Monday, August 29, 2011

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Uncle Dan's

Waco restaurants sort of operate within three major food groups. You can find a few other options on the periphery. The occasional amazing Italian spot, some seafood here and there, a Texas-sized chicken fried steak or two. But if there’s anything Waco has mastered, it’s the big three: Tex-Mex, burgers, and barbecue. And the best of the barbecue, in my humble opinion, is Uncle Dan’s.

And, coincidentally, Uncle Dan’s is THE go-to destination for the Baylor University religion department. Anytime the department needs to feed someone, they head to Uncle Dan’s. Need to host lunch for a visiting scholarly dignitary? Let’s go to Uncle Dan’s. Trying to impress some PhD program recruits? Uncle Dan’s should do the trick.

Uncle Dan’s isn’t much to look at. Its large, slightly dim interior is crowded with relatively non-descript booths and tables. The cafeteria-style serving line could result in a few traumatic junior-high-lunch-time flashbacks. Nestled slightly off the beaten path in an unremarkable building, you could drive right past it a few hundred times and never know what you were missing. But that would be a sad shame. Because then you’d never get to experience their meltingly tender (and appealingly lean) beef brisket, their succulent sausage, their tempting turkey breast.

Uncle Dan’s also has the best variety and quality in side dishes of any barbecue joint in town. My favorites are the baked beans and yellow potato salad, although the coleslaw, white potato salad, green beans, and mac’n’cheese are all equally as tasty. And the barbecue sauce is everything Texas barbecue sauce should be -- potent and tangy with a whopping hit of smoke and a deliciously spicy after-bite. Round it all out with crisp slices of fresh onion, salty-sour pickle chips and a big ole glass of sweet iced tea for barbecue heaven on earth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Open Love Letter to Texas

To All My Family
       And All My Friends
              And All My Whole Wide Well-Loved Home State,

Saying good-bye to you was more impossibly difficult than I could ever have imagined. Even reminding myself (Daily. Hourly. Minutely?) that it's not good-bye forever, it's just good-bye for now. Even knowing that I will be back in a few short weeks (And then back again several more times. Every year!). Even then, it was still impossibly difficult.

I cried. Many tears. Many more tears than I'm comfortable admitting, and in front of many more of you than I'd care to recall. But I think you understood what those tears meant. How they were marks of my mourning and how I only mourned so deeply and freely because I loved so deeply and freely. I held nothing back from you. And it's not that I'm so sad to be moving on. I'm just deeply aware of how much I love you. And how much I'll miss you. And I had to honor that.

Over the last few weeks there have been so many good-byes. You held my hands and you rubbed my back and you wrapped me up in great big bear hugs. You prayed for me and with me and you loved me and you sent me on. Thank you. That was an incredible gift. On my last night in Waco, I wanted so much to see you one more time. I wanted to gather you near me. I wanted to stand outside your window with a boombox over my head blasting my love. I wanted to hug your neck one last, long time. Only I couldn't, because my poor little heart just couldn't take it. Not another, not one single other, good-bye. Not if I was going to have the strength to drive away from you the next day.

I cried some more as I drove. But I also laughed, and I sang. I marked milestones as I crossed borders and the wheels under me hummed and crooned and reminded me that this is right, this is good. I watched the blue horizon narrow into a brilliant wedge as tall trees sprang up all around me and stretched up to heaven. And I thought it was lovely, so lovely. But I couldn't help pining for a wider slice, for the never-ending blue of my beloved Texas sky.

I admit, I thrilled to the beauty of the countryside as I sped along. Things got greener and greener the further along I went. Rain spattered my windshield and I realized just how long it had been since I'd seen those juicy drops. Rolling green hills grew into imposing mountains and my breath caught in my throat the first time I rounded a curve and saw mist rising in long grey columns over the Smoky Mountains. My fingers trembled and my heart soared as I crossed the North Carolina border while snaking through those piney woods (with Jakob Dylan singing Into the Mystic in the background). And when I crested the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville and the ground fell away to one side and it was all green and blue and lake and sky and forest in a wide swath beneath me, I thought it looked like paradise.

But still, none of that can compare to you. It was wonderful, yes, and glorious, of course. But there's still no other paradise quite as wonderful and glorious as your sweet, familiar face. Your wide, open arms. Your great, big, Texas-sized love deep down in my heart, traveling all those long miles with me. Sitting right here with me today as life goes on in North Carolina. Because my life belongs in North Carolina now, but not without you. Never without you.

It occurs to me that not many people get to write a letter like this. A letter of love and joy and gratitude from one bursting heart to a whole entire Texas-sized state and to all those many, many loved ones who reside there. G. K. Chesterton wrote that the true test of happiness is gratitude. And if that's true then I am arguably the happiest girl in the world today, because I am filled up from the top of my head to the tips of my toes with so much gratitude, and with so much love for you.

I'll see you real soon. Until then I will miss you bunches and love you harder than ever and carry you around with me wherever I go.

Texas forever.

And ever and ever.

Love, Me

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bow-tie, Suspenders, and Boots

Keith's first day of classes is today.

First day teaching as a full-time, fully employed, college professor.

His first day outfit of choice? 



Cowboy boots...

Be still my heart.

Do Not Laugh

I rode a bike yesterday. For the first time since the sixth grade.

It was awesome. And totally dorky.

I love my new little blue-green beach cruiser.

Yes, Andy, I am totally "one of those" people. 

You're totally laughing aren't you? 

It's okay.


I knew you would.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things I've Observed While Working From Home

Every day around lunch time this little sweetie wants to climb into my lap, curl up, and completely bliss out. 

For at least the next thirty minutes it doesn't matter how much I shift and squirm, how many times I switch my crossed legs from right-over-left to left-over-right, how frantically I tap-tap-tap away at my keyboard- she is perfectly content. Stubbornly, resolutely at peace. 

It seems a handy habit to cultivate, her insistent restfulness.

A Little Nugget for Today

Mark Kennedy, Temple of the Seven Golden Camels on why we tell stories...

"Thousands of years ago, why did people start telling stories around the campfire before crawling back to their caves to sleep until morning? What's the point, after all? Why waste the energy doing it? Does it help us survive better?

Personally, I think they told stories for the same reason that we still watch movies, even after most of us have already seen quite a few already (and can usually guess how they'll probably turn out): people needstories. And more than anything, people need and crave stories with substance. They need stories because stories remind us that good can triumph over evil, that there are things like love, hope and faith left in the world, no matter how bad things get, and that there are some things worth fighting (and dying) for. They remind us of these things that are simple and basic, yet so easy to forget as we go through life and realize how complicated it can be."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quick Update from North Carolina

First of all...we're here! We officially live in Murfreesboro North Carolina now!

Hi from our back patio in North Carolina!
We are in, but I wouldn't exactly say we are "settled" quite yet. Still boxes everywhere, though we have a maze-like bit of path cleared here and there so we can weave our way from room to room. Keith's first day was yesterday. Many meetings, some orientation, a fair amount of meet and greet. Then he'll start teaching next Tuesday. A week from today...amazing!

Keith's first day as Assistant Professor of Religion at Chowan University
I am on day two of working from my home office and I think it's really going to agree with me. I love looking out my window at cotton fields and pine trees, watching birds and squirrels and even deer dart by. We have been told there is a red-tailed fox that frequents our little corner, so I'm keeping eyes peeled.

My first day Working from Home! Yeah!!!
There is much more to come. I have many, many words right now. The drive to North Carolina was pretty amazing. Saying goodbye (for now at least) to Texas was poignant and bittersweet. I need to process it all out, so you'll all (all three of you) get the benefit of my psychological processing via blogging. Lucky, aren't ya?

I'm also going to continue blogging through our We Heart Waco Farewell Tour retroactively. We managed to get to all the places on my list, I just haven't had time to type up all the posts.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Fun Fact

Did you know that Sirius is the name of the star that forms a major point in the constellation known as Canis Major (or Great Dog?)

Sirius Black, animagus, transforms himself into a great black dog.

J. K. Rowling = Genius. On so many levels.