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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

So speaking of my transition to A&M...

Per Risa's request, I'd like to share with you a little bit about my freshman year roommate experience at A&M:

So in an act of pure bravery, I applied for housing at A&M and checked that box that I was not requesting any particular roommate and was, instead, going pot luck. I remember receiving a letter from A&M in late July informing me that I had been assigned to a roommate from some unheard of Texas town named Betsy, which, coincidentally, is my mom's name.

Anyway, I decided to write this new roommate a letter to introduce myself (not sure why I opted for a letter instead of a phone call, but if you'll keep reading, that might have been a wise decision). So I carefully chose my words and wrote a brief but informative note to my future roomie introducing myself (where I'm from, etc.) and invited her to call or e-mail me at her convenience to discuss details. I sealed the letter, stamped it, and handed it to my dad to mail for me. My dad had to go to Houston for business the next day, so he waited until he arrived to H-town to mail it. Sounds normal, right? Well apparently not.

A week or so later I open my cookieajn@aol.com e-mail inbox to find an e-mail awaiting me from a name I didn't recognize... bigfatbetsy@(something).com. So I think to myself, "Huh? Did my mom become morbidly obese and change her e-mail address, and decide to correspond with me via the internet instead of in person? Surely not. I should open this and check it out."

No, friends, the e-mail was not from my mom, it was from Betsy the roomie. It started out like this, "Dear Amanda (if that IS your actual name)..." and then she proceeds to inform me that while I stated in my letter that I was from Austin, the postmark was actually from Houston. As such, she wasn't sure that she could trust that anything I had told her was actually true. Wow. That's normal. If you are a psychopath.

She then tells me that she is actually a sophomore and she was hoping to share a room with another friend of hers on campus and would I mind swapping roommates. I couldn't click "reply" fast enough to tell her that I would be more than happy to avoid a year of my life spent sharing a 10x10 box with her. I wondered to myself if "fat Betsy" would even fit in said box?

Regardless, I ended up "swapping" roommates with Betsy's on-campus BFF and never did get to meet her... I'll chalk that up as a dodged bullet in my book. But the story doesn't end there:

I obtained the phone number for my new (and hopefully improved) roommate and decided to skip the letter-writing (seeing as it didn't go over too well with Private Investigator Betsy the first time). We chatted and I learned that her name was Katie and she was from south Texas. I then asked her what I thought was a normal question: "So, are you going through Rush?"
Katie: "Rush? What's that?"
Me: "Oh you know, sorority recruitment."
Katie: "Oh... no. My parents think sororities are from the devil."
Me: "... Well great! Can't wait to meet you AND your parents!" Click.

An awkward introduction to say the least. Katie was a bit unusual to say the least, and although we didn't have a whole lot in common, we always managed to find common ground. A fun fact about her: she had a pet hedgehog named Alice who apparently poops whenever she is fed lettuce... a fact I assure you I was eager to learn.

And to close this post, I will re-cap a conversation that Katie and I had while living together that will weird you out, make you laugh, or both:
K: "So what were your friends like in high school?"
Me: "Well we were pretty much the "good kids" - the youth group crowd, I guess. Pretty wholesome group. What about your friends?"
K: "Well we were called the 'Medieval Lesbian Chicks'..."
Me: (meanwhile, a mixture of concerned, scared, and amused) "Um, are you going to explain?"
K: "Well 'medieval' because we had long hair and we were able to do a lot of stuff with it."
Me: "And the lesbian part?"
K: "Oh, well we just didn't really have any guy friends..."
Hmm. Shocking.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thanks and gig 'em.

I have found myself the butt of many Aggie jokes and comments that weren't exactly in good fun (I appreciate the ones that are) lately, and in quickly coming to the university's and my own defense, I have found myself reflecting on what lead me to that wonderful school in the first place. So for your reading pleasure, here's how it all went down:

It all started back in the summer of 2000. I had just completed my junior year of high school, and was constantly plagued by the question: "So where are YOU going to college?" Did I know the answer? No.

I spent the better part of that summer sorting through literature from a variety of colleges that I received in the mail. I received my first actual application from Vanderbilt, and remember filling it out immediately, without stopping to ponder if I really wanted to go to school there. I ended up tearing it up and throwing it away eventually (only because I decided I wanted to go somewhere closer), but it at least served as a good rough draft for the others!

By the start of my senior year, I had decided upon and submitted applications to 5 different universities: Trinity, Tulane, SMU, UT, and A&M. I visited them all, and remember a few random details about each one:

SMU: close to where I grew up in Dallas; gave away free t-shirts on the tour
Trinity: realized quickly that the students on campus were not my crowd; had nice dorm rooms
Tulane: gave us a disposable camera for the tour that said "Picture yourself at Tulane" on the outside... smart thinking, if you ask me
UT: very overwhelming "tour" consisting of hundreds of other prospective students
A&M: really hot and humid; when my parents asked me what I thought, I responded with, "I don't know that I really want to go to that stupid farmer school..."

November rolled around and while I was on a youth group senior trip, I received a phone call from my mom informing me that I had received my first acceptance letter, and lo and behold, it was from A&M! I was pleased and relieved to be accepted anywhere, but as you can tell from my comments above, I wasn't exactly over-nighting my dorm preference and deposit money to them.

Senior year flew right on by and I felt more and more like the walls were closing in on me as I put off deciding where to go. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to all 5 schools, and while most are excited to have so many choices, I found it inconveniently frustrating. I was surprisingly (if you know me and you anything about New Orleans, then you understand why I say "surprisingly") leaning most heavily towards Tulane, but for some reason, just couldn't bring myself to commit.

On the last weekend of March (dangerously close to graduation), I attended a graduation party outside of Austin for my good friend, Hunter. Hunter had already committed to attending A&M, and we all laughed at the party while we watched a video clip that his Longhorn parents took of him as a young child taking an oath that he "would not go to Texas A&M." Very cute.

Several other friends- most notably, my identical twin sister- were also deadset and over-the-top excited about attending A&M. I couldn't understand this, as I had been so unimpressed with the 3-hour time period I had spent in Aggieland. Sure, Freebirds was tasty and the sorority houses we had driven by were nice-looking, but I was otherwise underwhelmed.

It was the evening after Hunter's graduation party where it dawned on me that if so many of my friends and FAMILY- whose opinions I respected and often shared- thought so highly of this university, then maybe it might not be so bad after all. I talked to some friends to gather my pro's and con's list, and headed over to Hunter's house to get some advice in making my decision. After an hour or 2 of anguishing over the decision- Tulane or A&M? New Orleans or College Station? Small or big? Liberal or conservative? Could my choices have been any different from one another?- I made up my mind that Texas A&M was the school for me.

In hindsight, it is amusing that I spent months thinking of A&M as my lowly back-up school, considering it only as a last resort, only to decide at the last minute to spend my college days there. It makes me wonder if God arranged for me to get A&M's acceptance letter first for a reason... who knows?

Regardless, a lot of thought, prayer, and questioning ultimately lead me to make what I believe was one of the best decisions I ever made. I will always look back on my 4 years at A&M with a smile, and will always be thankful for the people I met there, including one very special person that ended up being my husband :)

So for those of you who read this lengthy tale, thanks... and gig 'em.

Short, sweet, and to the point

I do not like it when people cuss or use foul language in front of me. Period. There. I said it.

I sat next to a man- a total stranger- on an airplane this past week who was cussing in our "conversation" (let's be honest, I wanted to read my book, so this was a very one-sided conversation) not 2 hours after "meeting" me. What gives you the impression that I want to hear those words come out of your mouth? What gives you the right to talk that way in front of me when you don't even know me?

I will go ahead and admit that my language is not perfect, but I certainly make an effort. For me, it is primarily an issue of using my words to glorify the Lord. But it is secondarily an issue of showing other people respect by not carelessly tossing out offensive words in front of them. I really hope this doesn't sound self-righteous, because I am definitely guilty of using words that aren't necessarily "bad words" but that can still be hurtful to others.

Anyway, this topic has just been in my head and on my heart for the past couple of weeks, because I am a firm believer that what goes in will ultimately come out. And I do not like or appreciate the negative effects on my language that result from spending time with people who make little to no effort to guard their tongues. I know that ultimately I bear responsibility for what comes out of my mouth, but it sure is easier to filter when there isn't as much incoming junk to filter out :)

So I won't rant any further... just remember next time you are on an airplane (in a restaurant, on a cell phone, etc.) that the way you talk to the person next to you will make an impact on them. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Everyone should have been so lucky growing up

Let me tell you about a little friend of mine named Phyllis. You see, I have known Phyllis for my entire life. She was literally there the day that my parents brought Allison and me home from the hospital. Phyllis has been an integral part of many phases in my family’s life, and for that, I think she deserves a post:

When my older sister, Elizabeth, was a wee little toddler, my parents decided that they needed someone to help out around the house—a housekeeper/nanny of sorts. So one of my parents somehow got Phyllis’s name passed along from a friend, and decided to give her a try. So Phyllis started coming (I’m not sure how often) to help out. She remained a fixture in our household—sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, and sometimes only when my parents were out of town and needed someone to stay with us—until we moved to Austin in August of 1996… almost 20 years after she had first started.

Like many children who grow up with a regular babysitter, we grew quite find of and quite attached to Phyllis and her many memorable habits and sayings. If you knew any of the Nelson children in our younger years, you probably knew Phyllis too. And if you weren’t fortunate enough to meet her, you have likely heard stories about her—often told in a mythic fashion, as if she is some made-up character in a book—in our elder years. So for those of you who fit into either of those categories, this might make you nostalgic for that bright orange-haired, pink make-up wearing, fair-skinned, slightly overweight Scandinavian babysitter. And for those of you who don’t know a thing about her, consider this a crash course… Phyllis 101, if you will. But brace yourselves, there is a lot to say!

A few fun facts about our beloved Phyllis:
- She never showed up to our house empty-handed. Every visit, without fail, she came with a bag of peanuts, a bag of M&Ms, and at least a pack or 2 of Doublemint gum for each of us. I blame Phyllis for the dentist visit at age 6 at which I was informed I had 8 cavities at one time.

- She gave us unusual nicknames. She referred to my brother, Andrew, as “Orville,” and called Allison and me “Momalee.” Elizabeth didn’t get a nickname… oops.

- Every time she made us brownies, she let us lick the bowl. I still ask Brian for permission to do so when we bake, and it still makes my day.

- She had a fake pink tooth. Not sure why it was pink, but it was. A nice pearly shade of pink. One morning while Allison and I were waiting for carpool, she was telling us a story and the tooth went flying. Allison panicked- as she usually does in uncomfortable situations- and still acts very alarmed when she tells the story today.

- Due to the trouble she had with her legs, Phyllis wasn’t able to go up and down the stairs. We used to joke about how we were going to tie a jump rope around her and drag her up there on a skate board so she could hang out with us. The best part is that Elizabeth somehow convinced herself that this actually happened, and still to this day swears that all 4 Nelson kids got together and dragger her up the stairs.

- She loved to collect postcards, and insisted that we send her one from any vacations we took… even if they were the same vacations we had taken every year prior.

- She also loved to collect dried leaves, and because Allison is a huge suck-up, I think she still goes out and collects some fall foliage to press and send to Phyllis in the mail even today.

- Phyllis mumbled to herself incoherently as she would shuffle from room to room in her famous slippers. Andrew used to rig the intercom in the house so that we could hear her, although we could never decipher what she was saying.

- Phyllis did, and still continues to tell the same stories over, and over, and over, and over again. Ask any Nelson child, and they can repeat- word for word- the story about when my dad called home to say my mom delivered twins, the story about when my grandfather used an offensive racial slur, etc. She also makes sure to remind us (rather angrily) that Elizabeth never sent her pictures from her and Ford’s wedding in Mexico. It doesn’t matter if these topics are related to the conversation or not… they will come up anyway.

- A Nelson child will never, EVER have a phone call with Phyllis without hearing about (a) how she was the only one that took pictures of us growing up and (b) how one of these days, she swears she is going to put all of the pictures together and send us copies. We aren’t holding our breath :)

- She put our friends to work. Elizabeth’s taller friends always ended up watering the plants, and she tried to make Andrew’s best friend do all kinds of slave labor around the house… although they would usually run up the stairs out of her reach and hide to avoid doing it.

- Her house was/is filled with a collection of random figurines, and glitter-covered ceilings. We very rarely went to her house- she was just always at ours- but I used to beg my dad to let me go with him when he’d drive her home at night after babysitting. I normally fell asleep in the car, but for whatever reason, I really loved going.

- One time when Phyllis was staying with us while our parents were away, the phone rang while she was just getting in or out of the shower. Although Allison and I were too young to remember, Elizabeth and Andrew swear they saw her bounding down the hall in the nude in an effort to catch the phone. After seeing how it scarred them both, let’s just say that I hope that was an important phone call.

As you can see, Phyllis was not your ordinary babysitter. She always made life interesting, to say the least. We still all talk to Phyllis on the phone occasionally, and she still faithfully sends my dad a pack of shoe-string potato sticks and my mom a subscription to a new magazine annually. She wasn’t able to make it to any of our weddings, but you better believe she would have been there if she could. Phyllis is and was a part of our family, and will always hold a special place in the Nelsons’ hearts… and holiday dinner-table conversations :)

So here’s to you, Phyllis- thanks for all the memories! (I will try and post a picture of her later so you can have a visual)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sorry if this post makes you gag (Allison)

Brian Wayne Joiner is known for many things… video game fiend, animal lover, sports junkie, Mountain Dew consumer, just to name a few. I first noticed Brian on the Aggie bus when Allison and I saw that he was sporting a homemade homestarrunner.com t-shirt. Yes, readers, my husband purchased iron-on letters and made his own t-shirt. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that he was introduced to me on that very same bus route by a mutual friend. It was then that I noticed he had a sense of humor, as he was willing to go along with a fake- and intentionally very public-best friend break-up on the bus.

A few bus rides later, I remember when he told me that he was an RPTS major, and, as everyone does when he declares this is his major, I quickly asked what in the heck he was planning on doing with a degree that had “recreation” in its title. He responded that he really wanted to be a youth minister, which impressed me. We weren’t dating at this point, I wouldn’t even say we were friends at this point. But I remember going to Target with Brittany (then Preston) Sciba later that week and talking about how I sort of had a crush on this guy from the bus, but that I wasn’t sure if I could marry a youth minister. Ha ha, leave it to a girl to jump that far ahead after only a few brief conversations on the Aggie bus.

Nonetheless, 3.5 years later I did just that and married a youth minister. Well, I like to think of it as I married Brian Joiner, who happens to be a youth minister. Although now that I type that, the two are really one in the same, as I can’t imagine him doing any other job. But as usual, I digress. Anyway, Brian has now been my husband for 5 months, 9 days, 19 hours, and 32 minutes. And although there is probably something more amusing or enraging (as the case usually is) that I could be blogging about, I decided that he was worth at least one blog post :o). With that said, allow me to share with you just a few reasons why I love my husband:

1. He is a fearless bug-killer and protector of the house.
I probably ask Brian to kill or dispose of the remains of a bug in our house at least twice a week. Sometimes they are harmless (though disgusting) dead roaches, and sometimes they are tricky mosquitoes that he has to catch and smash. Regardless, I hate dealing with them, and for his bravery in doing so time and time again, I am thankful. Also, if you’ll refer back to the post where I blogged about the break-in-turned-broken-picture-frame incident, Brian displayed his fearlessness in true white trash fashion. When the sound of glass breaking awoke him at 11 pm, he jumped out of the bed dressed in an undershirt and boxers, and grabbed a baseball bat in one hand and a flashlight in the other and went to hunt down the intruder. Meanwhile, I sat scared speechless in our bed. And later, when we realized the intruder was a picture frame, he even got out the shop-vac to safely get rid of the glass. What a guy.

2. He is quite the impressive dog-trainer.
Truth be told, I think he really looks up to the “Dog Whisperer” on TV. We watched an episode of it on Friday, and he spend the rest of the weekend putting the Dog Whisperer's advice into practice, and reprimanding me if I did something contrary to what the advice suggested. But in all seriousness, he is very good with Noah… he has taught him to sit and shake hands on command, and now he is working on getting him to roll over. We have only had Noah for 2 weeks! Brian is very determined to have an obedient dog, that’s for sure. I appreciate this, though, as I know it will be the best thing for Noah and for us. Plus, I am hoping he will carry this out into our child-raising years and be the disciplinarian so I can be the fun parent – ha ha! But for those of you that really know us well, you know that I have no hope of ever being the fun parent. Sad.

3. He tries his best to do all of the things that make me happy, even though he thinks some of them are pointless.
Every day of my life since I can remember, I have made my bed first thing in the morning after the alarm clock goes off. I always pull the shower curtain closed when I get out. I always put my dirty laundry in the laundry basket. I always rinse off my dishes and put them in the dishwasher immediately after eating. To say that I am structured or that I am a creature of habit would be an understatement. And I am the first to admit that marrying a creature of habit is probably a big huge pain in the butt. However, I can proudly say that Brian has adapted well to my ridiculous expectations. He has always been a bit more on the messy and disorganized side, but every day he makes a concentrated effort (and believe me, it is a real effort) to do all of those little things just because he knows they make me happy. To someone as anal retentive as I am, this means the world. Oh, and he also humors me when I play the “Am I prettier than _______?” game and always answers that yes, I am prettier than whatever actress/model/etc. I have put in the blank.

4. He is always good for a laugh.
Whether he is impersonating a make-believe duck, talking in a Russian accent, or adding the name “Poop” to a ballot list when we are voting for something at church (don’t worry, he didn’t turn it in), he always gives me something to laugh about. I will admit that there are many times during the week when I find myself laughing at him and not with him (like when Noah revolts and uses the “shake” trick to paw Brian in the face, and Brian remains serious and doesn’t look the least bit amused), but nonetheless, he makes me laugh.

In case you don’t know Brian, I recommend that you get to know him—he is a very likeable guy :o) Perhaps this post will be continued at a later date and time… for now, peace out.

Friday, January 4, 2008

And here are the pics of our cute pup!





Sorry for the delay on these pics of Noah! Funny story: I told Brian that we should probably start making sure that all toilet lids are closed now so that Noah doesn't drink out of the toilet. Brian shrugged and said he didn't really care, and told me that dogs are supposed to drink out of toilets. Well last night, Noah went into the guest room (where Brian had left the lid up on the toilet) and got himself a good drink of water. And what did he do immediately after? He went and licked Brian's face :) Maybe that will teach him!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

And then there were three!

No, we are not pregnant. But yes, we did get a dog! We are proud to welcome Noah, an adorable 1-year-old Siberian Husky mix, into our family! I can't get his picture to post at the moment, but I promise to put one up later. For now, you can click here to view of album of pictures of him. (Side note: Brian had convinced me it was spelled “Huskie” and I found out today that he was incorrect… so if you have noticed it misspelled on facebook, shutterfly, or somewhere else, you can take it up with Brian:o)

We decided on Sunday afternoon to look around for dogs online, since we knew we wanted to get one soon. Well of course, we were tempted by all of the cute pictures and quickly decided to go out and look in person. We ended up going to the Houston SPCA to “adopt” our new friend. After filling out paperwork and perusing the rooms full of puppies and dogs, we spotted Noah. We had seen him earlier in our original walk-through and thought he was a good-looking dog, and decided we wanted to take him into the “Get Acquainted” room… sort of like a first date- ha ha. Anyway, we took him in the room and he was jumping and licking and very excited to (a) be out of his cage and (b) get to hang out with people that were doing something other than cleaning up his poop.

After just 5 minutes with the then-named Marcus, we decided we were in love and just had to have him. Fortunately (and I say “fortunately” because of my pathetic need for instant gratification), he already had all of his shots and had already been neutered, so we got to take him home immediately. So we hopped in Brian’s truck with our furry and excited friend and headed home, making a brief stop to pick up dog food and the other essentials. It was during this 30-minute car ride that we decided to change his name to Noah, as we thought it more fitting. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to respond to or recognize his name as Marcus anyway, so we were in luck.

Anyway, he has now been part of our home for 3 days and we couldn’t be happier with our new family member. He has a very sweet disposition, and seems to be a quick learner (we are working on “sit” and “shake” to start out). His favorite activities include: chewing on his bone, going on walks, and spying on us through our windows… he is very curious. He also likes to chase his shadow and chew on himself, but those aren’t the traits of which we are most proud :o)

He loves visitors (although he jumps, so beware! We are working on it!), so feel free to come meet him in person. I feel like this is good practice for when we have children, as we are already having to tweak our routines a bit for him… but it is well worth it!

Not much else to report… we had fun celebrating the arrival of 2008 with the Scibas and the Leys, and are looking forward to another wonderful year… our first full year together as newlyweds! Hard to believe 2007 is over, isn’t it? Good times, good times.