Angels in the Outfield

Spoken like Hamilton “Ham” Porter himself from the Sandlot, I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard, “Hurry up batter. It’s gotta be a short game, then I gotta get home for lunch.” from my brother, Travis, as we hit and fielded balls for hours on our property every evening for several years growing up. 

If we would have had 7 of our closest friends there to join us each evening, we would have been a modern day Sandlot – we had the field, backstop, bases, equipment, and an abundance of baseball movie quotes to swap as we tried to outdo each other every pitch, and every hit.

Looking back, we were living the dream! How cool was it that we had our very own baseball field, open 24/7, 365 days a year?!?! 

Well I’ll tell you; it was awesome, and it all started one Saturday when my grandparents were over for our weekly weekend dinner; the six of us began talking about putting a backstop in the open field on the other side of our driveway. To be honest, it didn’t take much conversation or convincing on anyone’s part because we all enjoy being outdoors and we all have a competitive spirit in us.

So, it was settled, we would break ground Sunday morning and build Melvin Stadium – an unfenced, 2-acre area, that was likely more manicured than an MLB stadium thanks to Dad’s enthusiasm about always keeping a pristine yard. 

I couldn’t tell you how many hours and days Travis and I spent out there hitting and fielding balls – so much so, we found ourselves practicing before Little League games as evidenced by mom picking us up in the middle of driveway when it was time to head to the real ballfields.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Sometime shortly after constructing the backstop, laying down the bases, and running over several baseballs and softballs with the lawnmower, the idea of hosting a softball tournament Father’s Day weekend came up. Much like when we built the backstop, it didn’t take much conversation or convincing to have this idea come to fruition. (Our inaugural tournament was held Father’s Day weekend and every year after that it was in conjunction with Dad’s birthday, the Fourth of July.)

We created the guest list, compiled the rules, striped the field, chalked the foul lines, set up “stadium” seating, and configured the PA system…at last, it was gameday! 

As the smell of BBQ lingered in the sweltering summer air, canopies and lawn chairs lined the first base side and behind the backstop as people decked out in red, white, and blue, ranging from ages 5 to 85, began to congregate at Melvin Stadium. 

The Rules Were Simple

1. Men bat opposite handed

2. You play a different position every inning

3. Everyone must play, no matter the age – Aunt Carrie oversaw not taking no for an answer

4. AND, if you argue with the ump it was an automatic out and you were required to get everyone in the field a fresh beverage.

Covering Our Bases

Now every great ballgame needs a fair and honest umpire and every great ballpark needs an announcer as unique as the stadium. Lucky for us, we had our bases covered, pun intended – Grandpa Jim was our home plate umpire and our good family friend, Steve, was our announcer. 

At 6’3’’, wearing his famous bright orange hat, Grandpa Jim called the game by standing to the side of home plate, with one hand rested on the backstop and a Marlboro Red in the other. He carefully assessed each pitch and if the count got up to 2 strikes on the batter, the next strike was “strike two and a half”, followed by “strike two and three-quarters”. Typically, by the 5th “strike” the batter made contact with the ball and was on their way to outrun the throw to first. 

Grandpa Jim was also excellent at making calls in the field from home plate, it didn’t matter how close you were to the play, Grandpa’s call was always right – unless you wanted an automatic out for your team and the job of getting everyone in the field a fresh beverage, you didn’t argue.

Then there was the official voice of Melvin Stadium, Steve – full of personality, humor, and wit. Our games wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for Steve’s ability to give a rib-tickling play-by-play of the ball game. In typical Steve fashion, he would throw in sidesplitting one-liners as he announced the batters and his one-off commentary of various things taking place outside of the game would give Johnny Carson or Robin Williams a run for their money. Steve was certainly a fan (and player) favorite!

Of course, many of the players were characters themselves and the laughs we had on the field are too many to count. Everyone enjoyed themselves and it didn’t matter who won or lost because at the end of the tournament there was still plenty of beer to drink and hundreds of pounds of BBQ to eat…you can’t beat that, coupled with great company. Our family is truly blessed with the best group of people.

The End of an Era

We did these tournaments for several years, with our last one being 10 years ago at Dad’s 50th birthday. While the players and teams changed over the years, one thing that remained the same was that Grandpa Jim called every game and Steve was the voice of Melvin Stadium.

Everyone looked forward to that orange hat, pearl-snap, Wrangler wearing umpire call the games and that infectious smile, Mr. Personality, full of life announcer give us the play-by-play and batting line-up each Fourth of July.

Today, the backstop still stands, but not for long as Mom and Dad are building a new home. That backstop that we spent a weekend building and years of enjoying sits in their new front yard and is a bit of an eyesore. Though bittersweet that the hunter green backstop will come down soon, a little piece of Melvin Stadium will remain, home plate – for a reason far greater than nostalgia sake of the fun and laughs close friends and family shared on that field. 

Angels in the Outfield

You see, Grandpa Jim passed away 7 years ago, and we lost sweet Steve last year. We’ll leave home plate as a tribute to two precious gentlemen who meant so much to our family and well, Melvin Stadium. We’ll continue to mow around it like we have for the past 15 years and each time we look west off of Mom and Dad’s new front porch we’ll be reminded of the joy Grandpa Jim and Steve not only brought to our family, but each and every person they met during their life here on Earth.

Just like in the Sandlot when Babe Ruth visits Benny Rodriquez in his dream and says “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” – Grandpa Jim and Steve’s legacy will continue to live on at Melvin Stadium as they have in our hearts.


Welcome Home, 41

This past December I was on my way to Texas A&M’s campus with thousands of others to greet the 4141 engine and welcome President George H.W. Bush home to Aggieland one last time. Shortly before hitting the intersection at Texas Avenue and University Drive, my Great Aunt Dottie in Kentucky called. She hoped I would see the train in person as her and my grandmother, like many other Americans, had been keeping up with the day’s events on TV. After a brief conversation and before we hung up, Aunt Dottie mentioned she would love if I wrote an article not only about this experience, but a couple other events regarding President Bush that I’ve had an opportunity to attend right here in College Station, TX in recent years.

Though a few months delayed, I took some good notes and finally put pen to paper.

Growing Up

My earliest memory of George H.W. Bush was in 1999. Dad’s Kentucky family was down for one of their many visits. Great MawMaw Melvin, who was quite the traveller, writer, and the one who ultimately inspired my letter writing and now blogging insisted that the family take the 90 mile drive to College Station to visit the tenth built Presidential library. While I don’t remember any specifics from the library, I do remember Great MawMaw Melvin’s kind words of the Bushes and how happy she was to see the library.

Holly and Travis – Minute Maid Park – 2004

Around this same time, my family began attending Astros games at their newly built home in downtown Houston. Often times right behind catcher, Brad Ausmus, were George and Barbara sitting so sweetly. As Astros greats such as Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Jeff Bagwell stepped up to bat or crossed home plate you could see the Bushes gentle smiles as they cheered the guys on to victory. Though not hard to do, it was always such a thrill to spot George and Barbara whether at Minute Maid Park or at home on TV.

Additionally, shortly before the Bush Presidential Library opened in 1997, Houston City Council voted to change the name of Houston Intercontinental Airport to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Considering the majority of my family lives out-of-state we’ve made several trips to Bush whether to fly out, pick-up, or drop-off…still do! I believe most would agree with me that the entire airport is very Houston…and how fitting – it’s synonymous to the love and support the Bushes had of Houston – complete with an 8-foot statue of H.W. in Terminal C. On a side note, I thought it was very classy on United’s part the day of Bush’s National service, December 5th, to close gate C41 to pay tribute to 41’s life and legacy.

Although my earliest memories of the Bushes aren’t any different from most my age from around the Houston area, I remember thinking what a leader this man must have been to have such a presence in my young life and be so incredibly admired by those years older than me.

The Bryan-College Station Community

In the past 10 years or so I’ve taken a great interest in learning about American presidents. In fact it’s on my bucket list to visit every Presidential library and the nerdy, list-loving side of me took it as far as memorizing all 45 presidents in order of presidency. Tho I’m not sure where this talent will take me, I can recite them all in under 11 seconds. Anyhow, I always found H.W. and the Bush family in general to be one of the more fascinating presidents and families to learn about.

Outside the George Bush Library on one of our birthday visits College Station
June 12, 2015

Then 6 years ago, I took the same 90 mile drive the family took back in 1999 – and several times thereafter – and planted my roots in College Station, first to attend Texas A&M and now as a former student who drank the kool aid and never left. During my time at A&M, I often found myself cycling to the library and walking the Barbara Bush Rose Garden during study breaks, checking out the newest rotating exhibits throughout the year, and insisting family and friends visiting from out-of-state make time to see the library. My best friend and I even made it an annual tradition for the 3 years we were in college to wear “fun” socks every June 12th, H.W’s birthday, and visit the library.

Today, as I’ve transitioned from a student to a resident of Bryan-College Station over the last three years, I’ve heard many first-hand, heartwarming stories, memories, and kind words of the Bushes that took place right here in the BCS community during their visits. Whether from restaurant owners and staff who waited on the two, community members who crossed paths with them while visiting the library grounds, or from students who ran into the couple while on campus – each story was filled with adjectives describing the Bushes as humble, welcoming, interested, sweet, classy…and the list of kind words goes on and on.

George H.W. Bush getting ready to throw the ceremonial first pitch at the A&M vs. Yale baseball game
March 2016

Of course by the time I got to Bryan-College Station the Bushes had slowed down quite a bit and weren’t near as present in the community as they were for years prior. The only time I actually saw the Bushes during college was in March of 2016. It was a blissful spring day at Blue Bell Park and Texas A&M baseball was taking on the Yale Bulldogs.

As a light breeze filled the stadium and the sun beamed down – the sold-out crowd enthusiastically rose from their seats at the sight of President Bush entering the field to throw out two ceremonial first pitches – one to a Yale catcher, his alma mater, and one to an A&M catcher. In true H.W. fashion, he sported snazzy maroon socks, an A&M cap, and a Yale jersey. It was a beautiful day to welcome Mr. Bush back home to Aggieland.

Deep From the Heart: One America Appeal

Then about a year and half after the Yale baseball game, Hurricane Harvey roared into the Texas Gulf and overstayed its welcome, dropping 51.88 inches of rain on the Houston area and devastating many on the Texas coast. The Bush Presidential Library Foundation helped manage, Deep From the Heart: One America Appeal, a benefit concert at Reed Arena in Aggieland. It was a joint effort by all 5 former, living American Presidents to encourage citizens to support recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. This event sold out in less than 24 hours and to-date this was the most overwhelmingly, patriotic, American event I had ever witnessed. I also had never seen so many men in black suits walking the grounds, peering over rooftops with binoculars, and being very clear about how that day’s operations were going to go. I’m sure there were also several others in street clothes listening to me comment about my amazement with it all.  

To set the stage, Lee Greenwood was the emcee and kicked things off with God Bless the USA. From Lyle Lovett, Lady Gaga, Alabama, to the Gatlin Brothers and several other notable artists, it was a truly wonderful and American experience. All 5 former, living American Presidents were in attendance and even spoke – it was a remarkable, memorable and historical night for sure. One America Appeal ended up raising 42 million dollars for hurricane relief that stretched far beyond Texas and Hurricane Harvey.

Lee Greenwood kicking things off with God Bless the USA – Reed Arena – October 2017 (0:46 is chilling when the entire arena stands up)

I believe this is just one of many testaments to the love and respect not only Americans have for George H.W. Bush, but other Presidents from all sides of the aisle as well. For one night, an audience of 5 American Presidents, 13,000 people and another 6.5 million who watched online put politics aside and came together for one great cause. Tho H.W. himself did not speak, the glee in his eye the entire concert as he and Barbara sat side by side, holding hands was enough.

Barbara’s Passing

The following April, H.W’s beloved Bar passed away. Students organized a candlelight vigil at the library that night, news crews rolled into town, sweet memories of the former first lady filled social media and throughout the next week pearl billboards honoring the Former First Lady popped up all around Texas and the US.

In the days leading up to her burial, it was quite fascinating to watch the logistics of preparing the library grounds and surrounding area for Mrs. Bush’s arrival – clearly security was the main focus and it still amazes me all the organization and planning that had to have gone into it all.

The following Saturday, the Former First Lady’s motorcade traveled down Highway 290 out of Houston and onto Highway 6 in Navasota before hitting Texas Avenue and George Bush Drive in College Station where crowds lined the sidewalks to pay their respects – many holding posters with kind farewell messages, while others waved American flags. The silence that fell over the crowd as the motorcade passed was chilling. I have never felt a greater sense of patriotism than what I experienced April 21st, 2018.

George H.W. Bush Passes Away

A few short months later on Friday, November 30th, George H.W. Bush passed away.

Much like what the town experienced after Barbara’s passing, news crews rolled in, the university began prepping the library and surrounding area, security was rampant, sweet messages flooded social media, and touching local stories filled town.  

I went out to the library two days later and spent the longest time I had ever spent there, about 3 hours. The majority of my time was spent in the room where they typically show a 20 minute film about Bush’s life and presidency, except they had exchanged it for the documentary, 41 on 41, which I highly recommend if you’ve never seen it.

As I exited the room and headed toward the museum, several people were signing the register, admiring the portrait of Bush at the front, or asking volunteers a multitude of questions. I had never seen so many people in the museum at one time. It was heartwarming to see many families with young children as parents explained the importance of their visit and answered questions inquiring young minds wanted to know as they meandered through the exhibits.

My last stop was outside to see his statue and to walk the Barbara Bush Rose Garden. Several people had put flowers on H.W.’s statue, while others pondered the quote etched on the side of the library from across the lake: “Let future generations understand the burden and the blessings of freedom. Let them say we stood where duty required us to stand,”, an excerpt from his 1991 State of the Union Address.

As I made my way around the lake, I began talking to a man in a suit for a few minutes about my frequent library visits and my fascination with the Bush family. Unbeknownst by me, turns out he was a reporter for KPRC News out of Houston as he started unzipping a microphone and saying he “liked that line” and would I mind being interviewed. Truthfully, I felt bamboozled. I never put two and two together that this man was a reporter.

Suddenly, I got a bit bashful – I find great joy in meeting and talking to people, but I’m pretty camera shy. However, I thought what an opportunity to talk about a person I have great respect for as my first live television appearance. So there I was, stating my name into the microphone and leaving it to the professionals to capture whatever it was they wanted me to say – unscripted and unprepared, two words not in my vocabulary. In all seriousness tho, it was a great honor to have the opportunity to talk about President Bush in one of my favorite spots in the Brazos Valley. (You can check it out my television debut here)

The next few days I watched everything unfold from his National service in DC, to his service back home in Houston. The anticipation of his arrival in Aggieland started becoming real when Air Force One flew over College Station after departing DC and before arriving in Houston. I believe everyone in College Station were outside their offices that afternoon – looking up at the gray, cloud covered sky as Air Force One jetted up above.

Welcome Home, 41

Though a gloomy, rainy, and cold day, Thursday, December 6th 2018, is a moment in history I’ll never forget.

Shortly after Bush’s Houston services concluded the 4141 funeral train departed Spring and began its 70 mile journey to College Station – passing through several communities where crowds lined small downtowns and rural roadsides.

Me and Mary waiting for the 4141 Train – Texas A&M University – December 6, 2018

Here in College Station, my friend Mary and I headed to Texas A&M’s campus around 1PM as we were unsure what to expect crowd wise to watch Bush’s train enter town – the 4141 engine was expected to arrive around 3:30PM. As we neared the intersection of George Bush Drive and Wellborn Road, a crowd was slowly growing. We found a spot directly across from the platforms where the Bush family would exit the train.

Soon after, an on campus organization with thousands of American flags handed us a couple as we began making small talk with the family next to us. This particular family was from McKinney, Texas and brought their two young children back to their alma mater so that they too could experience this historic event as a family. The dad was a former Marine who had great respect for the Bush family and the four had made plans to visit the library the next day when it opened back up. Another couple came from Burton, Texas and were incredibly sweet and just couldn’t believe we all got to be part of such a historic event. It was truly remarkable how fast complete strangers can be united because of one man.

As the eight of us and thousands of others stood peering across Wellborn Rd. at the railroad tracks anticipating H.W.’s arrival in the rain and cold – across the tracks, the Ross Volunteers, A&M Singing Cadets, and Aggie band began to congregate near the platforms. The motorcade arrived not too long after. Much like at the One America Appeal concert, you could look at the top of buildings and down the street and see several men keeping a watchful eye out for anything out of place.

Once we heard the DPS helicopter hovering up above, we knew the 4141 funeral train was near. To be totally honest, from this point forward, words to describe the feeling and emotion that swirled in my head and on the faces of thousands are hard to find. We had literally spent the last three hours in the pouring rain, but no sooner than we looked south down the tracks and saw the engine, did the rain stop and never return. Just amazing.

The once anxious crowd totally silenced. As the train putted along, George W. and Laura stood outside the train car and greeted the crowd with sweet smiles and sincere waves. At the sight of the Former President and First Lady, emotions for the crowd were hard to keep contained and cheers rang out for the Bush family.

4141 Train Coming into Town – at 0:52, you can hear the crowd begin to cheer and see W. and Laura waving

The most chilling moment was when W. was about to step off the train and the Marine next to us shouted, “We love you, George!”, and W. came back and waved one last time as the crowd erupted in cheer.

“We Love you, George”

Once the family exited the train, the Aggie War Hymn began playing at the request of Mr. President himself, much to everyone’s surprise, as they unloaded H.W.’s casket. What a testament that was to the A&M community of the respect Bush had for the school’s values and traditions. The 21-aircraft “Missing Man” formation that followed was absolutely breathtaking – especially when the last one jetted off from the rest, straight up into the gray, cloud-filled sky. Shortly after, the once packed crowd of thousands began to disperse as everyone headed back to their cars.

“Missing Man” Formation heading into the Sky

That day and the months that followed, I’ve reflected quite a bit. Even today, I continue to get chills when various snapshots cycle through my head of the emotion, patriotism, and pride clear as day on thousands of Americans faces during those few short hours. It was a historic day indeed as it reinstated the tradition of a President being transported to their final resting place by train that hasn’t been seen in almost 50 years – a tradition that followed the deaths of Lincoln, Grant, Garfield, McKinley, Roosevelt, Eisenhower…and now George H.W. Bush. What a memorable day it was for all.

Thanks to a friend who was further down the tracks where security wasn’t near as tight, I got a memento from the event, a flattened penny, courtesy of the 4141 locomotive…Thanks Andrew!

Final Resting Place

The following Sunday, the gravesite and library opened back up at noon, which was another cloud-covered, cold, dreary day. I went out there that afternoon and this time, there was a line to get into the library – a site I have for sure never seen. Hundreds and people had come to pay their respects and cleary from all over as I heard several different accents and even languages while walking the grounds. The museum was packed wall to wall with people and the trail to the gravesite had a steady stream of walkers. Once at the gravesite, I had to stand on a hillside to see around all the people.

One slightly funny encounter I had in the museum was a conversation I overheard. A lady asked an older gentleman, “Does George still live in Crawford?”. The man’s response, “Ma’am, George passed away.” All it was a simple miscommunication of which George Bush the two were referring to, but I had to smile.

Last Thoughts

…and here we are exactly 20 years later from the first time I visited the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum – reflecting and writing. The sweet couple I used to get so excited about seeing behind home plate at Minute Maid Park are the same ones that united strangers and brought generations together as we welcomed both of them back home to Aggieland one last time in the most patriotic, peaceful, non-political and beautiful way possible…not once, but twice in the last year.

Now that’s a leader, a man of character, and one who impacted a nation. My hope is that all Americans, especially younger generations will get the experience the great sense of patriotism I did on December 6, 2018 – I know it’s one I’ll long to feel again.

P.S. An excellent book that truly speaks to Bush’s character from the ones who protected him is, In the President’s Secret Service. This book covers several other President’s details as well, as agents discuss what it was like to protect and still protect our nation’s leaders. It is truly heartwarming to hear the kind remarks they have of the Bush family.

Grandpa and Haggard

This past Thursday evening I made a quick trip to Brenham, TX to meet my family for Marty Haggard’s show, A Tribute to My Dad, Merle Haggard….and what a great show it was! He sang many of his Dad’s hits, a few lesser known classics, and told stories about his dad and the songs he wrote. He prefaced the show by noting he hoped the show was as much of a trip down memory lane for the crowd as it was for him. Judging by the joy on the audiences’ faces, the singing, clapping, and occasional one-off conversation between Marty and members of the crowd, I believe he accomplished his goal. For me personally, I know for a fact his show was the ultimate trip down memory lane for my grandmother, mother and even myself, regardless of the nearly six decade age difference.

Allow me to back up. Mom grew up in southern Michigan in the household of a guitar playing, Johnny and Merle singing, hardworking, car salesman. Mom and her brothers often talk about hearing their dad and his friends strumming guitars and singing tunes in the basement through the air ducts from upstairs. Bo, her brother was once asked “How do you know the words to all these old country songs?” His reply: “When you go to sleep hearing them every night you don’t have much choice.”

As they moved around Michigan and across the US Grandpa’s love for music traveled with him from place to place. He always had a guitar nearby and greeted any opportunity to play and sing with and for friends with open arms; entertaining and having fun were two of his greatest joys. One of Mom’s high school friends, Becky, once remarked, “The Schultz house was just a place you wanted to be, the love there was palpable; there was always a camera close by, music and Mr. Schultz playing the guitar.”

Fast-forward some years later and I entered the world. My memories of Grandpa aren’t much different from those above. His Martin D-35 was always nearby, whether at his car lot in Houston or at his home in Weimar. He would sing and play just about every classic country song produced, by ear (he couldn’t read music), and if he forgot the lyrics he’d carry right on with his own version…never losing rhythm.

His CD collection was larger than most record shops and he would shuffle through six discs at a time on his stereo in the barn…anything from Bob Wills, to Merle Haggard, to Johnny Cash. Just like Mom and her brothers it was inevitable that I would know all the lyrics to music produced 20 to 35 years before I entered the world while riding my bike or shooting guns near the barn.

In addition to his CD collection I often remember sorting through the hundreds of albums stored under their record player and contemplating which one to play next. Sometimes it was a game and Grandpa would rattle off a song and I’d see how fast I could locate the artist and album. Needless to say I got pretty speedy over the time…and thanks to this game I often associate album covers with songs when I listen to old country music today.  

Occasionally Grandpa would pick my brother and I up from school and the cassette player in his ‘97 Chevy was humming some flavor of what I would call classic country, but what he would say is good music. Either way, at ages 68, 10, and 8, we’d all sing along to light-hearted tunes such as Roly Poly or deeper songs like Sing Me Back Home as we headed down CR 222 to their house.

Music and guitars were so near and dear to Grandpa that about 10 or 12 years ago my mom surprised Grandpa one weekend by showing him that she could sing and play right along with him after taking guitar lessons for the past several months. At 45 she not only learned to play the guitar, but learned to play the songs she grew up on and the songs Grandpa sang.

It’s my belief that the reason Grandpa enjoyed music so much is because he was a creative. He constantly encouraged us grandchildren to find what sparks our creativity. While I didn’t take the music route as I have no musical ambition and can’t carry a tune in a bucket I do appreciate good music…and that is just the world Grandpa Jim introduced me to. My fondest memories of Grandpa will always be him playing the guitar and singing songs.

Today, most call me an old soul, and I’ll admit I LOVE classic country. There are certain songs and especially certain artists that will always remind of Grandpa, Merle Haggard being one of them.

So thanks Marty, for taking my family for a trip down memory lane. It’s amazing to me how one genre of music and a handful of artists can have such a lasting impact through the generations. Music for me provides wonderful memories of those who are no longer with us – I know two gentlemen that were smiling down extra big that night, Grandpa and Merle.

Here are a few pictures of Grandpa Jim over the years doing what he loved!

Myself, Marty, Grandma, and Mom after the show. Marty asked me “How old are you?” I replied “23”. He said, “….and you really like this music”. Absolutely Marty, absolutely.

What Turning 23 Taught Me

This past weekend while in Columbus, my brother and I were reminiscing on past birthdays and presents as we celebrated our 23rd and 25th birthdays. (Don’t let the age fool you, we are really about 8 and 10 when we are together. I still think I can beat a 6’4’’ guy at arm wrestling, try to outwit him, make everything a competition, and of course any dispute is settled by footrace, because clearly whoever is faster wins the argument, right?!?!) Anyways, we came to the conclusion that we received some pretty cool gifts over the years and at 23 and 25 we wouldn’t be mad if the gift we were opening turned out to be a RC car instead of some practical-grown-up-something.

As we brought up past presents one by one, laughed and shared memories I began to notice a trend among the gifts we received over the years. A trend of pursuing new hobbies. A trend that sparked imagination. A trend that inspired creativity.

You see, every year, every gift, and every ounce of excitement of opening a gift either encouraged us to pursue new hobbies or improve current ones (guitars, drawing books, batons), sparked our imagination (telescopes, model engines, books)…and/or inspired creativity (art supplies, Legos, magic sets).

My guess is, most other millennials experienced receiving gifts along the same lines as well….at the very minimum, you were at least excited to try out the new game or learn something new!

So what has changed now that we are adults? The excitement? Negative. I was pretty excited about my new pot and pan set this past weekend. Not receiving gifts that are fun? Negative. I’ll have fun cooking with my new pot and pan set. So what is it?!??!

Well for some odd reason, adulthood does this funny thing to you, suddenly you become so focused on your job, relationships, goals, etc., that you forget to set aside time to try out a new hobby, pursue a dream and/or let your imagination run wild.  

Therefore, my 23rd birthday was an important reminder to me, to always pursue new hobbies, find what sparks my imagination and constantly seek creativity…not just on my birthday, but the other 364 days of the year too.

There is nothing wrong with having a little fun, branching out, and trying new things even when life seems hectic. 

A Special Gift for a Special Lady

Grandma Elli turns 80 tomorrow, but with the thought of the upcoming weekend being pretty busy celebrating her birthday, I made a quick trip to Columbus Tuesday evening and surprised her with an early birthday gift that has been in the works for quite sometime!

So here it goes….

Although we are 58 years apart, she is one of my best friends and I am incredibly lucky to have such a spunky/fun/caring, Grandma. She’s the coolest! So for her 80th birthday I wanted to do something special, after all a person only turns 80 once!

So what do you get a volunteerin’-lawn mowin’-fast walkin’- Solitaire playin’, Wheel of Fortune watchin’-crossword puzzle solvin’, Grandma for her 80th birthday?!?!? Well, I’m not entirely sure, but what I ended up doing for her was one of the most rewarding/overwhelming/humbling/fun projects I’ve ever done.

So what could this project possibly be?

Well, for the past several months I have worked on compiling 80 years of written memories from Grandma’s friends and family, with the intention of placing them in a book. I simply sent out out a letter (you can check out the letter here) to her nearest and dearest asking them to write down their favorite Elli memory, and let me tell ya I was thunderstruck at the response I got!

I received memories from Grandma’s old co-workers, several friends, present and past neighbors, childhood/high school/college friends of Grandma’s children and grandchildren, family friends, and of course numerous family members…each one so special and unique. In fact, I received so many letters and pictures that it all wouldn’t fit in one book! I guess Dad wasn’t lying in his letter when he said, “You could write a book about Ms. Elli and it would probably be a bestseller.” Shortly into this project it became apparent that was the case.

So after a couple books, nearly 100 pictures, many heartwarming stories, kind words, and funny memories later, Grandma has a collection of memories that stretch from Michigan to Texas (and every stop in between), the 1930s to present day, old friends to new friends, and from people she hasn’t seen in years, to people she saw yesterday. It is truly the neatest record of a special lady that has touched many lives, been on many adventures, shared a many of laughs, and is loved by many.

I couldn’t thank everyone enough that has been part of this project – for taking the time to write down a memory, send pictures, and just for the thought and time that went into each and every letter that I received. They all brought many laughs, smiles, and a few tears (happy tears!), that when placed together tell the story 80 years in the making of a truly wonderful, wonderful lady that I have the honor to call my Grandma.

To say I was touched by this project would be an understatement. Grandma Elli is so loved and we are incredibly blessed to have the best friends and family around. You guys made this gift so much more than I ever dreamed it could be! Thanks to you, it is a priceless treasure today, tomorrow, and in years to come and a timeless gift that spans eight decades of ever-changing times. You guys are AWESOME!!

On a side note, I would also like to say I thoroughly enjoyed all the “happy mail” that I received over the past 4 months due to this project. I couldn’t wait to open my mailbox or email each day and find another “Elli Memory”. I read each letter multiple times and smiled endlessly while putting it all together. So if you would like to keep up that happy vibe, my address is…ha just kidding!

Overall, my favorite part of the entire project was the the opportunity it gave me to connect with all the special people in Grandma’s life through letters, emails, and phone calls; some I knew and others I now know. No doubt, Grandma has an awesome tribe of people! Such a fun, fun project that I’ll cherish forever!

Happy 80th Birthday, Grandma!


My Parents and I Recently Became Friends

This past year has been an exciting year of new adventures, discoveries, and changes; turns out this is what happens when you graduate and become a functioning member of society…who knew? However, the most shocking change for me wasn’t graduating college, starting my first job or “adult-ing” in general. No. It’s way bigger. Way more shocking. And one I didn’t see coming. So, what could it possibly be?

Well after 22 years, my parents and I are now “friends”.

No I didn’t have some awful childhood and recently reconnect with my parents, I’ve just entered a new stage in my life and they have entered a new role as parents. Hear me out…

I’ve spent 95.45% of my life looking at my mom and dad as parents, not “pals”. I mean it makes sense, a parent’s role is to set expectations and boundaries for their children, not to be their buddy. My parents never tried to be my friend and looking back I didn’t want them to be. What I needed was structure, direction, and discipline not a “cool” mom and dad…even if thirteen-year old me thought they were “so uncool” (spoken in dramatic, teenager, why-won’t-you-let-me-go, life-is-so-unfair, voice)

As I grew up and began making my own decisions, I realized it was the rules, the “no’s”, and the boundaries that prepared me to become the independent individual I am today and for that I am thankful.

So, what now? Do we all shake hands, say it’s been a good ride, and go on about our lives? Negatory. 

As I’ve entered a new stage in my life, they’ve entered a new role as parents; friend and life consultants. This doesn’t mean they weren’t approachable or that I wasn’t able to go to them for advice until now, shoot I’ve done both daily for the past 22 years!

It’s just different now. There is no longer a parent-child divide, rules, or “no’s, just two people offering their advice/opinions, but respecting my decisions and trusting I make the best choices. These days, I see my parents as much more human than ever before – regular people who were once in my shoes. It was through this realization that a friendship was created and their role as parents shifted.

Call me crazy, but I’m thankful it took 22 years for them to become “cool” parents and my friend. Everything has a time and a place and having my parents as friends growing up was not what I needed, but having them as life-long friends going forward is absolutely what I need! They’ll always be my parents, but it’s nice to have gained a couple new friends along the way!

So thanks, pals!

Oh and…..Happy 26th Anniversary, Mom and Dad! (Here’s a perfect throwback for this Thursday….)

And a few more throwbacks…

Spoken Like a True Texan

I wrote the story: “Spoken Like a True Texan” below using 50+ Texas towns and counties. All it is, is a play on words and I think you’ll find it quite punny! Enjoy!

Oh, and the picture above is my brother, Travis, and me back in the day when my parents were still character building so we had to create our own creative fun. That’s Fort Melvin in the background, designed and built by yours truly, under the direction of Trav, of course. That’s us standing out in front of it, on sand pile, next to a tree branch flag pole, holding up the Texas flag. ‘Merica!

Spoken Like a True Texan

I woke up Munday and realized Texas Independence Day is this week! A 181 years ago, today (March 2, 1836) the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed at Washington on the Brazos. So it’s a pretty imPoteet day and I’d be Lyons if I told you I wasn’t proud to be a Texan! Therefore, if you have Spur moment, grab a carton of Blue Bell, or some What-a-Burger, or a Shiner beer…basically whatever makes you Happy and enjoy my story: Spoken Like a True Texan.

To begin, I’m originally from Columbus. Most people have never Hearne of it before because it’s a small town and they initially think Columbus, Ohio. You’ve got to be Glidden me, do I sound like I’m from Ohio? My Columbus is located deep in the Hart of Texas just east of San Antonio and west of Houston right off of I-10. It’s a Plano town, but home to 3,600 of the nicest people where the kids are well Bee Caved…well for the most part 😉 Anyways, this story isn’t about Columbus, it’s about the great, great Lone Star State!

Point Blank, I LOVE Texas! From its history, to its geography, to the people, it is truly a unique place. You can have a Sweeny goodtime at the dancehalls, a blast riding the Ferris wheel at the State Fair, Dooalittle floating down the Guadalupe, Comal, or Frio river, watch Tye down roping at county fairs, follow the Bowies out the Gulf, eat some of the best BBQ (and Lotts of it), Converse over not just a Shiner beer, but a Shiner beer in Shiner, watch high school quarterbacks pass Diboll under Friday night lights, and much, much Moore…you get my Point!

Of Morse, I cannot forget about the endless fields of bluebonnets and other wildflowers that will pop up along the highway as Spring fast approaches. This year, we aren’t predicted to have a Coldspring, so those bluebonnets will start appearing in no time! Speaking of weather, a little adRice if you’ve never been to Texas…be prepared to experience all four season in one day! I’m not Mason with you, Texas weather is crazy. It’s not uncommon to have a Frost in March or 90 degree weather in December, it’s just the Norm…angee around these parts.

Now every Texans favorite place to stop on road trips is Buc-ees. I’m not too sure how to explain Buc-ees to those that have a Blanco look on their face, but I do know people are Bryan Beaver Nuggets like crazy and their restrooms are Barry clean! While traveling the state is definitely fun, we all would like to know when I-35 construction will be complete. That in conJunction with the daily hustle and bustle always creates Lotts of traffic and a convoy of 18-Wheelers. So don’t be surprised if you’re Hartley moving down highway 35, that’s just the Waco goes.

But let’s not talk about the negatives, Hempstead let’s talk about some of our Staple food and drinks, we have quite a Range: What-a-Burger, Shiner beer, Tito’s Vodka (really a lot of vodkas), HEB, Blue Bell ice cream (Byers just won’t do!) and numerous others. Are you beginning to Seguin why Texas is just Cool? I mean I could talk about Texas for Hays!

So in conclusion, I’ll Warren you, we many not be the most Humble, but I’m Kurten we are the friendliest….and Justin case you’re wondering, we don’t ride horses to work and school. So if you’re Pondering looking for a New Home and you’re Rankin your choices, go ahead and move Texas to the top or at least visit us on a Holliday break….we’ll Welcome you with open arms! Waller you waitin’ for!

(yes, my fellow hwy 290 east people, you caught me, that last one is on a Buc-ees billboard, just outside of well, Waller!)

Cheers to the Kid’s Table

I read an article the other day written by a disgruntled millennial about why we should forgo the kid’s table at holidays. Homeboy was super hurt over having to sit at the kid’s table and apparently it’s taken quite a toll on his life today. Until I read that article I hadn’t given this much thought, however it did pique my interest.

I thought back to all the times I sat at the kid’s table growing up – the fun we had, the trouble we created and the laughs we shared. Then it hit me. In just a little over a week I will once again take my spot at one of the fold out chairs around card table-island. Am I mad about it? Will I demand to sit with the adults? Will I enjoy the holiday season any less? Heck no!

I’ll enjoy the company of the other 20 somethings, just like I have for 21 years.  We’ve grown, developed and shared many laughs together- never once feeling “excluded” or “undervalued” by the adults as suggested by the article that sparked this post.

In fact, the “grownups” didn’t care where we sat, us kids voluntarily migrated to own table and had our own conversations. Thinking about the conversations we’ve had over the years I discovered something interesting about the kid’s table.

Hear me out…

Over the years, our topics of conversation have spanned from crafting the greatest after dinner “gameplan” to how mad we were about losing our 7th grade B Team basketball game to balancing sports, clubs and academics in high school to choosing a college, major and career track, present day. 

Each holiday brings a new experience, accomplishment and/or adventure for each of “kids” to share with one another. Give or take a few years, essentially we are all at the same point in our lives, expressing our successes, fears and goals with each other.

Now it’s not like these were deep conversations. Something as simple as “I want to be a lawyer when I grow up” was a goal, “I hope coach doesn’t make us run a lot after Christmas break” was a fear and “my team placed first at our speaking competition last weekend” was a success. Not mention we were saying these things while talking with our mouths full, avoiding our vegetables and arguing about who was going to win the game of horse after dinner. The point is, we could all relate to one another.

We didn’t need adults to initiate the conversation by asking us how school is going, what our favorite subject is, what we want to be when we grow up, yada, yada. We had our own creative conversations that were much more meaningful peer to peer than 20 adult eyes staring at the kid who the question was directed towards and waiting for an answer.

Of course, we talked over one another, argued, laughed and joked, but somewhere in those 20 something years of sitting at the kid’s table together, we grew up. As we advanced in our lives so did our conversations…and we have one another to thank for that.

It’s my belief that no one outgrows the kid’s table, we simply outgrow the conversations as we move through the various stages in our lives. 

On that note, I’ll hold out for a while on joining the “adults”…us kids have a lot to talk about that the adults simply wouldn’t understand 😉

So this is me signing off from the kid’s table, Happy Thanksgiving!


I grew up following my mom around the house with a mountain of books and reading to her every chance I got…which was ALL the time considering she worked from home. My book collection was the equivalent of what a public library would have, but I always seemed to pick the same five books to read. One of which was Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go…one of Mom’s favorites as well! While she listened to every book I read there was something special about this book that wasn’t evident until recently.

The theme is simple; it talks about the journey of life and its challenges. However, I can only imagine the feeling a mother has as they listen to their child read this book…anticipating their child’s future, how their child will change the world and the uncertainties their child will face along the way, all while having this deep, yet simple book narrated by an innocent, optimistic, worry-free, five-year-old.

Now fast forward 16 years and that future is today, the opportunity to impact the world is here and that mountain of books I once read is now a mountain of uncertainties. For 21 years, I followed a set and simple path…go to school and get an education! That’s ALL I’ve known.

I knew if I performed well by the tests I took, the papers I turned in and the report cards my parents had to sign. There was a set measurement of success and each accomplishment advanced me to the next grade, next school and eventually my next “home away from home” …college!

Now post-graduation, there are no grades to motivate me to perform well, I have to find my own motivation and what excites me, there are no advisors telling me to sign up for five specific classes, only mentors offering me advice that I can take or leave and there is no way for my parents to track my progress, only the trust they have in me that I’m working towards my future!

Don’t get me wrong this is all wonderful and what’s supposed to happen when you become a college graduate, but it’s interesting when all sudden you become that funny looking person wearing a yellow onesie and a yellow hat to compliment and realize “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who will decide where to go.”


But not to worry Dr. Seuss didn’t steer us wrong and there is a lot of truth in this witty rhyme. I would encourage anyone in college, nearing graduation or recently graduated and feeling the pressure of this grown-up thing to not overthink it, grab a cup of coffee (just don’t make it black because we’re not that grown up) and pull Oh, The Places You’ll Go off your Mom’s bookshelf and prepare to be inspired!


I’ve Been a Fan of Alan Jackson Ever Since I was Little Bitty

Anyone who knows me, knows without a doubt my favorite music genre is country and my favorite artist is Alan Jackson! I make everyone in the car, unless they are singing, stop all conversations when one of his songs comes on…because it’s the respectful thing to do. 🙂

Anyways, I wrote a story using 31 song titles that he either recorded, wrote and/or wrote and recorded about the moment I knew Alan Jackson was my favorite artist and why I still like him today! Enjoy!

I’ve Been a Fan of Alan Jackson Ever Since I was Little Bitty

I’ve loved Alan Jackson ever since I was Little Bitty. I Remember When my brother, he was just a Little Man, and I would run around the house, guitar in hand singing Tall, Tall Trees. We always had a Good Time performing jam sessions for the family and I’m convinced half the time they thought we had Gone Crazy. They probably Wanted us to take our show somewhere else, but they listened anyhow.  We have come a Long Long Way since then, but I still LOVE Alan Jackson, it’s just Who I Am!

I have every album he has ever recorded at Home from the 90s to bluegrass and everything in between and Don’t Ask Why, but I refuse to purchase digital downloads- I have to have the CD complete with liner notes. I know the words to every Alan Jackson song and If I Could Make a Living on reciting those lyrics I wouldn’t need Job Descriptions.

But do you know what I like most about Alan Jackson? When I read the USA Today he isn’t one of those celebrities I have to worry about seeing Who’s Cheatin’ Who because Where I Come From we don’t really care, we’re Laid Back and Low Key.

I agree with George and Alan that there has indeed been a Murder on Music Row because I’ll Try to listen to a new “country song” on the radio when I go for a Drive, but the whole time I think to myself, I Don’t Even Know Your Name and you claim to have Gone Country? Well There Goes 3 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back…just Another Good Reason to listen to Alan Jackson.

But, you won’t find me singing the Blues, Man because it’s 5 o’clock Somewhere and That’s All I Need to Know.

This story is a Work in Progress and has a Long Way to Go, but maybe Someday I’ll finish it. Until then they’ll be driving Buicks to the Moon the day I stop listening to Alan Jackson.

Update June 19, 2017: Today’s mail was fun! Looks like Alan Jackson approves of my pun filled blog post about him – day made!

Freeze Frame Time

Photo Album

Mom calls me the family historian, archivist and videographer. I’ll take that title because I love anything family. Over the years I’ve organized 8,800 photos, transferred 25 home videos to DVDs and traced back our family history among other things. In today’s fast paced, digital world it easy for such treasures to be overlooked. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed preserving family memories and learning something new in the process from a new skill to something about the family. Check it out below!

Photo Albums

I’m not too sure what other families are like, but we have a plethora of pictures….thanks Mom. I’m talking shoebox after shoebox documenting birthdays, vacations, accomplishments, family gatherings, milestones and everything in between. Mom documented every event in its entirety; not just in my brother’s and I’s lifetime, but years before that as well. She was always prompt in getting the pictures developed (what an ancient word), labeling the outside of the envelope and neatly placing them in photo boxes in chronological order. I would often sit on her office floor (while she worked..sorry Mom) and look through the thousands of pictures. I would laugh at the funny ones, ask about those who I didn’t have an opportunity to know and reminisce on great memories. Going through these pictures while Mom tried to work will always be one of my favorite memories growing up.

Once I was done looking at pictures for the day I followed Mom’s strict orders of:

  1. Making sure I didn’t get my fingerprints on the photos
  2. Putting them back in the correct envelope, in order
  3. Placing the envelopes back in chronological order in the photo box
  4. Neatly stacking the boxes back in the closet

Like most moms, those pictures are very special to her, so I didn’t mind being extra careful when looking through them. Even as I grew older I still enjoyed grabbing a box and taking a trip down memory lane. Well, winter break of my freshman year of college I was home for 3 weeks. I began looking through some pictures and suddenly an idea struck me. Why not put all of our pictures in albums and label them. That way they are protected, labeled, in chronological order and convenient to look through….and that’s just what I did!

I began by organizing every picture before placing them in albums because what a bummer it would be to be in 2007 and stumble across pictures from 1997….if that were the case my OCD would have had me start over until it was right, so it was worth it to approach it from this angle. Once I had all the pictures organized, I put them in albums and labeled every single picture (who’s in it, the event and the date). Well, 8,800 pictures, 42 photo albums, 10 black ball point pens and 3 weeks later and this project was complete! I had a lot of fun doing this project and the part I enjoyed most was hearing the story behind the different pictures. Whenever I stumbled across a photo that I was unsure of the people or date, I would ask my parents. They never gave me a simple answer because how could they? Pictures freeze frame time and bring back a flood of memories! After a minute long story of who the people were, how they met, what they do now and a comment of “I should call them”…I labeled the picture and moved on to the next one.

We ended up dedicating an entire bookshelf to these albums. Not only are they more convenient to look at, but family and friends who come over actually look at them too! They are no longer hidden away in a dark closet collecting dust.

Still today in this digital age Mom takes a million pictures, but I’m glad she does. I make a conscious effort to not get pictures developed (because who does that), but to print them from the digital camera, off our phones and even off of Facebook where friends and family have tagged us in pictures. I’ve continued to label each one and so far I haven’t gotten behind 🙂

Home Videos

A few years prior to organizing all the photos, I transferred our home videos from VHS to DVDs to preserve them. This project took me about 2 weeks and we ended up with around 25 DVDs….it’s like a series box set of “The Melvins”…ha! Just like the photos, it was a trip down memory lane with each home video. We have over 23 years of memories from Little League, ballet, deer hunting, backyard shenanigans, parties and everything in between. One thing I learned that’s really no surprise, just confirmation…my brother and I marched to the beat of our own drum. Despite the hours of embarrassing footage, I transferred them all.

I did this project about 7 years ago and just in that short time frame, the world and technology has changed once again. I’m sure in the near future I will need to transfer our memories to the next great technological invention.

DVD Slideshows

When I was about 12 years old I taught myself video editing software and kept learning until present day. Initially I would make DVD slideshows of family vacations complete with music to fit the theme. We would all gather in the family room and watch my work of art project on the screen. Upon watching that DVD I would begin another! As I got more advanced I began creating slideshows of my grandparent’s and parent’s life, from the time they were born to present day. Each one was about 30 minutes long and I was very intentional in the music I picked to go with the pictures based on of course their taste in music, but personality and the meaning of the song as well. It was inevitable that Mom would get teary eyed watching them, especially when I ended one with Alan Jackson’s “Remember When”. When my brother graduated high school I made him a DVD and it was definitely my most advanced one. In addition to pictures and effects, I included clips from home videos, graduation and well wishes from friends and family members that mom captured at his graduation party. It was about 45 minutes long….don’t say I’ve never done anything for you Travis! Of course I made my own, similar to his for my high school graduation 🙂

I really enjoy creating these DVDs and the possibilities are endless. In the process I have preserved quite a few pictures since I have digital copies of the pictures I used in each video.


To round out my obsession with…well family, I traced back our family history (on all sides) to when we arrived in the United States on boats! Most of my research was done through, but I did use a variety of other resources as well. It was a very neat and rewarding experience.

I can’t tell you how many censuses, draft cards, city directories, marriage licenses, birth and death certificates I went through to trace everything back. What seemed like such a minor detail on each of these records uncovered so much. However, some of these neatest records I found were passenger lists, communication of relatives experiences while away at war, newspaper headlines talking about members of my family and photos that not one person in the family has ever seen. I have binders and binders filled with various documents that when put together, tell a great story!

I also communicated quite a bit with other members in the community that would be considered distant cousins. We helped each other fill in the missing holes in our trees, swapped stories and shared valuable bits of information that helped move our research along. In addition, I participated in Ancestry DNA which of course takes your DNA and lets you know your ethnicity. I was confident I knew my ethnicity, but it was still neat to see just what percentage I was and it also helped me further connect with distant relatives.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done any more research since I traced everything back and there is still so much to uncover. I’m sure sometime in the future I’ll pick back up where I left off and discover more cool things.


It’s fair to say I love learning about my family. Through each project I’ve had the opportunity to gain new skills, but most importantly I’ve had the opportunity to connect with present and past relatives. There has been a lot of crossover among the projects that has allowed me to understand the various stories in full.

It is possible to freeze frame time because each time I look through an album, laugh at a home video, watch a DVD or sift through records I feel a connection to the people and places.

The Rest of the Story

Paul Harvey

Today a friend of mine shared a YouTube video on Facebook that was a tribute to police officers written by Paul Harvey. Of course it was a touching tribute especially amidst everything occurring in our world today, but hearing Paul Harvey’s classic mid-America radio accent brought back a flood of memories.

Growing up we spent a lot of time at my grandparents who always had the radio on in their house and barn. In addition, my mom worked from home so when she went to town, so did we. I don’t mean to sound old here, but this was before Bluetooth capability so you either listened to the radio or CDs in the car and often times when we were buzzing from place to place it was the radio. Well one of the local radio stations out of LaGrange, KBUK, broadcasted Paul Harvey’s daily “Rest of the Story” segment shortly after the Texas State Network News at the top of the noon hour. The local radio host would chime in briefly between the two segments and say “and now here is Paul Harvey with the rest of the story”. As he muttered those 12 words, my brother and I did too…suddenly the radio host had two co-hosts. Now at a young age, after we introduced Paul Harvey, my brother and I were the least bit concerned about “the rest of the story”, but through his storytelling capability, memorable voice and look of interest from the adults we couldn’t help but listen to his 4 minute segment even if we didn’t know who John D. Rockefeller was, why we cared that the Ohio River didn’t have any bedrock to build a bridge in the late 1800s or what the placebo effect is. We listened anyways.

As we grew older, more and more stories became of interest as we understood the world around us. Suddenly, we took an interest towards Paul Harvey’s stories and became excited if we actually knew who or what he was talking about! It really is true, you do get wiser with age.

Now, right around the time I got my driver’s license is probably when I stopped listening to “the rest of the story” for a few reasons. One, because well I had control of the radio now and Bluetooth connectivity was also a thing and two, he passed away right around this time and I’m not too sure if KBUK continued to broadcast reruns or not. Nonetheless, until this video popped up on my newsfeed today I hadn’t given Paul Harvey much thought.

Well, as I scrolled through my Facebook and pressed play on this video and was greeted by that classic voice, I thought I should pause it and start it over so that I could give him his formal introduction of “now here is Paul Harvey with the rest of the story”. Of course I didn’t do this, but after watching the video I did track down “The Paul Harvey Show” podcast and got immersed into listening to various 4 minute segments. I learned that Merle Haggard almost escaped from San Quentin with his friend, but at the last minute decided not to in which his friend got caught and received the death penalty, 40 inventions that took place during the golden age of railroad invention in the 19th century were invented by women and John Hertz (founder of Hertz rentals) is noted for establishing yellow as the standard color for taxis, among other notable things. I just kept listening to story after story and you don’t even want to guess how many 4 minute segments you can listen to in a day.

Now I realize that Paul Harvey has his critics and while it’s questionable if all his stories are true, there is no denying his enticing storytelling ability. It’s not until the last 30 seconds that he reveals the person, place or thing he just spent the last 3 minutes and 30 seconds talking about, not to mention the way he told the story and suspense building up to this reveal was just as interesting as the reveal! As I listened, I mentally tried to figure out who or what he was talking about before he gave it away at the end and said “and now you know the rest of the story”.

Now, besides the fond memories it brought back of spending time with my grandparents or riding around with my mom, I actually found his stories interesting compared to 12 or 15 years ago. I love learning new things, hearing about people’s background and keeping my history skills sharp…and this is exactly what Paul Harvey did. He combined all three into a 4 minute segment, 6 days a week, for all to hear.

So I believe the next time I head out the door, I’ll connect to the Bluetooth in my car, turn on the podcast and it’ll be just like old times…except I’ll actually know what he is talking about and I won’t be faced with possibility of missing “the rest of the story” if I’m not in a position to tune in just after the noon hour…..I wonder what Paul Harvey would say about today’s technology?

Summer Camp that Lasted ALL Year

Rancho Delores- Weimar, TX

Summer is upon us and many kids are heading off to summer camp. They are ready to brave the hot weather, connect with new and old friends and learn new skills. Watching these kids head off to camp brought back many fond memories of my time as a camper at various camps. While I enjoyed each one, it’s hard to beat the one that was located just 15 miles from my house. After a quick drive down a farm-to-market road and a few curves down a county road you arrived at “camp”. As you drove along the white fence, you noticed the huge American and Texas flags waving proudly out by the road. When you turned in you were greeted by two of the nicest individuals and you couldn’t wait to jump out of the car and begin your adventure! So after a quick hug goodbye to Mom and Dad… was HELLO Camp Grandma and Grandpa!!!

What an awesome place to spend just about every weekend and many summer days… was literally a summer camp that lasted ALL year! It was a place for creativity, skill building, fellowship, adventure and FUN. Not to mention we (my brother, cousin and I) could do just about anything we wanted…..and we did!

There is no telling how many bike ramps we built, go-carts, 4-wheelers, or dirt bikes we rode, clay pigeons we shot, fish we caught, guitars we played, trails we trimmed, Blue Bell ice we devoured or bacon sandwiches we ate. The possibilities were endless and if for some reason you were bored, someone was quick to dream up the next adventure!

One of my favorite memories is Grandpa sitting at the only spot he ever sat at, at the picnic table, smoking a cigarette and giving us grandkids a challenge….something he LOVED to do! The challenge entailed each grand kid riding the go-cart, 4-wheeler or dirt bike around the property for 15 minutes in which we were to return with an exciting, fictional story of what occurred during our ride. Needless to say we came back with some pretty creative stories- from the bear that chased us to the bubble gum weapon we used to defend the bear.

He was also excellent at mental math and loved to give us math equations at the dinner table that weren’t overly difficult, but certainly made you think. After all, unless you used your carrots as a calculator you had to really exercise your brain power to find a solution to his questions.

On the other hand, when we got the bright idea to build or create something Grandma was always there to help out. I don’t know how many pools, rafts or boats she repaired so that the fun would never end. She always seemed to be the one picking up a lot of the tree limbs as we cut new trails through the woods for mountain bikes and 4-wheelers.

I also spent many hours with her learning to sew and created what I thought were works of art at the time, but looking back would be considered a good effort. And of course like any good Grandma we spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking and cooking…not to mention she made sure we wore plenty of sunscreen, stayed hydrated and took lots of breaks! 😉

It’s fair to say, Grandma and Grandpa’s house was the place to be! From swimming in the lake, jumping on the water trampoline, paddling around in the paddle boats, fishing for catfish, racing RC boats, building and creating things and everything in between, Rancho Delores will always hold a special place in my heart. Creativity was abundant, skill building was endless and living quarters were above a bunk bed in a cabin of 20. I’m thankful that it wasn’t a place to be visited just one time a year, but year round… was summer camp that lasted ALL year!

Generat(ing)ional Memories

I spend a lot of time on Pinterest (no not planning my wedding) but looking at inspiration for different projects that range from things I want to do one day, to your standard DIY project, to what to cook for dinner tomorrow night….It’s fair to say I get a lot of great ideas and I’m your typical women that every man has a fit at when you ask him to help you build this “simple project”. Those projects always seem to turn into hours worth of effort and frustration because the plans don’t make sense or better yet, there are no plans all together! It makes for grand day….ha!

But one of my fondest Pinterest projects is a generational photo. A common theme of many of my posts is how much my family means to me so when I stumbled across this idea I knew I had to pursue it. It took a little coordination and discipline on my part because both my brother and Grandma lived out of state and each had trip planned to Texas in the near future….not to mention coordinating outfits, location, camera angles, etc, etc.

In addition, it’s not a project you can knock out in one day because you take the first picture, print it (poster size), frame it, take a picture of the next generation, print it (poster size), frame it, etc, etc and I wanted the timing to be perfect so that I could finish up the project when my brother and Grandma were in Texas.

Now I’m no professional photographer, but it all worked out great and was such a fun project! My next goal is to do the same for my parents’ siblings and their families as a gift to both of my grandmothers.

Check it out below!


Grandma Elli (Mom’s Mom), Mom and Me

MawMaw Melvin (Dad’s Mom), Dad & Mom and Travis & Me

Grandma Elli, Dad & Mom and Travis & Me

Both the Grandmas, Dad & Mom and Travis and Me

How I Feel About Sharing My Birthday

Birthday Celebrations- Columbus, TX

March is finally here which brings warmer weather, spring, and baseball, but what I’m most excited about is it’s my BIRTHDAY month! Of course I look forward to every birthday, but every year that it rolls around I’m reminded that I once again I have to share my birthday with………my brother. Our birthdays are 726 days apart, which comes out to 2 years and 4 days apart, but what’s really important to this situation is that our birthdays are viewed as 4 days apart when it comes to celebrating each year. Bummer.

Every family birthday we sing Happy Birthday Holly……AND……Travis. That’s like running a marathon and declaring two first places. Okay maybe I’m overreacting just a little. Growing up, we each had our own “special” day with our friends and were allowed to go and do just about anything we wanted…so I guess technically I’ve had my own day each year, just not when it comes to family celebrations. After all, we would have to have the family down one weekend and then turn around and have them down again the next weekend. I get it, I get it, it’s a lot of effort, yada, yada…although I have proposed this idea over the years. So while I am a little dramatic over our joint birthday celebrations it honestly makes perfect sense…growing up we did everything together so why not throw birthdays into the mix?

My brother was my first best friend, role model, and advice giver. I don’t have any other siblings, but I think everyone should have a brother that they can look up to. They are the most honest people you will come across and will shoot you straight, while also building you up and encouraging you to be the best you can be…..and that is my brother to a tee. So if I HAVE to share my birthday celebrations with someone, I’m glad it’s with my first best friend!

So as another birthday celebration nears, I’ll join the family and sing Happy Birthday Holly……AND Travis.

Shoot With Both Eyes Open

American Shooting Center- Houston, TX

One of my favorite hobbies is shooting sporting clays, skeet, and trap. I learned how to shoot at young age starting with a BB gun off the porch of my grandparents barn, then progressed to a .410, 20 gauge, and finally a 12 gauge. It was inevitable that I would learn to shoot as my grandparents had a trap range on their property and my brother shot sporting clays competitively, but to take shooting on as a hobby was definitely my choice and I’m glad I did. I enjoy the mental challenge that presents itself every time I step on the course or range and given my competitive nature I also enjoy competing against my dad, brother, and other friends…..something we all enjoy.  Over the years and more recently especially, I have found that shooting terminology and procedures can be tied to my everyday life:

1. Be Aware of What’s in Your Sights: I wouldn’t dare step on the course or range and carelessly begin firing. I would assess who’s around me, what’s around me, and the general area of where the target is going. The same can be applied in life. I make an effort to be mindful of who I surround myself with and the environment I’m in, all while focusing on the target I hope to achieve.

2. Shoot with Both Eyes Open: When I was young, I had a bad habit of closing my left eye and aiming at the target with only my right eye. When you shoot with one eye open you are limiting your peripheral vision and you lack situational awareness. Much like when I was a young shooter I find myself today limiting my peripheral vision and situational awareness. I become comfortable with where I am at and what I’m doing and fail to look for the “next thing”. Now more than ever I should be greeting every situation and opportunity with both eyes open and developing a deep understanding of the situation so that I keep progressing and marching towards building my future.

3. Oil and Polish Your Gun: I wouldn’t put a gun in the safe without properly maintaining it, which would include cleaning it, oiling it, and polishing it. Much like my gun, I keep a clean work area (a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind), I make a conscious effort of learning new things (it’s keeps my brain active by oiling it with new and useful information) and I work on polishing my current skills while searching for new ones.

4. .410 vs. the 12 Gauge: For years all I wanted to shoot was the .410. My dad, brother, and Grandpa all tried to get me to move on to a 20 gauge because “it would make my life easier”. Yes it is true, a 20 gauge shell has a much wider spread and a greater chance of hitting the pigeon, however for some odd reason I just wasn’t sold. I continued to shoot the .410 and became quite accurate. I would put my .410 skills up against anyone with a 20 or 12 gauge in a head-to-head competition and never once thought about my competitor having the advantage. I would just do what I knew to do and that was hitting an orange target with a skinny red bullet. Looking back there are two things to be learned from my fascination with the .410 that are applicable to where I’m at in my life.

One, I never thought about the competition being unfair and two, I embraced what I was good at. Today I realize that other job applicants (essentially my competitors) are going to be equipped with different skills than myself and there is potential for their skills to be better aligned with what a company is looking for as far as what’s on paper. However, just because someone may have a grocery list of the best sounding skills that does not mean I’m out of the running. Growing up, I was able to compete against bigger, higher caliber guns than the one I was using and I held my own just fine. So just because my skills may not be up to the caliber of others does not mean I can’t embrace what I’m good at and leverage that to show that I have the potential to keep progressing. I eventually moved on the 20 and 12 gauge and by the time I did I was so used to having such a small margin of error every time I fired the gun that I became quite “the shot”!

The bottom line is life isn’t fair, the competition is steep when job hunting, and I may not possess the highest caliber skills right out of college, but I can’t waste my time worrying about others and it’s crucial that I focus on what I’m good at. I feel like with this mindset I can take my .410 and compete against anyone that has a shooting bag full of chokes and gun that basically shoots itself.

Small Town Living

Milam St.- Columbus, TX

While I certainly do not see myself heading back to my hometown or moving to another small town post-graduation, I do think there is a lot to be said for growing up in a small town. Our population is 3,600 people and we live for Friday Night Football, wave to each other at our four stoplights, and you might as well plan on adding 30 minutes to your grocery shopping for visiting purposes.

Until I got to college I never realized the uniqueness of growing up in a small town. You were frequently featured in the newspaper starting when you were born with your birth announcement, to letters to Santa in elementary, to sports and organizations in junior high and high school. Not to mention headlining the front page with your first buck….

Outside of being a celebrity in the newspaper, you could also be a celebrity on the radio. The whole town knew when it was your birthday, how many points you scored at Friday night’s basketball game, and how much rainfall your land received from the recent downpour. I had the opportunity to be the voice of radio advertisements for school and every Wednesday morning you could catch the FFA Minute with Holly Melvin! I mean looking back that was all really cool!

Besides the newspaper and radio fame, it was truly unique to walk into to any business in town and automatically see a familiar face and strike up a conversation. We waved at everyone and if someone waved and you didn’t wave back the next time they saw you they wondered if you were okay “that one day I waved at you between the softball fields and high school about three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon when it was sprinkling rain”….I mean we have the time, location, and current weather condition down when referring to that “one time you didn’t wave back”. Additionally, teachers referred to you by your oldest sibling’s name and your parents knew about any misstep you took in school before you had the opportunity to tell them. Not to mention, my Dad’s office is right in the center of town at our main stoplight. His greatest joy was seeing where I was going, coming from, what my friends were doing, and smugly asking what I did after practice because he knew good and well what direction I was heading….just to keep me honest, but even more so just to give me a hard time.

So how does all this translate to where I’m at now and where I’ll soon be heading? Well I’ll admit I miss the small town media fame, but there is so much more to take away from how I grew up the first 18 years of my life:

1. All we hear these days is networking, networking, networking! And it’s true, we are college students and we should be networking. Looking back I’ve been networking my entire life! Growing up I would walk into a store and know someone who then introduced me to their friend and the next time I saw that friend they would introduce me to their friend, etc, etc. At 15 years old I just didn’t know there was an official name for it! Today I use the same practice of taking a conscious effort of remembering who I met, what they do, and keeping in contact. While it is a little more challenging since I’m no longer dealing with a pool of just 3,600 people, giving a casual wave at the stoplight doesn’t qualify as “keeping in contact”, and utilizing these contacts as conversation starters at the post office isn’t the best use….I at least have a foundation of how to go about networking. I’ve learned how to talk to people and trained myself to remember who I’m talking to, all to continue to add value to the relationships I’ve created and the network I’m continuing to build.

2. I don’t plan on having a career in radio, but having the confidence to grab the mic and have my voice broadcasted across three counties has really helped me be able to think on my feet and speak in a professional manner to potential employers. It was a great ice breaker to help take out the awkwardness of what I once considered uncomfortable situations. It’s difficult to talk on the radio if you’ve never done it, just like it’s difficult to talk to professionals if you’ve never done it. But once you do it, you gain a little more confidence, and every time there after you keep building your confidence until you are comfortable.

3. Everyone has different moral compasses, but a good way to measure where your morals are is by asking yourself if you would be comfortable with that action headlined on the front page of the newspaper. Now I mentioned all the good things you can get featured for in the small town newspaper, but rest assured we are a small town and like our small town gossip, so all the bad is in there as well. It puts things into perspective for me that before I act I ponder the thought of former teachers, local businessmen, and neighbors reading about it and if I’m comfortable with what is said. I’ll admit I haven’t been faced with an “ethical dilemma” thus far, but as my career fast approaches I feel sure questionable encounters will arise.

In conclusion, I believe small towns are like an introduction to a book. It gives you a summary of what to expect, but until you read further in you don’t quite know how you connect to the content and how it all comes together. In my 18 years of small town living I knew I would head off to college and then begin a career, but I didn’t quite know how talking on the radio, “networking” with the townspeople, or being featured in the newspaper was going to benefit my future. Now on my third and final year of college and my future right around the corner, it is all coming together. The introduction has started to make sense and while my book may never be completed I’m far enough in to see how it all fits together.