one day when the sky rolls back

I sat cross-legged in front of the glowing luminescence of my laptop screen as the darkness crept through my wooden blinds. Ecology notes were scribbled in green on the whiteboard above my head. I was surrounded by cardboard boxes and stacks of packing paper. On breaks from studying I wrapped a piggy bank from England, chess set from Afghanistan, and flower vase from my mom. Right now I was watching a YouTube video which summarized the entire first semester of Organic Chemistry.

I heard the doorknob jingle and listened for the scratch that signaled the door’s opening. My dad had made his way down from Colorado Springs to help pack up the remaining furniture in my brother’s room as well as mine. He had just returned from a trip to get sandwiches for dinner, and we ate on two unmatched chairs at a table piled high with puzzles, kitchen towels, and silverware in the middle of being sorted.

“Do you think you’ll miss it?”

“No.”

A few months before, I was living alone in our family’s 3,000 square foot house. My dad had moved to Colorado Springs to finish his career in the Air Force, my mom had followed soon after. Daniel and I stayed back while he finished high school and I continued my sophomore year at ACU. After the summer, he went up to live with our parents while I returned to Abilene once more for the start of the fall semester.

I’d never lived by myself before. It was so quiet. I never felt like putting on music because it reminded me of penny boarding across the wood floor on Saturday mornings or making pancakes on rainy afternoons. Weekends would pass without me saying a word to anyone; it was eerie to hear my own voice pleading our dogs to come back inside.

I didn’t really have any friends in Abilene. I volunteered a bit, which occupied some of my time outside of classes. I met people. I went for runs and baked apple pies and chocolate chip cookies. I read. On Halloween I bought a bag of candy and made a feeble attempt at socialization by handing it out to children in spiderman costumes and pumpkin babies. That didn’t go very well.

I could have tried harder. I should have tried harder. There were Honors College game nights I got emails about, intramural teams I found online, research club lunches I could have attended. And sometimes I did. I spent a solid semester immersing myself, short of joining a social club, in activities and socialization. It was fun, but I wasn’t very good at being a southern Christian girl. And I wasn’t good at being the opposite of one either. I love being outside but it was too hot most of the year and Abilene is at least three hours from anything “cool,” and even that’s supposing you enjoy high temperatures and roads packed with jacked-up trucks.

Ultimately, it wasn’t hard to decide to leave. There were some academic and resume-worthy excuses to try to stick it out, but those were pretty easy to disregard and I have a lot of practice in the leaving department. I’ve done it my entire life. There was one key difference though. This time the choice would be entirely mine. I would have to stand up for myself and hastily think of reasons why I couldn’t stay when asked, and try as preciously as possible not to offend people in the town they loved and I hated.

After dinner that night, I spent a few more hours studying before climbing into bed in our dismantled house. I thought about how it would feel the next day to leave. I went over the reactions and structures of organic chemicals for my final final tomorrow. Remembered the feeling of that hug. That note. Those well wishes.

When I awoke the next morning, the most beautiful sunrise glittered through the branches along our street. I ate dry cereal for breakfast and took my last shower at 842 Elmwood Dr. Abilene, TX 79605. I was too distracted thinking about the final to relish in the sentimentality of the moment and pleaded with myself not to care.

My dad drove me to campus.

This is the last time I’ll ever go this way and I’m not even driving.

I motioned for him to pull in just over there as I gathered my backpack and stepped out from the passenger’s side. The sky was quiet for such a big day.

“Kill it,” he smiled as I closed the door.

With the test behind me, I climbed the steps from the basement of the science building two at a time. I beamed as I opened the door to the warm and moist outside air. That one guy I’d always wanted to talk to said Have A Great Winter Break. The girl I usually passed before Western Lit said All The Best.

On the drive out of town, past the windmills of Sweetwater and the United Supermarket in Post, I’ll admit that a few tears streaked down my face. I was so relieved to be done. I couldn’t stop smiling, not as much for what was left behind but more for what was to come.

*Farther Along by Josh Garrels

Cardboard Boxes and Packing Tape

Being in the military means being unbelievably familiar with the unannounced and vexatious riiiiiiippp of masking tape and the melancholy of leaving life behind. The uncomfortable wrapping of precious items accompanied by the unsure and skeptical suspicion that furniture will never look the same again. The sensation of hot, humid air permeating the coldest and safest cracks. The parading of every personal item you’ve ever owned across the eyes of neighbors and workers you’ll never know.

Especially during these times, I’m so thankful for the support of communities and organizations around the country in helping with transitions and adjustments, because it’s a hard thing, moving. Frequent instances of relocation don’t make the lifestyle change any easier either. It’s a fun thing too though, sitting on a plane or in a stuffed-full-of-priceless-possessions car, driving off into the great unknown. Starting over. Beginning again.

Being left, however, is new to me. Yesterday, during what looked like a traditional load-up-the-moving-truck-as-we-send-our-kid-away-to-college ordeal, we finished packing the essential living necessities and waved goodbye to my parents as they set off for Colorado. There aren’t many situations in life where a drastic change occurs with the slow departure of a bright yellow moving truck. Usually adjustments happen gradually. But I know that life will never be the same. It’s not like they’re gone forever or that life is going to be horrible, it’s just that life will never be the same again.

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And change hurts. Watching loved ones leave hurts. I’m excited to spend time in the Centennial State, absorbing the unique culture, finding new best places to eat, and (of course) exploring the great outdoors, but the tangible absence of one parent is hard. New and different, but hard.

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College is Fun

In January of this year, I started college. Tears were shed and nights were short and I’m so glad it’s over.

After multiple weekends laboring over unrecognizable words, I can tell you ALL about the reproductive processes of plants; but honestly have a very minimal understanding of near-death experiences despite having written a 1200-word paper about the phenomenon. Showing up for Bible class was like showing up to a funeral and Biology Lab was the most difficult and time consuming yet fulfilling class I’ve taken so far. Political Science was fascinating and Calculus was miserable and it should be noted that, for the academic counselors amongst you, I still have no idea what I want to major in.

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George wishing Calculus wasn’t so confusing

I learned so much during these last four months, both academically and spiritually, but one of the most impactful realizations I’ve had since beginning higher education is that some of the highest educated individuals are not nearly as intelligent as I thought they would be. I should have known, since my whole life has consisted of instances when I expected more than reality ended up providing. Not to be negative and say that everything in the world is so bad – I’ve just learned, especially during this semester, that people (even Masters/PhD degree holders) are susceptible to laziness and procrastination. Don’t get me wrong, most of my professors have been outstanding – some of the most caring and smart people I’ve ever met, it’s just the one that sends you an email titled “URGENT URGENT URGENT” at 4pm on the last day of the semester that really dampen the overall enjoyable experience.

No, but altogether I’ve had a fantastic time. I love college. Let it be known at this point in time (not being able to quickly recall the horrible parts and instead remembering the feeling of walking out of my last final completely knowing after hours of studying that I made an A) that college is fun. Fun because working hard pays off in big ways and finishing is the most liberating feeling ever.

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Jasper, the most complacent study partner

And by the way, be expecting more blog posts since I am no longer exclusively bound by 100 question comprehensive exams and 20 minute video presentations. I  truly look forward to updating you on my life and writing without feeling like I have to constantly look up synonyms for simple words.

This time for Africa

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During the summer of 2012, I was able to go on a rather splendid and intense mission trip to Tanzania with Teen Missions International. Around 20 or so years earlier, my dad went to Tasmania and Thailand with the same organization, once as a team member and once as a leader; which is how I heard of the unique opportunity. Two years before, I went to Western Samoa (located near Australia) with the same organization. But going to Tanzania was a different experience. Way more physically, spiritually, and emotionally challenging. Way better. But don’t tell anyone else that.

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While there, we spent some time working on a missionary building (brick laying and things of the sort), and hiking around the “foothills” of Mt. Kilimanjaro, evangelizing to different schools.

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The experience was extremely eye-opening. I returned realizing how much we waste in America, from hotel shampoo to food. No, I didn’t come home and radically change the way I live my life, but the event was still incredibly impacting. That’s why I love traveling – you learn so much about other cultures and ways of life- which is both humbling and important.

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Someday, I might want to go back and climb Kilimanjaro. Not to mention interact with the people. Some of them are super nice. Some are a little creepy, I’ll admit, but some are really down-to-earth and nice. Just like everywhere, really. But the lack of technology and the lack of material objects affects the way people are. And it’s special to interact with people who don’t necessarily interact with Facebook every day.

For the record: Not all of Africa is made up of emaciated, sobbing, little kids. There’s a lot of poverty, yes, but you’d be surprised at the amount of happiness and productivity present.

ma famille

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Dave- (verb) fantastic waffle maker, United States Air Force physician, gun enthusiast, marvelous giver of gifts, outstanding tutor, best dad of all time.

Heila- (noun) incredible analyst, exceptional conversationalist, fervent writer and best comforter.

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Daniel- (preposition) participant in all things adventurous, martial artist, night owl, people person, lover of guns and animals, best friend.

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Jasper- (adjective) tender, fragile, lover of laps and people.

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George- (noun) BULLY at heart with teddy bear tendencies. 

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 My family is special and has been more influential and valuable to me than I can even put into words.

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WATER

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Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go the sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and make him the brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.

Two points about this passage from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. First, if you’re like me and automatically avoid reading anything in quotes or italics, go back and read it, I promise it’s worthwhile. And second, don’t get the impression that I’ve read all of Moby Dick. I haven’t. I wish I could say that I have, though, because it seems like a smart people book. Nonetheless, this particular passage (from the very first chapter), is so good and true and perfect for the start of a blog post.

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Ever since I can remember I’ve loved water. The emotions felt when I think of the essential ingredient to life cannot be put into words. I just love it so much. The weightlessness experienced when swimming and floating. The cold, smooth feeling against my skin. The quietness. The undiscovered, incomprehensable, underwater world. Every single thing about water, salty or fresh, cold or warm, frozen or flowing, is completely breathtaking.

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“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14

little Abby

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I wonder if kids that I knew when I was little, still remember me as I do them. I wonder if people that I went to school with in Alamo Heights still remember me. I hope so, because I remember them, and think fondly of them. I almost always remember the good parts of people. They weren’t necessarily my favorite when I interacted with them daily, but now, when I look back on my life then, they are so cool, and nice, and funny. And I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty sure I picture our relationship significantly more popular than it was…

But anyway, thinking of a story from my childhood is slightly difficult. I’m not sure if it’s because I just can’t think of anything, or because, probably the more likely option, I wasn’t very interesting. Daniel was rushed to the hospital once in England for eating possibly poisonous berries. My mom built little tree houses for herself in the summer, and read all day in them. When my dad was young he spray-painted on his dad’s automotive store. I’ve never broken a bone, met an awesome celebrity, or even been published in a newspaper or magazine or anything. But one thing that I have experienced, that may be of interest to you, was when I lived in England for four years.

My family lived in a quaint little village near Bury St. Edmunds.

 In this house

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Attending a school that we never took a picture of, but you can see in the background of this

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Participating in field day events with our house color teams

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Visiting places like this

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And this

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And this

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And this

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And doing sweet little carefree activities like this

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And this

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And this

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And totally not realizing how incredibly lucky we were

Because my dad was risking his life all the time and we didn’t even know it.

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