Like basically every other kid I knew at the time (which wasn’t very many…), watching the Olympics was a huge thing to look forward to every other year. I vividly remember (with the help of old VHS family tapes) reenacting figure skating, ski jumps, gymnastics (though I can’t do a cartwheel…), and who knows what else my mind came up with.

One of the most memorable iterations of home grown Olympic glory came during a summer Olympic year, back in the days when kids played outside with their neighbors every single day. Janine and my favorite neighbor kid in Kansas was named Michael. When it came to bringing a new perspective on creativity, Michael always delivered. Somehow, we got the idea of making our own Olympics and competing against each other. Our events had to be relatively risk-free, but still fun. We had two main ones that I can remember: Hurtling – jumping over the miniature Little Tykes red and yellow picnic table – in either normal orientation or inverted for more challenge, or Boxing – going down the playground slide in a box…because mom said no to going down the inside stairs.

Those were the days. I think it’s time to bring back our own Olympics. Who’s with me?

that one time. when we almost…

If you read my last post, talking points, this is the post you’ve been waiting for. The burning question you’ve had since last Saturday will now find resolution. Welcome to the danger zone. Dun dun dunnnnnnnnn. (Pardon my rusty screenplay writing…this’ll just have to do)

Scene 1 – INTERIOR: Dark studio
FADE UP: Head to Toe – Joy on a stool
JOY: Freshman year of college at Oral Roberts University was a really fun one for me – with the exception of one moment.

(LIGHTS dim dramatically – there’s now just one spotlight above me at a 75º angle, CAMERA dramatically zooms in. Joy looks up and delivers this line:)

JOY: That one time I almost died.

(MUSIC: :05 dramatic string-driven orchestral stinger begins and ends. Transition to Light and happy MUSIC, add in bird sound effects)

Scene 2 – EXTERIOR: Fall in Oklahoma, students paddling in canoes down a river.
FADE UP: Wide shot of students paddling by.

JOY: It was a beautiful day in Oklahoma. The ORU Honors program retreat was in full swing. I was in the rear of a canoe that held two of my good friends. Amanda was at the helm, and Colleen was holding down the middle seat and the role of all powerful entertainer.

INTERIOR: Dark studio
CUT TO: Medium Close-Up – Joy on stool.

JOY: Mind you. Amanda and I were decently experienced in canoes at this point. Colleen was purely along for the ride, and we were ever so grateful for her contribution.
The rest of our group had varying levels of experience – from lifeguards who were almost pro, to groups of stereotypically brilliant but not always coordinated folk who were working to stay afloat.
That being said:

CUT TO: Wide shot,
EXTERIOR: Fall in Oklahoma, students paddling in canoes down a river.
JOY: We were having quite the jolly time. Colleen was leading us through songs with her glossy gospel-toned voice while Amanda and I threw in harmonies. It was glorious. Until that one moment.

Okay okay…this screenplay thing isn’t working. I’ma just tell the story.

So here we were. Canoeing. Minding our own business. The river was abnormally high due to heavy rains that season. We were approaching a bend in the river. Suddenly we heard panic around the bend. As we rounded the bend ourselves, we saw it. The. Giant. Log. It was thiiiiiiiiiiiis big around (probably 4-5’ in diameter), and it covered about ¾ of the river width – which was about 30’ where it had fallen. A canoe of some of the lesser experienced folk had rammed into the log and capsized. They were holding onto the log for dear life while the strong current was threatening to pull them under.

We had a decision to make. We pow-wow’d real quick and determined that we should dock against the log, help our fallen friends, and ultimately lift our canoe over. We made it over to the log. As we attempted to dock, we too got caught in the current flowing under the log, but we managed to get out of the canoe. Our compadre’s canoe was half submerged, bottom side up and was stuck under the log. I tried to pull it out, but instead got pulled in.  So there I was. Going from rescuer to victim in quicker than I could realize. By this time, our lifeguard friends had successfully docked and were helping direct traffic that was now building up on the log, grasping onto the closest concrete object. Next thing I know, the current took the now dis-lodged canoe under the log. I lost my grip and grasped to regain it. The lifeguard on the top of the log told me to let go.


This is now one of those ironic “you must let go….” ethereal moments.
…and i’m not wearing a life jacket…


So. I make the decision to let go. I am swept under the log. Not only was the letting go directive an ethereal moment, but suddenly I found myself in an even weirder moment. I’m fully submerged in the river, looking up at the water above me and the sky. I had the tangible thought, “Oh. So this is what it feels like to drown…” But yet I was at peace. Next thing I know, I’m up, taking in air. I see a small exposed piece of land in front of me, but still in the middle of the river. On top of this piece of land, was a wishbone shaped log – with the two prongs facing upriver. Suddenly, I found myself being the point person on the other side of the log and chaos upstream. Boats and people came my way. I docked boats and helped my friends find footing. The only casualty in this ordeal: One paddle.

Apparently…I’m known for being dramatic in storytelling. So when I verbalized this adventure to the professors downstream and we talked about the missing paddle, the paddle was of more concern than our ordeal. But this actually happened. And we all survived. And in retrospect, it was rather dramatic. But we made it!

From that day on, every time I saw my friend Gretchen, one of us would begin conversations with, “Remember that one time?” The other would answer, “When we almost died?” We’d then hug and carry on like normal.

talking points.

Somewhere along the line, I made the inner determination that I would find a way to make anyone and everyone talk to me – whether they wanted to or not. I was determined to find that secret weapon – that one question or process that would open up the tightest closed mouth and unleash the personality within.

After an undetermined amount of study, I realized a few things about getting people to open up. The odds are in your favor if: 1) You can quickly find something in common that you and the other person can nerd out about. 2) Conversation can be pulled out of the unwitting subject with a bout of competition. 3) People will talk when topics are brought up that are a) common as heck, b) polar in popular opinion. 4) You have stories on standby should your subject not want to talk.

I found the secret ingredient topic: Pickles…But before you write me off, hear me out. I’ve tested this. It has a decently high success rate.

Think about it. Pickles are super common. Basically everyone knows what it is. And popular opinion is usually polar: People typically either love or hate pickles.
I, personally, do not enjoy pickles. I have a traumatic experience behind them that fuels my dislike. When I ask people what their opinion is on pickles, they either side with me and we have an alliance against all things pickles, or they switch to defense and find themselves clarifying – all pickles? Some pickles? What about bread and butter? Dill? Oh my goodness! You really don’t like all of them?

And that, friends, is how conversations start.

Then from there, it’s sometimes fun for me to take the discussion to the next level of potential absurdidy: Have you ever known someone, or personally experienced non-life threatening electric shock? I have. And it was a dumb mistake on my part. Haha!
Once that discussion dies out, the next logical topic stems around if you or anyone you know has had an almost drowning experience? I have. And it’s a tale that goes down in history as how not to tell your mother you almost drowned.
Usually, by that point, people are loose enough that conversation flows naturally. So. Good luck with that. 🙂

Ok let’s be real. You’re probably wondering what my pickle trauma and near death experiences are.

Pickle trauma: My best friend throughout middle school loved pickles. One day, my friend Emma came over and mom prompted me to ask her if she wanted a snack. Of all the things I happened to say as I browsed through the cabinets, I mentioned that we had a jar of pickles. Emma decided she wanted pickles. So, being the good friend that I am, I went to open the jar of pickles. As I opened it, the worst thing ever happened. I spilled it all over myself. I spent the rest of the day smelling like pickles…even though I changed my shirt. Smh.

Electric shock: Apparently when I was a young’un, I stuck keys in an electrical socket. Which explains my hair.

Almost drowning: I’ll write about it in another post. This one is long enough!

cute, but no.



From the official scrapbook of my life: Birth-High School. Melody is standing at the podium in the middle picture. And please notice Janine and my matching dresses as well as my amazingly sporty watch in the bottom picture. 


I was the quintessential copycat child, much to the chagrin of my sister. My sister had been playing piano for quite a while, which meant I, of course, decided that I must play as well. Mom ran me through the usual responsibility questions: “Will you practice regularly? Are you sure you want to do this? Will you obey what your instructor says?” My answer was yes. So begins the adventure we put our wonderful piano teacher on.
Her name was Melody. She was an amazing teacher who valued punctuality, short fingernails, proper counting and timing, and excellence. At that point in my life I, in contrast, valued doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, not practicing if I didn’t like a piece, and having my free will go unchallenged. You can see where this took us.

Melody’s house was nestled in a nice neighborhood about 15 minutes away from our house in Kansas. Her front door was unlocked during lesson times. We would walk in, and quietly wait for her current students to leave before we walked in. She was ever so cheery on a regular basis. Positivity was her ally…which came in handy with frustrating students who wouldn’t practice…like me. There were so many times where I’d sit down at the piano in her studio and eek out my version of “close enough” on an assigned song. She’d gently lean in and with a chuckle say, “Cute, but no.” Then in the next moment, i’d be writing in the counts and counting out loud.

The subject of my practicing, or lack thereof, came up often in the parent/teacher conferences Melody had with my mom (or I’m at least assuming it did…). I’m guessing it was more of a widespread issue than just me, because at one point, Melody told parents that if their practice-averse students didn’t start working a little harder, she was going to drop them. I knew that I was in that category.
But then my secret weapon kicked in.
Melody didn’t drop me – for one reason: I was funny. So there’s that. 🙂

throwback: the missing bed.

This is another gem from my freshman year at Oral Roberts University. Things to know:
1. ORU – Oral Roberts University. 2. Hannah and Clarissa – my neighbors. 3. WD-40 – the almighty spray oil of de-squeakerness. 4. Jess – my neighbor two doors down. The one I got into trouble with often. 5. Alcove – a common area on the opposite side of the elevators on our circular dorm floor.

October 28, 2007. The Adventures of College Life XI
4) The Missing Bed
Here at ORU, there are a lot of squeaks. By squeaks, I mean old rusty joints that haven’t been oiled in probably a decade or so. In response to this squeaky trend, I asked my papa bear (dad) to get me a bottle of all-powerful WD-40. Since returning from KC with this powerful substance, I have been going around reversing the trend of squeakyness. A majority of this reversing has happened in Hannah and Clarissa’s room. Their door was so squeaky that I knew whenever they were entering or leaving their room because I could hear the squeak through the wall. One of the first tasks on my agenda once I returned to ORU was to un-squeak their door. After completing that task, Clarissa asked me to fix one of her dresser drawers that had a nasty squeak at the end of its range of motion. I did some searching on it, greased the bearings, tightened the screws, and the drawer was like new.
So, Hannah asked to borrow my WD-40 to fix her bed on Tuesday night. She didn’t get around to fixing her squeaky bed frame that night, because she fell asleep…which is not a surprise, given that we found her asleep in one of the stairwells once…
Anyway, so Wednesday comes around. After classes, I was hanging around in Hannah’s room until she left for a practicum about a half-hour later. Hannah looked at me when she left and told me:

“Joy Bork, you will NOT de-squeak my bed!”
“Why not?”
“Because you’ve already done too much for me!”

Of course, someone telling me not to do something makes me want to do it more. After Hannah left, Jess and I decided to be ornery again. We knew that Clarissa was coming back soon, so we hid in her room. I was in the closet, and Jess was at the end of Clarissa’s bed. Clarissa came in just as Jess was going through the screen door to get marshmallow guns out of my room. Clarissa was freaked out just by seeing Jess out of the corner of her eye. Being the smart person that she is, Clarissa deducted that I was hiding in the room somewhere too. After a short and not thorugh search, Clarissa got distracted and gave up looking for me. Jess, being the great friend that she is, put Clarissa back on track by asking for PopTarts, which were in Clarissa’s closet. Clarissa came over to the closet, opened it, got the pop tarts out, then closed the door again…not even noticing that I was crouching in the bottom of it. Eventually, Jess started laughing. This made Clarissa realize that I was in the closet…

Anyway, back to the missing bed.

So, I asked Jess to help me take Hannah’s matress off of the bedframe. I then started WD-40’ing the joints on the bed (If you didn’t know, our beds here on Susie 7 are awesome. They push in to be a “couch” and pull out to reveal the whole matress for sleeping…). Jess got the idea that it would be awesome if we just left the matress in the middle of the floor, since Hannah is so anal sometimes about item placement. We all agreed that it would be hilarious to see Hannah’s reaction…then the idea escalated into moving Hannah’s bed into the alcove…
Yes. The alcove.
We picked up the bed and moved it to the alcove, then remade it so that it looked just like it did when it was on the bedframe, except it was on the floor in the alcove. I proceeded to pull out my video camera to document the event. Dani got a hold of the camera and started filming a documentary of the previous events. Clarissa, Jess, and I explained why the bed was in the alcove. In order to find out when Hannah will be back, I used the excuse of wanting to study for a midterm for Charismatic Life class the next day to see when Hannah will return. We got an estimate of her return at about 7:30.
I then started teaching Dani and Jess how to iron certain articles of clothing. I had asked several of the girls on the path to Hannah’s room to get her talking so that we could know when to get the camera out to film her reaction. I got the camera out just in time and got a perfect reaction…until the battery died…
but anyway, I edited it all into a video. (see below)

sword skills and hiccups.

What I’m about to tell you won’t surprise most of you. I was an avid church attendee growing up. We were there often. Actually – more than often. During some seasons, it felt like we almost lived there! Being there as often as I was allowed me to become skilled at a specific set of repeating events – specifically Bible sword drills.
For my friends reading this who didn’t grow up in church, Bible sword drills were an intense, quick competition geared towards helping kids learn the books of the Bible and locations of those books. The competition began when the on-stage teacher would yell out a reference. Everyone who brought a Bible would then rifle through the pages to find the reference as fast as possible, then stand and yell out the scripture.
Let me tell you. I was amazing at Bible sword drills. When it comes to competition, I will do almost anything it takes to figure out a faster way to win, which in this case, meant memorizing Bible book milestones…and/or having a tabbed Bible. Burgundy leather, red-letter New Century Version. ✌🏼 I’ll be honest. I only used the tabs when I didn’t already know the ballpark of where it was.
Here’s some insight into my psyche. I have a huge need to win. But when it compromises my need to be liked, I will do whatever it takes to try to attain both, even if that means I may not win or that I will curb my skills. This came into play often with Bible sword drills.
All of that being said, I won Bible sword drills often. Whenever we won, we got to pick a prize or piece of candy from the “store” at the back of the room. I decided to go on a streak of acquiring the giant pixy sticks every time I won. The next question then was how to best use these giant sugar troves when I had a sugar averse mother. Naturally, I cut them open and put them in a glass peanut butter jar. Somehow, some way, I figured out that pixy stick sugar powder can be used to cure hiccups.
So, there’s that. I haven’t tested it recently, but it could be a thing.


KateandIThis post is dedicated to my friend Katie. From then until now and beyond. May the adventures continue. May grace and monkey moments abound. Here’s to another year, new changes, and who knows what else. Love you! Happiest of Birthdays!

For those of you who are familiar with the Enneagram, this story will be quite enjoyable. It was a normal workday. I was in a calendar meeting in the programming offices. I was in the early stages of developing a friendship with Katie.
Sidenote: When I’m new to friendships, I am constantly gathering information about where I stand. The worst thing for an enneagram 6 is relational uncertainty. With that in mind, let us continue our story.
So here I am, sitting in calendar meeting. I see an email pop up from Katie. All it said was, “Do you consider me a friend?”
Panic. Pure panic began its trek through my veins. This could mean so many things. What did I say? What did I do? What could she be implying? So many possibilities exploded in my mind that I couldn’t move for a good 30 seconds. My friend Hallie was sitting next to me, watching the whole scenario go down.
What to do. What to do.
I hit reply.
What is a neutral answer that can work no matter if she’s somehow mad or not?
So many possibilities.
I typed out, “yes?” and hit send.
She responded a few moments later.
My panic wasn’t necessary. She has recently had a tattoo of the world put on her back and she needed help moisturizing it in the middle of the workday.
In talking about it all later, we laughed pretty hard at this one. Katie is a 9 on the enneagram and goes with the flow. Her calm demeanor and up-front nature mixed with my relational anxiety in that moment caused a perfect storm. Since then, we have weathered highs and lows. And in the midst of it all, I most definitely call her a friend.