Timehop, Throwback Blogs, and Reflection

    We all know what Timehop is right? The handy little app that shows you what you posted on various social media outlets, 1 year before, 2 years before, 3 years before, etc. Well this morning I found a few gems I thought I would share!

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    I really decided to write this blog post because Timehop showed me a blog post I made on an older blog of mine that I thought I could reflect on. The post was titled: “…and it ended today” (clearly I’ve been doing that ellipses thing for a while.) Despite the really dramatic title, the post was about finishing my sophomore year of high school and because I just finished my second year of college it was kinda neat to come across this.

    I have two main points in my original post that really illustrated to me that while I have grown up as a person, I am still the same Alysse I was back in high school.
    1.  My motto for the year of 2011: “Just keep swimming”. I hadn’t realized that declaring a motto for myself was something I have been doing for a while now. If you remember my post about Grey’s Anatomy, you will remember that this year I clung to the phrase ” I am the Sun.” At the time the “just keep swimming” phrase had to do with pushing through and realizing that my hard work would pay off when I was applying to college (it did). This year’s motto was a lot deeper than that. I’m sure getting into college was one of the most stressful things on my mind at the time, but it doesn’t compare to the stress I faced this past year. Basically, my purpose for “mottos” has continued, but they have evolved greatly in meaning.
    2. In my second point, I claimed that I would have given anything to be a graduating senior that year. I recognized that on the other hand I might miss out on some quality high school experiences if I magically had the chance to skip ahead 2 years. Then I ended it by saying that I was already missing out on experiences because I was always studying or at some athletic practice. I knew I was missing out and I didn’t care. During a lunch with my Christian mentor this year, we ended up talking about my high school experience and how different I am in that regard. In high school everything was about getting in to college, I stressed about the numbers, and would turn down many “fun” opportunities because i needed to study,  Now that I am college I have found the happy medium. I do my work, and I do well in school, but I also create/allow time to spend doing things that make me happy. I allow myself to realize that in the long run my friends who need me at 1am, or a spontaneous trip to McDonalds is not going to make or break my academic career.  Actually, in 20 years it’s probably what I will remember most from college.
    Shine Theory

    Shontell in the City

    Hi guys! My name is Shontell White and I am one of the women who is blessed enough to call Alysse Dowdy my best friend. She is such an empowering woman and she inspires me to reach new heights daily. I’m grateful that she has given me the opportunity to post as a guest contributor today! Last week I visited a close friend of Alysse and I in New York and on the train ride home I ceased the opportunity to log my entire journey. I hope you enjoy this quick glimpse into my life. Hopefully, this won’t be the last that you hear from me! I plan to drop some love on this blog regularly!

    2:41 PM                                                                                                                                          5/23/15

    Penn Station, New York City

    On Wednesday morning, May 20, 2015, I awakened around 3:30 am to catch the 4:30 am train to Penn Station, New York City. Being that this was my first trip traveling more than a couple of hours alone – my emotions were a blend of pure excitement and utter fear and nervousness. A few months back, one of my closest friends, Aubree Surrency invited me to visit her home during the summer. Although I eagerly agreed and ensured her that our plans would one day come to fruition, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical myself. I didn’t believe I could pull this one off. Not only is traveling extremely expensive (I’m a broke college student that seeks financial support from her parents), but I didn’t think that I could sell my parents on the idea that I was finally mature enough to make such a big journey alone. Somehow, someway and by the grace of God, I was on that 4:30 train from Danville, Virginia to New York City on Wednesday morning. The trip from the south to the north was definitely a long journey, but I rode in complete awe and amazement that I was able to journey through six states in the matter of about 9 hours. Not to mention, the sight was absolutely beautiful! About three hours into the journey, I was able to slide over to occupy the window seat on the train. The East coast is absolutely breathtaking! I sat beside a black middle-aged woman who de-boarded in Culpepper, Virginia and in Manassas, Virginia a middle-aged white woman headed for New York took over her seat. I snacked on banana chips, granola, barely read the books that I intended to read, strolled through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, prayed a little, chatted with the women beside me and partook in an occasional nap until I arrived at Penn Station at about 1:30 pm on Wednesday afternoon.

    Upon arriving to the station, I thought to myself, “Wow, I really made it. I did what I thought was impossible and by the grace of God I successfully completed my first “big girl” journey. I made it to the big city!”. I squeezed through crowds of people from diverse ethnicities and unique backgrounds and I followed the masses up a cramped escalator to the Amtrak station. Through all of the hustling and bustling excitement, I managed to get a hold of myself to call up the reason why I had been blessed enough to make this journey in the second place. Before I could say 1,2,3… I spotted Aubree at the top of the escalator patiently awaiting my arrival – talk about southern hospitality in the north! Little did I know, this would not be the last time the Surrency family would express such authentic and passionate acts of love, selflessness, and grace to their southern guest. Luckily, the night before journeying to NYC, Aubree texted me suggesting that it might be a good idea to pack my belongings in a suitcase with wheels because we would be spending the entire afternoon and evening in the city. That evening we tallied over 20,000 steps and we managed to walk about 10 miles around the city! We visited Times Square, Central Park, Columbus Circle and other popular tourists attractions. For lunch, we ate at a Greek food truck near Central Park called Tony Dragon’s Grille. I proceeded to reach inside my purse to grab my wallet, but Aubree quickly stopped me and informed me that I was not allowed to spend a penny of my money on activities and food (second piece of evidence that these people are angels!). I stood there in complete disbelief because my parents had generously calculated the cost of food into the money they had given me for the trip. As our stomachs growled in hunger, we journeyed the extra mile and a half to Central Park to devour our lunches amongst the trees, birds and all of the beautiful people. After lunch, Aubree and I climbed to the top of a rock in the park and I decided to practice a few yoga poses! Never in my life have a felt so free! After an evening of sightseeing and walking that resulted in sore and tired feet, we took the Long Island transit back to West Babylon where Aubree resides. Although I was excited about the entire experience, I was most eager to learn more about Long Island and about the area that Aubree was raised in. We ate at a local diner called The Post Office and at about 11:30 pm, Aubree’s mother, Stacey and brother, Jaylin, greeted us. Though sleepy eyed, we somehow managed to shower before calling it a night.

    On Thursday morning, we had breakfast with two of Aubree’s friend, Meagan and Jamarie at a locally owned diner called Brownstone Coffee and Tea. There most be something contagious in the Long Island water because Aubree’s friend decided to buy both her and my food. More importantly, they were genuine and welcomed me to the island with their arms wide open. Later we rode past Aubree’s high school, dance school, current job, and even her favorite place to have her eyebrow’s waxed. I definitely feel like I know a lot more about Aubree’s upbringing and what better way to do that then to be totally immersed into her environment. Such a blessing! We also visited one of my favorite shopping malls, Tanger Outlets. I had the opportunity to meet one of Aubree’s oldest friends of 16 years, Ashley, who worked at the outlet. Afterwards, we headed home to rest before our evening festivities began. That evening Aubree arranged for me to attend a zumba class held in the gym of a local church. The workout was intense and the instructor was a vibrant, middle-aged black woman with the body of a 25-year-old and the spunky attitude of a teenager. I learned that she is also a professor at Stony Brook University. I also met one of Aubree’s mom’s long-term friends, Ms. Carol. She was extremely excited to finally be able to meet me. Needless to say, I was showered with love during this entire trip. After zumba class, Aubree’s mother continued to stand by her motto that “what is mines is yours” and she treated us all to dinner at a local diner. After dinner, we commenced a night full of fun, laughter and bowling! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many happy and smiling faces. Ms. Stacey, Jaylin, Aubree and Caiya – the entire family wore authentic smiles as we witnessed the underdog, Aubree, as she rose to the occasion and dominated the first game. In the beginning, Aubree claimed that she was a bad bowler. I don’t know if I believe her! Jaylin was not impressed by Aubree’s skills and he managed to steal the show during the second game. There’s no need to discuss my scores! What a full and fun evening!

    I don’t think anything could’ve prepared me for what was to come on Friday morning. I woke up to the smell of giant New York bagels and authentic cream cheese. Jaylin is such a young gentleman and he prepared our bagels while his mother drove Caiya to a friend’s home. Jaylin met me at the top of the stairs with a big, bright smile and said, “The food is ready downstairs whenever you are”. There is no doubt in my mind that he will make his wife a very happy woman someday! While eating my bagel and fresh fruit, Ms. Stacey arrived with freshly brewed coffee in hand. Let’s keep in mind that I only mentioned to her once that I liked coffee in the morning. I didn’t expect for her to go out of her way each morning to ensure that I had a fresh cup. After breakfast, we piled into the van to travel to what would be one of the most beautiful places that I have ever traveled to, the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Man, have you ever been so blown away in a moment by God’s beautiful creations that you simply could not fathom what was occurring right before your eyes? The lighthouse, the beach, and the endless rock formations were all simply breathtaking. I have plans on traveling back there in the near future. After the lighthouse adventure, we dropped Aubree off at work and I spent sometime with Ms. Stacey and Jaylin. We ate at a Mexican restaurant in Babylon Village called Del Fuego. I ordered one of the best burritos that I have ever eaten in my life! I spent the rest of the evening playing board games and watching a scary movie with the family and Caiya’s best friend Kaitlyn. At around 10: 30, I rode with Ms. Stacey to pick Aubree up from work. Before heading to bed, Aubree and I celebrated my last night in Babylon by watching the movie “Enough” staring Jennifer Lopez until three in the morning!

    This morning, I rose to the smell of fresh blueberry muffins. Ms. Stacey had done it again, she prepared a full breakfast for the family, Kaitlyn and I complete with fresh fruit, muffins, turkey bacon, sausage, eggs, and of course a special cup of coffee for me. Before my departure, we all sat at the table laughing at baby photos of Aubree, Jaylin and Caiya. I truly felt like I was a part of their family. Never in my life have I ever experienced the sincere warmth of love, protection and affection by a family that were complete strangers to me only a year and a half ago. I am still completely overwhelmed by their selfless acts and there is absolutely no way to articulate my appreciation to them or to even begin to thank them enough for what they have done for me. God’s love is literally ricocheting off the walls of their home and I count it as a blessing that I was able to spend merely three days with that family of angels. One thing is for sure — home is definitely where the heart is.



    The Market

    After a long night at work last night I woke up at an early 9:45 (lols) to go to the Farmers Market!  I had planned the night before to go with one of my friends, but when I mentioned it to the people I’m living with right now they told me they were going too, and invited me along. I’m glad they did because my friend ended up not being able to go with me. Around 10:30 we leave the house together and we start walking down the street, passing every one of our cars. I’m slightly confused but then it dawns on me… oh my goodness they are going to walk! If you know me, I don’t walk anywhere. I’m the kind of person to catch the bus only to get off at the next stop. So when I realized we were going to walk all the way there, and then have to walk all the way back I was…well tired just thinking about it. Can I also inform you that it was pushing 90 degrees this morning!?

    So, we make it to the Farmers Market about 20 minutes later with beads of sweat running down my shirt that were impossible to hide thanks to my grey t-shirt.  Getting there I thought I would want to buy lots of veggies like I was doing last summer but I thought about it, and I haven’t really been cooking a lot lately so I probably shouldn’t buy anything until I know what I want to cook. Instead we all just got these amazing bagel things. I wish I knew the correct name so I could give them a little shoutout, but let me tell y’all, I don’t even like melted cheese, but on these bagels they are amazing. They have plenty of fun “flavors” but i’m pretty sure we all ended up getting the same one: egg with canadian bacon and american cheese. Side note: why is candadian bacon called that? Its deceiving, just call it ham! Typical Alysse was craving coffee, but I’m not a big fan of black iced coffee because the sugar doesn’t melt. So instead, I got a strawberry lemonade like the rest of the girls.

    It has been two weeks that I have been living with these girls. At first I was really hesitant because they already had a solid friend group established, but they have been really welcoming and I feel really blessed to have found some new friends! The Farmers Market is one of my favorite things, and I hope to make it a habit that continues into the fall semester. How about y’all, do you go to the market, do you have a favorite item you regularly buy?