30 December 2019

Year-in-Review: 2019

2019 was a pretty big year for me. I bought my first house. I got married. I adopted a new kitten. And that was only in the last four months of the year. It was also a really hard year, for a number of reasons. I struggled at times. But in those struggles, I also learned some pretty important lessons.

I learned how to slow down.
I learned how to ask for what I need.
I learned how to say no and draw boundaries.
I learned how vulnerability is hard, but ultimately rewarding.
I learned how strong I can be in the face of adversity.
I learned how the best friends see you for who you are without any judgment.
I learned that the heart is incredibly resilient.
I learned how important it is to communicate with your friends and your partner.
I learned that sometimes you have to ask for help.
I also learned that sometimes its okay to go a little crazy.

And with all that, I kick off my annual list of gratitude—for all the things and people that I want to thank for being part of my 2019. Without you, I wouldn’t have learned the lessons, I wouldn’t have properly processed those lessons, and I certainly wouldn’t have laughed nearly as much as I did. You are my lighthouses when all seemed dark and I searched for the way back home, back to myself.

I am grateful for…. (in no particular order):

 1.    Running

Without a doubt, running will be on the list every single year. But this year, it was something a little different. I didn’t run nearly as far as last year. I didn’t run nearly as fast as last year. This morning while still in bed snuggling, Islam asked me how many miles I ran this past year. I wasn’t sure, but I made a guess. And then, we talked about how I ran less this past year. We talked about much of what I wrote in the annual mix. About how I was managing my mental health in a way that made it less necessary that I run every single day, and to run as far or fast as I had in the past. About how I was growing comfortable staying in one place in a way that meant I was okay with just staying on the couch with him, with myself, with the cats. And about how a big part of all of this had to do with me learning how to process my emotions, how to sit with my emotions, but also about having him in my life. And so…let’s move on to the second item.

2.    Islam

Last year, when I wrote my year-in-review blog, I was planning to head to Nashville to celebrate NYE with my Nashville crew (Robbie, Taylor, and Russell). But then, I realized I was exhausted and what I really wanted was to have a quiet and calm NYE in Johnson City. That I wanted to sit and reflect. That I wanted to make dinner and drink some wine, on my own. It was a tough decision. At the time, Islam was helping out his cousin in West Virginia. He had planned to be there until around the 3rd of January. I messaged him on the 30th and told him I had decided to stay home. He was worried about me being alone on NYE. I assured him that I was fine. But, he insisted that he return to celebrate with me. He didn’t want me to be alone. So, on the 31st, he got on a Greyhound bus to arrive in town in time to spend the evening with me. The thing is that I didn’t need him to do that. But, he wanted to be with me. He wanted to celebrate with me. In other words, he prioritized me. It wasn’t the first time that he had shown me how much he cared about me, but it was another good reminder of how much he cared about me. And we had a lovely celebration together. It was just what I wanted and what I needed.

2019 was the first solid year of me and Islam being together. From start to finish. January and February and March were our nesting period. We spent almost all the time together those months. He proposed to me on Valentine’s Day. He moved in with me. We started to share a home together. We talked about our five-year plan together. And then, April and May and some of June dealt us a blow that was hard to handle. We struggled. But, we always stayed together. At times, it felt bleak. But what I realized from those months is that if we could survive all that happened those months, we could survive anything together. Because when things got tough, we sat down together, often in the backyard of that house on E Unaka, and we talked it out. And it wasn’t always easy, but I realized during those months that he was the kind of person that I could spend my life with. He was the kind of person who always wanted to talk through it, and for the first time, I was with someone who I actually cared enough about to talk through it. In June and July and August, we worked together to buy my first house. He helped me all along the way. Talking to me about what sort of things he wanted in home. Helping me look at homes. Holding my hand when I was overwhelmed and nervous. And the morning that the house I’m currently in went on the market and I called my realtor for a showing, he jumped out of bed, put on some clothes, and came with me. I can remember him looking around the house, keeping in mind all the things I had said we should look for when we look at homes, and asking the cutest of questions. And then, I bought the house in August. We celebrated. We went to New York for a conference. We moved into the new house together. And since we had crossed off our list the things that we had planned in our five-year plan, we decided it was time to get married. So, we did. We got married on September 24, 2019. It was a day after our 13th month anniversary. It was that simple. I think I knew from the first conversation that we had he was the one for me. And our wedding was a reflection of just how much we understood each other. It was simple. And it was about us only. I carried a bouquet with 23 roses to pay tribute to the day of the month that we met, and he had one rose on him to represent the 24th, which was the day we got married. When we got married, I never had a single doubt about it.

And while it’s only been four months, I wake up next to him in the morning and I’m so thankful for the choices I’ve made. I’m thankful that I waited until I did to find the right person for me. I’m thankful for the hard work I did to get myself to a place where I was ready to meet him. I’m thankful that somehow this amazing human wound up in Johnson City for me to meet. I’m thankful that I flirted with him and gave him my business card. I’m thankful that he was so excited to become my friend that he texted me. I’m thankful that I invited him over to cook hawawshi that first night. And I’m thankful that we fell in love. I’m thankful that he chose to love me. I’m thankful that I chose to love him. I’m thankful for the life we’ve created together. Being together with him and our family (Drizzy and Aziza) is one of my most favorite places to be. I feel calm and relaxed and happy when the four of us are together. And y’all, he’s fucking hilarious, which is why my best friend also loves him dearly…and so, here we go onto the next one.

3.    Jennie Ann

I don’t how to start explaining how amazing my best friend has been over the course of this year. When you’ve been best friends with someone for 28 years, they know you better than anyone else. AND, Jennie Ann knows me the best. But beyond that, she sees me. And she loves me no matter what. Over the course of this year, she was ALWAYS there. No matter what. She knew what I needed, every single time the shit hit the fan. She was there. One time, we just talked on the phone and drank beer together in the middle of the day. But, every time I really needed someone, she was like: “Girl, call me now.” No matter the time. No matter the day. She was my goose. She was my Fiona. She was my every gif. She is the best friend I could ever wish for.
And friends are the most important part of everything and so we lend to the next item…

4.    My Friends and Family

Scrolling through my photos from the past year, I can’t help but smile at all the moments I shared with my friends and my family (both in-person and virtually). Those Facetime chats with Russell and the whole Nashville crew. Those afternoons with Jamie and Coco and the lovely folks of Yee-Haw. Mother’s Day in Charlotte with Mom and the kiddos. Those Nashville pool parties. Oh man, those Nashville pool parties. The new friends I made at the Teaching and Leadership Institute in Abingdon. Visiting Michelle at the beach. My beautiful cousin Sarah’s wedding and getting to see all of her kids and my Aunt Jennie Ann. Coco and Sam’s engagement party. Going to NYC and getting to spend time with Sheila, Yvonne and Red, Damian, Whitney, and Lisa. Visiting Gladdy, Jack, and Everett in Raleigh. Gatlinburg with the Nashville crew. My mom coming to Johnson City to help us get married. Halloween in Nashville. Celebrating with so many of them for Thanksgiving and Christmas in both Nashville and Charlotte. I had a blast with all of y’all. Thanks for spending your time with me, sharing you with me.

5.    Our Tri-Cities Community

Perhaps its hard to separate out friends and family from our local community, but I do find myself more and more seeing the folks in my life here as part of my inner circle. Thanks to our Unaka neighbors—Bob and Jamey. Thanks to Chris and Scotty, the plumbers. Thanks to Courtney and Landon, who helped walk me through the process of buying my first home. Thanks to the book club gals, in particular Dr. Leigh, who was there for me and Islam in one of our very trying moments. Thanks to our new neighbors—Larry, Ken, Frank and Sharon.

6.    My Colleagues

One of the things I like the most about working at Tusculum are the people I work with. Not only do we have a truly amazing faculty, we also have amazing librarians. And I am blessed to get to work with them. 

7.    My House

Buying a house has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done for myself. I started the process almost two years ago. I started to research. I bought a book to learn about the process. I contacted a loan originator, who helped me to find an amazing realtor. I started to watch available listings. And I saved up enough money to pay all the many items that would need to take place when I finally found a place. It all happened so quickly when I found a place. And I was hella anxious. I kept waiting for something to fall through at the last minute. And to be honest, even for the first couple of months in the house, I was still waiting for something to go wrong. But then, it didn’t. And we started to unpack. We started to decorate. We worked in the garden. And now, it's our home. Our home. 

There was something really special to me about doing this on my own. I'm so proud of myself. Islam repeatedly tells me how proud of me he is for buying a home on my own. Granted, he was there to help me navigate the final steps, but he remembers me telling him when we first started dating that I had this goal and he is so very proud of me for achieving it. And on my own. I think that part is important for both of us. Though, I'm happy that it's his home too. I would have never accomplished much of what we have in only our first five months in the home without him. 

 8.    Our Family

Me, Islam, Drizzy, and Aziza. There’s no place like home. There’s no place I would rather be. The four of us curled up on the couch, watching television, dancing to songs during the commercials, and snuggling our faces off day in and day out.

9.    My Students

Teaching is exhausting. Teaching is rewarding. Teaching doesn't pay well. But y'all, teaching is one of my most favorite things in this world. Every single time I'm in a classroom, I feel like I'm where I'm meant to be. And you know, it's not just what happens when we are doing the work. They raise me up. On those days when I was struggling, they were always there to cheer me up. One word and they’d have me laughing. Like one of my favorite students said: Facts, Dr. Everhart. 

10. Being Outside

And lastly, I’m thankful for the time I get to spend outside. Running. Sitting in the backyard at the Unaka house. Sitting on the front porch at the new house. Just in general, I’m thankful for the beauty of nature, the birds, the flowers.

 In Conclusion...
It seems that I always end the blog with hopes for the next year, and I suppose those come in the form of resolutions. Last year, I wrote: “As I depart from this year, I’ve realized that I’m in a place where I want to say what I want. I’m tired of pleasing other people. I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I want to belong to myself.” And I think I did just that this year. I was able to start building a life for myself that looks exactly like what I wanted and needed—finally picking the right guy, buying myself a house, building a family that brings me endless amounts of joy and happiness, while surrounding myself with people who show me love and acceptance.

So, 2019, you did me good. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for the laughter. Thank you for your amazing beauty and joy.

As we turn the calendar page to a new year, I hope that I’ll maintain the sense of peace that I’ve created for myself. I hope that I’ll handle any missteps with compassion and grace. I hope that we will be successful in our new ventures. I hope that we will always keep dancing in the kitchen. And, most of all, I hope that I’ll have the chance to meet the rest of my new family in Egypt.

Cheers to all of you in 2020. I hope that 2020 will continue to bring us all the lessons, laughter, beauty, and joy. Revel in the highs and lows. Remember that no matter what happens, you got this. You are strong. You are beautiful. And I’m endlessly thankful that I have all of you in my life.

And one last song....to inspire you to face the day with all the strength you've got inside you. YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT IN THIS WORLD (just make sure you get your motherfuckin' shirt on). 

P.S. If you notice in the picture, you can clearly see the "You are worth it" graffiti, but if you look a little more closely, the pole behind it reads: "Kiss my ass." Perhaps this picture should have been the annual mix photo, since it's the kind of contradictions and complexities that I embraced in 2019. 

16 December 2019

Contradictions and Complexities: Katherine's 18th Annual Mix

"Cause I won't waste another day living someone else's way. I wanna be happy. I wanna be free. Fuck what they say, I'm doin' me." -Mikey Mike

Contradictions and Complexities: Katherine's 18th Annual Mix (2019)

In 2019, I ran far less than I did in 2018. When I first started running, it was necessary and vital to my functioning. I had to run to manage my depression and anxiety. I had to run because I felt terrified. I had to run because I was confused. I had to run because I was angry. I ran hard. I ran fast. I ran far. It was my coping mechanism. And I remember I was always so scared of getting injured, worried if I had to stop running for any length of time that I might just fall apart again. And I ran from a lot of things. I ran from all the things.

I believe it was Islam who noticed I wasn't running as often in 2019, particularly on the days when he was staying with me at the house. He mentioned it out of concern that maybe he was occupying too much of my time and keeping me from it. As we talked about it, I realized it was a good thing. Because, I was feeling calm and quiet and like I didn't need to run from all the things. I could just sit there, with him, with myself, with whatever feelings I was having. And that was a huge accomplishment for me. I gave myself the permission to stay in one place. And that idea unfolded in some really interesting ways this year.

I made a lot of choices this year that meant staying in one place, staying still. I bought a house in Johnson City. I got married. I adopted another sweet cat named Aziza. And every single moment that I embraced the idea of permanency, I didn't run. I stayed. I sat with it. And, I embraced it. Because I realized I'm only terrified of commitment when I'm making choices that aren't right for me. When it all fits, it's easy, y'all.

However, within all of that, there were all these amazing contradictions and complexities and well, just complications. 2019 brought a lot of trying moments. Moments that ended up being clarifying moments about who I was, what I wanted my life to look like, and where I wanted to go next. There was that flooded basement. There was that April and May in which I don't think I've ever been so scared and exhausted. There was my first (and extremely difficult) Ramadan. But then, 2019 also brought a lot of amazing life-changing moments. I received the Excellence in Teaching Award from my college. I became a first time homeowner. I got married to an amazing man. I adopted another sweet kitten. 

Mostly this year, I just learned that the show goes on. That when the shit really hits the fan, like in a true life-threatening sort of way, you keep going. You wake up. You shower. You put on clothes. And for some days, that's enough. That THAT is a huge accomplishment. We show up for the people we love. We take care of them. And then, later, they take care of us. And here's the thing, we all experience a bunch of amazing things over the course of a year, and a bunch of shitty things too. But the important thing is to not put on what Islam calls "dark-colored glasses" (the opposite of "rose-colored glasses") you know the kind of person who sees only the negative in everything. And trust me y'all, it was hard at times for both of us. One time I danced like a snake after too much vodka given a huge disappointment. One time I ate a burger in a hospital parking lot and cried my eyes out. One time I sat in the parking lot at the park where I run and thought I was going to lose my mind.

But you know what saved me all those times? Well, there were a lot of people. And depending on the circumstance, there were friends, colleagues, folks from the mosque...but through all of these times there was my best friend, Jennie Ann. She has been there for me in this past year in a way I don't think I can completely capture here. Jennie Ann and I have been best friends for almost 28 years. Much of this mix is about our adventures together this year. Our conversations. Our sharing of gifs and memes. When things seemed bleak, she was always there to make me laugh. And at other times, she was just there to let me cry into the phone. But honestly, if you know either one of us, we just need to laugh and dub it the year of Fiona, Del Hart, Mikey Mike, or maybe, just geese. 

See, we've been obsessed with geese this past year. I think it started with our empty parking lot obsession. And then, one day, some geese were wandering through the empty parking lot. And then, we just started texting geese gifs over and over. And, then, we started seeing geese everywhere.  From some rudimentary internet research on geese, I've learned that seeing geese is to encourage you to remember where you came from, remember your roots, and to thank the people who helped you from the beginning. If anyone has been there with me since the beginning, it is Jennie Ann. "These are the people you can count on to see you at worst and never hold any judgments." And this past year, I've needed someone to see me clearly, to hear me at my worst, and to love me no matter what. I'm thankful for my best friend of almost three decades for always showing up when I need her. But perhaps most of all, I'm thankful for always making me laugh, even when totally inappropriate and at the most of inappropriate things. 

You can find the mix in the following places:

1. Apple Music

2. Spotify

3. YouTube

1. listen before i go: Billie Eilish

"Take me to the rooftop. I wanna see the world when I stop breathing, turning blue. Tell me love is endless, don't be so pretentious. Leave me like you do. If you need me, wanna see me. Better hurry, 'cause I'm leaving soon..."

I've totally fallen in love with Billie Eilish this year. I probably listened to Bad Guy on repeat more times than I can count and I adore that version of Billie...however, as I began to explore her other songs and albums, I also fell in love with the quiet and sparse Billie. It was perfect for those cold and dark mornings when I would just get started running, before I picked up my speed. While last year, I craved the quiet. This year, I allowed myself to have more of that. Quiet. Calm. When I first heard this song, I sat on my front porch with a big ol' glass of wine and had to play it over and over again. It was something in the quiet desperation in her voice that captivated me.

So, yeah, clearly this song is about suicide. No, I'm not depressed, y'all. I think the line I love the most is the desire to see the world from a rooftop when you stop breathing. It makes me think of how important it is to take in the beauty of this world. 

But then, today, I got the news that a friend committed suicide yesterday. I suspect by the time I post the blog, the news will be well known. And so, it is with some heaviness and melancholy that I'll dedicate this song to Chef Larry. Larry and I weren't super close friends, but I knew him through the time he worked at Silo and Hemingway's/Earnest's. We became friends the last summer I lived in Germantown. In my final few weeks in the neighborhood, I may have gotten had a glass of wine too many because I stole his hat before I ran out of the restaurant. One time over the holidays, he texted me to say hello. And that was sort of the way it worked with us. Every so often, we'd message. I remember him texting me about his new gig at Hemingway's. When he saw on social media that I was headed to town, he'd always invite me to the restaurant so he could cook for me. My favorite conversation we had was this long drawn out discussion of brunch and how much he hated it. Man, I never heard of anyone that hated brunch as much as Chef Larry. But then, on January 1, 2018, he texted me: "I finally get brunch." I'm assuming that instead of working, he had the chance to enjoy a brunch on his own, surrounded by friends and family. We will miss you Tiny Chef Larry Byrd (as he became dubbed by Allison). I wish you peace.

"Call my friends and tell them that I love them. And I'll miss them...."

2. Ghost Town: First Aid Kit

"All of these ghost towns I keep traveling through. All of these traffic signs and lonesome bars. Blindsiding me to you and I swear I can be better. I could be more to you. But there are things that lie in my path that I just have to do. If you've got visions of the past, let them follow you down. And they'll come back to you someday. And I found myself attached to this railroad track. But I'll come back to you someday...." 

This is one of those songs that's almost too complicated to fully explain. I think I fell in love with it for how painfully beautiful it is. Again, quiet and sparse. Maybe it's something about how much our past follows us, and we have to make peace with all of that. 2019 had a lot of the things in it. And a big part of it was making peace with my past. Or, maybe I just like it because one night I heard it, and it made me think of my best friend Jennie Ann and one of our favorite gifs, and I sent it to her while I was making dinner. It's hard to say, but it's the perfect song to listen to while you are sitting in an empty parking lot at night. Or, at 8:30am when you are trying to figure out the next thing.

"And I remember how you told me all that you wanted to do. The dream of Paris in the morning or a a New York window view. And I can see it now you're married and your wife is with a child. And you're all laughing in the garden and I'm lost somewhere in your mind..."

3. Clementine: Halsey

"I'd like to tell you that my sky's not blue, it's violent rain. And in my world, the people on the street don't know my name. In my world, I'm seven feet tall. And the boys always call, and the girls do too. Because in my world, I'm constantly, constantly havin' a breakthrough. Or a breakdown, or a black out. Would you make out with me underneath the shelter of the balcony?"

Picking a Halsey song (or actually two) for the mix was a challenge. She's pretty amazing in my book. But when I heard this one, I knew it needed to be in opening songs of the mix, because it encapsulates contradictions and complexities.

"I left my daydreams at the gate because I just can't take 'em too. Know my heart still has a suitcase, but I still can't take it through..."

4. Doin' Me: Mikey Mike

"Singing loud, singing proud. It's good to be free. 'Cause I won't waste another day, living someone else's way. I wanna be happy. I wanna be free. Fuck what they say, I'm doin' me..." 

I fell in love with this song because of a specific scene on the Showtime show, SMILF. It's an empty street at night and the heroine of the show is bouncing a basketball, after some particularly hard challenges. The scene spoke to me. It was something about realizing that we are who we are, and we don't have to do what anyone else expects us to do...but rather, we can do it our way. I don't think I've ever lived my life someone else's way. I've always wanted to live a life that challenged me, that operated outside of the bounds of a traditional way of life. It's sort of like a newer version of Frank Sinatra's My Way. You do you, Mikey Mike.

"I wanna be scared outta my head, and lost outta my mind. I wanna fall in n' outta love a few thousand times..." 

5. Fair Game: Sia

"You terrify me 'cause you're a man, you're not a boy. You got some power and I can't treat you like a toy. You're the road less travelled by a little girl. You disregard the mess while I try to control the world. Don't leave me, stay here and frighten me. Don't leave me, come now enlighten me..." 

If I actually used Spotify to listen to music, it would tell me I listened to this song more times than any other song this year. It's a perfect running song. The driving rhythm at the beginning. The sparse music during the first verse. And then, it builds to something magical. But I suppose it's not just that it's about the sound of the song, but something also in the lyrics. It reminds me of what it is like when you meet the person who is just what you need. A fair game.

"I pushed and pushed hoping you'd bite. So I could run, run. And that I did but through the dust. You saw those teeth marks. They weren't all yours, you had been thrust into a history that had not worked for me. Into a history from which I could not flee. So go on shake me. Shake until I give it up..."

6. Lose You to Love Me: Selena Gomez

"You promised the world and I fell for it. I put you first and you adored it. Set fires to my forest and you let it burn. Sang off-key in my chorus 'cause it wasn't yours. I saw the signs and I ignored it. Rose-colored glasses all distorted. Set fire to my purpose and I let it burn. You got off on the hurtin' when it wasn't yours..." 

I think we are always processing our past relationships, particularly when we are in new and different relationships. Hopefully, if we are doing things right, we are realizing how much we've grown from those relationships. We realize the ways in which those relationships didn't serve us. And just sometimes we realize how we had to move past those relationships to truly love ourselves. That's what's going on here. And, to be honest, sometimes it's outside of the realms of romantic love. There are times when we've got to move away from people and places in order to love ourselves.

"We'd always go into it blindly. I needed to lose you to find me. This dance, it was killing me softly. I needed to hate you to love me..." 

7. Easy: Camila Cabello

"You tell me that I'm complicated and that might be an understatement. Anything else? You tell me that I'm indecisive. Fickle, but I try to hide it. Anything else? You tell me that I overthink 'til I ruin a good thing. Anything else? You tell me you'd rather fight than spend a single peaceful night with somebody else..." 

I'm pretty sure I have a crush on Camila Cabello. Shhh, don't tell Billie Eilish. But seriously, I love the way she writes about love. And this song on her newest album captures something that resonates for me. It resonates hard. I think we all feel like pretty little messes sometimes. We are all full of contradictions and complexities. But it's the people who always come through to love us, when we are at our very lowest, that show you who loves you unconditionally. They are the kind of people who pick you up, sometimes out of the gutter, and tell you: "Okay, that shit was fucked up, but what are we gonna do now?" Or they tell you when you are upset about some stupid shit: "Get over it. Good morning." They don't put up with your bullshit. But they also never let you feel out there alone, orbiting around the sun or the dark moon. And you realize, despite what other people make you think, you are worthy of love, you are easy to love, because you are you. And that's all they need. Just you, as you are, even with all the messes.

"You really, really know me. The future and the old me. All of the mazes and the madness in my mind. You really, really love me...All I know is you heal me when I'm broken. All I know is you, saved me and you know it. Always thought I was hard to love, 'til you made it seem so easy..."

8. Godspeed: Jenny Lewis

"I've known you too long to let you carry on this way. When I was in bad shape, I'll never forget what you always used to say. What are we going to do with you? You don't make it easy on me. What am I supposed to do with you? If you won't let me help you, won't you?" 

I'm pretty sure this song is about something very different than what I imagine in my head. But, suffice to say, this song reminds me of what I just wrote about in the last song. Keep your people who love you no matter what close by. You know, the lighthouses. The ones who guide you back.

"Godspeed to you. Keep the lighthouse in sight." 

9. Wonderland: Chvrches

"Can't live forever with my head in the clouds. Can't predict the weather with my feet on the ground. You tell me that we'll be alright. But I don't know if you're right. I can't live forever with my head and my heart in the clouds..."

One day when I took off for a run in the early morning while it was still dark, this song played randomly. It was after some difficult things happened in 2019. There were realizations this year that took all my energy. And there were times that I doubted just about everything.

"I'm counting every sheep, but these rabbit holes run deep. Trying to be so right, desperate to start a fight. All of this pointless talk. Why can't I turn it off? When will it all just stop?"

10. The Show Goes On: Lupe Fiasco

"Alright, already the show goes on. All night, till the morning we dream so long. Anybody ever wonder when they would see the sun up?Just remember when you come up, the show goes on..."

Yeah, those things that happen, well, this song helped me to remember that the show goes on. Even when you feel like you want everything to stop, we have to get up, get out there, and get the things done.

"So no matter what you been through. No matter what you into. No matter what you see when you look outside your window...Never ever put them down. You just lift your arms higher. Raise 'em til your arms tired. Let 'em know you're there. That you struggling and survivin'. That you gonna persevere..." 

11. Blame It On Your Love: Charli XCX (feat. Lizzo)

"Gotta blame it on the, blame it on the, blame it on the juice. Looking at my booty like you don't know what to do. Baby, I know that you can't control it, but my body like a swisher, just roll it. I'ma give you one chance to fall in love. Give you one chance, don't fuck this up..."

There were a whole bunch of Lizzo songs I wanted to put on this year's mix, but I didn't. For one, some of my favorite songs I can't listen to anymore after my last trip to Nashville when we listened to the songs on repeat about 802 times and now, I can only imagine the guys dancing and singing to it. For two, I couldn't find the right song and placement and flow.

Clearly, it was the Year of Lizzo. The year of blaming it on the goose. And, I'll always treasure going to the concert in Raleigh with my best friend Jennie Ann. It was a transcendent experience and I was so fortunate that we got to be there together.

"Honestly, I'm reckless. I'm sorry if I'm selfish. Every time you get too close I run, I run away. And every time you say the words I don't know what to say. Back, back to the beginning. Really wish that I could change. I do, I do, I do. I blame it on your love, every time I fuck it up..."

12: Middle Child: J. Cole

"I copied your cadence. I mirrored your style. I studied the greats. I'm the greatest right now. Fuck if you feel me. You ain't got a choice. Now I ain't do no promo, still made all that noise. This shit gon' be different. I set my intentions. I promise to slap all that hate out your voice..." 

Another perfect running song. And also perfect when you feel like some folks are hatin' on you. #charlotterepresentin

"The game is off balance. I'm back on my shit. The Bentley is dirty. My sneakers is dirty. But that's how I like it. You all on my dick..." 

13. Nightmare: Halsey

"I've tasted blood and it is sweet. I've had the rug pulled beneath my feet. I've trusted lies and trusted men. Broke down and put myself back together again. Stared in the mirror and punched it to shatters. Collected the pieces and picked out a dagger....Come on, little lady, give us a smile. No I ain't got nothing to smile about. I got no one to smile for, I waited a while for a moment to say I don't owe you a goddamn thing..." 

And then, sometimes, you get real mad. You get mad about the world, as a woman. Tired of people telling you how to live your life. Tired of people wanting you to behave as they think you should. Just tired of it all. Halsey perfectly channels this rage. And sometimes, you just gotta feel the rage and let it churn you onwards to something more productive.

"No I won't smile, but I'll show you my teeth. And I'ma let you speak if you just let me breathe. I've been polite, but won't be caught dead lettin' a man tell me what I should do in my bed. Keep my exes in check in my basement. 'Cause kindness is weakness, or worse, you're complacent. I could play nice or I could be a bully. I'm tried and angry, but somebody should be..."

14. Young Forever: Nicki Minaj

"Don't say goodbye, look in my eyes. So that I always will remember. Frozen in time, always be mine. Baby boy, you'll be young forever. I'll be over here, you'll be over there..." 

Is it really an annual mix without Nicki? I almost put Megatron on this year's mix, but I couldn't find the right place for it. I also fell in love with this older song while out running.

"I used to think that we'd run away. One lovely pretty summer day. I remember when you would say we'd be okay come what may..." 

15. Genius: LSD (Labrinth, Sia &Diplo) (feat. Lil' Wayne)

"Uh, I'm a genius, under pressure, no question, I'm really special. Upper echelon when I bless you...I'm a genius and perfectionist, specialist in the excesses. With excellence for evidence..."

Wait, Sia and Lil' Wayne? Yes please.

"Oh my god. Baby, baby, don't you see? I got everything you need. Only a genius could love a woman like she..."

16. The Louvre: Lorde

"Well, summer slipped us underneath her tongue. Our days and nights are perfumed with obsession. Half of my wardrobe is on your bedroom floor. Use our eyes, throw our hands overboard. I am your sweetheart psychopathic crush. Drink up your movements, still I can't get enough. I overthink your p-punctuation use. Not my fault, just a think that my mind do. A rush at the beginning. I get caught up, just for a minute. But lover, you're the one to blame, all that you're doing..."

This song slays me every single time. Another regular running song. Even when I listen to it right this moment, I can see that moment when I hit the first curve on the track where I run, while the world is still quiet. It reminds of me of all the Franks. Y'all are my people. And I'll sit in hell any day with you.

"Our thing progresses, I call and you come through. Blow all my friendships to sit in hell with you. But we're the greatest, they'll hang us in the Louvre. Down the back, but who cares, still the Louvre..." 

17. Day Too Soon: Sia

"Oh I've been running all my life. I ran away, I ran away from good. Yeah I've been waiting all my life. You're not a day, you're not a day too soon. Honey I will stitch you. Darling I will fit you in my heart. Honey I will meet you. Darling I will keep you in my heart..." 

This year has been pretty monumental for me and Islam. On Valentine's Day, he asked me to marry him. I told him I needed more time and suggested we move in together. I'm pretty sure he moved in the very next day. And then, we had some troubled times. Times when things felt bleak. But even when the times were tough, I never doubted that we'd be together. And during some of those particularly hard moments in the past year, I realized that even more that I wanted to be him (more than I can really explain here). And you know that's how I knew that not only had I found the person that I wanted to spend my life with, but also, that I was finally ready for that part of my life. Because, honestly, I think the biggest part of all of it was me working out my things so I could be ready for a good man to come along. I needed to do all the hard work of therapy, all the hard work of interrogating my own issues...and then, only then would I be ready. And in that way, while sometimes I wish we had met when I was younger, I'm glad I met him at precisely the moment I did...because he wasn't a day too soon. He was right on time.

"Pick me up in your arms, carry me away from harm. You're never gonna put me down. I know you're just one good man. You'll tire before we see land. You're never gonna put me down..."

18. Paper Rings: Taylor Swift

"I like shiny things, but I'd marry you with paper rings. Uh huh, that's right. Darling, you're the one I want, and I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this. Uh uh, that's right. Darling, you're the one I want, and paper rings and picture frames and dirty dreams. Oh, you're the one I want..." 

For many of you, you might have been surprised when Islam and I got married, but see, we had been talking about it for quite some time. One night, we sat down and drafted our yearly plan. We wanted to get married. We wanted to buy a house. We wanted to start our own business. We wanted to travel back to Egypt to visit his family. And, we planned to adopt a sister for Drizzy. Then, things just took on a life of their own. We were going to put off buying the house, because I hadn't found what I wanted. But then, that one morning when I woke up to check the web and saw that cute little house, I texted my realtor. She told me she could meet me there in 30 minutes. So, we put on clothes, we ran over. I remember Islam saying to me: I think its the house for us. And then, we were thrown into that process. Once we got settled, we started talking about getting married. We both knew what we wanted for our wedding. And so, we started to plan it. Believe it or not, but we spent less than $500 on the whole event. It was exactly what made us happy. Something simple. Something that allowed us to focus on our relationship. And as I'm sure you know, we danced the whole way to the event.

I remember one morning before we got married. I went out for a run. The new Taylor Swift album had come out. And this song played...and it was absolutely perfect.

"Kiss me once 'cause you know I had a long night. Kiss me twice 'cause it's gonna be alright. Three times 'cause I've waited my whole life..." 

19. My Type: Saweetie

"Rich fella, eight figure, that's my type. That's my type, fella that's my type. Eight-inch big, ooh, that's good pipe. Bad bitch, I'ma ride the dick all night..." 

So, over the year, Islam and I had a ton of songs that we danced our asses off to while riding back and forth to Lowe's, cleaning the new house and the old house. Thotiana was one of our favorites. But the day we got married...we were on our way to the courthouse. Me driving. Him in the front seat with the bouquet of flowers. My mom in the back seat, documenting all of it. And then, I played this, because it had become one of our favorites. There's a whole video of the two of us in our wedding clothes, driving through Johnson City, dancing and singing this...but y'all will never see it. It was one of my favorite moments. Just picture us screaming "That's my type! That's my type!" to each other on our way to be married.

"New wrist, new whip, ride around dipped. I can see why, all these basic hoes pissed. Bust down wrist, not a bust down bitch. Said I want your man, no the fuck I don't sis..." 

20. Raising Hell: Kesha (feat. Big Freedia)

"I'm all fucked up in my Sunday best. No walk-of-shame 'cause I love this dress. Hungover, heart of gold, holy mess. Doin' my best, bitch, I'm blessed..."

Every year, I feel the need to acknowledge all of the Franks who have always shown up to remind me of all the joy, the happiness, the fuckedupness of life....because we are all sweet little messes, just trying to find our way, one day at a time, one step at a time. Y'all are what makes life worth living. Thank you for always loving me, no matter what.

"Oh if you couldn't tell, we can always find the trouble, we don't need no help..."