I am not sure how Mattie and I made the decision to move to Houston. It may have just been an issue of timing, knowing that we would have better luck finding better jobs in Houston and having our lease up in College Station, but I cannot tell you why exactly we picked when we did. We both wanted the move to Houston, although we love College Station, it is saturated with people who want to stay in the happiest place on earth and therefor it is difficult to find non food industry jobs without some serious connections and internships under your belt. So we probably made the decision way to hastily, but move we did, packing up our two bedroom apartment for another two bedroom apartment and hoped that jobs would find our way. Matt was quickly selected for a position as a manager at Potbelly Sandwich works and I found a job working as a demo cook (they said chef, but that is just insulting to chefs out there) for HEB. While I liked the job, it was out past Sugarland and I wanted something that wouldn't take me a few years before a promotion and better location.
Searching for a new job proved to be difficult because I had decided the day before graduation in 2005 to put a hold on my Masters program and see what I could find with just a BA in History. HA! Some departments are better at helping their students find jobs than others and the Liberal Arts department put together a dandy little career fair mainly exhibited with restaurants and a handful of other undesirable places. And while I think that there is nothing wrong with working in the food industry forever, it wasn't necessarily what I wanted to do...but I'm glad for my final stint working in a restaurant.
I was finally placed into a management training program with Pappas and was told to meet with the General Manager at the Pappasito's not far from our apartment. I was really worried about this meeting as I wanted the job, needed the job, and am always leery of women in the workforce (I think most of us are). Meeting with the General Manager, Crystal, was one of the easiest interviews I have ever had. We talked about food, plans for the future, and what the program would entail. I was quickly hired on and began training soon after that. Part of my training program was weekly sit down meetings with Crystal or other managers. These meetings would often stretch to longer conversations and while I still don't know if Crystal was just trying to avoid work at the time or if she truly enjoyed visiting with me, it helped us get to know each other quickly. We soon had her and her boyfriend at the time (now husband) over for dinner and struck up my very first Houston friendship!!! This was in 2006.
I realized towards the end of the training program that I was not interested in continuing on with management and that having your husband working a morning and day food industry job and you working a day and night food industry job often meant you were spending most of your time alone. I reapplied for my Masters program and began pursuing a job in education. When it was time to give notice to Crystal, I was so worried about the impact it may have on our friendship. The friendship was new, it may have just been work based, and I wasn't sure if Crystal was interested in continuing that. So I of course cried as I gave my notice and was happy when I was comforted by the promise of a friendship to continue. If Crystal was taken aback by my emotion then she didn't let it show!
Over the past few years, our friendship grew. I worked some at Pappasito's as a bartender and server as I pursued my degree and substitute taught in CFISD. We visited and had dinner from time to time and went through several life changes. Said boyfriend proposed, I began full time teaching, they got married, we liked house sitting for them so much we bought our own house, Crystal began teaching, we had a kid, we had another kid, they had a kid and so forth and so on. I remember being so excited the day she went into labor with her first. She texted me early one March morning, a day shy of 37 weeks commenting that she did not feel well and was going to stay home from work. I thought nothing of it so I was very surprised when, hours later, I was texted that we were in for a baby that day or the next. It was so hard for me to resist jumping up and going to her, but I was a mere 5 weeks postpartum with Keegan and had no one to watch both kids. So I waited for more and more reports and held in my excitement as the day past. Finally around 7 that night, I couldn't wait any longer, I packed up Keegan in her car seat, left Matt with Mac and went to the hospital to say Hi and to wait for this little baby to be born. I remember getting in the car and I was shaking from anticipation. I texted to her that I couldn't wait any longer, I was so excited! Just after midnight, Darren got us all from the waiting room where we were introduced to Mr. Lucca! It was such a happy time, she gave birth in the same room that Keegan was born in, so it was a nice little bonding memory as well. While we have grown closer and closer over the years, I owe Crystal an immeasurable favor in return for the duty and responsibility she took on last year. She graciously agreed to watch MacKenzie and Keegan several days of the week as part of my going back to work. As such, we became even closer as we saw each other several times a week and still socialized with each other as well. Throughout the year she was there for me, to hear me complain and vent, to report on great things the girls were doing, and was physically present in my life. She was one of the first to find out about Johnny and has always known exactly what to say to my questions and wondering.
When I quit teaching again, Crystal and I continued to see each other several times a week as we anticipated the birth of her second and my third. We would take the kids on adventures, had a down pat routine at Chick Fil A, could always rely on one another for baby sitting, and even bonded over being very large and working catering events for my mom. As it came closer to her due date with her second, we had briefly discussed the idea of her having extra support to try and labor naturally. I told her that I was there to help in whatever capacity she needed and looked forward to meeting this little tyke. Much like last time, I received a text early in the morning and was told that I would be kept informed. Things progressed a little quickly and I had some difficulty finding childcare for the girls, but I was able to meet them at the hospital at just the right time. I think I came in, washed my hands, smiled and said hello, and went to hold her hand because it was pretty close to time to push. I hope she felt extra strong that day because she was amazing! I was frantically trying to help encourage, hold her hand as she pushed, and get ready to take pictures of what I was sure would be a little girl. I had to restrain my confusion as Baby boy Nicco was held up and Darren told Crystal that they had another son! It was an amazing moment, I was honored to be there for it, and I hope they got a handful of pictures because I was snapping away like her own little paparazzi.
However...Crystal and Darren have always had a dream...to move...to Utah?!? I won't pretend that I understand it, but they have been talking about it for almost as long as we have known them. So when a position opened up this fall at a hospital in Salt Lake City, my heart immediately sunk knowing that of course Darren would get the job, and of course they would be moving. The final move took place on Wednesday and I still cannot believe that it will be months before we get to see each other again, before we get to take turns ordering food and distributing nibbles to each other's kids, before we make the conscious decision not to sweep because Lucca is coming over for dinner, and before we get to hear her belches and burps in person! I am so happy for them to be accomplishing a goal that they had set out for their family, but I am so incredibly sad for me and my kids losing some of the best friends we have ever had.
Mac and Keegan got extra T.V. time while I helped pack
They helped pack too!
These three have shared so many meals at this table!!!
The besties, hopefully they will know each other as they grow, despite the distance
I love so much about Crystal. I love that she is so realistic, but knows when to package it easily and when to shoot it straight. She is always there to help and assist and does absolutely everything you could ask of her to her full capacity. She isn't ashamed to burp or cuss when the time warrants those things, but she can put her game face on too. She is relaxed and easy to be around. We have always been able to achieve an ebb and flow, to help each other and need each other at different times, to balance the doses of crazy with our own brand of support. I have leaned so heavily on her over the past year and a half and not once has she faltered. I am so grateful that we have built this friendship over the past 6 years and I am more thankful still that we live in a time of text messaging and facebook so that we can keep up with each other easily between the phone calls and the far between visits. I wish them the best and hope they stay very, very warm. The most beautiful summers could not compel me to deal with their winters!