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2012 In Review!

2012 is coming to an end. In true blogging fashion, I try and write out a year in review and map out the previous 12 months, highlighting and low lighting events that have transpired in my life.  As most years go, it was full of its ups and downs. No shocker there.  And also in true J.R. fashion, I’m glad to see 2012 go. Not that it was a “bad” year, per say, but just like everything, life moves on and we must continue to go forth and prosper. 
January was a big month – It was the start of my FINAL semester as an undergraduate student.  I went into 2012 not fully knowing how the year was going to end.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t have it all planned out.  I didn’t know where my education would take me, if I’d stay in my hometown, or if I’d move far away.  My general plan was to go where the jobs were.  It was an unsettling feeling, but at the same time, accomplished in knowing that I was just a few short months away from finally finishing up a Bachelor’s Degree at an amazing university. 
The semester progressed and I found myself taking in more of the campus, stopping to appreciate the beautiful architecture, the beautiful job the groundskeepers do, and just the overall feel of campus life.  Most students can’t wait to finish up and move on.  I could feel it deep inside that I was going to miss it terribly.  Call me crazy, but I love sitting in an academic setting, having conversations with very intelligent people on subjects I find particularly interesting.  There were a few things I wouldn’t miss – the presentations we had to give in front of a class of tons of students, the long and excruciating reading assigned to us (let’s face it, academic reading can be very mundane, even if it is an interesting topic).
March came, and I enjoyed my last spring break as a free woman.  With it came our usual storm season, which leads to a major storm that came and turned my life upside down in April.  I was a few weeks away from graduation – on the fast track to finally finishing everything up.  It was April 29th, the night before my ring ceremony where I’d be rewarded with the official Texas Tech Class Ring that I wear with pride.  It was a Sunday – I didn’t do much that day.  I remember the weather reports calling for stormy weather, but here in Texas in April, you tend to expect that anyway.  Around 7PM I went out on my front porch (this was back when I lived out in the country) and took in the weather.  I used to go out and write on my porch or just get fresh air.  The sky was dark and the humidity was thick.  Still nothing out of the ordinary for Texas in April.  I began to track a system that formed to the southwest of us.  By the path the Doppler showed and all the other ingredients with a storm, it looked to probably go just west and north of us, only skimming us.  I was a bit disappointed in it.  We needed rain.  The air began to get quite chilly (an indicator of hail) and I took the computer in to warm up. 
Not five minutes after I got in, my phone blew up with text messages and phone calls about the storm.  My mother urged me to get out of my home.  (No basement or cellar to take cover) I was apprehensive at first.  I had checked the weather and saw with my own eyes that it wasn’t coming toward us.  I chalked it up to my mom worrying about me, as a mother should.  However, my dad called and even people on Facebook alerted me to take cover, that we had tornado warnings all around us.  The storm had shifted southeast and was coming right toward my community.  I grabbed my dog, put him on a leash, and we left all of our belongings behind and ran over to my aunt’s house next door.  She also does not have a basement or cellar, and at first wasn’t taking the warnings seriously.  After several more calls and texts, she was finally convinced to go down the street to my uncle’s house where a basement was available to take cover in.
 She had a friend at her house and rather than wait, I ran down to the other house. My poor dog didn’t want to run.  I had to drag him.  I could hear hail in the distance crashing around.  It sounded like loud thuds that still echo in my mind.  We all got to my uncle’s house just in time.  Hail as large as softballs got heavier.  I could see a funnel cloud just north of the house moving up and down with each lightning flash. By this time it was completely dark outside.  We lost electricity.  My phone was our only way of telling what the weather was doing.  To make a long story short, the damage was “bad”, but definitely could’ve been worse.  My uncle’s sunroom got torn up.  The skylights got busted out and the room was under about 3 inches of water.  My house lost 5 windows and my car was completely totaled.  I don’t think anyone in my neighborhood had a roof that wasn’t totaled.  What matters most is that we were all protected.  Items were damaged and lost, but at least our lives weren’t. 
I’ll never forget that night.  What bugs me most is that I’m usually awesome at tracking weather, but even professional meteorologists were thrown off guard by the weather activity of April 29th.  For the longest time after, I was squeamish with severe weather.  I can still hear the hail shattering things, and even in a brick house it was a deafening sound.  With the help of family, we pulled through.  My dad came over the next day and helped me patch up the glass until we could replace it.  The National Weather Service was calling for a same pattern for that night, so we had to move quickly. Thankfully, they were wrong and it was a calm evening.  The day after that, we bought glass to replace what had been broken.  We spent most of the day out in the heat, patching it all up to make the place livable again. 
I was without a vehicle for almost 2 weeks, and with finals coming up, I was stressed to the hilt.  Like everything, it worked out well and I was blessed to get into a much stronger and better vehicle than what I had before.  I had wanted to get out of that small car and into another pickup, and that’s exactly what I did.  It was God’s blessing in disguise. 

Hail damage on hood of car. The entire car looked like this... 

2 of the 5 windows damaged on my house

Telephone pole split on FM 41 just west and south of where I lived 

Uncle's damaged skylight

"Small" hail from that night 

     May came and that meant graduation.  I passed my courses with flying colors and made a 4.0 for my final semester.  My goal was dean’s list, but I made the president’s list, which was even better.  I was so proud.  I finished with an overall GPA of 3.7, making me a Cum Laude graduate.  My family came to the ceremony – even my nieces and nephew.  The commencement took a long time.  I felt so awesome walking into the United Spirit Arena decked out in my graduation cap, gown, and stole.  I was an “official” RED RAIDER.  It was a very emotional day for me.  I was so hyped up that I did it, but it was sad too.  It was time to find a job and get out there in the real world.  My days as a student on the Texas Tech campus had come to a halt. 

My official class ring

That evening we had a graduation party at my parent’s house.  Tons of family came over and offered there congrats and gifts.  We had a cake, BBQ, and great company.  What more could I have wanted?  It was perfect.  I was fulfilled.  I had reached one of my goals that I had set for myself as a young child – I –always- wanted to be a Texas Tech grad, and the ring on my finger proved that I had done it.  The diploma I worked so hard for proved it. 
One thing I knew was that I needed a job, and soon.  I’m not one to like to sit around at home for too long.  I had already put out several applications long before I even graduated.  I started to apply for even more.  I figured the more I put my name out, the better my chances would be.  By the end of May, I hadn’t heard a thing from any of the places I had applied.  I started to feel down on my luck and worried about my finances.  I swallowed my pride and applied at a day care.  I swore I’d never go back to day care, but I needed income.  I got a job instantly and began working, but told myself I’d continue to search for something else.  This would just be something to do until something better fell into my lap. 
In the middle of July I got a call from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Texas Tech Medical School) asking for me to come in for an interview.  I honestly didn’t even remember what job it was – I had applied at so many places that it all ran together.  Of course I said yes to going in.  The first interview went well and I had a good feeling.  A few days later they called me for a second interview.  The next day, they were calling to offer me the job.  It is in a Family Practice Clinic within the health sciences center that allows medical students to do their residency to get board certified. I’m what I call a utility player in doing a lot around the clinic.  It is a state job and I have the best benefits I’ve ever had. There is a lot of longevity in the job, and I’m hoping to work my way up the ladder with them.  The opportunity came at the right time, and I’m blessed to be given the chance that I have.
Since then, I’ve just been living life.  We had a great Thanksgiving.  My brother and his clan came down and some of my aunts and uncles came over to spend it in my parent’s new house.  That is one thing I forgot to mention.  In April they moved into a much nicer house. 
Another highlight was scoring George Strait tickets to his final tour – The Cowboy Rides Away Tour! He will be kicking off the tour right here in Lubbock on January 18th. I was dead set on going since it is quite possibly the last time he’ll be in concert.  My brother in law found a code that allowed us to purchase them a day early, which is a good thing, seeing as the concert sold out in a record 20 minutes!
Christmas was a small one.  My brother was unable to come down and my sister spent most of her time with her in-laws since Thanksgiving was with my folks.  All in all, it was good since I was with family.  It snowed and we had a white Christmas, which I would’ve been much more excited about if I didn’t have to drive home that night. 
I wish you all a wonderful 2013! Ready or not, here it comes. I can’t say what it’ll hold for me, but I pray we all have more highlights than low lights.  Bring on the new year and bring on many blessings! 

Cheesy Thoughts

This evening I’ve taken the time to just sit back and think about things. It has truly been a cozy evening.  I have a pecan pie scented candle lit, my feet are kicked up, I’m relaxed, and I have Pandora shuffling music on my TV. Life is good, right?

That leads me to my next point.  I have recently fallen back into a negative state of mind.  I hate when I go through that phase, and yes, it can be avoided.  Life just seemed to be happening – from issues with my truck, to frustrations at work, to whatever the case may be at that point in time.  Then a wake up call happened – The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  I’m not going to get into a full discussion about it, but it was a shove into reality for me.  My problems seemed VERY insignificant compared to what the people of that town were going through.  My truck got fixed (it was just a busted water pump), work frustrations are blessings in disguised… I mean, after all, I could very well not have a job and no income, right?  It’s sad that it takes someone else’s tragedy to make me realize it, but at the moment, things really aren’t that bad, regardless of how I may view situations.

The holiday season should bring the best out in people.  After work today, I stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some things for our Christmas dinner.  A sweet elderly woman was slowly moving down an aisle, and each person she passed, she smiled and told them Merry Christmas.  It warmed my heart so much.  On the flip side of the coin, I could have gotten frustrated with her for not moving faster and being in the way, but I took a moment to see and hear her joy.  Most people responded with positivity. 

It is going to be a small Christmas for us this year. My brother and his family came down for Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful for the wonderful family I do have, and even though we won’t have a house full for this holiday, at least we do have a home to gather in.  We will have a turkey (which I got free as a gift from my place of employment), all of the sides, and amazing desserts (one recipe I’m trying for the first time!)

I guess searching for blessings was heavy on my heart tonight.  There’s been so much sadness in the news lately that I had to get my mind on something else.  I have amazing friends, some far away and some close by, some I’ve never met in person, and some who I have known for years.  As I look at a shelf near me, I see all of the Christmas cards that were sent to me this year.  It’s full of various styles, colors, and pictures with personalized messages inside them for me.  I mailed out a big stack myself, and as I placed stamps on each one, I didn’t think about all of the postage I had to pay for – I thought about all of the great people I was sending each one to and how I’m glad I went through a ton of stamps to mail them all out. 

I recently had a conversation with a new friend I found through my writing.  Without even really “knowing” me, they helped me out just by their kind words and positive attitude.  I jokingly posted a picture of some candy that looked like coal that was in my stocking at work.  Just as I would expect, they responded and said that eventually it becomes a diamond.  I hope one day I can get to the point that with whatever response I have, it will always be positive like that. That has spurred up another thought in my head.  A couple of years ago I was walking the Texas Tech campus with a friend and he pointed out all of the beautiful flowers around the school.  I responded with “They’re just gonna die anyway.” Looking back on that memory, I have to laugh.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I said that.  He was trying to admire the hard work the Texas Tech groundskeepers put into it, and I just let that spew out of my mouth without a second thought.  I’m glad I don’t do that now.

I guess the main point of this blog entry is trying to find positive in everything.  That pile of dishes in the sink? At least you are blessed with food to cause that dreaded chore that I avoid like the plague.  The busted water pump on your pickup? Hey, you have a vehicle to drive.  That 6AM alarm blaring when you’re dead asleep?  You’ve got a job to go to and a steady income, and though it isn’t making you rich in the least bit, at least you have something.  So many others aren’t as fortunate. 

I want to wish all of you a happy holiday season.  May the New Year bring you love, happiness, and good fortune.  Keep that chin up! I know, I know… I need to take my own advice!