Tuesday, August 11, 2009

3 Adventurous Years (this is an epic tale)

On August 12th, 2006, I began a lifelong journey with my best friend, Jessica as we exchanged vows and started our marriage. We celebrated our 3 year anniversary yesterday with lots of rest and relaxation but before I get into that, I wanted to take the time to chronicle what all we have done over the course of our first 3 years.

I still wonder sometimes how I got so lucky to marry such an amazing woman. We were initially very cautious when we first started dating. We were both coming out of long relationships but had known each other since 7th grade. We didn't want to ruin our friendship, but we also didn't want to lose a chance at something special. Finally, we made it official, knowing we would end up sticking together forever.

When we got engaged, I was teaching at our alma mater, Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas. Jessica was working at an insurance company as a supervisor, making great money but hating the job and being very unhappy at the end of the day because of it. We talked about her finishing school, which had been something she had wanted to do for a while. I was secretly rooting for her to choose a career in education, and it looks like I may get my wish. :) We knew it would take a lot of work and would be tough with one income for a while, but we made the commitment and decided to take our show on the road to Lubbock, Texas!

I enrolled in a post graduate teacher certification program at Texas Tech that gave graduate hour credits since I was not fully certified yet. Jess enrolled in classes with the Human Sciences department and after some research, decided she would be interested in pursuing the teaching aspect of it in high school. That semester was so much fun. We rented an apartment with our adopted brother, Dwayne and another one of our buddies, Andy. It was funny because it was the same apartment complex that I had lived in my sophomore year. We both got jobs at Blockbuster Video, making barely sufficient money and watching lots of free rentals! During our Lubbock tenure, our good friend Andy was abducted by World of Warcraft, an apparently widely addictive online computer game, and we scarcely saw him the last month. By the end of the semester, I had interviewed at a few schools in Lubbock ISD, but nothing really came to pass, so I started looking back in the metroplex, and we made plans to come back home. Our plan was to buy a house, rent Dwayne a room, and live the American Dream if I could only land a job.

I interviewed at Rowlett High School and accepted a job as a Spanish teacher, which lasted all of 8 days due to certification conflicts with Tech. Region 10 (my teacher prep & certification place) said they would give me a certificate in English, so I decided to go for it. Now all I had to do was find another job, in the middle of January, in the middle of the school year.

Throughout this process, we were living with my grandparents in Oak Cliff. Jess was taking the commuter bus out to UNT for school from downtown Dallas. I would drop her off in the morning, go substitute or whatever I had going on during the unemployment phase, and then pick her up between 4 and 5 in the afternoon. We got to know the downtown McDonald's quite well during this stretch.

The girls' basketball coach at Poteet when we went there was still there my first year teaching but left at the end of the year to take a job at Royse City. As she was on her way out her last day, she told me that if I ever needed a job to give her a call. Royse City had posted a middle school Reading position, and I called her to see if there was anything she could do. We were in Oak Cliff, not anywhere close to Royse City, but a job was a job. I was subbing at a few places, including Royse City when I landed the English job. The head of Human Resources told me that if I "didn't pass the certification test in April, I would not have a job in the fall." No pressure or anything.

We started looking for houses about a month later. We liked the idea of living in Forney, because it was about a half hour from both Royse City and Dallas. All the while we were looking, I was studying my butt off for my certification tests. One of the best weeks of my life was the second week of May in 2007. I got my test scores back from the English, Language Arts & Reading 4-8 test, passed it with flying colors, drove to Lubbock to get the rest of our stuff (we were still paying partial rent there), took the Pedagogy & Professional Responsibilities test at a computerized test site in Lubbock (the second cert test educators must take), passed that one, too, brought our stuff back home, moved it in to the house (a day before the actual closing date, yikes), and closed on our first home the next day. WHEW!

We had a great time fixing up our house that we had bought as a foreclosure. We changed up all the lighting fixtures, painted, and really put a lot of love into that house (we'll talk more about that part later ;) ). The '07-'08 school year was great because I got my first head coaching job as the cross country coach at Royse City. Towards the end of the season, we brought home our first child, Tony, the catahoula/greyhound puppy from Edom, Texas. We fell in love with our Tonyboy from the very beginning. He is really a great dog. He loved playing in that backyard at the Forney house.

In the springtime, we started with our baby talks. Always hearing that financially, "you're never really ready to have a baby," we figured why wait? So in March, we started trying. In early April, Jess took a pregnancy test, and it turned out positive. We were going to be parents! We talked about names and decided on Cecelia Raine if it was to be a girl and Declin William if it was going to be a boy. Jess had attended a presentation at UNT (where she transferred to from Tech) about natural child birth and had decided she wanted to do it. I was a little apprehensive about it at first because I was concerned about Jess's safety but after doing some research of my own, I was on board. We attended some child birth classes that were geared toward natural child birth, and it made me feel so much better. Women had been doing it like this for hundreds of years, so why not?

During Jessica's pregnancy, which went very smoothly, the school year ended and an opportunity presented itself at a new school district in Collin County. The Lovejoy Independent School District started its secondary program three years ago, and this year will be the first year they graduate a senior class. The head cross country and track coach has been a good friend of mine for a while and someone that I look up to as a coach. He was the head coach at Highland Park High School (vomit) and even though I hated the school, I always had a great deal of respect for his program. He was looking for an assistant coach so Jess and I talked about it and because of the great academics the district was known for, we thought it would be great for our kids to go there. We came to an agreement and decided it would be best to put the house up for sale and head North.

Just as Jessica was finishing up her 8th month of pregnancy, we sold our house, thanks to our wonderful Aunt Julie, who was our realtor through the sale. It was October, and Jess was due on Thanksgiving. We found an apartment in Allen, Texas, and Dwayne decided to move to Oklahoma.

My first year at Lovejoy was absolutely unbelievable. The high academic expectations made me a better teacher (6th Grade Pre-AP English), and I look forward to many more years with the district. I am also the head middle school cross country & track coach at Sloan Creek Middle School and an assistant at LHS. The cross country season was a blast and for the first time in the school's young existence, we qualified the varsity boys and girls cross country teams to the state meet (with NO seniors). As the state meet approached, Jess was about ready to have our first little one. Instead of driving down to the state meet with the team, I drove down with Dwayne on that Saturday morning and drove right back.

A week later, at 1:30 AM on Sunday, November 23rd, Jessica's water broke, and we were on our way to the Birth & Women's Center in Dallas. Jessica was heroic during the labor and at 6:56 AM, Cecelia Raine Allen was born. Our great friend, Carter Rose was our birth photographer, and he really has a gift for capturing some amazing moments. He made a great slideshow which will help us relive that day for the rest of time. I already had that week off for Thanksgiving, and I took the next two weeks off to stay home with our new little angel.

For the next few months, I was the proud papa around work, emailing pictures of Cece to everyone up at school. Jessica keeps an amazing website that keeps up with the day to day of our Cecegirl. I wrote an update for each of her months so far that can be found on the site as well.

Eight and a half months have really flown by. Cecelia is getting to be a big girl, pulling up to a stand, crawling around the whole house, and making cute faces and sounds all day long. She is a joy to be around.

This summer, I got a part time job working at Luke's Locker, selling running shoes, which is extremely helpful with the discount and my progressing redemption of my running career.

So here we are, 3 years later. Yesterday, Jess and I got a couple's massages (and became members at Massage Envy), went to eat at the Butcher Shop downtown, grabbed a coffee, went to see 500 Days of Summer (fantastic, by the way), and then stayed at the wonderful Hotel Belmont in Dallas. It was a wonderful, relaxing celebration of our 3rd anniversary. We had a wonderful breakfast this morning, and then took off to go pick up the family.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I would be nowhere without my wife, my angel, the love of my life, Jessica Ann. We are blessed with a beautiful family with Cece and Tony and have unbelievable support from our wonderful friends and family. Here's to our third year of an awesome marriage and to many, many more. Jessica, I love you so much. To those of you who read this, I'll try to update the epic each year and hopefully still be a blogger in 2059.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Transformation

WOW! I came across these pictures of me from 2007, almost exactly two years ago. Thanks to the wonders of exercise and somewhat healthy eating, I look a bit different! I still have a ways to go to reach my goals, but it feels great to start getting fit again!



Varsity Boys' Taos Distance Camp

The second week of camp was lots of fun, as we took the varsity boys the week of July 19th. Going back was easier this time because I knew what to expect. It didn't take me long to get acclimated to the altitude since I was there just a week prior. We encountered some nasty lightning on Tuesday afternoon, as lots of the storms start right there at the top of the mountain in the ski valley.

Speaking of the ski valley, we took a great hike from there up to Williams Lake, which was at over 11,000 feet elevation. I got some great pictures of the trip, including the Rio Grande River Gorge, which we visited on Monday and the bonfire on the last evening. The entire trip was full of beautiful scenery that can hardly be captured on film.

I'm looking forward to getting back to beautiful Taos next year, but this time with the Allen ladies in tow! It's a great chance for the kids to grow together as a team, and it makes for some great memories!

This is a picture of the road that led up to the ski valley. We ran 4 miles up the last day and 4 miles back down, a whopping 8+ minutes faster than the week before!