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. 

What a Guy!

During my time at Mays Business School I had the opportunity to hear from several business leaders and industry experts. I thoroughly enjoyed each one for their inspiration, motivation, knowledge and insight that they offered the class. However my favorite speaker was one that patiently sat on floor outside the classroom, reading the USA today, while eating a PB&J sandwich before class began.

When he entered the classroom to begin speaking a flood of memories entered my mind as I had watched this man stand on chairs, bounce on tables, whip money out of his pocket, and enthusiastically state, “Gallery Furniture saves you money, TODAY!” my entire childhood. That’s right, THE Mattress Mack, Jim McIngvale was speaking to my class of 20 marketing students that day and it was such an honor.

Mack speaks just as enthusiastically as he does on his commercials and is one of the most genuine, hardworking, and inspiring individuals I have had the opportunity to meet. His character is an example to us all.

Not to mention, he doesn’t watch any tv, unless it is sports, loves going to work each day, and puts customer service above all other aspects of business….three things hard to find in a person these days.

His unwavering attitude is an inspiration. He talked about when the man on duty at his warehouse called and told him it was on fire. Mack responded, “well, put the son of ***** out!” Mack soon learned it was much larger and the whole thing was pretty much engulfed in flames. When Mack arrived on the scene emergency personal told him to get away and Mack said, “if the ships going down, I’m going down with it”. After authorities threatened to arrest him, Mack backed off. Interestingly enough, the next day he had a speaking engagement. The organizer called him and said they saw what happened and that they completely understood if he was unable to speak the next day. He told them, “I said I was going to speak and I will be there”.

At the time I heard Mack speak, the 2016 presidential race was early on. He didn’t speak a lot about his political views, but noted that he had personally interviewed Donald Trump and was impressed. It is important to note at this time, no one thought Trump would ever become president of the United States.

Of course he had a lot of business knowledge to share, but I was so impressed with his character that naturally it made sense how he built a successful business. He is a humble guy with a heart for giving, as the entire nation watched during Harvey and Houston has for several years.

Mack is the best best speaker I’ve had the opportunity to hear and how could you not like a guy that is a huge advocate for MADE IN AMERICA!

What a guy!

Aggie Football is Sumlin Else!

I don’t believe I have ever seen Aggies so quiet, so in disbelief, and so ready to go home than what I experienced at 7:30AM, Monday, September 4th, 2017, in LAX. Among the many Californians, families heading back home from the long weekend, and businessmen…. sat a gate full of Aggies heading back to Texas after a disappointing loss. To add insult to injury our plane was an hour late, there was a Bruin on board, and being the good Ags we are, we only brought maroon to wear home. It certainly wasn’t the same excitement that we had on the way over.

Now it sounds a little dramatic and is, but wow……we blew a 34 point lead. So when we finally boarded the plane, I pulled out my notebook and pen and began writing about Aggie Football. Of course I couldn’t just write any ole story….the media, fans, and critics already had that covered. So to tell my story I used Aggie Football coaches and players names, as well as a few other things Aggie related to lighten the mood and make it pun! Now this punny story is meant to be lighthearted, so don’t take it too serious. By the time we landed in Austin I was already looking forward to next Saturday’s game……that we better win….ha!  

So here it goes…

Aggie Football is Sumlin Else!

Ladies and [Re]gents, Aggie Football is Sumlin else. This morning in LAX TexAgs headed back to the Sutherland, defeated and disappointed after the Keaton we took under the lights at the Rose Bowl. UCLA(tely), it’s been hard to Watts Aggie Football. We have a good aMond of talent, spend a lot of Mazzone on coaches, and yet we don’t Starkel and shine. I just don’t know what it Buzbee, but you’re Kellen me Ags!

Fan are longing to move Fordward and Turn[er] the page on this era of Aggie Football. But we have Noel such hope after the way we started the 2017 season. So how do we aChief success? Well, a good Sharp would be to RUN THE BALL and Ratley around an aggressive defense.

As fans we need our team to get Mack on track because obviously we cannot Banks on a 34 point lead, and we ended up paying the Price. Losing like we did really Kirk[ed] and there’s a million things we Koda done differently, but sitting in the Conner and crying about really won’t help a thing it’s over and Don[ovan] now.

So I’ll leave you with this, I wish I had a Nicholls for all the headlines, tweets, and news stories that followed this heartbreaking loss.

Gig’em and on to the next one!

 

My Parents and I Recently Became Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So thanks, pals!

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

And a few more throwbacks…

Spoken Like a True Texan

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

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

Spoken Like a True Texan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homework for the Holidays

Christmas is indeed in the air and the last thing any college student wants to think about is school. After all, you’re probably still recovering from finals…it’s been a tough few weeks of cramming, living off ramen and trying holding your tongue at group project meetings. I get it. The good news is, you have about 4 weeks to recoup before it’s back to the mines. It’s time to do whatever you’ve been looking forward to doing. Woo-hoo!!! But somewhere between visions of sugar plums dancing in your head and finding the perfect ugly Christmas sweater, set aside time to create the best Christmas present you can give your future, create a personal website.

Seriously.

You’ve spent the last four years putting yourself in a position that makes you marketable, now you’ve got to find a way to market yourself!

Unfortunately, we’ve been taught to print our resume on ivory resume paper, use Times New Roman font, not be too text heavy, not to use colors or designs and to sum everything up on one 8.5 x 11 piece of paper.

Amiright?

The point is, unless the hiring manager truly reads your resume we all look the same at first glance.

This bothered me that after all that hard work I was one of a hundred in a stack of papers. Nowhere could I showcase my personality, work ethic or most importantly for marketing majors….my creative side! I wanted a way to highlight my talents and set myself apart from the rest.

I expressed these frustrations to a mentor who turned around and gave me the BEST.ADVICE.EVER. when it comes to job searching– build a personal website. What a thought!

My personal website included everything a typical resume would (job experience, education, skills, honors/awards, and leadership activities), but I was also able to include an introduction (which included a link to my blog…. another great selling point), links to projects I did in college from role plays, research papers, to 60-page marketing campaigns and I could elaborate on my work experience and leadership activities. Not to mention the fun and professional theme used to express it all!

Since I built the website myself, I was also able to highlight my creative side and learn a new skill…. web design! This gave the reader a good sense of who I was, long before I had the opportunity to meet them face-to-face. You wouldn’t believe the positive feedback I received from mentors, various individuals in my “network” and most importantly, future employers. It truly made a memorable impression.

But the real value in building a personal website for me was….

It didn’t help me land a job, it helped me communicate my passions and interests and land a job I LOVE!

Ironically, I work for a web/app development and digital marketing company. I do anything from content marketing, branding, marketing automation, social media marketing, to frameworks for webpages. Shoot, everything I enjoy!

So this Christmas season when you’re warming your toes by the fire and sipping on some hot chocolate, pull out a pen a paper and begin creating content for your personal website, before you know it you’ll be live on the interwebs and impressing hiring managers left and right!

Job searching isn’t easy, but it can be fun! Give recruiters something to talk about!

Merry Christmas!

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!

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazy!

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

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

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.

Ring Day: One Year Later

Aggie Ring Day

The Aggie Ring to Aggies is what “The sultan of swat!”, “The king of crash!”, The colossus of clout!” …….“THE GREAT BAMBINO!” is to The Sandlot– as I sit here this morning on the eve of a Fightin’ Texas Aggie Ring Day, exactly one year after I received mine, I think about how excited fellow Aggies and soon-to-be ring wear-ers are right now. Heck I’m excited for them! The countless hours of studying/tutoring/projects/homework, numerous blistering hot days spent at Kyle Field BTHO whoever came to town and occasional visits to North Gate 😉 are all summed up into one little ring made of gold. It’s a symbol of where we have been and a token of achievement to take with us as we embark on adventures long after graduation from Texas A&M! WHOOP!

If you’re receiving your ring tomorrow, know someone who is or anticipating receiving one in the future and you’re feeling a bit excited right now, you’re not alone. Tomorrow is a great day to be an Aggie! Actually every day is. We anticipate receiving an Aggie ring our entire college career and some of us for a lifetime. It is a symbol of achievement, hard work, the ability to reach great heights and “the most visible symbol of the Aggie Network”. Whoa! Can you hardly stand it?

My Ring Day was no exception. September 25, 2015 very well may be one of my favorite days. Ever. The entire day was filled with excitement, family and friends…. what more could you ask for?

On that sunny, September day my family and I headed over to the Association of Former Students and battled the 100-degree weather, the masses of people and the thousands of camera flashes from every mom. By 2:30 I proudly sported that piece of gold that I wanted my entire life. I was finally part of THE network that is well known for spontaneous conversations between two total strangers, simply because we both have THE ring. It’s fair to say receiving my Aggie Ring is definitely one of my proudest accomplishments.

Now at the time, once I received my Fightin’ Texas Aggie Ring, I would joke that I didn’t need a diploma…. having this ring would be sufficient! Once again, this was a joke- personally giving up one semester short of graduation wasn’t an option and that mentality certainly wouldn’t fly with my parents, so I did receive a diploma 8 months later.

It was at that moment as my name echoed through Reed Arena, I stepped onto the stage in front of 12,000 proud Aggie family members, shook Dr. Jones’ hand as he handed me my diploma and hugged the line of professors who taught me over the past 3 years that I realized it was only the beginning for me and my Aggie Ring!

In the 2 short minutes that followed as I exited the stage, gave a wave to my family and stopped for a quick professional photo to document the event, a slew of emotions entered…. positive ones. The general synopsis of these emotions was that I have a whole future ahead of me that I can make whatever I want it to be. As I took my seat to watch the rest of the ceremony, I had a new appreciation and understanding of what the Aggie Ring means to me. So here’s my take…

The Aggie Ring isn’t something you dust off in 50 years and show your grandkids, it’s something we continue to wear even after it’s a little less shiny, worn down and not as defined. It’s a traveling journal of our successes, adventures and the people we meet- a tangible object of our journey through life. Sure it houses those great college memories, but it the ones that have yet to happen that makes receiving an Aggie Ring so special. Think about how you’ll feel in 50 years when a recent Aggie grad comes waltzing up to you, looks down to admire your worn down ring and asks what year you are—immediately you begin to tell your story. I can’t even fathom what I would say because I’m so excited about the future and what it holds.

A year ago, today was the near future for me. In 365 days my Aggie Ring and I have been though graduation, job interviews, offers and now my first job. WHOOP! Accomplishing this in a short time frame is thrilling to me and instills a curiosity into what’s up ahead. While I can’t forecast the future, I can assure you that the moment I was presented my Aggie Ring my story just began.

Tomorrow 4,300 Aggies will begin writing their story to share with future generations and I truly believe as Aggies we have a lot to offer this world! So…… be proud, give your ring a story to tell and embrace the fact that it’s just the beginning!

Congratulations Ags!

Gig ‘em & God Bless!

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.

Degree in Three!

Aggie Ring

During high school I was blessed with the opportunity to take numerous dual credit classes starting my junior year. I took advantage of every opportunity offered through the high school as well as taking summer classes. I mean why not? High schoolers aren’t busy (as much as we like to think we were), taking classes through the junior college is wayyy cheaper than the university, and you live at home! Anyways, I ended up starting A&M with 27 hours, which basically covered the majority of my basics. So my first semester at A&M I was able to dive right into business classes which sparked my interest a little more than the thought of sitting through basic English and History classes.

In the back of my mind I knew I would graduate college a semester early and possibly a year early. The farther I got in the more apparent it was that I would in fact be graduating a year early. Most people told me to ride out college for four years, enjoy it while you can, get a masters, the real world is tough, yada, yada….and all that may be true, but for me personally it wasn’t that I was in a rush to get out it was just the way everything worked out. I came in with a year worth of classes and took a normal full load each semester, so mathematically I would complete college in 3 years….there was no special trick to it.

So here I am wrapping up my last year of college and I could not be more excited. This excitement has overshadowed the fear of entering the “real world” and helped me transition my mindset from college to building my career. I may not know exactly what I’ll be doing in a few months and truth is, it most likely won’t be what I’ll do my entire life, but I know I will have a Marketing degree from one of the best business schools in nation, a drive to use it effectively, and a toolbox full of tools to be a valuable asset to my next employer.

So yes, on paper I got a degree in three years, but technically I’ve been attending college for five. (starting in highschool!)

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.