This month is the two-year anniversary of my move to Norman. This community has become my home, and I can’t say enough about the wonderful, caring people who have invited me into their lives and truly made me feel like a part of this city. From the newspaper staff to Norman Rotary to Leadership Norman 17 (best class ever!), I owe heartfelt thanks to you all for making me one of your own.

That fact — that Norman is now truly my home — hit me deeply for this first time last week as I visited my parents and brothers in my old hometown of Greenville, Texas. I took the first week of August off from work, my annual deep breath before the football/events/special sections/school/holiday season begins. My boss advised me to travel somewhere far out of cell phone range and, while that’s good advice, there were a lot of reasons to head to Texas.

We celebrated my younger brother, Nathan’s, birthday. At 22, he’s pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition at Stephen F. Austin University and generally growing up too fast. My nephew Grant had a birthday as well, turning 9. I asked my twin brother, Josh, what to get him: “He has enough toys,” he said. “Get him something to read.”

That’s something I can do. I couldn’t really tell from Grant’s reaction whether he was excited to get “The Mouse and The Motorcycle,” “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “The Trumpet of the Swan” and “The Phantom Tollbooth,” but those books are amazing and my twin will read them all, at the very least.

Last July, a friend of mine, Chancellor Mills, passed away unexpectedly. I’d never lost a close friend before, and I’ve tried to be as open about my grief as possible, in hopes to encourage others to share their pain, not bury it. On my first full day of vacation I, along with Josh, and my friends James Bright and Kerry Hendricks traveled to his grave site, visited his mother, and got a tattoo in his honor.

For three of us — James has more than a dozen tattoos — it was our first tattoo. It kind of hurt, but after broken arms and kidney stones, it was definitely a manageable pain. The tattoo is an ace of spades on my right forearm — a tattoo Chance got when we both were in college — with Chance’s initials in the center spade. When Chance first got the tattoo, we teased him about it, because it’s basically the tattoo form of a pun. Now I have the same tattoo.

Shows how much I know.

On July 30, I was lucky enough to watch Adrian Beltre get his 3,000th hit during the Texas Rangers’ game against the Baltimore Orioles. It was my first Rangers game in several years, and, as a baseball fan, there’s something almost holy about the first time you walk out of the tunnel and see a baseball field gleaming green and gold before you. Even though the Rangers lost, and it was 1 million degrees outside, it was a beautiful moment to be a part of.

There were other great moments — visiting friends and their families I haven’t spent significant time with in years, enjoying coffee with my pastor, teaching Grant chess, watching “Forged in Fire” every night with my dad, helping my mom sort through old mementos. It was refreshing and invigorating, and a reminder that the best times in life are those you share with people you love.

But after nine days in Texas, it was time to leave. Two years ago, when I told my friends I was “heading home,” I meant Greenville. This past week, when I left my parents’ house, I told them I would “text them when I got home.”

I’m glad to be back home.

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