A Great First Tri

Last Sunday, I tightened up my goggles, adjusted my bike helmet, and laced up my running shoes to compete in my first sprint triathlon in Waco…and what an awesome experience it was! It was a weekend filled with a super helpful race production team, encouraging fellow competitors, and the most supportive spectators.  

So that brings me to today, reflecting on training, preparing, and competing in my first sprint triathlon. Let’s dive in! (pun totally intended)

What Training Plan?

A sprint triathlon is half of an olympic triathlon and is typically around a 400m swim, 12.5 mile bike ride, and a 3.5 mile run, in that order. I’ve always been the type that as long as I know the end goal, I’ll find a way to reach it. So I didn’t follow any set training plan. My workouts were nothing more complicated than averaging 40 laps (half mile) of swimming, 15-25 miles of biking, and running until I couldn’t run anymore (I really hate running). I would focus on one aspect of the race per workout until I got to a point where I could do them back to back in the same workout if time allowed.

Overall, I ended up dedicating 116 workouts specifically to triathlon training, which equated to 74.28 hours and 620.51 miles of swimming, biking, and running over the last few months. Needless to say I was fully trained and most likely could have competed in the full, olympic triathlon. However, hindsight is 20/20 and it would have been awful if I put myself through an olympic and ended up hating triathlons all together…so I am happy I stuck with the sprint.

Taking Shape

Prior to training for a sprint triathlon, I only thought I was in shape. After all I eat relatively healthy and I was averaging 120 miles a week on my bike…but when I threw swimming and running into the mix, I got into super shape. I gained quite a bit of muscle tone, but ended up weighing the exact same on race day as I did when I began training…which makes total sense – combining three taxing activities together can really tone and trim a person up! As cliche as it sounds, I truly believe I am in the best shape of my life!

Learning the Ropes

As far as becoming familiar with what to expect on race day, the internet taught me everything I know. I personally didn’t know any triathletes prior to race day, so YouTube and blog articles were my best friend. Watching YouTube videos of what to expect on race day turned into watching inspirational videos and documentaries about triathlons/triathletes on Amazon Prime when race day was two weeks away. There is something about pairing an okay story with the Rocky theme song, and adding in a few dramatic animations that really motivates a person….I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but hey it worked for me 🙂

I also Googled several images of triathletes to figure out what kind of outfits real triathletes wear. I wanted my competitors to know I meant business when I showed up on race day. Ha. Not really, but I did Google what triathletes wear because, shoot, I had no clue.

Turns out the internet didn’t mislead me, all that YouTube watching, Amazon Prime perusing, and blog reading had me fully confident and prepared…I was pleasantly surprised not to have any surprises on race day.

The internet is a truly wonderful thing.

Race Weekend

I got Waco on Saturday morning so that I could attend the athlete briefing that afternoon. Which was by far the most insightful and productive thing I could have done for the race. The ever so enthusiastic race director, Frank, led the briefing and was absolutely awesome. Aside from answering any and every question from athletes, he held a seperate mini meeting for any first timers wanting to know a bit more – I was incredibly thankful for his patience and knowledge.

3AM Wake-Up Call

Race day at last! The transition area where you put your bike and gear opened at 5AM. Being the anxious and never late person I am, we were there by 4:30…I gotta say not a lot of action out on the Waco streets at that time of the morning, which I suppose is a good thing.

Once transition opened at 5 I toted my bike and gear to my designated area and laid everything out just as precisely as the 10 YouTube videos I watched about “your transition area” demonstrated. That took me all the way to 5:05AM. So I sat, people watched, rearranged my gear, sat, people watched, rearranged my gear, repeat, repeat, repeat. People all had their own race morning routines which was fascinating to watch, but just like when I grew up playing sports, I didn’t need any pump-up music, a boost of energy, or a need to go for a quick, swim, bike, or run. I was ready.

I sat through one more athlete meeting and then it was go time!

Finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for…or that I’ve been waiting for…

One-by-one the athletes entered the Brazos River. I’m not sure if it was the fact that my brother told me the alligator gar were going to bite my toes or that adrenaline took over, but once I hit the water I never slowed down.

I was super pumped getting out of the river because I knew I killed the first part of the race. I ran to the transition area to where my bike was racked only to find it wasn’t there. Two thoughts crossed my mind, someone stole it or they disqualified me from the race for some reason and this is their way of letting me know. Then I realized neither of those things could have possibly taken place. So there I was, browsing aisles and aisles of bikes…all 1,000 of them – periodically looking at my race number on my arm to confirm I was in the right area. After 4 minutes, I finally realized the number on my arm wasn’t 579, but 569. I went over 10 bikes from where I had initiated my search to 569 and what do you know, there was my bike…right where I left it.

After pretending like nothing happened, I headed out through the streets and highways around Waco on my bike. Overall it was a relatively peaceful ride besides the occasional wind I felt over my left shoulder from possible Tour de France contenders zooming by me.

As I was racking my bike and heading out to run, in typical me fashion, I waved and had a conversation with my parents in the middle of the race. Then I finally decided to go run. The run was pretty challenging after swimming and biking, but overall it wasn’t bad. I appreciated all the clever signs and spectators along the way.

Of course the best part was crossing the finish line, getting your medal, and hearing your name announced. I ended up finishing in an hour and 42 minutes which was a few minutes faster the average female time for the course. So I’ll take it!

However, I think next time remembering where I left my bike and not having a conversation in the middle of the race will cut off a solid amount of time!

Would I Do It Again?

I will for sure do more sprint triathlons. I would like to get to point where I can be competitive in olympic triathlons – I just have to remind myself, one goal at a time and I’ll get there!

Overall Thoughts

I had an absolute blast and would encourage anyone to do a sprint triathlon. People of all shapes, sizes, ages, and ability compete and it was truly inspiring to see. Some were there to win, some just wanted to finish, and others fell somewhere in between. I believe it is a sport that with a little discipline and goal setting, can be accomplished by all.

Not to mention triathletes are some of the most encouraging and nicest people in sports. They’ll motivate you while you run, cheer you on as they zoom by you on their bike, answer any questions you have, congratulate you, give you a pat on the back, offer support, give you tips, on and on.

So if you’re looking for a rewarding, fun, and encouraging environment triathlons are the way to go. Seriously – from the race director, to athletes, to volunteers, to the people who woke up early Sunday morning to line the course with funny signs and inspiration and everyone in between…you simply couldn’t find better.

Just as the TriWaco race director, Frank, reiterated several times over the weekend, you’ll always remember your first triathlon and welcome to the addiction…I believe he is right!

 

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, on three chords, and if he forgot the lyrics he’d carry right on with his own version.

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. 

Current Books I’ve Read

If I were to create a list of my all-time favorite books, I would have a difficult time and always feel like I left one off. So instead of doing that, I decided to share a few of my favorite books from over the past couple of months. Before I jump into those books, I should mention that 99.9% of books I read are non-fiction and are typically sports related, inspirational, autobiographies & biographies, and books about ordinary people.

The Legends Club by John Feinstein

  • I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves college basketball, but more particularly anyone who appreciates the rivalry of basketball in North Carolina (North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Duke). It profiles coaches, Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, and Mike Kryzewski as they go through recruiting wars, personal rivalries, pressures associated with the job, and their drive to win. Not only do you learn about the coaches, but it covers various players in detail and you pick up on how NCAA basketball has evolved over the years from recruiting to rule changes. It’s not a quick read (actually, it’s quite long and detailed), but so worth the read!

Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

  • This is a wonderful book that stories Jenna and Barbara Bush’s unique life from Texas to the White House and everything in between. They reflect on their favorite memories, mistakes as teenagers, life in the public eye and their family. While it is certainly interesting to hear first hand experiences from former first daughters, this book also does an excellent job of welcoming you into what “normal” family life is like for the Bushes. Two aspects of the book I found most interesting is when they talked about 9/11 and their unique and classy Gans, Barbara Bush.

The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews

  • Andy Andrew’s is one of my favorite authors and speakers because of his unique storytelling ability and motivational wisdom. This true story takes place during WWII and tells a heartwarming story about how a German U-boat officer washes ashore into a small Alabama town and looks to Helen for survival. This books takes you through unexpected turns, loss, forgiveness, and letting go. A truly inspiring story.

Hidden America by Jeanne Marie Laskas

  • Jeanne Laskas profiles individuals from air traffic controllers at LaGuardia Airport to coal miners. She takes readers into the daily lives of those that make this country work. My favorite part about the book is that you actually get to know the people she profiled and their personal lives beyond their daily jobs. It is a very interesting and insightful book that reveals the hidden heartbeat of America.

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

  • Bianca Bosker was a Professional Journalist who quit her stable job to discover an industry where people spend their lives on the quest for flavor, so she could uncover the question: “what is the big deal about wine?” In this book you learn about underground tasting groups, exclusive New York restaurants, California wine factories, fMRI machines, the grueling process of becoming a certified Sommelier, and how Sommeliers devote their life to flavor. This was a super interesting book, but the biggest takeaway for me actually has nothing to do with wine; it had to do with the motivation and drive behind Bosker. She spent an entire year chasing this industry and learning about it. The underlying motivation and drive to do so was fascinating to me. This certainly isn’t an inspirational book, it’s strictly informational, but trust me, once you read it and think about how much time, resources, and studying she put into this…you’ll be motivated yourself to learn, discover, or pursue a new hobby, interest, or job that you’ve always dreamed of chasing.

The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews

  • Imagine that another Andy Andrews’ book makes the list! This short, 100 page book will take you 20 minutes to read and will be the most thought provoking, motivating book you’ll read this year. I’d give you a summary, but it would be quicker for you to just read the book….it’s that good!

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…

Cheers to the Kid’s Table

I read an article the other day written by a disgruntled 20 year old something 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 year old something “kids”, 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 table my parents sit at because I hear those conversations are about being married and having kids….no thank you!

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

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.

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.

Ancestry

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 Ancestry.com, 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 Ancestry.com 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.

Recap

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.

High Flyin’ Fun!

Lone Star Trapeze Academy- Bryan, TX

A few months ago I was reading Texas Highways and stumbled across an ad for Lone Star Trapeze Academy. I’m assuming the layout and positioning of the ad initially caught my eye, but it was the fact that it read “Fly through the air with the greatest of ease and learn this circus act!” that really enticed me to head to their website, not to mention they are located right here in Bryan. This was perfect, because I’m always on the search to try or do something new…especially if it’s a physical activity. So this past weekend my best friend and I gave it a whirl and it was a blast!

On a typical, hot-sunny-Texas, Saturday afternoon we arrived to Bomber Stadium, home of our local Collegiate League baseball team to be greeted by the smell of popcorn and the sound of wooden bats. No my post hasn’t changed directions and while we would have, we weren’t here to cheer on the Bombers either….but to trapeze! The academy happens to be located just outside the fence of right field and along the opposing team dugout. So if your timing is right, you very well could be the 7th inning stretch entertainment or simply a distraction to the opposing team…..in which we were both the day we learned to trapeze.

We filled out some waivers, did about a minute and thirty-seven seconds worth of stretches, put on some safety equipment and then it was time to learn the fundamentals. We began with a bar that was about 8 or 10 feet off the ground and watched the instructor demonstrate how to pull our body around the bar and hang. After that, one by one we did this maneuver once and then it was time to head to the real thing.

To get up to the platform you climb up an extension ladder and no worries, you’re attached to a safety harness! 😉 Once you make it to the top you stand on a platform that can’t be much bigger than a 2 x 4. The instructor hands you the bar in which you are to grab with your right hand and then on his command you grab the other side with your left hand. This is where it gets a little scary….once you grab the bar with your left hang you’re dang close to hanging off the edge of the platform and the only thing holding you back is the instructor. Once again on his command you jump and follow what he says throughout the entire process and next thing you know you’re some kind of trapeze artist!

The instructors reiterated multiple times that it is just a game of Simon Says, if you do what they tell you to do when they tell you do it, you’ll be successful! And that’s no lie, you just had to trust them and do exactly as they said. It was obvious those who didn’t pay attention didn’t quite master the various “tricks” we learned. They also tell you “the first time is for fear, the second time is for fun”. That’s no lie either, it was a bit nerve-racking the first time, but after that you can’t wait to climb back up and try it again.

I was impressed that after only two hours and at 5’ 11’’ I was able to fly through the air, do some backflips and master the catch. No doubt I’ll be back, especially since they informed me that you’ll learn new tricks each time you return!

Check it out below!

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!

 

Generations
Grandma Elli (Mom’s Mom), Mom and Me
Generations
MawMaw Melvin (Dad’s Mom), Dad & Mom and Travis & Me
Generations
Grandma Elli, Dad & Mom and Travis & Me
Generations
Both the Grandmas, Dad & Mom and Travis and Me

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.

LETTERing in Writing

Great MawMaw Melvin's Letters to Fred

I’ve had an interest in my family history for quite a few years now. Over the course of 3-5 years I have traced back our ancestry to our “home” country on all sides, did the whole DNA test, and reached out to distant relatives in the genealogy community that shared the same passion and common goal as myself. Through my research I found war heroes, newspaper headlines highlighting my family, and passenger lists from when my family sailed in to Ellis Island and began their life in America. I shared a new excitement with every record I found and the information was endless. However, one of the greatest discoveries I made was not through a census, passenger, or war draft record, but in an envelope that my family received after the passing of my great grandmother. In that envelope were farmledgers, WW2 ration books, and about 100 letters.

Those letters were addressed to my great grandfather from my great grandmother while she attended college at the University of Kentucky from 1928-1932. Wow! Best discovery ever. I was fortunate enough to know my great grandmother when I was a child, but it was the neatest thing to read about her college experience and have her personality shine through in those letters. Regardless of the 85 year difference from when her experiences took place to when I read about them I found myself drawing on many of the commonalities that I found we share. Our feelings about college are mutual, many college activities “back then” are still enjoyed today, and the struggles of adapting to a new “independently-dependent” lifestyle was prevalent in the 20th Century as it is in the 21st Century.

I found these letters the summer before I headed off to college and I pondered the thought of doing the same…..writing a letter home every week of college. Here I am, 75 letters in and I don’t regret it one bit. Some weeks writing a letter slips my mind and I tell myself I’ll just write “extra” next week. However this never holds true. Somewhere in the process of contemplating writing a letter home, I always find myself with a pen in hand and a stamp nearby.

I’ll admit I’m a little dramatic in my letters, but my parents look past it and find them quite humorous. Besides the joy it brings to my parent’s mailbox each week, it gives me the opportunity to reflect on my week. I think about everything positive that has happened, build on the negative, and assess what I’ve accomplished and what I need to accomplish in the week ahead.

It’s a priceless treasure for my parents today and treasure for me in the future. I’ll be able to open up 100+ letters and relive the emotions that I was feeling when various events occurred. So while writing letters is a lost art for many, it is alive and well for this college student!