Monday, March 27, 2017

the first date chronicles: part 3 - Jared-Dylan-Adam

Clarissa Toll

This is an actual event that took place my junior year of college. Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 before you read this post, the third and final installment of a very odd first date. 

A bell chimed over her head as she walked in to the diner.

The boy had apologized about his use of chameleon names and tried to explain it away as a bad joke gone wrong. Whatever, she thought, just give me my spot in the library back and we'll move on. 

There was just one problem, though. He wouldn't leave her alone. The boy asked to meet her at a small, local diner to discuss the book over lunch. Intrigue and a foolish grip on possibility made the girl agree, much to her father's dismay. 

She spotted him by the counter, half-way shocked to actually see him there in the flesh. She would be lying if she said wasn't the slightest bit scared of him standing her up. 

They picked a booth by the front window and looked over the menu. She ordered a burger. He ordered the breakfast special.
Somewhere in-between the awkward pauses and surface conversation, it began to ease in to a semi-comfortable rhythm. 

They discussed the book, the author and the little intricacies the story wove together -- both fully enjoying hashing out all of the details. Towards the end of their meal, she mentioned her current stint as a staff writer for their university's newspaper. She had to get back to campus to meet a deadline.

"Really?" he remarked. Interested in continuing the conversation, he sheepishly mentioned he liked to write too.  Then he mumbled something almost inaudible across the table. 

When she quizzically asked him to repeat what he had just said, he leaned back in to the booth pulling away from the table and then said, "I'm actually an author of my own book." 

"That's great," she said. "You'd like to be published?"

"Actually, it's been published," he said with slight uncomfortableness.

Immediately the girl's brain flashed a neon sign that read: I AM ON A DATE WITH A PUBLISHED AUTHOR. HE'S KIND OF WEIRD, BUT THIS IS COOL. ALSO, IS THIS WHAT A GIRL WEARS ON A DATE WITH AN AUTHOR?!

As he explained what his book was about, it all started to make sense why he was so interested in a  girl who laughed as she read books in the library. 

The girl made sure to get the title of this said book of his. She was going to double check his stories. He didn't have a great track record of keeping things straight thus far. 

He paid for the bill and they walked out on to the sidewalk. They both got quiet. Leaving a first date is always strange. Do you hug? Do you mention a next time? No one has ever truly figured out the best method for hopeful strangers to part ways. 

After a few moments of standing there, he was the one to lean in for a hug and the one to say "let's do this again." Those words allowed just a smidgen of possibility to grow. Maybe this could be something after all, she thought. 

When back at her computer and finishing up an article, she googled his book. Sure enough, there it was. His description and name lined up perfectly. It seemed there was no strange joke or story with this piece of information. 

She stared at her computer screen in a busy newsroom smiling like a fool and thought how fun this little adventure could be.

She planned to gain a copy of the book and have him sign it. She waited for her phone to ring and to come upon him in the library the following week, but her phone never rang and her spot in the library never housed him again. 

Just as soon as he had swept in, he left just as quickly leaving no evidence of ever being there in the first place. 

He, in effect, had completely vanished. 

Perhaps, he was using her and the encounter for new book material. Perhaps, he was just a strange character all his own. She never would have the answers to her theories. 

She did, however, learn of a killer diner close to school and gain a cool story out of the experience. That was enough for her.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

box 03 // wear the hope

Clarissa Toll


We've all seen that article about the very loved and fashion forward stores that only pay many of their workers 4 bucks an hour for the gruling and laborious tasks they perform day in and day out. 

How very many of those lifeless statements I hang in my closet. It kills me to think that I have in some ways encouraged a broken system with my desire for "cute" clothing. 

The terms: Sweat Shop, Child Labor and Fair Wages way heavy on me like an itchy wool sweater I can't shake. 

For about six months, I've been researching ways to be more ethical with my clothing purchases. Brands. Causes. Organizations. I've been searching for a way to give back and empower my closet. 

And I'll be real with you, my bank account cried at just the thought of the prices we'd be paying.  It's not something you can just do. It's a price hike and takes extensive amounts of intentionality. 

I know there is something to be said about cheap prices, (I'm a recent college graduate who works for a non profit. I get it.) but I'm afraid those cheap prices will just add up to a cheaply clothed life cloaked in uncaring and disregard. I refuse to live out a legacy with the lace trim of indifference and nonchalance sewn into its seams. 

But that doesn't mean I don't peruse the Target clothing section or salivate at all the pretty garnet and emerald colored things in H&M. 

A new favorite blogger of mine, Ellie at Selflessly Styled, puts it this way: 
"I'm an ethical fashion blogger, and I still own several things that I know were probably made poorly and in very poor conditions.And I will keep wearing those things until they wear out.
And when they wear out I will have saved up enough to replace them with ethically-made alternatives.
Sometimes the most "ethical" thing to do is keep wearing your sweatshop-made clothes until they've become too tattered to work for you.
If you have a small budget (like I do), it's so freeing to have time to save for responsible replacements instead of the weight of a guilt-driven rush to change everything."
 So, that's how I'm doing it too. Taking it slow, attempting to save, stuffing my pockets full of hope and wearing what I've got."
So, that's what I'm doing. Doing the research, attempting to save, stuffing my pockets full of hope and wearing what I've got. 


One of the great finds in my research was Hope Supply, a subscription box of fashion accessories from a variety of different ethical brands. Each box is curated with four beautiful hand crafted items for your closet as well as your home. 

Hope Supply is the steam engine that continues to empower and bring better to impoverished women in Honduras through Mi Esperanza, an organization that works to educate and provide resources to improve the lives of local artisan women through training and micro-loans.

My favorite part: every item is labeled with the name of the woman who made it. 

Box 03 is simple and sweet. A scarf made from recycled clothing by Reyna. A ring and a necklace crafted by Denia so dainty they're precious. And the loveliest hand-stamped pillow case by Amparo. 

When you wear items with heart and soul behind them, you sense the love and the beauty and the commitment it took for them to be with you. As if these pieces have voices and a story to whisper in your ear.

Clarissa Toll
When I wrap the scarf Reyna made around my neck, it's like a hug from a woman I have never met. A love story is stitched into edges. A sweet blessing of hope covers its fabric. It's an honor to play a small role in ensuring Reyna and girls like her get the beautiful life they deserve.


Clarissa Toll

Hope Supply is such a beautiful representation of how choosing the pieces that have a heart and a story – the ones that make a difference – can do so much more than make a fashion statement. 

Clarissa Toll

You can purchase the same box here and, if you go follow @hopesupply on instagram, you'll get you're self a pretty sweet discount code of TEN DOLLARS off!

This is not an ad. I received no compensation for this post and purchased the box on my own (without the coupon). 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

on the other side of 22


Every year, I have written a birthday post. It's been a time to use my words to bid ado to the year previous and prepare/pray/dream/cast vision about the new year ahead. It's something I have always considered a sacred group of words that seek to honor the blessing living this life is, which threaded together create a concrete timeline for reflection later -- a visual of what the Lord will do and has done.

Last year, I felt itchy and restless. I couldn't bring the words to my fingers tips, let alone know what words I wanted to represent my twenty-second year. My world was in more limbo than ever had it been before. This birthday came on the eve of change. In the middle of my final quarter of college, I entered a new chapter altogether. What would follow after that early day in October only created more limbo and more uncertainty.

Goodbyes. Unemployment. Adventures. Urgent care trips. Weddings. Distance. All things I couldn't see coming. 

I wracked my heart and brain at the time for the words and the vision and the prayer, but I felt slightly like someone had turned off my gravity switch and I was just floating around bumping into people, things, moments, and memories. What was I going to do with such a blurry outlook with no words or actions to fill the void? 

To be honest, here we are a year later, on the other side of 22, and I still haven't a solid conglomeration of words or a complete understanding of the past year. Or the new one -- 23 feels just as foggy.

Yet, I'm pretty sure I'm okay with the fog and the confusion. Don't get me wrong it's still strange and uncomfortable at times, but I'm grateful to not understand everything. I believe in a Creator who does know it all, therefore surrendering complete knowledge comes with the territory.

This I know: last year was sacred and this coming year will be just as sacred, regardless of what comes my way. Life is one heck of a gift and it kills me to doubt any bit of it.

For 23, I'm jumping on the roller coaster and lowering the bar tight against me. There will be whoops and dips and loops.

"Hope can be a mighty powerful thing when you decide to tangle it into a journey. Hope can shake things up a bit. It'll convince you that even if you don't know which direction you're headed in, something will meet you at the end." - Hannah Brencher, If You Find This Letter 

I'm going to write this year a love letter drenched in hope. It'll be beautiful and broken -- just the way it's meant to be. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

don't step on my blue suede shoes


Once in high school, I and a few others from my ASB traveled to the state capitol to develop and speak on our suggestions for the Board of Education. We found ourselves shotgunned into groups of students from all over the state to learn how to debate and create legislation together. It was a long weekend of late nights and groups built like patchwork quilts -- stitched together with our passion to change the world. 

In my group, there was this boy. He had charm and height and an air about him which exuded confidence that was a border town to cockiness. We shared a few laughs and a package of care-packed Redvines on the couch at a downtown hotel. He made fun of my pink energy drink, which to this day I can't find a reason as to why I was even drinking it. That drink was like death -- pink death. 

This boy was the kind to have it all already figured out. He was a card carrying MENSA member and was going to be a lawyer. There was no plan, only certainty. When he talked it wasn't the sort of passion filled determination of a hopeful high school student, but a robust certainty that only those with their own law firm would/could know. As a fifteen year-old with a ramshackle sack of unknown and sort of kind of desires and dreams, I stared at him in awe and bewilderment.

How did he become one of those people who knew what he wanted to be -- was it knit between the strands of his DNA? Was it a dream he found tucked into his kindergarten knapsack or on the play ground during recess? Did his grandfather's grandfather start the family line of lawyers-who-always-knew? 

Even now, I sit back and want to peel back the layers to see what makes these kinds of people know. Sometimes I wish I could gather all these sorts of people up on to a big old couch in the middle of a big city, break apart a package of licorice like we're breaking bread, and have them each tell me one by one how they exactly know.

In July, I started my first job post-college in the PR world. I, a lot of the time, still feel like the fifteen year old girl I once was with her bag full of undecided dreams. Except now, I'm wearing electric blue suede kitten heels and have a cubical and a work phone. Transition is so strange and sometimes it feels like you've been uninvited to your own story. Like, life is just a whirl-wind that blows past you on its way to more.

I have been blessed with a position that houses a ton of learning opportunities and ways to garner experience. It's a depiction of what I always spoke about wanting: a nonprofit who works to make the world better for those who have been wronged, but it doesn't quite yet feel like home. And that in it of it self feels strange, because I convinced myself it already should.

Like when as a kid your sweet momma bought you new jeans or thrifted a worn, strong pair always with a hem that flapped around your heel at the beginning of every school year. She'd remind you that you wouldn't forever be the scrawny, half-lanky kid, but one who would stretch a handful of inches by the end of the year -- you'd grow into them, they wouldn't grow around you.

Transition is the too long in the legs and a little bit loose in the waist part of life. The here and the now of change feels like the never ending yanking up on the hips and the cuffing of the too much, but in the end the button gets tight and the ankles of life look as if they're preparing for a flood. Growing into the new takes time. Wearing in that denim is an art form.

I guess I'll still look up from my desk some days and stare at the grey-blue walls of my cubical wondering if the world and my place in it still exists outside of the office, but I know that I know that cubical won't hold me forever.

I pray the lawyer-boy felt the ramification of change despite his "knowing." I hope he takes the time to wear in a few pairs of jeans. As for me, I want to wear in my jeans until they are good and hole-ly, tight and lived in.

Besides, a good pair of jeans and pair of blue suede kitten heels make for one hell of an outfit.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

the first date chronicles: part 2 - jared-dylan-adam

PC: Clarissa Toll

If you missed part one or need a refresher because the blogger took too dang long to get part two up (because that's totally understandable), read here.

A week. A week had gone by since their encounter in the library. No sighting, no call, no text, no Facebook friend request, no sky writing -- nothing had come of the boy who seemed interested in her book and her phone number.

As the girl ranted rather loudly to her carpool mates on their daily trek back to the car about the stupidity of the turned-nothingness of the encounter, her phone vibrated. 

Her dear friend had just got through telling her that maybe she didn't know everything and that maybe, just maybe, this story wasn't quite over yet when the phone signaled a new text message. 

It was from a number not listed in her contacts and it held the shortest phrase of shock/reaction about a piece of the book that only one who was reading it would know. 

The girl stopped dead in her tracks, turned around, and looked into the bushes all while scanning the foreseeable grounds for that tall, lanky boy whom she had met in the library. He and his peacoat were nowhere to be seen.

"How did he know?" she thought.  It was like he was Go-Go Gadget and could hear her rant and hope dwindling out loud. 

With the text and lack of possible spy, those wanna-be hopeless romantic girls instilled new belief in this possibility and began giving him all the typical excuses He's Just Not that into You warns women about. 

Feeling determined to not let boy in on her pervious rant and frustrations with his absence, she held off responding right away and then casually commented about his reaction to the story. 

His response: "This is Jared, by the way. The guy you gave your number to in the library." 

Now, how exactly did "Dyla the Microphone Killa" become Just Jared? No accidental autocorrect could be THAT bad, she thought. She couldn't have created that memory in her mind alone, either. Her memory couldn't be THAT bad.

"Jared?" She texted back, "You said your name was Dylan." 

Again, there was radio silence. With no response to her text, she was left with only her own frustration towards his tomfoolery for comfort.

Who did this fool think he was? Was he playing a game and forgot which name he had used to introduce himself by? How many girls had he met in the library so smoothly? Was he preying on young book nerds just for kicks?

Her carpool mates had also lost their romanticized ideas of him and were no longer so kind to his disappearance. 

They said things like: "What's next? Adam? We'll just have to start calling him Jared-Dylan-Adam." and "If he can't keep his name straight, he must be an ax murderer."

Clearly, they were on to something. 

The girl planned to chalk this event up to one of those "party trick" stories with a few awesome plot twists and just move on with her life.

And then, just like that, the boy reappeared in her spot by the window in the library once again. He was obviously ignoring the unspoken rule about separation of assets, i.e. the cozy spot by the window to the right of the elevators on the third floor, which he forwent by ignoring her text and changing his names like a chameleon changes colors. The nerve of him.

As she casually combed the stacks past him, gathering intel to report back to the carpool mates, she noticed that he was reading the book. HER book. His stature was relaxed as he thumbed through it's pages, as if he was waiting to be noticed. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction, so she begrudgingly trudged her way to the other side of the floor away from her beloved window seat and her coveted sling-back salmon pink chair, all the while muttering under her breath just exactly what she thought of that boy -- whatever his name was.

Three days later, her phone buzzed with a text message from the person previously known as "Dyla the Microphone Killa." He had finished the book. How nice.

As a hail mary, for the sake of the story alone, she texted back: "Is this Jared or Dylan?" At the very least, she was going to nail down his name and take back her spot in the library before she put this encounter to rest.

Nancy Drew had taught her never to allow a mystery to go unsolved. So grab the magnifying glass, because this girl was going to beat the boy at his own game. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

back to the drawing board

PC: Michelle Bongirno
At work, there is a floor to ceiling chalkboard and every day from 8 in the morning till about 8 at night children take chalk to its surface.

Layers upon layers of chalk, white-orange-pink-blue, dusts its surface until the layers of doodles and scribbles become pancaked on top of each other so much so it's hard to decipher the black of the board itself. Chalk dust that didn't quite stick has piled up onto the floor and on the hands and clothes of its artists.

And then we close, the children go home and maintenance comes to wipe it clean. All the labor and dreams spilled out on to its surface are scrubbed clean in one foul swoop, so that the next day another 12 hours of artistry can grace its plains.

In a half joking manner, I told my friend that I'm going to call this season of my post-college life the "back to the drawing board" phase, because, if anything, nothing has gone the way I planned or would have seen fit.

This job with the giant chalk board and the little Picassos, the one that was supposed to be a place holder until I landed my career job, is ending out of the blue. I'm being laid off at the end of the month. With a list of denials only growing longer by the day and being no closer to a job that requires my degree, I am left soon-to-be jobless without an option or a place to go.

When we heard the news, one of my coworkers looked at me with fear in her eyes and with terror-choked words she said, "What am I going to do?" There wasn't an answer. I had no advice, no understanding and no clue. All I could do was stare hard at her and see the reflection of myself in her eyes.

Being 20-something is very similar to having redeemed an E-ticket for the Hot Mess Express. You got onboard without fully comprehending the whole thing, but you were sold on the idea of going west in hopes for gold and your dreams.

Halfheartedly, I want to say I hate this part of my story. I want to raise that banner high and camp myself on one of those cramped benches on that train and write letters back home about all the horrible-rocky-uncertain-frustrating-confusing-daunting things about this season.

But, then I read quotes like this and I feel like these words are what my banner should actually read:

“Transition is a terribly uncomfortable place for you to be in your life. You will start hurting and not even understand where; you’ll think, I’ve never hurt like this before. I’ve never dealt with these kinds of problems. I’ve never been at this point in my life before.”

I'll be honest with you, I was afraid to call these feelings "hurt." It seems silly at first, doesn't it?

Hurt is a word we more often use to describe the bigger, bloodier, bolder problems -- not the bruises we attain by growing up. It makes me feel weak and unprepared to use it as a descriptor in this chapter of my story.

But, this is how I feel. And it isn't wrong or weird just because the world and all its fake-it-till-you-make-it bs says so. Or even because most adultier adults think you should be more joyful and less frazzled by the whole thing.

There is hurt while walking in this season and there is good too. It all goes hand in hand. To ignore the hurt would be silly and create an incomplete picture of what this season really looks like.

My letters home will continue to be filled with the hard and the confusing, but they'll also be the love letters of the now.

Sure, my chalk board has been scrubbed clean and my chalk is a little more crumbly and broken up than it was when I started. It's just the facts of my life right now.

Yet as I live in and through this season, I want to learn to be more like the little artists at work.

They have unrelenting and unashamed desires to still color when the board's been cleared and the chalk has run out. They don't rely on the chalk's permanence, because they know the lines they draw are easily undone. And even after days and weeks of asking, they continue to hold out hope for more chalk when the big box of colors has been all used up.

One day, I'll be lucky to be half as brave as them.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

part 1: the first date chronicles - dylan

Photo c/o Clarissa Toll
Preface: This is an actual event that took place my junior year of college. I decided to write it as a third person narrative to challenge my story telling abilities and to make an awkward/hilarious encounter more relatable. Life is funny and it's worth telling the stories it hands you. So, without further ado...

She sat on the third floor of the library killing time during her three hour break between classes. She had cozied herself into an original to the building, salmon pink faded lounge chair by the window. Homework was well avoided during these breaks, and she quietly chuckled often while her nose was stuck in a favorite book and her fingers thumbed through its pages.

"Excuse me?" She looked up. A tall and lanky, pea-coat wearing boy around her age was motioning to the chair across from her. "Is anyone sitting here?" he asked. 

She smiled, uttered a quick "No, go ahead." and went back to her book as he sat down and pulled out his laptop. 

Her chuckling continued and she shared many a "i'm-sorry-if-this-is-distracting-but-you-chose-to-sit-here" smiling glances in his direction. With knowing eyes, his smirks told her it was fine and that his seat choice pleased him.

They went on like this for some time. Her chucking into her book and him smirking at the keys of his laptop. Finally, he broke the silence.

"What book are you reading?" he asked. She told him what it was, who wrote it and how it masterfully combined the heart wrenching with the comical facets of life. Interested, he wrote down it's title and author. Seemingly, he was fascinated with the idea of this book and the girl who had described it to him.

"I thought it was something you were reading for school with the way you were highlighting," he said as his eyes darted to the almost bone-dry yellow highlighter in her hand. She then had to explain her quirk of highlighting other's words; she loved them and those written in books weren't meant to be forgotten. Her explanation seemed to please him, he smiled and said "Your laughter told me otherwise, though."

They chatted a little while longer. What's your major, what year are you, do you often have a break this long, do you sit in the library often -- they rambled through the list of questions acquainted college strangers converse with and then it was time for the boy to stop avoiding life and head back to class.

He packed up his laptop and stood to leave, but hesitated slightly. It was like bravery rocked him back on his feet and said "If i'm going to read this book, I'm going to need some one to talk to about it. Can I have your number?"

She chuckled the nervous laughter that seems to come over all women who realize they are, in fact, being hit on and its no longer just a part of their imagination that they can down play. Thinking the boy clever with his tactics, it was hard not to give him a fair chance.

As she rattled off the digits, she realized neither of them knew the other's name. College students have this horrible talent of skipping over the basics and jumping right to the details. "My name is Clarissa, by the way."

"And what's your's?" she continued. "I'm Dylan Robert Higgins. My mom named me after Bob Dylan." he chuckled. Deadpan he followed up with, "But my customers all know me as 'Dyla The Microphone Killa.'"

Sensing her utter confusion, he then launched into a five minute explanation as to why he as an Apple Bee's server gets very bored and offers to rap for his tables. After the short anecdote he reflected "many of them don't seem to like it much..."

He had an unconventional sense of character and she liked it. She could use a dose of silly in her serious, well organized life.

As they said their goodbyes, she hoped he'd call. Well text, at least, because college students typically avoid phone calls like the plague (in effect, to a college student, a phone call is equal to committing to meet your family and the possibility of marriage all at the touch of the green button).

Or even better, perhaps they'd make a habit of running into each other in the library.

As he headed off towards the elevators, her carpool mates came off the lift.

"Do I have a story for you!" she said as they came close. Adrenalin was the sole reason her blood pumped in those moments as she recanted the encounter.

They'd squeal and giggle about the chance meeting all the way home. And as girls do, they'd dream about how "perfect" this was and would be. 
© Clarissa Doesn't Explain it All.
Maira Gall