Going Back Home

On Wednesday, my dear old freshman hall had a progressive Thanksgiving dinner in the apartments. I have loved these, my girls, since way back, even before this entry more than three years ago.

Here is how we were Christmas of freshman year:


And here is how we are Thanksgiving of senior year:


Just look at how cute we were then and how grown we are now.

Sometimes when we sit around we like to talk about the old days on the Fam Pan: the days of parties in the bathroom and poop posters and yelling down the hall for noms and Storytime and leftover ice cream eaten in the hall-butt and doors that stayed open all the time. We like to remember and say, Man, I wish we all saw each other more. I wish we could do that again.

But the future is already coming fast towards us in a big frightening wave of built-up expectations and unpaid bills. We sometimes feel that we’re in danger of being washed out and away to sea. We want to go back. Take us back.

Nostalgia itself is comforting. We are pleased that we can remember, that we’re wise enough to look back and know that the good times were good. (Real perceptive. Well done us.) But, of course, what we really want is not to go back to the past, but for our pasts, or at least our favorite parts of them, to become our futures. We want the safe yesterdays which we loved to be transplanted to our tomorrows to do over and over again. (As if the future wasn’t its own self, as if God didn’t have plans for it too.)

It’s funny because we’ve got nostalgia all wrong. The divine point of the longing we feel is not to fill it, but to know it, to understand what it is we long for.

There is a painful gaping hole in each one of our chests and sometimes we can feel the wind whistling through it. The hole will not be filled by wading into our pasts, or even our futures, and picking through for the best bits: the late nights up with dear friends, the long exhilarating road trips, even the dripping popsicles and small sticky faces in the summertime. We can stuff all the dreams in the world into that misshapen hollow to try to fill it and yet we’d still be able to look down and see right through ourselves to the other side. Really, as far as the eye can see, the hole is not going to be filled at all. Its edges will continue to ache.

But then again, the eye can’t see very far. It is shortsighted and weak, and would be blinded by the wonder of Him for whom the heart truly longs.

Someday, we’ll go back home again, really home, to the God for whom we were made, and our shoulders and eyes will strengthen so that we’ll be able to bear the weight and the sight of the Glory that will fulfill our feeble longings.

So for now, when we remember, we must remember that.


At the end of freshman year, I remember feeling sad to leave. I was sad to leave a bunch of dear girls on a hall in MEP. But I was not too sad. We could write and call, and besides, we’d all be back for three more glorious years. So I went home for a stretching summer in Missouri.

At the end of sophomore year, I was drained and hurt. There would be people to miss over the summer, but I wanted nothing more than home. So all summer, I had home: its monotony, humidity, and comfort.

This year, I did not know the end was coming. In the last stretch of class after my birthday I had an unprecedented amount of stress land on my head and try to smother me like some heavy, hellish duvet, and by the time I crawled out from under that, it was study day, and I could count my time left on campus in the showers I had still to take.

I walked back to my room from turning in a last term paper and I saw they had the big roll-away dumpsters out for the end of the year and a heaviness hit my chest which has not left since.

This morning my classical ed class had a raucous, obnoxious breakfast together in Hicks and went merrily on our way to our nine o’clock final. As I took my last Edwards’ test my chest began to feel more and more full. I have never been more reluctant to leave an exam.

At length I did, and my feet dragged. And since then, I’ve been running into the rest of my classmates all day like we’re bunch of magnets who can’t stay apart. (Well, actually, I called Megan at one point and said “Where are you? I want to see you.” I’ll take responsibility for that one.) We talk about nothing and say “Well, isn’t this weird? I guess some of us will still be here after all this…” And then the weight swells a bit more.

This afternoon, I took my SSFT study guide to the chapel and sat while Michael played the organ. After a while, he asked if he could play loud and I said I didn’t mind. After another while, he asked what my favorite hymn was and I said how about “Come Thou Fount.” The weight in my chest expanded down to my toes as I sat with my knees to my chin on the hard pew. The fans clicked high above me and “songs of loudest praise” wrapped round me.

It’s just growing pains, I think. My God is “tuning my heart.” There’s no tears or melodrama, just an ungainly hurt that stings of eternity.

For now, I go to read for Lit Crit and clean the room for a favorite sister who’s coming. His goodness will continue to bind me even when I do not look for it.


Last night I watched It’s a Wonderful Life in Harker Lounge with quite a few people whom I like very much. At the end George gets a copy of Tom Sawyer from Clarence with this inscription in it: “Dear George, Remember, no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings. Love, Clarence.” Well, I’ve been feeling real rich and successful lately.

I am so grateful for the people who surround me, who listen to me and who I get to listen to. I am grateful for friends who let me mark up what they write. I am grateful for friends who laugh at me, whether I am funny or not. I am grateful for friends who let me share their worries, and who don’t mind that sometimes I have nothing to mend their hurts but my own creased brow. I am grateful for friends who send short emails and leave long voicemails. I am grateful for friends who are generous and enthusiastic on days when I am neither. I am grateful for friends who sass me, who point and giggle when I am silly. I am grateful for friends who love my family and my past simply because they are mine. I am grateful for friends who remember what I told them long ago. I am grateful for friends who hold my hands while they talk to me. I am grateful for friends with whom to be silent.

I am grateful for these people who have, for whatever reason, found me worth their time. They remind me every day that my God is good. He is good to me.

Rich Condition

A week and a half ago, during the drive back up to school I made this list of things I was thankful for.

Friends who periodically lose their voices

Birthday cake

The opportunity to read books and write papers

My sister’s slackline

My sister


The south

Leaves on trees

Mille Bornes

My grandparents

Driving by myself

The promise of summer jobs

The perhaps of eventual teaching jobs



Computer battery life


Pretty dresses

Mothers who sew things magically overnight like the tailor of Gloucester’s mice friends

Not wearing make-up

Growing up

Chairs that recline

Not going to the dentist


Game night

The fact that there is a man named Roger Beverage running for Sherriff Somewhere in West Virginia

Small boys In Subway with bowl cuts

Scenic overlooks

The Family Pantry


Double spring

The interim between then and now has contained some less than pleasant days, but let me tell you some nice things.

-Sarah and I are officially living on third floor West next year, with a bathroom all to ourselves. I will forever remember MEP with fondness, but can promise not to miss it in the slightest.

-I registered for classes last night, and (along with Pre-Calc and Baby Physics) am taking Creative Writing, Sacrament and Lit, and Fantasy Lit next semester. Wonderful, wonderful.

-Today I got up and dressed up for Friday for the first time in quite a while. Then, with the rest of my Educational Policy class, I went to Dr. Edwards’ lecture for the Vision and Values conference, instead of watching the movie he’d assigned us for our class hour. He sent us an email later which said “You all are very kind. Disobedient. But kind.”

-This afternoon Laura and I went on a walk down Pinchalong, and sat on the edge of a cornfield for about twenty minutes. The field was raised so right at eyelevel we could see the stubble of the stalks all crowded round with big bright dandelions, and behind them were barely-leafy trees and a grand blue sky. There was sun and wind and roosters from that one weird house crowing in the distance. We decided that it was almost like finding Nowhere.

-In a few minutes I have a date with Heidi and Maddie to discuss making a big old wonderful breakfast for the Family Pantry in a couple weeks. Then I’m going to children’s theatre, then to finally watch that movie with the girls from Ed Policy.

I can easily describe this year in one word: humbling. I can no longer seem be able to do anything the way I’d like, or be anything I think I ought to be able to be. I am incapable, broken. Sometimes I feel like those words must be written on my forehead. I know that this is God “breaking the back of foolish pride,” and it is good, but it has been long. Every time I think I must surely, surely have learned enough, something else I had been counting on breaks down, and I must run for cover to the Rock. I must keep returning to Him till I clearly see that all else really is sinking sand. The first verse of one of my favorite hymns ends in this way:

Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known;
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

That, I suppose, is the lesson of the year. My condition is rich. I have faithful friends whose goodness continues to bless me, I have truly wonderful parents who will love me no matter what, I have two wonderful homes (at the very least), I have clothes and books and papers and pencils which make me quite happy, and I’m getting a really good liberal arts education, for heaven’s sake! Yet I have all these things by the grace of God. They are His. And, by the grace of God, so am I.

Happy Heart

I missed a week. I’m sorry. In the meantime I have been thinking deeply about blog ideas. I thought about writing about going running, about heartsickness, about boldness and hypocrisy, about summer jobs, about Hopkins and Emerson, and about the letter V. So here’s that blog entry:

I’m bad at going running; heartsickness sucks; I am not bold, but I am often a hypocrite; I need a summer job; Hopkins and Emerson are marvelous to read; and the letter V is very passionate.

But the blog entry I’m going to actually write you today goes something like this:

I have a folder on my desktop called “Happy Heart” and it is full of other folders which are full of pictures.

My dad took this in July when he ought to have been packing up the car so he and Mom could leave Brookfield. I had just been a mechanic and gotten the belt back on the mower. Also, don’t you love the lake? I miss it.

I love this person.

This is my backyard–mostly my mom’s garden. It was my desktop for a while.

This is my French professor from last fall and my current Symbolic Logic professor. They’re married to each other, and I’m sure they have no idea I’m in possession of this picture.

This is cool.

These are some of my cousins and me on my grandpa’s eighty-sixth birthday. We ate pie and I like them. This was my desktop for a while too.

I love this person too.

This is my dad and my grammy. I like their faces.

We have Storytime tonight. In Heidi’s room. And it’s gonna be  Just. Like. This.

Perspective and Going Running

I have spent the past week at Story Book Lodge up in the Iron Range of Minnesota. It’s a Bible camp my uncle directs which is operated entirely on the strength of donations and prayer. It is a wonderful, wonderful place which is very dear to many people who are very dear to me. And yet, I am (rather emphatically) not a camp person. Of course this was just a family camp, so to relieve my bad mood I could do things like drive down to the mall in Duluth with my cousins and let shopping get me even grumpier, or sit in the foyer outside the gym for an hour and a half, waiting for evening volleyball to finish and getting eaten by very large mosquitos. You know.

The fact is I have not been super-pleasant this week. My cousin Hannah put up with me quite well and made me laugh a lot besides.  But I kept having conversations with my parents about a rather tense issue, and also spent an inordinate amount of time dreading being back at my grandparents’ house by myself for another two weeks. It’s not that every sensible cell in my brain does not know that it’s really a wonderful blessing to be there, one which will only be available to me for a few more years, but more that I tend to get panicked about being so alone with myself all over again. A nasty part of me is pouting and saying, “But didn’t you already pay your dues? You shouldn’t have to do this.” Really, I should want to do this, but I don’t, and someone should knock me upside the head. Suck it up, Alice. Learn to mow the lawn, and be patient about seeing Harry Potter.

On Thursday night I stayed with Hannah while she housesat for friends and after she had fallen asleep I had a white night sitting in a stranger’s kitchen and crying while their dog alternately licked my feet and growled menacingly. I had a long careful think, and decided three things. First, I was going to beg my cousin Joe to come back to Grandma’s with me. Second, I was going to have all my hair chopped off into a super-short bob. And third, I was going to start going running regularly, preferably early in the morning. Brilliant. Life-changing. I called my mom and told her my plans, and she told me to go to sleep, it was two a.m.

When we got back to camp the next day, my mom told me that Joseph wasn’t going to be able to come, and I received dubious reactions to the bob idea. But the running idea stuck, which I was pleased about. Still am, actually. Feel free to laugh, but I want to do this, and I can be just as stubborn about wanting to do something as not wanting to. (At least, that’s the theory. I’ve never actually tested it.)

And then God brought something else. Perspective. I got on facebook for the first time in few days, and found out that my freshman RA, Alyssa, had just had an emergency liver transplant. I know very few of the details. Last time I saw her she was perfectly healthy, but as I write this she is in Dallas at the Baylor University Medical Center. She is able to blink and move her eyebrows to communicate, and soon they’ll take out the respiratory tube. While she recovers, inch by agonizing inch, I will be breathing clean lake breezes and pulling weeds. I really have no right to say anything but “Thank You.”

I love you, Lyss. If you can have major organs replaced at the drop of a hat, I can learn a little patience and trust, huh? God really is good.


All day fat snow has been falling–the kind that frosts my coat, clogs my eyelashes and makes me feel quite Puckish. This afternoon, friends and I are walking to Salvation Army to buy sweaters and flannel and Christmas presents. There is absolutely nothing I would rather be doing this particular Friday than tramping through northeast-midwest snow in a hat and red peacoat with the FamPan.

When I woke up on the first of December to see the world white-washed, I groaned. “A great, suffocating blanket of ugh has descended,” I told myself, “not to rise again for months on end.” But I put on a sweater-dress and marched out to face it. Then came a peacoat in the mail. And boots out of my closet. And finally Christmas wormed into my soul, (“Well, in Whoville they say the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!”) and, also, the flakes gained weight. Really, who can resist a pudgy snowflake? It’s even more adorable than  pudgy baby! Dozens of them nestle in hair, looking for all the world like Titania’s Cobweb and Moth. When I open my mouth to speak, they wander right in tasting of Christmas and glitter. I catch them, and they melt, but while they last they look ever so cuddly. How could George Bailey have jumped off a bridge on a snowy night?

To me, until I tire of it, this snow is useless, glorious manna inspiring my most dire creativity. I will skip my way to Salvo, and buy the biggest sweaters, the brightest flannel, and the most devilishly perfect presents. If only this particular snowfall will keep up I, myself, may demand to carve the roast beast.

Grove City

I’ve been talking a great deal about being thankful lately, but something odd happened this week–the day before Thanksgiving, in fact. I was at a bonfire with my erstwhile classmates, talking college. They would ask me how Grove City was and I’d say “Great! I love it!” which was perfectly true, but then I’d go on to elaborate, and somehow everything that came out of my mouth was negative. I was spewing more criticism about my school than I had even thought, and I’m the type of kid who thinks a lot. I kind of think I sent everyone home with the impression that Grove City is awful, and I am a whiner. The former is not true in the least, but the latter, well, yes.

So, here’s my attempt at a remedy: a cute little countdown list of the top eight things I do not just like but actually love at Grove City. It is both a counting of my blessings and an impudent assertion that whatever junk I happened to be babbling the other night, my school is still better than yours. Here we go…

8: All the dumb little things. Sherri’s omelettes, having the warmest room on the hall, not having to take one’s ID out of one’s wallet to swipe it, and a ridiculously large number of dances.

7:The campus. If you have not seen this place, you should come visit me, if only to stand in the middle of the quad after dark and get lost in Harbison’s stained glass. Really. Even the boys’ dorms are pretty, and who bothers with that?

6: Grace Anglican. I still am happily coming to terms with the fact that I can worship with the same literature that I study in Brit Lit. Also, actually kneeling is a good way to begin to learn humility.

5:The HUMA core. Don’t laugh at me, dear fellow Grovers, but everytime I think about the point of this whole Humanities core, it give me hope for…well, everything.  Go ahead, willingly stuff your mind with all the things you should know, but didn’t really care to learn…until they were learned and you were suddenly smart and thankful. Hurrah for cultural literacy and a love of everything good!

4: Found Ed. It’s really history and philosophy of education, and oh, how I love it. It is giving me all these brilliant and radical ideas about how to glorify God better with our minds…so if you happen to care about that, I have some books to lend you. If you disagree, I might even argue with you. It’s becoming that important to me.

3: Warriors. There is nothing I need more on a Thursday night than to throw my hands in the air and sing, “Praise Jesus!” And that’s exactly what I get to do for an hour in a dark chapel crowded with hundreds of other people doing the same thing. I’m usually pretty needy by nine on a Thursday.

2: Dr. Brown. There. I said it. And on the world wide web, too. I sort of hate that I can work my tail off on a paper, and have no idea whether I’ll even get a B, but mostly I love it. I’m being challenged, and let’s face it–that’s new. Oh, how I am learning–the woman knows her business. And she makes lovely scones.

1: The Family Pantry. That was inevitable. You should have seen it coming. The reason I will always love Caldwell is because of the people, and Grove City is no different. The girls on this hall are worth far more to me than any education I will ever recieve. I could never leave because I would have a FamPan-shaped hole and they’d have an Alice-shaped hole, and really, I ask you, how could we be expected to cope with that? We couldn’t–so here I am, and here I stay.

Also, Grove might be home. For brief, disconnected moments, you know…

The Fam Pan

Every other day Emily tells me that someday I’m going to get rich and famous writing a book about The Family Pantry, so I figure the time has come to get started.

I live on this hall, see. We’re the little extra freshman hall stuck over in MEP with sophomores and sororities. We are, courtesy of our RA, Alyssa,  The Family Pantry or The Fam Pan, (that one’s probably courtesy of Laura.) Our walls are decorated with cut-outs of eggs, plastic signs that say things like “Jello”, and cereal boxes that are always falling down. It’s so great. We’re probably the only freshman hall left on campus without t-shirts, but hey! that’s okay–we have aprons! So we also don’t have a couch or dual-flush toilets like everyone else, but we have the Share Chair and who needs to flush up and down in the bathroom, when there are dance parties to be had?

I like to think that the name of our hall is just the most devastatingly appropriate thing in the world. First off: (*ahem*) We are a Family. There’s Mamalyssa, and her boyfriend, Papa John. We have whole halls of brothers and cousins on campus, and some of us even have adopted grandparents. And I was just thinking today that our living space really is just like a house, except it’s all bedrooms, and one huge bathroom, and has really ugly carpet. Anyhow, we love each other a lot. I, personally, am always in everybody else’s room, and have already begun to borrow people’s clothes. There are people on the hall to crack my back, lend me coloring books and come knock on my window in the evenings to scare the crud out of me.

And secondly, we are a Pantry. I know what rooms to go to to get tea, cookie dough brownies, and most of all, snow peas. We’re very big on the pea. And last night Maddie and I cooked The Best Dinner I Have Ever Had. And…it was. We made souffle, stuffed chicken, green beans, and crepes. It was a smashing success, and it’s going to  be happening again. Don’t you wish were there? Yes, you do. But it was Fam Pan only (except Maddie’s boyfriend.) We are our own sisterhood! Who needs sororities?

Basically, I’m in a silly mood tonight, but I usually am around them. I love y’all. Thanks for loving me. I don’t know what I would do without you dears: gingers, music majors, and all. I expect lots of comments.