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Pushing personal boundaries

September 30th, 2009 No comments

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
— T.S. Eliot

I’ve decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I signed up for it last year, but never even attempted to do it. This year, I’m going to do it.

In November, I am going to attempt to write a 50,000-word novel.

No. I’m GOING to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Not attempt. I will do it.

This has really made me think about the need to push my personal boundaries. I like to sit in my personal little bubble a little too much sometimes. I doubt I am the only person guilty of doing that. However, it is high time I push a little further out into my interests and test my abilities.

I had a short story published in a college literary journal.

I had a short story published in a college literary journal.

In writing, I consider myself a short story writer. Perhaps that is part of what I like about the Journalistic style of writing. Wham! Bam! Here’s the deal! Got it? Ok! Move on!

I like short stories that I can tell a story, give a message, and then end it within a few pages. Wrap it all up in a few hours. Something about that appeals to me.

A huge The X-Files fan back in the day, I delved into the world of Fan Fiction. I wrote stories using the pre-set characters from the show. It’s a little embarrassing to go back and read some of those stories, but at the same time I could see an advance in my writing as I composed story after story.

When I was in college, I took a writing class. It was an on-line class, and I never met a single one of my classmates. However, we would share stories and poetry each week based on prompts left by our professor on an online forum. We would critique each other’s compositions. We learned by doing. We learned by reading. We never met in a classroom, but I learned a lot that semester. We were told that all of our assignments were being considered for submission into the school’s literary journal that year.

One week, I found myself completely without the time to write a short story for my assignment. I’d had one fan fiction story receive a lot of praise, so I pulled it out, dusted it off and reworked it to feature characters all my own. With a deep breath, I submitted it. Wouldn’t you know, it was that story that got published! I have a few copies of that journal as a keepsake. My first published work of fiction.

That was about 8 years ago now. I’ve remained in my comfort zone of news articles and journal or blog posts. “Short stories” that I can churn out quickly. Wham! Bam! Here’s the deal! Got it? Ok! Move on!

I’ve talked a lot about some day writing a book. I’ve had people tell me I SHOULD write a book. But the fact of the matter is that it has always seemed like this huge mountain that I was afraid to climb. I’d say, “Someday.” But in reality, deep down I didn’t believe I’d ever have the patience to do it.

I’m really not sure why, but in the last few weeks I decided the time has come to push my comfort zone out. To try my hand at a novel. To try to tell a story much further in depth with character development, multiple events, and a “problem” to be solved in the course of 100+ pages.

Never one to go into anything unprepared, I have a month to figure out exactly what the heck I’ve gotten myself into. I’ve checked out a book, Novel Shortcuts by Laura Whitcomb, to give me some insight into what to expect and how best to handle my new project. I plan to check out other books after I finish this one. I’m reading every article available on the NaNoWriMo site. I’m a sponge, soaking up information, so that come November 1st I can wring myself out and hopefully come up with a novel.

The novel might eventually just take up dust on my hard drive. It might some day find its way to publication. Or it might just become a Christmas present for my closest friends and family to humor me and maybe read it. That part doesn’t matter to me right now. What matters is that I do this.

Similarly, I’m pushing my boundaries in site development. I’m reworking a web-site from the bottom-up, and I’ll be honest: its a daunting and somewhat terrifying task! I’m going into programing styles that go over my head, and as a result I’m taking baby steps. I’d like to say that in a few days I’ll unveil this magical site. The fact is, in a few days I’ll unveil a site that I’ll be tweaking with and learning about over the next several months. It’s nerve wracking!

But its ALL exciting. Pushing my boundaries creatively in multiple areas is exciting! My Project 365 has pushed my boundaries photographically. This blog alone has pushed my writing skills to where I am ready to sign up to be a contributor at other sites (more on that at a later date) and giving me the confidence to even consider NaNoWriMo. This blog, too, is what is pushing me to redo the web-site. Learning WordPress is daunting, but I’ve been loving and continue to love every minute.

I’ve always believed you should never stop learning, and I like to think I never have. However, right now I am feeling the urge and need to amp up my learning. Great things have always come from hard work and taking a risk. Its my time to do just that. Take a risk and do some hard work.

Categories: random musings, work Tags:

How to dress for church

September 27th, 2009 No comments

I did a Google search tonight.  “How to dress for church.” I came up with 37,700,000 results. Several How-to sites came up. A few blog posts (this one being my favorite that I found). A site with quotes about dressing up for church. It seems this is a topic that has been pondered many times over, and yet the answer still remains unclear.

I’ll be up front here and now about the fact that I am Catholic, and thus I am writing from that knowledge and stand point. I have attended services in the Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Christ faiths as well for various happenings. But I wanted to get that little “disclaimer” out there.

I absolutely love to attend mass every week. For one thing, its something familiar from my childhood that I carry on today. For another, church and faith keep me grounded, thankful, and hopeful. And finally… when I miss mass too many times in a row, I start to notice all other areas of my life start to get strained and tested. It is definitely one of my rocks in life.

I remember as a kid, I always had a new dress for Easter and for Christmas. We’d always “dress up” for mass every weekend. As did everyone around us.

Through the years, however, dressing for church has gone by the wayside. Yes, I admit, I regularly do wear jeans to church, but I never wear faded or torn up jeans. Dressier jeans with a nice top and nice boots or heals are my normal dress for mass. I still prefer to wear a dress for Easter and Christmas. Always makeup and my hair styled neatly. Dressing nice for church makes me feel good, helps me focus on mass, and is a sign of respect for the church and God.

A sign of respect for the church and God. That is what bothers me so much about how I see so many people dress for mass these days.

I know and have heard the argument time and time again that we should only care that the person attends mass. Be  welcoming to all who attend the services. Just be glad they are there.

I AM glad to see so many people attending church services. And I’ve attending plenty of churches in which I felt unwelcome to never put someone else thought that stress.

It makes me happy to see families coming together to mass. I feel like faith and the church are a key thing in keeping families together and in teaching children right from wrong through a moral code that the church teaches.

However, it makes me sad to see so many people not even try to show the church and their fellow parishioner enough respect to dress a little nicer than they would dress to spend a day on the lake or in their garden. I see so many come in torn up and dirty cargo shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. Or perhaps an over sized t-shirt, old jeans and sneakers stained from mowing the lawn. There’s absolutely no attempt made to acknowledge they are at church and not in their own living room in front of the TV. I see most people dress nicer to go to the mall.

It especially frustrates me when it people you will see on any other given day of the week in a suit and a tie for work. I’m not asking them to wear a suit and tie to church. Days in which that was expected have no-so-long-ago passed. I’m not even asking for khaki pants and a polo shirt. I’m asking simple for nice jeans, nice shoes and a maybe a button down. Or, okay, a polo shirt. At least comb your hair! Heck, there was one guy in church that regularly comes in jeans, hiking boots and a nice fitted t-shirt devoid of anything but a stylish design on it. Even that looks nice! It shows he tries to look better for church than for a day out at the lake.

Like I said, I am grateful to see so many people attending church these days. It is truly a wonderful thing. And it goes to show people feel more and more comfortable within the walls of our churches. They feel more welcome.

I just wish that everyone would take a little more seriously and reverently, and at least dress as nice as you would dress to go to a meeting with a VIP. Because really… when it all comes down to it… when you go to church, your going to meet with the ultimate of VIPs.

God.

Categories: rants Tags:

The need for girlfriends

September 25th, 2009 No comments

There is a reason why the show Sex and the City was so popular. Okay, there are probably several reasons, but I know the biggest reason I like it:  it hit on the need for one’s girlfriends.

Girlfriends from high school...

Girlfriends from high school...

I love my husband with all my heart. He’s my best friend and my soul mate. I sincerely ENJOY spending time with him more than anyone.

However, I still need my girls. They just help me recharge in a way that is impossible to explain. Sometimes they give me a reality check. Sometimes they let me check out of reality. Sometimes its just… a sisterhood that just is.

I went out with a couple girlfriends last night, and I had a total blast. I’m so thankful my husband is so supportive and respectful of my girl time.

I’m blessed with what I would call three “groups” of girlfriends.

First and foremost I have my family girls. My mom and my sister-in-law. I always consider it an amazing blessing that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the good fortune to see my family as both my family and my friends. My mom is without a doubt my main female confidante. Without a doubt. And that is a fact that I cherish.

I have my old friends from high school and from college. Those girls who have THE most blackmail on me born out of years and years of friendship. My girls “back home.” My Texas Ladies. It’s pretty amazing that most of those friends are women I’ve known since elementary school! My friends back home are set in stone. Years of friendship that can’t be taken away. Girlfriends have come and gone within that group, but as I stand here today I can clearly see the select few that have stood steady all along.

Me and Elizabeth -- One of my Nashville girls

Me and Elizabeth -- One of my Nashville girls

Then I have my Nashville ladies. This group is probably my most complex set of friends, and that is probably because they are my “current” group. As always in my life, I have a select few that I truly open up to and consider my core girls. Doesn’t mean they all know one another! But they are the ones I have found I hold closest to me in my heart. They are the ones I can confide in, and that I know I could turn to in need. Then I have, literally, a few dozen more that I consider dear friends… however its in a more social manner than intimate manner.

The friend I had dinner with nailed it on the head: “I’ve been hurt worse by women than I have ever been hurt by a man.”

That in and of itself is the intriguing thing about girlfriends. We need our girls. We need our sisterhood. But women are most vicious to other women.  Just when you open up to a fellow female, you open yourself up to the potential of deeply being hurt. You tell them your secrets, your gripes, your fears. You lay it all out there. Which I think is precisely why I’ve always kept my number of CLOSE friends down. There is that fear of being hurt. I need and want to trust you… but it doesn’t come easy.

Being married, many friendships now come in the form of fellow couples. Its a natural thing to have happen, and there’s something awesome within it. It really is a lot like getting two friends for the price of one… at least in most cases. I have to admit, though, it always does seem men can get along a lot easier and a lot faster than two women will. I do remember at least once telling my husband, “I like him… can’t really stand her.”  (And at this point, any couple friends we have are now paranoid that I am speaking of them. Relax. I’m not. I promise.)

Me and Anne -- One of my Texas girls...

Me and Anne -- One of my Texas girls...

I love my friends. All of them. Within that fact, I do open myself up to being hurt. And also within that, I fear hurting one of my friends without even realizing I am doing it.

I mostly say that in that I’ve seen a lot of friendships fade due to life just getting in the way. It was never an intentional loss of a friendship, it just came one day that I realized I’d lost touch with someone. That is a fact that always leaves me a little sad. Because I do cherish every single friendship — be it one of my closest friends or one of my more social friendships. I cherish that individual.

That being said, I’ve had a few friendships that I had to pull the plug on myself. Just because I needed to for my own good. Doesn’t make that loss of a friendship hurt any less! But it does make the mind and emotions more peaceful in general.

I don’t know that friendships can ever be analyzed in a fair way. They all are what they are. They come. They go. They all leave a mark on your life. They all mold you into who you are today.

I remember my senior year of high school, confiding in that one teacher who became more like a friend than a teacher. I told her that I love my friends I had then, but that I was excited to meet the people who would further mold me and come to hold lead roles in my life.

I think that at any given moment in my life, that statement is still just as true. I will always be selective of who I draw closest into my heart, but I enjoy meeting new people. I need my girlfriends. Every single one of them. Be they my mom, someone I’ve know for 20+ years, someone I’ve known six months, someone in the music industry, or someone who just has a solid footing in the “normal world.” I need them all.

Categories: friends Tags:

Up, up and away!

September 17th, 2009 2 comments
I always try to sit by the window on a flight, because I love to watch the scenery pass below...

I always try to sit by the window on a flight, because I love to watch the scenery pass below...

The first time I ever flew on an airplane was January 5, 2004 from Austin, TX to Nashville, TN. Since then, I have logged more than 134 hours in the air on 62 flights.

I like to think I’ve become something of a pro at flying, even though I know I’ve not flown even half as much as someone like my husband has flown.

My longest flight was from Atlanta, GA to Honolulu, HI in 2006. It was 8.5 hours on a plane, but obviously the end result was worth it. Crystal clear blue water. Drinks served in pineapples. Leis at the airport. Spam on the menu — even at fancy restaurants. July 4th spent with the military. Memories that I can’t even begin to list in any sort of coherent or concise manner.

The flight back from Honolulu to Atlanta ranks as one of my worst flights due to a stomach ache half-way through the flight. It’s not funny to have a cramping stomach when your right in the middle of a row of four or five seats, and you still have about four hours to go in the air.

My absolute worst flying experience occurred in 2005, when I was flying from Nashville to Austin, and I’d opted to have a layover in Houston, TX at Hobby Airport.

First off, Hobby is probably my least favorite airport of all that I’ve flown through to date. For one thing (and San Diego, CA comes in a close second for this very same reason), I will never understand why an airport would ever be set up to where, when you change planes you have to come out of security and then back through security. Luckily, both times for me, it was just an annoyance. For others, like in San Diego, I watched full bottles of wine purchased as a keepsake behind security at one airport being thrown away because they couldn’t take it BACK through security to change planes. At least  all I did was lose time and almost be late for my flight. For others, they lost a lot of money.

A vast majority of the time, I fly Southwest. If I fly a different carrier, its because Southwest didnt offer a flight that worked for me.

A vast majority of the time, I fly Southwest. If I fly a different carrier, its because Southwest didn't offer a flight that worked for me.

However, Hobby became my least favorite airport when I got stuck there, due to bad weather, for around six hours. It wasn’t the weather that was frustrating for me. It was the total lack of information from the ground crew as to what was going on that day. We were constantly told our plane would be arriving shortly, when in reality it wasn’t. Going to get something to eat, or even going to use the restroom, became a gamble. Would our plane arrive when we were gone? Or are we being fed another line?

Its absolutely the only time I’ve had a “bad” experience with Southwest Airlines. Its absolutely the only time I’ve had to deal with airport personnel that really didn’t have a clue what was going on around them. It’s been four years, and I’ve not flown through Hobby since. It just left me with that bad of a taste in my mouth for air travel.

I’ve never had a bad experience flying due to fellow passengers. Perhaps the only “annoying” experience was when my husband and I took a somewhat last minute trip up to Oregon to see his family. We booked our flights late and the only seats we could get together were one behind the other.

The first leg of the trip, a young man happily traded seats with my husband so we could sit together. The second leg of the trip, however, the ladies around us practically turned up their noses and snapped, “No!” when we asked if they would trade. I grumbled and in my mind I pretended to put a curse on the rudest one that someday someone would refuse to let her sit near her husband on a long flight, too.

On a whole, though, my flying experiences have been good. I’m always braced for the day my luggage gets lost, or my flight gets diverted somewhere else due to weather or a plane malfunction. (I did once get stuck on the tarmac for about half an hour due to an engine issue, but that was pretty mild of an experience.) I’ve really gotten pretty good, though, at being prepared for as much as one can be prepared for when flying.

I prefer to sit as close to the front as possible. It means a quicker exit afterwards, and for some reason, I just like the way the plane feels upon assent sitting up front.

I prefer to sit as close to the front as possible. It means a quicker exit afterwards, and for some reason, I just like the way the plane feels upon assent sitting up front.

My top tips to novice travelers:

— grab a drink in the airport before boarding. While most flights do offer drink service, its usually a good half hour into the flight before that happens. You’ll probably get thirsty before they get you your drink.

— chewing gum has been a life saver for me in the past when cabin pressure changes. So have these earplugs called Earplanes. They make a HUGE difference if you have sensative ears for any reason.

— if you’ve got sinus issues, try to re-book your flight. I’ve had to fly with sinus pain and pressure, and it was the WORST flying experience ever. The last half hour of my flight was pure torture, and I had one ear plugged for several days after. It would have been worth it to reschedule my flight a couple days later.

— don’t get upset if your bag gets chosen to be searched. They’re just doing their jobs. If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about. They see super-sexy underwear and other unmentionables every day. You’re not unique in this, and they aren’t going to remember you from all the other bags they see in a day. (The only thing I still get heckled up about is when they search my bag and leave it in total disarray. That does grate on my nerves.)

— if you have an item that MUST get there, pack it in your carry-on. While a majority of the time, your luggage will arrive the same time you do, the chances of a lost bag when you need that bag most seem to double. Bridesmaid’s dress? Uniform? Medication? Favorite team’s jersey for the game? Put it in your carry-on.

— this goes for your expensive jewelry, electronics, etc. Unfortunately, things like that have been known to mysteriously disappear out of checked luggage.

— fly Southwest. I don’t work for SWA; I’m just a fan. The last six times I’ve flown with them, they’ve been between 5 and 20 minutes early to arrive. Their staff is friendly (and most really funny, too!) and professional. They don’t charge for your bags, still offer free drink and snack service, and they have the easiest procedure for changing your flight of any airline I’ve used. Last week, they called my cell phone while I was going through security to notify me of my gate changing in the last five minutes! THAT really blew me away.

Sunset from the sky... beauty you only see from a plane.

Sunset from the sky... beauty you only see from a plane.

I am going to close here with some of my favorite airline travel sites.

Flight Memory: Lets you keep track of flights you’ve taken and flights you will take. It gives you your stats on all your flights, and it is just an all-around interesting site. (For example: I’ve flown 53,892 miles, and my average flight is 869 mi, 2:10 hrs.)

Flight Explorer and FlightAware: Track any flight as it progresses. These sites are really handy when you are waiting to pick someone up at the airport. It shows what path their flight took, their altitude, speed and projected time of arrival. I use both as sometimes, as weird as it sounds, a flight will be on one site, but not on the other.

Seat Guru: Everything you want to know about what kind of seat you’re getting on your flight. Leg room, whether the seat reclines or not, etc. are all taken into account while rating a seat. Check it out ahead of time to decide if you will even have room for that pillow, or if you need to make sure you can stow your carry-on above (versus under the seat in front of you.)

Categories: flying, travel Tags:

Has it really been 10 years? Yes… it has.

September 14th, 2009 No comments
My core group from high school... all grown up.

My core group from high school... all grown up.

After counting down to my 10-year class reunion, it is only right that I write about the actual reunion.

I flew into Texas on Wednesday night prior to my reunion. I had planned to attend the Homecoming football game, but much needed rain set into Central Texas this week and… well… there’s an amazing thing about being 10 years out of high school:

Sitting in the rain at your high school’s football game isn’t as high of a priority as it once was.

I drove by the stadium to find my Yoemen winning and see that the stands were actually fairly full. Then I went to visit my brother and his family for the evening.

The next day, Saturday, was the reunion. There was a class picnic in the morning in which classmates could bring their children out the play and mingle. However, as someone who lives on a musician’s schedule (i.e. going to bed around 4 or 5, getting up at noon) making a morning picnic was… well… it didn’t happen. I got up at noon.

My core group of girl friends came over to my parent’s house prior to the reunion to have a small baby shower for one of my friends who is pregnant (and expecting in November… a good month, in my opinion. hehe) I was REALLY glad to have that time, just the five of us, to catch up before going to the full-class gathering. Even though we’ve actually successfully gotten together a hand-full of times in the last few years, it was still nice to reconnect and catch up.

The two classmates I've known the longest... I'm happy to have this picture now. I've known both close to 25 years. Crazy.

The two classmates I've known the longest... I'm happy to have this picture now. I've known both close to 25 years. Crazy.

We headed out, in the rain, to our reunion together. We all tried to guess how many of our classmates would be there. I felt the number would be fairly low, but we actually had a really good turn out! I would guess that just shy of half our class came out. (Keep in mind, my class was right around 100 people.)

Here is what is the coolest thing about the whole night: we all seemed to be on an even slate. It was rather comforting to watch how the same groups of people still hung out with one another. Like the group I was with most were the same people I ran with through high school. However, there was none of the cliche high school cliques any more. I found myself floating between groups easily…

And that in and of itself is something I found had changed about ME. I couldn’t sit still for long. I had the need and urge to meander around. People watch from other angles. Talk to various people. Dance. Join in on rounds of shots. If I could name the number one change about me from high school: I’m not as shy as I was back then. Its something I, with all honesty, credit my husband with making happen, and I am so grateful for it.

Facebook took a lot of the mystery out of the night ahead of time. Most of my classmate’s spouses I recognized from pictures they have posted online. Many of us also knew exactly what we are all doing today. Nonetheless, it didn’t make it any less amazing to listen to people speak of their spouses and/or their children. I quickly came to realize that seeing someone in a photo is nothing like seeing them in person. Nothing like getting a taste of their personality today.

Many toasts were said through the course of the night. Most humorous. Some serious. Here's to the Class of 1999. I love you guys!

Many toasts were said through the course of the night. Most humorous. Some serious. Here's to the Class of 1999. I love you guys!

Most of my classmates haven’t changed much, only getting better with time. A few I had to almost smile with how they’ve really not changed at all, as certain traits from back then shined right through the changes in looks that age brings.

Speaking of which, there was a lot of comfort in the fact that name tags were not necessary at our reunion, as classmates were easily recognized. A few people I saw I’d, in all honesty, completely forgotten about, but I was pleased to recognize.

There were classmates missing that I had wished would be there. It would have been wonderful to catch up with them. But work, finances, and miles kept many away, and that is something I understand all too well.

My only regrets of the night are that we didn’t take a class photo and that my husband couldn’t be there with me. But, there is always the next reunion… be it in 5 or 10 years. I’m already looking forward to it.

Countdown to 10-Year: In loving memory…

September 11th, 2009 No comments

Tomorrow, I will be attending my 10 Year Class Reunion. In these days, I will take the opportunity to look back on ten of my favorite elements of high school (in no particular order of importance)…

#1 – In loving memory…

I went to visit my friend today, and I took her a single red rose. I miss her dearly.

I went to visit my friend yesterday, and I took her a single red rose. I miss her dearly.

Five years after graduation, the Class of 1999 lost one of its members in an automobile accident. I lost a friend who had a very special place in my heart… a friend who still has that place to this day.

While I am sure I knew Candace somehow through elementary school, it was in sixth grade that our friendship seemed to really spark. At least, that is when my fond memories of her start.

We had sixth grade science together, and we had to participate in the science fair. That meant having to purchase a presentation board for the fair.

Candace paid for hers in all pennies.

Later that year, I forget what our class was doing that she brought deviled eggs to class as part of her project. However, I do remember going to her after class and saying, “Hey… I’ll be your best friend if I can have one…” She pretty much rolled her eyes at me the same time I rolled my eyes internally at myself for even using that old cliche.

I did not know when I said that, though, that she would be one of those people to truly leave a mark on my life that will be there until the day I die.

I have SEVERAL picture of Candace taking a picture of me while I took a picture of her. It was like a running joke.

I have SEVERAL pictures of Candace taking a picture of me while I took a picture of her. It was like a running joke.

Candace simply had this open and innocent nature, even as you knew she’d already lived a lot of life by junior high. I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say she had this ditziness that made you shake and scratch your head, and yet she was in National Honor Society in high school and took advanced placement classes.

She was a natural beauty, one of those rare beauties who didn’t have to wear make-up or fix her hair to still stand out in a crowd. That fact was one part natural good looks and one part inner beauty that shown through her personality and easy smile. I really don’t think she was ever want for male attention, and yet I don’t know of many women who would have begrudged her that fact.

I could go on and on about memories I have of our friendship, but I will do my best to keep it short… ish.

Candace would always wear her ponytail up high on her head, and she quickly earned the nickname “Pebbles.” I still have cards from her signed with that name. A Pebbles she was, too!

I remember calling to dedicate LeAnn Rimes’ “(Don’t Ever Lose) That Light in Your Eyes” to her on WACO 100. And she would dedicate any given song back to me. I wish I could remember now what it was she called in now. That part of that  memory escapes me, but LeAnn’s song always reminds me of her.

Me and Candace at Flag camp -- 1997

Me and Candace at Flag camp -- 1997

So does “Wonderwall” by Oasis, as I still remember her singing along to it in the cafeteria when it would come on the jukebox.

She went to the same church as I did, and we went through Confirmation together. I think it was during projects we did as part of our Confirmation that she met my brother. I remember that she was one of the only friends of mine that my brother actually stopped me to tell me, “She’s really cool. I like her!” I told her that one day, and she would always — from then forward — make sure to go out of her way to say hello to him whenever he was around.

Un-apologetically open and friendly. That was Candace.

I remember, also, as we worked on a project for Confirmation, she and another friend spent the night at my house with me. She wanted to know why we made her sleep on the love seat, while the two of us had the couches. I pointed out she was a good five inches shorter than both of us.She took it good naturedly, but pouted about it nonetheless. What I’d give to banter with her again, if only for a few minutes.  It would almost always end in gales of laughter.

These two were unseperable!

These two were unseperable!

Candace was a member of the Flag Corp, and that sisterhood offered even more memories. Too many to even begin to list.

This weekend is homecoming, and Candace made her appearance on the Homecoming court. She shined out there on that field.

Our Senior year, near the end of the Fall Semester, we came close to losing her in an auto accident. I still remember when the call came, and I got word it had happened. I went numb…

One of my favorite photos in our Senior Yearbook is a photo of Candace in her cap and gown, with a far away look in her eyes. She came all too close to not being there that night, and yet there she was. A few more scars on her body, but she was there with our class. Getting her diploma with the rest of us.

She would always bring her tax return to have my parents prepare it for her. The last time I saw her was on a very cold February or March day, when I met her and her boyfriend at my parent’s office to get their tax information from them.

Candace giving me a pout... Our last night to ever perform together on the field. -- 1997

Candace giving me a pout... Our last night to ever perform together on the field. -- 1997

My parents had to run an errand out of town, and I was more than happy to meet Candace, who had an appointment that Saturday morning, at the office for them. I hadn’t seen her in far too long, and I itched to know how she was doing. For even though we had drifted in location, and we didn’t “hang out” any more nor did we ever run around and go out together, I still considered her one of my very best friends.

However, I drove up late only to discover I had the wrong keys. We didn’t get a chance to visit much as we stood there shivering and she handed me their information outside.

I hugged her tightly and we said a very hasty good bye to get back into our warm vehicles. I apologized up and down for my tardiness and for forgetting my keys. I still remember her giving me her patented, “You’re crazy” look and laughing at my being so flustered — something only someone so familiar with you can do and you know its done out of love.

The next year, I missed her coming into the office to drop off and pick up her return. I had no idea it would be my last chance to ever see her again.

I got word that night in April 2003 that there had been an accident. Once again I went numb. She’d cheated death before, but was not so lucky this time. This world lost a light that night, but it gained an angel above. I like to think she’s one of my guardian angels… be it true or not, it gives me comfort.

PastPhotos (73)I had a final in one of my major Journalism courses at Texas A&M the day of her funeral. It was one of the finals you were there to take even if you had 103 fever. Candace was always one of my biggest cheerleaders (and not to mention an Aggie fan!), and I felt she would probably kick my butt if I missed my final. However, I did make it to the Rosary the night before. That night is my very last, deeply treasured, memory of her.

So as the Class of 1999 gathers tomorrow night, her absence will be felt deeply. She’s not there by choice. She’s not there because… she’s not here.

I went to visit her grave yesterday, and I mused to myself, “Where would she be today if…” as I stared at her headstone.

I know that asking that question doesn’t get me anywhere. I instead choose to believe in my heart that she’s smiling down on me and everyone she ever cared about and loved in life. I choose to believe she is happy that I’ve accomplished as many of my dreams as I have. Happy I’ve found a man I love to grow old with. Happy I have a wonderful family who all also remember her fondly. Happy to be one of the voices in my conscience, guiding me in various tasks and decisions. Happy to be poking fun at me when I do something goofy.

Here’s to believing wherever she is now, she’s happy and smiling nonstop. She deserves absolutely nothing less.