Holy Tornado

I like to portray myself as a very strong, brave and stubborn individual, but when it comes to spring in Texas I am the biggest baby in the world. The weather in North Texas is insane, and that’s putting it mildly (unlike its summers). In the winter temperatures drop cool enough to produce snow. In the summer it bakes you like a chocolate chip cookie. Who even knows when fall begins.

The harsh changes in temperatures makes it the perfect breeding grounds for tornadoes. The sky turns into a swampy black color and the clouds droop lower to the ground. The whole experience with a tornado is intense. Last April I went through my first tornado drill, this past Sunday I got to practice again, alone.

I used to sit outside and watch the storms roll in when I lived in Jacksonville, Florida. I would hang out in the garage with my pops and count the number of lightening strikes. It rained everyday in the spring and summer at almost the exact time in the afternoon. I loved it. The thunder and heavy rain could put me to sleep like a baby being rocked.

In Texas I stay huddled under the covers if there is even a slight risk of a storm headed my way. I don’t play with tornadoes. My buddy and meteorologist, Rick Mitchell from NBC5-DFW had told me all week to stay weather aware and I did. My husband was up in Washington State for the weekend and I knew if anything happened I wanted to know about it first. I checked Twitter and kept the news on all day every day.

On Mother’s Day I spent an hour crammed underneath a mattress in my closet with my two pups. The sirens went off as I was digging through old photos. I was sitting on my bedroom floor trying to find the best oldie of my mom to post on Instagram for the holiday. I needed a break from studying and obsessing over the weather.

It’s pretty funny (now) that I spent days paying attention to the weather and nothing severe happened. I took a 15 minutes break to catch my breath and BAM holy tornado. I swear nothing is eerier than sitting around waiting for something to happen while the sirens are going off. It’s the fight or flight response except it gets sawed in half. You have to fight, you can’t run, you just wait.

It took a few seconds for the siren to register as the tornado alarm. I remember thinking, no that has to be an ambulance or firetruck off in the distance. Your brain really does try to protect you from emotional trauma.

A year ago I spent some more quality time with my closet, but last year it had my husband in it with me. I wasn’t upset or afraid. He checked the weather apps while I browsed through Twitter, both trying to get more information on where the tornado/funnel cloud/storm was headed. I wasn’t bawling my eyes out. I was just there and kind of numb.

This year I was alone. After I realized my brain wasn’t playing tricks on me I dashed towards my closet. I had made it a bunker the night before in preparation for Saturday night’s weather that would continue into Sunday.

One dog followed me straight into the closet. She was watching me like we were playing a new game. The other dog went under the bed and I couldn’t convince her to come out by cooing her name or bribing her with treats. I had to get underneath the bed and drag her to the closet. It’s a pretty crappy feeling when you have to drag anything anywhere.

I wrangled all of us into our makeshift bunker within a matter of two minutes. The heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. Have you ever felt so terrified that you thought you were going to puke? I thought haven been through one tornado last year I’d feel some kind of confidence. NOPE. After 15 minutes passed trying to convince my dogs we were going to be okay, I sent out text messages.

“Sirens going off”

My husband had no signal and my mother was at work, but hallelujah my in-laws called me immediately. My mother-in-law asked about school and finals to help distract me from my current situation. My father-in-law searched online for updates on the storm. They couldn’t be in the closet next to me but having them through the phone was more than enough. I wasn’t alone.

It’s funny, I want to be strong, tough and handle things on my own 24/7. My first thoughts after I was situated was MOMMY! Ironic this happened on Mother’s Day, no? I don’t care how old you are, you are never to old to still want your mom and if you’re lucky enough, after you get married you get another one. Thank God for Moms. Happy belated Mother’s Day!

The Denton Tornado

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Homecoming

I want to throw it back to five years ago when my husband and I experienced our first homecoming together. I’ve rewritten the first few paragraphs of an introduction over an over again never satisfied with how my words sounded on paper. Instead I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves, after all a photo speaks more than 1,000 words.

All you need to know is this:

  1. Matt was in the Navy
  2. I had been living in Florida
  3. It had been 8 months since I’d seen him in the flesh
  4. He had been on deployment for almost 7 months
  5. I was worried about seeing him again for the first time in what felt like ages
  6. His father and uncle also were there to welcome him home

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It was a hot day in Virginia Beach near the end of June. Thousands of eager families crowded around pier 11 hoping to spot their sailors. Each seamen was dressed in their Navy dress whites making the search a grown up version of Where’s Waldo.

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Finally after hours of sharing the sweat being passed between the shoulders of fellow families waiting. We could see the Dwight D. Eisenhower pulling into the bay.

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I stood on my tippy toes waiting to see if I could find Matt first. The sun was hot; beating down on my back and burning the soles of my flats to my feet.

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I was nervous and unsure if I should be there. It had been a bumpy ride to get where I (we) was at and not knowing how everything was going to unfold was worrisome. This can either go really bad and awkward or overwhelmingly wonderful.

After what felt like hours, Matt’s father finally spot Matt in the sea of sailors trying to find their loved ones for the long awaited hug. All of a sudden the past 8 months had flown by and now I was about to see him again. My stomach dropped to my knees.

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As soon as I was able to touch him all those worries went away. It was the best hug I had ever received and still stands as number one to this day.

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It was an overwhelming feeling to finally be able to see him face to face. It was as if nothing had changed. He was a tad bit skinner and a heck of a lot whiter, but he was still my Matt.

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And they lived happily ever after.

The End.

Coming Home

Vacation is officially over, I was back on the road again and how depressing it was. I didn’t want to leave, man oh man I didn’t want to leave, but as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end, one way or another.

Hotel Livin'
Hotel Livin’
Hanging out in our big bed not wanting to leave
Hanging out in our big bed not wanting to leave
She's a person, I swear
She’s a person, I swear

So we packed up our belongings, sadly crammed them into the car, fed the puppies and let them wander around one last time in the patch of grass behind the hotel. We got our complementary breakfast one last time, omelets from the omelet man, and headed off to tackle the 11 hour drive we had ahead of us.

I took a few last gasps of Colorado mountain air and snapped a few desperate photos of the mountains, merely to symbolize our last morning with the mountains on our side.

A very sad morning indeed, not just because the trip was over, but because I would no longer be able to wake up next to my husband and share a cup coffee with breakfast including him. Since the day we met our schedules have been opposite, so the few times in our relationship where we can start and finish the day together are important.

I’m not sure why I thought this drive was only 9 hours, maybe because that’s how long it took to get to Florida from Virginia, but this trip was definitely almost 11 hours, my poor puppies and numb rump.

The first 5 hours of the trip were easy, we passed the time with two favorite car games, one being The Animal game – my personal favorite and the other, The Alphabet game – Matt’s personal favorite.

The Animal Game is easy, and can be played in line at theme parks or 11 hour car drives. You start with ‘A’ and name as many animals starting with the letter ‘A’ and you continue throughout the alphabet all the way to ‘Z.’ When somebody is out of animals (usually if only two people are playing) the other person has to name one more animal with that letter to win the letter, the loser has to start off the next letter. If you have more people in the group, the harder it is and instead of having to win the round the loser is out, until a winner is left.

The Alphabet Game is eerily best played with two people. One person starts at the beginning of the Alphabet and the other at the end. Using each letter to find a word, outside of the car beginning with their letter, whoever gets to the other end first wins, and as beginners luck has it, I won.

We finally hit Texas a bit after our games ended, and I was surprised to find myself excited to see this flat dry and dead hunk of lump state. A little more than 5 hours to go until home, hallelujah.

Hello, Texas ...
Hello, Texas …
They're so cute sometimes :] but obviously, over the trip
They’re so cute sometimes :] but obviously, over the trip

As we got closer, about 10 minutes from the house, we encountered the insufferable road blockage due to construction,. This lead us on a detour in the opposite direction we were trying to head towards and cut us through the little town of Krum, adding an extra 15 minutes to our arrival, woof.

Coming home is always a nice breathe of fresh air, especially when the house is already clean. Home safe and sound and already planning our next adventure. Until next time, stay weird Texas.

My First Agency Tour

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Photo Cred: Awo Eni

Today PRSSA and myself got the unique chance to tour the Weber Shandwick office in downtown Dallas, inside the Comerica Bank Tower. The PR firm represents over 3,000 companies and have multiple offices in 80 countries, including the United States, London and Middle East. In regards to the work they do, they are a little more corporate and little more traditional.

After climbing to the 16th floor, we entered a lobby that had double glass doors on opposite sides, upon entering the bunch of us were shuffled into a magnificent conference room with a gorgeous view of downtown Dallas.

We got a run down of the afternoons schedule from Senior Vice President Tracy Donalson and then dove into specifics about the firm and its daily routines from Neil Nowlin, executive vice president and general manager of Weber and Shandwick. Lesson one, it’s never routine in their offices.

While listening to Mr. Nowlin talk, these are a few of the things we all took away from his speech:

  1. Take the initiative in all aspects of the job.
  2. Alway bring a positive attitude into work, a bad attitude is just as contagious as a good one.
  3. Be willing to do anything, don’t be that guy who walks in to an interview with stipulations and a chip on your shoulder. If they want you in a hotdog suit, waving at potential consumers, JUST DO IT.
  4. If you haven’t had a lot of experience thus far, think about what you can do. For example, can you take on a leader ship role in a club at school? Have you volunteered in your community or tried to work for a nonprofit? Is there a political campaign you can volunteer with?
  5. Practice your writing skills! The PR world needs strong writers, have you mastered the art of writing persuasively?
  6. NO RÉSUMÉ ERRORS!!!
  7. When submitting résumés make yours stand out, one guy sent his on top of a cake!

Then, we got to hear from staff who worked in the technology department, graphic design and videography department and most importantly, from the people who manage the interns they have quarterly each year, about six to seven in each batch. So if you are looking for something in the agency life, check out the opportunities here.

I also hear Senior Art Director Matthew Weir is always looking for a graphic design intern, and he hears The University of North Texas has one of the best programs around, so tell your friends.

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Gazing at the social media hub Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
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The Weber Shandwick break room. What a view! Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
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Another great view from their office windows. Photo Cred: Shannon Randol

Why Not Me?

About two weeks ago I got word I could be graduating early, YAY! The only stipulation was I needed to find another internship for the summer months. If I was unable to obtain one by registration in April, then I would have to ask the Dean for a special permission project – kind of like a graduate class, where you pick what you want to research and set up deadlines with a professor.

In a matter of five minutes, my entire world as I knew it, changed. I went from nonchalantly making my way through college, to having a fire light beneath me putting my butt in high gear, kind of like a dog chasing its tail. “OH MY GOD, I AM GOING TO FINALLY GRADUATE!” I screamed it to myself, to my husband and to my friends and family.

After the excitement settled, a wave of anxiety washed over me. “Wait, now I have to find a real job? How in the flip am I going to do that?” Almost immediately I thought I could puke on the spot. It was a feeling I wanted for so long, but I had’t thought far enough head, the moments after the light in the tunnel, I just saw the light and was happy with getting closer to that. So now what?!

The day after I realized I could graduate early, I signed up for PRSSA – Public Relations Student Society of America and started to attend the meetings that invites professionals to guest speaker. Real people in the real world. Rubbing elbows and putting myself out there, was something I hadn’t wanted to do in the year and half I was enrolled at the University of North Texas, because ever since I moved here I buried myself into a cocoon and it was nice and cozy in there.

In the meetings I would walk up to the professionals, shake their hand and introduce myself, a scary irrational fear I had, what if they laugh or blow me off? I went on agency tours with PRSSA to organizations and did the same thing. In those moments I was brave, even if I didn’t think I could be. Stepping out made me realize something.

I could do this, why not me?

A chant I have been telling myself the past month. A similar mantra the 12-man chanted in the stands while watching their beloved Seattle Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl, twice. Why not me.

I have an interview this Friday with an organization I hope to be a part of, The American Red Cross of the North Texas Region. I would be tasked with writing blogs and other content for them, as well as engaging with the social media giant it houses. I couldn’t be any more excited for this opportunity.

I also signed up for a student media tour in Frisco, near the end of the month. An all day event lasting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I can’t wait to put on my Sunday best and hand out my resumes. I will be meeting with professionals from i Heart Radio, The Dallas Stars ( hockey team), the Rough Riders ( minor league baseball team) and many more. An opportunity I can’t pass up on because of my own personal fears, it’s illogical.

That little voice of doubt and fear I have carried with me for most of my life is finally being quieted. I can do this, I want a job and I will get one. I won’t settle for anything less. Why not me?

I have always been a driven, motivated and hardworking being, in everything I have tried to accomplish. I just lost sight of who I actually was, I needed a reminder.

There are so many things I want to do in this life and I finally have grown the right mindset to achieve them. I will not allow myself to hold back, it is no longer an option, I will be graduating in May and I will get a job doing what I enjoy, I won’t settle for anything less, and neither should you.

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Deaf Coffee Chat

It’s called a comfort zone for a reason, it’s nice and cozy and familiar. There are hardly any expectations or anything out of the ordinary. You don’t get your feet wet in anything new, and there isn’t a reason to fret about going there, it’s like home.

In Texas, colleges require students to take a language. After having to take Spanish for four years, I couldn’t redo the first two years, again. The University of North Texas offers American Sign Language, and I chose to take that instead.

Every third Saturday of the month, a group of people get together at a coffee shop, Zera’s. It’s a local hang out in Denton that makes a pretty good cup of joe, without the hefty price tag. It has couches, mismatched chairs and tables, with odds and ends hung up on the walls.

It is a dimly lit coffee-house, but an interesting one none the less. It felt like I as hanging out in a friends basement. The kind where all the old furniture gets thrown in to and forgotten. The walls are dark but it feels cozy. I guess you would say this place was ‘hipster central.’

Anyways, my ASL professor offers extra credit to any student who shows up, one point for every hour. Doesn’t seem worth it, but after missing a few key points last test, a couple extra points sounds pretty good, plus, who doesn’t like coffee?

As Saturday approached, I began to name everything under the sun as why I shouldn’t go, or why a couple extra points wasn’t really worth three to four hours of my time. It was nearing the time I would have to leave when my hubby bribed me into going. Promising me a surprise for going and that I needed to provide proof. The stipulation was that I had to stay at least for one hour.

I’ve grown to be so socially awkward my own husband has to bribe me into doing social things, woof.

As I pulled into the parking lot, the nasty knot in my stomach began to tighten and the want to drive home was greater than the want for extra credit. I circled the lot twice, not able to find a parking space. It must be the parking Gods telling me, “go home.” Before I could even finish the thought, the red truck I had passed twice was pulling out, dammit.

As I walked through its doors and checked out my surroundings, I had never wanted to run so badly. There were over 30-something people signing to each other, the only noises being those coming from the baristas making coffee.

I was definitely out of my element, I was in a place that I have never visited, and everybody was conversing in another language, somewhat foreign to me. It had been the first time I’d seen ASL outside of the classroom. The conversations were much quicker and weren’t repeated twice, the courtesy my ASL professor gives us.

After I ordered my coffee I wandered over to a corner filled with handmade goods. Something most local businesses do in Denton, and I pretended to look through the stuff that I probably never buy, to pass time. I had no idea what I was going to do after browsing.

Thankfully, I noticed a few girls from my morning class and went in their direction to see if they recognized me. Gratefully, they did. After we signed in to gain extra credit, we huddled near a fake wall Zera’s had put up, for a wedding reception. We listened to the wedding party speeches instead of mingling with other students, and other deaf people.

An hour was going to be painstakingly achieved at this rate. I felt like a creep watching other groups sign to each other, like I was eavesdropping on their conversations without hiding it. I was that creeper staring!

I was terrified to start any conversations with anyone who was deaf and wanted to ask me anything else besides, what is your name? My professor, Dori Reeves, probably sensed this because she came over asking us ‘what up.’ All I could do was shake my head. In a matter of an hour, I had forgotten everything I had learned in almost a year, insane.

She started to sign to me, I imagine to make me feel comfortable with my signing. Then, she tried to introduce me to a couple of guys, she asked them what the sign for ‘Mormon’ was and told me to introduce myself to them. I nervously shaped my fingers into letters to form my name and said ‘bye’ almost immediately after.

Before I knew it, a few other people, both deaf, started a conversation with me. I almost ran.

Two hours later I made a few friends I’d be happy to see next month. It was awesome. I came home telling the Hubs all about it. I did mention I messed up a few signs, when signing ‘it was nice to meet you,’ I accidentally signed ‘it was nice to date you.” Everybody had a good laugh and I did too.

I had a great time, stayed for over thee hours and can’t wait to go again. It’s nice to go out on a limb every once in a while. It was nice to use something I learned in real-time. We should all remember to step put of our boxes every once in a while.

If you’re reading from North Texas tonight, stay warm and safe. You guys can’t drive in snow or ice! ;]

The V.A. Hospital is a Joke

Dear Mr. President & South Dallas V.A. Hospital Director,

The Veterans Affairs Hospital in South Dallas is the most atrocious building, company and hospital I’ve ever had to set foot in. The receptionists you employ to handle the front face of your organization are horrible, rude and miserable human beings. I hope that with this letter, it challenges you to take a closer look into how the people who selflessly fought for this country, are being treated with such a lack of respect, a dog wouldn’t bother its time.

On February 6, my husband and I spent almost six-god-forsaken-hours at your E.R. not counting the two hours it took to drive both ways. He didn’t even get to see a doctor. A total of 10 hours wasted at the hands of your entire staff. Tell me, how would that make you feel? Do you remember what it feels like to be treated like a peon?

The whole fiasco started a week ago, when my husband injured something near his groin area. After two days without a change in the swelling or pain, that Wednesday morning he called his primary doctors office in Denton, another V.A. clinic, to schedule an appointment. That receptionist took down his information and promised a phone call by the end of the day.

No such call came, instead an explanation that appointments could be made after business hours, implying my husband needed to practice patience. So he did, for three more days until on Friday when he left work early to sit in their offices until they had to see him. It’s hard to promise a phone call to someone when they are standing in front of you.

His primary doctor explained that he wasn’t sure what was causing the inflammation but that if it were him, he’d make a trip down to the V.A. hospital in South Dallas. A urology appointment could take at least a month, and with it being so close to the family jewels, it was in his best interests to make sure nothing major was wrong.

So here we are, still waiting, staring at this faux wood walls waiting to hear his name called. So that he can vanish behind the mysterious doors that are so damn hard to get through. Where nobody knows how to get in, but plenty have made it through, just not my husband.

A women at the from desk, rudely waves off my husband at the four hour mark, when he questioned if his name had already been called. “You’re still waiting for a bed.” She couldn’t even remove her eyes from the computer screen to give him the shitty news. Where did these people, if they can even be called that, get their people skills? Didn’t they receive any customer service training?

These same employees were chumming it up with their fellow coworkers while texting and browsing around on their phones. A constant show of how much they didn’t care about the people waiting beyond their plastic patrician. What a bunch of disgusting individuals.

But it’s true, isn’t it? They don’t care, because this hospital gives “free” health care to its guests and if you don’t want to receive the free part, you are more than welcome to visit a regular E.R. I heard that solution come from a few of your employees mouths, as a problem solver for other wannabe patients. Is this how you want to be represented?

Two more hours have passed, and this time it’s my turn to do the questioning, women to women. “Hey, I was just wondering if there is any way you could tell me how much longer it’s going to be, we’ve been here almost six hours.”

Without as so much of  glance my way she told me, “he’s still waiting on a bed.” She never even asked about my last name.

“We’ve been here longer than all the people in this waiting room, you can’t give me any information on how much longer it’s going to be, or where he is on the list?”

“No, we have a priority list and that is how we see our patients.”

I had tears in my eyes because of how frustrating it was, words couldn’t describe the feeling, only the sounds of steam coming from my ears and my teeth grinding gave truth to my emotions, furious.

“Well when will my husband be a priority? How much time do we have to pay before he is allowed a doctor?”

I have few suggestions for how to better operate this lack of professional taste and common courtesy company, and it’s to employ people who have a heart. Administer attitude and personality tests, those in the green are only allowed to deal with the public, the rest of your barbarians can work with behind closed doors.

The amount of disrespect shown in such a small space is sickening. I have dealt with the public since I was 15-years-old and I have always treated people the way that I would want to be treated. Communication is what makes all relationships work, and it’s a crying shame the people in charge of this world don’t know that.

It’s a shame our own country can’t protect the same people who fought to protect them. They fulfilled their contract, now fulfill yours. If small business owners ran their businesses the way the government runs theirs, they would be out of business and maybe that’s the solution to the problem.

Get your act together.

Regrettably,

An angry, taxpaying, higher educated, concerned and frustrated wife.

“Shinseki Obama VA hospital”Jeff Koterba May 22, 2014

**Update** A little over a week later the V.A. called my husband asking if he was okay. The hospital called his name at 5 a.m. the next morning (11 hours after we arrived) and he wasn’t there. They were calling to make sure he was still alive …