A Rapunzel Story

My sister just locked me in my room.

Ok, she didn’t LOCK me in my room. She shut my bedroom door on me as I was industriously making my bed (which I hadn’t done in about a week).

The locking was implicitly implied.

It was explicitly stated when I promptly opened the door and walked into the hall.

“ALI,” Mackenzie said with her trademark calm and tender manner, “THAT WAS A SIGN TO STAY IN YOUR ROOM.”

With my trademark pluck and valor, I immediately turned tail and closed myself in my room.

You may be wondering what grievous crime I had committed to deserve banishment to my room.

Well, my little sister had a boy coming over. And she didn’t want me to meet him.

“Why don’t you want me to meet your boy?” I asked as we discussed this yesterday.

“You’re too weird and awkward,” she threw back at me, beating a retreat into her room so I couldn’t ask follow-up questions. And I had a lot of questions

I’m not sure what she meant by “too weird and awkward.” Granted, I have spent the majority of Christmas break slouching around in my XXXL “I support the right to arm bears” t-shirt (I’m a size small, if anyone was wondering). And the only person outside of my immediate family I’ve interacted with is the man who delivers the books I order.

I was so upset I almost didn’t invite her to help me and our cousin Brittney build our Christmas-themed blanket fort.

I made the best of being “locked” in my room, which, thankfully, overlooks the front yard.


“What are you yelling about?”


“He texted me to ask if he should park in the street…What are you doing?”

And that’s when she opened my door to find me peeking through the slitted window blinds.

“You’re the creepiest person ever,” she said, shutting my door for the second time.

I didn’t reply because I was sending the Snapchat video of him walking up the driveway to our family group message. (You couldn’t really see him though, because of the palmettos.)

I can say with certainty that if she had been born in the right time period, my sister is the type of person who would’ve stuck me in a stone tower and used my hair as an elevator.

Does that make me the sweet, innocent princess?

You can draw the comparisons.

Except the closest thing I have to prince is the Amazon delivery man.

Life isn’t like the fairytales, kids.

If it was a fairytale, we would fall in love at first sight and expeditiously ride into the sunset in our gilded carriage. Sure, we may have to elude a murderous stepmother or disgruntled witch, but we could blithely skip over the harrowing experience of bringing our significant other to family game night.

That’s the true test of love. Any guy in his right mind would rather battle a fire-breathing dragon than duke it out at Renckens Family Game Night.

But we can’t lock our relatives away forever just because they’re weird or awkward or wear shirts five sizes too big with baffling political messages or give us a sharp kick in the shin during an intense game of Uno…right?

Oh well. If I actually was in a tower, I could probably get a better video.

And with drone delivery, life wouldn’t be half bad.

An artist rendering. Not actual footage.

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What I Learned From Kindergarten

kindergartenI remember shakily copying the date that the teacher wrote on the chalkboard and when it changed from “1999” to “2000”. I remember playing in the sandbox and wearing floral, cotton sundresses. I remember signing all of my papers “Cat” (because that was my favorite animal and why not?). I remember dressing in a pink tutu and performing a self-choreographed dance for the school talent show. I remember the wonder and excitement I felt the first time I opened a book and could understand the words.

But, for the most part, kindergarten is a blank; a pleasantly vague memory of sharing lunches and playing dress up. Although I don’t remember many specifics, I do remember feeling safe and excited to learn.

If ignorance is bliss, then deluded memory is courage.

That’s the only excuse I can invent for why, when I was 16, I volunteered to teach a kindergarten Sunday school class at church. At the time, all I could think of was how much I looked up to “the Big Kids” when I was that age. I imagined gently reprimanding unruly students, who, seized with conscience, would fall in remorse at my feet. I envisioned triumphantly leading an impeccably straight line of beaming young students through the hallways. I pictured enthralled, wide-eyed stares as I told Bible stories.

That first year was quite a learning experience. I learned how to rattle off a long list of rules in the two seconds it took for them to draw breath. I learned how to make anything out of Play Doh. I learned that you should never, under ANY circumstances let five-year-olds use glitter glue. (Unless the building is scheduled for demolition anyway.)

But, as I got to know the students, I learned a lot from them, too. I started to look at the world from their perspective, and I discovered many little homilies:

If you don’t have as exciting a story as the kid next to you, make one up. (Hint: dinosaurs, ninjas, and outer space trump pretty much anything.)

Don’t rush the big decisions, like which pencil to use.

Conquer your fears by making them in Play Doh – then kill them.

If it was a bite, it was a snake. If it was a snake, it was a boa constrictor. (Really, the most important thing is having a good story.)

Manners work. “Please” can be said more easily and more times in five minutes than “I want” (which can turn into a tongue-twister).

Nowhere is worth going if you can’t hold hands and skip there with your best friend.

If you get bored with a game, make your own rules.

Food is for playing. Why else is it in animal shapes?

You’re never too young for true love.

Don’t be afraid to draw outside the lines. And color the world however you want to; don’t be afraid to make the sky brown or a dog green.

Your world is whatever you make it.

Stay close to the ones you love. Very close. Sit in their lap when they’re sitting and hold their hand when they’re walking. And don’t ever leave them.

Gradually, I realized that these young children are us in our most raw, genuine form. They cry when they don’t get to be line leader because they haven’t learned to clench their teeth and mutter, “It doesn’t really matter.” They want to visit the moon and become a ninja because they don’t realize that it isn’t possible; they want excitement and adventure, and they refuse to settle for ordinary.

When did we stop doing that? When did we allow ourselves to become distracted by the expectations of others? Why did we become so discouraged that we wind up in classes we don’t like, studying for jobs we don’t want simply for the security they provide?

We should all take a moment to look inside of us and reconnect with our kindergarten selves. Let’s let our dreams run wild and believe, if only for a few moments, that anything is possible. Every day, let’s allow ourselves not be childish, but childlike.

Let’s color outside the lines.

Let’s hold each other’s hands.

Let’s use glitter glue. Without ruining our hair, table, walls, and carpet.

I originally published this as a guest writer on The Things I Learned From, one of my favorite blogs. The heart and brains behind the site, Jen Glantz, is a 20-something business entrepreneur who writes honestly about her love of New York City, her chaotic life, and everything she’s learned along the way. Check it out! 

You Can (and Can’t) go Home Again

gradI’m about to leave home.

Which implies that I first came home.

(Let me know if I’m moving too fast for ya.)

Thomas Wolfe wrote a classic novel entitled, “You Can’t go Home Again.” Bon Jovi challenged this idea with a wonderful song, “Who Says You Can’t go Home?” The early American novelist and rock-n-roll legend both speak the truth.

(Okay, take a breath if you need to, because this gets interesting soon. I promise.)

With the exception of an enviable few who spent time in Europe or Asia or one girl who visited most of the western US, Scotland, and is now in India, I did actually come home, as did most of my friends. So, in this respect, I bow to the logic of Jon Bon Jovi.

But home-coming isn’t a parade across the football field in a fancy dress, holding a bouquet of roses and balancing a sparkly crown on your head while every girl in the stands sighs and wishes she was you. (Except for Taylor Swift, who’s focused on the guy next to you.)

Life back home feels like a circus. You walk a tightrope, desperately trying to balance the freedom you had before with the fact that you’re back to the house, the room, and the bed you’ve had since you were eight. Meanwhile, the circus freaks keep nipping at your heels, waiting for you to fall. You don’t know if your parents don’t think that you’ve grown up at all or if they just don’t care.

(To be perfectly clear: I do not at all mean to imply that my parents are freaks.)

The friends you spend the majority of the year with aren’t there. Your old friends are scattered across the globe or working or taking summer classes. And you’re not quite the same, either.

But, gradually, you adjust. Home becomes home again.

And then, once again, you tear yourself away.

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

(Thomas Wolfe, “You Can’t go Home Again”)

“Who Says You Can’t go Home,” Jon Bon Jovi

Driving Me Crazy


Siblings are the personification of every exasperating paradox. Best friends, bitter foes. As children, we played make-believe, creating genuine bonds that connect us for the rest of our lives. As the older sibling, I didn’t want my little sister tagging along after me all the time. Now, I wish that we could spend more time together. When my sister was a little diva, whose head reached my shoulder, she used to boss me around. Now, she’s three inches taller than me and…well, not everything changes.

About two weeks ago, she took her driver’s test. She failed. To be fair, her proctor was unusually bad-tempered and harsh, faulting her for waiting too long at a four-way stop.

Heart-wrenching, blah, blah, blah.

I originally wrote that last sentence to mark where I was going to build an exaggerated story of our house being covered by dark rain clouds and such, but I think I’ll just keep it as it is. Mackenzie was devastated. Life went on. Heart-wrenching, blah, blah, blah.

A couple weeks later, she took it again. It was also my first day of college classes. As I was getting ready, Mom sent me second-to-second play-by-plays via agonized text messages.

Her ominous opening: “We r at the DMV now.”

Call me Ishmael. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. We r at the DMV now.

Building up the suspense: “Since I won’t remember to tell u later, Miss Bonnie said Phillip had the same proctor as Mackenzie. He failed too! He said the same thing she did. Very mean and rude!”

The challenges that plague any hero of noble heart: “This is the longest we’ve ever had to sit.”

The moment when all of our hopes and dreams of the past 16 years seemed to speed away faster than my sister in a 40-zone: “Oh no! The mean lady is here now and Kenzie is next!!!!!!”

Five suspense-filled minutes later: “Oh no! She got another mean one!”

(Are you feeling the desperation? My first day of college certainly paled in comparison.)

And, finally, the moment of glory. Jubilant with the victory over all of the mean, clipboard-wielding ladies that the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles could find to challenge my stalwart sister, Mom proclaimed (surprisingly, with only one exclamation mark): “SHE PASSED!”

When someone gets their license, people usually joke about staying clear of the roads. But I won’t do that. Because I trust my little sister.

And I don’t have a car.

And I live about 15 hours away.

So, really, I’m not joking.

I love you, Little Sister!

Thanks, Mom :)

049There are many “superficial” things that hold deep meaning. It could be a song that revives a memory of a loved one, or an article of clothing worn on a happy day. For me, almost all of my jewelry has special significance.

Perhaps that is why I hesitate to buy a new piece; I do not want to clutter the wooden jewelry box that Gramma gave me with pretty, meaningless sparkles.

As I rummaged through my jewelry box last Sunday, looking for some accessory, my fingers found themselves clutching a piece I had nearly forgotten – that I feel guilty for rarely wearing.

I can’t remember how old I was…probably around 1st grade (although I wouldn’t swear to it. It was sometime between kindergarten and 3rd grade). One of our neighbors hosted some sort of jewelry sale at her house and Mom took me and my sister. For a kid my age (whatever that was), it was a largely boring affair, with ladies standing around talking considerably more than shopping and tables full of gold and silver jewelry strands (not a single Disney princess or Hello Kitty on any of them!). Although I spent most of the night watching Alvin and the Chipmunks, one piece of jewelry did catch my eye.

It was a watch. To this day, I seldom wear a watch (and, in my opinion, it is only a matter of time – no pun intended – before the watch joins its predecessor, the sundial, as a decoration). However, this watch did secure my attention. It did not have a traditional gold and/or silver band and clasp, instead, the band was made of tiny glass turtles. Those turtles fascinated me; they were so colorful and had such intriguing designs on their backs.

I begged Mom to buy it for me. I remember ladies telling her not to; “It’s too nice for her!” My little blue eyes filled with tears. I knew that Mommy was not going to buy me my turtle timepiece.

But she did!

As aforementioned, I do not wear it often. In fact, I have scarcely looked at it in years. Yet, it still holds that precious memory for me, of Mom loving me enough to buy me something that (I know realize) was probably expensive, unheeding of her friends’ advice and the fact that I would probably throw it in my jewelry box and never wear it again.

However, I did wear it last Sunday. After church, Mom lifted my wrist, stared at the watch, said, “Oh”, and dropped it with a blank expression on her face. I doubt she recognized it.

Mom deserves massive appreciation for all the things that she does. My English teacher would abolish the word “things” with one swipe of her red pen for being vague. But what word do you use to describe a hodgepodge of roles from chauffeur to dress consultant to cook to editor?

And the crazy thing is that she may not even remember some of the stuff (another vague word, but what can you do?) that her children remember most.

That is why it is so important to make Mom feel special on Mother’s Day. We should be showing her every day in little things, but on a regular day, everyone vies for what they want to do. Today is to do whatever Mom wants.

And don’t forget to simply thank her.

Thanks for everything, Mom.

I love you 🙂

The Backseat Driver

As a student driver, I am used to being shot dirty looks. I have become accustomed to blaring, screeching, and having my attention directed upward by people’s middle finger. Sometimes people in other cars are nasty, too.

I kid! My parents have never gotten that frustrated with me. And even when they are exasperated, I have to acknowledge their superiority, both in skill and experience.

However, I do not feel so forbearing about the orders being barked at me from the backseat.

The closest to driving that my 14-year-old sister has ever come was when we were about 6-years-old and our dad sometimes allowed us to hold the wheel as he slowly drove around the block. So, why is it that when I am driving, I always feel like I am the one who doesn’t know what she’s doing?

My sister has a very strong, commanding personality. She firmly believes that whenever she starts to drive, she will sit behind that wheel like young Beethoven sitting down at a piano stool. And, in no uncertain terms, she lets me know it.

For some reason, she feels that I cannot recognize a stop sign, tree, or closed garage when I see one, (apparently) that Mom’s occasional corrections are insufficient, and my chauffeuring is the equivalent of embarking on a slow, steady spiral of doom. She keeps a mental list of every mistake I have ever made, and when Mom tells her to move to the backseat because I am driving, she will loudly cry in anguish (perhaps stamping her feet and throwing up her hands for a more dramatic effect), “MOM! Last time Ali drove us home from class we almost crashed 3 times!”

Personally, I cannot remember an instance where I placed us in deadly peril thrice, but my sister will beg that I not be allowed to drive as if, indeed, her life does depend upon it.

Mom says that when I have my license, she will be much sweeter, so that I will take her places.

She says that she’ll have her license before I do.

I say good riddance.