Thursday, October 4, 2012

I remember with distinct certainty the worst birthday of my entire life. It was 2009, and I was in school at Auburn.  I was on the way home from school on the Tiger Transit, when my Mom called me in tears.  She told me that our family friend, Todd, was not expected to make it much longer.  Todd was diagnosed a few months previously with a rare disease called amyloidosis, which I have since learned is an abnormal protein that can deposit itself in various organs of the body.  I remember trying to hold back the tears running down my face on the bus.  I was in utter shock and disbelief.  I told a friend of mine not long ago that the last time I can remember ugly crying was on that day.  Todd Hawthorne was a special man to many. He was the President of the Athletic Club...a husband to a beautiful wife and a father to two sweet daughters...a friend...a leader in our community.  More than anything, though, I could see how much respect my Dad had for Todd.  My Dad always told me, "If I had to pick two men to say were my best friends and would never let me down, I'd say Allen Weeks and Todd Hawthorne".  We all thought so highly of Todd, and he always seemed to have a genuine interest in the things going on in our lives.  He was also one of the most hard working men I've ever known.  He poured hours upon hours into the atheltic programs at our high school, often working multiple nights a week in the concession stand and traveling to the away games to show his support before he was diagnosed.  Then, on October 4, 2009, Todd was relieved of his suffering, as amyloidosis took his life.  But...I am certain that Todd is watching down on all of us now, he's probably up there bringing smiles to the faces of others, just as he did while he was here. Todd was a big Alabama fan, and the next January, as Alabama won the national championship, I remember thinking to myself that a little piece of that had to be Todd up there, willing Bama to victory. 

I often find myself asking why bad things happen to good people.  What is the incentive to be up, if life is just going to make every attempt to knock you down? I like to think that God chooses His very best to be examples to others.  He picks the influential people...the people He knows will take this burden and use it for the greater good.  If Todd has taught me anything, it is to take life by the horns.  Live every day like it's your last. Appreciate the time you have here.  Love on the people you care about. Live life with no regrets over things you should have done.  And about all, be a good person and everything else will fall into place. We love you Todd.  We miss you...and we can't wait to see you again someday. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy Girls...

"I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls."  -Audrey Hepburn

I've probably heard that quote hundreds of times in my life, but I happened upon it today and really thought about what it means to me.  If happy girls are indeed the prettiest girls, I feel like I must be radiant...and not because of anything I have done, but because of how incredibly blessed I am.  I can't think of a single time in my life that I have been so content and happy with where I am...and who wouldn't be? I get to wake up every morning and go do something that I love...something that I am passionate about.  People trust me with their personal lives, with their well-being.  They believe that, somehow, I can be of help to them..and some days, I actually feel like I can.  Some days I feel like I'm going to make a decent doctor.  I feel like I'm learning more every day than I have ever learned in my life...not only about medicine, but about myself.  I've found that I love working with teenagers.  They are at such a vulnerable age.  All adolescents need positive role models...they need someone they can talk to, someone they can trust.  Sure, they can be stubborn, but they also need someone to break through the barriers that they put up.  They need someone to help them figure out their place in the world.  I can foresee working with teenagers as a huge part of my future in medicine.

Not only am I blessed with a future career that I adore, but I've also got some pretty amazing people in my life.  Of course, as is evidenced by my previous blogs, I have the best family a girl could ask for...but I also have the best friends.  I'm so glad I'm at a place in my life where I can still spend time with them on weekends...and random weeknights on the phone gossiping for hours.  We make time for each other, we roadtrip to see each other, we pray for each other, and I know that they are there for me anytime of the day or night.  They tell me things I don't want to hear, but need to hear.  They are patient with me when I make the same mistakes over...and over...and over.  I pity girls who don't have that, and I am thankful to have been blessed with such amazing friends in my life.

When I look back at my life one year ago, I was in a bad place.  I wasn't a very happy girl.  I was complacent and satisfied with the status quo. I had so many stresses in my life that I didn't even know who I was anymore.  One of my all-time favorite quotes is, "You wanna gotta give up the s*** that weighs you down".  No truer words have ever been spoken.  Life naturally gives us enough stress...why should we choose to keep things around that just add insult to injury? I decided awhile back that I wasn't settling in my life.  I have a picture of what I want for my future, and I'm not willing to compromise some of those things...and I'm definitely learning to cut out unneccessary stress.  However, I also believe that the opposite is true...if you find something that makes you happy, hang onto it.  Those concepts seem so simple, yet living them out can be so hard.  I encourage you to try might be a little more satisfied with what you see when you look in the mirror. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Twenty Six Years

On March 22, 1986, two high school sweethearts said their vows and tied the knot. They were young. They had no money, and lots of people thought they would never make it. Twenty-six years later, I am blessed to say they have proven those people wrong. Those high school sweethearts were my parents, and they are celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary tomorrow. Since that day in 1986, my parents have gone to college, established careers, raised three wonderful daughters (if I do say so, myself), and given so much to our community. I am beyond blessed to be able to call them my parents.

My Mom and Dad are true examples of people who started with nearly nothing and worked hard for everything they have. When I was first born, my Dad was going to college, working full time, and helping my Mom raise me. He told me he can remember days when he would be on the way home from Troy and would not even have enough change in the cupholder to buy a drink at the store. Sometimes when I start to complain about how hard I'm having to work in medical school, I think about that story. Yes, medical school is hard, and I am working harder than I have ever had to work in my life, but I never have to worry about not having enough money to meet my basic needs. My mom is equally hard-working. She works full time, keeps our house spotless, does all the laundry, and helps take her of her parents. I don't know how she has enough hours in the day to do everything she does. I can only hope that one day I can have the same work ethic as my parents.

For as long as I can remember, my house has been like a Kinston version of Grand Central Station. As a family, we are blessed with so many close friends, and it has always been our philosophy that we should make everyone feel like our home is their home. In high school, my parents opened our home to all my friends. It was always buzzing with commotion as we got ready for Friday night football games, volleyball games, and Homecoming dances. My Mom always had snacks waiting on us, and we always had room for one more at the dinner table. When softball season rolled around, the entire softball team was adopted as family. We celebrated wins at our house, strategized after losses, and cried over season ending injuries. There are just no words to explain how accepting, generous, and caring my parents have been throughout the years. Even today, at twenty-five years old, I know without a doubt that anytime I need to go home, my parents will be there with open arms.

I can honestly say I can't remember one important event in my life that my parents have missed. One of them has been at every volleyball game, softball game, cheerleading event, Prom, honors banquet, athletic banquet, school play, church play, the list goes on and on...and on. The older I get, the more I see how much my parents truly sacrifice for us. My Dad always jokes that if he didn't have all three of us, he would definitely have enough money for a house at the beach. While that may be true, I know they would not have it any other way. We are the apples of our parents eye. We will always be their little girls, no matter how old we get.

Sometimes I honestly worry that when I grow up and have my own family one day, there will be no way my "grown-up" family can compare to my "growing up" family. I guess it's hard for me to understand how it really could ever get any better. I worry that I won't raise my children the right way, or that my family won't be as close. However, I have faith that God has someone incredible in store for me. He is going to see to it that I have an equally awesome family, and a marriage as solid as my parents'.

My family is my rock. I would never be able to get through the struggles of life without them...and the foundation of my family is my parents. I don't thank God enough for them. Bethany, Baylee, and I are truly blessed. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you both so very much!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fight On

So often in high school we would be sitting in class when we would hear the "long bell", signifying that we were under a tornado warning and should take cover in the hallway. I remember getting in trouble because we would be sitting up or giggling instead of assuming the fetal position with our hands covering our heads. I remember us always thinking how silly it was that we were out there, but glad to have this excuse to get out of class. Now my thoughts flash to April 27th, 2011, when so many people were in that same position, fervent in prayer for their lives to be spared. I am not one to be afraid of bad weather. We get so desensitized to the sound of tornado sirens, as they are required to go off when there is even the slightest chance one might be headed for us. Wednesday was a different story.

Bethany called me at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning to tell me their tornado sirens were going off in Tuscaloosa. After I was awake, I realized ours were, too. Little did I know, that would not be the last time I would hear from them that day. After class, I came home to study and turned the TV to The Weather Channel to keep up with the storm that was headed our way. About 3:30 Bethany and I were facebook chatting when she told me they were beating on their dorm doors to get downstairs into the hallway. She said she would text me in a little while, and told me she loved me. I was texting her and keeping her updated on all the tornado warnings in Tuscaloosa. As one would expire, another would come into effect. One warned that a large tornado would be in Tuscaloosa about 4:45. I told her it would surely break up before then, or go back into the sky. There was certainly no way that a tornado would still be on the ground in over an hour...was I ever wrong. About 4:40, I got a text from Beth that said, "It's headed straight for us. Just please please pray for me." Then the meteorologist on TV said they had confirmed a violent tornado on the ground in Tuscaloosa. Nausea suddenly swept over me. I tried to call Beth, but no answer. I text her, no answer. I was literally in a full-fledged panic attack. I kept thinking that this seemed like something that would happen in a movie, not in my real life.

My parents called to tell me the bad weather would be to us soon, so Tate, Britney, and I decided to go to the clubhouse here at our apartment complex, since we live on the 3rd floor. Everyone in there was cutting up and watching TV, but I was a nervous wreck. I called everyone in my phone who lives in Tuscaloosa, knew someone who lived in Tuscaloosa, or who had ever even heard of Tuscaloosa. I was trying to find any way that I might be able to know that Bethany was okay. I felt a little better after a friend of mine told me that it had definitely gone south of the university, but you know how it is. I would not feel at ease until I heard from her that she was okay. Over an hour went by. I was pacing back and forth outside the clubhouse, even though my friends kept telling me to come back inside. Finally my phone rang, and it was my Dad. He said that Bethany had finally gotten a call out and that she was okay. I immediately broke down, and I could tell that my Dad was choked up too. There was an unexplainable wave of relief that came over me. I finally put it into words to my Dad that even though I know Bethany is a big girl now, all I could think about was my baby sister all by herself in that hallway in one there to protect one to tell her it was going to be okay...scared...and vulnerable. I just wanted to be able to hug her...which is the first thing I did when I finally got to see her yesterday.

I realize, however, there are some people who will never get that chance to hug their child...their brother...their sister...mother...father...friend...and tell them they are so glad they are okay. My heart is broken for the people who lost loved ones in this storm. The nauseous feeling I had for that hour is inevitably still with those people. My heart aches for the people who have loved ones missing. That must be the worst feeling of all right now. I have asked several of my a parent, when do you give up hope that your child might be alive? How do you cope with the thought that they might still be alive somewhere, but trapped? I still cannot wrap my head around what has happened. It just seems like a bad dream.

My heart is also broken for the city of Tuscaloosa. Even though I am a die-hard Auburn fan...I have a very special place in my heart for Tuscaloosa. I spent countless weekends there during my college career. I moved up to T-Town for a summer to take my Organic Chemistry classes. Now, I go there to visit Bethany and Ashton. The memories I have there are of some of the best times of my life. Anna Marshall and I used to cry every single Sunday when we had to leave Tuscaloosa to go back to Troy. I've spent many nights at Harry's Bar and 4th and 23rd before I was old enough to go anywhere else. I have had a table full of drinks spilled on me at Innisfree... sat outside on 8th street watching Holt do the Dougie...eaten 100 lunches with Rachel at Crimson Cafe...spent $5 on beer with Destin at the Houndstooth...studied for hours in Rodgers Library... sat in the rain and cold for baseball games at the Joe...watched as Tyler Spears got escorted from a football game for throwing an entire cup of Evan Williams green label and Coke across the student section...had countless nights at 509 18th street...held it down with Moose, Maggie, and Jim at the Wickford...put on for my city with Courtney Bryant...been a poor bastard with Jeb and Napps. I've eaten at least a thousand times at City Cafe and Taco Casa, my two absolute favorites. I remember singing El Camino with TI, Katie, and Anna as we made late night trips to Taco Bell...watching every single Braves game at Clay and Calebs...Mexican nights at El Rincon...heart-to-hearts with Zach Kelley in the swing at 509. Although most of these places were spared by the tornado, these places and memories stand for what Tuscaloosa, Alabama is to me. It is a place rich in tradition...a place filled with is truly a city that, once you have experienced it, will always be a part of you. I know, through the help of thousands of volunteers, lots of prayer, and the relentlessness of its people, Tuscaloosa will soon be back on its feet. "For Bama's pluck and grit has writ her name in crimson flame...fight on, fight on, fight on men" God Bless Tuscaloosa.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

VIP #4 Court

Last year I started a series of blogs about the most important people in my life. They featured my best friend from high school, Tiffany; my Dad; and my Troy roomie, Ashley. I figured now was as good a time as any to add the next person to my VIP list. Courtney Bryant and I met during Rush at Troy. We, along with 2 other girls, were inseperable during Rush. Although the other 2 decided on KD (Love you, Tara), Courtney and I were die hard Phi Mu girls. We wound up in the same pledge class, and the rest is history. We spent a good part of our freshman year at swaps, socials, and fraternity parties. We had lots of late nights/early mornings at the Sigma Chi house, the Front Porch, and the Waffle House, the only place in Troy that is open past midnight. We stayed out too late and then dragged ourselves to class with no shower. We pre-gamed for football games, baseball games, date parties, and formals. We pigged out when Court's mom or Dad would come cook for us. We took many trips to Tuscaloosa (even when we forgot important things, such as IDs, in Troy...ahem).

We spent an eventful Spring Break together where there were lots of awkward seagulls, rotations, and Dirty Sexxy Mondays...not to mention plenty of summer denim to last us a lifetime.

When we graduated from Troy, leaving Court and my other close friends behind was one of the hardest parts. It's just not that often that friends come into your life that you feel like you've known forever and you could never imagine your life without. Those are the kind of friends who you can go a month without talking to...and then call and never miss a beat. They are the kind of friends who tell you what you need to hear, even when it may not be what you want to hear. You trust their advice because you know that they always have your best interest at heart. These are the friends you can talk to via facebook chat when you are sitting in class bored senseless...and the kind of friend you can text random song lyrics to, because you know they know what line comes next. They are also the kind of friends you can depend on to be there for you when life deals you a hand you never thought you'd be equipped to deal with. Court, you are one of the most amazing women I know. I will be forever grateful for God blessing me with our friendship. I love you :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

No one ever said it was going to be easy...

This is the week that never ends. I feel like Monday was months ago. I know that part of it is the fact that Spring Break starts Friday...9 whole days without having to worry about pulmonary function tests, interstital lung disease, ICM quizzes, CSTA meetings, etc., etc., etc. I'm excited about spending a week at the beach with my family and some of my best friends. I plan on lots of tanning, shopping, seafood, and catching up on sleep and gossip. That is, if Friday will ever get here.

This week has been one of the most taxing I have had in a long time...physically, mentally, emotionally. My brain hates me for cramming so much information into it. My thighs hate me because I haven't been to the gym all week. My kidneys hate me for the fact that I am currently keeping Diet Coke in business. I have been coughing my head off all week; a sure sign that my immune system is preparing for epic failure. I am trying to talk it into not bailing on me for at least 2 more days. I am mentally spent, too. I couldn't tell you a lung from a heart right now, but I'm hoping that getting some sleep is going to help me sort out all the million details in my head.

On top of all this other business, earlier this week there was an emotional day for me. I found out that a very sweet girl I know passed away in a car accident, along with her 15 month old little boy. Brittany Shepard was a beautiful person on the inside and out. She was a model Christian, an elementary school teacher, pageant queen, and a fantastic mother. I cannot imagine what her family must be going through right now, but they are most definitely in my prayers, and I ask that you keep them in yours as well.

Life is so precious, and we are never promised tomorrow. Brittany was taken from this earth on a normal Monday afternoon after work. It could have just as easily been me or you. Our lives can change in the blink of an eye, and I feel like sometimes I just walk around in a daze. I feel like it's time for me to start living with a purpose and stop just going through the motions. There are so many things I want to do with my life, and I feel like now is as good a time as any to get soon as I get my Pulmonary final over. I hope you all have a blessed rest of the week. <3

"Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right, forget the ones who don't, and believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it'd be easy....they just promised it'd be worth it."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just Keep Swimming...

I did it! I survived my first semester of medical school. If you can't tell by the lack of blogging I've been able to do, being a future doctor is rather time consuming. There really is no way to describe it to anyone who has never experienced it before. It's above and beyond anything I have ever experienced or could have ever imagined. I have never worked so hard in my life just to stay above water. I'm not going to lie and say there haven't been days...many days...that I have wondered if it was worth it or wanted to just throw in the towel. On those kind of days the two things that keep me going are 1) knowing that it will all pay off one day and 2) the people in my life. My family is supportive, as they have always been. They remind me of my capabilities and reassure me when I stop believing in myself. I have a fantastic, supportive boyfriend who understands that I can't come home every weekend or talk on the phone for hours at night. I have friends who tell me how much they believe in me. All these people love and support me unconditionally, even though they have no idea what I am going through.

There is a subset of people, however, who do know what I am going through. If not for those people, there would be no possible way I could ever make it here. It makes a difference to have someone to complain with, someone to help you when there are so many things you don't understand. They have been there for me to laugh with, cry to, to kick me in the butt when I am slacking, or to tell me to relax when I am on edge. They are also the people I let loose with when the studying is done--whether it is going out to dinner, concerts, sporting events, or just having a lazy movie night. In a way, it's like I have made a sort of family here. Sure, we may be a little dysfunctional, but we truly care about and want the best for one another. I believe with all my heart that these people will be some of my best friends for the rest of my life. I will be eternally thankful for them and all they have done for me <3