BARRY ARMER

Before we jump in, let it be known there is no photo more adorable than my dad standing in a sunflower field in O’ahu.

On July 30th, 2017, almost 2 years ago today, I captured a speech he gave at a local Toastmasters club. In honor of Father’s Day yesterday, I decided this is the appropriate time to publish it.

My dad, Barry, has an identical twin brother named Larry and a sister named Terri. He also has a brother named Ronnie - I don’t know what happened to the rhyming scheme. I need to ask for the story behind that one.

My dad has been through a great deal of physical pain and emotional pain, which he touches on in his story below, but you’d never be able to tell from the way he carries himself. He is one of the most levelheaded people I know, but finds humor in every situation. I hope you enjoy his story.


When I was nine or ten years old a friend invited me to attend a Baptist church with him and his family one Sunday. Since my parents weren’t regular church goers, I had only attended church a couple dozen times in my life. So I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into when at the end of the service I stood up to answer the call to be “saved.” I had to walk to the front of the church while asking myself, “What have I gotten myself into? What am I being saved from?" Luckily, there were others who answered the call that day so the spotlight was not on me alone. 

As it turned out the experience wasn’t difficult or unpleasant in any way. Basically, all I had to do was listen to the words recited by a church official and say “I do” and then it was over. But it wasn’t really over. Even at only nine or ten years old, I knew I was changed that day and I recognized that the change was profound.  From that day forward I knew that I would never be alone in a spiritual sense. That thought transformed me and this experience became the foundation of my Faith for the rest of my life. It made me an eternal optimist because I knew everything happened according to God’s plan. 

Fast forward five or six years. At the age of sixteen, I climbed a tree because my grandfather had asked my twin brother and me to climb up and make sure it was safe for our younger cousins to build a treehouse. Turns out…it wasn’t safe. I made a rookie tree climbing mistake and leaned back against a rotten limb I hadn’t previously tested for strength and it gave way under my weight. I fell end over end.

On the way down I had time to contemplate a few things. In this order my thoughts were: 1) Oh, shit. 2) Well…that was a rookie tree climbing mistake, and 3) this could end very badly.

At some point, I went to sleep. I know I went to sleep because when I woke up there was a group of people looking down at me lying on the ground that wasn't under the tree before I went to sleep. 

The damage was significant: a broken left wrist and shattered right hip. I had to undergo many hip surgeries and today I am on my third artificial hip with my last revision being about eight years ago. Like being Saved, this accident was transformative. I wouldn’t ever be a star athlete (which to be honest was pretty much off the table before I fell) or have an option to do any physical type of work to earn a living. I would have to go to college and earn a degree in a field that would let me push a pencil instead of a wheelbarrow. Which I did. Being an eternal optimist, I knew that I could thank God that I broke my wrist and my hip instead of my neck and my back.

Fast forward some more, and boom, I’m married to Laura, and now I know that I will never again be physically alone. Another huge day in the life.

A couple years later our son Justin is born, and a few years after that our daughter Emma. If you have children you know how huge this is. Having children puts the “G” in "grown-up". It’s only after you have children that you realize that your life before you had them was “less than” your life after. Now you start to learn the true meaning of words like "love" and "responsibility."

Four years after Justin was born, he contracted spinal meningitis and I faced the greatest test of my life and of my faith. Two weeks in Texas Children's Hospital seemed like two years. But we prayed for a full and complete recovery and God answered our prayers!

For at least fifteen years following I couldn’t even say words like “spinal tap” and “spinal meningitis” aloud and I wouldn’t say it now if I weren't challenging myself to tell my whole story.

This is the time in my life when I first felt like I understood miracles. I think of it like this:  If you are walking down the street listening to music on your headphones and a $5 bill blows into your path and you pick it up and can’t find anyone to return it to then that’s “good luck.” But if you’re suffering and you pray to God for $5 and then that very same $5 bill blows into your path; that’s a miracle! The difference is faith. Everything is faith. 

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Since my Dad wrote the story, he and my mom, Laura, packed up their life and moved to O’ahu for one year, and have also since moved back.

The invisible stories people carry with them will never cease to amaze me. In another life, I’d look at this man and think “tourist” and nothing else. But as his daughter, I see a risk-taker, a creative, and the best dad anyone could ask for.

As always, thanks for sticking around.

That’s the #CremeDeLaEm,

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WHAT COMES NEXT

So, so much has changed - and for the better - in such a short period of time. I saw some new cities (Minneapolis, St. Paul, Los Angeles, San Diego), became one degree cooler (go Coogs!), and I am just about ready to begin my journey as a full-time professional. So today, I want to talk about the things that have happened, and what will come next. 

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SLOWPOKES

We live our lives at a lightning pace, but sometimes, the best adventures are the ones we take reeeeeaally slooowww.... 

It's no secret that I'm a fan of coffee shops, and I'm lucky to live in a city that (literally) fuels my out-of-control caffeine addiction. Recently, my friend Maria and I went to catch up and get a bite to eat.

Maria is about as far from a Slowpoke as you can get. She radiates positive energy, which is probably why she's going to make it big as a broadcast journalist sometime in the very near future. However, she does love coffee, and it was close to where we both worked, so Slowpokes it was. 

Slowpokes is an almost-one-year-old coffee shop, bar, and bakery in the Shepherd Forest area of North Houston. Since November of last year, they've been serving pastries, savory meals, and a repertoire of coffee drinks. The first time I went, I almost missed it. The exterior is understated, the plaza weathered and full of character. 

My first visit was with my friend Anne (blogger, photographer, Google Sales Intern, and aspiring entrepreneur), and we ordered coffee and pastries and giggled about the sloth's manbun (do you see it?! Trust me, you won't be able to un-see it now). By the way, his name is Patches, according to the owner. 

Quick note - if you're visiting after July, Patches is no longer wearing a manbun, but is instead dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and straw fedora. Clearly, this sloth is a trendsetter. I'm taking notes. 

The outside is just as whimsical and inviting as the inside, compensating easily for the fact that July in Texas means it feels about 300F. Despite the impending rain, dogs were panting happily, people were laughing, and man, was the food delicious. 

The food truck El Toro, serving Spanish tapas, was visiting. I ordered the Huevos Estrellados (bottom), and Maria ordered the Tumbet Mallorquin. I won't describe how good it was. You just need to try it for yourself. 

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Somewhere in the distance, I can hear the foodies asking for a close-up. Gotta keep the fans happy!

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I mean, it's one thing to have a picturesque background, but another thing entirely when your subject is as radiant as Maria. 

My friend Annie texted when she saw my update: "One of the best lattes I've had. Have you tried their toasted marshmallow syrup?" Wait..... they have toasted marshmallow syrup?! I'll have to add that to the list as soon as possible. She also praised their selection of music and the friendly staff. Looks like I'm not alone in my love for this place. 

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Finally, the sun was setting, the small dogs had left, and it was time for us to be on our way. But don't worry, we'll be back as soon as we can. 

That's the Creme de la Em.
Yours,

 

LINKS

Follow Slowpokes on Facebook. Follow El Toro on Facebook. 
Catch the stunning Maria Aguilera by following her on Facebook
If you didn't catch it, Annie Nguyen has her own blog with skincare product reviews and is also a coffee addict.
And don't forget to follow Anne Yu for her adventures and amazing travel photography. 

EMILY ABRAHAM

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"I was born in Webster, Texas. After a month, my dad got the opportunity to move to Chicago for work. My childhood in Chicago was really nice. I had really good friends and we went to a small church, and that church was like our family. I lived there until the end of my third grade, and for my fourth grade, I came back to Texas.

As a Freshman in college, I became a lot more outgoing and willing to talk to different types of people. I reached out to everyone. I had a network at church that was stronger than it was before, not just people my age and going through the same things as me, but people who were older than me with all kinds of backgrounds. I was learning through their experiences. And in the process, I felt like I grew from them.

Ever since then, it’s always been my goal to make people I typically don’t talk to feel like they are loved or like they are special, or let them know that someone sees them. I always try to look for the people who are not looked after, or not recognized. And I fail a lot. It requires going out of your comfort zone. That’s what Jesus does with us. He reaches out to the people who aren’t noticed, who feel like they are alone, and shows them that He is their Father.

I joined the Christian organization OneWay. I think the Gospel shows God’s love — how selfless it is. I feel like I’d heard it so many times, to the point where I was numb to it. When I heard it in a new setting through new people, it really showed me God’s love. That really shaped me and motivated me to live my life through Him. I knew I wanted to live my life fully for God because of this new understanding. It’s the love of God that motivates me to be more loving, to be selfless, to be like He is while I’m on this earth.

Once I was passing out flyers for OneWay and I saw an Indian girl frantically running around. I approached her and I was like, “Hey, you should join OneWay!” She was like, “Thanks! But I’m late to class and don’t know where my class is.” So I took her to class. She’s an international student, she’s from Mumbai. I gave her my number and told her if she ever needs anything to let me know. She joined my Bible study, and she’s Hindu, but she’s been attending my Bible study. I know she has times where she feels anxious, but she knows when she has those times she can always text me. Being able to talk through it with her and be there for her I just find to be such a privilege.

Through OneWay, I became a small group leader — every week I lead a Bible study for a group of 4–7 girls. I’d never imagined I’d be able to do stuff like that in college. I always thought you had to have some sort of background or some sort of qualification.

Initially, when I was a small group leader, I didn’t like the concept of it. The way they shared the gospel was different from what I’d heard before. I thought the way you get a message across is through preaching. I remember telling a OneWay staff member I felt like this is not how it should be. There should be one person saying the truth and that’s it. Isn’t that more convicting? More powerful?

I used to pick my own passages secretly and go over them with my small group. But I talked to staff about it and they were like no, she can’t be doing that. It was abrupt. I was like, “Okay, I have to start doing this now.” But then I started doing the passages they selected and I realized these passages were a lot better than the ones I was doing, and that was humbling. That humility opened me up to take a step back, hear other people, and realize God has something to say through them too.

I had to realize that Emily Abraham is not the only one with the truth. I had to realize it’s not all in my hands. Sometimes it’s okay to let go and just hear what people have to say. And often, people say something that’s more powerful than could have been in your mind to begin with.

I really value when you have a heart to heart connection with someone. From that place, you can be there for them. If I could title my own biography, I would it to be called Emily: Friend to All. And it would say that I always tried to be there for anyone and everyone. People are the pillars in your life. More than being a student and making good grades, what I’ll remember are the lessons I learned from others."


That's the Creme de la Em.
Yours,