Category Archives: College

Subconscious Awesomeness

I’m about to tell you two totally unrelated stories. You’ll probably be confused, but if you just stick with me to the end, it’ll all be worth it. I promise.

Story 1: Years ago, Jenna (college roommate, BFF, and most wonderful person, ever) taught me how to crochet. We would sit in her room, reruns of “Angel” playing in the background, and she would patiently explain the mechanics of single-stitch crochet.

The first thing I ever made, under her watchful eye, was a long, thin scarf that mimicked the colors of the Caribbean. And guess who still has said scarf?

scarf

It rarely gets cold enough for me to wear winter gear around here, but when it dips into the 40s, I always scramble to find my Jenna Scarf so I can don it before it’s seventy-five degrees again. And while I never mastered anything more difficult in the crochet world than plain ol’ single stitch, I still use that skill to this day. I’ve made countless afghans and scarves for friends and family over the years, and I can still hear Jenna’s voice in my ear, guiding me and my hook along.

Story 2: A few years ago, Brian’s Aunt Tina (fellow Broadway fan, Whovian, and all around coolest chick on the planet) came to visit, and she was wearing the loveliest pair of earrings I’d ever seen. I made that very comment to her, and she promptly removed them from her ears and handed them to me. I was speechless. They are still, to this day, my favorite pair of earrings. Pink, sparkly, dichroic glass–they make me happy every time I slide them into my ears.

scarf 2

Brian and I were moving some furniture around in the bedroom about a month ago, and I clumsily knocked over my earring tree. As I carefully placed each pair back where they belonged, I realized with dismay that one of my pink Tina Earrings was missing.

I. Was. Devastated.

We searched the entirety of the bedroom, crawling around on our hands and knees, shining the flashlight into all the dark corners, and after a couple of hours, finally gave up. Still, every day I would peek behind the bookcase, or run my toes under the dresser, hoping beyond hope that I would find my lost earring.

Here’s where it all comes together. Last night, I had a vivid dream that I was searching for something–I don’t remember what, only that there was a sense of urgency involved. It was cold, and I wore my Jenna scarf tucked snugly around my neck. And in the dream, I opened a drawer to find a tarnished gold jewelry box. When I opened it, there were my Tina Earrings. I picked them up, put them on, and continued the search for the now-forgotten holy grail.

This morning, as I was getting dressed for work, I noticed that my Jenna Scarf had fallen from her hanger and was laying in a pool on my closet floor. Unwilling to leave it to yarn-gnawing cats, I picked it up. As I examined it for chewed edges or loose knots, I noticed a glimmer of something sparkly peeking out from the fringe. There, just as in the dream, was my missing earring.

I stood there holding it for a moment, memories of the dream flooding back to me. Then I whooped with excitement and dashed to the living room to tell Brian all about it. He looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Wow. You’re psychic.”

fortuneteller

I hope so. The outfits are bitchin’.

Senior Superlatives

I was voted Most School Spirited in high school.

So was Russell. He was known for removing his shirt, painting his chest,
and arriving at school functions wearing a black Afro wig.
These functions included, but were not limited to,
pep rallies, basketball games, and even girl’s volleyball tournaments.
I’m guessing this probably isn’t much of a surprise to anyone who knows me, or even reads my blog on a regular basis. I’m peppy. That’s just me.
Here’s the thing: I loved high school. Loved. There’s not a single thing I can remember that I didn’t enjoy about the entire experience: from school dances to English class. I was surrounded by a fantastic group of friends, many of whom I’m still close with today. I loved (most) of my teachers and got along with them famously. I participated in clubs and after school activities, and took great pride in my school.
In fact, I often remember being insulted when any of my peers had something negative to say about WHS. I took it personally. How could they say such rude things about Mr. Algebra Teacher? Sure, he was old, and a little smelly, but he’d always been nothing but kind to me! So what if we didn’t have a track around our football field–that didn’t make rival schools any better than us! What do you mean you think the theme for Prom is goofy? Did you attend the 12 after school meetings where we deliberated for hours, trying to find just the right idea?? Then you don’t get to complain.
I took this ferocity, this passion, with me to college. While I wasn’t a cheerleader for Appalachian State, I was “dressed out” at every home football game, gold and black donned with pride.
I even took my hair ribbons with me to college. And I rocked them,
even when friends made fun of me for my “pep.”
I was always the first to cheer on the team, pom poms swishing, for no other reason than my desire to support my fellow students. It went above and beyond having a good time at a football game. I wept when the band would play our Alma Mater at the end of each match, my heart welling up with the love I had for my school. (Our band is also famous for Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” which still gets me choked up today.)
Moment of Truth: I’d go back and relive those 8 years of my life in a heartbeat, even knowing what I do now. I loved it all. Reminiscing isn’t painful for me—I think back on those years of my life and smile.
The trick, you see, is learning to apply that tidbit of my nature into my adult life. Learning to cheer for my family, my friends, my peers, even if my pom poms are proverbial.
I think I manage to do a pretty decent job at it, for the most part. I’m fairly certain that my husband feels supported and appreciated in his position as bread winner AND nursing student. I think Dana would agree that, while I may not have the best form when it comes to hammer curls, I do bring enthusiasm and dedication to our workouts. I’m nothing if not supportive of my brother, my father, my mother, in everything they do: from finding their own paths to mastering the grill to finding the perfect puppy sweater on eBay.
If they have pom poms for that, I’d totally take a pair. Cheering is in my blood.
(Seriously, I couldn’t help myself. Below I’m sharing a video of Appalachian’s Marching Band…they open every single show with the first few bars of “Appalachian Spring.” Enjoy.)


Other things that make me emotional: The National Anthem, some Oreo commercials, and Bambi. Oof…Bambi.

Grace Is NOT My Middle Name, Part Two

When I was 2 years old, I toddled my way around the kitchen, using any surface to maintain stability, including the face of the oven. I suffered 2nd degree burns on my palms.

When I was 3 years old, I chased our dog through the living room on wobbly legs, tripped and fell into the coffee table. I had a gash on my head that required 3 tiny stitches.

When I was 4, I chased my cousin around his house, until he unintentionally slammed my pinky finger in the old-fashioned screen door. The doctor stitched the end of my finger back on with only 5 stitches.

By the time I was 5, my parents did the only thing they could think of to help me with my clumsiness. They enrolled me in dance classes.

Tap, ballet, jazz, tumbling, clogging—from the ages of 5 until high school, I twirled and tapped and flipped and shuffled. Dance taught me discipline and teamwork. It taught me to be an entertainer. It taught me how to be graceful.

It did NOT rid me of my clumsiness.

Case in point: I was a freshman in college. The dorm I lived in hosted a haunted house every year to raise money for a local women’s shelter. East Hall had classrooms in the basement, and they made for the perfect creepy landscape for our endeavor. Eager to help, I volunteered for the decorating committee.

A sunny fall afternoon, I was given the task of hanging heavy black fabric over the windows so that the street lights wouldn’t shine in, ruining the effects of each room. I’d been at it for well over 3 hours and was ready for a break when I finally got to the last room slated to be used for the haunted house. Unfortunately, the windows were impossible for me to reach without a ladder.

Except there was no ladder to be found.

Always the industrious one, I spotted an old-fashioned desk nearby that would allow me to climb up into the windowsill. I dragged it over, tossed my supplies up into the sill, climbed up and started my project.

There was just enough room on the windowsill for me to perch on my knees. I stapled the fabric to the top of the window, and draped it down over the sill, climbed down and took a look at my handiwork. Nope. It wasn’t good enough. The fabric was gaping just enough along the sides to allow light in. So I climbed back up into the windowsill, knelt down on top of the fabric, and began taping the sides down to the glass.

At that moment, a friend walked into the classroom behind me and called my name.

In the instant that I turned to answer, I knew I’d made a grave mistake.

My knee slipped on the satiny fabric, right off of the 6 inch mouth of the windowsill.

And the rest of my body followed.

 

The only thing that kept me from landing on my head (and probably breaking my neck) was the desk I’d used as a step stool. It slowed my momentum when my face connected with the corner.

I vaguely remember waking up with a sea of concerned-looking faces hovering over me. I also remember writing my parents’ phone number on a sheet of paper and being alarmed that my hand was bloody. I remember being totally embarrassed when the paramedics arrived and wouldn’t let me walk to the ambulance. I remember being even more embarrassed when I realized how hot the young paramedic was who was riding in the back of the ambulance with me.

I remember my heart stopping when my roommate wouldn’t let me see my face in a mirror while we waited in the ER.

Injuries sustained:
mild concussion
contusions on my hip, back, and buttocks
gash in the bottom of my chin (from the desk) which required 8 stitches
3 bruised ribs

The worst of my injuries, though, is not one to discuss with the feint of heart. So if you have an aversion to weird stuff, you might just want to scroll to the bottom of this post. Seriously. You’ve been forewarned.

My front tooth punctured through my bottom lip. And somehow following through that trajectory, managed to turn completely around in the socket. So when I smiled, my front tooth was essentially backwards.

To repair this damage, I had to have emergency oral surgery. Believe it or not, this only entailed the surgeon grasping my tooth with his fingers, turning it around, and shoving it back into the socket. Hard. He then wired my 4 front teeth together, sutured the inside of my bottom lip, then the outside of my bottom lip, and told me to come back to see him in a month to have the wire removed.

Don’t worry, there was plenty of lidocaine. (If you’ve ever taken a shot of lidocaine for dental work, imagine taking 6 of those, two in the roof of your mouth. Now weep for me and the pain I endured.)

Needless to say, the next 2 weeks of college are a colorful blur. Always a fan of bruises, I’m told I was more than willing to share them with any and all who asked. (Including my husband, who was at the time little more than a friend.) (Let me say that the one on my behind was a beautiful shade of indigo.)(I tell people that Brian fell in love with me the moment I showed him my ass.)

In the moment that I fell, my dance background never came into play. I can only imagine how much more damage would’ve been done if I’d tried that fancy pirouette mid-air. Sorry, Mom and Dad…your attempts to heal me of my clumsiness did not work.

Remind me to tell you guys the story of how I lost my balance and fell into the bricks lining my parents driveway one day…

She Said Yes

It was Christmastime. The malls were decked with ribbons and lights and giant evergreen trees. We’d gotten our first snow of the winter, and everyone: from child to college students, could be seen outside, enjoying the wintery fun. Christmas carols were heard on the radio airwaves, the occasional Santa hat could be seen, and the holiday spirit was in the air.
In spite of the snow, the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, was in the throes of final exams.
I was stretched thin. As a full time student, I had several exams to study for. On top of the study stress was the stress of also working a full time job.
Because I had to pay the rent somehow.
And out of everything, the one thing I wasn’t willing to give up was the apartment I shared with my boyfriend and our three rambunctious cats.
When we first started dating, Brian made it clear that he had plans to move to Nevada to live with his father. The tickets were paid for, the arrangements made. We decided to just enjoy the summer together, never expecting to fall in love. Just before he was set to leave, Brian surprised me with a weekend trip to Wilmington for an Edwin McCain concert. While en route, we got the call that would forever change the shape of our relationship.
My grandfather, the patriarch of our family, had suddenly passed away.
Me with Paw, at Tweetsie Railroad circa 1984.
Brian, who’d been intending on enjoying this last romantic excursion, was instead thrust into a tense, emotional situation in which he had to “meet the parents,” console his devastated girlfriend, and attend a funeral for a man he’d never met.
By the time our trip was over, I knew in my heart that I wanted Brian to stay. “That’s really great,” he’d said to me. “Because I already told my dad I was staying in North Carolina to be with you.”
Six months later, and we’d been living the love story of the ages. We’d already started planning our lives together. We’d stay up late at night talking about our dreams, our goals. We’d name our future children, plan where we’d live, imagine our first home. We were both on the same page about marriage and family and kids.
Apparently, we couldn’t afford to get Brian a haircut,
but we could afford really bad hair dye for me.
One afternoon, in between class and work and studying, I took a quick (and much needed) break, and headed to the mall, where Brian worked at a small café called “Tucker’s.” My mission was two-fold: visit with Brian during his lunch break, and pick out a new outfit for an upcoming holiday party. I’d found what I’d wanted at a department store, but found myself short on cash. Knowing Brian was at work, I’d asked the lady to hold the black knit cardigan I’d chosen, and went in search of my honey, hoping his pockets were a little deeper than mine were that day.
That’s when something sparkly caught my attention in the jewelry store’s window.
The three stones represent “Past, Present, and Future.
I was staring in open-mouthed delight at this gorgeous ring when I heard a familiar voice behind me.
“Whatcha lookin’ at, dear?”
Crap. I’d been caught by my boyfriend while drooling on looking at engagement rings.
“Oh, nothing. The display just caught my eye.”

“Yeah, sure.” I could hear the humor in his voice. “Which one?”
I pointed out the ring and held my breath, unsure of what his reaction would be.
“Oh, wow. That’s really nice,” he said.
And in typical boy fashion, he managed to diffuse the situation with his nonchalance. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or annoyed.
“What are you doing here, anyway? Don’t you have your last exam this afternoon?”
“Yeah, I just had to come find something to wear to that party. They’re holding a sweater for me because I’m a little short. Can you float me a $20?”
“I haven’t picked up my tips yet. Why don’t you leave it? I’ll pick it up for you after work and have it for you when you get home later.”
“Alright, thanks hon.”
And with that, I was off to the bus stop.
The entire way to campus I kept thinking about how he’d blown me off when it came to that engagement ring. Maybe he wasn’t really thinking about marriage yet after all. I mean, we were still really young, and I had no intentions of getting married before I graduated from college. But we were in this for the long haul, weren’t we?
Several hours later and I’d pushed the ring incident to the back of my mind so I could focus on my last exam of the semester. Relieved, exhausted, and a little moody, I was more than ready to get home, kick off my boots, and relax.
As I pushed open the front door to our apartment, I saw Brian sitting on the sofa next to an extremely large, beautifully wrapped Christmas present.
“Uh…what’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s just your sweater.”
“Why’d you have it gift wrapped?” This was not Brian’s usual MO.
“They were doing it for free in the mall today, so I just thought it would be a nice thing to do.”
“Weirdo.” I laughed.  I crossed the room to set down my heavy bag and knelt to take my shoes off.
“Don’t you want to open it?” he asked.
“Right now?”“Yeah, right now,” he insisted.

Still clueless as to what was going on, I agreed to open the package. True to his word, when I lifted the lid, I saw the pretty black cardigan I’d chosen for the Christmas party.
Thinking he just needed a little appreciation for running this errand for me, I leaned over, pecked him on the cheek, and said, “Thanks for picking it up for me.” I settled back, grabbed for the remote, and prepared to get my relaxation on.
“Aren’t you going to try it on?” came a voice from beside me.
“Why? What size did you get?” I asked.
“The one you asked for. But you should still try it on.”
“I tried it on at the store.”

“You should try it on anyway. So I can see it.”
At this point I was a mixture of annoyed, befuddled, and amused. “Since when do you care so much about my fashion choices?” I joked.
“I’d just like to see it on you, that’s all.”
Well what girl can so no to that? So I pulled the cardigan from the box, slipped it on over my long-sleeved blouse, and did a little turn in the middle of the living room.
“So? Do you like it?”
I glanced over at my boyfriend who was looking at me with expectation in his eyes.
“What?” I was so lost.
He grabbed my hands, pulled me over to the couch, and flipped up the left sleeve.
There, carefully taped to the inside of the sweater sleeve, was the gorgeous ring I’d been drooling over that very afternoon.
Absolutely stunned, I looked up at him.
And in true Brian fashion, he said, “So…will ya?”
The rest of the story goes the way most engagement stories go: hysterical crying, lots of head nodding, placing the ring on my finger, lots of hugging and kissing, staring at the new ring on my left hand. Then I jumped off the couch, dashed to the phone, and called my parents long distance to share the news.
When I made my announcement, I could hear my Mom crying on the other end of the phone. And my Dad said, “Well it took long enough. The boy called us last week and asked for my permission.”
And that, dear readers, is why I married Brian. Not just because he’s clever or handsome or smart or sexy. But because he never misses the important details.
Our engagement photo, taken in 2004.

Humiliation Central (Linky)

I asked you to choose my blog for today…and readers, your voice was heard.

Apparently you want nothing more than for me to humiliate myself on the world wide web. (None of you more so than my husband. Sigh.)
I’m nothing if not a giver, so today I’m presenting you with my most embarrassing story, ever. Prepare yourself for lots of blushing (on my part.) Enjoy.
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I was a shiny new freshman, learning the ropes of college life and enjoying every minute. By week 5, I was convinced that the dorm life was meant for me. I loved my newfound freedom, I loved the academic process, I even loved having a roommate.
I had a unique schedule my first semester of college. My very first class was a ballroom dance class. It didn’t start until 10 a.m., and I was the only freshman enrolled. It was fantastic–I walked across campus after that class feeling exhilarated, worldly, sexy.
And sweaty.
One day after ballroom class, I found myself in one of those moods that nothing can shatter. Dance class had been really fun that day, it was a gorgeous autumn afternoon, and the cute boy from the 2nd floor of my dorm had smiled at me on my way upstairs. Not to mention, I had my room all to myself that day, with time to kill before my second class of the afternoon. I decided that I would use that time taking a long, hot shower in the community bathroom down the hall. I sauntered into my closet to grab my bathrobe.
That’s when I remembered I’d spilled milk down the front a few mornings before. And it was still in the bottom of my dirty clothes hamper. (Because what college kid does laundry? Seriously?)
The view from my dorm room closet for 2 years. (Source)
Since my roommate was gone for the day, and the dirty bathrobe definitely did not pass the sniff-test, I decided to brave it out in just my towel.
I stripped out of my sweaty dance clothes, wrapped myself up in a towel, stepped into my shower shoes, grabbed my shampoo caddy, and all-but-skipped down the hall to the bathroom.
As predicted, I had the bathroom all to myself. And my favorite shower—the coveted shower on our floor because it had the best water pressure—was gloriously unoccupied. I stepped into the steamy hot water, allowing myself to truly enjoy a shower for the first time in a few weeks.
Somewhere between shampoo and conditioner I got this strange feeling that I’d forgotten something very important.
And as I started shaving leg #1, it hit me full force.
The key to my room was in the pocket of my gym shorts. In the floor of my dorm room closet.
Behind a very locked door.
In a panic, I shut off the water, wrapped myself up in my towel, grabbed my stuff, and sprinted back down the hallway, leaving puddles in my wake.
Just FYI: when a door is locked, and there’s no one on the other side to let you in, rattling the doorknob for 10 solid minutes doesn’t really accomplish anything.
She has nothing to be angry about. She’s fully clothed. With sexy shoes. (Source)
After several minutes of panic (and hoping that the dorm fairy was going to show up and magically let me in my room) I started to reevaluate the situation. Using my new college smarts, I deduced that I has a few options in this scenario. Most of them involved one key ingredient.
Find an R.A.
There were 3 Resident Assistants on each floor, so I was bound to find one somewhere. I lived in a co-ed dorm: upperclassmen on the first floor, boys on the second floor, girls on the third floor. All I could do was hold my breath and pray that one of the female R.A.s was in her room with that little golden key that would solve all my problems.
So I left my shampoo caddy on the floor (because towel-wrangling is definitely a two-handed job) and started knocking on doors.
And not a single R.A. could be found on the third floor.
Alright, moving on to Plan B. Find someone, anyone, at home on the third floor who would let me use their phone to call down to the R.A. station on the first floor, and have that R.A. come up and let me in.
I must have knocked on 30 doors in a matter of 3 minutes. Seriously, people. Karma was not with me that day because NO ONE was home.
As my dire situation came completely into focus, I finally knew I had only 2 options left.
Wait until my roommate or a friend got home from class.
Or bite the bullet and go downstairs to the R.A. station and secure some help for myself.
Since I had no idea how long my roommate was going to be gone, and the idea of sitting in the drafty hallway mostly naked left me chilled to the bone (and slightly nauseous), I decided I was going to choose the latter option.
Because this is the only time in life when being seen in a bath towel
is remotely acceptable. (Source)
I took a deep breath, prayed for an entirely empty dorm, and hit the stairwell.
Let me take a moment to describe my dorm to you. I was in an honors program at Appalachian State called Watauga College. It was an interdisciplinary program for students who wanted something different out of their college experience. IE: for the first 2 years of school, I had classes with all the same people, with the same professors. We spent a lot of time in outdoor classrooms, going on field trips, and hiking the mountains of our small community. We wrote a lot of papers and poetry, read a lot of super-thick books, and spent a lot of time dissecting current events. We all lived in the same dorm, we had our classes in the basement of that same dorm, and the professors also had their offices in the dorm.
That’s right. I said professors had offices in the dorm.
I made my walk of shame down the stairs, down the hallway of professors’ offices (most of the doors, thankfully, were closed).
Except one.
My history professor, who we called “Bud,” always left his door wide open if he was in it. Something about “always being available for students who needed him” or some such nonsense. And naturally, he sat at his desk that day, staring into the hallway, as I passed by.
“Lose your key, Ms. Abby?” I heard his voice trail after me.
Holy crap balls. That totally just happened, I thought to myself. I blushed down to my toenails, reminded myself of the true objective of this excursion, and sped up my course. Surely, nothing else could make this experience any more humiliating. SURELY, I had fulfilled my mortification quota with this one life-altering encounter. I kept reassuring myself as I ducked my head and all-but-sprinted the rest of the way to the R.A. station.
Finally, after a painstaking 9 minutes dash through the dorm, I arrived at my destination. I allowed myself a momentary feeling of relief. As promised, there was someone on duty.
I just didn’t expect it to be the boy I had a crush on.
I vaguely remember mumbling something about a locked door. I remember the walk of shame back in front of Bud’s office door, hearing him say something cutesy, like, “It’s always nice to see a knight in shining armor come to a fair maiden’s rescue.” I remember starting up the stairs ahead of said “knight in shining armor,” not realizing he could probably see up my towel until somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd floor. I remember the smile he tried to hide, and the laughter right behind it.
And I definitely remember him asking me to sign the form that allowed him to unlock my door.
Great, I thought to myself. THIS is how he’s going to learn my name.
As the tumbler in the door turned with a twist of his key, I dashed for cover, mumbling a thank you as I shut the door in his face.
And then I sat on my dorm room floor and cried from the stress of it all. But eventually, I had to get up and get dressed for my next class of the day.
History. With Bud.
Awesome.
Thankfully, mum was the word in history class that day. Bud didn’t even look in my direction. And as far as I know, he never said a word to anyone about my embarrassing incident.
But for the rest of the year, anytime I passed that R.A. in the halls, that moment of humiliation would come rushing back to my cheeks in a blush the color of a Dr. Pepper can. And he would smile, elbow his buddy, and say, “Hey, Abby. Got your key today?”
Needless to say, for the next 2 years of dorm life, I never left my room without my key. And my bathrobe.
Even if it was dirty.

Flowers in a Tequila Bottle

A few days ago, my husband wrote his very first guest post here on AbbyGabs. And it was centered around these daisies:

I promised you then that I would tell you the story behind the significance of flowers in a liquor bottle. And I always keep my promises.

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…in a land far, far away…

Er, well, Boone. We lived in Boone, North Carolina.

Brian and I had just started our whirlwind romance. We were in that “new relationship” place. We would talk on the phone at night until one or both of us fell asleep. We’d sit in the floor of Brian’s apartment, sharing a pizza, recounting the stories of our lives. A movie date took hours, not just for the movie, but all the kissing that took place at his apartment, in the car, in the parking lot, during the movie, after the movie, in the parking lot, in the car, and in his apartment.

Even in its earliest weeks, I could feel the staying power of this relationship. I felt like I already knew everything about him. And I felt a trust I’d never experienced with another guy before.

Then we had our first fight. And it wasn’t just a normal couples’ spat. It was the kind of fight that ends a relationship before it truly gets started.

I’d found out that, in the very hours our relationship began to blossom from friends to more, Brian had lied to me. Even if he’d told me the truth, it wouldn’t have altered the course of our romance. But the fact that he lied to me cut me to the quick.

I was furious. Hurt. Determined to turn my back on this new love if only to save my own pride. I retreated to the basement apartment I shared with my best friend, Jenna, cranked my Ani Defranco, and let my phone ring off the hook.

For 3 or 4 hours, my phone rang every 10 minutes. Brian poured his heart out on my answering machine, but I refused to allow myself to feel anything but anger and resentment toward him.

Suddenly, the calls stopped. I wavered between relief and sorrow.

Several hours went by. Jenna came home from work and asked what was wrong. I gave her the short version, terse and angry. Most friends would have immediately taken my side, a wall of female solidarity. Jenna, instead, tried to get me to see things from Brian’s point of view. She created a crack in my armor, but I still stood firm, not returning Brian’s calls.

Finally, around 8 pm, my phone rang again. Caller ID confirmed that it was Brian. I took a deep breath and answered, preparing to deliver the final blow. I’d decided to end things officially.

“What do you want?” I said fiercely into the phone.

“Just to say I’m so sorry. I screwed up.” he said quietly.

“You’re right. You did. Big time.” I bit out the words viciously.

“Just promise me one thing,” he asked.

“What’s that?” I replied.

“Just look on your porch before you make any decisions. Sleep on it. And call me in the morning. Ok?”

I started to drop the ax. But instead I found myself agreeing to think on it for one more night. And I was curious as to what I’d find on my porch.

And there they were. Wilted wildflowers stuffed into an empty tequila bottle, with a hand written note.

This action in and of itself would have been enough. But the fact of the matter is that Brian had no mode of transportation: no car, no bicycle, no roommate willing to drive him to my apartment. We lived almost 4 miles away. It should also be explained that the apartment I shared with Jenna was located in a small community on the top of a mountain. (Yes, I’m serious. No, I’m not exaggerating.)

He walked 8 miles. Up hill. Both ways. Literally.

Don’t be surprised at my lack of artistic ability.
I warned you once before that I can’t draw!

I felt the tears well up behind my eyes, and knew my heart was in his hands. I knew he was sorry, I knew he’d take it back if he could. Yes, it was important to me that I be in a relationship where trust was like second skin. But what was more important to me in this situation: my pride? Or finding forgiveness in my heart for the guy I thought was my perfect one?

I didn’t have to sleep on it. I didn’t even have to dissect it with Jenna. One look from her and I  knew what was in my heart.

I called him, accepted his apology, and invited him over for dinner.

And I’m so glad I did.

In the ten years since our relationship almost wasn’t, I can say without a doubt that Brian has never lied to me again. The foundation for our marriage was built on trust. And I’ve never doubted, from that moment on the porch holding an empty tequila bottle filled with wild flowers, that I made the right decision.

♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥    ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥
Epilogue:
After several years of telling this story as is seen above, Brian confessed to me that, while he DID walk the 4 miles to our apartment, he did not, in fact, walk all the way home. Rather, he ran into some friends at the bottom of the mountain, at our local baseball practice field. After a few hours, they eventually gave him a ride home.
Did he lie about this? No. He just let me tell the story my way. Because it’s my truth.
His just happens to be a little different.

College: The Most Expensive Experience of Your Life (Other Than Buying a Yacht)

I’ve been dreaming a lot about college lately.

Not dreaming in a “I want to go back to school” sort of way. Actually having dreams about being back in college.

It’s not such a bad thing–I had a wonderful college experience. I graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. (Pause for pastoral photos of my Alma Mater:)

An aerial view of campus.
The sign every Mountaineer has posed in front of for proud parents to snap a pic.
East Hall–the dorm I lived in freshman and sophomore year. Yes, we had a tire swing. And yes, it was used. Often.
Our gorgeous football stadium.

 

Boone in autumn. Breathtaking.
The little town of Boone, NC.
If I could pack a bag and hit the road right now, I’d be there in 8 hours. Ish.

I think about college a LOT. Things I’d have done differently. Things that were so epic I’d love to relive them again. Friends, faculty, experiences…I reminisce a lot about those years of my life.

So much so that I’ve compiled a list for you.

Things I Miss About College:


* That feeling of total and utter independence. For the first time in your young life, it’s YOUR decision. Want ice cream for dinner? Do it! Want to sleep in and skip psychology? No one will tell on you! Want to have a sleepover? On a school night? With a boy??? Make it so!

* Learning. Every single day. That sudden understanding that furthering your education, and the thirst for knowledge, doesn’t make you the dork you feared you’d become in high school. In fact, that 8 hour stint you pulled at the library to study for your chem final doesn’t even put you in the same category as the girl next to you, who was there when you arrived and is making no move for the exit as you leave.

* Having your friends a doorway away. I miss the days when I could walk down the hall, knock on a door, and know there would be a friend on the other side.

* PARTIES! The kind that keep you up all night, the kind where the red cups cost $5 but the booze is free, the kind that leave you with memories that last a life time.

* Waking up on a Saturday morning to a crisp, cool autumn day, painting a giant gold “A” on my face, donning my favorite App State t-shirt, grabbing my black and gold pom pom, and heading to the stadium for a football game. The ONLY day of the week where drinking beer is suitable before noon. (Usually.)

I was voted “Most School Spirited” in high school. It followed me to college.

* That “Friday Afternoon, Just Got Out Of My Last Class of the Week, What’s Gonna Happen This Weekend” feeling. God, don’t you miss that feeling?!??!?!

* Opportunities. College is a wealth of opportunities. It’s an internship, a writer’s workshop, a position on the school newspaper. Or maybe it’s a weekend camping trip with friends, a road trip to a concert with your roommate, your very first frat party. Every single day, you’re faced with an opportunity. Real life just isn’t like that. (Unless you consider paying the electric bill an opportunity.)

But as much as I loved college, and as much as I miss it, there’s no way I’d go back. Because there’s a lot of things about college that I DON’T miss.

Things About College I Don’t Miss:


* Tests.

* Papers.

* The sick, nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach right before you take a test/turn in a paper.

*Similarly, that sick, nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach you have until you get the grade back for that test/paper.

* PARTIES! The kind that keep you up all night, the kind with the $5 red cups but the booze is free, the kind that cause you to spend the next 2 days feeling like you’ve been hit over the head with a sledgehammer.

* Paperwork. Have you ever, in your entire life, had so much PAPERWORK to fill out? With deadlines and copies of this and originals of that? Just to ensure you were even allowed to attend class?

* That whole “searching for yourself” thing. I’m glad to have finally figured out who I am and what’s important to me. But getting here? Not so much fun. I don’t miss the angst at all.

* Having to save quarters just to wash your laundry in sub-par machines that sometimes work, and sometimes don’t. And playing Russian Roulette with your clothing if you decide to step down the hall for a quick convo with your neighbor. Will your clothes still be in the dryer when you get back? Or will some impatient bimbo have moved them to the dusty, spider-ridden corner so she can dry her delicates?

* That 8 am math class that’s on the other side of campus every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Which isn’t SO bad…unless it’s snowing. Hard. On test day.

As much as I’d love to go back and visit, wander the campus and see what’s changed, reminisce with my husband about the “good old days,” I’d never go to college again.

Maybe.

I Am So Smart. S-M-R-T.

I’m a smart girl.

I could read unassisted by the time I was 4. I was often asked to read to my kindergarten class–I was the classroom “rock star.”

I was placed in the Academically Gifted program in my elementary school by third grade.

Photographic evidence of precociousness, Example One.

I excelled at math, science, spelling, reading, and just about anything else you put in front of me.

I graduated in the top 10 of my high school class. I was on the honor roll all 4 years of high school, I was in Teacher Cadet, I was a member of the National Honor Society. I received scholarships for my talents in cheerleading and writing. I got a relatively high score on my SATs, passed AP English and History with high A’s.

Purple tassel = Teacher Cadet. Gold tassel = Top 10 of Class of 1999

I went to college. I applied to and was accepted to Appalachian State University.

♥ Go ‘Neers! ♥

I also applied to and was accepted to Appalachian’s off-beat, interdisciplinary honors program, Watauga College. I was a Watauga Leader in my sophomore year, working with Freshmen on their college credits, facilitating extracurricular activities to aid in their growth, and running our Wednesday group meetings (which could be anything from 3 hour discussions on the state of local farmers to poetry readings). I attended a writer’s conference in that same year with author/mentor, Orson Scott Card.

I graduated from Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.

Proof. Further proof: I was smart enough to Photoshop out my last name. Go me!

I’m a reader.

I’m a writer.

I’m (mostly) socially aware.

I use big words like obsequious, acrimony, and ruminate. (My SAT Prep teacher would be so proud.)

So, the above-outlined individual–the one who graduated from college and uses big words–would be smart enough to re-apply sunscreen every hour for the 8-hour duration of her beach stay yesterday, right?

Wrong.

Friend: A Single Soul In Two Bodies

It was October of 1999. I’d managed to introduce East Hall and most of its occupants to my less-than-graceful self by falling out of a window and breaking my face. It was Halloween night, and I was slowly making my way back to my room after a 7 hour visit to the local emergency room. I was drugged up, bruised from one side to the other, and feeling extremely sorry for myself when I heard a somewhat familiar voice.

“Oh, honey, what in the WORLD happened to you?”

Through my pain-killer-haze I recognized a girl who lived a few doors down. She was in my English class, and had always been sweet to me. She reminded me of a gypsy fairy–long dark hair, willowy frame, graceful and kind. At that moment, I couldn’t recall her name.

I explained to her what had happened, and she clucked at me like a mother hen and walked me to my dorm room.

You get some rest. And you just let me know if you need anything at all. I’ll be happy to share my notes with you from Wentworth’s class, if you need them.”

It wasn’t until she left that I remembered her name. Jenna. And we’ve been fast friends ever since.

In case you don’t recognize me, I’m the skinny girl on the left with all the hair.

Jenna and I bonded over poetry, our obsession for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and our shared (and unabashed) love for The Monkees. Her room was a refuge for me. I’d escape from the stresses of college life and head for Jenna’s door. We would light candles, listen to music (usually something ethereal I’d never heard before) and talk for hours. Or, we’d snuggle under a blanket, bust out our favorite vending machine snacks, and watch Buffy on VHS.

During our sophomore year, an opportunity to join Orson Scott Card in New York City for a spring break writer’s conference was something neither of us could turn down. We planned our trip giddily for weeks, comparing notes over places we wanted to see, trying to cram in as much sight-seeing as we could despite the fact that we’d be in class every day we were there. We packed the most sophisticated clothes we had in our possession. Jenna packed her maps, I packed my writing tablet and pens, and we headed for the Big Apple.

And I wound up borrowing her clothes most of the time we were there, because my “Happy As A Clam” t-shirt just wasn’t “Manhattan” enough for me.

Nothing bonds 2 college-aged young women together like nighttime strolls down East 24th Street, 6-hour writing jags in a Manhattan Starbucks, standing at the feet of the Twin Towers, or belting out our favorite show tunes in the twinkling lights of Broadway. As our trip came to an end, our grand plans to find an apartment somewhere in Boone and spend the summer drinking strawberry margaritas, writing short stories, and having true Buffy marathons (as in, from dawn to dusk) were solidified.

Jenna and I moved into our first college apartment in April of 2001. It was a tiny basement apartment, where we weren’t allowed to have pets (but did), hang wind chimes (but did), or have loud parties (which we didn’t.) It was everything we’d dreamed of and more. Eventually, Brian came into my life, and moved into our apartment with us.

The three of us looking in on illegal pet #4, Dizzy. Jenna had 3 pet rats, and we eventually added a rabbit to the mix.

It was like Three’s Company, without Mr. Roper. We worked in shifts, but when we all managed to get together on the same day, we’d make up the hideaway bed, pass the Ben and Jerry’s around, and we’d (you guessed it) watch Buffy or Angel or Farscape (which Brian introduced us to.) I had everything I ever wanted–a love in my life that was healthy and big, a best friend who could look at me and tell me what I was thinking before I could form the thought, a little apartment and a place to call my own.

We were nothing if not theatrical.

When our lease came to an end, Brian and I got our own place. I was sad to wake up every morning and know I couldn’t share a poptart and cup of coffee with Jenna, but thrilled to be making my way in this relationship with Brian. A little over 2 years after Jenna walked me back to my dorm room in East Hall, Brian proposed. And like most young couples, we fell into each other, and the rest of the world melted away. I lost touch with Jenna, and though I thought of her and missed her often, we never reconnected.

Fast forward to 2006. Brian and I were living in Charleston, and I discovered Myspace for the first time. (You remember…back when Myspace was cool?) When I found Jenna, my first reaction was, “Will she want to hear from me? Should I send her a message?” Memories of Manhattan, all-night dorm room conversations, and losing my best friend flooded my brain. I sent her a message, and she sent me her phone number. I remember feeling nervous, excited, as I took my cell phone and a glass of wine out to my car. (I wanted complete and utter silence so I could hear her every word. You may not get it, but Jenna will understand.)

The first few moments of conversation were a little awkward, a lot nerve-wracking. But 10 minutes in, and it was like no time had passed at all.

Jenna has since married her high school sweetheart, and they have a gorgeous baby boy, “Bubber.” We’ve grown up (a little), and we don’t share the same address anymore. But there are some bonds that are unbreakable.

This past weekend, Jenna and her little family came to Charleston for a visit. We played with Bubber, chatted about mommyhood and work life and grown-up stuff. We discreetly left the men to bond over video games and retreated to the kitchen to share a glass of wine. We visited the zoo and the beach and our favorite local Mexican restaurant (because we don’t get together without margaritas being somewhere in the equation.)

Abby, Jenna and Bubber.

Out of all the fun and excitement of the weekend, my favorite moment was a quiet one, shared under the umbrella at the beach. The menfolk were gone, Bubber was sleeping, and Jenna and I sat in our chairs, breathing in the salt air, talking quietly. In that moment, we were AbbyandJenna, East Hall residents, poets, girls searching for our places in the world. Our busy, adult lives, with children and work and husbands and life, cannot shake the foundation our friendship was built upon.

After all, a friendship built upon Buffy is one that will last a lifetime.

When Good Writing Turns Bad

I’ve been wracking my brain for three days on what I was going to blog about this week. I’ve thought of, considered, and discarded so many options that I’m left with nothing. Seriously. There are crickets in my brain.

The writer’s block has gotten so bad that I resorted to Google this morning.

Even Little Miss Sunshine can’t make this search a happy one.

I think my preoccupation with Dizzy (Cat Number One) and his recent diagnosis of diabetes, combined with the usual cloud of weepy that follows me around after Mother’s Day/most national holidays/encountering a cute baby at Target/most Saturdays has led me to the Unfunny Place Where Blogs Suck.

So I decided to seek out some inspiration. (No, I didn’t actually follow the links provided by Google. Mostly.)

I turned to myself. I gathered up all my journals, read them, and chose the following excerpts to share with you. Prepare yourself for drama, hilarity, and teenage angst.

Written in October of 1998:

“I walk onto the beach today, the breeze tickling my cheeks, the sand warming my toes, and my mind takes a photograph of the beauty quickly filling my senses. A small child scribbles illegibly on the sand, creating art that will be wiped away with the tide. The water creeps slowly up the banks, destroying footprints in its path. The sun begins to set, casting an orange hue, and my heart searches out for you, my love. So far away from this, our little piece of heaven. I think of you as the moon creeps out to spotlight my loneliness.”

Written in April of 1999: (the day after my high school sweetheart and I ended our 3 year love affair. Oh BOY, the angst…)

“My heart breaks, shatters, like so much glass. The feelings of pain, misery, heartache, engulf my soul, swallowing it whole into the blackness. I can’t think of prom, now, for who would dress up and dance when filled with the depths of despair.”

Written in August of 1999: (my first night at college)

 “So here you have it, the untitled memoirs of a highly sophisticated, independent, socially accommodating college freshman. One day, I’ll look back at these egotistical words and toss my head back in laughter at my naivety “back in those days.” So far, today has been very eventful. For now, it vaguely feels somewhat like being at summer camp, though with a more significant underlying purpose greater than winning the blue ribbon in the swim relay. There’s a feeling of desired success intermingled with a fear of failure in the air here at Appalachian State University. As I journey into the realm of adulthood, I take 2 things with me only: 1) Everything Mary Ginny Dubose ever taught me in English class at WHS, from William Shakespeare to her favorite words of wisdom: “To thine own self be true,” and 2) common sense. Hopefully, with these 2 things, along with skills acquired along the way, I’ll be able to make this a successful year for myself and my family.”

Ok, that one made me laugh out loud. Moving on.

Written for a poetry class in the Spring of 2001….an apt poem for how I’m feeling today:

Brain Freeze
A sneaker
Fused to the ooey, gooey remembrance
Of grape grey-colored bubblegum –
Forgotten on the steamy pavement.
A mouse
Cornered by Fritz-The-Watch-Cat with
No exit – the hunk of cheese just
Close enough to taint the air with its scent.
A fly
Caught in the trap of man-made
Fly suicide – struggling to rip his hairy feet
From the clutches of the sticky prison.
My pen
Wavering quietly over a sea of blank paper –
My creativity refusing to spurt forth in
Its usual richness – an empty mind and still hand.
Writer’s Block Sucks.

Wow. Bad poetry abounds with the next excerpt I’ll share with you. Here’s a poem I found, written just after going on the first date with my husband.

Written June of 2001:

Untitled
Touch me.
Caress my cheek with your fingertips.
Touch me.
With your heart on wings, fly to me.
Touch me.
Let me feel cherished for a moment in time.
Touch me
Even with just the sound of your voice.
Touch me
And fill my soul with the promise of you.

Don’t worry, that sound you hear is just my husband retching. Finally, a page from a journal written much more recently, and the lesson I think I was supposed to find in today’s blogging process.

Written in August of 2010:

“I used to keep journals diligently. It didn’t feel right if I didn’t jot something down on paper – whether it was a poem or song lyrics or simply a peek into my day. There was ALWAYS something worth recording, something I felt was important enough to write down. In high school, my works were filled with cliches and SAT words. In college, they were overly-dramatic, overly-romanticized, overly-worded. Now I strive to just collect my thoughts in one place – a place I can come back to and remember my life. This journal is an attempt to reclaim the diligence, the passion I held in my young woman’s heart, to write again. (Hopefully, it will have more than 3 entries.)

It does.

Note to self: What I write about on this blog, on a day-to-day basis, doesn’t have to be anything specific. It doesn’t always have to be funny, or witty, or well-illustrated. It just has to be what’s in my heart on that day. Some people may read it, others may ignore it. Some may comment, others may not. The important thing is to JUST KEEP WRITING. And to keep learning, everyday, what it means to be a writer.

Thank you, powers that be. Lesson received.