Tag Archives: College

Go-to stories

Last week I was over at my sister’s house and her boys, ages four and two, asked me to tell them their bedtime story. Before going into their room, Heidi informed me that they like real stories from our past. Wild and crazy stories.
So I told them stories about Alaska.
Jenny, my college roommate, is from Anchorage and the summer after we graduated, my other roommate Lesley and I embarked on a summer of adventure.

Jenny From Alaska

My dad taught me how to ride a bike on a big, blue, banana seat bike with streamers hanging from the wide-set handle bars. I don’t remember much about that day- who else was there or even how old I was, but I vividly remember what it felt like the first time he let go. He’d run beside me, grasping the banana seat, and then say, “Ready?” and even if I shook my head saying, “no,” he would grin and give me a push and then let go. Joy and fear and adrenaline mingled and rushed through my veins as I furiously pedaled, wanting to make my dad proud and really not wanting to fall or crash into a parked car.
This image came to mind when my parents dropped me off at Westmont my freshman year. Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” was ironically crooning from the radio when we first drove through the gates and a few salty tears escaped and trickled down my cheeks; trickled because I saw that straggly-haired little girl on her banana seat, biting her lip, focused straight ahead as her dad ran beside her. And now, once again there was my dad saying, “Ready?” Again, the joy and the fear and the adrenaline. I wanted to make my parents proud and I really didn’t want to fall or crash into a parked car.
As a young girl learning to ride, I had pedaled unsure and wobbled terribly at first. I probably took some spills onto the sidewalk but I don’t really remember those. So too, that first week of college was a wobbly one. That first year, really. Because riding a bike on your own for the first time is both slightly dangerous and wildly thrilling. That potentional wipe-out lurked in the back of my mind and I missed the secure hand of my father on the banana seat. However, when I looked around that first week at Westmont, I saw lots of other potential friends pedaling by themselves for the first as well. Some feigned confidence but we all were wobbling. We were all figuring it out, some with smiles plastered on their faces and others with looks of terror because those first weeks riding solo were beautiful and freeing but slightly terrifying.
That first year of college was so bizarre because not a soul knew who I was. I was completely anonymous. Not that I was wildly popular before, but people knew who I was. The name “Katie Hardeman” used to communicate much. It used to say that I came from a well-respected family and was pretty good with a basketball. It used to communicate what I had accomplished and what I was about because the people who had watched me grow knew me. And being known brought security. They knew who Katie Hardeman was. And though they shouldn’t have, their perceptions of who I was had created part of my identity and shaped how I viewed myself. But now, now no one had any perceptions of me. So who was I if no one was there to tell me? The only perceptions these new folk had of me was that I was blonde, wore shirts that were embarrassingly too short for my long torso and that were occassionally bejeweled with rhinestones.
We all were struggling freshmen, desperate to answer the question, “Who am I?” without anyone from our past chiming in to tell us. We were all pedaling on our own, striving to find ourselves- who we we truly were and who we would become. And in the midst of this self-defining year, I clung to my God tighter than ever before but I also clung to my roommate Jenny like a barnacle on a ship.
Jenny, Amy and I were randomly assigned a dorm room together because we went to bed at similar times and considered ourselves to be the same level of messy. They later confessed that they had spoken on the phone before we all met and were not thrilled about sharing a room with a “basketball player.” They assumed that I would be a stereotypical jock and in some regards, I am, but then I think they relaxed when I showed up on the first day with rhinestones on my tank top.

I’ve since stood in both of their weddings and played with their cute and clever sons.

And I am truly baffled by our God because of these girls; baffled by a God who knew just what we’d need that freshman year. Or rather, just WHO we’d need as we were wobbling on our bikes, pedaling solo for the first time. Jenny and Amy were pedaling right beside me and their presence helped me enjoy the new-found freedom and forget about the fear- the fear of falling and of failure. We gained confidence and pedaled harder and faster and then they were right beside me when I’d wipe out, picking me up and pulling out the gravel from my skinned knees. Jenny and Amy both played major roles in my life during those four years. I shared a queen-sized bed with Amy for our entire senior year and got hours of free counseling from one of the wisest women I know. But since I just saw Jenny this past week, this post is mainly about her.
Jenny is one of those friends who, on paper, seems drastically different from me. She has zero interest in sports. I think she ran a mile once a few years ago. She called me from Grenada to tell me about it. She was a cheerleader and homecoming queen and stranger yet, she’s from Alaska. Alaska, where her parents have a pet ferret, moose wander through their backyard and they have this sign in their garage, I mean “airplane hanger.” Only in Alaska.

But I’ve mentioned before how I knew Jenny and I would be close when she suggested leaving our phone message in Russian accents. I knew right then that she was the right kind of weird and we were going to get along just fine. Because despite the cuteness oozing from her petite frame and her total lack of interest in sports, Jenny and I have a weird “soul connection.” We share a lot of similar personality traits and these are magnified when we’re together. We are both uncommonly quirky though not without our insecurities, and we often think on the same wave link, a wave few other people travel on. Her husband, Chris, noticed it this past week when we kept saying the same comments at the same time. We’d laugh and shrug our shoulders- it’s been happening for years. She thinks of me every time she gets the runs and calls or texts me from the pot every time, without fail. We have that kind of friendship. We’re admittedly a bit “different” or “odd” some might say, but our “unique” ways of thinking and living are oddly similar. We let down our walls quickly with each other because there was instant trust- like when our spirits first saw each other, they winked and grinned.
That first week of college, Jenny and I were like Siamese twins, undeniably attached at the hip. We arrived at every event together. Sometimes matching.

We climbed walls together and we went to events dressed in ridiculous get-ups together.

This was before the cell-phone era and yet, we always knew where the other was. We followed lots of routines. We’d walk to breakfast together every day singing, “ain’t no mountain high enough” complete with hand motions. Then we’d eat our cereal in silence because the mornings were too early for conversation. We’d ride the shuttle to the beach every Tuesday, even when it was cold and we had to wear sweats. Then we’d strap on our uber-cool roller blades and blade to the Farmer’s Market and buy flowers and then catch the shuttle back up. The first time we did this, I got a monster blister on my foot and Jenny insisted that she take care of it. (Years later she became a nurse. Go figure) So I let her pour hydrogen peroxide on my foot and poke it with a needle. Then, right as she leaned close to inspect the wound, I pressed down on the blister and squirted that nasty clear liquid right into her face and she screamed and then laughed. We were like Anne of Green Gables and Diana- bosom buddies and kindred spirits.
Jenny inspired me to live more intentionally. Freshman year, she wrote a “thesis statement” for her life which outlined how she would live and posted it above her bed. The next year she woke up every single morning and the first thing she said, without fail was, “I feel fantastic!” We lived together for four years- four marvelous, transforming, unforgettable years. She knows that I will pretend to melt if she turns on artificial lighting when it’s not needed and I know that she pees with the door open and likes to eat a bite of chocolate right before bed. We never played the game of trying to appear cooler than we were, or smarter or kinder or better in any way. We just were. And in this way we were each other’s confidants and teachers. I taught her not to wave at dirty men honking their horns at us and how to buy a 2 piece bathing suit while she taught me how to put others first, how to use an inhaler (though neither of us really needed one) and how to wear lipstick.

Lesley took the above picture in our sophomore dorm room and then she censored it. I have another censored picture of Lesley sporting only her underwear and cape but it seems mean to post it here although she did somehow allow the censored picture of Jenny and me to be be circulated on the boys floor. (We were horrified) Lesley joined us our sophomore year and was just as bizarre as Jenny and I; I mean, the girl wore capes on a regular basis. The three of us were once accused of travelling together like a pack of wolves. We were first offended since it was not meant kindly, but then honored because we did seem to move together like a pack and would kill for each other if it came to that. (Plus, we found it mildly ironic since the first thing my brother said to Jenny was, “You look like Wiley Coyote.”) Before Jenny and Lesley married their college sweethearts, our pack tromped around the woods of Alaska as pictured below:
During those years we cried hard but laughed harder. We went on ridiculous adventures few would believe and talked about ridiculous topics few would understand. Jenny saw through all my pretenses and walls and saw who I truly was. There is something wonderful in that; something beautiful and freeing to be known so well. She knows when I’m even slightly annoyed and then laughs at me for trying to hide it. She has this uncanny ability of picking up on when I’m peeved just by reading my body language or even my tone in a text message and though it sometimes drives me bonkers that she sees through me when I’m pretending not to be irritated, I love that about her. I love that I can’t pretend with her even if I want to.
Being with Jenny is like looking in a mirror- and not just because I like to buy us matching clothes. I see who I am more clearly when I’m with Jenny because she knows me so well and I can see myself through her eyes. I once caught her wearing my underwear. She was changing and suddenly looked so guilty but I didn’t realize why until she confessed that she had run out of clean underwear. I think it was at that moment that I realized we had really crossed a line in typical friendship levels.
Jenny and her husband Chris now live in Santa Barbara with their remarkably funny and sweet boy Asher and their newest addition: their precious daughter Lola. I have unbelievable amounts of fun when I am with this couple. Chris is just as random as Jenny; he oozes adventure and cracks me up with antics. Plus, he’ll play along when I teach them ugly face poses like this:

or this:

I spent one very memorable Thanksgiving with Chris and Jenny when they lived in Grenada:
and took a few “sick days” to hang out with them when they lived in Brooklyn.

Though I loved those long weekends of laughter and adventure, I have most loved these recent years having them live less than 2 hours away. When Jenny had her first baby, the wolf pack reconvened and brought Asher to the mission on his second day out of the womb:

Since they live so close, I can drive up for the day on Jenny’s birthday to gorge ourselves on the infamous omlets of Summerland Beach Cafe, where we had always gone during college since breakfast is free for the birthday girl.

And of course we ordered a large stack of pancakes for Asher because we can never decide if we want omlets or pancakes so we pretended like the baby was hungry and then ate 1.5 meals.

Whenever I am with Jenny, I am always eating good food and I am always laughing and I am always encouraged and always edified. We’ve embarked on countless adventures together but we’ve also spent years doing nothing together so we have a knack for just “existing.” My most recent visit to the Swanson household was no different. We ate giant burritos and scrumptious cupcakes and then downed some Famous Star burgers at Carl’s. We sat around their table for 2 hours engaging in some of the most random conversation I’ve ever been a part of. At one point Chris called WalMart in Anchorage, Alaska to ask if they sold Tiger Tails. That’s another thing I love about these two- you never know what to expect with them.
The purpose of my visit was to meet the tiny and beautiful Lola who was growing in the NICU but came home today!

Jenny is an amazing mother with amazing perspective- it was no easy task to have to leave her lil Lola in the hospital.

Lola is pretty incredible and though she is small, I fear my giant man-hands make her appear smaller than she actually is. As I held her, I was reminded of what a marvelous miracle each baby is. And Lola is one stinkin cute miracle.
After hanging out with Lola, we took Asher to the zoo where we imitated the smelly flamingos,

saw parrots doing some inappropriate things, and then hung out with the giraffes.

It was a fantastic day but here’s the sad part. The Swansons are moving to Alaska in a few months. This came as no surprise to me and I am genuinely thrilled about the opportunities for them. But selfishly, I’m sad. Sad because despite their efforts to convince me to move to Alaska, I most likely will never live near them again. Sad because I won’t be able to be “sick” for a day to drive up on Jenny’s birthday. Sad because I won’t be able to go to any more of Asher’s birthday parties or be at any of Lola’s. Sad because well, because my bosom buddy is moving to Alaska which feels as far as the moon.

During that first week of college, we were all quick to slap labels on each other. We did it for identification purposes since our names meant nothing. And we did it based on the little information we knew of one another. Jenny and I called one poor boy, “pensive Adam” for four years behind his back because we caught him looking into the distance on several occasions. I think I was “Katie who plays basketball” and Jenny was “Jenny from Alaska.” (Actually, Lesley and I secretly called her ‘Jenny with bangs’ because in 2000, she was one of the only girls still rockin bangs) Eventually these titles slipped away as we built identities for ourselves. Our names began to communicate more than just where we were from or what we did. They communicated who we were. Jenny Hultquist, aka “Jenny from Alaska” or “Jenny with bangs” later became “my roommate, Jenny” then “my bosom buddy, Jenny” and then she tied the knot and became “Jenny Swanson, my college roommate whom I love to visit because she is always living in exotic places.” And although now she returns to her “homeland” of Alaska, she will always be so much more to me than “Jenny from Alaska.”

Because Jenny is one of those “forever” friends. One of those friends I plan on laughing with as our hair turns grey. One those friends I trust completely. One of those friends who shows me who I am. One of those friends I can share all my secret fears with and my hopes and my heart and my underwear. And though I’m sad about her leaving, I now have a wonderful reason to frequent the great state of Alaska.

Meg n Mere

I had the pleasure of introducing the chapel speaker on Wednesday. She needed no introduction since she’s a bit of a celebrity in these parts, but I consider her a dear friend and used my 2 minutes with the mic to let the kids know what kind of friend Megan is: the kind that has a love for Jesus that seeps out of her pores. And the kind who convinces you to prank someone by peeing in their water bottle.
Many of the teachers at Valley had Megan in class and her science teacher and I had lunch duty together the next day so we were swopping Megan stories and he said something that stuck with me.
“Friendships like that make life rich.”
I smiled when he said it because truly, I am one of the richest girls in the world. My life is full, overflowing really, because of the friendships I have. This journey has been immensly “rich” because of the girls who have walked beside me. Or run beside me, sat, skipped, and jumped beside me.
Everyone claims they have really great friends. The cool thing is, to us- they are just that: really great. Another’s group of friends might bore me to tears but my group is just right for me. It’s like they’re my own personal flavor at Cold Stone. Others might think Vanilla and Chocolate with Reeses and carmel isn’t perfect, that it’s too plain or simple, but it is the perfect amount of flavor and texture for me, the perfect amount of laughter and accountability.
These friends have not only gone through life by my side; not only have they laughed with me and danced with me and sang, pulled pranks, and pranced in rain with me. They’ve molded me. God fashioned my heart and created me and He continues to shape and recreate who I am, but He often uses the hands of several hilarious, God-fearing girls to do so.
Two such girls played crucial roles in the remolding process while in college. They were teammates but much more than teammates; they became sisters and pointed me to God and to the straight and narrow path time and time again by their words and the ways they lived. We were reunited for Megan’s wedding and though our time was brief rather than the concentrated days, weeks, and months we shared in college, I was reminded of they gift they have been to me. I was reminded of the years of laughter we shared but also how a bond was formed during those formative years that I doubt can be broken. Something about living so close, seeing each other every day, eating cafeteria food together and riding busses together; something about spending hours together in the gym or the weight room or airports or restaurants and experiencing life so closely together every day, seems to make that friendship bond infallibly strong.
The last time the three of us had been together was along with our quirky fellow teammate, Katie who I wrote about here, when we flew to Houston for Meredith’s wedding 5 years ago. Megan and I had been introduced as, “Meredith’s friends who can really eat.” We were flattered. Megan wrote a remarkable song for the bride and groom which she performed at the wedding and I did what I do best and caused a scene without meaning to. I left the bathroom completely unaware that abnormally long strips of toilet paper had attached to each of my heels. I walked past a large group of men with strange facial expressions and turned to find Megan and Katie both doubled over laughing so hard they couldn’t speak. We spent that weekend in Houston like we did in college, laughing and laughing and laughing some more. Now, five years later, Megan took her first steps on this same journey called “married life” and Mere and I sat side by side with mile-wide smiles and lots of giggles throughout the ceremony.
I had to leave early from the wedding to coach our game so sadly, I did not get pictures with the blushing bride, but if you are like me and enjoy seeing other people’s weddings, watch this video. It’s the best wedding video I think I’ve ever seen.
Today Megan speaks at high schools around the country. She is bold and fearless and filled with the Spirit. She is a gifted speaker and has an energy and passion that even Red Bull can’t fathom. Like Red Bull, hanging out with this girl will give you wings. She is crazy and hungry for life and for fun but more importantly, for God. And her hunger is contagious.
In college though, her faith was still being refined. I marvel at the work God has done when I consider the wild and silly girl from 2002 who has become the wild and silly yet wise and focused woman of 2011. I have zero normal pictures with Megan from college. If we were on the bus, we were making faces and playing rock-paper-scissors, best out of 50.

Or if the team was playing in an out-of-state tournament, were playing in the hotel room and putting on surprisingly painful, self-heating facial masks.

Mere and I are two years older than Meg so we played our first two years together and didn’t think we could possibly have any more fun or laugh any harder than we had. But then Megan joined the team. Megan is one of those girls who is known everywhere she goes because she is so bizarre and outragous and so dang funny. Mere and I got a glimpse however, that most of the crowds don’t get. We got to know Megan’s heart- to see her hurt and cry and struggle as she grappled to find her identity in those first years of college.
Megan was (and continues to be) a ball of raw energy in college. After hanging out with her it felt a bit like a tornado or the Tazmanian devil had swirled by: we were left exhausted, possibly injured, and with incredible memories. I already had a hunger for adventure in college but Megan fed that hunger. When I was tempted to hole myself up in the library and study, Megan pried my fingers off the books and convinced me to skateboard in the middle of the night or sneak into Steve Martin’s backyard where we discovered treasures you cannot even imagine. Need proof? We found a guillotine, giant slides, fences made out of bikes and this giant rubix cube:

Megan has a knack for making ordinary days memorable. She is searching for fun and adventure around every corner and when it doesn’t exist, she creates it. Her bachelorette weekend was as unconventional as she is and we got quite a few raised eye brows when we went to a fancy schmancy spa with our faces and clothes splattered in paint. She documented that little adventure here. She threw a second annual “Prom” for a New Year’s Eve party complete with balloon arches, punch, a DJ, and a prom king and queen. Here are some pictures from that memorable night:

Me with Megan and Rachel, the two phenomenal prom planners.

Jumping for joy with my brother Travis and sister-in-law Emma.

Emma and I had quite the afternoon shopping at thrift stores for our dresses since we don’t have our original prom dresses. We also had quite the time doing “shake face” pictures.

I also dragged my poor roommates to this random adventure. They might not appear thrilled about it here but they loved wearing these disgustingly poofy and sparkly dresses.

Every time I see Megan these days I am guaranteed two things: I will laugh and I will think. Yes, she is hilarious and wildly random, but she also is intentional and insightful and asks great questions, the kind that don’t allow you to be fake or surfacy. My last two years of college were made wilder and more memorable because of this wonderfully unique friend.
Then there’s Meredith.
Meredith and I have a friendship and a closenss that might confuse those who know us both. She is classy and lady-like, fasionable, and sophisticated with such a soft femininity that it truly is odd that she and I, a girl who wears sweatpants more often than jeans and makes “that’s what she said” jokes probably a little too often, would become such inseperable friends. She was offended when I told her brother’s girlfriend that she is high maintenance but she can’t deny it. (although high maintenance people always seem to do just that) Meredith brought out the “girly” inside of me. She taught me how to wear jewelry and convinced me to shower after our games and wear normal, cute clothes every once in awhile. (Normal and cute in 2000 ironically meant overalls)

I still remember the day we both accidentally dressed as twins and I refused to let her change because I found it so humorous. While she brought out my “softer” side, I brought out her wild and “inappropriate” side and made her laugh at things like horse poo:

We rubbed off on each other in beautiful ways and I see now how God was using the both of us to mold us into the women we would become. She taught me that joy is a choice and when I was angry or frustrated in a game and most people were terrified of me, she would call me out on it and tell me to choose joy. She is brave and bold and I hope a little of that rubbed off on me as well. She taught me about accountability and honesty in friendship and she freely shared her Texas-sized opinions with me when I was being foolish so I freely shared my own when she was dating the wrong guy. We connected on a spiritual level and though we talked about boys and basketball a lot, we talked about God much more. We were on similar spiritual journeys, both seeking more of Him and struggling with complacency and insecurities, and thus we became partners on our journeys to know and desire God more. We had a common love for basketball and getting tan but it was our common thirst for Him is what bonded us. We made countless memories together but it was our mutual love for Christ that differentiated our friendship from the other girls we’d laugh with.
I still remember the first time I ever heard the song, “I Can Only Imagine.” I was in her parent’s home in Houston when she played it for me and I cried and cried and we talked about our longing for heaven. Meredith was always doing that- she was always pointing me to heaven. When I had played terribly and was feeling discouraged, it only took a brief walk to the locker room with Mere to cheer me up. She would say something, just the right thing, to make me laugh and remind me why I’m on the planet. She was like my own personal compass, constantly pointing me back to God and my true purpose when I tried to search for my identity in basketball.
After college, despite my efforts to convince her to stay in sunny southern California, she moved back to Houston- that hot, sticky city full of big hair and big trucks, and well, big everything. She has two absolutely adorable kids, Jake and Olivia, who both have big eyes and big smiles and she has a third on the way. She is a marvelous mother and clearly is living in a VERY different stage of life than I am right now. I hadn’t seen Mere in about 2 years. However, when she came into town for Megan’s wedding, we curled our hair together and chatted and laughed and confessed and encouraged like we were still “bus buddies” travelling home from a basketball game together. (I have lots of matching pictures with Mere. This one was from Midnight Madness and Mere, always trying to be taller, was on her toes and me, always being a punk, went up on mine as well so she’d still look short)

We’ve both changed remarkably since our college years. We laugh about how if we had to do it all over we would have worn sun screen and hats and we wouldn’t have frequented the tanning beds. But as my wrinkles begin to emerge, I hope I don’t grow self-conscious. Rather, I hope I see them and remember all the hours I spent laying on the beach with Mere, or at the pool, or by the library. I hope I laugh about the time a girl hit on her while we sunning. I hope I smile as I think about how we were “burning off our zits” in the tanning beds. Because it wasn’t just the sun that left unchangable marks on us, we left marks on each other; we are permanently changed by our years together. And even now, 6 years after our graduation, we still tend to dress oddly similar.

Both Megan and Meredith played critical roles in the formation of who I’ve become. Both pointed me to adventure and fun but also to Jesus. Both have made my life rich. Deliciously rich, indeed.

Line between laughter and sobs

I’ve always found it odd what a fine line exists between laughing hysterically and sobbing uncontrollably. When I’m doubled over in a wheezing belly laugh, tears are typically streaming down my cheeks. Likewise, when painful, salty, fat tears are flowing, I find myself oddly close to collapsing into hysterical laughter. Perhaps this stems back to my childhood when I would get hurt and go to my dad for comfort who would, without exception, make a joke that would have me giggling against my will. He showed little sympathy when we got hurt- when I got hit by a car, he scolded me for ruining my mom’s bike.
Whatever the reason, I’ve also found this line between laughing and crying to be a very fine one when I’m with my Iron Well girls. Yes, we named ourselves. And yes, we have matching t-shirts. Don’t hate.

These six girls were hand-picked for me. Truthfully, I might not have picked them on my own to be my “life-long friends.” I might have picked girls who were more like me. However, I think that’s one of the beautiful aspects of our friendship- God brought us together with all our unique quirks and perspectives to form a pretty incredible group. We’re all a bit goofy, we all love the Lord, and we all care about our friendship. Care so much that we won’t let it dwindle despite living in different states and cities and experiencing different walks of life.
We met at Westmont; were randomly selected to live in 3 dorm rooms in the same section of Page; were the last girls in the cafeteria one Friday night and decided then and there to be friends. Only God knew what type of bond would be formed as 7 freshmen girls decided to meet and pray together. We met all over campus but often times ended up on one girls’ bed. (One night we were on my top bunk and Jenny kindly pointed out that I had been wiping my boogers on the ceiling. I knew they’d be life-long friends when they just laughed and didn’t judge me. In my defense, who wants to climb off the top bunk to get a tissue? Not me. At least I wasn’t eating them.) Here we are at age 18 and the following year as sophomores at age 19.

Now, ten years after that first meeting, 5 marriages later, 3 babies later, several moves and new jobs later, we still meet and pray together. Once a year. For one weekend we get together and remember what a glorious gift we’ve been given: each other. This year we met in Palm Springs and though we swam, hiked, picnicked, got pedicures, saw a movie, played games, and ate, what I will remember most is the laughter and the tears. There was an abundance of both.
You can’t do this with just anybody. You can’t laugh so hard you roll on the ground watching someone drool during chubby bunny if you’re just acquaintances. You can’t cry so hard that when you try to speak, it sounds like you’ve been sucking helium if you hardly know the person. Laughter and tears require trust. You have to let go of inhibitions and not care what your face looks like or how you sound because you trust that the others won’t care either. I love this. I love how I can laugh and cry with these girls without inhibitions. I love watching them laugh and cry- even if it is in the middle of a restaurant.
We tend to cause a bit of a scene whenever we’re in public- maybe it’s because there’s 7 of us or because we’re usually laughing and loud; maybe it’s because 3 are currently pregnant or because of the matching attire; or maybe it’s because we’re a little weird and take pictures like this:

and like to come up with creative poses like these:
The first scene we caused was in a bathroom at a public elementary school in LA. Jenny, Amy and I were waiting for the rest of the girls to fly into LAX and took a walk in a nearby neighborhood. Both girls are preggers so with heavy bladders, we searched for a bathroom and found a school. A heavily locked school. Giant locks were at each entrance save for one which I convinced the girls to slip through. We cautiously searched for the bathrooms while attempting to walk with confidence so we wouldn’t be stopped for trespassing. When we finally found the little girls’ room, we slipped in only to find three very surprised 5 year old girls with huge eyes gaping up at us, jaws dropped, exclaiming, “Whoa!” simultaneously. I’m not sure if it was our height, skin color, or matching shirts that made them gasp but in true kid fashion they blurted out, “What are YOU doing here?” The preggos darted for the miniature toilets while I explained that we are kids too and it was totally normal for us to be there. Their logic was comical.
girl: “You’re not a kid.”
me: “Am too.”
girl: “No you’re not. Look in the mirror.”
me: turn to face the mirror and see only my stomach. “Okay, you make a good point.”
girl: comes behind me and grabs both my wrists pretending to cuff them, “You’re under arrest. You’re coming with me.”
All three girls proceeded to grab my wrists, yelling “you’re busted!” and pulling me towards the door. I was getting worried about the adults outside seeing me dragged out so I tried to divert their attention by tickling them. In hindsight, that would have looked pretty sketchy too. Luckily, at this moment Jenny emerged and dropped her bracelet which the girls found hilarious.
Next scene: LAX. Jenny, Amy and I snuck up on unsuspecting Lesley at baggage claim. Lesley tells the story here. Scaring people is one of my favorite past times and scaring in public is only better. We got quite a few stares and got more a few moments later when we battled against the obnoxious LAX security. You’re not allowed to park when picking up people on the curb- even if they are your closest friends and you haven’t seen them in a long time. This little rule and this little man with a badge didn’t stop us from piling out of cars to hug our dear friends. He flashed his light at us and yelled but that only made me more irritated and more passive aggressive. I dragged my feet and slowly trudged to the car, took forever to put on my seat belt, eventually turned on my blinker and toyed with this poor man, pretending to leave and then driving so slowly he actually stopped traffic so I could change lanes and leave his sacred curb. Not my most Christ-like moment but geesh, can’t a girl hug her friends?
Next scene: tiny, quiet Thai restaurant suddenly invaded by 7 tall, loud, hungry girls.

Next scene: on the tram climbing thousands of feet to the top of the mountain. It’s not called “360 degrees of WOW” for nothin. We laughed and squealed the whole way to the top.

Next scene: Tears of laughter and joy mingled as we scarfed down delicious Mexican food. Don’t believe we scarfed? When the waiter saw how quickly our chips were gone he said, “Aye yie yie” and quickly refilled our baskets.

Next scene: Chinese fire drill. Hadn’t done one of these in years but when Jenny suggested it, who could turn that down?
Last scene: goodbye hugs at LAX. Luckily we get to reconvene in the spring for Lori’s wedding where there inevitably will be lots more laughter and tears of joy. Can’t wait!

I know it’s NOT my first year teaching at Valley because…

I showed up to our first staff meeting 30 seconds before it started looking like a sweaty mess. Two years ago I stressed out the night before this first meeting because I didn’t know what to wear, who I would sit by, or what impression I would make on people. I could potentially be meeting my future husband so I had to look cute and not be awkward. This is not as easy as it sounds. I still remember being at a women’s retreat with my college roommates and we were determined to make some new friends. Jenny said, “Guys, we have to try to be normal.”


Three potential new friends sat down. We got excited. Potential friend # 1 called a guy a “tool” and Lesley said, “What, like a hammer?” Then Jenny said, “I just looooove cherry pie” for no reason at all. If that didn’t scare our potential new friends away, we must have lost them when we stopped the car and made Lesley get out in just her underwear and run across the highway to pet the horses.


But I digress. My point is, it’s not easy to force myself to be normal and not awkward. I hate trying to impress people and love that I don’t have that pressure at school any more. This year I went for a morning run right before the meeting and didn’t even leave myself enough time to try to cover the massive zit on my chin. The pictures below are of us trying to be normal. The first one is with the girls we attempted to befriend. Don’t worry Lesley- I promise I won’t post the other picture. Please notice that I am being much more normal than Jenny and Lesley. The second is with the president of Westmont. I can’t remember exactly what awkward lines we said to him but know it was something along the lines of, “Gee Mr. Gaede, you’re famous.”

When I accidentally prank called the principal, I didn’t freak out. My elbow hit a button and I looked down and noticed I was calling the principal’s office. I quickly hung up and began brainstorming other ways I could purposely prank him. He still has no idea that it was me that stuffed his mailbox full of shredded paper last year.
When the principal said, “I’m sure you all had interesting summers,” the single Bible teacher whispered to me, “yeah it was, I lost my virginity.” She was totally kidding. If I had been drinking milk, it would have shot out of my nose. I love that I’ve established relationships and have such a fun group of people to work and laugh with.
I went home at lunch to make a sandwich and watch Seinfeld. I know you might be thinking that I should be hanging out with this fun group but one of the perks of having established friendships is that I don’t have to hang out when I don’t feel social. Plus, the “how was your summer” conversation is getting old already. I might start making stuff up.
I left a meeting just to walk around because I was bored. I plan on doing this much more often. It was so freeing- like discovering in college that you don’t have to raise your hand and ask to use the restroom during class. I did not get as extreme as my cousin who went to the “bathroom” and was gone for 2 hours. She’s been at Valley longer than me:)
I ate eight cookies at the break. Actually, if it was my first year, I still would have eaten eight cookies but I would have done it very covertly- going back several times, each time pretending to notice the goodies for the first time. By now, everyone knows that I eat a lot so I piled my napkin high with all sorts of goodness and had no shame stuffing my face.
I was able to be my immature self. I made ugly faces at people across the room and laughed at people when their stomach’s growled awkwardly loud. I tapped people on shoulders and then moved to their other side. I love when I don’t have to pretend to be more mature than I am. The following is a conversation I had this summer with a girl on my team concerning the freedom I now feel to be myself.
girl- “Coach, I’m really glad I don’t have you as my teacher.”
me- very offended, “WHAT? Why?”
girl- Well I could never take you seriously. I would be laughing at you all the time.
me- still aghast, “You had me when you were a freshman and didn’t laugh at me all the time.”
girl- “Yeah, but that was when you hated America and were annoyed by all us entitled Americans. Now I know just how weird you actually are.”
me- “Touche.”
I love that I am past that awful stage in my first year when I did rather despise living in America. My students clearly noticed a difference.
I love that I don’t have to worry about making first impressions on the teachers and can be weird around them. However, I will be making first impressions on the incoming freshmen. I’ve toyed with the idea of dressing in a jean jumper and being a jerk on the first day just to mess with them. It’s crazy how many assumptions and judgments they will be making based on how I speak to them about the syllabus.
They have no idea how weird their new English teacher is and I don’t think they’ll find out on day one. Don’t worry- I do use a bit of a filter so although I might teach them how to do double chins, they have no idea just how strange I really am.
I hope that on our first day next week I will be able to communicate to my kids right away how much I care about them. I hope that they will not think I am annoyed by them (even if I am) and I hope they will feel loved when they are in room A1.