Friday, November 1, 2013

Her Mother and I Do...

I chose the title of this post for a variety of reasons, namely to contrast the smallness of our vision with the plan of the Creator of the universe. Last November, I remember sobbing in the emergency room in Houston pleading with doctors to tell me that my Dad would be able to walk me down the aisle and say  those 5 magical words: "her mother and I do." Later in the hospital, a doctor did inform me that he would probably not be able to speak or totally understand what was happening at my wedding, if he was even there at all. The prognosis was miserably bad. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can read his story here.

As the days and weeks progressed from that gut wrenching moment, amazing things began to happen. The blog I created to update family and friends as to his progress received thousands of hits. Like THOUSANDS. In 2 weeks. Individuals I have never met read his story and prayed for our family. I received messages from people telling me that my writing and his story strengthened them in their faith and refocused them on what matters in life. On November 10, my small mind wanted my dad at my wedding. God wanted that, but he also wanted his people to know him more. In hindsight, I feel as if God was sitting above looking down at me like a small child and thinking "oh ye of little faith; my child he will say those 5 words, but his story will say so much more."

After an incredible wedding weekend, where my dad not only said those 5 magical words, but also gave a speech, danced the night away with my mother, enjoyed a good bourbon or two and told me during our father daughter dance that this was the time of his life, I reacquainted myself with a God who is truly the giver of life.

Enjoying the vibrancy of his health, my amazing dad began training for a marathon. Not to air too much dirty laundry (sorry Dad), but like most of us, my dad had approached fitness regimes and workouts several times only to fall back into habits that often come with a busy life and full career. So basically like most of us. But this time was different. The man found a very strict training program and stuck to it. He is adamant about his training and methodical about his runs. Falling off the wagon wasn't even a consideration. It's like...his brain is stronger. I've heard so many times that running a marathon is a huge mind game. If you can train your mind to convince your body to keep going, you can finish. And that's exactly what he did:

My dad is pretty much the greatest man ever. He completed the marathon with both of my brothers by his side. So proud of all three of them. Here are a few more pics from the run. 

And just for kicks...

I am so unbelievably proud of him. He is a fighter and a survivor. He is a "can-do" guy. He has never been one to cast blame or wallow in self-pity. He has been the backbone of our family: the guy who can make anything work. 

I think the term "God works in mysterious ways" is one of the most absurd and misleading phrases there is. There is nothing "mysterious" about God continuing to provide for his people. To be anxious is to be arrogant. Anxiety and worry comes from people believing that they have harnessed the universe and that they are the masters of their fate. Worry is the recognition that as individual human beings we do not have total control; we suddenly feel that things are "out of control" and moving in the wrong direction. That's how I felt on November 10. I wasn't in control, and it became apparent to me that I thought I was. Sure, bad things happen. But no matter where we go, what we experience or what we endure, we can rest in the knowledge that our lives are totally out of (our) control, and it is MOST DEFINITELY best that way. If it was up to me my dad would have merely walked me down the aisle and said "her mother and I do." The accomplishment of this marathon is only a small piece of what has happened this last year that makes me eternally grateful that it is not up to me. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Find JOY in Every JOurneY.

A lunch break rambling:
For those of you who aren’t within earshot on a regular basis: I have a 3 hour daily commute.

Yes, it’s Houston. Yes, it’s frustrating. And yes, I can’t wait for it to be over.

But in a way that weirdly parallels what I am about to share, I have come to appreciate it for exactly what it is: an experience.

I have always been the type of person who liked to know exactly what my future held with the firm understanding that I would be in total control. One would think, given my past, I would have learned my lesson by now; but the other thing you’ll know if you’ve existed near me at any point in your life: I’m stubborn.

I grew up in Mobile, Alabama (duh) and in the 10th grade my family got the news that we’d be moving to Austin, Texas where I finished high school. I applied to 10 or so colleges and ended up selecting TCU. Four years and three cities later, I was sort of from Fort Worth, hardly from Austin (lived there 3 years, went “home” every opportunity we could) and in my heart, from Mobile. I know it confused people to see my Austin driver’s license and hear my claim that I was still from Alabama. Southerners have a bizarre tendency to become very attached to land, I guess, and if you ask just about any of them where they’re from they’ll tell you where they were born and raised and not where they reside.
This is what comes to mind...(Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O'Hara...)

Anyway, after an eventful 7 year stint in Texas, I knew it was time for me to go home. I attended the University of Alabama, School of Law since it would be the most practical thing for me to do (now that I was a resident again) in order to practice in the State. After 3 years I received my degree and…crickets…crickets. Turns out the ole job market was just churning away in Texas, thus I took the Texas Bar Exam (3 days=hell) and started a job at a firm downtown Houston which brings me back to square one, my commute.

So here I am, driving down 1-45, trying my best the emulate the compassion of Christ towards the other drivers (bless their heart) rather than the angered frustration that I would certainly feel if I were left on my own. I thought to myself: “Self, you have lived in 4 cities in 10 years. You have moved apartments every single year since your senior year of high school, save one. What is your home, what are you doing?!”

With a marriage just little over 3 months away and another move imminent, I felt as though the control that I so desperately wanted to get my fingers around was slipping away. Actually “away” is sort of misleading because “away” implies that it was once “here” and is now “over there.”  

It was then that I realized, in the midst of a hellacious commute, wedding planning 3 states away, a long distance relationship and no sure knowledge of where I would call home in 3 months, that I needed to stop trying to get to my destination, and start realizing that all of these things are a part of my journey. These experiences are my story, and have helped shape who I am. So often in life we are confronted with the things that we should have/be doing. In a sense, life presents us with destinations: wedding rings, houses, jobs, babies, society memberships, salaries and lifestyles. Everyday Pinterest (yes, I love it, but yes, I’m going there) presents us with images of what our kitchens, front door d├ęcor and yes, bathrooms “should” look like. We are so easily looped into this “well, this is what I have now, but THIS is the dream bathroom/house/cabin/boat/kitchen/wardrobe that I will/should have.” So that posed the question, in the time that we have between the “where I am now” and “where I want to be” what happens? Life happens. When we are so caught up in the destination, but not the present, we miss the blessings. We become so consumed with what we have, versus what he/she/it/anonymous Pinterest poster has that we miss the joy.

It was the other day during a sarcastic and predictable tweet interaction with Cullen as we ended a weekend together that I realized part of me was missing the journey. He said “home is where the heart is.” Now, that’s certainly not earth shattering or news to anyone. But it hit me like a ton of bricks and I just couldn’t help but feel tears welling up as I sat in the Jackson airport. Home is where your heart, your experiences and your loved ones are. Your journey is what makes you special, and the people you make that journey with are what bring you home. No matter where the next phase of this journey takes me/us, I know that there will be home always in the hearts of those I love. Home is with the people that love and trust you. They are kind and generous, and you know you can trust them too. Home is with the people and opportunities that add a wealth of experiences to your life. When you realize that your life is not as much about where you’re going, but rather about where you are, you start to think more carefully about the people you want in your life. You start to examine how you spend your time in those frivolous hours that seem insignificant. How are you being shaped and affected by the people with whom you associate and the activities you perform daily?

As I often do on my commute, this morning I reminded myself that this situation was only temporary and that it would be over soon. Sure, as I move to the next stage of my life, my commute will be over, but that will not stop me from missing the little blessings along the way in each phase of my life, no matter how transitory they seem. After all, if we really aren’t in control, then it’s possible your life could be uprooted and changed forever tomorrow. It’s possible that you may view your tomorrow as a day that “has finally come.” However, God may want you to view today as the most blessed day that has come thus far. In our focus on tomorrow, we forget to find the joy in every journey.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Law School Makes Us Bad People

As a third year law student entering into winter exam season, I've decided to reflect back on the last two and a half years and make some quick observations.

Like a foggy dream I remember what it was like to first come to law school. I can just barely remember what my friends and I were like that August. We were ambitious, positive, open-minded and we were able to carry on a social conversation without inserting some lame law humor or mindlessly panicking about how busy we were.

Nowadays our conversations are reduced to incoherent ramblings only discernible by other law school students. College friends are just on the cusp of giving up hope, assuming that we are forever busy, angry and competitive freaks, incapable of uttering a sentence not beginning with "OMG I am SOOO busy." Or how about this fan favorite: "Can we catch up tonight?" Next day: "Sorry, I was outlining. My professor is crazy and doesn't teach us anything so I have to teach myself."

We assume that anyone asking a question is on the offensive and we have to battle back with the best BS laden argument our little brains can come up with.

Guest: "Excuse me, where's the bathroom?"
Student: "Well that depends. There's several. Where are you trying to go with this? Because I'll tell you the answer depending on where you're trying to go. There's a lot of options see, and they're all really good. There are advantages to some. Some bathrooms are cleaner, while others have less of a line. Some of them are closer to where you're standing now. Then, if you're lucky, you might stumble across the one seater bathroom. Depending on which one you chose, there are varying levels of satisfaction that you can achieve after using that bathroom. But then again, it depends on your preference of privacy, proximity or waiting line. So why don't you tell me."

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard or said "have you read?"

Then you have your family to contend with. Merely coming up with a plan for a family Thanksgiving is enough to give any law student heart palpitations.

"Wait, you want me to spend the WHOLE DAY with the family RIGHT BEFORE EXAMS?"


Oh and remember that time that you thought someone's word was their word and that most marriages last?

Now the mere act of selling a football ticket causes us to go into an automated sequence of "offer, acceptance, consideration..."

Say your Texas friend tells you he's getting a divorce. Naturally, you think, community property state. Adios house in South Padre. Oh whoops, I mean I'm so sorry. Can I do anything?

Ever chatting with a law school student and he immediately goes blank and appears to be thinking of something else? That's because no matter what fact scenario you just gave him, he's thinking about whether or not there was a duty owed and if "we've got a lawsuit on our hands."

I'm telling you, the moment Kim K announced her plans for divorce, my first thought was "wonder how airtight that pre-nup was?" Ok so maybe that wasn't just me...I digress.

So here we are again. Exams are on the horizon. Outline supplements are cropping up everywhere. We've got a caffeine tolerance of a 500 lb... dude...that drinks a lot of coffee? We are incapable of carrying on a normal conversation or participating as a social member of society. Our "non-law school friends'" worry is mounting.

So to all of you people out there, on behalf of law school students everywhere. We are sorry. Give us a little time. We'll be back to normal soon enough.

The Iron Bowl: Our Little Dysfunctional Family

As a one half member of a house divided, the counterpart of many "friends divided", an Auburn fan resident of Tuscaloosa and an Alabamian with a pulse, I have had the occasion to observe and participate in many of the shenanigans that comprise the little tradition we like to call "THE IRON BOWL".

In light of the ESPN special airing tomorrow, I felt like I needed to add my 2 cents.

This weekend the football gods opened the heavens and graced us with the opportunity to watch what experts were calling the "Footballcolypse", the "Greatest Game Ever Played" and "The Game to End World Hunger". Two football titans collided in what turned out to be an epic weekend.

And I do mean that literally, check out these fans colliding on the quad.

When the mayhem subsided, the dust cleared, and Alabama's dreams of #14 vanished quicker than a corndog at a cajun tailgate, Bama fans were angry.* And they were angry at...Auburn.

I woke up on Sunday morning and was confronted with social media that was all abuzz with anti-Auburn sentiments. "At least we're still better than Auburn", "I CANT BELIEVE Auburn pulled for LSU, how classless."

I was baffled.

Everyone stop. Hold the phone. What did you say? NOO! Auburn pulled for another SEC team that was playing their rival in a regular season game. Yes indeed! It's true!

Let me tell you why I was baffled. Finding an Alabama fan rooting for Auburn is about as difficult as finding Obama somewhere other than the campaign trail. I remember as a child singing along with Auburn's alma mater and Bama's band piping up with "Old McDonald Had a Farm." Auburn's an Ag school, huh huh huh. They grow things, huh huh huh.

More recently I have observed the mass purchasing of Roll Oregon Ducks Roll paraphernalia and vandalism of Auburn's campus and an ensuing mass t shirt printing enterprise with the caption "Updyke's Tree Service: We Get to the Root of the Problem." I have heard the "F&*k Auburn" chant during Dixieland Delight. (The guy who sings that song is Randy Owen, he's an Auburn fan. War Eagle Randy). When Auburn ended their winning streak in an ugly game against Clemson I tolerated the whole "Roll Dabo Roll." (Auburn: we missed a hell of an opportunity with this kid. People in his neighborhood called him "dat boy" which became abbreviated to "Dabo." That's a little red.) I have seen the "Never All In" buttons printed by the University of Alabama's Bookstore. I have heard "Take the Money and Run" and "Son of a Preacher Man" played at our team as they are warming up.

But you know what I'd tell Auburn fans?


This is the country's most intense rivalry. Your rival doesn't cheer for you. This isn't a mysterty. In fact, they pull against you. And they celebrate in your demise.

So when Sunday morning arrived and Alabama fans were boo hoo-ing en masse over the fact that Auburn fans were celebratory, I offered the same piece of advice:


This was the biggest hyped game I have seen in my lifetime.

When there's this much build up, the fall is harder. The more you talk, the more people revel in your demise. It's just the way it works.

Alabama, let me introduce you to a technique that Auburn has employed for years now. One word: SANDBAGGING. Now, I understand that might not be the Championship Winning technique that Paul "Bear" Bryant divined down from Mount Sinai. And my bet is that you wouldn't change that strategy for the world, even given the consequences.

These are two different, yet great schools who have different methods for what they do. And the way they do it makes this rivalry the best, most heated rivalry in the country.

Another thing that makes this rivalry? Family. Friends. More than most other rivals, in this state we are married to our rivals. We are houses divided. We are friendships. We are brothers and sisters. Mothers and daughters. Fathers and sons. We don't go back home to Michigan and complain about the rival that we won't have to deal with again until the next year. We deal with each other every day.

That's what I mean when I say dysfunctional family.

Despite our tree rolling, campus vandalizing, defeat celebrating tendencies, we've made this thing work for a hundred years. When our cross state brethren are hit with a natural disaster, we can mobilize and provide the most steady and up to date aid possible. The very thing that makes us hate is what makes this rivalry great.

And don't go talk about our tradition either. Or else we'll all hate YOU.

Here's my House/Friends/State Divided Survival Strategy: 

1. Expect your rival will pull against you to their fullest extent possible. This eliminates the element of surprise.
2. Don't expect your rival to do something you probably wouldn't do yourself. This eliminates the element of disappointment.
3. Don't call each other "classless" when you take turns pulling for each other's opponent. This keeps you from being a hypocrite.
4. Understand this, you will win and you will lose. And both will happen in years you least expect it.
5. Arrive early, stay late, wear your Saturday's best, be loud.

And as always...

6. Glare at someone across the Thanksgiving Day dinner table.

*Disclaimer: THERE'S STILL A CHANCE. I know.