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The power of weather

April 28th, 2011 2 comments

I’ve spent the last three days watching the weather almost non-stop. I’m fried. I could never be a weather forecaster. I just… couldn’t.

Monday, I watched the storms roll through Arkansas as I helped my parents get back home to Texas. I watched the storms move across the state, and I’d call my parents when I felt they needed to get off the road and wait a storm out. As they made it through safely, I continued to watch… my heart aching for those in the path of the tornadoes and flooding.

The next day, I watched to get a feel for what was headed this direction, and I also watched the weather back in Texas… once again giving my parent’s updates as they ran errands. Texas needs rain so bad… so, so, so bad. But the storms that popped up had a violent hand. I feared for the safety of friends, family and strangers alike.

By the time we went out last night, my stomach was in knots. I feared what the next day would bring to us. I once again had a heavy heart for those affected by the wrath of nature.

We got home from being downtown, and in an eerie similarity to almost a year ago, my husband and I slept in shifts… keeping weary eyes on the radar.

Thankfully, we do have a basement to retreat to if it got ugly. But we talked about, “What would we do if…?” I couldn’t wrap my brain around the rest of that sentence.

I did get some sleep, being jerked awake by National Weather Service warnings blasting out of the TV. Here in Nashville, we were thankfully spared. Murfreesboro sustained a lot of damage, but Nashville itself was okay. However, we watched with knotted stomachs as cities in Alabama were hit hard. And we still watch as I type this as the storms continue to march across Georgia, east Tennessee, etc. The death count rises. The video and photos tug at my heart.

I am so thankful to have been spared, but I ache at the same time for those who WERE affected. I keep reading posts on Twitter… people who are pausing to reflect on the day’s events. We are humbled by nature once again.

I grew up in “Tornado Alley.”  We not only had fire drills, we had tornado drills. I grew up with this stuff… and even with that being said, I will NEVER “get used to” this stuff. The fear I have for them… the respect I give to them… tornadoes are horrible.  Tornadoes are humbling. Tornadoes remind us all that we don’t have control over everything, and all we can do sometimes is hope and pray for the best. And if “the best” is not what we get, we hope and pray for the strength to carry on and pick up the pieces.

Categories: weather Tags: ,

April 21st: Aggie Muster Day

April 25th, 2011 No comments

Due to Easter running right on the heels of Muster, my blog post is coming a few days late. I’ll be playing catch-up for a few days thanks to how busy its been lately. But, as always, I am thankful to be busy!

Muster

“If there is an A&M man within 100 miles of you, you are expected to get together, eat a little, and relive your days at the A&M College of Texas.” – 1923 Texas Aggie

You may be asking yourself, “What is Aggie Muster?” In the most basic of terms, its a memorial service for all Aggies who have passed away in the last year… a memorial service that is held all around the world (in more than 300 locations!) every April 21st. It’s held in restaurants and private homes. It’s held in large banquet halls and army barracks. The main Muster ceremony is held, of course, on campus in College Station, Texas.

As per the Association of Former Student’s Website:

Aggies gathered together on June 26, 1883, to live over again their college days, the victories and defeats won and lost upon the drill field and in the classroom. By April 21, 1903, this annual gathering evolved into a celebration of Texas Independence on San Jacinto Day. These early meetings included field games and banquets for Aggies to reflect and celebrate their memories of Aggieland. “Let every alumni answer a roll call,” wrote the Former Students. It was not until 1922, however, that April 21 became the official day of events for all Aggies; thus, the annual tradition of Muster was born.

By 1929, the meetings had spread worldwide, and in 1942 Aggie Muster gained international recognition. Twenty-five men, led by General George Moore ’08, Mustered during the Japanese siege of the Philippine island of Corregidor. Knowing that Muster might soon be called for them, these Aggies embodied the commitment, dedication, and friendship that is the essence of the Aggie Spirit. They risked their lives to honor their beliefs and values. That small group of Aggies on an outpost during World War II inspired what has developed into one of our greatest traditions.

Traditions. Anyone who knows anything at all about Texas A&M knows that we thrive on traditions. I’m proud of them all, but my two absolute favorite traditions are Aggie Muster and Silver Taps.

Think of Silver Taps as the smaller monthly version of Muster, where the memories of A&M undergraduate and graduate students who have passed away in the last month are remembered in a late night ceremony in the Academic Plaza.

From the Aggie Traditions Website:

Around 10:15 that night, the lights are extinguished and hymns chime from Albritton Tower. Students silently gather at the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. At 10:30pm, the Ross Volunteer Firing Squad marches into the plaza and fires three rifle volleys. Buglers then play a special rendition of Silver Taps by Colonel Richard Dunn. Taps is played three times from the dome of the Academic Building: once to the north, south, and west. It is not played to the east because the sun will never rise on that Aggie again.

Muster 2002

Campus Muster in 2002

Muster, however, honors current and former students. I remember attending my first Muster on campus, and I remember how tears filled my eyes as the roll call was read. I didn’t know any of the people personally. It didn’t matter. It was powerful and humbling. It was awe inspiring to know that some day MY name would be called.

While still living in Texas, even after graduation I made sure to attend the campus Muster every year. It was so important to me to be there. I took my now-husband to campus Muster one year as well, and he, too, was moved by it. I think it was that very night that he said himself that any children we have must attend A&M.

When I moved to Nashville, I made it a priority to attend the local Muster. I reached out to the only Aggie’s email I had, and ironically he happened to be Muster chair. I not only attended, I participated!

I’m not even sure how it happened, but the very next year was my first year to be Muster chair… and I’ve been it every year since. This year was my 4th year as Muster chair for the Middle Tennessee Texas A&M Club. This was the first year I wisened up and had a committee to help me… I have learned I can’t do it all and that sometimes it works best to let go a little and let others help out. I think it went a lot smoother this year because of that.

Honestly, the Association of Former Students guides the way of planning Muster. In that respect, its not that difficult. However, I want it to be good. I want it to be the best it can be. And it is in that want (and pride and love for Muster) that I find myself stressing out to the -nth degree.

I have learned, though, that you’ll never make everyone happy. SOMEONE will complain about something, and all I can do is look at the big picture. What will be best for the majority of the group, all while honoring the tradition.

Warhymn @ Muster

Doing the War Hymn at Muster 2011

One of the coolest things about Mustering out of state is meeting so many wonderful Aggies. I’ve found many wonderful friendships I’d have never had otherwise — ironically many of them who were students the same time I was! We just never crossed paths back then!

I love meeting old Ags who have stories of days long before I got there (MANY before I was even born!). I love welcoming recent graduates who are just stepping foot out in the world.

I even love meeting the “significant others” of Aggies, especially those who are “Aggies by association” (like my husband). I teased one this year who attends the University of Tennessee. “Nobody’s perfect,” I said with a giggle and a twinkle in my eye. I wasn’t being serious, and I couldn’t have been happier to have them in attendance.

Two years ago, we actually had a Baylor Bear who just happened to be in Nashville that night attend our Muster, and they stood in silent respect as we called the roll. Even our rivals respect this tradition.

I am sure I drive many people crazy talking about Texas A&M and being an Aggie. I’m aware of that, and at times I feel a liiiiiittle guilty about it. But perhaps by taking a moment to explain Muster, maybe others will come to understand at least a little bit WHY I have such a pride for my University. It’s because of traditions such as Muster, and the way we all become a family when we become students… a family that helps one another, respects one another, and honors each other when we pass away. That’s pretty darn special, and that is something that can’t be denied.

Muster

Muster 2008

Roll Call for the Absent

In many lands and climes this April day
Proud sons of Texas A&M unite.
Our loyalty to country, school, we pray,
and seal our pact with bond of common might.

We live again those happy days of yore
on campus, field, in classroom, dorm, at drill
Fond memory brings a sigh — but nothing more;
Now we are men and life’s a greater thrill,

Before we part and go upon our way,
We pause to honor those we knew so well;
The old familiar faces we miss so much today
Left cherished recollections that time cannot dispel.

Softly call the Muster,
Let comrade answer, “Here!”
Their spirits hover ‘round us
As if to bring us cheer!

Mark them ‘present’ in our hearts.
We’ll meet some other day
There is no death, but life etern
For our old friends such as they!

by Dr. John Ashton ‘06

Weekly Winners (Apr. 17 – 23)

April 24th, 2011 20 comments

Weekly Winners is a fun little thing bloggers do to showcase some of their favorite photos from the previous week. It is brought to you, me and everyone by the lovely Lotus, aka Sarcastic Mom. Visit her site and find all the participants. See some amazing photos brought to you by bloggers around the world. Leave a little love when you do — its like food for the soul!

Weekly Winners

Welcome to a very floral edition of Weekly Winners!! I got outside quite a bit this week, and all the pretty colors demanded to be documented. So lots of flowers with a few other fun things thrown in for good measure. HAPPY EASTER!!

159: Bird bath

This bird doesn't sing.

Pink rose

Loving colors.

163: Aggie Muster Day

Aggie Muster Day

Aggie Muster 2011

Standing on a welcoming watch.

164: Reaching out

Reaching out.

Pinks

Pinks.

165: Nation, state & history

Nation, state and history.

Looking within

Looking within.

Time shade

Time in the shade.

♥ ♥ ♥

Photos taken using a Nikon Coolpix L20 or my Droid Incredible or a Sony DSLR A230.

>>>>View all of my photos on my Flickr stream.<<<<

Why I’m a pick-up girl

April 20th, 2011 1 comment

I drive a pick-up truck. Well, my husband and I share a truck right now, but even if we didn’t… I’d still be a pick-up girl.

It all started when I was little. I wanted a red and white truck. On the way to school, we’d pass a house with a red and white truck outside, and I’d staaaare at it as we passed. I wanted that truck. Sooo bad.

When I got my driver’s license, I drove a Ford Taurus. I liked it… it had a charm that I made my own. But at heart, I still wanted a truck. My parents surprised me one day by finding a red and white truck for sale on a Wal-Mart parking lot… I was GIDDY when they bought it for me to drive.

I got my red and white truck.

Me and my dad, first day of Senior Year beside my red and white truck

I drove it through the rest of my high school years. Sometime senior year, it needed exhaust work. My brother took it in and had dual exhaust put on it, giving it a deep growl.

I remember one of the guys in my class asking me why I made my truck so loud. I simply said, “Because I wanted it.” Barely holding back a snide, “Jealous?”

I put speakers behind the seat. Replaced the original radio with one that had a tape deck (so I could listen to my CDs using the tape deck adapter… remember those?) That was MY truck.

My parents still have that truck, and even my brother wants to own it some day. I figure its the one item that, some day, my brother and I will tussle in the front yard over…

My freshman year of college, my brother was in an auto accident. Safety items in the truck he was driving saved his life.

I went the very next day and bought my very first truck in MY name. (The salesman tried like hell to put me in a Focus. I pretty much told him he would get in me a truck or he’d not have a sale that day.) The white 2000 F-150 was stripped down. I can’t even remember if it had power door locks now, but I remember driving off that lot beside myself giddy.

2007 & 2010 F-150

Old truck & new truck

It was the first of a long line of trucks, due to my only being able to get into the truck by leasing it. I followed that 2000 F-150 with a black 2002 (which I wrecked), maroon 2003 (the only truck I’ve ever regretted trading in…), black 2005 (which I also wrecked at one time, but that was also the truck that took me to Nashville), grey 2007, and today’s 2010 maroon F-150.

The last truck is the first one that’s not on a lease, and its not just in my name. My husband and I are proud of that truck. It’s one of our only “prized possession,” I guess.

I should perhaps also admit I got into ALL of these trucks thanks to my brother working for the dealership. Without the family discount I’d have probably been on foot years ago…

Why trucks? Why NEW trucks? I can explain…

  • Again, I’m a pick-up girl. I’ve driven trucks since the beginning, and driving a car just freaks me out a bit. I’m nowhere near as secure behind the wheel as I am in a truck. It’s a comfort thing.
  • With all of my family over 800 miles away and my husband on the road, I refuse to not drive a reliable vehicle. REFUSE. Not only is my truck reliable, it comes with roadside assistance. An 800-number call, and I have Ford on the way to help me. This alone is priceless to me.
  • We haul gear. All the time. We could NOT drive a car and hope to move my husband’s keyboard gear. A truck is absolutely a necessity for us. And we got a four door so it’ll be a family vehicle just as much as being a utility vehicle.

Gas prices are rising to an insane level once again, and, yes, driving a truck can put a serious pinch on the pocketbook at the gas station. Especially when you have about a 25 gallon tank. However, the gas mileage on our new truck is wayyyyyyyyyy better than any of my previous trucks. Plus, we have moved so close to everything that we actually can go about two weeks between fuel stops. So… yay that!

Not only do I just LIKE driving a truck (call it part of my personality), it’s something I’ve really sat down and thought about… its what makes sense for me and my husband.

Categories: about-me Tags: ,

Another tax season in the books

April 19th, 2011 1 comment

Another year doneWe survived another tax season. Every year, my parents and I say at least once twice a few dozen times, “This year is going to be the death of me!” That’s the stress talking. We aren’t being literal.

We hope.

Every year, we find new ways to make the process smoother, just as the government finds ways to complicate things. You can claim that this year, but not next year. You can itemize this but not that. You get this credit but only if you stand on your head and drink water while saying the alphabet backwards.

You think I’m kidding? I swear that one is in the tax code somewhere. If it isn’t, it should be. If for no other reason that to give tax preparers something to laugh about as they wade through the idiosyncrasies of the tax code.

What makes the job so stressful is the fact that you’re dealing with people’s financial outlook. Mistakes can cost your client thousands of dollars and can even land a huge fine (or worse!) on the tax preparer. We strive to do the job RIGHT. No law bending or “personal interpretation” being done here!

So, within that, I present to you my tax season pet peeves for 2011 (in no particular order):

  • Please don’t wait until the last minute to bring in your tax work and discover you have items missing… then STILL expect the return done by deadline. Let me introduce you to Mr. Extension. He will be taking care of you this trip, and we’ll attack your lack of information sometime AFTER deadline.
  • We aren’t mind readers. We don’t sit with a crystal ball to consult on every return. Did you have a child this year? Did you get married? Divorced? Move? Go self-employed? Buy stocks? Did your nephew come to live with you for the year? These are all things we NEED to know to properly do your return. Just because your baby’s birth announcement ran in the newspaper back in July of last year doesn’t mean we saw it. Help us out here. (And when we DO ask, don’t get snippy with us. Just give us the information… please?)
  • The old idea of throwing your receipts in a shoe box for your preparer to wade through is just not happening these days. Either wade through them yourself and put them in some sort of order or be prepared to be charged extra for the extra work/stress you’ve brought to our office. Or, you know, meet Mr. Extension.
  • Bigger and better refunds than the competition! Bull corn. If you’re going to get a refund its based on tax codes and how everything falls together on your return. If you owe, it doesn’t mean WE (the preparer) screwed up. It just means you owe money. When a software or tax company promises you bigger refunds than the competition, it doesn’t mean they have this magic dust they sprinkle on the paper to make it appear. It just means its a gimmick to get you in the door.
  • Please don’t try to get us to lower our fees. I had a whole blog post on this earlier this year. See it for more on THAT whole rant of mine.
  • If we take a message instead of patch you through to the preparer you wish to speak with, its not because we don’t love you anymore. Its because they are doing a return and need to focus to do the job right. You get mad if we make a mistake (and we’re human, so it happens), but you have to understand that often mistakes occur due to constant interruption while the work is being done. We might not take you call because we DO love you. See?
  • If you feel like I might be treating you like a 5th grader, its because I’ve found its just a good rule of thumb. It never fails that when I assume someone already knows where to sign, etc… they don’t. So its just easier to assume you DON’T know and risk offending you than it is to assume you DO know and then get us ALL in a heap of trouble.
  • We have over 400 clients. Yes, over half of you have been coming to us for 5 – 10 years (or longer). Still… help me out with your name when you come in to pick up your return or if you want to see someone. It’s not that I don’t love you, its that sometimes I just haven’t had enough coffee to put a name to a face. Some days, there just isn’t enough coffee in the world. Feel free, in that moment, to treat ME like a fifth grader. I won’t mind. I promise.
  • If I give you that deer in the headlight look its because you just asked me something I can’t answer. I figure you know that, but, hey, sometimes people reword the question thinking maybe I’ll know the answer if they do that. Nope. I still don’t know the answer, and now you’ve made me feel dumb twice. Give me a moment to find someone who CAN answer the question. Thanks.
  • Please don’t ask us to bend the rules. We won’t. And when we refuse, don’t get angry. We’re telling you no for your own good. Kinda like the time your Mom said you couldn’t have that candy bar before supper, because she knew if you ate it you wouldn’t want that yummy pizza she was making. Remember? Yeah, kinda like that. Only we are saying you can’t fudge the rules because we don’t want anyone to go to jail, nor anyone pay a huge fine and yucky stuff like that. We’re licensed professionals. We do things by the book.
  • Finally, please don’t ask me to discuss politics. Not only do I just not want to go there, but with the work we’re doing, it just isn’t appropriate. I’m so glad you’re so passionate about it, but please don’t ask me to jump on your bandwagon for the sake of making you happy. Lets do the work at hand and move on from there.

Oh I’m sure I have plenty more little things that either made me cover my face or beat my head on the desk over the last few months, but I figure these suffice.

Ah. We did it. Another season in the books. A lot of extensions to do in the coming weeks/months, but we’re always grateful for that as well. Thankful for another successful season, and thankful for the loyalty of our clients. Without them, we’d be nowhere. So even as I have my little pet peeves, at the end of the day… I don’t really mind. It keeps things interesting at least.

Weekly Winners (Apr. 10 – 16)

April 17th, 2011 19 comments

Weekly Winners is a fun little thing bloggers do to showcase some of their favorite photos from the previous week. It is brought to you, me and everyone by the lovely Lotus, aka Sarcastic Mom. Visit her site and find all the participants. See some amazing photos brought to you by bloggers around the world. Leave a little love when you do — its like food for the soul!

Weekly Winners

My poor blog has been neglected all week… but I’m sticking with at least a photo every day.  So I can participate in Weekly Winners still. WOO HOO!

Association of Former Students

Excellence

152: Symbolism

Symbolism

Association of Former Students

Big Ring

153: Swing!

Suh-WING!

Sunset game

Sunset game

155: Sign Here

Sign here

Sunrays

Sunrays

157: Patient Maggie

Play with me?

158: Easter buddies

Easter buddies

♥ ♥ ♥

Photos taken using a Nikon Coolpix L20 or my Droid Incredible or a Sony DSLR A230.

>>>>View all of my photos on my Flickr stream.<<<<