influence, I nearly drown in insecurity sometimes. And as extroverted as I can be, I am always shocked when I learn someone is thinking or talking about me when I’m not there. The thought shakes me to the core because I’m genuinely baffled I would be important enough to discuss. And it especially causes me fear that it might be uncomplimentary . Does this ever happen to you? I think this is one of my great follies because I also often don’t realize that I can actually affect others with what I say or do – I don’t process that it would be important enough to cause offense. I accidentally offend often. And if I think too hard about it, I am afraid to speak at all for fear of being an inconvenience. I laugh at myself now, even writing it. How foolish and hilarious it sounds.

My husband is not like that. He doesn’t move out of anyone’s way when he’s walking. He doesn’t bother trying to impress or befriend anyone who isn’t friendly. He doesn’t feel pressured to small talk if he doesn’t have something to say. I admire this about him. He has the most deeply reserved, abiding, internal confidence in himself, and people love him for it. You’d love him too.

That’s what I’m thinking about this fall. I want to get to a place of self-worth where it doesn’t even matter who does or doesn’t think well of me, because I know in my deep heart that I’m all right.

The sun is setting as I am riding the train home now. The flares are coming through the window and warming my cheek. I’m going to walk home toward the sunset and smile into the increasingly chilly orangey-pink air and love myself today. And I will love you, dear friend. It makes me smile to think you can see the sunset, wherever you are, too.

xo,
Aubrey

the best news of post-wedding life so far.

hi friends.

this is a little video I created to show little snippets of videos my parents took of husband and me on our wedding day in Tonga.. plus photos.

enjoy some more wedding.

5.17.12

song: “Arrivals” by Aqualung.

 

also. so sue me, I changed my blog name again. I know, you guys..

but it turns out I didn’t like the other one so much. I’m in a transitional phase, ok?

BUT..

here’s the awesome news you’ve been reading for..

which is part of the reason I wanted to wet your appetite with the wedding vid.

I got word from U.S. Immigration last night that the thing I’ve been waiting for since.. um.. last April, when I started a long-distance relationship with the man who would become my husband.. has happened.

well.. I guess it hasn’t COMPLETELY happened. but the first, hopefully most time-consuming, step in the process is over. MY PETITION HAS BEEN APPROVED. officially. and it only took just over 3 months instead of 5 months. basically, last night consisted of a lot of screaming, hyperventilating, pacing, frantically reading instructions and going through paperwork, yelling at the crappy phone and internet service in Tonga that messed up convos with husband, and staying up talking to him till 4am in happiness.

so now we are moving into the process of getting the paperwork ready for his immigrant visa application, and when they get back to us, then comes the interview in Fiji at the U.S. Consulate.. and then he COMES. TO THE UNITED STATES. TO LIVE WITH ME.
THIS IS A BIG FREAKIN MIRACLE DEAL, YOU GUYS.

now.. Heaven help me in figuring out how to pay for all this and get ready for a life together here..
how to stretch my salary into extra money as the sole breadwinner, dealing with insurance from my car accident from this week, immigration application fees, paperwork times 5 million, proving our love/marriage to an interviewer, plane tickets, regular bills, finding a new apartment, paying for adult life, finishing training at my new job, transitioning to a new team at work, getting husband admitted to school, financial aid, and learning how to be an in-person wife, among other things..

anyway. enough about my my messy little life.. obviously with this happy news comes a new tidal wave of stress.. but when it’s all over, it will SO be worth it.

can 2012 be done already?

cuz in my world.. the Mayans have totally been right about this year. the Apocalypse of Aubrey 2012.

I’m over it.

next please!

kthanksbye!

xoxo

<3

I did this to my nails last night.

I thought it was creative.

but I sent this pic to husband and he didn’t get it. I had to explain it to him. and then he gave me a, “yes I’m proud of you, babe, good job on your nails,” but he was laughing.
pff. I think he had his nail haterade this morning.
please say somebody gets this besides me.. (hint: look for the shape in the middle of my 3 nails that are touching. toooooo easy.)

anyway. maybe someone in cyber world will appreciate my nail artistry. feast your eyes:

ok, I know.. not actually THAT impressive, but at least it’s cute, right?
and when I make the “rock on” sign.. people will feel extra special and loved.
so.. BAM. a rockstar AND a lover.

eat your heart out, um.. (who’s a good iconic female rocker to reference? Joan Jett? Hayley Williams?) let’s just say eat your heart out, rockstars.

love love.

Sincerely,

Aubrey

a mint green makeover

hi friends.

during my superfun period of unemployment.. I have been a little bored, in case you haven’t noticed by the increased amount of blogging. so I’ve taken to doing projects to feel like I am accomplishing something worthwhile.. mostly projects from Pinterest that I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time.

so I just thought I’d post and share a couple of the cool things I’ve done, since I know I’ve really enjoyed seeing what others have done as my inspiration.

the one I’m most excited about, I just finished today, which is my nightstand. I bought this ages ago from the D.I. for $5, intending to paint it.. but have never gotten around to it, due to being “too busy.”

it was a dark navy blue color, which is fine for some rooms, I guess.. but not for mine. it clashed with my color scheme.. and it just looked old and outdated. so I gave it a makeover.

here’s the before:

and the after:

I even mod podged lace onto the front of the drawer and spray painted over it to add a beautiful texture and some interesting detail. I LOVE that part.

and here’s a shot of it in its home, next to my bed. it’s good to have it back after a few days of having all my stuff on the floor while I worked on it.

the other project that I’m particularly excited about was taking my old wide leg trouser pants that I’ve had for years, and finally re-making them into skinnies. I decided it was high time, since I’m about to start a new job at which I’ll no longer be wearing scrubs.. and I need to update my business casual wardrobe, since it’s been awhile. but this kind of updating was for free.99!

I’m sorry I neglected to take before pictures of the pants..

I used this blog as my instruction set. (it’s seriously awesome.. there are some great clothing re-make ideas!)

but here’s a sewing close-up:

and.. sorry for the crappy cell phone aerial view.. I guess if I was a real blogger I would get a tripod and take real photos.. but it’s not your lucky day. also.. sorry for the black pants I had previously been wearing to sew in.. that are on the floor by my feet. sue me.
you get the idea anyway. I wish I’d taken before photos so you could see the difference, but I promise I cut out a LOT of fabric.. and solved the saggy butt problem they used to have. yeah for skinnies!

so all in all.. I’m feeling rather accomplished and proud of myself.

I might tackle a wedding-related project this coming week to occupy my time before July 30th.

okaybye!

sincerely,

Aubrey

once upon an island wedding..

so hey guys. here it is.. finally..

the wedding post, as promised! (even if you guys don’t care, it’s for posterity. and me. and many, if not most of you, have already seen a bunch of the wedding photos on Facebook. there are more there than there are here, but here’s the backstory.)

ready.. steady.. go!

so as I’ve mentioned, husby is from Tonga.. and that’s where we had our wedding. on a little third world beautiful friendly tropical island in the South Pacific. it was nothing like I ever thought my wedding would be.. but it was wonderful, once it finally happened.

after an uber long flight and a fat layover in Fiji, where we toured the island but were so tired it barely sank in, the afternoon and night that we first arrived in Tonga were blissful.. I was reunited with mister, and could not have been happier. that night, after we’d taken my parents around for awhile and then dropped them at the hotel, he took me out to the shore and we sat on a rock wall and he had me pick a ring*. we talked about us and marriage and happiness and how strange it was to think that we were marrying “Elder Havea” and “Sister Wilkinson,” respectively, from the mission (the good old FTM) in a day or so. and then it started raining.. and we stood on the rock wall along the ocean and laughed and kissed, soaking wet, in the rain. it was a perfect night.

(*sidenote: the ring saga. since I’m basically using this blog post as a journal entry, and I’d like to look back and remember how it all went, I’ll include this part. the ring I’d been wearing throughout our engagement was a flat gold band with little diamonds set into the top that his sister-in-law had given me in New Zealand. Mote had ordered me a ring from New Zealand and his brother and sis-in-law were supposed to bring it with them when they came to the wedding in Tonga, but.. they ended up not coming. so.. Mote, being stressed, went to a local woman who makes jewelry to get me a pearl ring, and he had me pick out of 3 options. I ended up liking the pink one, which surprised me. but it’s gorgeous. and I wore that on the wedding day and for the majority of the time I was there, until it started to tarnish and turn my finger colors. we went back to the lady, because the ring was way too big anyway, to see if there were any other options for settings. she said the pearl is real but I should get a real metal setting that fits when I went back to the U.S.. but then she suggested that we get a whale bone ring with a pearl set on top from her, because it was much more durable. we said we’d give it a shot and she made one for us within a few days, right before I left, and we ended up really liking it. it has a super cool look and everybody loves it because of its uniqueness.. but just two nights ago, I was cleaning and putting away laundry, and then realized..
my pearl had fallen out of the ring.
I was obviously super upset.
my ring life was over, which is one of the few connections I have right now to husband that make it seem real.. since we’re living apart.
but later that night I felt like I should look on my closet floor, so I pulled out the shoe rack and parted the sea of clothes.. bam.
there was the pearl.
I’m not wearing the ring now because it’s pearl-less, and I want to take it into a jeweler and get it set in real metal on the whale bone, rather than glued in something cheaper. so at this point.. I’m half wearing the other tarnished metal pearl ring that’s way too big, and half not wearing a ring. and it’s been a big dumb mess. so there’s the saga of the ring. all you ladies who had easy peasy lemon squeezy times with getting the ring of their dreams in fancy proposals by their hubbies should now count themselves luckier. please and thank you.. because nothing about my wedding gets to be easy. end sidenote/saga.)

SO. in case you haven’t had enough drama yet.. and you’re getting bored.. here you go.
the day before the wedding.. we had basically the most stressful day of our lives. we’d had somebody go check for us prior to the trip exactly what we’d need to do to get married in Tonga with me being a non-citizen of the country, we thought we were good to go, but apparently they didn’t check with immigration. so we found out we were supposed to have had one of us living in Tonga for at least 6 months prior to the wedding, (he was living in NZ, I was in the U.S.. none of those initials spell Tonga) and have completed all sorts of applications and gotten approval from the supreme court of Tonga, etc. and that the process would all take about 2 weeks to process through immigration.

TWO WEEKS.

let me remind you.. this was
the. day. before. our. wedding.

can we say meltdown material?

(fortunately, Mote, although stressed to the gills, with all the pressure on high, handled everything amazingly. he was very calm and collected and impressed my parents very much with his composure in a super tough situation. because of everyone’s calm and practical positivity, we were all able to hold ourselves together fairly well. my only brief meltdown was sitting in the waiting room at the temple, as we waited to discuss our predicament with the temple president (our sealer) and tentatively cancel our appointment, crying into Mote’s shoulder for a few minutes.)

anyway, upon finding all this out, we went driving to get my parents, and then happened to stumble upon a lawyer’s office, which are not common on the island. divine intervention? you bet. so we hired said lawyer, who typed up all the documents for us, and his assistant went personally with us to the supreme court and the immigration office and the marriage registration office and the temple.. back and forth.. all. day. she was great. and my sister wired us more money from America for this unplanned surprise.. yet we still didn’t know that night if everything was going to be approved by the next day. our wedding was up in the air.

do you see how miserable we look here? this was at the wedding registry government office. or whatever it’s called. we look like we’re about to be ushered in to a funeral. my dad sneaked this picture, apparently.

so I went to bed that night at the hotel with my parents, hoping.. but not sure.. riding on pure faith. everyone in Mote’s family and circle of acquaintance who is employed with the Tongan government was pulling every string they could reach, and we would see what the morning brought.

and the next morning, Mote called the hotel and told us..

IT WAS ON!

relieved and happy, we busied ourselves with preparations.. getting ready for my wedding was not super easy, given that I was in a third world country.. and our hotel room didn’t even have a mirror.. nor a private bathroom.. and my straightener didn’t work with the converter/adapter.. (haha, and to think I debated in my mind as a teenager as to whether I would get professional hair and makeup done on my wedding day.)
but we borrowed a mirror from the lobby and a straightener from Mote’s sister and I managed.

it turned out ok, I think.

I started out in what I call my “civil wedding dress,” because in Tonga you have to get married by the government first and then have it ratified by a church in order for it to be considered complete and legal.. so in the case of the Latter Day Saint temple marriage, you go get married at the government office first, and then go get sealed either that day or the next.

we did it the same day. I wore a knee-length lace dress that my sister and I modified with a silk plum-colored extension at the bottom to make it more modest.

and then the aunties arrived to dress us in our ta’ovalas.. the traditional Tongan wrap.. and leis to wear for the ceremony.

we felt like tamales… especially Mote. his was huge. but it was super fun to have all these Tongan women surrounding me dressing me in their traditional clothes. I felt like I was in a movie or a dream. and.. gorgeous. my mother-in-law made the beading on top that I wore. it was beautiful.

we were then driven to the office where we’d be married by the government. we waited for awhile out front and then inside. only my parents and Mote’s aunty, Ngalu, were allowed in to the back office with us. it was supposed to be only one person, but Ngalu likes to get her way. haha. she is like Mote’s second mother and she is a SASSY pants.. so hilarious. loved her. anyway.

our governmental marriage ceremony was very short and sweet. the guy on the other side of the desk had us each hold a corner of the Bible, and repeat after him, Mote in Tongan and me in English, swearing to our marriage, and then we each had to kiss the Bible and sign the paperwork.. and that was it!


we emerged from the back office in a whirlwind.. and lots of smiles and comments and laughter from Mote’s loved ones. I understood none of the comments, but apparently they were pretty hilarious. although I do know that while we were waiting to be taken back, they made several jokes about my dad still being young and that he could take on multiple wives. haha. my mom just laughed. go Dad.. you Tongan lady killer.

so then, we drove straight to the temple to be sealed. as we were walking in I was introduced to the huge bouquet and lei Ngalu had made for me from flowers in her yard. she was so sweet to do that for me.. I didn’t even know how to hold so many flowers/foliage! the yellow flowers were especially really cool.

we got out of our ta’ovalas in the temple waiting room and then they took us into an interview room to meet with a temple worker briefly before the ceremony. then they took us each back to our respective bride and groom rooms to change. because of the sacredness of the ceremonies and ordinances that happen in the temple, I can’t go into detail here, but as I mentioned, our sealer was the temple president, President Hopoate. what a wonderful, sweet man. we could not have asked for a better person to seal us for time and all eternity. the spirit in those rooms was so strong it overwhelmed us. we knew that Heavenly Father had given us the miracles that had brought us to this moment, not just the day before, but over the course of our entire relationship, and me being in Tonga with my parents at all, and that this was a good thing… this was right. I don’t remember ever being so purely happy as I was kneeling across the altar from my eternal companion. I can’t even express how grateful I am that we kept ourselves worthy to be sealed by Priesthood authority in the house of the Lord. there is nothing that can compare to it. it was truly celestial.

after the sealing ceremony, we exchanged rings and hugs with family and friends.. and then went back to change into our American-style wedding clothes.

princess time!!!

I love my dress. it makes me feel more beautiful than anything I’ve ever worn. I touched up hair and makeup while mom did up a row of a bazillion buttons down my back with a crochet hook.. and I think I was even ready before Mote was. the sweet ladies in the temple kept ooh-ing and ah-ing over me as I walked out to meet him.. the beauty of getting married in a small temple outside of Utah, is that you get to be the only wedding that day.. so you don’t have to compete with others for photos or attention. it was like star treatment. but we got so caught up in getting everything ready that we failed to collect my civil wedding dress from the closet in the bride’s room. that turned out to be a problem later that night, as that was what I had planned to wear to the dance. so I had to default to a coral H&M number, but that’s fine.. and that’s later.

stop distracting me.

so we walked out of the temple to cheers and clapping and I pumped our fists in the air as we held hands, because I’m awesome.. and everyone laughed.. and we couldn’t stop smiling. it was basically pure, unadulterated happiness.

and then everyone wanted photos with us, especially the palangi and her pretty dress.. which was fine. we felt like movie stars with our paparazzi and fans.

and then, since photography is not exactly a booming business in Tonga, my dad was our photog and we did temple grounds pictures. (this was one of the hardest parts for me to swallow, and again.. not how I planned my wedding my whole life. photos were basically the only thing I really cared about for my wedding.. so the deal I made with Mote when I agreed to do the wedding in Tonga was that we’ll get professional photos done when he gets to the states, because we couldn’t even get engagement pics, let alone wedding photography. some of you know that I do photography on the side. it’s a big deal to me.. so I had trained my dad somewhat on my new camera prior to the trip and printed him a list of thumbnail versions of all the photos I wanted, so Mom helped check off the list and fix details while Dad took pics. he did an awesome job. and thank the heavens for my Photoshop skills! annnnd, glory be, I ended up loving my wedding photos! I recommend everybody make a list of the photos they want on their wedding day, it will help out even a professional photographer a great deal, and you’ll get the shots you wanted.)

whoa. tangent. back on track!!

so after the temple photos, Mote surprised me by taking us to what are called the blowholes for some photos. one of my favorite shots of the whole day comes from this spot. we stood on a huge cliff as the waves crashed below us, spraying water like a geyser to astronomical heights above us. this made my dress smell like seawater later, (don’t worry. my mom got it cleaned as soon as it got back to the states) and I frantically kept yelling to my dad to protect my camera from spray, but it was totally worth it. what an incredible view. this is why it’s cool to get married on a tropical island.

so then we were headed to our feast on ‘Otuhaka Beach with Mote’s close family and friends! or so we thought.

enter.. the awesome Tongan roads.

so… they have paved roads in Tonga.. sort of.. but many of the roads are so bad you end up feeling like you’re going off-roading just running to the shop in town, through potholes the size of small craters in the middle of the road. the poor cars.. and shocks..

so the construction workers had conveniently closed the only way to get to the beach we had reserved and paid for with a beautiful pavilion and tables.. and nobody could get there.

I think Ngalu could see the alarm on my face when I heard the news, because she told me to calm down and that we’d get there. we drove to the spot where the road was being closed by workers, and Ngalu talked to one of the workers who she sort of knew, bribed him with money, and then yelled at him to let everybody through to the beach, or she’d come back and kill him.
hahaha. I told you she was awesome.

so we made it to the beach, but because of the delay plus Tongan time, nothing was ready. we had plenty of time for beach pictures, though. it was absolutely gorgeous. I got a temple wedding and a beach feast.. best of both worlds, baby. I was in utter bliss at this point. I was married to my Tongan honey forever, I was on the beach, and nothing else was even gonna phase me.










so once the feast was ready, we opened with a prayer and sat down at the head table full of various Tongan dishes, complete with a roasted pig right in front of us, and coconuts with straws stuck in the holes to drink from. there were several great dishes, and I filled up fast. then Mote’s sweet dad got up and spoke to the group. he apologized for not being a member of the church, (Mote’s parents go to the Church of Tonga) and said how grateful he was for this day and the ward and my parents coming all the way from America to be here for the wedding. he said he was so grateful to finally have a palangi daughter (haha. p.s. palangi means white) and he doesn’t know why I want Mote, but he is sure glad I do. ha. Mote translated his speech for me as he went, and it was very sweet. then they had my dad speak. Ngalu translated for him. he mostly talked about how grateful he was for the hospitality we had been shown and the love and warmth, etc. but Ngalu spiced it up and gave it all her own extra flavor. she started out by saying that the palangi was scared to be up talking to all these Tongans, and the laughter continued from there. and at the end and said, “and thank you to me for being a great translator, and you can take me back to America with you.” haha.
too many awesome “take me to America” jokes were bouncing around. it was highly entertaining. Tongans are crack-ups.


then it was time to cut the cake. Mote had brought this cake all the way from New Zealand, because it was a couple hundred dollars cheaper over there. this was all him.. it was two-tiered, and he had the bakery print our favorite picture of us together on the cake in fondent with “Congratulations Mote & Aubrey” beneath it. it was very sweet and nice. unfortunately we didn’t get a great photo of it.. but this was how it looked.

anyway, we cut the cake and he was very nice when he fed me a bite, and of course I shoved it in his face/up his nose a little. he was totally unprepared. everybody thought it was hilarious. but I kissed it off, so it was fine.

then they sang a hymn and closed with a prayer.

oh.. but lest ye think this day was long enough already… we were not done yet, boys and girls. it was time for the dance that the ward threw for us in celebration.

we went back to the hotel to change, and Mote went home to change as well, and that’s when we realized we’d left my other dress at the temple, so I went to the plan B dress.

Mote came back around and picked us up again and we went to the church. they had basically made a throne with ta’ovalas and mats on chairs for us and my parents, and it was very cool to feel like the queen of the ball. we danced the night away. Polynesian dances are so much more fun than white dances.. everybody actually dances, and likes it. we kept having to participate in unexpected Tongan traditions that Mote hadn’t warned me about, like having to do a dance where we walk around the room essentially gathering the people behind us in line, and leading them all in a big long line, and then splitting off, me leading the women, him leading the men, and meeting in the middle, and then splitting off in various ways, making our lines longer and longer. it was slightly confusing, but very fun. I was basically like, “uh… I don’t know how to do this.” haha.

(we forgot the camera at the dance.. so all the pictures are crappy cell phone pics. sorry ’bout it.)



and then they had us come stand at the head of the room and played songs while people came up and kissed us and put leis on us… about 20 (or 200) pounds worth of leis each. they were mostly candy leis in Saran Wrap, but a couple of flower ones as well. then we had to slow dance with leis all over us.. to “Love Can Build a Bridge.” it was very romantic and heavy. literally.




we went back and sat on our thrones and shared the wealth of the candy leis with everyone.. and various people would ask us to come dance with them throughout the night. in Tonga, when you ask someone to dance, you just stand in front of them and bow. I think if we did that in America it would really lower the rejection rate. let’s pick up the tradition, guys.

and then we had some dance performances of traditional Tongan dances by young ladies in the ward, like the tau’olunga, which is the Tongan money dance that, traditionally, the bride does.. but since I’m not Tongan and had no teacher to help me learn to interpret a Tongan song with Tongan dance moves… one of the ysa’s in the ward did it. she was wrapped in a traditional tongan outfit and oiled up all over so people could come stick money to her skin. it was very cool.

I think I need to learn how so people can come give me money by sticking it all over me, and have it be totally non-sleazy and beautiful like that. that would be fine.

anyway, we dropped my parents at their hotel, and then drove back to ‘Otuhaka Beach, where we stayed for about 5 days on our honeymoon before we went to stay at his parents’ house for the remainder of my trip.

and there you have it.. the perfectly imperfect best day of my life.. where I ended up hitched to the man who’s imperfectly perfect for me.

did I mention I love this guy?

Remembering Brittney

Yesterday I received some absolutely devastating news. I found out that one of my amazing students passed away at St. Mark’s Hospital on Saturday at only 19 years old due to Pneumonia. I could not get ahold of myself yesterday to stop the flow of tears that kept coming throughout the day. I feel like I’ve lost a child or something. After some intensive prayer, I was finally able to feel some peace yesterday evening. And I’ve been a mixture of happy and sad as I’ve reflected back on my memories of her. But since all of my memories of her are happy, I am feeling blessed to have had the chance to get close to her. I’m grateful for my knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and knowing that this isn’t the end. She’s just on the other side now. But it’s startling and it has caused me to reflect on what a precious gift life is.. and the people that are in mine. I’m especially grateful right now for every student I’ve had the opportunity to teach and for the bonds and friendships I’ve made. Today, I was asked to contribute a memory or two of her for her eulogy. It turns out writing something for a eulogy is pretty hard, and I’m sure I wrote too much. But here’s what I came up with:

Brittney Crowder… how do I say this? How do I write a ray of sunshine? From the first second she entered into my classroom I knew she was special. Brittney walked in with a big sparkling smile on her face and introduced herself and my first thought was, “this has to be one of the most polite girls I’ve ever met.” And when the woman who claimed to be her “sister” (a.k.a. mother), Cassandra came in, and the sarcastic banter between them began, I knew teaching them was gonna be a hilarious ride. And it was. They kept us all laughing. Probably the funniest part about it was hearing this typically sweet, happy girl throw out sarcastic zingers and smack talk in every classroom game as soon as it got competitive.

But one thing I’ll never forget about Brittney was her selfless attitude. She apologized more than anybody I’ve ever met because she put everyone before herself, never wanting to inconvenience anyone. She never ever failed to ask me about my day or my life or what I did over the weekend — not once. She was consistently helping everyone around her. She was one of the smartest students I’ve had, and she knew all the answers to my questions in class. I was always impressed by her ability to retain information. But she held back from taking over because she wanted others in the class to have a chance to participate too. It was so funny to watch her when my students played a speed vocabulary game, because she always knew the answer first, but she would slowly and carefully write the word out in fancy lettering so it wouldn’t be such an obviously hard beating. And then she would doodle her name or my name on the board while she waited.

Brittney was positive, she was funny, she was witty, she had a brilliant white smile that lit up everything. She had an easy and contagious laugh, and she radiated happiness, despite all the hard and terrible things she occasionally alluded to that she had experienced in her young life. She was focused and knew what was important. She was creative and she never held back expressing her love with words and hugs and gifts and notes. She was thoughtful and aware. She was never too busy to help or to stop and talk. She was respectful and considerate. And she had an impact on everyone she came into contact with simply because she cared about them. And there was a maturity in her beyond her years. I think, even though she only spent a short few years on the earth, she fit a lot of living into them.

My favorite memory of Brittney is probably when she took it upon herself to make a video for the Medical Administrative Assistant program in order to recruit more people to enroll. She re-wrote the lyrics to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” and Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie.”

One day on break in class we decided we’d teach one of the other students how to do some dance moves like the Jerk, along with the Cat Daddy and the Reject and the Dip and Crumping.  And then we taught the Dougie to the Career Services Department. She filmed it for the video and we laughed our guts out every time we watched it. And then she made me rap her “Teach Me How to Dougie” lyrics, which she revised to “Teach Me How to Study,”… into her phone… with my earbuds in to hear the beat of the song. It was one of the funniest moments ever, sitting in the computer lab, getting my white girl rap swag on. And then she told me I sounded like Lady Sovereign and had a legit rap career ahead of me. Ha ha!

I keep imagining she’ll walk through the door again with her hood on and her headphones in and her big smile asking me how I am. I absolutely love Brittney. She truly became my dear friend over the course of her time at Everest, and will always hold a special place in my heart as one of my favorite people. It feels like she’s gone way too soon, but I know she’s up in heaven radiating that same happiness and love she was famous for here, laughing and exchanging stories with everyone around her… and maybe even teaching them how to Dougie.