Thanks for the throwback, Maya

I was genuinely sad this morning when I checked my phone.

A CNN report told me that Maya Angelou had died.

My throwback Thursday came a day early.

I was suddenly sitting in the dimly lit room of my eighth grade English teacher, Mrs. Young. It was always dim in that room, as she had only two floor lamps lighting the cave-like classroom made of bright white cinderblocks. I was reading out of our textbook a portion of Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

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This is my eight grade self in all of her awkward glory.

I couldn’t tell you what it was about without a quick refresher from a Google search.

But I’ll never forget a line I read.

“I was liked, and what a difference it made.”

Perhaps the reason I cannot fully remember the context of this poignant line was because whatever Maya Angelou was writing about was swallowed whole in the relevancy of my own life to this very epiphany.

I had just come out of a dark abyss called depression.

I had moved to Georgia, repeated seventh grade, reentered another day treatment and about a dozen different medications. It was not the best time for Emmilie Buchanan.

For part of my second seventh grade year, I was pulled out of school and put on what was called “Homebound.” Basically, I was deemed too sick to attend school, and had a tutor come to my home on Braidwood Run a few times a week.

I remember spending hours in my room playing Monopoly by myself and carrying on full on conversations with my cat, who ironically enough was named Chat.

Somehow, I can’t fully remember, I started to come out of it.

I planned to go back to school for eighth grade – what would end up being my last year in Atlanta.

It was with a newfound confidence that still bore the wounds of past fear and failures that I started school that Fall.

I was the healthiest and the happiest I had ever been.

I was just a little worried about the friend department.

All of my life, I had desperately wanted to be “cool.”

Well if you know me now, you can probably guess that back then I was about as awkward and goofy.

In fact, I vividly remember uttering more than one tearful prayer to God that I could be popular.

It’s funny how God has a better way of answering the deepest pleas of our hearts.

Which brings me back to Mrs. Young’s dimly lit dungeon.

One day, it couldn’t have been too far into the school year, we started studying Mya Angelou. I instantly loved her writing. Her vivid description made me feel physical emotion — something that few writers had done for me thus far.

Then came the day we read that immortal line.

“I was like, and what a difference it made.”

Somehow, it became my own words. I realized that I was loved by so many people. I had countless friends who knew about my struggle with mental illness, and many who didn’t. Those who knew had stood by me during the dark days of my struggles, and those who didn’t found in me a friend, despite what I felt were glowing inadequacies.

The fact that a handful of people at Lost Mountain Middle School could call me friend — well, that was more than I had ever hoped for. And it was real.

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That hair tho

 

This moment in my English class was a pivotal one. For many reasons.

I started to realize my own self worth, I discovered the power of well chosen words and found that I had a knack for choosing them myself.

Looking back, I’m thoroughly convinced that Mrs. Young was a gift to me from God. It was Mrs. Young that first taught me to write. I mean, really write. Her editing process was called “The Wash” and I remember more than once, staying up late into the night perfecting my personal narrative or expository essay. It was Mrs. Young’s class that taught me to write about my life. My rich and blessed life has given me ample amounts of content over the years, and I have that dark classroom to thank.

Mrs. Young gave me great confidence, too. I wrote an expository essay on the Treble clef once, and got a 92 percent on the paper. I remember the grumblings of my fellow classmates as they got their papers back.

“Did anyone get an A?”

“Emmilie did.”

To be honest, it was the pride in her voice that made me beam. I had not felt that I was good at something in a long time. It was that moment that I knew I wanted to write. And write. And write.

I’ve never had the chance to say it, but thank you, Mrs. Young. You changed my life.

Mrs. Young loved Maya Angelou, too.

I know she will be just as affected by her death.

So thanks to the greats in my life. Maya Angelou, for connecting with a finding-her-way-back eight grader, and one of the most talented teachers I have ever met, for making a writer after all of this awkward, goofy girl.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom. 

I hope to meet you one day, Maya Angelou.

Until then, I’ll keep singing my song with outstretched wings. Thanks for giving them to me.

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Glamping, reception dancing and the joy of memorilaizing

I looked at my calendar for May today and was suddenly tired.

What a month.

It’s been so beautiful and so busy all at once.

Eric and I have been actively trying to fill our time with good things. Bye bye, Netflix.

And the result has been so fulfilling. We have served at the temple, built great relationships with dear friends and gotten sexified at the gym. We feel great about all of these things.

I also feel great that Southeastern Idaho is starting to get with the program and Spring is finally here.

Our first weekend in May we packed up and hit the road to Mud Lake, Idaho.

It was beautiful.

The 45 minute drive out of Rexburg was refreshing. It’s drives like that one that remind me why I fell in love with Idaho in the first place. And Spring was just totally nailing it. Life is literally flowing back into the land – the rolling hills and endless fields – and I find myself completely mystified by them each time I see their beauty. I love you, Idaho.

Our besties, Brennan and Emily met us at the Mud Lake Wildlife Preservation, and after some accidental offroading, we found our campsite. It was $Free.99 and we got to campy by the dock of the lake. We saw some birds I couldn’t possibly tell you the names of and about a gazillion bees. Eric Whitlock informed us that they were leaf-cutter bees. Apparently Montana taught him right in the bee department.

Thankfully, BYU-Idaho lets you rent just about any outdoorzy equipment you could imagine. (Except fishing gear…) So we were fully equipped with the cutest two-man tent. Our air mattress took up the entirety of the tent and it was the funnest sleepover I’ve ever had with my best friend and dearest love.


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Mud Lake. She’s a beaut, ain’t she?

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What a cutie. And thank goodness for air mattress pumps. And cars.

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boo.

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Hi. Meet Brennan and Emily. They are our best friends and I can’t imagine Rexburg without them. Too bad we’ll have to when the move to Connecticut for the Fall! We’ll miss you, Puidas! Come back to us soon! #puitlocksforever

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Camping selfie.

Because fabulous camping in fabulous.

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Clearly, Emmilie is loving this whole outdoors thing.

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Every come see how cute they are.

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And how pyro they are. It’s fine. Also, please note the joy on Eric’s face. Priceless.

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This happened for breakfast and no one was mad about it.

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Especially him. Just really livin’ life.

This was one of the better camping trips I’ve taken. Love you Em and Brenz. We went camping again over Emily’s birthday to Green Canyon Hot Springs in Newdale, Idaho. It was fantastic. The hot springs were so great, especially in the chilly rain, and we had a great time practicing our Spiderman poses underwater. Don’t worry. It’s a thing.

Thanks for letting us celebrate your birthday with you, Em! Hope it’s a great year for you!

On Sunday, Eric and I returned back from a long weekend in Arizona for one of our favorite couple’s wedding. It was a perfect trip.

We flew in Thursday night and Eric was reunited with his best friend, Jordan Taylor. This was significant for me, because I have only ever seen pictures of Jordan and Facetimed him. Jordan recently returned from a two-year mission in Chile, preaching about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I wish dearly that he could have been at our wedding, I’m so grateful for his service and sacrifice.

I saw another side of my dear husband as he met up with is best friend. For the first time in our marriage, I suddenly felt a little jealous and all weekend I referred to Jordan as “the other woman.” #onlykindofkidding #bromance

We love you Jordan. Come visit us!

Afterward, we met up with the bride and groom, Bri and Nathan, for their bachelor and bachelorette parties. It was a good day.

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After a great day of relaxing and shopping on Friday, (that H&M though) Eric and I went to the temple with some of Eric’s family. It was so beautiful to be in the temple with family we love so dearly. Though it wasn’t the whole Whitlock clan, (we missed those who couldn’t make it this time) I felt the spirit so strongly, testifying that families are eternal and that the pure love of Christ is what binds us together. I am so blessed to have such amazing in-laws.

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Because the Whitlocks know how to party, on Friday night, Eric and I showed off our lip syncing skills, taking home first and second place. #wedoweddings

Sometimes I forget that I married the boy-version of myself. I feel so great about it.

Nobody parties but us. And every other Whitlock.

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On Saturday morning, I got my nails did with the girls and Eric tried to get into a local gym. #doyouevenliftbro? Well, not that morning because he couldn’t get in. Poor soul. So he hung out with the girls at the salon. Good thing they all love him too. Then we were able to visit his grandfather, Wayne, the sweetest man and epitome of a missionary, in the hospital. We’re sending prayers your way from Idaho, Grandpa Wayne! We love you!

Nathan and Bri’s sealing was later that afternoon in the Gilbert Temple. Guys. It was beautiful. I’ve cried at every sealing I’ve ever been to. (None were as bad as my own though… #boogercry) It’s a trait that Eric tells me is very endearing. I just think I’m a boob.

Either way, thank you forever, Nathan and Bri for inviting us to be a part of your special day. What a beautiful, sacred ordinance. You two are such a powerhouse couple. I can’t wait to see what good you bring to the world. We love you.

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A little secret about Emmilie Whitlock – I love wedding receptions more than is probably healthy. They are so fun, and generally, filled with people I love. And nothing is better than celebrating two friends who are in love.

It’s also an excuse to dance with my handsome husband, something that tops the charts of my favorite things to do.

And while I’ll probably never get the “I’m so fancy, you already know” lyrics stuck out of my head, or about a dozen bros screaming “Turn down for what?!” out of my head, it was worth it to have the last dance of the night reserved for my husband. That was bliss. I love that man. Here’s to years of dancing into the night, Eric Whitlock.

Congrats, again, Nathan and Bri. You’ll love marriage. It’s the happiest thing I’ve ever done.

We flew back into Idaho Falls Sunday evening. And I’ll be honest. I’ve had a hard time loving Idaho as much. I fall more and more in love and enchanted with Arizona every time we visit. We may or may not have already bought tickets to go back later this summer.

One day, Gilbert will be my home. And until then, I’ll dream of endless sunsets and nights under the warm skies.

It’s funny to me how the business of this month culminated with Memorial Day yesterday. We had a barbecue with some of our friends, and started chatting about the history behind the holiday. It’s a day to remember soldiers who have fallen in the battle for freedom. How blessed I am to be able to live a life of memory-making because of these men and women.

Thank you for the freedom you have given me and everyone I have ever loved. Thank you for their sacrifice. Thank you for allowing me to have such a beautiful life filled with laughter, dancing and eternal joy.

#ericturns23

Birthdays are more like a marathon than a day.

There is something so magical about taking a whole day to celebrate someone you love, why not make it last the whole week.

Eric’s birthday was this last Tuesday. I’ve been planning and looking forward to it for weeks. Honestly, probably more than he has.

Like, to the extreme. The night before, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep.

Eric, the actual birthday-boy, was out like a rock minutes after we went to bed.

So… clearly nobody parties but me.

On Tuesday morning I got up earlier than I had in probably over a year. 7 a.m. It was awful. But that’s called love.

I decorated our cute little apartment with all of my finds from the dollar store and baked this divine offering of the Internet – bacon wrapped cinnamon rolls. I know. You probably just died a little. And rightly so. They are amazing.

And super easy. Cook 8 strips of bacon for about 3-5 minutes until slightly done and pink. Then, unwrap a Pillsbury cinnamon roll (I used the regular ones from the can. Also, there no such thing as unwrapping. I took scissors to the little devils.)  Place the slightly cooked bacon strip on the dough and roll it back up.

Bake as directed on the package and prepare for your life to change.

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They are seriously so good. I ate two in all of their gluteny goodness.

Luckily, my husband’s superpower is sleeping, so I didn’t even worry about waking him up while I was getting everything ready. He had an early morning work meeting and a full day of classes so I knew I wouldn’t see him too much. And because everyone should have cake for breakfast on their birthday #emmiliewhitlockrule, I decided to give him the next best thing.

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I don’t actually think Eric knew what was happening until I had finished singing “Happy Birthday” to him. Then he just sort of laid there. But I think he liked it.

He told me later, when he was conscious, that all he was thinking was, “What the heck did she stick a candle in?!” Eric doesn’t have a sense of smell, and he is pretty darn disoriented in the morning, so the poor guy just had no idea. But he loved it when he was awake enough to speak.  Love that guy.

He did tell me to get away from him when it first woke up. My perkiness was killing him, he said. I actually get that more often than you would think. #finewithit

 

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And then when I couldn’t wait another minute, Eric opened his presents.

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Success.

That night, we met up with some great friends for dinner at a little burger dive in St. Anthony, Big J’s. Turns out they also have fantastic pizza as well. We had a blast with some of Eric’s old roommates, mission friends and new friends from our ward here. We were so blessed to have so many amazing people celebrate with us.

But first we’ll take a massive selfie.

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I think Kheldon ordered the entire menu.

 

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We met up with our good friends Brennan and Emily afterward for cake and ice cream, and let’s be honest, Eric’s new N64 game. Thanks, Jason for your wise guidance. He loved Smash Brothers.

Also, he’s probably the cutest ever. And turns out he never wishes for anything because he can’t ever decide. Bless him.

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Emily and Brennan are the bees knees and got Eric a knife (for an upcoming camping trip) and pokemon cards. Apparently it was a great booster pack. #pokemonwife

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We finished off the birthday marathon with working in the temple Wednesday night, Skeeter’s hot dogs with best friends, camping and Spider-Man 2.

But for real though, guys. I love this man so much. He is the greatest husband I could ever have hoped for and he deserves every good thing this next year.

I love you, Eric Whitlock. Thanks for giving me such a beautiful life.

Happy birthday.