Feels like home

I did what every responsible grad student does when you find out that you’ve got a rare three day weekend (thanks again, Pope): make it a four day weekend and book a trip back to the old stomping grounds for some quick but quality time with the place and people I love and miss every day. My mom and sis are pretty upset that I made the trek to Texas and didn’t get to see them (HOME home’s a few hours away + no car), but I knew this was my one chance all football season to catch a Waco weekend and home game until next year probably. I’m deeply sorry fam, and I promise this will make Christmas and your November visit that much better.

When school started, I had no idea I would make a trip back this soon, but honestly the timing could not have been better. Homecoming sadly was not an option (tears for days) with our class/exam schedule surrounding that weekend, so I was desperate to find another random weekend when I could escape Philly to return to the promised land. Nothing against my new home which I love, but being back in the land of Tex-Mex, “y’all,” and Baylor football was seriously beyond good for the soul.

rossMy old roomie Chels picked me up from the airport in Dallas (meanwhile I had already started sweating the five minutes I was waiting outside…DON’T miss that) and we jammed and gabbed all the way to Wacotown. I met up with my best guy Ross for a big hug, nostalgic Shorty’s pizza, half pitchers (Shiner cravings = fulfilled), and talking life – the little and the big – all night long. It’s weird how places like a tiny, college joint, pizza shack can be jam-packed with as many memories and conversations like that as that place.

chels

Friday was full of lots of friends, catching up, more favorite food spots (LJ’s baked oatmeal of course), talking forever with my favorite prof, walking around campus and it already feeling different, and even sitting in on an a cappella rehearsal just for fun. Of course I couldn’t go to Texas and not indulge in ‘jitas and ‘ritas, so that’s exactly what me and Chels did (followed by catching the Grey’s premiere in our pjs in bed and going to bed at a gloriously early hour for a Friday night).

The downtown Waco farmers market was buzzing with people, new vendors, and great live music even more than I remembered. I love coming back to that city and seeing the growth (i.e. the Waco revival that is a very real thing) that’s happened there even from a few months ago. I’ve gotta say I miss the culture and people of Waco/Baylor for sure. It feels like one of those places where you can go anywhere and see everyone you know, and even if you don’t know them you could probably strike up a quality convo with any “stranger.” That’s not exactly the same for the crowds of Philly and the East Coast. kellieI headed to the glory that is McClane Stadium afterwards and ran into so many lovely faces there. My dear friend Kellie and I had actual seats (what is post-grad life even?) which were straight up in the path of the blazing 95 degree afternoon Texas sun, so I spent a lot of time walking around seeing friends in shadier spots. I can’t even describe the emotion, though, watching the new Baylor Line run on the field and the pre-game hype video, thinking about the endless memories I have of sweet victories the past four years. baylorLiteral goose-bumps. We quickly worked up the scoreboard while the sun worked up my slight sunburn. The game finished 70-17 in typical Baylor fashion, and I spent the rest of Saturday having girls night and talking school, church, and (possibly) guys with Sarah, Gigi, and Danielle – girls from my old Lifegroup who always open their home – and hearts – for me when I’m in town.

One of the things I was looking forward to most was getting to go to my old church, Antioch, and partly why I booked my return flight for as late as 7 pm. It was a pure joy to worship with my old community and hug so many necks afterwards. God has definitely promised to provide a new community here, but I know it will take time and most likely look different from what I knew for four years. After a quick lunch with more friends and what else other than a Iced No Bull at Common Grounds, I was sadly saying goodbye once more to that little central TX town that has so much of my heart.

girlsShauna Niequist said “Sometimes we have to leave home in order to find out what we left there, and why it matters so much.” I could not agree more. As much as I miss my hometown, family, Waco, friends, and Baylor, I know that being in Philly at Penn Dental is so good, so right, and so needed for this season. God is so kind to give us opportunity for adventure and growth, even if it sometimes seems painful at first to leave behind the comfort and familiarity of a safe place. I realize being gone (even if it’s only been for just a month now) has shown me more and more about what and who matter most to me. The vague but certain promise of “See you…soon” is enough for me to look forward to the next trip back, whenever that may be.

CG

Bittersweet: pros and cons of moving across the country

With a little over four weeks left of summer before I make the big move, I thought I’d write a little bit about the things I’m most looking forward to and the things I’ll miss more than I’d like to admit. Having lived in the greatest state (some die-hards would say country) of Texas for all 22 of my years, it is finally starting to hit home that I will be a resident of the different, far off state of Pennsylvania in about a month. More people than I can count give me the “Are you crazy? How could you leave Texas? Ever?” response while some friends are super stoked for me to adventure out of the comfort zone of home. Oh, and Penn Dental is one of the top schools in the country and UPenn’s entire academic system is a world leading institution. That’s sort of why I chose to attend there. Living in a cool new city is just the cherry on top. And it’s not Penn State 😉

Here are just a few of my thoughts about it all.

Philadelphia Skyline

PROS

  • All things new. I dig change.
  • Seasons. 4 SEASONS. In one year and not one day. Yes, I know one of them is uber cold. Still, seasons other than constant sweating for at least half the time and looking out for the random ice storm or great flood the other half.
  • Urban living in a city full of young professionals. Even though Waco is much bigger than my hometown, it’s a little far from actual city life.
  • Open minded people. I know it will be a huge change from the Bible belt and far right wing conservatism of East Texas, but I welcome other ideas and opinions and having intelligent conversations about big issues without anyone blowing up. I’m not saying college turned me into an all-out liberal by any means, but I can still value people with different backgrounds and views. I will still holdfast to Truth no matter where I live. The God of Atlanta, TX and Waco, TX is the same God of Philadelphia, and I’m excited about learning to trust in Him more than ever, especially when it’s not the cultural norm like I’ve always known.
  • Foodie heaven – Philly is definitely on the culinary rise and it’s way more than just cheesesteaks.
  • Car-free and bike-loving life. Goodbye to buying gas and hello to everyday cardio.
  • Proximity to NYC, DC, Boston and other cool places along the East Coast. Instead of driving for 12 hours and still not being out of TX in some places, I can hop on a bus and be in NYC in about an hour and a half. DC about the same. I can also meet up with my fellow East Coast pals like Jenna or Danny in Boston, Dusty in NYC, and anyone else who I convince to move this way in the future. I’m looking at possibly making it to a day of the Food Network Wine and Food Festival in NYC this fall or catching tix to see my man Jimmy Fallon or finally a Broadway. You know, in all my spare time outside of studying my brains out…

CONS

  • Y’all already know I’m sad about it. Tex Mex. Read: jitas and ritas as I know it.
  • Other people not saying “Y’all.” (see above for indication of frequency of use) And everyone knowing me as the one from Texas and commenting on my sweet, Southern accent that I don’t even think is that bad. It can be a pro, too I guess…Everyone loves a Southern belle, right?
  • Being so far from most of my family and friends. I’ve got a new nephew coming in T minus one month, and I know I’ll miss my mama from day one after being home with her all summer. Waco won’t be a quick road trip away and all my friends in Dallas, Houston, or Austin will only feel close if I read their letters.
  • Having to find a new church home and spiritual community after my incredible four years at my church in Waco with some of the best people I know. I know this one will be tough and may very well take longer than I’d like.
  • Shiner Bock, Texas BBQ, and Blue Bell. I know Blue Bell is questionable for everyone right now, but what about real BBQ and small town Texas-made Shiner? Someone please tell me it can be found in the Northeast.
  • Football. I really want to go to something like a Penn vs Harvard football game and laugh and tell all my Texas people about what a joke it was. Ivy League vs Big 12? Please. Football games, and especially college football Saturdays, in the South are like nothing else. Sic ‘Em Bears. #OneTrueChampion (Oh how I wish I could come to Ft Worth this fall)
  • Everything else I’ll only realize I miss once I’m gone and a plane flight away. Also, I am so going to be one of those people in the airports on Christmas Eve because we have class/clinic until the 23rd. What is that even?

Nevertheless, I’m beyond pumped for my new adventure! I’m just trying to not think about the actual “school” part at the moment…

One Month More

Now that July in Texas (my last one possibly – so weird to think about) has somehow already graced us with its presence, I realized I have yet again let my blog fade in the background of my everyday. You think I’d have all the time in the world these days to just write on and on, enough for a book – side note, I’d really love to actually write a book one day. Now as far as the subject, I have no earthly idea. I just know that words are powerful,  books I’ve read have changed my life in ways, and I’ve just got a lot of opinions on things.

Here’s my lousy attempt to wrap up my first half of summer in the country.

letters

I’ve rediscovered the lost art of old fashioned letter writing, and it is SO GOOD. I can’t tell you how much it makes my day to find an envelope addressed to me in our mailbox and recognize the address as one of an old college friend. I also have that same anticipation with each one I write and send on its way, hoping it will be the best part of that person’s day as well.  One of my dearest pen pals, Jordan, told me in her last letter that a friend had explained to her that all of Jordan’s letter writing/blogging/encouraging words via social media could all be considered forms of discipleship.  That thought had never crossed my mind, but when I started to think about it, it definitely made sense. When I sit down and intentionally (and consistently) think about what to say to a friend and ask for the Lord to give me words that will encourage them, that is pouring into their life even if it looks different from the traditional picture we have of discipleship of coffee dates and scheduled weekly hangouts. I already do feel like I’m getting behind on responding to people, but the beauty of letter writing is that it does not demand a prompt and hurried response much like a text or Facebook message. It’s ok to let a few days or even weeks go by to give you time to really think about what you want to say. So to all of you that asked to join in my back and forth writing, take heart. I promise it’s on its way soon.

bike2

I’m absolutely obsessed and in love with my new, beautiful, perfect road bike. Her name is Roxie. I promise I’m not weird for naming my bike and acting like it’s my new baby. Boys name their toys all the time. After wanting a good road bike for years and it being the only thing I asked for graduation, I finally am the proud owner of a Specialized Dolce Sport EQ in satin teal. This is essentially replacing my car when I sell it to live the true urban lifestyle, so I’m okay with the fact that it cost about as much as an old used car. I didn’t get a Baylor ring, and I saved my family thousands for not rushing a sorority. I think that justifies it. Thanks Mom! 🙂 The second I hopped on and tried it out, I could tell that it was worth every penny. I’ve already taken several rides, and a couple long ones in Waco and around here, and I could go on and on about how good it is. When you’re upgrading from a beat up mountain bike from middle school you somehow got around in college on, it’s a really big deal, folks. Also, my toned cycling legs are quickly coming back after a month of missing teaching BearCycle. If the side effects of riding just for fun happen to be more defined thighs and calves, I’m not mad about it.

      leisure         better          blue

My summer reads are extremely varied and simultaneous, and I’m okay with that. I have this problem with books in the summer. I never, and I mean really never, have time to read much for leisure during the school year. Having said that, I definitely make up for it in the months when all I can really do is stay on my couch in the AC. I might get through one chapter while I lay out at the pool before I’m so done with the unbearable Texas sun and sweat is dripping on every page. So far I’ve finished Leisure: The Basis of Culture (not exactly leisure reading but very good and thought-provoking) and Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science. That one is by Atul Gawande, a leading medical author, and I loved every page! I’m actually now reading a second one of his – Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance – that my mentor doc gave me when I told him I was reading his first. Gawande is a general surgeon in Boston and has written for The New York Times. He writes a lot about doctors being human beings (aka not perfect like society expects them to be), the constant pressure of performance, the healthcare system and how it could be improved, and just a lot of neat stories of behind the scenes of his life as a surgeon. I might be going to dental school now, but I’m still fascinated with all things medicine and who knows? I might also be a surgical resident one day. I’m now reading All In by Mark Batterson who wrote The Circle Maker that I loved and that challenged and ignited my prayer life more than any other book I’ve read. This one is about actually being sold out for the gospel and surrendering our entire lives for Jesus, not simply asking him to follow us and our plans. I’m also reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller with the tagline “Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality.” Let me know what’s on your summer book list!

       cg          shortys          food

I took a week-long trip back to my old stomping grounds, and man it was good for the soul. I told several of my friends when I left in May that I’d for sure make a visit during the summer before I left for good, and when my mom went to Montana to bring some things back from the cabin and would be gone for most of the week, I figured the timing was perfect. I had couches lined up to sleep on for all 5 nights and had texted everyone I knew in Waco for the summer basically saying, “If you want to see me, tell me when you’re free and I’ll fit you in!” It was so good making that all too familiar four hour drive, and it really felt like I had never left even though a month had already passed since I did. I hit up all my favorite local joints for pizza, coffee, drinks, and one more Waco t-shirt, all with people I dearly missed. I also headed to the beloved farmer’s market and Cameron park (via Roxie) one last time. It was certainly sweet being back, but if I’m being honest, it did feel different. I really realized for the first time that I wasn’t a college kid anymore and I felt more in the in between of that and grad life. I love love love all of my younger friends, but staying with them and even going to my old Lifegroup, I sensed a noticeable difference. I’m not trying to say I’m that much more mature than them, it was just more of a recognition that this season of my life was in fact over as much as I didn’t want it to be.  It sort of was an almost tease to be there that long, knowing that it would be my longest visit to Wacotown for at least four years. I thank God more and more each day for that place and those people.

Until next time, I’m eating Tex-Mex whenever I get the chance (it will NOT be the same in Philly), still filling out and sending 54,298 forms to Penn, watching way too many Grey’s reruns, avoiding the storage room where I need to sort, unpack and repack, and soaking up my last month of rest and stillness before the crazy starts.

Meat and other ‘Merica things


10367736_737019966349243_6995694065233738491_nWell I’d say I’ve officially crossed the bridge to being a real live American woman by cooking my first successful big roast of meat. Sure, I cook all the time, but rub down and roast a four pound pork butt for seven hours in my oven, I had not.

I had my friends over for a pre-July 4th celebration last night since all of us actually have to work today (what is that? that is not exactly freedom, my friends). I don’t even know why I automatically jumped to pulled pork sandwiches, but once I did I had the whole menu played out in my mind. I did some researching and landed upon this fabulous recipe for more of a Texas style pulled pork that wasn’t drowning in crockpot liquid (pulled pork is really not a TX thing, but I might like it better than fatty brisket, shhhhh).

http://thegoudalife.tumblr.com/post/26502809520/slow-down-eat-pork-coffee-chipotle-pulled-pork

A coffee chipotle rub and dry low and slow heat give you that beautiful charred bark on the outside and fall apart moist and slightly sweet meat on the inside. If that’s not American, then I don’t know what is. I let DJ contribute by having the all too important task of shredding the pork, even though I knew he was bound to (and did) “taste-test” about a half pound of it before bringing to the table. Boys…

I tossed the pork with about a cup of Stubb’s original BBQ sauce (again with the accidental TX theme) and paired it with the slaw from the same site (with the addition of carrots): red cabbage, julienned jals, cilantro, and a great tangy lime dressing (I subbed Greek yogurt for the mayo). Spicy, limey, and crunchy perfection to contrast the smoky sweet pork. I toasted up a combination of honey wheat Hawaiian rolls for sliders and onion rolls for regular sized sandwiches.

For an easy side, I roasted a few ears of corn (in their husks and directly on the oven rack at 350 for about 30 min) and served them with a chili lime honey butter that really complimented the pork sandwiches. I just eyeballed amounts of chili powder, lime juice, and honey and stirred into room temp butter.

Jenna brought over the cutest little watermelon, and dinner was served. Of course some cold, classic Shiner was the perfect beverage for this Texas, I mean American, celebration. After another dinner of hilarious conversations, we played a round of Apples to Apples and concluded that none of us have low self esteem or confidence issues; it gets pretty heated and competitive with our four fiery personalities, the only way games should be in my opinion.

What other way to finish off a Fourth of July dinner party than with Bluebell berry sundaes and watching one of the greatest American works of the 20th century, The Great Gatsby?

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Happy Independence Day to all you lovely Americans. Rep those Stars and Stripes proudly wherever you may be today, and never take our freedom for granted!10151998_737240736327166_9154440737824637170_n