Santa Fe with Michele

Earlier this year, Chuck started asking me what I wanted to do to celebrate turning 40 years old. Figuring that I wanted a party of some sort, he came back to that idea a few times – venues and guests lists. Nope, I reassured him. That’s not what I wanted. What I really wanted to was to go back to Amarillo and visit Michele

We met in 2009 when I responded to an ad for a features writer for the city’s magazine. We’d been freshly transplanted from North Georgia to the Texas panhandle, which meant I had given up my column of eight years in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. It was a natural thing to look for a job since homeschooling wasn’t on the horizon and the boys were approaching school age. When I interviewed with Michele, I felt an instant connection – not just that I wanted to work for her but that I wanted to be friends with her.

I was hired by March, and I knew right away that working at the Globe-News, specifically Amarillo Magazine, was going to help me adjust to the high plains, an area of the country unlike anywhere I’ve lived before. Michele became my boss and, soon after, my friend. She helped me find my way around Amarillo, helped me find a doctor, helped me navigate the school system, helped me feel not so lonely. 

Our mutual friend April picked me up from the airport! What a nice surprise!

Michele and I worked in sync and had a blast while doing so, but with much at stake for our family, I knew I couldn’t stay. We needed – and wanted – to move back home to Tennessee. So, three years after meeting Michele and enjoying every bit of my job as the features writer for Amarillo Magazine, I said goodbye.


The week before 40

I texted her in May or June (I can’t remember now) about visiting her during the summer. We wouldn’t stay in Amarillo, but I would fly there and we’d drive to Santa Fe, the best little retreat three and half hours from the panhandle. We used to run away to Santa Fe when we lived in Amarillo. In fact, my favorite camping trip ever was just north of the city at Hyde Memorial State Park.  We also spent the first Christmas without my mother-in-law in Santa Fe, an attempt at grieving and figuring out what happens to a family after the matriarch passes away. 

We settled on dates and I immediately starting looking forward to the trip. We moved away in 2011 but I went back there in 2014 – also for my birthday. That’s the last time Michele and I saw each other in person.

While I was eager for many things, the most important first thing I had to do upon arriving in Amarillo was meet Wilson F., Michele’s dog. 

The first night in Amarillo was relaxing, which set the tone for the next four days. We never moved too fast but that was intentionally.  We didn’t want to spill our wine.

Crush // Amarillo

Santa Fe

I didn’t take my camera on the trip so as to not distract myself from present company, but I snapped plenty of photos with my cell phone, which does a fine job of capturing things I don’t want to forget – like this place:

Las Palomas // Santa Fe

Our lodging for two nights was a delightful boutique hideaway near the main square, but that’s actually what every worthwhile thing is in Santa Fe – hideaways. Little restaurants and hotels are tucked away behind unsuspecting doors and corners. You have to take a chance on everything because facades are deceiving.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

We had no agenda, other than to patronize the short list of shops I wanted to revisit – The Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Double Take (the best consignment store I’ve ever known), and wherever the wine was good.

We returned to Amarillo Tuesday afternoon so I could catch the Wednesday morning flight home, assuring I could spend my actual birthday with Chuck and the boys. 

We grabbed dinner at 575 Pizzeria, a favorite of mine when I lived there. As a bonus, Andy Chase Cundiff was on the calendar to perform – another favorite – whose artwork currently hangs in my home office. He is one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known. (As a third bonus, the first song he sang was “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison, which is the song Chuck and I danced to at our wedding reception nearly 18 years ago. I wept.)

My dinner dates!

Thank you, Michele and Jerry, for being perfect hosts, and thank you, Amarillo, for welcoming this outsider. Thank you, Santa Fe, for being beautiful and inspiring, and thank you, boys (all five of you), for letting me get away for a few days.

And thank you, Wilson F., for sitting so perfectly for this photo:

Throwback Thursday: First Snow in Amarillo

Our Amarillo friends are posting Facebook photos of the big snow they got last night. When we moved to Amarillo I had no idea that our weather would be less like Texas and more like Colorado, and sure enough it snowed during our first few weeks. The boys, age five and two and a half at the time, were thrilled. Little did they know that this dusting in 2009 was nothing compared to the blizzards they would experience in the two years we lived there.

TBT First Snow in Amarillo

Three days in Santa Fe

When I said I was going to Amarillo, that wasn’t a lie. I flew into Amarillo on Wednesday and left Amarillo on Sunday, but in between Wednesday and Sunday, Michele and I were in Santa Fe. It’s a quick nearly-four-hour drive from the Texas panhandle to the capital of New Mexico and everything about that place is a feast. It is rich in history, art, and cuisine, all of which we enjoyed to the fullest. We walked, shopped, ate, drank, repeat, repeat, repeat. Until Saturday, I’d not eaten an omelet with red and green chile pepper salsa, but man oh man. I’m gonna start doing that regularly.

Adobe

As a family, we’ve been to Santa Fe exactly three times. It was a go-to retreat when we needed to see mountains and Amarillo was just… too flat. (Actually, my favorite trip to Santa Fe was when we went camping. Read about that trip here. There are adorable photos of the boys and Hank. It was his last trip with us.)

Although Santa Fe wasn’t new to me, it was a treat to enjoy the city as an unattached adult. We popped into galleries, enjoyed wine at nearly every meal, and perused all the stores that would’ve made my husband and sons collapse in boredom.

That being said, I did enjoy two dinners in Amarillo and a spin around the old neighborhoods. That city is thriving and growing and I’m glad to have seen it in person.

Thank you, Michele, for a most fabulous birthday retreat. ♥

PS. There are more photos on Instagram.

Amarillo Bound

I gotta say – I never thought I’d go back to the Texas Panhandle, much less to celebrate my birthday. When we packed up our things in March 2011 and headed east, I was sure that I’d never return. Living in Amarillo was one of the strangest detours of my life, one that created a lot of heartache, but also one that landed me a fantastic job where I met some wonderful people. Still, when I said goodbye to Amarillo, I didn’t look back. Not even once.

It was foolish to presume that I’d never return, particularly since one of my dearest friends lives there. Michele started out as my boss, but it didn’t take long for her to become my closest confidant. We worked well together at Amarillo Magazine, so well that I sobbed some hard tears after turning in my notice. Despite how badly I wanted to move back to Tennessee and be closer to my family and other friends, I didn’t want to leave Michele or my job. (Seriously, who can say that about a job?)

Growing up an Army brat, I learned early on how to keep in touch with people. I knew distance wouldn’t affect our friendship. She came to visit me in October 2012 and now it’s my turn to do the visiting. I’ve been giddy about it for weeks.

Michele and Me, 2010

 

Michele and Jennie, Maryville 2012Despite my excitement, I’m getting tons of flack from my boys about leaving.

You won’t be here for your birthday? What are we gonna do with Dad? Can I come? When will you be home? How many days will you be gone? 

And so on.

For the record, I’m not the least worried about the boys. Chuck is a great dad. They’ll eat junk food and walk around freely in their underwear.

(I am a little worried about the pets, though. And the garden. No one loves them like I do.)

I leave tomorrow morning. ♥

 

Thank You and Farewell

This farewell comes both early and late. Early, because we never intended to leave Texas after only two years, and late, because it’s been a long year of waiting for our house to sell and living in separate states as a means to make it all work. Finally, this season is over.

In the last two weeks I’ve pondered the things I’ll miss about Amarillo, as well as the things I will not miss. Let’s start with the latter.

I will not miss:
– the make-you-crazy and damaging 40+ mph wind
– the occasional smell of cow manure, especially on a hot summer day
– the flatness of the terrain with minimal trees
– big property taxes on very little land
– refilling drink water jugs every week (I just wanna drink from the tap!)
– the cost of a plane ticket/the long drive to see friends and family on the east coast

Obviously, had the last item not been a factor, the rest would’ve been annoying but manageable. If you’ve ever lived across the country from your loved ones, then you know what I mean. There is something to be said about living within a day’s drive of your parents.

On the flip side, I will most certainly miss:
– my lovely house
– my former job at Amarillo Magazine
– low-to-no humidity (I’ll really miss this when summer in Tennessee rolls around)
– the unmatched beauty of a Panhandle sunrise and sunset
Blue Sky burgers with a side of cheesy bacon fries
Maxwell’s Pumpkin Farm
– of course, the people

I originally attempted to name everyone who’s been so gracious, friendly, and kind to me, but the list ran far too long. As a whole that speaks to the goodness of people who live here, which is a unique and special quality only few cities can claim. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t name a few:

– Michele, I’m convinced that God brought me to Amarillo to meet you. I dearly miss our long talks, our brainstorming sessions and especially our laughter. There is a very short list of people for whom I’d dance, get felt up by a hot air balloonist, and wear my hair in a side ponytail. Fortunately, you made that list on Day One. There is always a place for you to stay wherever I live.

– Danh and Patrick, my favorite work buddies, thank you for all the techy help and good talks. I’ll miss your company. And Danh, Salem will miss you too. He told me so.

– Les, thank you for your support, your Georgia boy banter and for catching the misspelling of my name in the February issue (I’m giving credit where credit is due). I’ll be sure to send you photos from inside Neyland Stadium.

– Jim, thank you for taking a chance on me. Creating your book has been a great privilege.

– Tonya, Christi and Elisa, thank you for fostering a friendship between my boys and yours. Every play date and get-together was worth it.

Taylor, our fearless realtor, your persistence paid off! Thanks for hanging in there with us.

– To the people of Paramount, your generosities come from the heart. For that, you’ve made this last year much easier to bear. Just when I didn’t think we’d have family here, you proved otherwise. Jeff and Debbie, I will deeply miss hearing your bits of wisdom each week. My eyes well up just thinking about it. Thank you, most of all, for your genuine encouragement.

– To all of the wonderful people I interviewed for Amarillo Magazine, thank you for being the greatest introduction to this city a girl could ask for.

I’m overwhelmed by all of the generosity that’s been shown to us. While leaving the city of Amarillo isn’t very hard at all, leaving its people has me in tears. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And farewell.

The One Day Blizzard

I’ll make this brief because I’m tired and have no business blogging at 10:30 at night. Honestly, I should be fighting my insomnia by now.

Anyway, I’ll start the Blizzard post with a picture of Jackson on Friday. He had a fever and didn’t part with Uniqua for about 36 hours. (She is the pink blob underneath his bottom in the picture.)

fever jack
This was taken when the blizzard first got going. Keep in mind that it was 65 degrees the day before.

Jeremy and Chuck in the blizzard
Since Chuck was deprived of igloo-building as a child, he fulfilled a lifelong fantasy and built one on Friday.

working on the igloo

beginning of the igloo

almost done with the igloo

Jake the Roomie helped because it wouldn’t be fitting for any adult male to not take part in building an igloo. This kind of endeavor takes man-skills (and a Rubbermaid lid).

the older boys finish the igloo

The igloo building continued after the little boys went to bed. (Perfection takes time.)

igloo into the night

He was happy. Covered in snow, but happy.
finished igloo
Jeremy was happy, too, to wake up Saturday morning and see the finished igloo in the front yard. Since the temperature rose to nearly 45 degrees that day, playing outside was more enjoyable.

jeremy in the igloo

side of the house

By Sunday, the temperature was back in the 60s and there was little snow to play with. All the neighborhood kids were out enjoying every last bit, including Chuck and Jake, who impaled the small children with snowballs.

snowball fight

boy in shorts

And finally, here is Jeremy in his father’s old Superman pajamas. We were nice and let him wear the cape to bed.

superman

Now I’m going to bed.