Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The second time around.

As second semesters tend to do, this semester follows semester one.

"The spectacles of experience: through them you will see clearly a second time." 
-Henrik Ibsen

The wonderful thing about doing things for the first time is that for the most part, you going in without preconceived notions about how it will be. Sure, you've heard stories. You've seen it on TV. You've every single piece of advice anyone ever thought up on the subject. The problem about going in the second time is that you walk in with  whole new ideas of how it's supposed to be, a whole new set of standards to compare it to. Last semester, I only had class on Tuesdays and Thursdays; I made it a habit to see the sun rise, sleep the day away, and then watch movies until 4 a.m. again. It was wonderful and awesome and so.much.fun, but it wasn't reality. This semester I had class every single day and I'm still not used to it. Some of my first semester glee and joy and newfound independence seemed to wear off as I was reminded what it was like to wake up for class every single morning and to have assignments due all week long (not just on Tuesday!) and to spend hours at the library doing actual work. All that sounds like I might be downing these last few months, and while it's true that they were different and harder, more secluded and less carefree, longer and shorter than those in 2009, they were still incredible. So I know that I talked about how hard it will to leave before; now let me tell you why. 

January: I experienced God in a great big way at Passion2010, and then I came home and danced in the parking lot with my best friend because we were back. Our football team became the NATIONAL CHAMPIONS*. I started class. I got sick of class. We almost never got together anywhere because everyone was so busy. But sometimes we did.

February: My friends got together for Curious Cupid, and I got a vase of duct tape flowers. That doesn't sound too romantic, I realize, but it was probably one of the most wonderful presents I've ever received. (Thanks Blake!) That week as the most horrible one in the entire year; it threw at me tests and hospital stays and fights, but I do remember that I successfully planned three birthday parties that same week.  I learned how to dance in the rain.

March: I felt the sunshine again. We decided to sit on the quad and bask in it on Thursdays at 2 p.m., more often than not with tuna sandwiches and salads and banana pudding from Lakeside. Then, I realized that the sweetest words in the English language aren't declarations of love at all; no, they are spring break. That was one friggin' awesome week. Then we came home and geared up for the last two months. I'm still not sure where those two months went.

April: This, my favorite month, was a big deal month. There was Easter with my family and I fell back into love with them. There was Gracie's birthday and and Spring Retreat and A-Day and my birthday. I never did a post telling you just how lovely that was, so let me give you the skinny: I have insanely wonderful friends. There was a visit from my mama and my favorite kids, a surprise birthday breakfast, a 2 a.m. present reveal, a picnic by the river, a birthday party, and lots and lots of brownies. It was perfect.

Today is April 27th, and I'll be moved out on May 7th. I'll be heading to Atlanta to nanny for my aunt and uncle. I'll be leaving this behind. But I have it here, and I have it in my heart, and I am holding onto it so tightly, in hopes that I never forget a single detail. And I know that I'll soon release my grasp; I'll loosen my grip so that the details indeed fade and brand-new memories fill their places. I'll have an incredible sophomore year, I just know it. But let me tell you this: this year, these months, that group of people up there- I couldn't have asked for better.

God has been good to me.

*Roll tide!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

the end of the most beautiful beginning.

August 2009

I can see the finish line of the race.
My ship is sailing into the harbor.
I've read the whole story of this year, and I'm about to place the book on the shelf.

Perhaps I'm being a tad melodramatic. Okay- a LOT melodramatic. The summer is only two months long, and before I know it, I'll be pulling my tennis shoes back on, heading back out to sea, and sharpening my pencil to continue writing. But it will be entirely different. It won't be my freshman year; it won't be new and different. I won't be shaking with anxiety and excitement as I paste up pictures of the people I left behind. I won't wander around for an extra hour because I'm terrible with directions and don't know my way around. I won't cry when my parents drop me off.

I'll fall back into the familiar routines this year has been so good to give me. I'll know how to get where I'm going.

But the thought of leaving this year behind to make new memories actually brings tears to my eyes. I'm not ready! I don't want to leave! I want to walk these sidewalks a few more weeks!

And what about the people? It's a startling idea that even though we've gotten so used to seeing each other every day, that we know each other's quirks and that we were the ones who threw birthday parties and dried tears and rejoiced when they rejoiced and color the memories of their past months- they will leave. I will leave. We will scatter back home. But wait...this is home. They are my family. This place, with its books and its flowers and its people- it is my life. And so you're asking me to take on an entirely different life for two months. Don't worry! It's one you used to have! You lived it! Go back to it!

Go back? But I'm not the me who lived that life. And I love it here. (Cue a trembling lip and tear-filled eyes.)

I suppose I shouldn't complain. I'm getting two months full of sunshine and beaches and breaks. I'm going to get two months of family memories and starry nights and ice cream sundaes. It won't be quite the tragedy I'm making it out to be. But the truth is, when I come back, things will be completely different. I won't live in Riverside East; in fact, I'll live in an apartment for the next three years and soon, dorm life will reside somewhere in my hazy memory about what I did once for a few months. I'll live with my best friends, which is such a blessing; but I won't live with these roommates who turned out to be, well, some of my best friends. I'll be able to actually shave my legs in the shower, but I won't get to joke about how difficult it is to shave my legs in this shower. (Sadly, I won't be able to use that as an excuse for why I haven't shaved my legs in a week, either.) I won't be able to hang out at Sarah's until 2 a.m. and then pad upstairs to my bedroom. I won't get to leap into bed at night anymore, or start my day by leaping out of it. I'm sitting here in my room right now, and looking around, my heart already longs for it in six months.

Mostly, I am thankful. I am so incredibly lucky that I am one of the people who don't want to go home simply because this place took me in and wrapped me up and became home in every way possible. I am more fortunate than I know that there was a group of people who wouldn't be complete unless I was a part of them, and they welcomed me with bright smiles and snuggly hugs and understanding hearts. And even though it's mostly over, even though finals are upon us and it's time to start thinking about packing up and going back to where we came from, I get to come back. I get to unpack those boxes and settle back in. I get to call up those lovely people and have them over for dinner, and they will love me just the same, even though they've spent their summers miles away from me in Peru or Alabama or England or Texas. And I just know that next year has fun and laughter and knowledge just waiting for me to soak it up.

But I hope I never, ever forget this year.

What a wonderful year it has been.

April 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

because lately, there's been a lot of letters...what's one more?

I wrote you a letter on your birthday, and so I think it is only fair that I write you a letter on mine, too; after all, it is because of you that I am physically here. You gave me the greatest gift a human can give another: life. Moreover, you promised to love me, no matter what that entailed. Incidentally, that entailed giving birth (sorry about that tail bone...), changing poopy diapers, and a whole lot of laundry. So thanks!

This was my seventh birthday without you, and Mom, it's gotten so much easier. I feel like- wait I know- that you would be so proud of the people I love and who love me back without reserve. They make everything so much easier. But that doesn't mean that I breezed right through. In the morning, I thought about how 19 years ago, you were in labor, maybe rushing to the hospital, or eating ice chips while Dad tried to make jokes. Around lunchtime, I thought how 19 years ago, you were preparing to meet me. And that night, I thought about how you might have been spending this evening 19 years ago gazing at me, wondering who I would become and what I would do, and of course, it made me sad that you aren't here to see the answers to those questions. I'd be a poet, a coffee-drinker, a snuggler. I'd grow into a God-fearing, sensitive, chattering woman. And I don't wonder, but rather I am certain that you would be proud if you could have caught a glimpse of that ebony-haired baby 19 years down the road, because 19 years later, though I didn't have you, I had more than I could ask for. I had a mother who drove here and bought me french fries and yogurt and left me with a plate of brownies (if that's not love, then I don't think love exists.) I had a group of friends who sneaked into my room and filled it with balloons just because. And on my birthday, I had two best friends who couldn't wait until morning; instead, they came in at 2 a.m. with a present that caused joy to run down my face.

Mama, soon it will have been eight years without you. It occurred to me that in three years, I will have lived as long without you as I did with you, and that is startling. I imagine there might be a day when my heart realizes this and lets go, stops shaking at the thought of a birthday or a Christmas or a bad day without you. I'm sure it will happen soon. I am certain that one day I will officially have moved on, and I won't need to write any more blog posts or short stories about losing you. My friends won't have to secretly roll their eyes when I talk about missing you. They won't have to think, "Man, you were eleven. Enough already." I will think of you only with happy thoughts, and I won't find myself choked up when I talk about you. I most definitely won't ache for your touch, your voice, your "Happy Birthday."

Sunday wasn't that day and today isn't, either.

All this isn't to worry you. I carry on quite well; I smile and I laugh and I live life. I giggle incessantly with my friends while I still can and I make bad decisions and I praise the Lord for He has been so good to me! I sing and I dance and I talk too loudly in the library. I bounce around and I ramble and I do all of these things with the joy Christ has given me back.

But this letter is to say that I didn't forget that you were around. I didn't forget that 19 years ago, you gave me life and chestnut curls and an outrageous laugh. I am still very much your child, and I wouldn't give that up for the world. I carry you around, even though that brings the ache sometimes. But, Mom, I don't mind. I am certain a day when you've faded will come, but I don't want it to. I want to remember the woman who bore me, who wrapped me and carried me around, who kissed me on the forehead and declared her love. I hide that love in my soul, and should that day come when I forget, all I have to do is glance into the mirror, and for a moment, I can see you, smiling back at me.

And for that, I thank you.

Love always,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

the case of the missing underwear.*

What's better than an immaculate sky, a crashing surf, and ten of your best friends? JESUS!
Let me tell you this, though- there's NOTHING better than an immaculate sky, a crashing surf, ten of your best friends, AND Jesus (well, there was that one awesome week back in March, but for right now's purposes, just pretend I didn't swear then that nothing was better than Spring Break, which was really, really wonderful.) So, as I guess you've gathered despite that long, unfortunate case of parenthesis, I went to the beach last weekend. With my friends. More specifically, on a church retreat, which means we asked God to meet us there, and He surely did show up, people!

Can I tell you how it went down? No matter how many pictures I show you or how many synonyms of "awesome" I use to describe it, you won't get it, but because I'd like to remember this some day when I've forgotten, I will try my best.

I made a pit stop in Prattville for a night on Thursday, and that was just plain lovely. The real fun started Friday morning though, when Janie and I woke up earlier than we should've and put on our bathing suits and made ham sandwiches and and headed south with thoughts of sunbathing and sea salt dancing in our heads. We took THE most confusing route ever, but Stella, our conveniently-nearly-dead nav system, was a champ, and eventually, sunshine became a real deal possibility.
(notice effective use of the self timer yet again.)

What happened after that was pretty sweet: we went to a CVS and bought sunscreen and floaties and then we made a beeline to the sand. We laid down towels and we stayed that way for four hours, until we got thirsty. So, Internet, do you want to know what we did? We walked and walked- down the BEACH in the OCEAN- until we came to a nice hut that was not so hut like but more restaurant like and we sat ourselves down like we were adults and ordered something fruity and frozen that came with whipped cream and a cherry! Right there on the beach! Like we were actually adults! They called us ma'ms!                                                                  


Some of us liked our fruity concoctions better than others, I guess.

So that was a nice, relaxing day and that is sort of where our pictures end because someone who is extra clumsy may or may not have dropped the camera (Sorry, Janie! I'll do what I can to rectify that!). But let me give you a recap our of Friday night. You will be jealous with a capital JEAL and a capital OUS. 

8:30 p.m.: Feel certain that, after 3 hours of sleep, we may not make it past  9 p.m. This is a problem. Go to Starbucks.
10:00 p.m.: Participate in awe-inspiring worship.
11:30 p.m.: Be persuaded by friends to take a midnight walk on the beach.
12:00 a.m.: Arrive at suite 516 to pick up boys for midnight walk. Run out of gas.
12:10 a.m.: Decide that the BEST method of action would not be to get another car and drive to the gas station or even to walk to the gas station; no, the BEST action would be for 12 people to push the car to the gas station, crossing a 6 lane highway in the process.
12:15-12:22 a.m.: Follow above procedure.

12:30 a.m.: Wildly celebrate our success.

12:45a.m.- 1:30 a.m.: Hang out on the beach amid some confusion about who is there and who isn't. Decide to go home. But alas! There are 11 people! And one car! One five-passenger- two- door car! WHAT TO DO?
1:30 a.m.: Pile 11 people in said car. Rather uncomfortably.
1:32 a.m.: Get pulled over by kind, amused, albeit taken aback, cop who insists that while he pulled us over for a missing headlight, we indeed must all climb out of the car, where he proceeds to count (one, two, three...ELEVEN? ELEVEN PEOPLE?). He lets us go if we promise to take multiple trips to get everyone home.
2:00 a.m.: Sweet dreams about the most wonderful friends on this whole planet.

Because I realize this is quite possibility winning me an award for longest blog post ever, I will wrap it up: There was spaghetti and splotchy sunburn and sand in places that sand shouldn't be and beach walks and-best of all- and incredible message on what it means to walk with God. There was one on one conversation and kneeling and healing with the creator of the universe. There were tears and hugs and the resewing of bonds that had been tattered by busy lives. I'd like to challenge the rest of 2010 to show me a better weekend, thank you very much.

*I almost forgot! The mystery of the missing underwear! I managed to lose EIGHT pairs of underwear. Now, I realize that eight is a lot of underwear to bring to a weekend getaway; call me paranoid, but I like to be prepared (my defense is that you usually shower a lot at the beach...). Anywho, I dumped out all of this underwear on the floor in a hurry and used the bag as my beach bag. Later, everything else was there EXCEPT my underwear. Right there where I left it. Except beds were made up and towels had been collected- and my underwear was MISSING. We searched under beds and in the closets and truthfully, I thought it would show up in one of our bags, but the bags have been unpacked and I am still missing eight pairs of underwear it. If you see them, tell them I'm looking for them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A letter to my best friend on her birthday.

Lauren Gracie,
Hello, love! How exciting that you are 19 years old tomorrow! You can buy cigarettes! And sign a lease! And get big girl shots! And let me be the first to tell you that I am so very proud of the person you are, and I am incredibly honored and blessed to be your friend. You simply amaze me; you have one of the most compassionate and gentle hearts I’ve ever had to pleasure of spending time with. You love me endlessly, without questions. You don’t mind that I come with baggage and that sometimes I get snappy and every now and then, I am just plain mean. You just love me like it’s your job, and I hope you never stop. I want you to know that we wouldn’t be complete without you; you are the third musketeer, the snap to our crackle and pop, the paper and to rock and scissors. You bring me more joy and sunshine than you can possibly comprehend- there isn’t a time that you can’t put a smile on my face, and if I am half of that to you, I would be proud. I want you to know that you’ve made this Coke scholarship worth it- it has been more fun than I ever thought it could back when I was dreading coming to Alabama Action. I think we were the luckiest ones of the whole group because we didn’t just get the money; we got a best friend, too. If you ever start doubting that you’ve got a friend, I want you to pull this letter out and remember that if I’m not with you, I’m wishing I was. Gracie, lastly, I want to tell you there if there’s ever a day when your heart is breaking, and tears are falling, and you can’t find your way out, I will be there to hold your hand until the clouds part and the sunshine dries your tears. I am here, and I will be, even if being your friend isn’t always the most convenient thing because, hey, you need me to do you a favor or you just need me to sit with you for awhile. I am so grateful that the Lord placed you in my life, and I promise I will try my best to be the kind of friend He wants me to be for you. I hope this nineteenth year offers you more happiness and laughter and brownies than you can stand! (You know the part about the brownies is true because we’ll have our own oven!)
Happy birthday, sweet girl. I hope it’s the best one yet.
All my love,

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

the five best spots at the greatest place on Earth.

Because in twenty years, I may have forgotten. And of course, these are my personal favorites. You don't have to agree with me! Bet you will, though.

5. Nott Hall- This place- the Honors College building- brings back memories every single time I enter it. It's the spot where I came, over a year ago, in my black pencil skirt, to interview for the Coca-Cola scholarship. It took us three hours to find it, and I'll never, ever forget walking up those stairs and going into the bathroom to adjust my slip. Now, I feel like part of a community of really smart people when I hang out in here. Plus, they offer cookies in the lounge.

4. Reese Phifer Hall- This is the Communications building, so of course it has a special place in my heart, but honestly, I think it is one of the prettiest buildings on campus. It is really stunning on the inside, too- really elegant and regal. I've had class in here all year and I love it!

3. The Ferg Promenade- I really can't explain why I love this part of campus so very much, but every time I walk down those steps, I get a happy feeling of belonging.It has a lot to do with the fountain in the middle of all of that activity, or the tulips that greet students as they climb the steps, or the ivy-covered columns...but my favorite part of this part is the engraved stone, amid hundreds of "Roll Tide Class of 86" and "Janice Smith Class of 56," there is one that says "To my favorite friend: I love you crazy."

2. The Quad- Well, duh. It is gorgeous, hands down. There a particular tree that is currently blooming white flowers, and I think it's my favorite one, but honestly, there isn't a part of the quad I don't like (even the mud puddles are a-ok with me). There is nothing better than sitting out in the sunshine (or under a tree) on a warm (or cool) day. If you don't believe me, I dare you to come try and tell me you're not a believer. The more you hang out out there, the happier you become. Trust me.

1. Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library- As if I haven't said it enough, I'll say it again: I love the library. There are six libraries on campus, but this one stands on the edge of the quad. I have spent hours upon hours getting lost in this place, taking advantages of the quiet and the literature and the wifi. I know the nooks and the crannies, the secret spots to hide when you really need to study, the best flavor of coffee, and when you can get a study room.

There you go! The next time you stop in Tuscaloosa and find yourself wandering around this place, visit these places. I promise they'll make you fall in love.