Monday, December 14, 2009

Never Losing Sight of the Dream

It was about four months ago when Todd (my boss) mentioned to me that his company would be celebrating it’s ten year anniversary this year. I remember quickly running the math in my head and noting that would have made him about 24 when he started his company. Wow, that means he was shortly out of school. It also immediately hit me that it really was no surprise. After having worked with Todd for about six months I knew what a passion he had for business and a genuine love for running with challenges. Setting up his own company right out of college seemed only natural for a guy of his character.

Me, on the other hand… I did not expect to find myself setting up my own company at age 24.

I’ll keep the story short, as it’s not what I really came here to write. As many know, since last winter I have been producing a web video show for Bellarmine University,
The College Buzz. After producing four shows for Bellarmine last Spring they budgeted for the upcoming school year and got funding for two shows a month. When I told Rob the good news he suggested that I set up my own company so I could skip the extra step of running financials through his company.

I told my parents and also told them I’d probably have to choose a new name and leave my childhood business name, “RitArt” behind. Pretty crazy, though, how the things you imagine as a kid can become a reality. There is a cardboard sign I still have hanging on the wall of my bedroom at my parent's house with my original “RitArt” logo that I made when I was probably about 10 years old.

The most difficult step for setting up this new company (for me) was choosing a name. Now, Rob had told me “this isn’t that big of a deal”, but he doesn’t know my family and that I name inanimate objects down to my cameras and cell phones. I inquired some ideas from my brothers and both had some clever suggestions and I almost settled on one of my own until Pa threw out one with “Knob End” included.

For those unaware, Knob End Meadow is the field located on the deepest point of the Valley. For a number of years I have had thoughts of one day having my own home on this territory.

Amid my pondering for a name I thought about the series of events that had led to the need for one at all. Then I thought about the series of events to follow. I have never known exactly what I wanted to do with my life as far as a career is concerned. The only thing I have always been certain of about my future is that I want to raise a family in The Valley. To live the simple and good life. Since graduating from Bellarmine, as great as life is, there are times when I have felt a little lost; a little helpless. I have often wondered how I am moving towards that goal in any way. But each day I say a small prayer asking that God guide me in every tiny decision I make so that they are the right, best decisions to lead me to where He wants and needs me to be.

Part of my dream of living in the Valley includes the hope of working from my own front porch. Here I am, a year and a half out of college, and all the work I have done during this time is setting me on a path to run my own business from anywhere I wish.

At the same time I am beginning to better understand the craziness of the career world and how easily it sucks us in with expectations and responsibilities. I never want to get so caught up that I lose sight of the thing I’ve always wanted in my life; the place I want to end up. Naming my own company after that very place is to be a constant reminder of why I am doing all the work I am doing from day to day; a reminder of the stepping stones God places for us that will lead us to where He intends for us to inevitably end up.

With a lot of questions about my life constantly circling my mind, I remind myself of the many things I have that so many do not. I know what I want and I know it from deep within; therefore I know that desire comes from somewhere beyond myself. Also I know that because I look and ask for it on a daily basis, God is helping me fulfill that desire. As long as I have that, I know I will get there and that every day is a step of progress.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Revisiting Desiderata

I'm pretty sure a lot of (if not most) people who happen upon this page have read this before, but I'm posting it anyway. There's still the chance that someone I know who has not read it will find it and I am happy to give them the chance to. Even if you have read it, poetry and philosophy can always be revisited for a new or deeper meaning. I've highlighted the lines that were of particular interest to me.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

-Max Ehrmann

Friday, April 17, 2009

Building The Hype

I've always said that the anticipation of an event is half of what makes the event a success. If you can build hype for something, it's going to be a success. So much of life is mental: get your head in the game and you're ready for anything. We've all heard it, but the cliche speaks truth: attitudes are contagious. That's why I love getting pumped up about any big event/shindig I'm involved in. Spread that enthusiasm and by the time the event arrives, there is such excitement that it doesn't matter how things pan out, the combined enthusiasm of everyone there makes it memorable either way.

But you have to be creative in building the hype. You've got to talk--that's a given. You have to get people involved so the word can spread. ("Did you hear that 'Gress' is going to be there!?") You share pictures and videos to bring back the memories of past experiences that were equally memorable. Then you give it it's own flare. For our first Glory Hole Party we gave out giant pixie stix. At Christmas Micah brought a signature drink and we had Lemon Crush play live music. For track conference parties we always set a dress theme and posted the challenge of coming even though we never returned from meets until past 1 a.m. (and you had to stay up til sunrise). For Gress's going away party we got tshirts.
At New Year's we had a new bar installed at the location of the gathering. St. Patrick's Day we made tshirts to wear out.

This weekend, instead of attending Thunder Over Louisville events downtown we (as in Dani and myself) have collaborated with The Man Clan to plan festivities of our own at our houses. (Which is quite convenient when we live directly across from each other.) With teams of two (one guy, one girl) we'll have eight events throughout the day to determine an overall champion. As usual, I created a Facebook event to help spread the word to all of the right people. This is definitely the first time, though, that so much hype has built through the use of FB. By allowing the Man Clan to become administrators to the event the competitive fire is already being fueled. It began with Jaso adding to the event description, "Jaso Rules!!!" only to have Steve change it to "Jaso<===GAY!" shortly thereafter. Ben jumped in on the trash talk soon thereafter and Jaso stepped it up a notch by changing the event picture to his own piece of art he created. (A picture of Steve that he'd added his own personal touch to.) The competition for the best event photo only fueled the fire more. Given, one of these guys is likely to be my partner, I couldn't help but get into the fun with them.

Now it's the day before our inaugural "Drunk Funk Thunder Games" and with the weather as beautiful as it is, I can hardly focus on anything but all that is upon my friends and I. Tonight we will shop for needed supplies and iron out the final details. For awhile we were worried about who would or would not end up showing for the event, but at this point, with the anticipation built as it is, tomorrow is bound to be a success even if it is no one but the Man Clan, Dani and me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

College Buzz Promo with Sarah East!

Sarah and I gave the FN Crazy fans a little briefing on The College Buzz. Thought I should share it here too. Hopefully there will be some actual material to show you! (And, YES, I know I am chewing gum and I shouldn't have been. I realized this as soon as Sarah and I watched it after videoing, but this was a courtesy shout-out--and I'm not a professional in front of the camera--another reason I stay behind it!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

College Buzz nearly ready for its launch!

While I am no longer spending my days working on FN Crazy, I am more than pumped to not be done with web video and the awesome people I've been working with through it. I'll let you in on a little project that has been in the works for a few months now...

Back in November I met with Bellarmine's communications office--where I previously held an internship while a student. With my involvement with web video they contacted me to express their ideas and interest in creating a show of their own. Being that through VuPal I already had the resources and connections to produce such a video, we decided to work out a business deal through Rob's company,
Jotzel Media, which also produced PopCrunch.

We are on the verge of launching the pilot episode of the College Buzz. The website has yet to be developed but I'm hoping to gain some following on
Twitter and YouTube (as well as other video sites) until then.

A big thanks has to go out to my VuBallers and their willingness to take on a new adventure with me: Joe Bennett (writer), Jay Bowman (Director), Sarah East (Talent/Host), Luke Stallard (Editor).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

All Cliches Spring From Some Underlying Truth, Right?

It may only be one week until it comes out on DVD but I still decided to go to the cheap theater to see the movie Twilight. I read the book in November at the hype of the theatrical release but never managed to make it to a viewing on the big screen. So why not pay three bucks to see it on a big screen when next week it is going to cost me that much to rent it at Blockbuster?

My desire to see the movie developed from two things: having read the book and the Edward Cullen obsessions of my friends. (Which, I admit that the latter reason was also my reason for reading the book in the first place.)

I think, though, that I figured out why it has been that while the movie tends to be pinned to teen girls, I have found so many friends my age (and older) are also in love with Edward Cullen. At the same time, any guy I know who dares admitting he actually saw the movie (as well as the guys who refuse to be come anywhere near it) insist it's simply a crappy, cliche love story. Or, as my friend put it, a movie made for "13-year-old girls who have never had the opportunity to have a boyfriend."

Interesting...because I think all of my friends who have talked it up so much to me have at least had the opportunity to have a boyfriend. In fact, some of them are married.

After watching the movie tonight I think I figured it out. Nearly any girl can watch the film, read the book and want what Bella has. Every girl wants a love story and every girl wants the love and loyalty that Edward gives Bella. Girls relate and understand what Stephanie Meyer was conveying in her story. Guys, on the other hand, cannot relate to Edward. First of all, they aren't vampires. Beyond that, Edward is nothing but a fictional character to them and nothing of reality. This makes the whole storyline a cliche love story.

I think the story and the love of it I have seen from both those "13 year-old-girls who have never had the opportunity to have a boyfriend" and from my 23+ year-old friends who are in serious relationships or married proves that the story strikes the chords of love in girls of all ages and experiences. Perhaps less cheesy or cliche, but somewhere inside, every girl wants her own love story of sorts.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Leaving My Mark

One of the best feelings in the world, if you ask me, is knowing that you had an impact on somebody or something--that you left something behind. I will be the first to admit that my talents as a runner were never the number one asset for the Bellarmine track team during my four year tenure. I will quickly be a name that came and went on the roster, as any records I was ever a part of setting have probably already been surpassed with the quickly growing and bettering team. However, it brought a smile to my face and a small tug at my heart to realize what I did leave behind: a tradition of fun.
The very first Wacky Friday practice in 2006.
I recently found on the Facebook profile of a former teammate a picture of her and some of the others I used to run with along with several unfamiliar faces in the lobby of Knights Hall dressed in crazy colors, goofy hats and tall socks. The 2009 season has started...and Coach Washington's running group had Wacky Friday. 
As a sophomore at Bellarmine myself and the other girls in my running group initiated a day-before-meeting tradition of dressing ridiculously for our light practice. We were an extremely close group with many of us living in a suite on campus together. The following year we had a strong group of freshman who embraced Wacky Fridays for all that they were. By my senior year most of the girls who'd set the precedent with me had moved on from their collegiate athlete days. Even with the team dynamic changing quickly, Friday practices not always being run the way they once were and many of those who "understood" Wacky Friday being gone, I couldn't let my tradition die before I left. Wacky Friday lived on by my seniority enforcement.

I honestly thought without the understanding of it's origin or the originators around the goofy ritual would surely be over. But indeed it is not. Girls I've never known or had any running connection to put on their wacky attire and headed to practice a week ago. Smiling and posing together I can look at those pictures and know, "Washington still has a good group of girls running with him."
It makes me so proud of last year's freshman to have carried on that bit of fun and team bonding I helped show them last year. I can't help but feel a little pride myself, as well though, to look at those pictures and think I did that. There is a piece of RitaPeat that lives on with Bellarmine Track, and the fact that piece is an element of fun and not an outstanding record, almost makes me more proud.

here the blog post I wrote for my writing for the web class my junior year to learn the history of Wacky Friday and how it came about.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I'll Take Clan Valley

I'm sitting at Panera Bread hoping, hoping hoping...

I stopped by Joan Ave. an hour and a half ago just before two big flashing electric trucks pulled up in front of The Bunker (The  Man Clan House).  Could it be?? Could our electric be being restored after six days without??

So, I am pretty sure I found the answer to my last blog entry question: Ice is MUCH worse in the city. Given, I had cell service the whole time, I had a large pool of friends to turn to WITH power and I was close enough to stores that I ran short on nothing.... Nothing, but hot water 
and heat, that is. 

The progression of my backyard from 11 p.m. on Tuesday, an hour later at midnight, until the next morning around 11 a.m. when power was long destroyed at Checkpoint Charlie.

I woke up frequently through the night on Tuesday/Wednesday morning to the crashing of trees and branches all around our house. It was 4 a.m. when I woke to realize the house was off. First thing I did the next morning was pile on about five layers of clothing, knowing what heat was left in the house at that point would not last long. And it didn't.

I admit, the first night was pretty adventurous and fun. The Man Clanians had no vehicle access as power lines had come crashing down on either side of their house leaving them trapped. Luckily, that was not the case for Dani and myself so after a trip to the store we returnedt he The Bunker for a long afternoon, evening and night of board games, candles, beer and blankets.
 There is something fun about playing board games again--something you aren't likely to do, especially with a bunch of 20-some year oldguys who own ever type of video game console out there. Dani, Joe, Steve, Josh, Josh, Jaso, Brittany and I had a fun-filled night. So the tradition continues that power outage nights with The Man Clan are always an adventure.

The "fun" to the adventure was over the next morning when we all awoke with little to no will power to get out from under out blankets into the frigid air. One night in the cold was more than enough.

Since then I have turned to one generous friend after another. Rachmo and Dana opened up their shower--it wasn't until a hot shower and a great cup of coffee that I realized how cold I'd actually gotten. I'd forgotten what it felt like to be warm from the inside out. Amazing. Brittany's amazing family opened up their home to the Joan Avenue homeless for a warm bed--lucky me even got a home cooked meal!

I finally headed back to work on Friday--which was not a complaint at all. I had a warm place with an internet connection all day! From there I picked up Kyle and KK and it was off to Lexington for the weekend to stay with Alyx and Holly at Bacca Bella.  What a wondrous thing that we can turn to family the way we did. MJ treated us like family as well, opening up his house of food and more at any time we wanted to drop by. Alyx and Jo went on their way with their weekend plans while KK, Kyle and I had the most relaxing time ever simply reading books and eating Oreos. Yes, so maybe we are all complete nerds. It happens. I love having the family that I do, though.

So I returned last night to still have no power...KK still had no power...But Kyle did!! So it was another night of living out of a bag--but I did have a warm bed and a hot shower so, again, I won't complain too much. 

Now, given, I am really thinking I'll be back at Checkpoint Charlie tonight AND Greystone was out of power before I was and is STILL out of power... the fact Mom and Pa have not gone without heat, have been able to sleep in their own beds comfortably and have had the generator going definitely brings me to the conclusion that I'd rather be stranded in the Valley during an ice storm on any given day. 

I look forward to that day when the world goes black and I can smile knowing I am safe and warm in my own home.

Thank you to all of my wonderful family and friends for taking me in during this time!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice: More or Less Threatening In The City?

It's awesome when "snow days" can still randomly apply to you even in the work world! 
Louisville got it's predicted "snowpocalypse" as it has been called.  There are several inches of snow on the ground and there has been plenty of continued ice and snow throughout the day.  The GLI office was closed which also meant the cancellation of my 4 p.m. meeting off site. 
I just got off the phone with my Mom who is back in The Valley to find out that their conditions are reminiscent of the 94 ice storm. For those who are unaware, my home in Casey County is located in the middle of 700 acres of land at the end of a dirt road. So they've been hearing the cracking and crashing of trees weighed down with ice all day. She said the power went out early this morning. Lucky for them they have the trusty wood burning stove. I can't imagine what a baby I'd turn into if our power went out and we had no heat at Checkpoint Charlie. I'd be wishing I had a Snuggie then... kidding...kidding...

So I don't know if the thought of being in a house that could be crushed by one of the hundreds of trees around it is more threatening... Or the thought that the power could go out here in town and I'd be left to FREEZE with no heat! Hmmm....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crazy Mess of 2009 Begins!

2009 is a crazy exciting mess!

My goal this year is to "keep it interesting." I want to keep every month/every week to be something a little different, and I want to feel productive in a positive way. 

So far, so good.

Dani and I have decided to each take our turn cooking a new meal once a month. (And by "new meal" I mean NOT pasta with tons and tons of garlic!!) 
We've also committed to finding service projects and events we can be a part of each month. This past Monday we were a part of the MLK Service Challenge that Kara was in charge of organizing through her Americorps job. We spent the day cleaning and reorganizing the Americana gymnasium storage room and then moved to their library where we completely relabeled and shelved their books. It's always great to spend a day doing something for someone else with OTHERS who are willing to give their time. That shared willingness to give your time creates a great atmosphere.

We've also committed to doing more "extracurriculars" each
 month. We definitely love our Tuesday Beer Nights at Shenanigans and nights out on Bardstown Road, but we decided it's time we spice it up. Two weeks ago we got a group of about 12 to join us for ice skating. (Well, Dani came down with strep throat at the last minute and unfortunately didn't make it herself...) But it was such a good time that others were already throwing out ideas for future outings. 
Skiing/snowboarding is definitely on that list. I'm looking for a good February date now.

Also, there is the goal to continue to be progressive in the work world. I guess you could describe what I am doing as "progressive." It's all a mess in one aspect, but I'm loving it. Right now I'm doing still doing some work for Vupal with FN Crazy until we see where the show goes. I have been working with a guy named Todd (recommended to him by my Vupal boss and his good friend, Rob). I am writing for a website he is building as well as in the process of taking a position at GLI (Greater Louisville Inc) as their operations manager in IT. Also in the works is a possible web show for Bellarmine--which I'm really crossing my fingers for. 

So, forget every month or week being different... every DAY is different right now!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Operation: Pt. 2

Our adrenaline was pumping more than ever now with a little less than two hours remaining. The area had cleared out and it was back to the four of us when I thought I'd heard more movement from the same spot our last enemy had come from. The consideration that I was now only paranoid came to mind, but was quickly dismissed. It was too risky. We jumped in front of the jeep where Seth had been stationed previously. The tent guarded our backs and the pond was to our right. The suspicious hedge sat opposite us, behind the jeep.

We sat still for sometime, awaiting any sign of what may be hunting us. Time passed and no more noise was heard and the light of our flashlights could find nothing that seemed live or human.

 "Maybe it was just an animal," Holly suggested.

 It was another consideration all of us were making, but were still too scared to take our attention off the brush. We continued radioing the status to Base Command who could be of no help on verifying what was going on.

"HEY! Did you see it? The red light!" the exclamation jumped out of me without a second thought.

"I did! I did!" Clint yelled. "I saw it! It was his laser!" . . . "We've got you covered! Come out with your hands in the air!" Seth ordered.

Our enemy refused though. Seth maintained watch in his direction while Holly and I kept close eye on the fields to our left. We all knew these spies tended to come in pairs and never alone.

POP! POP! POP! Seth's gun fired grabbing our attention. The man had leaped from his position but done so too quickly for any of us to see where he'd landed himself.
I became totally aware of my surroundings at this point. Where could he have possibly went to? I was shaking and found myself slipping around the curved sides of the tent along with Holly and Clint. I was clueless now and felt there was nothing I could do. He knew exactly where we were sitting and we didn't have the slightest notion which direction he'd be coming from.

Now, I still can't tell you how he did it... perhaps too many years of watching combat movies. Seth never forgot his duty as the gunman and remained ready. With nerves overtaking the other two and I, his sudden demand made us jump.

 "A flashlight! Give me a flashlight!" he commanded swiping Holly's from her hand. He bent down even further shining the light under the jeep. Before I could even get a glimpse of what he might be able to see he told us.

"He's under the car!" His cry came out muffled by the sound of his firing gun. He was relentless on our foe, and cries came from beneath the vehicle. Seth did take him out, but from that point on we were paranoid, letting every slight noise scare us.

During our fiasco the same attacker who'd taken out Alpha earlier in the night had compromised Charlie Camp. He attempted an attack on us later, in which neither of us succeeded, but we knew with the departure of our camp the man would be heading for the last one on the list: Delta. We'd tried our best to warn them.

"Delta, this is Bravo Commander Holly. You guys need to be ready. They're coming for you next. Be alert!" she warned. Grief overtook us shortly thereafter as we heard the sounds of the gun firing from down the valley and the loud cries. We knew before the report came across the radio. He'd compromised Delta.

And then we had thirty minutes left. We'd been hit again, but our keen awareness had allowed us to take the two agents captive. The fog from the pond beside us restricted our view but the light forming in the sky was slowly making up for it.

 "Attention all camps," the voice of base command called from my radio. We were all eager to hear our instructions. "We are making a communication change. All radio contact is being switched to gold. A check will be made in five minutes. All stations switch to gold."

One look and I knew we all were thinking the same thing. . . . "What's gold?" Clint asked.
. . . "I have no idea," I admitted. We'd only been given the code key that night. There was no way any of us could have had the entire thing memorized.

"We left the codes by the fire," Holly said in panic. "We're going to have to go get it or we can't switch!" We all knew she was right. But the fire, along with the answer to our question was sitting right out in the open. A perfect target.
"I'll go get it," volunteered Seth.

 I immediately disagreed. "No. You can't. You're the gunner, you've got to stay here."

"Clint, you go," Holly ordered.

"Why me?" The youngster looked at Holly with a scowl upon his face, hating to be bossed around.

 "Just do it Clint, you're quick and you're the smallest," she told him with frustration.

"I'll cover you Clint," Seth reassured him with a pat on the back.

"Okay," he finally accepted. Taking the order from Seth seemed easier for him.

His run back and forth went safely and we made the radio switch just in time.

We crouched back into the position we had been in for nearly two hours. And just when we thought maybe our night of suspense had drawn to a close, crackling slipped to our ears. He was back. He was in those same bushes all of our attackers seemed to find as the perfect fort.

Seth began yelling demands at Him to come out. There was no way he was going to defeat us at this point. We were perfecting this drill. Yet, by then, defending our camp was no longer Seth's goal. He wanted to take Him down. He had succeeded in compromising all of the camps and Seth would have none of it.

 How everything happened is still somewhat of a blur in my mind. As we watched closely for any movements He tried to make, suddenly we saw a silhouette with it's hands slowly raising in the air standing just outside the field on the edge of the road.

"What's he doing?" Holly asked in a panic. 

"I don't know," I replied equally confused. My heart rate was quickening. He had to have some master plan. Was he even alone? "Is he surrendering?"

Just as we came to believe this to be true, the silhouette turned making a mad dash into the fog. I had no time to think. Seth shot up from his low position, standing tall now firing into the mist. My head was in a whirl when our gunner then took off at a speed I'd never seen him present before. He disappeared into the whiteness as well as his crazy firing continued. It blasted loudly, nonstop like that of a machine gun. What was he doing?

We were all freaked out and on our feet. "Seth!! Seth come back!" Holly shrieked after him, terror spilling from her voice. "He's going to kill you!"

Though there was none other than that of his gun, noise consumed my ears and energy pumped through my veins like never before that night. We were so close, so close to ending this thing, and what was he doing?

 Then there was a cry and the firing stopped. The three of us stood out in the open for the first time in hours no longer worried that we were free targets but now had our eyes glued to the lane both our ally and enemy had vanished into.

Then we saw him. Running towards us Seth had a smile stretching from ear to ear.

"I got him!" he cried joyously. "I was running out of CO2 but I hit him before I went totally out!"

We all began to talk at once after that. We had ten minutes remaining until our drill was over, but we knew we were no longer at any risk.

"Yeah, I have plenty of paintballs left," Seth explained still on cloud nine. "But my CO2 canister is empty. That's why I was just firing away. But I hit Uncle Jeff just before it went dry. I didn't even know what I was shooting at!"

"Yeah, we heard it!" Clint exclaimed. You could see the exhilaration of the young boy clearly in his face. I was really proud of the eight-year-old for holding out the night as well as he had and without arguing much with his older sister.

"Did you hear Holly screaming?"

"I didn't hear anything really!"

 I even had to admit, I was impressed with the combat skills my brother had shown through the whole night, and never had I seen him move so quick as he had when taking off after our Uncle.

A celebrated cry was made when my Dad's voice from Base Command informed us it was 6:00 and we were done. Everyone broke camp quickly, eager to return to my grandmother's gazebo where the base had been set up.

Enthusiasm buzzed in the atmosphere upon the arrival there, where all of us cousins reunited after the adrenaline-pumping night. Daylight had broke and stories were being exchanged right and left from cousin to cousin.

"We set up a trip wire all the way around..."

 "The only reason we got compromised was Josh's CO2 ran out..."

"...and then he whistled me, and I was like 'Crap!' I had no idea he was back there!"

"Then Drew fell asleep so..."

"I just ran, dude!" I heard Seth telling his triumphant tale over and over.

The stories from one camp to the next were endless and everyone wanted to tell their version. But I was more amused by my uncles' stories of crawling on their bellies through brush and briars all night attempting to take us out. Here they were in their forties and fifties, still out playing army games.

 The entire night was a rush I'd never experienced before. My dad and I had planned this camp out for years in advance but not even he had anticipated the end results to be so successful. As tired and dirty as we all were, the one thing everyone was saying was "We've got to do this again next year!"

My family may sound a little unusual... but that's because we are. And that's what I love about it. It didn't matter who you were or what you did that night, none of us can or will forget it. And who else can say they've ever done such a thing?

Just ask Holly, for instance. She would say if it had been a boring night.

"Oh my gosh," she said to my camera that morning before leaving for home. "I loved it! I'm a girly-girl... I thought I would hate it, but it was awesome! We've got to do it again!"

The Operation: Pt. I

Part I of the personal narrative I wrote as a senior in high school of one of my big family's crazy adventures! 

I shifted my legs underneath me just enough to keep the blood flowing, yet my body remained hunkered down, ready to spring into action at any given moment. I could see the very beginnings of daylight peaking over the hills in the east as dawn approached.

"What time is it?" asked Clint in a low whisper slightly behind me.

"Five-thirty," I replied.

"Come on, guys," Seth encouraged as we'd all been doing throughout night. "Thirty more minutes. We can make it."

I knew he was right, if we could hold out these last thirty minutes we'd be safe and the only camp who'd survived Him.

 I couldn't figure out if the past eleven and a half hours had gone slow or fast. All I really knew for sure at that point, as I squatted with my three allies between our tent and the jeep Holly happened to have parked in the ideal spot to create a barricade, was the night had not been what I'd anticipated.

The seventeen of us who would be maintaining camps through the night had met with the base command operators at 6:00 the evening before where we were assigned stations and positions and given a code booklet (which for confidential purposes will not be included in this documentation).

They'd prepared us for what we'd been expecting months in advance of the operation; a night of communication between the four camps to Base Command reporting all activity in the area. At the most, we may have predicted an attempted infiltration, but nothing more.

But there we were, one hundred percent alert crouched low to the cool wet ground, ready for anything.

"Ische! Askrabo ton bihn!" cried the grungy prisoner lying face down in the grass beside Seth. He spoke gruffly, in a gibberish language none of us could identify.

"Shut up," Seth ordered him, giving him a shove of authority.

Our other prisoner remained quiet as Holly kept him down. He must have been nervous, knowing there was little time left for him to be rescued.

The four of us kept our backs close, surveying the surrounding area in all directions. Holly held her flashlight secure but off. We'd found out earlier in the night having it on when not necessary only attracted the enemy to our exact hideout. Clint had disarmed our prisoners and was keeping their weapons safe. My radio was close at hand ready to call in for engagement confirmation.

Seth looked more intense than anyone. His sweaty hands gripped his gun tightly. While there was only thirty minutes remaining, we all new that meant we were in the greatest amount of danger yet. Our adversary would be making it's final attempt to take out all four stations. We had to survive.

I had begun the night as Delta Camp's Commander. For the most part we'd kept good order with little or no commotion. Still we'd been exceptionally prepared. Hearing the reports coming from the other teams had warned us we were in more danger than we'd anticipated when setting up camp.

We only had one infiltrator. He'd almost caught us off-guard, but fortunately, our gunner, Clay, had been quick on his feet and sharp with his aim. We'd captured him and had him sent to Base Command.

It was nearly 3:00 when my transfer took place. A Bravo team member was being sent off the grounds all together, leaving Bravo with only three rangers. Our Delta team, being the only who hosted five, was ordered a move. Brendan would take over as Commander and I was to wait for one Base Command's vehicles to transport me down the road and across the waters to my new location.

Upon my arrival, I was quite nervous. Previously, I may have been accompanied by two of the youngest members on duty that night, but Brendan and Clay had been mightily skilled and we'd preformed well together at Delta. Bravo welcomed me with two shivering campers next to the fire and the gunner wrapped warmly in a blanket as if ready for a bed time story. They were sitting ducks and I was about to join them.

Luckily things did not remain so dead-beat. I fired up the spirits of my new ranger allies and Holly welcomed me as Co-commander. But things outside of Bravo were darkening.

"Alpha has been compromised," came a voice over the radio. "It's a mess out here. They're down. The camp is down."

Fear shot through me. Holly, Clint, Seth and I passed looks of terror and confusion. We couldn't figure out what it meant. They'd been... compromised? What did it mean? How severe was it actually? How did it happen? There were so many questions being shouted back and forth.

"What's happened to Alpha? What's going on?" Brendan's voice from Delta transmitted the questions the rest of us were afraid to ask.

We all anxiously awaited the reply. Those were our friends, teammates. They were protecting the main entrance to the land. With them gone, anyone could pass in freely!

Static on the radio seized our attention. "You are on a need-to-know basis only," ordered the very strict in tone from Base Command.

The reply had shut out all hopes for an explanation or reassurance that everything was under control. Things were serious, whether we liked it or not, so we knew we had to get serious.

The one-way entrance to Bravo Camp was very much to our advantage. We set up an observation system with Holly and I shining our flashlights directly down the entrance path. Ten meters in front of us off to the side Seth stooped low behind Holly's jeep, gun in hand. The tent, which we'd all accepted would not be used this night, sat behind him with the fire on the other side. Clint was diligently keeping our light and heat source going.

The night was quiet and the chatter on the radios had died down as people had gotten tired and realized the severity of this operation.

It was the firewood delivery that did us in. Our supply running low, we'd called in a request for additional.

"I hope they come soon," Holly told me sitting on the cooler by my side as our flashlights shone brightly ahead. "Then we can relax for a bit."

The headlights from the white diesel truck coming down the lane relieved the four of us. It brought a sense of security to us all to see faces from Base Command to inform us of the status the other camps. Little did we realize we were more at risk then than anytime.

The delivery truck was ready to head out and make rounds to the other sites. Directing the driver's backing-up towards the jeep, I heard distinct movement in the shrubs behind me.

"Holly! Holly, get over here! I heard something... just, just watch my back."

She walked over quickly, but confused. Seth followed her, the gun ready.

"I don't know...," I said. "I think I heard..."

"Aaaah!" came the cry from behind as a heavy hand came down on my shoulder pulling me backward. I felt it more in my gut though as a fear seized me. He'd leaped from behind the jeep before Holly or I could do a thing about it. The split second after he'd done so, another masked man shot out from the shrubs I'd heard the movement in.

Failure consumed me as I realized what had happened. The pace of my heard hadn't slowed. Then we remembered we had Base Command there. The two men had infiltrated our camp, but not defeated it.

Quotes: Love Actually Is...

"General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around." [Love Actually.]

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Quotes: A Thing To Be Killed

"Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed." [Hunter S. Thompson]

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A 2007 Note to the Fam

I wrote this note to the family last fall (2007) but came across it again and wanted to post it here in my blog just for record sake. I still believe in and hold dear every word I wrote.

When it comes to practice and rainy days, we are bound to do one of three workouts: Drills inside, cardio workouts in the gym, or 15 minute interval runs under the canopies in Bellarmine’s quad. Today we did a canopy run.

This run is definitely the most boring workout we ever do considering you can cover the entire quad in a matter of minutes, meaning you have to repeat the same grounds over and over and over. Lucky for me I brought my Ipod to keep me half distracted with my music.

Then, while lost in my own little world, the strangest thing happened. I was suddenly hit with a smell that brought the memory of corn meal mush rushing to my mind. (As said, very random) I have not thought of the stuff in years, let alone eaten it. However, it was always one of my favorites for breakfast—one I rarely ever had.

It was Grandybo who had always fixed the mush, so this immediately made me begin thinking about him. Now, not that I still do not love Grandybo with my entire heart, but he is not someone that comes to my mind on a daily basis. In fact, I am not sure the last time I really thought a whole lot about him, beyond any thoughts in my prayers.

So, for whatever reason, perhaps the good mood I have been in all week, I really began to think about him. I thought about how long ago he had still been with us and how much I have grown up since then. I thought of what he would think of both me and all of my cousins now. We have all grown so much since his time, and I could not help but smile to myself when thinking of how proud of all of us he would be. He would be so proud of all of our successes and the paths we are all on. To tope that off, he would be proud of the fact that through it all we have remained close and true to the family.

It was awhile into these thoughts before it struck me that it was actually right around this time of year when he died. Then, I realized the day’s date and that I was almost positive that October 26 had been the actual date—which was today’s date. What a special feeling. I had not taken a moment to just stop and really think about Grandybo in years, and randomly, out of nowhere during a regular routine day, he pops into my head, and it just so happens to be on the anniversary date of his death. (And I typically do not even think about the actual date of his death until around talking to family and it is brought up.)

I guess he was somewhere tapping me on the shoulder, and should that have been the case, I suppose he was doing so to give me a simple message to tell the rest of my beloved cousins. He’s still with us after thirteen years and more proud of us than ever. He is proud of our accomplishments and what we have done and are doing with our lives. He is also just as proud of his own children for having done all they have to put us on the paths we are now. He is out there, somewhere, so proud of the family he left behind.

And I just want you all to know, that through the craziness and stress of my life that I am typically caught up in—classes, nonstop homework, an internship, track, keeping a social life, running a newspaper, being involved—you, my family, are forever the most important thing in my life. I think it is knowing that I have such a strong foundation to always fall back on that keeps me in the upbeat happy mode that I am nearly always in—even during weeks such as this, when I am bombarded with work, fully aware that there is no end near. I have been asking myself all week, while smiling the whole way to class, why I so easily stay satisfied with life, but it’s obvious that I have no reason to not be forever grateful with everything in my life.

I love you all!