Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Because everyone likes pictures more than words.

 Casey gave Taylor a big smooch...

and he wiped it off. If he only knew that girls are always going to cry if they kiss you and you wipe it off, no matter how old they are.
(After this, Taylor frantically sang "circle circle dot dot, now I have my cootie shot." over and over until, I guess, he was assured that he didn't have any cooties.)

A photoshoot ensues...

So, not that many Christmas pictures, huh? No one took any. But we got great footage to blackmail Taylor with when he is older.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Merry little Christmas, a trip to the beach, and a case of the cooties.

Merry Christmas to you! I know things have been super heavy (i.e. semi-truck weights, I know) and somewhat depressing around here recently, and really, I don't want you all to think my family is anything besides loving and wonderful and only slightly insane. So, I will let you in on my Christmas vacay.

Christmas itself- and the days leading up to it- were honestly quite superb. There was some stress when my dad put me in charge of part of his Christmas shopping (read: all of his Christmas shopping), and when, on account of he waited until the week of Christmas (yep.), I couldn't find some of the things requested by some of the people on his list (read: any of this things requested by any of the people on his list), and because I didn't want my family to suffer experience some of the horrible interesting gifts he sometimes selects (once, everyone in the family- I mean everyone- got one of those plastic animated aquariums that shows a rolling montage of the same fish when you plug it in), I scoured every store in central Alabama and came out alright. At least, I wore one smug smile when everyone ripped open the gifts and shrieked with genuine pleasure, instead of immediately trying to hide their true feelings about said "aquariums." But other than those action-packed three days with more shopping than any one only-sort-of-into-it shopper like myself can endure, things went smoothly.

We went to my dad's for Christmas Eve, and although Dad and I had to trek through Prattville (in the rain, no less) for the perfect charcoal grill so that the hamburgers would be Christmas-Eve-appropriate and that we had to go buy all of the meat/toppings/sides for said hamburgers (I know what you're thinking and I agree: Dad's New Year's Resolution should be preparing ahead of time, aye?), everything came together and worked out just fine. And plus, there were all those genuine smiles to light up the afternoon. Later, we went to the Christmas Eve service at church, where I got to watch one leopard-clad shepherd journey across the sanctuary to pay a visit to baby Jesus.

On Christmas morning, we slept until 8 o'clock (!). I don't know about you guys, but when I was a youngun, I seldom made it past, I don't know, 4:37 a.m., and I then sneaked into my big sister's bedroom and pestered her until she begged Mom and Dad to let me come down between the five and six o'clock hours. Anyway, Hailee woke up first and got me up, and we went in to wake up Taylor, who honestly wasn't all that pumped about deserting dreamland for Santa Claus, but he sure perked up after he saw the living room. It was a really lovely Christmas, and I can say that I honestly can't think of a single thing that I wanted and didn't get.

Moving right along (we're hurtling through this break!), to the day after Christmas, which is, folks, when the true fun began. Baby Jesus? A tree overflowing with nifty striped packages that have your name stickered to them? So many haystacks that your stomach starts to sound like Mr. Ed? Nope. Doesn't even compare to a family vacation. (Ahem, just kidding about the Baby Jesus part.) We headed out at 7 o'clock on Saturday morning.

Oh wait, you don't believe me? That's because it's not true. Chris, Lori, Hailee, and Taylor did indeed pull out of the driveway at an ungodly-for-the-day-after-Christmas hour, but not I. Oh no, people. I was riding with my sister, Laine. And who else should be riding with her besides a brand-new teenager, a toddler, and a dog? I'm guessing all of you are feeling jealous right about now and wishing you'd signed up for such a tantalizing trip. After several (and I mean several!) just-short-of-disaster kinks set us back three and a half (THREE AND A HALF.) hours behind schedule, we got on the road for a super duper eight-hour drive. Ah, Internet. Wish you could have been there, every single one of you. Really, though, it wasn't as bad as it sounds, if you don't count the brand-new teenager or the time we locked the keys in the trunk at the gas station or the time a book flew out the window.

When we arrived, we were met with more gifts and dinner and lots of welcoming faces. It was worth it. We hung out at a condo that seemed nice, but also offered us a few roaches new friends, and did things like watch Twilight for the 32nd time and put raw hamburgers on a grill that hasn't worked since 2002 (and then take raw hamburgers off said grill and instead "broil" them) and give cooties (Not me. I didn't give any cooties. I got some, though.)*

We came back today, after two days, and it really was some good quality family togetherness (you can't get more together than in a car. Unless, of course, you're not in a SUV, but are truly in a car.) The holiday proved to be low on stress and drama and high on happiness and excitement and haystacks, which is how I like it. I could've gone for some brownies at some point, but I didn't want to push my luck.

*I tried uploading pictures at this point to give you some cootie visuals, but, alas, Schnathan the computer wasn't going for it. I'll try again later if I find some patience lying around.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I had a whole post worked out in my head about how a baby changes everything (me? inspired by a song? get out!) And how I was feeling today, which you'll also find is rather commonplace on this blog of mine (me? talk about myself? get out!) Anyway, I took a bath because, well, my shower at school is so small I don't even want to know. It's really small. And I came back into my room and glanced into the closet. Everything has been moved around so much because not only did I move so much to school and into storage, I transferred rooms to give Taylor the big room. And so, I guess these things fell out of a box or a bag or something, but I found some miscellaneous items on the closet floor, and the memories stole my breath so quickly that I had to sit. They were photos, and photo-lover that I am, (if you didn't know that, let me go ahead and admit: I am a total picture junkie. They just don't show up too often here because I'm lazy and don't upload 'em.), I had to thumb through them, and I had to get teary-eyed remembering. Most of them were of a weekend that Callie and I spent at the beach with our youth group, but since we're best friends, most of them are of the two of us. We're in the middle of the ocean. We're posing on the deck. She's blowing a putt-putt ball into it's hole; I'm smiling next to a boy who's got his arm slung lazily around me as we pause from our baskets of fried shrimp. Taylor is three years old, gazing into the camera with a birthday crown on his head. The trip was a lot of fun, sure, but nothing extremely memorable. And that's just it; I didn't take inventory, I didn't stop and write down how it felt to be 15, and I'm scared because I can feel the time speeding by me so. I want to write all of it down so that I can remember how it feels to be 18, 19, 20. But I don't want to spend so much time remembering things that were and feeling anxious about remembering now in the future that I totally miss right this minute. I loved that trip; I loved that time. Would I go back? No way! I love right now, too! I'm a completely different person now, and I think that's cool. I've lived and I've learned and I've matured and then I've realized I don't got nothing figured out!  But, still...the memories!

Moving right along. This weekend my dad asked me to do some of his Christmas shopping which quickly turned into all of his Christmas shopping (less than a week before Christmas. I'll let that speak for itself.) When I had to order things because IT'S ONLY A WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS AND EVERYBODY IS OUT OF EVERYTHING OR DIDN'T HAVE IT IN THE FIRST PLACE BECAUSE YOU WAITED UNTIL THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS TO SHOP, DAD, he got kind of peeved and then I got super peeved. I mean, here I am, running all over God's green Earth to save his butt and make sure that everyone doesn't get animated fish aquariums from Belk as per 2007, and I order all my highly-demanding little sister's presents, and get them here by Christmas, and he is concerned about shipping, but insists she have things to open on Christmas morning. Newsflash, Dad: You have to plan ahead. Dad insists that things "work themselves out," and this attitude shows up whether he's buying Christmas presents on the 20th or heading to another DUI trial; what Dad doesn't realized is that people work things out for him, thus they appear to "work themselves out," but really, not much in this world just works out. Somebody has to pay for shipping, Dad, or else Emilee will be looking at pictures of her presents that are en route on the 25th. Anyhow, this is how I was really towards Dad, tonight; I was sick of shopping and wrapping and picking up his slack again. But this background explains why I went to his house in the first place: I had to pick up some more presents to wrap. Chris was making dinner, and I had a 20-minute time window to get there and get back. I let myself in, and the house was mostly dark and quiet, which is how it's been for awhile now. Dad was in his recliner, with a tv tray, complete with used plate and fork, to the side.,like that scene with Arthur in The Holiday. He had the saddest look on his face. It's name was loneliness, or maybe regret or hurt. I made small talk, and asked about his dinner- leftovers. He helped me get the presents to my car, and then he went out on a limb and asked me to stay. I looked at his face, at the hope in his eyes. Just for a minute. And then I turned.

"Chris is making dinner," I said. True.
"I'm supposed to be right back." Also true. He nodded like he understood, and I'm sure he did. But what I'm also sure of is that he went back inside and sat in his recliner, alone. He put his dishes in the dishwasher and turned the kitchen light out and went to bed, alone. I got in my car and instantly regretted leaving, and nearly turned the car around, except that I wanted to avoid the awkwardness that would come if I showed up again. Now I regret that. Dad's a pain in the butt most of the time. Dad's selfish a lot of the time. He deserves most of his loneliness and hurt and pain, and he has a lot to regret. He's pushed his family away and forgotten them when it mattered that he remember. He's chosen other things over us at nearly every opportunity. It's his own doing.

But what if I got what I deserved? What if all of us did? God did not call me to give people love when they deserved it, because I sure as heck do not deserve the love and forgiveness that I freely take everyday, that I live for and breathe and get by on. God didn't call me to let people wallow in their loneliness because, well, they did it to themselves. He called me to be the hope, to sit with the lonely and take away some of that pain. I can't change what I did tonight, but I can surely learn from it. I can use it to see how I'm lacking and to see how I can better mold myself into God's image. And I can pray for my dad, who's sleeping alone tonight.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

life's significant insignificant moments.

I read a whole book today. I can't remember the last time I had time to do that, or the last time I used the time I had to do that. It is absolutely awesome to get lost in a story until, at least for a few hours, it's hard to disconnect your thoughts from the characters'. Anyway, that's not at all the subject of this post. The character in the story (Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry) recognizes and investigates some of the moments that changed her life, most of them insignificant. It pushed me to think of my own life, and to do the same. I thought of major things, of course: my mom's death, moving in with Chris and Lori, changing schools, deciding on a college, moving to Tuscaloosa. But it took more effort to uncover those moments that seemed so trivial, that strung everything else together, that would have changed my life had they gone differently. Tiny minutes when I made a choice and I had no idea the impact it would have on the rest of my years, and I shudder to think about what might have happened had I not done some of the things I have. I'm sure it would have worked out; it would be a different life, sure, but one I'd love all the same. I don't want to think about it though, because I love this life so very much.

Some of the most significant insignificant moments in my life thus far (not necessarily in chronological order):

  • The first that comes to mind is deciding to join the yearbook staff my ninth grade year. I had no idea it would snowball into a near obsession and lead me to discover my life's passion and a career path; I was doing it simply because I thought it would be cool to have a class with Callie, and I thought it would be an easy class. It turned out to be one of the most challenging things I've ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. I miss it tendlessly, but I know that Alabama's yearbook, a magazine-type with a yearly output of about 300, wouldn't be the same, and why mess with something good? I can still feel the excitement of sitting down the write some copy, my fingers jumping with anticipation, or opening a new package of proofs, red pen in hand, scouring the page for errors that I'd trained my eyes to jump to. And what if I'd never put my name on the list? What if I'd never become best friends with Callie, or gotten so close to Mrs. Carmichael or the other teachers who frequented that library office? What if I was sitting here now blogging about how I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life because I had never felt the joy that comes when I arrange words into the perfect sentence? Ah. What if, my friends.
  • The second, then, walks hand in hand with the first, but is of an entirely different nature. It is Callie. How friendship wasn't all that much of a chance, and she doesn't remember. I thought she was so cool and awesome and I was literally in awe of her, which is why I struck up conversation with her. My first memory of us is her flipping over periodic table flashcards and I read them out from across the room in Mrs. Stinson's physical science class. What if I hadn't? What if I had chosen to be friends with Laine, who sat behind me, or Rachel, who sat to my left? (On the contrary, I would have never been friends with Rachel because she held some quite hateful feelings towards me for reasons that are still unknown to this day. But still.) What if, on that day, I'd studied my own list of periodic elements since we obviously had a quiz or test coming up, instead of turning to look at Callie studying hers? How different would my high school years have been without her? Would i have stayed friends with Ashley, who was headed down the wrong path, alongside our "best" friends Blake and Krystal? It's a question I don't want to know the answer to, because I'm afraid of what I'll find. 
  • Here's another one: One morning I was flipping through the music channels, trying to find one to listen to while I got ready for school, and I landed on a contemporary Christian one. I hadn't heard much of this style, as my church family, largely comprised of people with walkers, insisted on belting on the beautiful verses of "Victory in Jesus" Sunday after Sunday since I was, you know, five years old. But I absolutely loved it. It launched me into a relationship with the Lord that has blossomed and developed in the years since, and I can trace it back to that one morning when I heard Chris Tomlin or Third Day and realized that my love for lyrics and words and my love for the Lord could connect in a way that left me breathless. 
  • One more: Obviously, deciding to go to Alabama was a big decision in my life, but I still wonder, what I had found a way to go to Vanderbilt, or picked BSC, because they DID come calling? And of course, the day I moved to Tuscaloosa changed my life in more ways than I could ever list, even if I wanted to. I'm absolutely positive there are bookoodles of changes yet to be made, and impacts of this that I haven't yet discovered, but that I will look back and see, much in the way that I'm delineating these. And one might even argue that deciding to participate in Alabama Action was a rather large decision, although I'd counter with the fact that after I dismissed at first glance the first time, I decided in about 13 seconds to do it the second time (due to Lori's "Do it" stare and her words about possibly losing my scholarship. She scared me into action.) So the next moment is after all of this, when I was scared and shaken and vulnerable and homesick that first night. I decided, on a whim, to go to Mellow Mushroom. I decided, on a whim, to sit down at an empty table and I prayed that someone would sit down next to me. It wasn't fate or destiny, but it was God who placed around me the most wonderful people I was so scared I'd never meet. And had I given in to my nerves that night or decided I wasn't in the mood for pizza, things would probably be entirely different. And that thought makes me wince, because I am absolutely certain that I'm friends with the most incredible people I could have chosen on campus.
Life is full of decisions. Some of them are agonizing, and I'm sure I haven't experienced the half of them. So many seem inconsequential, tiny nuggets that don't mean much in the long run. But it turns out that those moments are what decide how our lives will be, and those on-the-spot decisions, when we follow our guts, sure that either outcome would suit us, write our stories.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"What would you think of me now? So lucky, so strong, so proud? I never said thank you for that."

It's a line from a song that got me thinking today on my drive home from Georgia. The whole song reminds me so much of my mother, especially that particular line. I get hung up on it all the time: how different I am from when she was here. It hurts so much to know that if my own mother saw me on a street or in a store, she probably wouldn't recognize me, and not because of anything dramatic. I've simply grown up. I'm not the little girl she knew. Being around other my friends and their mothers like I have been for the past few days always causes me to remember that my situation is so different, that my "mother" isn't my mother, and to dream up "what-ifs" as I'm lying there trying to conquer some sleepless night in an unfamiliar bed. So pardon me for approaching the subject again, for examining it closely and picking it apart, and for writing about it- I know it gets old.

But this song. It's really sort of spectacular, and it fell through my musical cracks, but I rediscovered it on a lost (now found!) cd while I was road tripping this week. I listened to it over and over, as I often do, meditating on the lines, and this one stood out. Of course it made me think of her- duh. But it wasn't just her- it made me think of my father, too, and for that matter, all of them. Each of my siblings has had his or her own share of obstacles, some brought on by themselves, some overcome, and some that are still around. Everyone but me- all of my issues either are or come from dealing with everyone else's issues. I'm not sure if it's the role I was born for, or I just saw this need when I was kid and rose up to fulfill it. I am the hope, the maverick, the  fighter. I am the one who defied the odds, who turned out right, who went to college instead of jail. It hasn't been easy; everyone else's problems have become mine as I struggle to prove them all right, because after all, I am the one who can and will be someone, and that's what they're holding out for. I know that it's my job to keep the peace and smooth the trouble away, all while giving them something to be proud of.

I'm sounding rather haughty, I know. But hear me out. This is the thing: this a real role in my family, and I got it, whether it was always meant to be mine or I was pushed into it by guilt and shame. But how did I learn? How did I know what to do, and what not to do? Who to trust, and who to run in the opposite direction from? What kind of person I should be instead of who was easiest to be?

I learned it from them. All of them.

I know I've said it so many times, but my mother was an outstanding person. I know I tend to look back through a lens that is tinted with longing and pain and "missing out," though, and she had problems. She succumbed far too easily, and hid it for far too long, and tried to be far too many things instead of admitting she couldn't. She stayed with my father when she probably shouldn't have and went on for years like everything was just fine when everything was all wrong. She should have found the strength to confess, to stop, and gotten everyone out of the whole situation, because that was her job, instead of the cooking and ironing and cleaning and carpooling that she took on. She lost herself in all of that, and I lost her, too, because of it. But there were so many good parts and good memories and maybe they outnumber the bad, or maybe I'm imagining, but it doesn't matter. But she taught me how to laugh and chatter and get along. And in her death, she taught me more than she could ever hope. Because I didn't succumb, and I didn't hide, and I did get out.

In the same breath, my father, in all of his selfishness, has taught me what it means to love. I've talked before about my father's  love for me, but I've realized that that's not for me to worry over. I wanted so much to form that ideal relationship with him, where he really is the parent and I really am the child, but it's never going to happen, and once I accepted that, I could get to forming a real relationship with him. And so, his mere presence in my life has taught me all about love and forgiveness. According to 1 Corinthians 13:5, love "keeps no record of wrongs." So then, I chose to love my father, forgetting all of the hurt he has thrown my way, or at least trying. I answer my phone when he calls and visit him when I come home and let him into my life. It's not easy or fast; in fact, it still carries a lot of tension and pain as I open those doors. Ignoring him was incredibly easy to do, but after awhile, I missed him. So, I'm doing my best, and I have to assume he's doing his, because that's what it means to love. Does he stills hurt me? Yeah. But that's okay. It's alright.

And all of them. All four of them- all my older siblings- had dreams, I suppose. They all forgot them or lost them or threw them away as they discovered things that made life seem easy: alcohol, prescription pills, cocaine, marijuana, theft, lies. Things that got them by for the moment and covered the pain for a little while, but all too soon, it resurfaced and they would need more and more and more of their chosen vices to stifle it again. Some of them have overcome, have beaten it, and my pride overflows when I think of it. Some of them haven't, but I have hope for them, that they can do it. Sometimes I just want to scream, "If I can do it, you can do it, because I have to do with all of YOU!" But that wouldn't help. now would it? I've tried to have relationships with them, but it adds toxicity to my life, and they use me, and that I won't stand for, because I am trying to become something here. But I love them all the same. They've taught me about perseverance and standing up again and that sometimes, you're just barely hanging on, and everyone is going to find themselves there. They taught me that you can let go and fall into the canyon, or you can pull yourself over the ledge, as hard as it may be, even if you might fall down again eventually. They've taught me to try. When i wasn't sure if I could do some of the things I've done, like move into acceptance over Mom, or forgive Dad and build a relationship with him, or even move away and enroll in a large university, I looked to the things they've done and said, "Okay. I can do it, too."

And so, I am me, and I decided to be this person, to say no to what nearly everyone else in my family has said yes to, but you should know that who I am is largely because of who they are and what they showed me. Their lives seem messed up to so many, examples of shame and wrongdoings, but I can see the beauty in struggle. They are wonderful, beautiful people, and I am so lucky and strong and proud because of them.

I quoted 1 Corinthians 13, the "love" chapter that every knows. But beyond the definition of love is another verse that delineates my life as I discover what being an adult is all about:

"11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

I'm learning to forgive. To love. And to learn.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I made it

through my first finals week, which proved to be very different from exam week in high school, where you are exempt if you don't miss more than three days. Finals are the real deal, folks, full of essays and entire days (and nights!) at the library, and studying, studying, studying. Did I mention the studying? And I only had two! I feel like the people who have more than that should be given free brownies every day, along with some coupons for free therapist appointments in January because surely they're losing their minds. But anyway, it wasn't so bad, on account of everyone is going through it together and we can complain and procrastinate and hole up in a study room and laugh like we don't have tests that could decide our permanent grades (and thus our transcripts, GPAs, careers, and THE REST OF OUR LIVES) in the coming days. But it was an experience!

And now I'm enjoying a beautiful calm, a period of lazy that I vaguely recall from the beginning of the semester. I have no class and nowhere to be and no alarms to wake me up. Saturday is the very last day I can be here, in my dorm, until 2010, and that makes me a little lot sad. I will miss my little stake on this earth, this place that's all mine, where I can go about my business just as I want to without asking anyone (this does not include doing anything that causes a ruckus, unless the ruckus is too tempting to avoid, and then I just have to deal with the consequences.) I will miss my freedom and independence and getting to sleep until twelve without my brother busting and saying, "What, do you think you're just gonna sleep all day?"

Well, yes. Yes, I thought I would.

I am looking forward to spending time with my family, though, and Christmas and our family vacation and Passion2010. Okay, I lied. Not the family vacation part. But definitely Christmas! I can't believe we're so close, and I haven't even been counting down the days like I have EVERY SINGLE YEAR SINCE I FIRST SAT IN SANTA'S LAP AND FELL IN LOVE. I guess that's what being a grown-up is all about. Sigh. Only 15 days! And by the time I get home, it will be much less! I hope you can feel my excitement out there because trust me, it's spilling over out of me, even at 2 a.m.

Oh boy, it's 2 a.m. That explains the rambling of the previous paragraphs. Sorry, dear Internet. Goodnight and happy dance with me- finals are over!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Semester one.

It's almost over, this first semester of mine. I feel like I need to write it all down, to look at it before me so I can see what I've done and who I've become, because it just doesn't feel surreal in this life, at least not yet. Part of me still feels like I'm at summer camp for an extended period of time and that any day now, I'll pack up and head home, but the other part of me can barely remember what it was like before this life. It's a fine line, a blurred line, a jagged line. It's all about growing up, I suppose.

First, I'd like to do it chronologically. I'm not one for this, but I think I'll start it at the end of every semester. At the end, I can look back and say, "Oh my goodness. I forgot all about that." Which is a beautiful gift. Anyway, here we go!

  • August: Quit work, moved to Tuscaloosa, participated in Alabama Action, met Janie Parker and Gracie Renfroe, started class, went home for the first time, came back, realized I loved it.

  • September: went to the lake for Labor Day, went to the first football game, went to the beach with Callie, got bogged down with homework, went to Doster Cafe every Tuesday and Thursday.

  • October: became good friends with Sarah, Ross, Justin, Jessica, Ginny, Will, Pete, Norm, and so on, went on a Fall Break extravaganza to Peachtree City/Atlanta/Helen/Monticello, won a jar of candy corn at the Halloween Festival, attended Prattmont's new building dedication, stayed bogged down with homework, went to Bryant every Tuesday and Thursday for lunch.

  • November: went home for Hailee's birthday, saw New Moon, went home for Thanksgiving for nine days, got sick of my family, came home for finals, stayed at Bryant for lunch, but then went to the library.

There are more things, though. Things that made this amazing and hard and incredible and worthwhile, and these are things that I want to remember; I want to find the right words to capture these moments so that when I'm 45, I can close my eyes and be here again. Because I don't ever, ever want to lose this.

I want to remember going to the dining halls and eating, and hating it, but loving it because it was "free" and because we'd push the chairs and tables together until we had a big party and we'd eat our crappy food together.

I want to remember how we gathered in various dorm rooms night after night to watch movies or play Catchphrase, and how I always wanted Justin on my team, but never, ever Will.

I want to remember dressing up after the homecoming game and dancing at a party, but getting kicked out and instead going to Ally's dorm and dancing for hours more- Pete taught me the pretzel.

And sitting on the quad for hours at a time, sometimes in the middle of the night, playing frisbee (Well, not me) and drinking cold hot chocolate (hm..) and listening to music.

Or going to Gorgas Library and drinking coffee and blogging, and smiling because I am so in love with this place.

I want to remember staying up until 4:30 a.m. when I had 8 o'clock classes because the conversation was so much deeper than I was used to and I couldn't bear to end it. I don't want to remember the day that I skipped class because of it or the day that I didn't and almost died from exhaustion.

And road trips with Janie...the majority of our friendship has been spent in a car!

I want to remember getting angry at my roommates for eating my food and cleaning the bathroom for the first time and dusting like Lori was always sure I wouldn't.

I want to remember the first time my family came back after moving me in, how I guided them around campus and proudly showed off my house, because, well, this is home now.

I want to remember the first time I was walking down the street and someone saying hey, and how I felt for sure that I belonged after all.

I want to remember how I felt included and loved right away, and how God reminded me time and again that this was the place for me, and that He had His hand in all of it. I want to remember the day that I was walking to the Ferg and I felt His presence so, so much that I literally lost my breath and had to sit on a bench to take it in. I don't want to lose any of it.

I realize that soon- probably next semester or next year- we'll have boyfriends and girlfriends and jobs, and we'll all move off campus. Eventually, those boyfriends and girlfriends will become our husbands and wives and we'll graduate and scatter, and e-mail each other every few months with new pictures of our kids or updates on our great job promotions, but for now, we can get together every night and watch a movie and eat frozen grapes and it has made me happier than I ever thought I could be. I don't want to forget it.