Don’t look back? Ehhh…

It’s often said to not look back. The future is ahead, not behind you. You can’t move forward if you obsess over the past. Etc. Etc.

For me? For me, looking back often propels me even better towards the future. Which is what this last week somehow ended up being all about. Even though it wasn’t the plan going into it.

Somewhere over Texas
Somewhere over Texas

I’m currently in my way back to Nashville after a, frankly, amazing week in Texas. I had traveled with the goal of seeing my neice graduate 8th grade, checking in on family affected by the storms, see my husband play a show in Oklahoma, and visit The Association of Former Students at Texas A&M. If I got some relaxation in there, awesome. I was definitely at, “I need a vacation” point simply due to recent financial stress.

I made it to my niece’s graduating. I mused over how it was 20 years (probably to the day) that I myself graduated 8th grade. One of my classmates is junior high principal, which was cool to see but also admittedly a little weird. (I am not old enough for that, am I!?)

Go Jeni!
Go Jeni!

How far my town has come since my 8th grade graduation! New schools. State championships. Classmates now in the roll of teachers. Sometimes I marvel at it all.

Sometimes it’s good to look back and see progress as its come along.

I then traveled the four hours to see my husband play in Oklahoma. Like, old times, it was me and my parents, off to see this guy with crazy talent, and a heart of gold… Who stole mine a long time ago.

I’m pretty sure when a girl is willing to travel over 4 hours to see you for just a few hours of your time, she finds you pretty special. And if her parents tag along, they approve.

I'm his biggest fan.
I’m his biggest fan.

The artist has changed (a few times) since the last time I saw him play in Oklahoma. This was a different casino. And of course we are married now. I’m also no longer dazzled by the “famous” side of the life. If anything I’m cynical about it all. But I still love going to see my husband do his thing, and it’s more about supporting him than anything else.

Of all of this, however, perhaps the most powerful look back to go forward came when I visited Aggieland on Monday.

I know to some it may sound crazy, but I NEED to visit College Station periodically. Graduating from Texas A&M is one of my greatest accomplishments in life. Those years shaped me more than sometimes even I realize.

Once an Aggie, always an Aggie.


But it’s going to the Association that meant the most. To discover people who I so greatly respect also respect me means so much. I left my meetings that day feeling like I did when I walked across that stage with my diploma:

I can do anything I set my mind to. I have been set up for success. I simply need to reach out and take it.

The trip ended with a visit to the Bonfire Memorial. I’ve gone a couple times before, but it never fails to quiet my soul all over again. As I read about each of the 12 amazing souls lost 15 years ago, I hear them whispering words of encouragement. You can do anything. Live your life to its fullest. Be not afraid.

So yes, I did look back for awhile, and all it did was push me towards my future. My seat back and tray table are up and locked, ready for landing. Let’s do this.

Seeing the damage first hand

On Memorial Day, a tornado went right outside of my hometown in Texas… and right through my uncle’s house.

Tornado aftermath

It was a quiet day for me and my husband, as he came in off the road that day. I had been checking my parents weather periodically since I’d gotten up. I knew the potential for bad weather was there, and I found myself peeking at the radar a little more often than usual.

My mom texted me that they were under a tornado warning, but they didn’t have TV, internet, and their cell phones were hardly telling them anything. I immediately turned on Weather Channel, and as it came on I hear, “Cameron, Texas, take cover RIGHT NOW.”

I grabbed my phone, called my Mom, and started loading up the Waco TV stations hoping they were streaming live. I found KCEN-TV was streaming live, and I started relaying to her what they were saying. We dropped the call probably four to five times as lightning struck close to their house.

The rotation on radar stayed just outside of city limits, and I breathed a sigh of relief when it seemed it had missed my parents and my brother. Not even, at that moment, realizing that other family members might not be so lucky.

Tornado aftermath

It didn’t take long for the message to come through that my uncle’s house had taken a direct hit and was a total loss. They were all (thank God) okay. Thanks to the warning alert on my cousin’s phone, they’d hidden in the bathroom as their house was ripped apart. The roof was gone, windows imploded… they were lucky to have been in a brick house, too, as the walls held up well enough given the circumstances. They came through it shaken, but physically okay.

Tornado aftermath

I reached out to friends whose families live in the area to make sure they were all okay. Luckily, all were accounted for as wel.

The parents of my brother’s close friends in high school lived right across the road from my uncle, however, were not so lucky. Word came soon that the damage to their home was far worse than my uncle’s. It was completely picked up and flipped over by the tornado. (Many houses in the area are built just sitting on blocks. I’ll be honest, I never thought about how precarious that truly is until that day.)

Tornado aftermath

The husband was found with a head injury and rushed to the hospital. My uncle and his family found the wife under debris in shock. (Their house landed upside down!) She had back pain and was also taken to the hospital. Their house, of course, a total loss, but both alive and as of today already out of the hospital.

Frankly, that is a miracle, in my opinion.

Tornado aftermath

There was one casualty that day, I am sad to say.

The tornado touched down near CR 206A in Milam County, and traveled many miles.  On the map, it seemed to keep a straight path, but looking at the damage left behind, it seemed to zig zag across the countryside.

One man was killed when his mobile home was hit along that random path and destroyed. His wife is still in the hospital. My heart and prayers go to his family.

Tornado aftermath

The National Weather Service declared it was an EF-2 that did all the damage in my little hometown area in Texas. For there to be only one casualty is amazing, in my opinion.

My husband was ready to get in our truck that day and drive to Texas to help. I had already had a trip to Texas planned for a few weeks, though, so I said we’d just stay put and see what happened as the week progressed. I was fully prepared to get to town and help with clean up at my uncle’s house. However, in the days since the tornado, they’ve gotten so much work done that there’s not much I could do at this point (though I am ready to help if they need me.) Sometimes, though, I suppose it is just better to stay out of the way.

Tornado aftermath

I’ll be honest. I know this was a small compared to tornados that have wiped out entire towns. But this is the first one that had this direct of an impact on my family. This is the first one I’ve actually walked through the aftermath of…

Broken glass. Twisted trees.

A photo posted by Denise (@niseag03) on

It’s surreal. It’s something you see on TV. It’s something you know could happen, but you always pray it doesn’t. And then when it does, you get a serious reality check.

Oh they will rebuild. And in the end, there will be a positive made out of this negative. A larger and better home. One built with extra safety measures in place. But for right now, there’s a grieving to get through. There is a lot of work to be done. There is emotional healing to handle. It will definitely take going one day at a time, but it will get better. I know it will.

Tornado aftermath

>>CLICK HERE to see all the images I took of the damage.<<


Note… there will be a fundraiser for my uncle’s family on Saturday, May 30 at Brookshire Bros. in Cameron, TX starting at 10 am. Proceeds from a bake sale and the sale of sausage wraps will go to the family to help them rebuild.  Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Remembering those that gave all

 Nashville National Cemetery
Nashville National Cemetery

We have some pretty wacky holidays in this country. National Pancake Day. Checkers Day. Cheer Up The Lonely Day. But Memorial Day is far from wacky, even if its meaning sometimes gets a little lost.

Memorial Day unofficially marks the start of summer. This long weekend means barbecue, boats and family gatherings. It’s a chance to break out that bikini and show off how hard you’ve been working to shed those winter pounds. (Well, ok, if it’s not raining…)

Memorial Day also gets somewhat confused with Veterans Day, which is also a great and special holiday, when we honor all who have served in our military. Memorial Day, however, focuses on those who gave all in service to our country. The ones who never came home.

According to Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Time ran a fascinating article today dating the holiday’s history to 1865 and slaves in Charleston, SC. 

No matter when it began, Memorial Day is our chance to give pause and acknowledge (and silently thank) the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to help ensure our freedom and way of life. The people who never came home to their loved ones waiting arms. The ones who never got a chance to hear us — the people they vowed to protect and who live in the country they served — say thank you.

So today, amid beer, barbecue and the competitive game of horseshoes, take a moment in silence to honor these soldiers’ memories.

Prayer for Memorial Day from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Prayer Source.

The wife of a touring musician tells it like she sees it…

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