2011: A Love Story

It's the time of year when I look back and reflect on this blog and the life that leads it. It was a slow year for the old weblog -- if you're still reading, you deserve an award or at least a nice paperweight as I only wrote 37 posts for the entire year. Throughout my life, my most prolific times of writing have been during times of angst and unhappiness -- my last year of high school, my first year of working full-time, the year I waited for a person in Iraq. It makes me think that the more full my life is, and the more happy I feel, the less I have to write. Maybe that means I'm saying everything that needs to be said and doing what needs to be done. Or maybe I was just plain busy. Maybe a little of both.

Regardless, 2011 had a clear theme from the start. I went to visit my sister in Boston for New Year's Eve. I arrived just days after a huge blizzard snowed-in airports and cities across New England. Had I arrived a few days earlier, the story might have been very different. But as it happened, I arrived fresh-faced and delay-free in Boston to a winter wonderland after having watched Love Story for the first time on Netflix just a week before. Our first stop after leaving the airport was a snow-covered park with only a rust-red Vizsla bounding through it.

"This looks just like Love Story!" I exclaimed and we quickly made our way to the only attraction of the park: a swingset set against red brick buildings framing a glimpse of "the Prude," as my sister called it. We appealed to the Vizsla's owner to take a photo of us on the swings and the product was immediately posted to Facebook with the caption "Love means never having to say you're sorry."


The new year opened up new possibility and new experiences, the first of which being a major decision to go to college. No matter how many times I've written "go to college," I always have to stop myself from writing "go back to college." It's weird to tell people you never went, let alone got started. College has been an experience, a discovery in which I have realized two things: 1) They were right, college is not like high school. The professors are different, the students are different and the cost of tuition and books makes me wonder how we ever expect anyone to get a college degree. 2) They were wrong, college is like high school. The bureaucracy is the same, the same incredible number of hoops through which a student must jump are the same and the process, to me, feels very much the same.

The one thing I have learned from college as a whole is a better understanding of myself and others. It falls under the category of "emotional intelligence," something that has been my blind spot for years. I didn't expect to learn how to be more understanding or more honest with myself and others. I didn't think that you could teach someone how to be more forgiving, or to consider all perspectives, or to be more patient. But you can. I feel happier, stronger and altogether more content with my increased emotional IQ and I work every day to improve it.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention at this point that college also led me to another love story. That one is about meeting a guy who doesn't like the Internet but loves helping people when they need it the most and how that led to helping a long list of people, including making five little kids' Christmas a lot brighter. I think we'll find a lot more people to help at some point or another.

Then there were the speaking engagements. I spoke to Evan Smith's LBJ school class about being a citizen in a journalist's world. I moderated an interview with Senator Kirk Watson. I delivered speeches and trainings about Democratic politics to groups across the state: McAllen, Austin (x3), San Marcos and Dallas. I delivered a presentation on the effects of social media on the pet industry in Atlanta and gave a pretty awesome email marketing presentation at Innotech eMarketing Summit. And you know what? I loved every second of it all.


The final major love story of my life this year came in the form of a building. Specifically, a building at the corner of 7th Street and Brazos in downtown Austin. After nearly 6 years of driving over 60 miles a day to and from work, and nearly 10 years if you count the 4 years I worked at the stables off of Hamilton Pool Road, I now have a short, chauffeured 1.8 mile drive to and from work every day. I'm a big believer in real estate as a window to one's soul and I have to say that my office location finally represents how I feel about my career: taking risks, making sound decisions, forging ahead when there is uncertainty and knowing that the investment is always worth it.

I have no complaints about 2011. I feel sated.

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Aaron Pena's Hobby Lobby

Rick Perry's newest Presidential ad -- sans Carhartt -- shows our Governor gleefully discussing one of his favorite topics. No, not mandated transvaginal sonograms. The other one, y'all.



That's right: corrupt politicians. More specifically, legislators who turn into lobbyists. Po-tay-to, po-tah-toe. Frankly, I'm surprised Perry hasn't brought this up before. There are so many of them in the Texas Capitol that they should rename the Cloakroom the Revolving Door.

But I'm truly grateful that Perry did take time out of his busy downhill campaign to talk about this because I have grown increasingly concerned about one former Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Coward, Aaron Pena, who has been saying to practically everyone but Santa Claus how poor his time in office has made him, as if we owe him something. So I guess Pena got into politics for all the right reasons. Fame and fortune and whatnot.

Now, in light of Perry's latest ad, it seems to me that Pena's in a little bit of a bind. The Messiah of Texas Republican Politics has stuffed his own mandate up the hoo-hahs of retiring Texas legislators like Pena who might be looking to add "lobbyist" to their LinkedIn profiles.

Speaking for the professional left (read: those who, unlike Aaron Pena, have not been paid $7200 a year by the state of Texas to be a Democrat), I'd like to issue my former blog buddy a challenge:

I want Aaron Pena to vow to not enter the revolving door of lobbying now that he is no longer running for office.

It shouldn't be that hard, after all. I'm sure Pena has lots of friends down there in Edinburg who would love to hire a disloyal, weak and easily swayed former Legislator.

Go get 'em, tiger.
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Devotional

As a member of the Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Austin, a few weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in writing a devotional as part of their 2011 Advent Devotional. This was a new exercise for me, but writing for an audience has always been something I enjoy doing, so I forged ahead. My assigned advent date was today, December 2nd, so I thought I would share it on my blog as well. Whether you are a religious person or not, I hope you can find something meaningful in the words. For Democrats wondering why their many prayers of forward progress often go unanswered in this state, perhaps it will help to remember that the important part is we seek progress.

Texts for Friday December 2
Morning: Ps. 102, 148
Evening: Ps. 130, 16
Amos 5:1–17
Jude 1–16
Matt. 22:1–14

Reflection:

Amos 5:1–17

“Seek Me and live”

What does it mean “to seek?” We’re all seeking something: a job, a partner, happiness. But it’s a funny little word, “seek.” Visually and audibly, it likens itself to a cousin of “see,” as if the “k” on the end simply obscures what you’re looking for. And it’s true that at first glance, “to seek” might imply that one is looking for something with the intention of finding it. But “to seek,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, has much more subtle definitions: to resort to, to try to, to ask for, to make an attempt.

How often do we seek something and become discouraged with the lack of progress or frustrated with the answer we find? How often do we bemoan that we sought a goal or a conclusion only to find that it escaped us? How many millions wonder why, no matter how much we seek God, He doesn’t appear?

To seek God, we must seek the whole of what it is that God stands for: justice, peace, love, forgiveness, understanding. But why, with all of this seeking going on, are we still unable to achieve harmony between nations? Why do we still struggle to grant forgiveness to society's worst offenders? Why do we still persecute or banish those who we don't understand?

After all, we are seeking something, which is so very close to seeing something -- so why haven’t we seen it yet?

Therein lies the struggle with that unassuming little verb “to seek.” For we are made no promises by God that in order to live we must see anything. We are are pardoned of finding, or knowing, or achieving or owning. To live we must first make an attempt. We must resort. We must try. We must ask. In order to live, we simply must seek.

Seek good and not evil,
That you may live.
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