A Hoohah for a long overdue #WCW

It’s been forever since I wrote a #WCW post – life’s been full.  But this weekend was my 14th Annual Hoohah – where I gather with 4 of my best friends from college for a weekend.

A hoohah? I know you may be thinking in the words of Inigo Mantoya – “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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Well, yes and no! NOW we know it’s a euphemism for our lady parts, but when we came up with the word for our gathering, we didn’t. Once we realized WHY other people looked at us a little funny when we talked about the hoohah, we decided – what the heck?  The term obviously still applies and so 14 years later – the Hoohah proudly continues.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to my hoohah friends, the women who have enriched my adult life in innumerable ways. Have no fear – they’ll each get their own #WCW – because each woman is a powerhouse in her own right. But for today – the group dynamics  🙂 It’s been 20 years since we all met the fall of our freshman year. It feels insane to think it’s been that long, but I find myself thinking about that time a bunch right now as I have friends sending their babies off to college for the first time.

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Pink Shirts from the First Hoohah

My first memories of Carolyn and Norah was the laughter. After the chaos of moving in and saying goodbye to our parents, my new roommate and I were quietly, shyly getting to know one another, stumbling through conversation – two introverts with intense personalities does not make for a boisterous atmosphere. But next door?! Gales of laughter! Lots of movement around the room, loud chatter – basically fun was being had. Little did I know that these women would eventually become some of my dearest friends.

I don’t remember when I first met Caitlin, but one of my first memories of hanging out with her was when we discovered that we both have the odd talent of being able to speak backwards. It’s a completely useless talent, but strangely entertaining to a limited audience. Hence, our friendship. (Mine’s Lehcar Nirac Tfark in case you were wondering.)

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Pink Hats and a baby belly – another common theme at Hoohahs!

I think I met Sam through Caitlin – they were roommates. And we became fast friends, rooming together the rest of our college time. She taught me how to play guitar and introduced me to all the cool music.

The five of us lived together in different pairings all through our college careers, shared classes, pulled all-nighters, experienced young love and broken hearts, pranked each other, cried on shoulders, took road trips, pulled off surprise parties, went to each other’s plays, recitals, and competitions. I have so many memories from college with these women, but it’s really the relationship since then that feels miraculous.

I graduated a year early and got married and part of me wondered if we’d stay close or if we’d drift. But ever since the summer of 2004, we’ve made it a mission to get together and HOOHAH! We’ve been through the highs and lows together – weddings and babies along with depression and anxiety, infertility, chronic illness, travelling spouses, uprooted families, assorted personal and familial crises of all nature. Our gatherings now also generally include a list of all the ways our bodies are beginning to betray us with the added benefit of Dr. Caitlin’s observations of the wonders of the human body.

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The first (and last) time kids (who weren’t breastfeeding) were invited to the hoohah….

(Seriously – having a PhD in Physiology in the group makes for some fascinating convos.) But one of the things I love about us is that we’ve not tried to relive college life once a year. Instead, we’ve just continued “living” with each other even from afar. We talk about whatever most consumes our thoughts that year. I treasure these friends who know all my history, who will ask about that thing that was going on last year – “Is that still going on? Has there been any change? How are you doing with that?” Jumping back in with these women for a weekend every year has been one of the most life-giving things to my heart.

So, I’ll end this with the ingredients for a successful hoohah, just in case you want to do this with your circle of girlfriends. (And you totally should.)

  1. Name it – you don’t HAVE to use a silly name that may or may not be a euphemism, but I can assure you it will never lose its hilarity if you do.
  2. Chocolate – our favorite is York peppermint patties. Just make sure whatever it is, you bring a ridiculous amount of it.

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    yeah. sugar plays a role at the hoohah
  3. Matching attire – The first hoohah we had shirts. Bright Pink Shirts. With the words “First Annual Hoohah” emblazoned across the chest. And yes, of course we walked all around DC in them. No, we didn’t realize the double meaning at that time. Yes, I felt slightly ridiculous walking around in it BY MYSELF when I had to duck out of the hoohah to say goodbye to my deploying husband. Now we have pink hats! And we wear them, sometimes in public.
  4. Delicious food – this one has become even more important as we have spawn who have ridiculous food restrictions or who just won’t touch food that isn’t beige or who can’t be trusted to remain civilized in a restaurant for more than 5 minutes. We pick yummy, local favorites and eat family style.
  5. Nicknames and just general goofiness – life is full of #$*%$(@.
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    Bring back the silly – then, maybe don’t give the pictures to the blogger?

    Allow yourselves a weekend of nicknames, inside jokes, and not caring if you look foolish. There’s something incredibly empowering about just being yourself with your buddies and allowing that experience to buoy you for weeks afterward.

  6. Keep it simple – usually we just go stay at one of our homes. The husband and kids get to be there too, but usually stay far away from the hoohah zone once the yorks start flowing. We’ve done one where we rented a beach house and we’re looking to do a bigger one when we all hit a milestone birthday – but I think a big reason we’ve been able to keep up the tradition is that we’ve tried to keep it simple (and cheap).

Carolyn, Norah, Caitlin, and Sam – Can’t believe how lucky I am that you’re in my life. I crush at you.

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#WCW Week 4 – the one, the only, Debs

I just noticed something the other week that’s kinda funny. My two best high school friends have birthdays just one month apart. And my college buddies’ birthdays are all clustered in a few months pretty close together too.  Today you get to meet another third of the JMHS Triumverate – Deborah.  It will be fun to introduce you all to my college buddies close together as well when their birthdays are all coming 🙂

So, Debs. Katherine (from Week 2) brought us together at youth group sometime during our freshman year. The three of us stuck close throughout all of high school, stayed in touch during college and were in all of each others’ weddings.  As more and more time passes since those teenage years, I marvel at how we’ve been able to remain close all this time. I do not take it for granted.

But let me tell you about Deborah. As I was pondering what to say, the line from Dirty Dancing popped into my head – “Nobody puts baby in a corner.” That’s how I feel about Deborah; you think you’ve got her figured out and fitting into whatever stereotypical box you have for her and then she pops out and surprises you with something else.  When I met her, I mainly understood she was in the drama crowd and enjoyed singing and musical theater. I thought I knew what kind of person that was. But then, we would play capture the flag or something at youth group and this hyper-competitive, funny-trash-talking side came out and it totally flipped things on me. I was like, wait! who are you? She was an athlete – swimming on the swim team all four years of high school, while simultaneously performing in most of the HS dramas and taking on performances with other theater companies in the community. She was equally at home leading with me at Fellowship of Christian Athletes as she was in full ball gown wowing us all with her powerful soprano.  She also never took herself too seriously. (Great story – we totally pranked our youth group at camp one year. She came out in her Madrigal gown and I had dressed in black formals as a piano accompanist. It was skit night and all we said was that we wanted to perform a song.  We were the song leaders at youth group, so I’m sure they just thought we were going to sing a new youth group song or something. But, when we came out like that, you could almost see the cringing. I started up on the piano with some fancy sounding arpeggio and then Deborah started singing in her best operatic voice. Except we performed the extremely silly DC Talk chorus of “Jesus Freak.” It was great. A huge sigh of relief went out from the crowd as they realized it was ok to giggle at us. I wish there were video. Kinda. Actually, it’s great that was before the age of smartphones.)

She never brought a normal lunch to school – there were no peanut butter or ham sandwiches. Sure, she brought leftovers – but it was always something like tikka masala or baba ganoush (before any of us knew what it was). While the rest of us were daydreaming about sleeping in on a weekend, she was furiously perusing the weekend section of the Washington Post looking for a fun show to attend. She’s never been satisfied with just going with the flow and following the script.

So I guess it wasn’t too surprising to me or Katherine when she came back from a “short-term” missions trip telling us she had fallen in love with a Nigerian man while in India and they were going to get married and live in South Africa. I remember her telling us this and kinda expecting maybe shock and dismay, but getting delight and “of course you are” from us.

And guys – she is doing the real stuff over there!! She and her husband are running an amazing ministry there called Living Springs Faith Ministries, where they are dedicated to the transformation of the townships in and around Cape Town, South Africa.  Their community development efforts are exciting, and challenging, and rewarding. Deborah and Gabriel are the real deal. They have two beautiful children, one of whom has some special needs that have made living far away from their extended family very, very difficult. But, in true Deborah form, she has tackled this challenge like every other thing in her life – with tenacity, grace, and incredible outside the box thinking.

Because of her challenges with her own son, she’s been able to advocate for missionary families and try to communicate with people ‘back home’ on the special accommodations that some families need to live out their purposes.  She’s also never lost sight of the things that are important to her. While parenting two small children halfway across the globe from her family and working to get a non-profit up and running, she completed a master’s degree. Wow!

Debs – you are a treasure. Your willingness to go wherever you’re called and serve your family however they need you in that moment without ever losing sight of who God has said you are is an inspiration. Hugs from the other side of the world and thank you for letting me tell my circle about you.

#WCW Katherine the Great, Katie or Kate. But NEVER Kathy or Kay

I’m so super late writing this one out, but it’s still Wednesday! Today I’ll be bragging on my friend Katherine. I met her at freshman orientation at James Madison High School. Actually, she met me, after introducing herself to my mom, behind whom I was literally hiding, because I was a shy, scared to death 13 year old at the time.  (KJ – does this count as a meet cute? I say yes) She sought me out because my mom was reading a book she liked and was brave enough to actually say hello to strangers. After I got over my dread of everything new, Katherine quickly became my best friend in high school.

We were both pastor’s kids, loved sports, books, and history, and had a penchant for falling in love with youth group boys. It was a match made in heaven.

There are too many things to say about her for just one blog post, so here are the highlights –

She introduced me to my other high school best friend and the three of us have maintained a sweet friendship all these years.

She introduced me to my husband. (We won’t talk about the time she went with him to homecoming senior year. I’m  over it.)

When she called me to tell me she’d been hit by a car, I almost passed out from worry. I still sometimes get a little choked up when I go through a certain intersection.

She wrote letters to me in college – back when email was tedious, phone bills were extravagant and ICQ/IM was our texting service.

She is a brilliant, funny, but I have to warn you, HEARTBREAKING screenwriter. One of her films is on Amazon Prime – it’s called Touched By Grace – and you should watch it now.

She’s now a mom of 6 and is the fiercest mama bear and soccer/baseball/football mom pro out there.

She’s a loyal friend – one who can come over for chicken nuggets and mac and cheese because that’s what the kids will eat.

If you ask her to pray for something, you can count on her to actually do that; it’s not an empty gesture.

There’s a bunch more I could write, but I’ll just leave it there for now.

Love you Katherine!

(Katherine has a public Facebook page for anyone who wants to stay in the know on how she’s doing with her screenplays or just to keep up with her writing career. She’s going places so get in now 😉 Also – none of my friends know I’m doing this. I’ll let them see their post before it goes public. I just want to brag on my people and if they’ve got a public presence, I’ll share it with you!)