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Posts Tagged ‘Abilene’

My West Texas alma mater returned to the big dance and scored its first WIN ever. Especially proud to be a Wildcat this week. Purple white purple white fight fight fight!

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Since it’s my birthday this week, I’m indulging in a little nostalgia. Here, some of the great moments from birthdays past:

1. The year I turned six, when we had a “makeup party” in the garage for all my girlfriends, a month early since we were moving away. My dad filmed it, and the highlight was him turning the camera on my mom and her freshly permed hair, and saying, “Here is Fifi.” And my sweet, reserved mother, who rarely clowns, looked into the camera and barked.

2. The year I turned 18, four days after 9/11/01. I wasn’t sure whether I could (or should) celebrate, but we did celebrate – with a mini-golf party at Green Acres, burgers at my house, wrestling on the trampoline, and a dog-pile photo on the couch. I’m in the middle, flushed and happy, surrounded by all my best friends.

3. The year I turned 24, in Oxford, when my sweet housemates (whom I’d just met) made me a cake and cooked me dinner, and we settled down for the first of many cozy girls’ nights in.

4. The year I turned 21, when Jeremiah planned the only surprise party I’ve ever been given, at his house with all my friends and a luscious dark chocolate cake. It was a triumph. (I was totally surprised.)

5. The year I turned 23, when Jeremiah planned to come over before work and cook me breakfast in bed. Instead, he stole the wrong key off my key ring, couldn’t get in the door, and had to wait until I woke up, found him sitting on my deck, and let him in, laughing. (He did still make me breakfast.)

What are some of your best birthday moments? I’d love to hear them.

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I’ve got a whole crop of friends who graduated from college this year. Many of them are part of our beloved small group from our Abilene church; they are smart, capable, kind, funny, utterly wonderful people. Some of them have plans, but a few are still waiting, sending out job applications, bunking with friends or family or staying in college houses for a while, crossing their fingers and worrying and hoping. And even those who have plans – for grad school or a first job or internships – aren’t entirely sure what’s around the next bend.

And I want to say to them, and to you, if you’re there: I remember how that feels.

I remember the last few weeks in my college house, after the flurry of tearful post-graduation good-byes, packing books and dishes and furniture, trying to keep Bethany laughing as we worked so neither of us would cry. I remember sending out dozens (which felt like hundreds) of job applications, to places like New York and Nashville and Austin, and walking every day to my student job on campus, because they were keeping me on for the summer, and I sure didn’t know what else to do.

I remember watching Bethany drive away in her yellow moving truck, so tiny in the huge high cab, back to Longview to stay with her folks while she job-hunted. I went into the house and sat in the empty living room and cried. And then I called my friend Stephen, and we went for a Cajun cone, and I tried to drown my sorrows in shaved ice with raspberry syrup.

I remember the tentative first few weeks in my sister’s house, living with one of her roommates and assorted other girls who stayed for a week or a month, and the unexpected joy of Bethany moving back to live with us for the summer, and the two of us relishing our “borrowed time” together. (With Leigh Anne, the roommate mentioned above, whom we quickly came to adore.) We did a lot of worrying and some weeping that summer, but we did far more laughing – and we watched movies and hung out at coffee shops and borrowed each other’s clothes, and held each other in that tender space of not knowing, of in between.

At the end of the summer, I moved in with friends – because I didn’t want to go home (which felt like admitting failure), and I still had no “real” job. I kept sending out applications, including one to a job on campus at ACU, even though I thought I didn’t want to stay in Abilene.

As fate, or God, or something would have it, I got offered that job, accepted it, and spent a very happy year working in the Bible department at ACU, living in my own apartment for the first time in my life, making the odd transition from student worker to grown-up colleague, and laughing at the antics and witty comments of the faculty members I worked with.

It wasn’t the job I wanted to do forever. (I’ve never yet had a job that fitted that description – unless it was being a barista at the Ground Floor.) It wasn’t technically “in my field,” and it certainly wasn’t what I expected. But it was good. So good. And it gave me a year to grow up a little, to stretch my wings in the safe confines of Abilene, to breathe a little and get my feet under me before embarking on the next phase of my life and career (which turned out to be graduate school in Oxford). And the next phase, too, was good.

So to all new graduates, or others, who are feeling unsteady, like you don’t have a clue how to navigate this new grown-up world or use that shiny new degree: I know how you feel. Five years ago, I was there. (A little secret: I’ve been there many times since – and I’ve spent a lot of time there this year.)

But it’s all worked out okay for me, at least so far. I have a job, a wonderful husband, dear friends and family in multiple cities on two continents, and I still get to play with words all the time. Not bad, really, for an English major who spent a whole summer terrified that some or all of those things might not work out.

Where were you five years ago? Is it radically different from where you are today?

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(During last night’s class at Grub Street, I wrote about roommates during three different exercises. Which made me think about all the folks I’ve shared kitchens, bathrooms and general living spaces with over the years.)

1. Mom, Dad and Betsy, till I was 18. Lots of family dinners around the table, summertime road trips, Dad urging us to hurry before church on Sunday mornings, Betsy hollering for me to help her choose an outfit or type her English papers or bring her a washcloth in the shower.

2. Lindsey, during our first semester of college. Late-night laughter, pizza boxes, and so many bowls of ramen (left out to, ahem, ripen) that by Christmas I couldn’t stand it any more.

3. Akane, a quiet Japanese girl, during the spring of my freshman year. We didn’t talk much, but she never complained when I forgot to turn off my alarm clock in the mornings.

4. Jaime, in the fall before I went to Oxford. Red hair dye in the bathtub (freaking me out – I thought it was blood at first), and a few bonding moments over Friends and Saved By the Bell.

5. Joy, who shared my room, and 10 other girls, who shared our kitchen, in Oxford, spring 2004. So much cooking, traveling, laughing, crying, drinking of tea, sharing secrets and hopes and textbooks and recipes.

6. Joy and Bethany, junior year, in a little red-brick house on 16th St. in Abilene. (With Samantha, Joy’s beloved, snaggle-toothed dog.)

7. Kristin, Laura and Karen, in half of a Honolulu duplex, July 2005. We bought grapes for $10 a pound at Wal-Mart and tried to catch a gecko in Karen’s room and invited Scott over for breakfast on his birthday, and listened to Cole play haunting folk songs on his guitar.

8. Bethany, for our senior year in that same little house – repeated viewings of The Emperor’s New Groove, an impromptu party with no living-room furniture, playing Frank Sinatra before parties, and long evenings spent reading in the living room. (We were both English majors.)

9. Leigh Anne and Bethany (with brief appearances by several other girls), in my sister’s house the summer after college. Repeated viewings of Pirates of the Caribbean and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants; lavender bridesmaid dresses and broken air conditioners; lots of freaking out about the future from Bethany and me; and Leigh Anne’s despair over having to read Beowulf.

10. Moose, Bryce, Nick, Nathan and Jordan, in the “dungeon” of 9 Canterbury Road, during my first semester of grad school. Oh, how I loved being the girl in that crowd of boys – and oh, how they loved everything I baked for them.

11. Casey, Jaclyn, Eryn, Jessica, Katie and Mary Kate, also in the dungeon, the following semester. A totally different dynamic, but an equally fun one.

12. Lizzie, Jo and Grace, in a wee chocolate-box house in East Oxford, during my year abroad. We watched chick flicks and did puzzles in the dining room, moaned about schoolwork and laughed at the Muppets, helped each other dress for dances and costume parties, and curled up late at night with cups of cocoa, to set the world to rights.

13. Jeremiah. For nearly three years now (our anniversary is next month), first in Abilene and now in Boston. Those five boys (above) prepared me well to live with this one. And I must say, he is an excellent roommate.

Who’s on your list?

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We had another stint entertaining strangers last week – a group of 15 students came from our beloved university in Abilene, Texas, to spend their Spring Break sightseeing and doing service projects in Boston. On the day they arrived, they’d been up since 3:30 a.m., to catch a bus to Dallas, a flight to Boston and a long T ride from the airport all the way out to Brookline, where a group of us were waiting for them, with pizza.

Despite their exhaustion, we all ate pizza and chatted, and then J and I took our two guys, Zach and Lucas, home via the T. I expected them to fall straight into bed, but instead we poured ourselves glasses of water and stood in the kitchen and talked. And then moved into the living room and talked. For hours.

It went on like that all week – chitchat over coffee and breakfast in the mornings, or sometimes just greetings on our way out the door, and a nightly catch-up in the kitchen after each day’s work and play. J and I were usually in our pajamas when they came in, but we’d stand there asking them about what they did, and the schedule for the next day. J even took a rare Friday off to tour Fenway and wander around Cambridge with the group. And on Friday night, five students and their hosts came back to our place for cookies and a hilarious, hours-long game of Catchphrase. I haven’t laughed so hard in weeks.

Most of us at Brookline didn’t know any of these students before – though Daniel was friends with one of the group leaders, and one of them was a former student of Shanna’s, to her surprise. But we had the common bonds of faith and ACU, and – as Zach put it – “the Texas approach to Boston.” We know what it’s like to be strangers here, so we could nod along with the guys’ first impressions of a city both foreign and fascinating to them. And we fell easily into talking about our common ground – professors, chapel, Abilene, Sing Song.

We speak the same language in so many ways, which is perhaps why I’m missing our guys this week. We’d never met them before and only spent a week with them, but we learned to love them pretty quickly. And should they ever decide to come back to Boston, our door is always open.

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i miss being known

I’ve written before about how life was easier in Abilene – it’s warmer, smaller, easier to navigate, cheaper to live there, etc. etc. etc. And we’d lived there for eight years, so we knew the terrain, literal and emotional. Some people really struggle in the West Texas desert, and the summers there are no joke, to be sure. But it’s where I’m from, and what I know, and lots of people I love live in those dusty towns along I-20.

Of course, while I was there I longed to break out of the safe cocoon, to see what the rest of the world held for me. But I’ve spent a lot of this winter wanting to crawl right back into that cocoon, missing ACU and Highland and Sunday nights at Lifeteam and Tuesday nights at Mezamiz with my girlfriends. I’ve shaken my fist at the winter, certainly, but what it really comes down to is this: I miss being known.

I miss Amber asking me about my weekend as I walk into the office on Monday morning. I miss hanging out in her office with Amy and Tessa, trading girl talk. I miss running into at least a few people I know as I walk across campus, dropping in to see Bethany and Kelsey in the Honors College, buying my stamps from Nita at the campus post office. I miss knowing the person on the other end of the line every time I answer my office phone.

I miss hugs from my friends at church, on campus and around town. I miss the inside jokes that come with years of friendship. I miss lunches with Lisa at Bogie’s, with Julie at Tuscany’s or Hickory Street, with Jeremiah in our little house on Sayles Blvd. I miss seeing people I know everywhere – at the grocery store, the mall, while eating dinner out – particularly at Los Arcos, we are all but guaranteed to see a familiar face.

Boston offers bookshops and museums, history and culture, public transportation and exciting new opportunities, for sure. And there are pockets of familiarity, such as Sundays at Brookline and gatherings with our Abilene crew. But I spend a lot of time feeling anonymous here, particularly on the morning commute, which I spend squashed into a subway car with lots of folks I don’t know. Abilene may be hot and dry and relatively unexciting, but I am known there. And I miss that feeling every day.

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My one little word for this year is comfort. And it has been elusive so far. I feel like I’ve had to chase it, instead of finding it around every corner, the way I did last year with “brave.”

I’ve been trying hard to provide physical comfort for myself and my husband – not always an easy task during a long, cold winter. Lots of tea and warm boots and tights under my jeans; coats and knitted accessories; bowl after bowl of soup; warm desserts, like apple crumble or soft, chewy cookies. Twinkle lights in our living room. Soft tissues for our constantly leaking noses.

I suppose that has been, more or less, successful. But the kind of emotional comfort I’m after – the feeling of ease, of belonging, of finally feeling like we have a place here in Boston – is still eluding me.

I catch glimpses of it, to be sure, when we’re at Brookline singing and sharing life with friends; when we spend Sunday evenings at Ryan and Amy’s, sharing a meal and then singing some more; when I meet up with Abi and Shanna on Thursday nights. I’m starting to glimpse it in my new office, though I still feel like the new kid. And J and I have had several “friend-dates” lately with new people or couples who live close by.

Still, though, I’m struggling with homesickness. I miss wide streets and spicy salsa and running into people I know at the grocery store. I miss Sunday nights at the Donagheys’, Tuesday nights at Mezamiz with my coffee ladies, lunches with Julie and other girlfriends. When I was in Abilene I longed to leave it for new adventures; now that I’m gone, I miss it keenly, every single day.

I know it’ll always be different up here. But I’m still waiting for that feeling of yes. That feeling of knowing this is our home for a while. Getting a full-time job, and having to adjust to a whole new rhythm, threw into sharp relief how unsettled I still feel here. We are still strangers, and that is not comforting. And that kind of comfort is harder to manufacture than the physical kind.

I suppose the answer is to simply sit with the discomfort, to fall back on the practices I know will nourish me as I keep settling in, keep seeking comfort in this new place. And, of course, a cup of tea or a bowl of soup or a cozy handknit cowl never hurt anyone.

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Every Thursday after work, I head west on the Green Line, to a bakery in Brookline where I meet up with Abi and Shanna. We are all college friends and Texas transplants to Boston; we share the same faith, many of the same friends, the same shell-shock over Boston winters and the bond of people who have journeyed a long way together.

We pull off coats, hats, gloves; we order croissants and individual pots of tea, or paninis or soup if we’re really hungry. We sit at a round marble-topped table by the front window, and for a couple of hours we talk about school and work, husbands and friends, church and life.

I am – make no mistake – deeply grateful for these times. However, that doesn’t stop me from missing the Abilene edition of coffee night, feeling a small tug each Tuesday, when I know they’ll be gathering at Mezamiz.

There will be anywhere from two or three to eight or ten women, and they will order decaf lattes and hot cocoa and tea, or maybe a glass of wine. If they’re lucky, they will score the big, cozy couch near the sliding glass door that leads to the deck; some of them will plop down on it, and the others will pull up chairs to form a circle. They’ll exchange hugs and smiles, share photos and stories, talk about kids and work, husbands and friends, struggles and triumphs. They’ll share the latest news of their lives, the details I don’t always hear since I now live so far away. They will go home full and happy, satisfied not only with food and drink but with friendship and love.

I am so grateful for both editions of coffee night – though even while being a part of the one, I can’t help missing the other.

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1. My Highland/ACU/Sojourners/Lifeteam/coffee-night family. (I squished all of them into one item because they often overlap.) I often wish I could beam myself to Abilene to hug one, two or a dozen of these folks.
2. Tuesday nights at Mezamiz, trading stories and drinking tea with some of my favorite ladies.
3. Random, hilarious gossip sessions in Amber’s office, with Amber and Amy and Tessa (no boys allowed).
4. Sunday mornings at Highland, singing on praise team and hearing Jay clap and hugging so, so many people before and after service. And the smart, funny, thought-provoking hour that is Sojourners class.
5. Sunday nights, at the Donagheys’ house or elsewhere, sharing communion and dinner and prayer and laughter and life.
6. Rosa’s Cafe. Particularly chips and queso.
7. Los Arcos – especially their homemade salsa and enchiladas.
8. Being able to drive anywhere in ten minutes.
9. Not having to worry about, or pay for, parking.
10. Always seeing someone I know when I’m out and about.
11. Yoga classes with McKay (though she, too, has now left Abilene).
12. ArtWalk, downtown every month.
13. Being two hours from my parents and sister, and three and a half from my grandparents.
14. High school football games.
15. Knowing where everything is.
16. Game nights with our crew of friends.
17. Lunches with Julie and other girlfriends.

I do love our new life in Boston. But I miss Abilene, which was home for eight years, and in some ways will always be home.

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We’ve reached the crazy stage in our transition. Our house looks like a box factory exploded; half my kitchen cupboards are empty and the rest are half-full; most of our books are in boxes (this is a big deal for me); and it’s going to look worse before it looks better. And we’ve reached the stage I was dreading: the good-byes.

I’ve already had to hug Virginia and Kelsey, Glenn and Cole, Lawson and Morgan, Jay and Dawne and Amanda and a few others, and tell them “see you later” with a lump in my throat. I’ve hugged a lot of other people with promises of “see you tomorrow” or “see you Sunday” or “we’re not saying good-bye yet.” And I keep reminding myself that we’ll be back to visit Abilene. We have family here, in all the most important ways. We love Highland and ACU and so many of the people attached to both of those. We will be back.

But this is hard. It’s hard to know we won’t see these folks for months, that we’ll miss the Sunday get-togethers and the Tuesday coffee nights and the birthday parties and the little daily things. I’m so thankful for Facebook and email and cell phones – which I’ll be using copiously to keep in touch with my Abilene family. But oh my, I’m going to miss them.

So this Love Thursday is a love letter to all the people I love in Abilene. Thank you for supporting me since I arrived at ACU, a nervous, bookish freshman trying to find a new home. Thank you for loving me through good times and bad, too many to name. Thank you for standing with me through a year of deep sorrow and grief, when I lost two people I loved and didn’t know where to turn. Thank you for celebrating with me through the joy of my college years, my graduation, my first real job, my time in Oxford, my engagement and wedding and marriage, and everything in between. Thank you for accepting me, just as I was, and standing by me as I grew and made mistakes and asked questions and wondered and loved and changed.

Thank you for loving me, my Abilene family. I love you too. I’ll carry you in my heart to Boston, and I’ll come back to visit. And you are welcome in our little Quincy flat any time.

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