Tag Archives: Iron Well

A Closet Full of Stories (Part 2)

This is Part 2 in a series about my closet.  (You can find Part 1 HERE)  And because I am so long-winded, there will be a Part 3 in a few days.  Who knew I could talk about old clothes for so long?

God often speaks through His word, through sermons and nature and music and people.  But lately, He’s been speaking through my clothes.  He’s been reminding me of His truths and His faithfulness through shorts and dresses and tank tops.  Here are items # 6-8 in my closet that God has used to point to Himself.

6) My lacy summer shorts

On this, the first official day of my summer, it is only fitting that I tell you about my “summer shorts.”

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Over the past few years, a plain-colored t-shirt paired with these shorts has become my official “summer uniform.”  Does anyone else wear the same outfit 3 or 4 times a week during the summer?

Heidi originally bought them for me from Wet Seal.  Yes, that Wet Seal- the store for 13-16 year old girls.  Stop judging.  You can do karate kicks in these shorts without fear of ripping them.  You can eat a pint of ice cream and never have to unbutton your pants because they have an elastic band- perfect for a girl who gets monster food-babies.  They are basically maternity shorts for the non-pregnant girls who love to eat.

All my shorts get packed away during the winter, so whenever I pull these shorts out of the closet, it means one thing: summer is coming!

This past teaching year was my easiest and most enjoyable year, but there have been other years when I start a summer countdown in January.  Some years are hard.  Some seasons of life can be frustrating or disappointing or sad and might feel like they’ll never end.

But they will.

They always do.

In the middle of those seemingly endless winter seasons, these shorts remind me we must cling to the hope that no season lasts forever.  Psalm 30:5 says, “…the weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Or in my translation: “….the crappy times may last for a while, but grab your lacy shorts because summer is coming!”

7) My Iron Well tank top

Paul finds it a little bit ridiculous/ hilarious that my college friend group not only has a name for ourselves, Iron Well, but has made merchandise with our name on it:matchy awkward

That picture was taken 5 years ago.  Since then, there have been moves, marriages, and babies.  Lots of babies.  But while our families have grown and life-stages have changed, one thing has remained the same: the seven of us are still committed to each other.

Our most recent Iron Well attire is a tank top Anne’s husband designed for us to wear on our cruise:IMG_7445

Yes, we are that group of girls.  The group that proudly wears matching shirts, laughs obnoxiously loud in public places, and has a thousand inside jokes.

These girls are one of God’s greatest gifts to me.  Lesley recently was cleaning out her garage and discovered a tub full of our old love letters to each other.  We were creepily infatuated with each other in college and were determined ours would be a friendship that would last.

Our determination has paid off.

Because we’ve been so intentional about our friendship, we’ve remained close.  Almost every year since graduation we’ve had an annual Iron Well get-together.  This can be expensive and difficult (especially since there are now 15 Iron Well kiddos!), but we decided long ago the expense was worth it.

Lately we been using the “Glide” app, where we leave videos for each other every week.  Even though we’re spread across 3 different states and 7 different cities, we know what’s going on in each other’s lives.

We know when someone has a sick kid, a bad day, a theological question, or a good book recommendation.  We’re currently in a discussion about the upcoming Supreme Court decision concerning gay marriage.  But we’re equally invested in the conversation about whether or not jean capris are still in style. (Are they?  Aren’t they?  Feel free to weigh in.)

If you don’t check your phone for a few hours, you might miss 37 new videos from these girls.  So while we fold laundry, dry dishes, curl our hair, cook dinner and lay in bed, we watch our friends.  And we laugh.  And cry. And ponder.  And it’s almost like we’re back in the dorm rooms.

Paul has only met these girls once or twice but recognizes their voices and their laughs.  He knows their personalities and the names of their husbands and kids.  Because he overhears our endless videos to each other, he feels like he actually knows these girls.  I love that.

Every time I slip on my Iron Well tank, I am reminded that God has LAVISHED His love on me through these girls.  We may not live down the hall from each other any more, but we continue to invest in each other’s lives from a distance, and have learned that friendships like these are far too valuable for a price tag.

8)  My bridesmaid dress from Lindsay’s weddingIMG_2159

This dress is one of my favorites.  Not only is it super cute, it also has one of my favorite God stories behind it.  At Chris and Lindsay’s rehearsal dinner, I gave a toast and cried as I shared the story.

Lindsay and I met in an unlikely place:  Mozambique.  We taught in the classrooms next to each other and were instant “Africa BFF’s.”IMG_2146

Then Lindsay moved home to Texas and I moved home to California.  We called each other on occasion, but the calls became fewer and farther in between, and it seemed we would lose touch over time.  It appeared ours would be a friendship for just one chapter in our lives.

But God had other plans.

Because while we were in Mozambique running together, laughing with orphans together and eating raw cookie dough together, He was doing something wonderful behind the scenes.  He was setting up the foundation of a friendship which would become crucial for both of us in the next stage of life.

A year after we returned to the States and life was back to normal, I got a call from Lindsay.  A relationship had ended abruptly and her heart was broken into a thousand little pieces.  Coincidentally, the week prior, I too had lost a relationship I had thought was going to be long-term.

We cried together and then I had a stroke of genius. “Why don’t you come out here?  Get on a plane and come stay with me this summer.”

So she did.

And God did something special that summer.  He began the healing process in each of our hearts and used each other to do it.

Lindsay came out every summer for the next few years:

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Together we hiked and shopped and explored just about every single strip of coastline in southern California.  Our hearts were mended and we began the waiting game.  “Okay, God.  We’re ready to meet our husbands.  Now where are they?”

We both finally tried online dating and both failed miserably.  We called each other after terrible dates and talked about potential set-ups.  We were two girls in their 30’s, still living at home while most of our friends were married and turning into baby-making factories.

And then one day I got another call from Lindsay.  She had met someone.

She was behind him in line at Subway but didn’t say anything.  However, since he had on a name tag and they live in a small town, some quick online-stalking revealed they had a mutual friend.  The friend called Chris.  Chris called Lindsay.  They went out the next night.  Crazy talk.

Even crazier?

Three weeks later, I met Paul.

Even crazier than that?  Both boys were 26.  Lindsay and I laughed at our cougar status and marveled at the fact that the previous summer we were both single and now we both had 26-year old boyfriends.

A few weeks later, I called Lindsay to tell her things were getting serious.  Paul had dropped the “L” word.  Five days after my call, she called me giggling, to tell me Chris too had said, “I love you.”

On May 12, Paul popped the question.

On May 14, Chris did too.

Paul and I were married on September 20.

Chris and Lindsay said, “I do” on November 15.

As I told this story of bizarre timing at Lindsay’s rehearsal dinner, I talked about how cool it is that we serve a God who cares about us so intimately.  Only He knew Lindsay and I would need to wait for years to find our husbands (perhaps because they needed time to grow up!)  So during those years of living in the scary unknown, God provided for us in a way so like Him- He gave us each other.

His word and His presence provide amazing comfort, but sometimes you need flesh and bone.  Sometimes you need a shoulder to cry on, ears to hear you, and arms to embrace.  So God comforted us during our single years with each other.  He used our shoulders, our ears, and our arms to be His.

God entangled our stories and made it very clear He was behind it all.  I mean, come on, both of these guys are 26 and we meet them just days apart?!?  Then we fall in love, get engaged, and tie the knot on nearly the exact same timetable?

Maybe it was just coincidence.

Or maybe it was the work of a sovereign God who has perfect timing.  Maybe it was the work of a Father who loves to provide for His children and bless them in ways they could never imagine.

I’m inclined to believe the latter.

(Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series.)

Running in a Pack

In March I ran the LA marathon.  I’ve hesitated to write about it because A) life has been busy and B) I don’t want to be one of those people who talk about their work-outs all the time.  I’m writing now because my Talbot classes are done and I just finished grading my last English essay EVER (Hallelujah for World History!), so I have some free time.  Plus, I learned some truly valuable lessons I want to pass along.

These are the lessons you won’t typically read about in a Runner’s magazine.

Lesson # 1- If you don’t prevent chafing, life will be miserable. Continue reading

g’OLD’en friendships part 2

I started writing about “golden friendships” last week when I wrote about my long-time friend, Megan.  She’s old friend and she’s a golden friend.  Continuing on with this idea of old friendships that are “golden” friendships, I’ve put together a list of indicators that your friend might just be a g’OLD’en friend.  If you can think of any more, please feel free to share them in the comments.

20 signs of a golden friendship

1) They know your birthday without checking facebook.

2) They’ve known you through multiple different hairstyles.

3) They know your weaknesses and don’t judge you for them.

4) They know your strengths and don’t envy you because of them.

5) They know how you take your coffee and what you put on your burgers.

6) They know all about your siblings, scars, ex’s, moles, parents, warts, celebrity crushes, fears, and childhood pets.

7) They have passed gas in front of you. Continue reading

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.
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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.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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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?
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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.”

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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:)
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.