Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dont Taze Me Bro!

John F. Kennedy once wrote a book called Profiles in Courage about politicians in the US who made particular decisions at particular time that changed the course of America in one way or another. While there was a certain element of courage to what they did, in reality much of it was more of a gamble. Perhaps they were willing to roll the dice but I am not convinced it was 100% courage. They normally had something very significant to gain with whatever they were doing (as is a motive for a lot of politicians). So when I think of courage, my definition is different. Instead of trying to give you something you might find in Webster’s, I thought it would be better to show you someone in my life who demonstrates it.

The first person I wanted to profile is my brother in law JR Phillips. JR is one of the most unassuming people you could ever meet. He is pretty quiet, very dedicated, and works harder than most men. In plain clothes you would never assume he is a cop. No 70’s mustache, no big belly, none of the cliches that follow most cops around. To be honest, physically he resembles more Ichabod Crane than John McLain. JR has a lot to admire and I think one of these things is that all he has ever wanted to do was be a cop. Since he could think on his own he has trained himself, readied himself, to protect and to serve. There is something very noble about that, something I respect deeply. When I first met JR 10 years ago, I thought he was a nice guy, but that we wouldn’t have much in common. He isn’t into sports, outdoors, Civil War, or just about anything I am in to. After 10 years, despite the fact that we have different interests, I look up to him more than I ever thought possible.

One thing 9-11 did was show us true courage. I think one of the questions that all of us have asked ourselves at one point, particularly men, is would we have run into the building like so many of New York’s Police and Fire Fighters did? We all say we would when we are sitting safely on our couches but who knows how we would have really reacted. Many of us have the best intentions but when faced with that danger, would the love of our wives, or the desire to see our kids grow, be too strong of a pull to keep us from acting? The fact is most of us will never be faced with that decision (thankfully) and it is not in our job descriptions. Those brave men on 9-11 did just that and this is something that JR faces every day he walks out the door. Life is so fragile that anytime you kiss your loved ones goodbye it could be the last but the majority of us don’t sign up for that on a regular basis. While there are those who sign up to keep us safe and as a result go to foreign soil (more on that later), JR is an example of someone who does it here on our streets. As a cop you never know what you’re going to face and the moment you let your guard down could be the moment the routine traffic violation turns into something else. It is because of people like JR, we truly sleep safe at night.  Next time you complain about putting on a tie for your job be grateful that you don't have to put on a Kevlar vest.

I had the pleasure of riding along with JR one night and I would highly recommend everyone to do this if you ever get the chance. I honestly didn’t think it was something I could do more than a few hours. After breaking up a fight, pulling over a few people, I realized I wish I didn’t have another engagement because I could have spent another 3 hours in that cruiser. I hope that the next time you either interact with a cop or see one on TV that you stop and think that the vast majority of the cops out there are just like JR. Good men and women, who love their families, and are willing to sacrifice everything so you don’t have too. It is one thing to have heroes hanging on posters on your wall, or in the movies you watch. It is another to have them in your family.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It is all COKE!

One of the great aspects of my job is I get to travel all over the US. Ive been to places I have never heard of and places I thought I would never go.  It has been great to see all the differences in the cultures across America and gives me a better appreciation of where I come from.  In fact, in the words of Kenny Chesney, I am (more) proud to say "that's where I come from."  I will never forget the day I went to Youngstown, Ohio to give a speech wearing seersucker suit, white bucs, and a bow tie.  Talk about sticking out like a turd in a punchbowl.

Anyway- I have found one of the most debated topics is that of Coke.  I don't mean "Blow"- I am referring to the little slice of heaven that has become a global red and white icon.  Coke was invented in the late 1800's by ex-Confederate John Pemberton in Georgia.  There have been many imitators since, mainly Pepsi (also a southern cola), but none have made the impact like Coke.  Throughout the US preferences of what to drink vary but also terminology varies as well and this is what I am most interested in.  The majority of people in South call any sort of cola, Coke.  So the conversation in the South goes something like this

John Parker McGillicutty:  Want something to drink?
Bobbie Sue Johnson: Sure sweetheart- I would love a coke!
(now to many-particularly those from the North- that is the end of the conversation.  The Yankee assumes that the red and white Coke is the drink that Bobbie Sue asked for but this isnt necessarily the case.  In the South, the conversation continues)
John Parker McGillicutty: What type of coke would you like?
Bobbie Sue Johnson: Id love a Sprite.

See to us, everything is coke.  It isn't Pop, Soda, Cola, or anything else.  Coke is coke.  Sprite is coke.  Mello Yellow is coke, etc.   Now to take it one step further, most Southerners prefer Coke over Pepsi any day of the week. It is almost insulting or a tragedy when they have to slum it and drink Pepsi.  There is nothing that has the bite and the flavor of a brand new cold Coke. The only Pepsi drink that is acceptable is Mountain Dew.  Mostly out of nostalgia because it goes back to the days when Moonshine was popular and this particular drink was made in the hills of East Tennessee.  And for the record, Mountain Dew was not created by Pepsi- it was later bought by Pepsi which is how those of us who are loyal Coke drinkers can justify our preference for a Pepsi product. Also, the second main ingredient of Mountain Dew is Orange Juice, if you need a coke fix for breakfast you can get some OJ in as well with Mtn. Dew.   Dr. Pepper-which has prune juice in it- is an independent bottler so it can be paired with either Coke or Pepsi.  Dr. Pepper is sorta the Switzerland of coke. 

I am not a coffee drinker, cant stand the smell even.  With that in mind it is perfectly acceptable in the South to have a coke with breakfast.  We don't always want coffee, milk, or juice.  Tom Dement and I were having breakfast together one time (in the South) and we asked the waitress if we could have a coke with breakfast and she said "Yeah!" Almost like a Duh or hell yeah.

So there you go, if you get asked if you want a coke and you say yes- don't be shocked if the follow up questions is, "what kind?"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The girls who stare at sheep

Today we took the girls to the Kentucky State Fair.  I have never seen the amount of morbidly obese and inappropriately dressed people in my life.  Having said that, there are aspects of the fair that we love.  The indoor garage sale, the animals, the rides- it really is a good time for the girls.  See ya next year State Fair! 

Stay tuned in the following days for my profiles in courage, people in my life that I truly respect.  And in many ways, my blog will be like Jimmy Buffett's Coconut Telegraph.  If you don't want to see it printed- then don't do it.  Or you might end up on the Coconut Telegraph (my blog). 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two sides to every story....

I can recall being in a class that I had no business being in while I was at Trinity. I think the only reason I was allowed in this class was because my brother was in it a few years before me. If you know anything about my brother and I, he came from the deep end of the gene pool when it came to smarts. I came from the end of the pool that had the no diving stickers everywhere for fear of breaking your neck. Anyway- one of the books we had to read was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was a long and sorta boring book but oddly enough it is one that I have kept to this day. While I didn’t enjoy the book all that much I loved parts of the book. The book revolves around the idea of the “duality of man.” In the book a random normal guy goes out and kills someone just because he hopes to do good with the money he would take from the person he murdered.  He also wanted to show that every person has or can have two sides.

I must admit I have long been fascinated by this duality theory and do practice it in my life. Before you get creeped out.... I have no desires to commit crimes of any nature but there are parts of me that show my two sides. I do not drink and never have. I think that started when I was in the 7th grade and my father made us a bet that if we didn’t drink, smoke, or get in trouble with the law, by the time we were 21 he would by us a Rolex. Actually it probably started a few years before that during adult pitch in baseball. I came up to bat and Dad said if I hit a home run he would take me to the toy store and buy me anything I wanted. I hit an inside the park home run. The next time I came up I said “Hey Dad, if I hit another home run can I get another thing I want?” That ball hasn’t landed yet. I learned very early on (and I think Dad did too) that I was motivated by the carrot on the stick and a pretty good negotiator. Regardless, after the drinking bet was made I had something to shoot for. My high school days were difficult because kids are mean and a lot of people made fun of me for not drinking. I didn’t care, I wanted the Rolex (and eventually came to appreciate it (not drinking) was the right thing to do). By the time I got to college I was in the habit of not drinking and to me it was no big deal. When I was looking at fraternities, I didn’t care what physical stuff I had to do but I would not be forced to drink. If I was going to drink- and lose my bet with my father- it was going to be on my terms. Thankfully that never came up and the most annoying part of not drinking in college was when girls would ask if I cared if they did. I would normally use the brussel sprouts analogy. Id ask them if they ate the sprouts, they would say no way, and Id say that I'm not annoyed by their choice to eat or not eat their veggies and it’s the same thing as me not drinking.

Well as I got older I became more and more fascinated with Bourbon. It isn’t because my grandfather was named B(o)urbon or that it is my father’s middle name.  While I can appreciate that, there are a lot of other factors for my hobby. Bourbon is distinctly Kentucky. In my travels in Europe and across America, Bourbon almost always comes up. Two, it is distinctly Southern. There was a scene in 24 where a high ranked Senator goes to a meeting into a higher ranking Senator’s office. The higher ranking member asks the other if he would like some Bourbon and the response was “your southern charm wont work on me.” You always see Bourbon in the show Justified on FX (in particular you always see Blanton's). I love being a Kentuckian and I love being Southern. As a result, Bourbon is one my biggest passions and I even collect it to the point that I have a pretty damned good selection for any guests that come. I love the history, the process, even the presentation. You may ask how do I know what is good if I don’t drink it and have never tasted it? I have never driven a Bentley and I know that it is an incredible car. I have a circle of friends that I trust with almost everything and it is no shock that many of them are Bourbon connoisseurs. If I trust them with my life, shouldn’t I trust them with this as well? Plus, I read a lot about bourbon- I mean a ton. While I may have never tasted this particular drink- I can suggested great brands.

So there you go- one of my other sides. Kentucky is beautiful and this is one of the great pillars of Kentucky. Don’t be surprised if when you visit me that I suggest you come on in, take a seat, let your troubles fall down, and may I offer you a drink?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First day of school, first day of school!

This week came the first day of school.  This is actually the third time for Reagan (she is a pro and will tell you all about it) but it was the first time for Caroline.  To be honest I was worried to death about how Caroline would do.  She is so emotional and likes things her way.  A perfect mix between her Dad and her Mom.  I was worried she wouldn't like her class, she would be nervous and just suck her thumb the whole time, really I was worried about everything.  I think I was dreading the first day for Caroline more than any of the girls.  She is a sensitive soul and my fatherly instincts wanted to protect her.  When you are a parent you try to block out all the things that can go wrong because if you don't it can paralyze you with fear.  That fear will only get worse as they get older.  However, there are two things you can take comfort in.  1) You hope that you and your partner have raised them to make the best choice in any situation.  My parents did that with me and Brooke's did with her.  Our parenting ability is a direct result of our experience being raised by our parents.  So you do the best you can and hope they do the same in return. 2) Is your faith.  Faith in something higher than yourself.  For us being Catholic and our faith in God is very important (more on that later).  The rest is sort of like driving down the interstate at 75 miles per hour and throwing your steering wheel out the window. You just hold on and pray for the best.

I will tell you it hasn't gotten any easier.  Every day I drop Reagan off at school a part of me hurts.  She is getting bigger and bigger and needs us less and less.  I understand now why as a Sophomore in college when my father dropped me off at my house with my roommates, the only one crying was him.  It just never gets easy.  Well with Caroline- I cant imagine where she got her emotional side- i was worried it wouldn't work.  School would be a fight, she would cry all the time, etc.  While we are only two days into it, I could not have been more wrong.  Brooke had to call her back for a kiss because she took off running into her class.  Part of this is the great environment Seton provides for their kids, part of this is because Brooke and Reagan have prepared her for that moment, and part of it is all Caroline.  Her favorite part of schools is making new friends and baking a pretend cake in the kitchen.  She is still very particular about which potty she uses (who amongst us isn't) but has taken to school like a duck to water.  I couldn't be more proud of her and happy for her, even if it hurts her Daddy just a little.   When we dropped them off for school earlier this week only 1 of the 4 of us were crying, I will let you take a wild guess which one that was.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Things I swore I'd never do-

We all have a list of things we swore we would never do in our life.  It may be cheer for your rival team, vote for a particular party, etc.  I have a list of things I swore, under no circumstances, I would NEVER do.  It is funny- as you grow that list changes, somethings drop off some get added on.  My list has stayed pretty consistent but what has changed is my perspective on things.  The thing about "growing up," is that the things that mattered 10 years ago no longer matter.  The hills you were willing to die on then, are no longer worth the fight now.  Last night I waved the white flag on one of the bigger hills I was totally willing to die on since I was like 12- and to be honest it was great.
I swore I would never leave Louisville- I did
I swore I would never miss a holiday at my parents house- I have
I swore I would never eat organic food- we do
I swore I would never drink Diet Coke- I guess Coke Zero counts
I swore I would never drive a Mini-Van-  It is a swagger waggon thank you
This list goes on and on but as you can tell- as I have gotten older- there is less and less worth fighting over.

Not too long ago I was away on a work trip when Brooke called and said we needed to talk.  This is normally not a good thing for a lot of reasons and if I was working it had better be worth it.  As it turns out soccer sign ups were a few days away and Brooke really wanted to sign Reagan up to play.  I have protested against this time and time again.  I swore I would never allow any of my kids to play soccer, ever.  I hate soccer right up there with things like Cancer, Hitler, poverty, etc.  My response was surprising to all that know me, it was simply "whatever you girls want."  I responded this way for two reasons: 1) Because I had too much going on to really talk about it.  I suppose had she told me that she was moving away and taking my truck and Flaget I might have responded the same way. 2) Really because I didn't care and if Reagan really wanted to play- so be it.  Things long ago stopped being about me, I live in a house with 4 girls. I even went to the parents meeting and thought about dusting of my whistle and coaching her team (don't worry I got control of myself before I signed on for that).  The point is, last night was the first practice.  And in between the moments of keeping Caroline occupied and Baylor Grace off the field, and of course boredom with the game of soccer, there were moments of pure joy.  To see Reagan out there kicking the ball around, kicking it in the goal, was one of the cooler moments I have ever had.  I also understand this will be the only way any of my kids will ever play "football."  I don't think I will ever fully get behind this sport but I must say when it is your kids, you will damn near watch anything.  In the end, if Reagan (Caroline or Baylor Grace) is happy, then I am too.  

I guess the life lesson for me is that things come and go that are important in your life but the one thing we all want, in the end, is to be happy.  What defines that may change but we simply want to be happy and if a hill we were willing to die on 10 years ago makes you or someone you love happy now- then so be it.  Having said that, I will never, as long as their is a breath in me, cheer for St.X.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Life is full of so many wonderful things- it is and would be a shame if we don't share.  I have started this blog to sort of share our journey with the people we care about.  Because of "life" we can't always be together and this is my way to bring us closer.  Facebook helps but it isn't always enough. So here is my attempt to let others in.  Thanks for coming along and I hope you enjoy our ride.

The title of my blog is "More Than All The Stars In The Sky."  If you are wondering where that comes from it is simple.  I can't claim it as original but it is a saying I have adopted.  Reagan and Carolina always say "Dad do you know how much I love you?"  I reply "how much?"  They always respond with a number, whatever is the largest number they can think of with their young minds.  For so long with Reagan it was "13!"  That was as high as she could count.  Now it is normally something like "20,37" or some abstract combination of numbers.  Carolina always responds with some number in the mid to high 20s.  For me there really is no way to adequately tell them how much I love them so I try and apply the same theory they use to show them in return.  I say "Girls, do you know how much I love you?" They say "how much!?"  I always say, "more than all the stars in the sky and the fishes in the sea."  Reagan then says, "that's a lot huh Dad?"  Yes Reagan, that is a lot.