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.

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!


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!

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!

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.

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!