Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hello....is this thing still on?

Recently, I had a friend ask me if I was ever going to blog again? I hadn't in a while.  I told him that I wasn't sure anyone actually ever read them.  I was also worried that they would all start to sound the same to everyone.  It wasn't for lack of content or desire, I just wanted it to be good and worth your time.  So, I am back again, with another story to tell you.

Today was the girls first day of school, and by girls, I mean all of them.  This will be the only year that they will all be in the same school together.  I am not sure the great administrators and teachers at Roosevelt can fully understand the faith/trust we are putting in them. It is pretty cool that Hadley's teacher has now taught all four of my girls. She will probably be the only one to ever say that.  It may not mean a lot to her teacher, but it means something to me.  Roosevelt has all my girls.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me a little anxious.  However, I am confident that they couldn't be in better hands.

Like many things during your child's adventure of life, this is a very bittersweet day for Brooke and I.  We don't look forward to back to school day like some parents.  We enjoy the summers and the time spent with the girls.  Not that other parents don't, but summer is something that we find our most happiness in.  The thought of the girls going away to camps, or even day camps, isn't something appealing to us.  It works for others, but we would rather enjoy our time together.  Thankfully, our jobs allow this to happen.  I understand how fortunate we are for that.  With this sense of appreciation, we always try to have amazing summer activities together.  We make lists every May and check them off as they are completed.  Regardless of where the activity takes place, the point of it is for us to do it together.  So far, we all still really enjoy each others company.  That is one reason why today is a bittersweet day for us.  Now, the days will be a little more about survival, whether its survive until the weekend, or survive until next summer, and a little less about enjoying it.  I know this is something I need to work on. With all that in mind, we don't Sparta kick our kids out the door.  We truly wish that the summer wasn't over.



The first day of school is also bittersweet,  because it is a direct reminder of how old they are getting. I miss the days when they were crawling around the floor.  I could scoop a kid up with one arm, and one my biggest concerns was making sure we had an extra diaper in case of a blow out, or extra binky in case one seemed to have grown legs and walked away.  First day of school is another reminder that those days are long gone.  I will have to fight a little bit more for their attention. I will have to schedule more time for just us, and they will be distracted a lot more by life.  I gotta let go, even though I wish to hold on tighter.

The first day of school is also great, because I am so proud of the young girls they are becoming.  They have a great group of friends, they seemingly are good people, and they care about the things that matter.  They aren't generally bothered by the things that don't. They probably do a better job of that than I did at their age.  As with most things, thats probably a direct result of their mother's parenting.  It is a great day, because they are so excited.  They all love school and the opportunities that are ahead of them.  In a lot of ways, it is like Christmas.  I know they are better at that than I was.  I hope that they do well, study hard, and face all of life's adversity with the same determination that they showed on this day. Most importantly, I hope that they are kind to all their classmates, and are known to be the good kid, not necessarily the popular kid.

The first day of school is also a tearful one.  For me....not really Brooke.  This year, Reagan goes in on the complete opposite side of school than everyone else.  She is the big girl of the school. I wanted to make sure that I said goodbye to her one more time.  This required me to walk around the school to her line.  I wasn't sure what I would see when I got over there, or how she would react when I did.  There she was on the ramp into school, surrounded by all her friends, and I could tell she was pretty excited.  I saw her and for a second I froze.  I saw how beautiful she looked, and for a few seconds I couldn't believe she (that) was my kid.  She looked so much like her mother.  She took my breath away. I don't know if it was fate, an act of God, or just good luck, but she looked up and saw me coming. I didn't even have to call her name out, she just came over.  She knew why I was there.  Then, the best thing happened, she gave me a big hug.  I am usually pretty good with words, but I didn't know what to say.  I thought back to my childhood, and to my father, and the first thing that came to mind was something he said to me time and time again.  I told Reagan "I love you, and I am so proud of you." I kissed her gently on her forehead. Thats when I almost lost it.  God knows I didn't want to cause a scene for her sake.  She said "I love you too, Dad."  As she ran off to be with her friends, she looked back one last time almost to say "I got this, Dad."  And I know she does.  

I tried very hard to compose myself as I walked back around to find the other girls.  I saw Caroline first, gave her a big hug and said "I love you, Caroline. I am so proud of you."  "I love you too, Daddy." She said.  She then looked at me said "Are you about to cry?"  She then gave me a big squeeze. "Have a good day, Daddy." "Caroline, thats what Im supposed to say to you."

Hadley Blaine was next.  She didnt something she hadn't done in a while.  She asked me to pick her up, so I did.  I held her tight, more in a hugging embrace than simply carrying her.  Brooke was right there and saw in my eyes I was about to lose it.  It was as though Hadley knew this was a big step for her.  I didn't say a word, I didn't have to.  

Baylor Grace was last.  I gave her a hug, told her "I love you, and Daddy's is proud of you." She quickly went back in line. She is actually a shy kid, and find's crazy situations like this morning the most difficult to deal with (out of all of our kids).  I also think she wanted to be the first person in line, because she absolutely loves her teacher.  She has wanted Mrs. Velasco to be her teacher for many years.

I thought about all this on my way work.  I remember that I was never embarrassed by telling my folks that I loved them in front of my friends.  Even as I got older.  While Im typically not into PDA, I never want my kids to shy away from hugging their folks or (most importantly) their sisters.  No matter what....because you never know. So with that, they were all gone for the day.  Swallowed up by another school year.  One year older.  For the most part, I held it together. High five for me.  Brooke will actually have a few hours by herself on one day of the week.  Just one. But, I bet she will sit on a couch with all the lights off, no noise, and just sit there.  The whole time.  High five to her. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Blog Awakens....

"There has been an awakening....have you felt it?"



It's not that I'm the biggest Star Wars fan. In fact, my brother- whose current profile pic is he and Luke Skywalker- is probably the biggest Star Wars fan. Like ever.  



To be honest, I'm more looking forward to Captain America: Civil War than anything Star Wars. 

However, I do really like Star Wars. 

Here is why:

My parents (Timothy Ayers and Nina Ayers) tried their best to give Patrick Ayers and I a great childhood. By almost every measurable way, they did that. One of my earliest childhood memories was when I was about the same age that Hadley is now. My parents took me to see Return of the Jedi in the movie theatre. I was one of the lucky ones to have something so different as part of my growing up. Many kids, 35 and younger, didn't have that in their life. They tried, but they don't know what a game changer Star Wars was for kids. Seeing that type of movie in the theatre for the first time was special. I came in just in the tail end of it. Let's be honest the prequels that came out 99-2005 don't count. They, for the most part, are an embarrassment. Having a slightly older brother who ate, slept, and breathed the original trilogy of Star Wars, made it a huge part of that good memory known as my childhood. I mean it was everywhere. As a 40+ year old husband and father, it would not surprise me if when my family leaves after Thanksgiving,  he still makes my parents hum the music and place a home made medal around his neck like this scene:

If my parents did this once, they did it 1000 times.


To this day, I remember being in the theatre. I mostly remember the final lightsaber duel between Luke and his father. I remember not knowing if Luke would remain good or not. This was a very big deal to 4 year old Boomer.  It was a struggle between good and evil. It was one of the first times I had to pick between good and bad in my life. There was no gray (in my mind).  That Christmas, Patrick and I each got one of the first toy lightsabers they ever made. Patrick got the green one (Luke's) and I got the red one (Vader's). This is ironic because of how we ended up.  Me a total Jedi, Patrick, mostly a Sith.  I kid, Patrick.  No seriously, Patrick, its not too late. I sense good in you. They had black handles with Return of the Jedi stickers on the handle. They were simply long hallow plastic tubes.  If you wanted them to ignite, you had to make the sound yourself.  They didn't light up.  The noise made was the wind going through the hallow tube.  Very primitive compared to the ones my kids had.  Mom and Dad, I never told you this, but I remember being crushed I got the red one. It represented evil. It was bad. I had such a hard time playing with it because I felt guilty playing with that symbol of bad (yes I'm Catholic, too). I wanted to be all things good. I believe that time in my childhood set me on a path that I'm still on today. Probably explains my love for Captain America. 


















That's why I'm excited for the new movie. It reminds me of a great time in my life. It also allows me to share some of that with my kids. What other entertainment option has that same ability? Disney? Sports? The ability to pass on something on that was such a big part of your childhood to your kids.  Not only that, now I have girls. And while they all love Captain America, and they have long sat through all 6 episodes of Star Wars, it is sort of my thing. I do like it when they think I am Captain America. But they "can't" think they are Captain America. He is a boy. Hadley is so intent on getting who is good and who bad (in the new Star Wars film) straight. And, she is even more focused on the girl. Now, my girls have a strong female role that they can get behind.  We can enjoy the same movie, and have a female to get the action figures of.  Someone I can get behind as well. Someone who represents good.


A new hope, so to speak.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

You go, Caroline!

I grew up in a big football house.  I was fortunate to play football for a great grade school program.  We won two championships in 4 seasons.  One season, we didn't get scored on all season.  I was privileged to play for one of the best high school programs in the nation.  After making the varsity roster as a sophomore, we won a state title.  While at the University of Kentucky, we went to two bowl games and had the #1 pick in the NFL draft while I was in school.  After I graduated, I went back to Trinity and coached 5 seasons.  We won 4 titles, and finished as high as #3 in the nation one year.  One of my favorite things to do growing up, was watching football with Dad.  It was just another way for us to bond. I was an average player at best, that had a few good highlights.  If I had to bet, I was a significantly better coach. I love football, its a major part of my life. Not in a lets tailgate, get drunk, and cry when our team loses. I loved the beauty of the sport.

I always envisioned that I would someday have that same relationship with my son.  I was looking forward to watching my boy play. Maybe, God willing,  one day coach him in the game that I loved.  Life is what happens when you make plans.

I went to my first youth football game tonight where football wasn't my focus.  I thought it was interesting that the Park Ridge team looks eerily like my grade school team.  I sat on the sidelines and focused more on goofing off with my girls, then the actual football on the field.  We weren't actually there for football at all.  We were there for the cheerleaders.  This is something I never planned on.  There was my Caroline, in a football jersey, cheering the team on the sidelines.  She is in the picture above.  Right corner, back to the picture, pony tail.

Caroline is the one I always worried about.  She has struggled to find something she likes.  She hated gymnastics.  I suspect it was because she was doing it in the shadow of her sister, who is like a Gabby Douglass protege.  She didn't like Irish dancing.  Soccer was more of a social event for her.  She would rather talk to the other team's players than actually play soccer.  Every time she was put into goal, my blood pressure would spike because I was so nervous for her. Dance was boring, etc.  Caroline really just doesn't like competition.  That is sort of hard for me to process. To Brooke's credit, she put her in Park Ridge cheer leading. Like always, I worried for Caroline.  I worried her Alopecia would strike.  I worried that she would be too nervous.  I worried that her team, many of whom are older than her, would not accept her.  I wasn't sure how it would go.

Then tonight happened. She did her sideline routines and halftime routines.  They threw her around (there are advantages to being the smallest), she kept time pretty well, and she wasn't worried about being on "stage".  She really did a great job. I had to contain myself from getting a little emotional.  It was a big moment for "Peaches" (the nickname her team gave her).

I never imagined that I would be the father of four girls.  I never thought that I would go to a football game and that the football would be an after thought. I never thought Id be in Chicago of all places.  Then life happens.  I looked up tonight to check on Caroline when I took the above picture.  I didn't even focus on the football going on in the background. In the end, that didn't bother me at all.  I loved the point of view that life had given me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

R.I.P. Old Betsy

I remember when Brooke and I got this car in August of 2008.  It was the first time I had ever had a brand new car.  The van was ordered just for us.  You might think that I would cringe at the thought of driving a mini van. Truth is, I was excited to do so.  I had always wanted to be a dad, and driving the van was evidence that I was playing that part.  While we had a lesser van at that point, meaning we would be "double vaning" it, my plan was that I would soon be driving my F-150.  This would make having a van in general, much more bearable.  Regardless, this was a great van. It had all the bells and whistles of the time, and it became a car we would grow to LOVE.

Both Baylor Grace and Hadley came home from the hospital in this van.  This van made so many trips to Irish dancing, soccer practice, gymnastic, school, work trips, ballet classes, grocery store, etc. It really was The Ayers Family Truckster.  Most importantly, we drove this van all over the country.  Road trips were such a big part of my childhood.  Some of my favorite childhood memories were being in the car and driving down the road with Patrick, Mom and Dad. Sometimes, I think Id give anything to do that just one more time.  I actually don't remember taking repeat trips with the same car.  For various reasons, the trip never changed, but the car always did.  Regardless, I loved that part of my childhood.  I so wanted to have that with my family.  I think this van provided the mode of transportation for so many of those great memories. We drove down to New Orleans, South Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Disney, Yellowstone and Northern Michigan.  So many amazing family memories happened in the van.  Memories I will cherish forever.  A lot of growth happened in the van too.  We discussed our likes and our dislikes.  Our fears and our dreams.  Yes, we sometimes argued, but we always made up.  We watched a ton of movies, ate a load of snacks,  and had to search for a ton of binkies.  They would always fall in the black hole of spots that all cars have.  Those spots that a normal sized hand couldn't fit into.  You ripped the skin off your knuckles, broke a finger or two, and lost fingernails, just to get that binky for your baby girl.  All while driving down the street.

Honestly, this van was part of our family.  Its easy to think I'm being dramatic, it is just a car, right?  Brooke accuses me (and Baylor Grace) of being hoarders.  Hoarders generally attached emotions to the most random objects.  There is some truth to Brooke's professional diagnosis.  I keep movie tickets, game tickets, programs, etc. because of the memories attached to those moments.  This car, represented those moments.

I really didn't mind when I eventually had to give up that F-150 because it was not practical in Chicago.  I was happy to get Brooke a shiny new van.  That meant I got Old Betsy.  Old Betsy was the name Caroline gave the car.  So here I am, driving the old, beat up van, that smells like a foot.  There were many jokes around work about the ESR driving the van.  It didn't bother me though, I believed it to be a symbol of something more important.  My job as a father, and the trips I loved to take with all the girls.

To top it all, it was paid off.  For two years I was driving a car that didn't cost any money every month.  But as time passed, and the miles piled up, the inevitable service work was coming.  I tried holding it off as long as possible, but I knew it was coming.  Father Time always wins. He wins with humans and cars.  I knew that there was about $3000 dollars worth of work that needed to be done just to keep her safe for the family.  I also knew that I didnt want to pump good money into a car with 100,000+ miles in it.  The time had come to trade her in.

Coach Bob Beatty was one of my mentors that really taught me a lot about life.  One of his lessons he told me early on, was that cars don't love you back.  People put all this money into their cars, and its a depreciating asset.  He is right, cars generally don't love you back.  However, I think this one was the exception.  Caroline was  seemingly the most sad to see Old Betsy go.  All the girls said goodbye to the car.  No other car will have the memories that this car had. It was a great time in all of our lives.

I realize that my girls really don't know how to get in and out of any car but a van.  They arent really sure about opening and closing car doors.  Every car they have had (that they can remember), has been the same height off the ground with automatic doors. Having something different is a whole new ballgame for them. I hope OB's new family, appreciates her as much as we did. We made some great memories in Old Betsy, but as Caroline said, now its time to make memories in New Betsy.



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Caroline, our sunshine.

It has been a difficult few days in the Ayers household.  As many people now know, Caroline has been diagnosed with Alopecia.  Alopecia is an autoimmune disease where her body basically attacks her hair.  Last Thursday, Brooke was brushing Caroline's hair when she noticed a quarter sized bald spot in the back of Caroline's head. There is also a second significant sized spot on her head.  I could tell right away that Brooke was concerned. She is always the calm, cool, and collected one. One cough and I catastrophize to the worst case scenario.  Brooke, on the other hand, is a rock.  When she walked into the kitchen with Caroline, I could tell in Brooke's eyes that she was scared.   We went to the doctor yesterday, and our fears were confirmed.  Caroline has Alopecia.

Brooke has cried herself to sleep a couple of nights.  I, too, have had a hard time keeping it together.  We fully understand that it could be worse.  We know that this disease is one where she won't physically feel any different.  It wasn't a Cancer diagnoses, even if it might look like one. We know it could be much worse. Still, it is a difficult cross to bear.  This is one that is a big burden for any child to have to deal with.  Its even worse for a girl.  Kids can be mean.  A girl who has always had the best, thickest, prettiest, hair of all of our girls.  We always joked that she had a birds nest on her head when she would wake up.  She used to brag to her sisters that her and I had the same hair.  In some ways, she was like Samson.

While Caroline was aware something was going on, she didn't know the extent of what could happen.  Outside of the two spots that we could cover with her other hair, the only other visible evidence of this was her left eyebrow was almost gone. So to this point, she hasn't been effected too much. We didn't want to worry her in the event it doesn't get worse. We also hadn't said anything to her sisters.  That all came crashing down tonight.  After dinner, Brooke was applying the medicine to Caroline's head when Caroline says "Mom, Reagan said that I was going to have to shave my head.  That is ridiculous, why would she say that?"  I immediately ran downstairs and cornered Reagan, asking her why she would say such a thing to Caroline.  It turns out two of her classmates came up to her and said something like "sorry your sister is going to have to shave her head."  Reagan denied it, not knowing what was going on.  She then asked Caroline about it because Reagan was caught off guard.  We knew it was time to talk to the girls.  We decided to talk to Caroline first.

Brooke has an amazing gift in the ability to talk to younger children.  It serves her well as a teacher.  She knows what to say and how to say it.  This didn't stop her and I from crying in the process.  Having to tell your little girl that she might lose her hair is not an easy thing to do.  We then wanted to bring her sisters up to let them know.  It really was a surreal moment telling her sisters what was going on with Caroline.  Brooke and I are sitting on the couch with Caroline in between us, the other three girls on the other couch.  We were telling them what might happen with Caroline's hair.  We are all crying.  In between us is Caroline.  She has one hand on me and one hand on Brooke.  She was rubbing us both, trying to make us feel better.  She was leading us. Caroline then went to get us kleenex so we could clean up.  After all was said and done, she had one simple request.  If she has to get a wig, she wanted one with a purple streak in it.

It was absolutely amazing to see the strength in Caroline.  Im sure part of that is because she really doesn't know.  Having said that, she talked frankly about not having any hair, what that meant etc.  We also talked to her sisters about what that meant to them as well.  I gave Reagan permission to "pummel" anyone who says something mean about Caroline.  She said, "okay....what does pummel mean?"  We gave them a chance to ask questions, and we talked about what the future holds.

Reagan was pretty upset about this.  She kept saying that she didn't want Caroline to lose her hair.  I went to talk to her when she was getting ready for bed because she was still crying.  She asked "Dad, what can I do? I want to protect her, but Im not always with her."  She then said, "if she loses her hair, I want to shave mine off too."  It was one of the most beautiful things she could have said.  She goes "its taken me forever to get my hair, Caroline has always had better hair than me.  If she is going to lose hers,  I want to shave mine off."

We laughed, we cried, we hugged it out. I should add that Hadley's contribution to the whole conversation was comedic relief.  She tooted.  Then tried to explain to us that it was okay because it was silent.  When then had a discussion about the silent but deadly toots.  Thanks, Hadley.   Hopefully it doesn't come to us shaving our heads.  After our talk tonight it became abundantly clear to all that Caroline won't be going through this alone. In the end, we can't do much more than hope and pray.  We will see if diet has anything to do with it.  If it does, then there will be some significant changes coming to what we eat.  None of us care about that, we all want to do anything we can for Caroline. Unlike Samson, Caroline's strength (and beauty) does not rest with just her hair.  Her hair, or lack there of, won't change that one damned bit. She seems to really understand this.

She has always surprised us.  She can on one hand be afraid of her own shadow and on the other show us unbelievable strength.  She is such a blessing.



Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Judge


I recently watched the movie The Judge.  Despite the fact that this movie had gotten mixed reviews, I was looking forward to it and wanted to give it a shot.  Let me say, I  really enjoyed this move.  Well, "enjoy" probably isn't the most accurate word. Hard to enjoy some of the topics that were covered.  I laughed, I was moved to tears on 4 occasions, and I loved the dynamics between the characters.  It is a somewhat "dark-ish" plot, but really a movie that left an impact on me. The movie made money but not a whole lot. I think people really missed the boat on this one. For me, it was a very, very, powerful movie.

I will try to avoid spoilers so that you can continue to read in peace.  Robert Downey Jr. plays a hot shot lawyer who lives in Chicago.  Many of the cast of The Avengers, minus Sam Jackson, are having a difficult time breaking away from the super hero type cast. (Might want to watch Snowpiercer.  Chris Evans is really good in an underrated movie)  I know that Downey is trying very hard to occasionally do something other than Sherlock or Ironman.  This was a big movie for him to able to show that he can do just that.  However, he is basically Tony Stark in the courtroom.  I expected any minute for his red and gold suit to come flying in.  On the surface, this role was very similar to his greatest role, Iron Man.  That's okay though, because I think his casting/portrayal of Tony Stark/Ironman is one of the best roles in the last 15 years.  Iron Man has turned him into the highest paid actor in America even in a year when he doesn't make a movie.  Think about how crazy that sounds, because it is 100% true.  Anyway, you find out very soon that there is more depth to this character than perhaps Tony Stark.

He is called home because of a family situation that needs his attention.  He expects his trip to be a short one, it ends up not being so short.  This is where you meet his father, played by Robert Duval.  Robert Duval is one of the best living actors.  He doesn't disappoint in this movie either.  He plays a rigid, black and white, old, crusty, dude.  Not all that of a stretch from many of his other roles.  Just like RD Jr. in this movie.  The back and forth between he and RD Jr. was absolutely fantastic.  One of the best on screen duos and duels I've seen in a while. Seriously.

I don't know much about the lawyer aspects in the film, so I cannot comment much on that part.  While Dad is a lawyer, he wasn't a trial lawyer. The rest of it, I thought was great (I had no problem with lawyer parts for the record).

I am fortunate to know what its like to have a fantastic father.  So the good parts of Duval's parenting, I totally could relate to.   More specifically, I am fortunate to have a father who has always had only one sweetheart in Mom.  This is a theme in the movie. I know what its like for my kids to have fantastic grandparents.  I know a little bit about the struggles of working the way you want to and being the father you want to.  This is a theme.  I know what its like to have a big brother that was the better one of the children.  This is a theme in the movie.  One place where I couldn't relate to the movie, is I am grateful that I didn't have to worry about obtaining my father's approval.  Well I constantly worry about this.  So to that end, I was captivated by the scene in the kitchen. Thankfully, my father tells me when he is proud of me and that he loves me.  This happens almost daily. So that void that RD Jr. has in the movie, I do not have.  Thank you for that, Dad.  The theme that I found most compelling throughout the movie is the theme on a man's legacy. This is something all men care about.  From U S Grant to Ronald Reagan.  How will we be remembered?  What will people say when they talk about us after we die? More importantly, what are we willing to do to build our legacy?  What are we willing to compromise in order to keep it?

In the end, this movie is about home.  Not just in the bricks and mortar sense, too.  Where you are from, who is there, who is buried there,  your last name.  All that defines you, all that you call home.  Like RD Jr. I find myself in Chicago because of work.  Like RD Jr. discovers in the end, not only do you have to do your last name proud, you have to be proud of your last name.  It is all you got.


Monday, February 2, 2015

My dearest Mildred...

2nd February, 1917

My dearest Mildred,

It has been far too long since I have written, and even longer since I have gazed upon your beautiful skin.  I long for the time when we can be in each others warm embrace again. Its not so much your embrace that I cherish, it is the warmth.  The memories of the warmth are the only thing that keeps me going during this horrible winter.  We spend much of day digging trenches (above) and fighting off the rats.  The rats here are as big as dogs.  We are in the middle of somewhere France, called Park Ridge.  Translated to English its pronounced Park Ridge.  I have never been this cold in my life.  The cold numbs you to the bone and it seems that it is impossible to warm up. There is no more room for the snow.  We are all tapped out.  You actually warm up a little when we have to dig more trenches, but then the cold just returns in full.

I miss you Mildred, I wish this damned war was over. We consider it a victory if we can dig 10 yards. 10 yards is progress. I'm not sure this war will ever end with this mentality. I have been fighting for seemingly six months now, and I don't know how much more snow I can bear. I don't feel any pride in digging snow for my country. All day long all I see is people digging and I think I am next? Will I be digging tomorrow? I see people jump up out of the trenches alive and then two seconds later fall back down dead from frostbite. Two weeks ago while sitting in the trenches someone started yelling Snow! Snow! In that instant I feared for my life. I grabbed a snow mask, hoping that I would get it on in time, so that I would live to see another day. There aren't enough snow masks for everyone so I had to watch my friend freeze from the snow. I can't believe I am here and I wake up every morning wondering if I will wake up tomorrow. Pray that the war is over soon and I am able to return home alive.

Pray for peace, pray for our health, pray for an end to this struggle, but most of all, pray for an end to the snow.

With all my love,
Thomas