Inspired by my friends Michelle and Lesa, I've written my life story. Be warned, though, I'm older so my story is longer. You will probably hate me when you get to the end.
1971 - '75: Hello, world! I am born in Hobbs, New Mexico, although my parents live in Lovington. Apparently Lovington doesn't have a functioning hospital at this time. My dad is a youth minister at Third and Central Church of Christ and my mom is a homemaker. I also have a brother, Brian, who is four years older. I recall playing with neighbors, who give Brian and me chicken pox. I call them "chicken pops." I also remember my dad coming home at night and hugging him, feeling the snow clinging to his coat. We move to Hobbs, where Dad is the youth minister at Taylor St. Church of Christ. We live in the church's parsonage, which is a very nice, four-bedroom house. I have a best friend named Christi. Brian and I are huge Brady Bunch fans. Life is good.
1976: Move to Roswell, New Mexico. No alien sightings. My dad is the youth minister for Country Club Rd. Church of Christ. We live in another nice parsonage. Brian and I ride the bus to fourth grade and kindergarten, respectively. I go half a day, then come home and have soup and watch "Guiding Light" with my mom. Life is still quite good.
1977: Move to Big Spring, Texas. Dad is youth minister at 14th and Main Church of Christ. Mom sells Avon and, with my new best friend's mom, is my Brownie troop leader. I attend the neighborhood school and have lots of friends. These years in Big Spring provide the happiest memories of my childhood.
By school year will be easier now...
Second grade: I'm into Grease, Star Wars, and I get my first boyfriend. We're living in yet another nice parsonage. I watch Love Boat and Fantasy Island every Saturday night. Life is still good.
Third grade: I start piano lessons, something I will continue for the next ten years. In November, we move back to Lovington for my dad to have his old job at our old church. It should have felt like coming home, but it didn't. Many of the kids at church and school spoke another language. It was hard to make friends. I will spend the next several years wishing desperately that we could move back to Texas, because that's where I was happy.
Fourth grade: I'm in a circle of friends at school, so things are better. My dad baptizes me on Dec. 14, 1980. I have a great teacher named Mr. Hogue. His wife had twin girls that year and, when delivering his Girl Scout cookies, I was invited in to see them sleeping in their cribs. I felt so honored. I emailed that teacher recently. Those twins are in med school now.
Fifth grade: Broke my right arm badly. Drama keeps erupting in my circle of friends. My best friend stays mad at me nearly all year for reasons I could never figure out. What is happening?
Sixth grade: In middle school now, with lockers and class changes. I'm in the gifted program and the teacher, Mr. W., is a man from our church and I really like him. He starts giving me pornographic books to read. I was 11 -- I didn't know, I just thought they were "grown-up" books. One has a graphic rape scene that I've never been able to get out of my head. Suddenly the teacher is fired and then I learn it was because my dad had found the books and complained to the school. Mr. W. had been very popular and the kids at school think I got him fired. My dad gets a ministry job -- far, far away -- in Beaumont, Texas. And not a moment too soon!
Seventh grade: We move to Beaumont and actually buy a house. I'm in a private, Christian school. Unlike in Lovington, many of the kids have money and are quick to let me know that I don't measure up. I make a couple of friends, but I mostly want to be invisible.
Eighth grade: The worst school year for me, ever. I wear a ton of make-up, trying to hide behind it. I feel so awkward and ugly. Something happens at the end of the year that makes me come completely undone inside. I don't recover until I get counseling as an adult. The year also brings my one and only "suicide attempt." I find something with a skull and crossbones label on it in my parents' medicine cabinet. I pour it into a glass of Pepsi and sit there staring at it, thinking of all the people who would feel bad if I drank it.
Ninth grade: Things are better. I'm still hanging out with the couple of friends I made in seventh grade. I was a cheerleader that year, an experience that taught me to just stick with piano. Brian has left for ACU, leaving me an only child. I don't like it at first, but then I do.
Tenth grade: SO much better now. The mean kids (except one, who threatens to come to my house and kill my family) are leaving me alone now. My friends and I are having a great time. We're not freshmen anymore, but we're not having to worry about college too much yet. On the last day of the school year, I meet the guy who will become the love of my life for the next three years.
Eleventh grade: After a sweet summer romance, I am so in love with J that I can hardly see straight. We keep breaking up and reuniting throughout the year. Lots of drama to go along with that. I move into Brian's room and put a Duran Duran poster up in his bathroom. When he comes home to visit, he is not impressed. That summer, I went to Kadesh in Abilene, starting an evolution in my spiritual life that still continues.
Twelfth grade: My grandfather dies at the beginning of the year. I'm realizing that if I marry J, we won't have the kind of marriage my grandparents had. I break up with J around Christmas, but we continue our on-again, off-again relationship through the end of my sophomore year in college. In March, I panic -- thinking I've missed out on something. I start dating a lot, drinking a lot, -- everything I hadn't been doing. That pretty much ruins the end of my senior year.
Freshman year at college: I'm at ACU having the time of my life -- except no one asks me out all year, which depresses me. It's one reason I'm still hanging on to J. I don't study much, and my GPA shows it at the end of the year. I meet Carol who lives down the hall, and she is still one of my very best friends.
Sophomore year: This year was much harder on me than I ever let on, but my good friends Carol, Kristi and Susie got me through it! After one especially bad day, I come back to the dorm to find that my friends had decorated my room with a jillion little pieces of paper that said things like "D-NA is my hero!" Another good thing about that year -- I take a basic news writing class and find that newspaper writing is something I really like to do. Oh -- and a freshman named Chad won't leave me alone!
Junior year: The summer before, I get a new start. I don't see J all summer. I don't hang out with my partying friends so much. In the fall, I start working (for pay!) as a staff writer for the campus newspaper. That geeky freshman from the year before doesn't seem so geeky anymore, so we start dating. I am living with Kristi and Susie and having a great time. Life is good!
Senior year: Three weeks before the start of school, Chad's sister Gina dies in a car accident while I am visiting his family in Alaska. We start the year extremely traumatized. I am managing editor of the paper and working such crazy hours and dealing with so much grief that I end up in counseling. Friends again get me through -- especially Carol, who is my roommate until she gets married (to a friend from Beaumont I had grown up with) in December. Chad and I get engaged in October and set an Aug. 14 wedding date.
Second senior year: Yes, I was on the 5-year degree plan. We get married and move into a tiny apartment not far from campus. I'm editing the yearbook and getting ready to graduate. Chad and I have no money, but we did have a Sega and stay up into the wee hours playing Mario and Street Fighter.
1994: I'm working in the Highland Church of Christ office. Chad graduates in December and is accepted to Texas A&M for grad work in genetics.
1995-1997: Living in College Station. I'm working for the local paper (worst job ever!) and a regional magazine. I get news that J died in a car accident, which devastates me for a time. Chad decides he'd rather be a youth minister than a geneticist. We move back to Abilene.
1997-2000: Chad's getting a master's in ministry; I'm working at ACU. These are eventful years. We buy our first house, our marriage nearly ends, Chad's mom comes to live with us during their divorce, I have a difficult pregnancy, and Julia is born on Jan. 19, 1999. That day, my whole life seemed to start over -- like someone hit a reset button. I couldn't remember not being Julia's mom. I had a whole new purpose in life that I wouldn't trade for anything.
2000-2006: We move to Baytown in Aug. 2000 for Chad's first youth ministry job. We love this church and town. I started writing feature stories for the Baytown newspaper in 2001, and a weekly column in 2002. After three miscarriages in 2003, Jenna is finally born on Aug. 26, 2004. I have a wonderful husband, two sweet girls, a roof over my head and a great church family. Life is good.
2009 Update: In 2006, we moved to the Little Rock area for Chad to take a ministry job at a non-denominational church. Arkansas is a beautiful state and we love a lot of things about our church and community. The first year we were here was a transition time, but we had a lot of fun getting to know new people. Then it came time for us to make our own friends, which has turned out to be a more difficult process for me than I ever envisioned. We've been here almost three years now, and God is starting to bring people into our lives. He has blessed us in the past with so many great relationships and I have faith that he will do the same here. In the meantime, Chad really loves his work and the girls have gotten plugged in and are having a lot of fun. I know from growing up that you learn something about yourself with each major change, and our Arkansas adventure has been no different.
2011: We've been in Little Rock five years now. After what I can only describe as a bizarre false start, I finally got to know some people at church and in our community who have become my friends. And last fall, I started working on my M.A. in professional writing at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. After 14 years out of school (and having not done so great the first time around, although I did graduate), I was pretty apprehensive about starting a graduate degree. But it has been GREAT. I can't believe how much I love school. It's been the best thing that has happened to me since we moved here. My life has always kind of revolved around church, and I've realized that when your husband is employed at a church, that's not always the healthiest thing. The Rhetoric and Writing Dept. at UALR is exceptional, I've had phenomenal professors, and I've gotten to know some amazing people in my classes. People keep asking what I plan to do with this degree. I really don't know. I'm just having fun and learning a lot right now. I'd like to keep writing for different pubs from home, because that has been a pretty sweet deal. But as the girls get older, I can see working outside the home, too. And since I like school so much, there's always that Ph.D. Who knows?