Monday, December 31, 2012

Dont forget old acquaintance, appreciate them!

I am sorry, I know it has been a while since I have posted.  I actually have gotten a lot of emails asking about where I have been.  There has been a lot going on, and I have tossed around my next blog for a week a so.  I have written, rewritten, started over on it a few times.

First, let me say it was a wonderful Christmas. You probably expected me to have written a blog about it by now, but Im not going to.  That doesn't mean it wasn't great, it was.  It was amazing to have so many that I love here with us.  We missed Patrick and his crew, but it made us happy that he was happy.  Even if he was far away.  I actually don't want to write much about Christmas, this one I  want to keep to myself.  It was special  However, I will share one aspect of it.  As we gathered around the dinner table on Christmas night, we all expected my F-I-L to give a speech at his table.  He is a man of many words, it was a speech that Lombardi would be proud of for sure.  With all of us hanging on to the anticipation of what he would say, so much so that you could cut the tension with a knife, Pop leans over and says "super." That was it.

Brooke and I later went to Birmingham to see an old friend.  My old friend has found himself someone he is going to marry. We couldn't be happier for the both of them.  Sam was a big part of our family for a short period of time, and we have done a pretty good job keeping up with each other since we moved to different parts of the world.  Congrats, Sam- we all wish you the best.

That brings me to tonight, NYE.  Lots of people don't like NYE, and I have never been a big partier on this night.  Regardless, I love NYE and I never knew why, until today.  I remember being in the 7th grade and sleeping over at a friends house (God rest his soul).  He was having a bunch of us guys over, and I wanted to call my parents at midnight to wish them Happy New Year!   For the record, I was the only one who called his parents.  Well, Mom answered the phone, and its safe to say she wasn't in a festive mood.  I think she had been asleep for a couple of hours. I learned to never call them again on NYE, that's fine.  BUT EVERY YEAR my mother calls around dinner time and says "don't call at midnight, we will be asleep," yadda yadda yadda.  I get it Mom, 20 years later you don't have to worry about me calling.  To be honest, its funny.  I am proud of myself that I got off the phone tonight in such a hurry that she didn't have time to remind me not to call.  Brooke thinks I should.  She said not only should I call, I should bang pots and pans.  I will explain that on another blog.



A bonus tonight was that Brooke and I got to go see a move.  She can't remember the last movie she saw with me.  We went to go see "This is 40."  Loved the movie, loved it.  There was so much of my life in the movie.

1) At one point the father is arguing with his wife and daughters (who all teamed up on him) and he looks at them and says "sometimes I wish that one of you had a d*ck!"  I totally can relate.
2) The couple is finding it hard to keep the passion alive in their relationship due to..... life.
3) Some of their arguments are verbatim to ones we have had.  It was actually reassuring to me that apparently we are not alone.
4) He farts in bed
5) The soundtrack is great.  

In the end, they realized how much they love and need each other.  If they stopped trying to change the things they don't like about each other and appreciate the things that they love, their relationship is freer.    These past few weeks have been good for me, for all us. Being around Brooke, having some time just to ourselves, has helped me remember why she is so special.  I took her to see "Knocked up" when we were pregnant with Reagan.  We saw "the sort of sequel to KU" as we enter our 10th year of marriage. We have come a long way, and Brooke has been an inspiring partner in my life. As we flip the page to a new year, I am excited of what is to come with us, and I look forward to having more alone time out with her.

But I love NYE, and I read a quote today that really summed it up.  It hit home with me on why I love this day. "An optimist stays up till midnight to see the new year in.  A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."

So, as I sit here at my in-laws house, I find myself in a state of deep contemplation.  Ive loved the trip down here,  as I always do.  I think about the changes and the great things that have happened this year, and I am excited to see what the new year brings.  We have one more hour (CST) before 2013.  I will sit awake and watch the ball drop (alone).   I may not have anyone to kiss tonight, but tomorrow I will have plenty of girls to kiss.  That's fine by me.  Brooke is happier when she sleeps- that will make us all happier.

I hope you have reflected on your past today, and I hope that you are excited about your future.  In the end, I couldn't have said it better, Pop- "super!"

Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Clark W. Griswold meets The Crow

I get made fun of in my family for being a Clark W. Griswold clone.  I try so hard to create these grand events, that I can sometimes be over the top with them.  I build them up for so long, I am always devastated when they are over (Im not saying I have been known to cry at the end of these events, but Im not saying I haven't), the event I anticipated for so long is now a memory.  My grand plans almost never live up to the visions in my head, although they are generally pretty close.  One of the things I love the most is when I can get my family (or at least as many as possible) together.  Lots of people say that family means everything, Im not sure lots of people actually mean that.  I, for one, do.  I credit my father who had virtually no family.  I didnt know his mother, I barely knew his father, and Dad is an only child.  All he had was Mom, Patrick, and I.  Im fortunate to be very fertile, so I have lots of kids.  I have also said that I won the in-law lottery, cause I truly love my in-laws.  One of the few things I love more than both my parents and in-laws are when we are all together.  Thankfully my parents and in-laws are great friends.   Almost every conversation between Brooke's father and my father end with "love you man."  Which is funny because neither of those guys particularly like people.

A few years ago we decided to move our Christmas gatherings to Gatlinburg, a redneck town in the mountains of East Tennessee.  A hillbilly town that Brooke and I love.  It is even better now that the girls are getting bigger.  We rent out a cabin, all convene there for a weekend of great food, lots of drink, priceless memories, and time spent together.  We did this a few years in a row, but work has gotten in the way the past couple of years.  Back in August I realized that I might be able to pull together another grand ole Ayers family vacation.  I said "girls, gather around the table, Daddy has a big announcement!"  Reagan replies: "you took a new job, so we can move back to Lexington?!"  Whatever I had to say at that point would be anti climactic.  However, we were all excited about the weekend trip to Gatlinburg.  It was a trip we talked about for four long months.  When the days/weeks were difficult, I would just think about this weekend- and it would get me through.  I never fully knew if I could pull it off.  While everyone was committed to being there, work might get in the way for my folks, perhaps something else would happen to my in-laws.  You just never know.  I wouldn't believe it until we all unpacked our cars at the cabin.  We were also fortunate to be joined by Brooke Perrin, who is the girls Godmother.  She brought her baby boy, they are both (well plus her husband Austin who is doing his residency) very much part of our family.  We haven't decided how to break the news to the girls that "Aunt" Brooke isnt really their aunt.  Who knows, maybe we never will.

On Thursday, after a very long week of an even a longer semester, we were on our way down.  I hopped in the car with Dad, MaMaw hopped in the car with the girls.  If anyone was looking forward to this week as much as I was, it was my mother.  Im not sure there is anything she enjoys more than being their MaMaw.  Let me tell you, she is great at it too.  Its been a long year for Mom and Dad too, this was a much needed break for everyone.  Dad likes to tease me, about everything, so I was never sure if he was really going to come.  When we finally got there, it was surreal.  My great family weekend had begun.  To top it off, it was the most beautiful cabin in we have ever stayed in with an absolute breathtaking view.


Thursday night dinner was at The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge.  Anyone who has been to the area, knows this restaurant.  Its a good, old, southern, place to eat.  It was a great kickoff to what was going to be a great weekend.  PawPaw was a little distracted on his cell phone, MaMaw was awfully quiet.  We got back to the cabin around 7, by 7:30 my parents had loaded up the car and were heading back to Louisville.  Mom, wasn't feeling well.  I wont go into too many details other than we think she will be fine.  Just in a lot of pain, in a place where she couldn't get much help.  As excited as I was for the weekend, I was now as equally crushed.  I never get to spend good time with my parents anymore, especially now that I live in Chicago.  Having everyone there (except Patrick) is a rarity, now it was gone....in seemingly an instant.  Mom didn't say goodbye to me, and I know why.  She was too disappointed that she felt like she was ruining the weekend.  She felt like she was letting me down, that if she said goodbye, she would break down in tears.  Its about a 35-45 minute drive back to I-40.  She cried the entire way.  Yes I was angry, yes I was disappointed, but not at her.  Just at the situation.  I missed her (them), the girls would miss them, the weekend wouldn't be the same.  Don't get me wrong, the weekend was still great, but it wasn't the same.

As I sat in a rocking chair on the back deck, I couldn't help but think of the last interview given by Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee.  Brandon Lee died in sort of an odd way, just like his father did.  He died while filming a movie called The Crow, which the subject matter of the movie was very poetic considering the circumstances.  (Read about The Crow, here)  Regardless, he gave one last interview before dying on the movie set.  It struck me as a sophomore in HS, and it sticks with me today.  Watch this, and I think you will know what I mean.  You dont have to watch the entire thing if you don't want.  If nothing else, watch from about the 4:45 to the 5:45 mark.  It is a perfect summation of how I feel about this weekend and why I get so excited for events with my family.



Nothing is trivial.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So proud of our MaMaw


I wanted to share with you something my mother has done for our soldiers.  Most of the time you hear talk about parents being proud of their kids.  Sometimes, the kids get to be proud of their parents.  Im fortunate that my parents have given Patrick and I so much to be proud of.  This is just something else that makes me proud of MaMaw.  She has spent hours and hours sewing scarfs for our soldiers in Afghanistan.  I mean hours.  Below is a total of the amount of scarfs she has sent, each with a personal note. She received an email from one of our men over there, it is copied below.  We love you MaMaw, we are so proud.


All together -

2010 - 35
2011 -  412
2012 -  306

Total  753



From: Bailey, Danette D CSM USA 3-401st AFSBn CSM <danette.d.bailey@afghan.swa.army.mil>
Date: Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 10:24 AM
Subject: (U) Thank you for the hand made scarf,
To: OpGrat@gmail.com


UNCLASSIFIED

Ms. Ayers,
I wanted to take this time out to say thank you for the beautiful scarf,
that I received in a care package sent to me from Operation Gratitude.
I am the Bn SGM for my battalion here in Bagram Afghanistan.  It is a
great feeling to know that our American people still show care, love,
gratitude and support for the Warfighters of this great nation we fight
so hard for as an American Soldier today.   I never take for granted how
bless I am to continue my duty, loyalty and selfless service after 31
years of service and still continue to live the Army values while
serving here in Afghanistan.  Although I have only been here for a
little over 2 months with 10 months to go, it feels like eternity.
However I have a mission to complete and I plan to do just that.  The
Soldiers, DA Civilians and Contractors who serve under my leadership, I
am thankful for their support as well.

Please know that I appreciate the time and care that you took in making
this scarf that I will carry in my bag during my BFC's (Battle Field
Circulations) until I am back home to the states to wear it proudly for
all to see.

I am very thankful, God Bless you and thank you again.

SGM Danette  Bailey
3-401st AFSBn
Bagram, Afghanistan
APO AE 09354
DSN (312)-864-5294
MMCS: 644-5294   Cell:  079-619-6536
SWA:Danette.d.bailey@afghan.swa.army.mil

"First to the Line"



UNCLASSIFIED


Thursday, November 8, 2012

I have this reoccurring nightmare, seriously


Alright, most of you know that I swim on a daily basis.  I try and lift during lunch, swim before work.  When I swim, I am 100% in a zone.  My head is down and the rest of the world is blocked out.  Not only is a great workout, it is a way for me to clear my head. I do a lot of thinking while swimming, I think about what I have to do that day, how to phrase something, etc.   I have really come to enjoy my swimming workout.  My gym itself is elevated, it is on the second floor of the building.  Honestly, its kind of a workout just to get to the gym.  The pool is even more elevated.  You are in the back corner, elevated, looking down on everyone working out.  The pool is a great, smaller room, well heated, etc.  Great conditions to workout, its very cave like.  There are a lot of times when I am the only person in the pool too.

This is where my nightmare begins.  It is a nightmare that I think about almost every time I get in the pool.  At some point during my swim I always think...what happens in the Zombie Apocalypse occurs while I am swimming?  Seriously, I think about this.  I always envision me getting done with my swim, I get out of the pool and look down at the gym, and then BAM!   There is nothing but blood, carnage, and death.  Maybe even a loan "Walker" or two stumbling about the gym.  I seriously think about what I am going to do if the ZA occurs while I'm swimming.  What does someone do to fight off zombies in their swim trunks?  Sort of like when you are showering at home and you hear a thump somewhere in the house, you think to yourself "great, now I am going to have to fight off the burglar naked. "  Same sort of thought that I have with the pool.  

Anyway, thus far I have been lucky. No Zombie Apocalypse while I have been swimming.  I will go to work out tomorrow and sometime during my swim I will think to myself....what if today is the day?


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ghosts of Ole Miss




I have really enjoyed ESPN's 30-30 films.  I watch almost everyone, regardless of my interest in the subject.  ESPN has done a fascinating job of telling a sports story that many of us have never heard of.  They teach history, they teach sports, they tell stories.  It really is excellent.  Its hard to pick a favorite of the bunch, and I am really looking forward to the one on Bo Jackson.  He was one of my favorite athletes when I was a kid.

Last weeks episode was on Ole Miss and 1962.  This was the year that Ole Miss went undefeated on the football field but the school was almost torn apart by racial strife on campus.  John F. Kennedy had to send in the National Guard in order to protect James Meredith, the first African American at Ole Miss.  I wont go into too much detail about the show, or give you a history lesson, its worth checking out on your own.  However, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride after watching it because of how far we have come.  

We in the South get kicked around and made fun of a lot.  Some of it is well deserved, well earned.  We have made mistakes and sometimes continue to do so.  However, it was great to see someone take notice of the strides that have been made in the South and the conflict that still rests within many of us.  I think of how far the South has come just in my parents lifetime.  My parents grew up in the segregated south.  When its talked about here in Chicago, even people older than my parents only remember it from TV or  school books.  My Mom and Dad lived it.  I know that many of my grandparents ignored the "laws" and treated everyone as best as they could.  My great grandparents owned a grocery store.  They offered credit to their regular customers, white....and black.  To them, everyone was poor, everyone was the same.  I am proud of that.  There were a lot of people like my great grandparents in the South, I would like to think it was the silent majority. But it doesn't change the way things were back then in much of the South- the separation, the fear, the hate.  To go from separate doorways, separate water fountains, and separate counters in a deli, to an African American in the White House- IN ONE LIFETIME- is pretty impressive. That's what my parents have lived through, that's the stories they know from experience, not some text book. 

You can't really talk about the South without talking about the SEC.  When Kennedy addressed the nation about forced integration, even JFK mentioned it.  The first SEC school to have a African American basketball player was Vanderbilt.  The first SEC to have an African American football player was Kentucky.  I'm proud of that too. Ole Miss (itself) has gone from 1962, to having their first African American student body president this year. I can understand how it is easy for you to throw stones from your couch, hundreds of miles away.  I can see why you think we are all dumb rednecks.  Again, we do enough to continue to earn that.  However,  you cant really understand our love for the South.  The good and the bad.  You haven't lived it.   You don't know what its like to love a song like Dixie, but at the same time be ashamed at some of the things Dixie stood for.  You don't know what its like to have your relatives, many of whom were honorable men, get painted with a broad, negative, brush because they wore gray.

Now that I am in Chicago, I feel I can never really tell the proper story of the South.  I do get asked a lot, but I can never do it justice.  If it is a part of you, you can't really explain it.  If it isn't, you cant really understand.  Its not just a direction, its a way of life.  

We are a conflicted bunch, but we in the South have come a long way.  This 30 for 30 illustrates that.


Epilogue:  On que, Ole Miss strikes again.  Apparently some were upset after Obama won last night and their was minor rioting/flash mob in The Grove.  I have seen the video and its relatively minor stuff, but still pretty embarassing.   I would not be surprised if this 30 for 30 isnt somewhat related.  Like I said, we continue to do stupid things like this.      
  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Resting in the shade of the tree(s)

As all three of my faithful blog followers know that I am a big Civil War fan.  There are a handful of things to love about that time period, a few things to fear, many things to be respected.  I love the way men wrote and talked back then, they were much more eloquent than we are today.  One of my favorite quotes was by Stonewall Jackson,  a quote that is attributed to the last thing he said before he died... "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."  I love that quote, especially in the context of one of the greatest soldiers coming to the end of his young life.  Think about that quote as we continue on with my blog today.  

I am currently in the state Oklahoma.  I have never been here, nor do I know much about the area.  This job has allowed me to travel all over the US.  I have met some amazing brothers and seen some amazing places.  On Friday, I had a great visit with the SAE men at Oklahoma State.  I was supposed to have dinner with them at Leadership School but unfortunately I had to cancel.  So, I owed them.  I also have a good friend (Khris Kendall) who has been trying to get me to come visit his chapter at OKKA, The University of Oklahoma.  If you didn't know, "there is only one Oklahoma!"  Today (Sunday) I will be going to OU to visit with their chapter during chapter meeting. Yesterday, we had some downtime before he and I went to the OU/ND game. I must say, it was very nice of the people of Norman to continually shout my name at the stadium.  Its pretty moving to have the largest crowd ever for a OU home game constantly shout "BOOMER!"  One of the places I did want to see while I was here was the OKC bombing site.  It is one of those events that will always stick in your mind, even if it has been somewhat overshadowed by 9-11.    

Yesterday morning was a beautiful, chilly, fall Saturday morning.  The downtown of OKC has been really transformed lately and it is a new, shiny, looking downtown. A lot of this is probably due to the OKC Thunder NBA team.  The OKC Memorial is right in the middle of downtown.


The memorial is literally on top of 5th street, this section of 5th street has now been closed.  At one end of the memorial is a big wall with a cut out in it to walk through.  On the top of the wall reads the time 9:01.  You then have this long reflective pool above running east to west, and on the other end is a similar wall with a similar entrance cut out as well.  On top of that wall  reads the time 9:03.  The truck bomb went off at 9:02.  Behind the trees in the picture above Im looking (northeast) are chairs.  Each chair represents one of the 168 people who were killed in the bombing.  There are 19 chairs smaller than the others.   These chairs represent the 19 children who were killed, all 6 or under.  All of my children are 6 an under.  


Who can forget this iconic picture from the OKC bombing?
This is what hurt me the most.  To think of all the kids, the same age as mine, who were at the daycare on the second floor of the building.   As if this entire event wasn't tragic enough, this just breaks my heart.  It could have been my Reagan, my Carolina, my Baylor Grace, or my Hadley.  

My Hadley(after dominating a nap)! 
It is all very sad to me.  I was a sophomore in high school when it happened.  It didnt really effect me like it did yesterday.  Not until I saw (again) the picture of above of the firefighter, not until I realized that 16 sets of parents lost their babies due to this.  As I was doing some research before I went over there, I couldn't help but cry. It is strange, when I was a sophomore in HS, none of these thoughts crossed my mine.  However, I couldn't shake them yesterday.   It is a good thing that I got it out of my system before I went, because I would have hated to have lost it there.  Again, I have no real connection to this bombing.  

You then walk to the north end of the park which is elevated above the chairs/reflecting pool.  On this end you have an incredible view of the site.  A view, that almost 20 years later, is so extremely peaceful.  Standing there you can almost imagine the chaos that day. The sadness.  The death.  When looking at the site, behind you stands a tree.  This tree is called "The Survivor Tree."  The tree is about the only thing that remains from the site that day.  Windows blocks away were shattered, people blocks away were injured, churches destroyed, but this tree survived.  


It was at this point of visit that I turned around and looked at what was at one time a scene of death and terror. Today, you see the remains of the building in the distance.  As your view is focused closer to you, you see some newer trees, then you see the memorials to those that are no longer with us, beautiful landscape, and then you have the reflecting pool.  I couldn't help but think of that great Stonewall quote.  On this site of terrorism, you literally cross over the river (reflecting pool) and rest in the shade of the tree(s) ( The Survivor Tree).  As Stonewall's life of war and strife was coming to an end, Stonewall knew he would soon be with his Savior.  That was the same journey those victims took that day.  We will never forget.




Monday, October 22, 2012

At Cold Harbor- I was killed

I swore I was not going to bring politics into my blog.  My following blog is not an endorsement. Democrats will hate it, republicans will agree with my take.  However, read carefully what I say and understand that Im not making an endorsement, just an observation.  I will go back to a non political blog.

Im going to delete any comments-FYI.


Tonight's Civil War analogy is Cold Harbor (look it up, most probably never heard of it).  Romney had to come off as someone who could be president and not screw up.  A foreign policy debate ALWAYS favors an incumbent, so the goals were very different.  CNN poll that 63% said Obama could be the CiC.  60% said Romney could.  That is virtual tie and is a big win for Romney.  Romney reinforced this tonight in a rather convincing way.  In fact, on the two major debate argument points Obama was wrong.  1) being the agreement with Iraq (VP bet his VP on getting the SOFA- which they ended up not getting) 2) Being the auto bailout- Obama was wrong on that as well.   Not to mention horses and bayonets are still used today (horse statue ) in the military.  Obama went very, very small tonight, while Romney went big.  Obama slashed and attacked, and as a result, gained some debate points for that.  His base will probably thump their chests over it.  However, he also came across pretty negative to the undecided.  Obama came across almost as the challenger and the person who is trailing, where Mitt came across as the leader, the incumbent.  This is coming from focus groups on different channels, not just my thoughts.  Romney was also smart to place himself as close to Obama as possible, so that Obama couldn't paint him as another Bush.  This will only help gain more votes for Romney for those who were afraid he would get us into another war.  But in the end, people care about the economy most.  While Obama might have won on points (it was close- Romney closed very strong), Romney did everything he had to do. CNN says it was 48-40 for Obama but that all thought Mitt did better than expected.   Romney probably closed the gaps on the specific issues where Obama leads (like foreign policy) by being knowledgeable and competent to be President, and he will continue to outpace Obama on the most important issue, the economy.  Obama was focused on winning this debate, but he has sort of lost sight of winning the war.

Another pole (PPP- a democrat poll) post debate:

More/Less likely to vote
Obama 32/more 48/Less
Romney 47/more 35 Less

CNN Post Debate Poll
24% more likely to vote for Obama
25% more likely to vote for Romney

Cold Harbor was the last major Confederate victory of the war.  US Grant considered it his greatest mistake and disaster.  When you take a step back, this battle was a pyrrhic victory for the South.  In the end we all know who won the war.  This is still very possible (probable) in the US election.  However, a month ago the Romney camp was left for dead.  He now goes into the final few weeks as the leader, tied, or within margin of error, on all significant polls, in almost all the major swing states.  This is very significant because undecideds  traditionally break from the incumbent by a 2-1 margin on election day.  People who like Obama, really like Obama.  He still (despite what some polls say) I think has a very good chance at winning because people like him.  However, what a great debate/campaign this has been.  Mitt has proven to be a much better candidate than most people...even Republicans, gave him credit for.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A song for Baylor Grace



I heard this song on the way home, I think it was written for Baylor Grace.  Anyone who knows her, knows that these words are perfect.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fight! Fight! Fight! for the Pink (Green) and White....

Here is my high school and their pink uniforms this past weekend.  Not only do they play good ball, defending National Champions, but they are taking a stand too. Counting my in-laws, 3 out of 4 of my parents have had Cancer.  My grandfather was killed from the awful disease.  More specifically, my mother in law is a Breast Cancer survivor.  With all that taken into consideration, I was really proud of Trinity for working with Adidas to make this happen.  Trinity was 1 of 10 high schools in the country that Adidas provided these uniforms to.

Real mean do wear pink.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I fly away...


I fly a lot.  I fly so much that my friends always joke with me about how they never know where I am at.  With flying so much Ive gained a great loyalty status with one airline.  With traveling so much, Ive gained great loyalty status with two different hotel chains.  I actually like to travel, and I realize I am very fortunate.  I travel so much that Ive become an expert at getting through airport security.  I get through in record time, I travel light, and I'm often there and gone before my presence was known.  I'm like a fraternity version of the Navy SEALs.  Traveling so much Ive gotten used to just about everything that goes along with it.  Ive gotten used to people with disgusting feet not wearing socks KNOWING they have to take their shoes off.  I’ve gotten used to airport food, and know which airports have the best food.  I know where the Admirals Club is at almost airport.  Ive gotten used to putting up with the coughing and sneezing person that typically sits next to me.  I know how many movies I need to rent from iTunes for my flights.  I have even gotten used to saying goodbye to the girls in Chicago.  I travel so much, they have gotten used to saying goodbye to me.  I used to see multiple girls standing at the door crying (maybe waving) as I pulled out of the driveway.  Now, its no big deal.  Another week brings another trip to the airport for Daddy.  I suppose them now being used to it is better, I guess. 

With all that I have gotten used to, gained, and experienced, from travelling, there is one thing that I have not gotten used to.  I am not sure I ever will.  Work took me away from Louisville in 2006 when I took a job at UK.  I never thought I would leave Louisville, and even though I was in my college town, and only an hour away, it was still away from “home”.  It was still away from Mom & Dad.  We did the best we could with that situation, and we even worked out a pretty good system.  While we didn’t get to see them as often as we did while we were in Louisville, I maintain that especially towards the end, we would see them for longer durations of time.  Which was nice.  Work again took us away this past December when we moved to Chicago.  Make no mistake, I am so incredibly thankful for the chance that SAE provided me, and I don’t regret the decision one bit.  I do think that if I am any good at being SAE’s ESR, its partially because I love and respect my family as much as I do.  However, that means being away from my parents and brother (who has since moved himself), all of which was all I knew for so long.  Even when in Lexington, they weren’t THAT far away. I could always see them for dinner.  It also meant I would be taking Brooke further away from her parents, something that took a lot of courage on her part as well. 

This past weekend I was lucky that work brought me back to the place that I love so much.  In between working with KYEP, I got to spend some great time with my Mom and Dad.  I think it had been the longest period of time between visits for my parents.  Despite the fact that I hadn’t really lived in their house for almost 10 years now, it is and will always be my home.  The smells, the feelings, the memories, are the greatest comfort soul food you could ever ask for.  I got to watch a little football with Dad, read the newspaper I read growing up, watch the news that I watched as a kid, go to the mall with Mom, pet the dogs (two if which used to be ours), and sort of go back to the way things were…just for a weekend.  I drove the streets whose names I have over time forgotten, streets that I could still navigate as accurately as any GPS.  It wasn’t complete, because I had to leave the girls behind.  I look forward to Thanksgiving when they can see their MaMaw and PawPaw, but it was so nice to be around my parents.  When we drove to the SAE house, I got to run by my old house in Lexington.  The new owners were putting up a privacy fence; something Brooke and I wanted to do.  Unfortunately, they took down the swing in the front tree.  All four of my babies swung in that swing.  The front yard held court for countless of hours of playing by the girls.  Every girl we had was just a little girl in that house, and in my memories... they always will be.  I always complain to my parents that “im not a kid,” “stop treating me like I'm 13,” etc.  Looking at that front yard, I began to understand my Mom and Dad’s point of view on their kids.  I have it now as well. 

It was a great weekend, a somewhat bittersweet weekend, but a weekend full of love. No matter how many times I have gone through Louisville to catch a plane, sometimes faster than Sherman (spit) through Georgia...this time was different.  I am a grown a*s man, and here I am sitting in this airport, struggling to hold back the tears.  I literally can’t get on that plane fast enough.

Ive gotten used to so much of traveling because of my work.  Saying goodbye to my Mom and Dad, leaving Kentucky, will probably never be one of them.  I think that is a testament to the loving and supportive childhood that I had, and how much I love them in return.

I know someday my girls will leave me. If at some point one of them is sitting an airport going through the same emotions that I am now,  then I think I will have done a good job as a parent.  Lord knows I had great examples.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Polar Bear Adventures in Atlanta

Last Thursday morning I was shaving(getting ready to go out of town) when I had this eerie feeling come over me.  You know that eerie feeling when you can feel that someone is close to you..... and staring at you.





I felt it.  With one I closed, the other squinting, I turned to see who was watching me.  I was totally expecting to see a man with a hockey mask and machete in hand.  Instead I saw a beautiful, blue eyed, blond haired girl, with a polar bear in hand. I was very relieved. Baylor Grace didn't want to disturb me as I was shaving but was excited that I realized she was there.  Her face lights up (with the..okay im on look) and she tells me about how she is going to miss me while I am gone. She wants me to take her polar bear with me, so that I don't get lonely and that I would think of her.  Instantly, in the mold of Flat Stanley, the old AT&T commercial came into my mind.  I told Baylor Grace that I would take pictures of the bear along the way and send them back to her mother.





So here is photo #1.  Polar Bear abides by all security regulations and was getting ready to go through security.



After making it through security, Polar Bear was living large in the Admirals Club at O Hare.  There, Polar Bear enjoyed a nice waffle and a bagel.


 Polar Bear was excited for his first flight.  It was a smaller, regional, jet- but he was well behaved during the flight.
After a long morning, flight, train ride, car ride, etc. Polar Bear was super excited to check into his swank hotel in Atlanta for the weekends festivities.

 Polar Bear was loving the King sized mattress, a bed he got all to himself.

 Here, Polar Bear was socializing with folks before dinner on Thursday night.  This was his first outing of this type, but he was not nervous at all.  Polar Bear enjoyed the pork chops for dinner.

 Here was Polar Bear getting ready for the F&H meeting on Friday morning.  This was the first of a long string of meetings, so he was getting comfortable.

 After a hamburger lunch, Polar Bear had to get ready for the Supreme Council meeting.  He got himself a water and a notebook to take notes.  Polar Bear was ready.
 Here Polar Bear is giving counsel to our Eminent Supreme Archon, Ken Tracey.  It should be noted that Polar Bear was involved with all of the key decisions made this past weekend.






On Saturday, Polar Bear had to meet with all three boards of SAE.  This would be Foundation, F&H, and Supreme Council.  It was a stressful day, but with a coke and smile, Polar Bear was ready for anything.

 Saturday's meetings concluded with an address to the Province Archons from our ESA, Ken Tracey.  Polar Bear wanted to pay attention, and take good notes.

 The entire weekend's meetings were concluded at the historic Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta.  Polar Bear had never been to a place like this before, but he LOVED the crackers.  He hopes that Brooke can attempt to duplicate the crackers back home.
 Finally, after a long weekend, full of meetings- it was time to head home again.  Polar Bear does not negotiate with terrorists, so it was back through airport security again.
Polar Bear couldn't believe all the leg room he got for his flight home.  Having status with an airline gets you some good perks, and Polar Bear loves traveling in style.

Truth be told, I got a lot of funny looks when people saw me carrying around a little stuffed polar bear. Once I told them the reason why, they all had the same  look on their face.  They could see a dad, making a special effort to keep his daughter happy.  From what I am told, it was a big hit at home, too. I think I may have created a monster, I currently have a Clifford, The Big Red Dog, in my truck.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lets get ready to rumble!

Last Sunday we sat down at dinner for a great meal of lasagna.  My wife makes very good lasagna, and the girls were eating it up.  Even Baylor Grace, who only eats fruit (or any candy I sneak her).  Things were going well until a very personal, important, issue came up.  After some back and forth between Brooke and I, the discussion became a heated argument.  The issue or point of the argument is private, and I wish for it to remain that way.  Who is to blame, who was wrong, doesn't matter either.  When you get to that point in front of your children, you both are to blame.  Brooke and I almost never fight, so this was something that took the girls by surprise.  I vividly remember watching them during the "discussion" and it was like they were watching a tennis match.  Their heads were going back and forth.  It got to the point where dinner wasn't going to continue, at least for Brooke and I.  Unfortunately, the argument did.  Neither one of us would back down.  Brooke needed to get out of the house and get away from me.  So she grabs the baby and storms out.  However, I knew she would not go far for three reasons: 1) she didn't have shoes on 2) the baby was dressed in nothing but a diaper 3) my truck was blocking her way out.  It sort of took the wind out of her sails.  So, I gathered some things and took off.  I would get out of the house and give her space.

This was devastating for the girls to see Daddy leave.  They didn't/don't realize that sometimes you just need to blow off some steam and go away.  I drove around for a long time.  I even tried to go see a movie.  The first song that came on my radio was this song:


I honestly believe that it was God sending me a message.  I couldn't help but think of the look on their faces when I left, all 5 were crying.  At that point it didn't matter if I was right, it didn't matter if I felt totally screwed.  A Pyrrhic victory is no victory at all, when its your family involved.  It didn't take long before I was back home giving Brooke a hug.  Kenny was right in the song above, that is the good stuff.

The girls were super happy to see their Daddy in the morning.  It was like nothing had happened but we all knew it had.  On Monday we went to Chilies for dinner.  All the proceeds that night went to St. Jude.  Talk about putting things in perspective.  I was looking forward to dinner all day, because I really wanted to send the girls a message.  The first thing I said to them was that I loved their mother more than anything.  I followed it up with telling them how much I loved them.  Most importantly, they never had to worry about us leaving, and that sometimes we need to just get away for a bit.  Reagan said,  "yeah but you were really mad."  I was, and I told them I was.  When all was said and done, I wanted them to know that its okay if your parents get into a fight now and then.  What is more important is for them to see their parents make up too.  Just as the girls occasionally fight with each other yet still love each other, sometimes that happens with Mom and Dad too.

Honestly I feel like things are different with the girls.  They seem to be much more appreciative of me, excited to be around me, and loving on me.  Especially, Caroline.  She was the most devastated with me leaving, and has not left my side since. That's sort of funny because she is BFF with Brooke.  It also makes sense because she is as emotional as I am.  You would think a girl wouldn't like it when her father calls her "Junior."  It totally fits with her.  

Its not all that bad for kids to see their parents occasionally fight,  but its very important for them to see them make up too.



Monday, September 17, 2012

A blog about a binky

I got home a little early today.  I knew I was going to be on a long conference call, and if I didn't take it in the car, I wouldn't get home until super late.  When I got home, the house was empty and silent.  It was nice to come home to the peace, even if I'd normally prefer all the hugs that I get when I get home.  The 5 girls were at Caroline's swim practice, and it was going to be after 6 before they got home.  Ultimately, it was good that I was here because the groceries were getting delivered, and this allowed me to be here to receive them.  I wanted to make sure to put all the groceries away, and I even contemplated cleaning the house a bit.  Not surprisingly, the house was already pretty clean.  Outside of a few toys in the playroom, you couldn't tell anyone had been here all day.  I then thought maybe I could just order what we were going to have for dinner so that it could be delivered before the girls got back.  That way Brooke wouldn't have to worry about cooking dinner after swim practice.  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time.  With nothing else to do, I just sort of sat there in the kitchen and turned on some good music. Hey, it's the thought that counts, right?  As I was decompressing from the day, I looked up and saw the above picture.

Let me explain what you're looking at.  This bench is nothing short of an antique.  We got it from some very wealthy friends in Louisville who were going to throw it out.  It has followed us from Louisville, to Lexington, to Chicago, through three different houses.  It really has been a great addition to our house.  They couldn't even remember how old it was in 2003 when they gave it to us.  It's a great place to sit and talk about the day.  It is a great place to put on your shoes before you go out to tackle the day.  It's even a great place to snuggle with one of your little girls.  However, due to its current placement in our kitchen, and due to its perfect height, it has become a table for Hadley Blaine.  Normally throughout the day Hadley puts anything she wants to come back to on this bench.  Most of the time its her drink, maybe a toy, or even some food.  Today when I got home, after everything settled down, and I was relishing the basic silence (minus my good music), I saw this binky on the bench.  This isn't just A binky, it is THE binky.  For some reason this is Hadley's favorite binky.  Make no mistake about it, she has close to 20 binkies strategically placed all over the house.  Regardless, this is her favorite.  Seeing this binky brought a flood of emotions over me.  Three of the four girls have used binkies.  You scroll back through Facebook and can see each of them in pictures seemingly hiding behind binkies.  If not for their dimples, you probably wouldn't know they were smiling.  To me it brings a comforting feeling because I know how each of the girls would settle down any time they got their binky.  That's all you want as a parent, for your kids to feel safe.  When they are young, all it takes is their binky.  I guess we wish it was always that easy.  It also brought a hint of sadness.  It won't be long before the "binky fairy" makes her visit.  When the binky fairy comes, she takes the binkies for other kids who need them around the world.  In return, she always leaves a few gifts for the girl who sacrificed her binkies.  It is pretty much a cold turkey quit.  In full disclosure, it is normally harder on me than the particular girl.  I never think they are ready.  I always believe it is too soon.  As a result, I fear they will end up being a stripper.  I can see her now on the pole..."its because you took my binky away too soon, Daddy."  I know that this day (the visit from the binky fairy, not the stripper part) isn't too far off.  It means she is growing up and getting bigger.  But mostly, it brought me happiness.  I can see Hadley babbling about something as she walks around the kitchen.  I see her looking up and noticing that the girls were getting their shoes on to leave.  In a hurry, I see her placing the binky right on her bench knowing that it would be there for her as soon as she returns.  That makes me feel good, for a lot of reasons.

Sometimes, something so simple, can mean so much more.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A beacon of beauty

Tonight Brooke and I watched a special on 9-11.  I am sure that in the next 48 hours, that tragic day will dominate the headlines.  I will never forget that day, and the subsequent days, as long as I live.  I keep thinking about how ugly that day was.  I wonder how someone could think that what happened that day would please their God?  There is so much that 11 years later I still question.  Is there any beauty left out there?

I am confident that there is.  Every time I get down, or every time I get sad, I think of one thing....and one thing first.  This thought is a trigger for me to remind me of all the great things that we have in our lives to be thankful for.    Whenever I need a pick me up, I think of my beautiful, sweet, Caroline.  The great thing about Caroline is that she has no idea how beautiful she is.  Honestly, she doesn't care.  She sees the good in everything.  She is the first to give you a hug and tell you that she loves you.  She always looks for the silver lining.  Most of the time, she IS the silver lining.


Today I took her on a date.  Just her and I.  She is so incredibly patient with her mother and I.  Everyone else seemingly gets all the attention and she is okay with that.  She is happy with the leftover scraps.  But today she was so excited because it was just her and I.  I took her to her favorite restaurant, "Red Robbins."  We ate and ate and ate.  I told her I wanted to go to Best Buy afterwards to get my birthday present.  She was excited about that too, as long as I got something for me that "we both agreed on."  She talked and talked and talked, and when she wasn't talking, she just sat there and smiled out me.  She could not have been happier.  She was thrilled with just a simple meal.  

She is very black and white and follows all the rules.  Every time I toot or burp, she says "Daddy, wheres your manners?"  She makes sure that any of her sisters (or random people) who are doing wrong are told so.  Even Hadley doesn't catch a break.  According to Caroline, Hadley must follow all the rules too.  For my birthday she said a hug and a kiss was my birthday present, she "didn't have a chance to go buy me anything."  Caroline is always a walking Facebook status.  There is no telling what is going to come out of that mouth and it is inevitably hilarious.   The best thing about Caroline's personality is the joy that she finds in everything.  Every gift she gets is the greatest gift ever.  Every movie she sees is her favorite.  Every adventure she goes on is the best one ever.  She is an eternal optimist.  She loves Star Wards and Jack Sparrow.  Doesn't care much for sports but if she can sit on the couch with me, she will watch just about anything.  Caroline has never met a stranger and makes friends in every situation.  Things come much easier for Reagan than Caroline but it never seems to get her down.  However, you should see Caroline dance at one of our nightly dance parties.  Caroline has some serious, scary good, dance moves.  She has great rhythm.   Not only is my world better with Caroline in it, I think everyone's around her is too.     

And then you have her outside. She was a very bald baby with big ears.  It was difficult to ever see her face, because she always had her thumb in her mouth.  She has a crooked eye when she doesn't wear her glasses and a part time eye patch when she does.  She is short, thin, and fragile looking.  Individually it doesn't work, but together it is beautiful.  My father always said that Julia Roberts individually didn't work.  Her lips? Too thin.  Her nose? Too long.  Despite all that, when you look at the total Julia Roberts picture she is beautiful.  I think the same thing can be said for Caroline.  She is even prettier now with her big girl glasses.  I get it, I'm biased.  She is my kid and I am supposed to think that.  But you know what? I am damned lucky to be her father.  

I worry about Caroline because this world can be tough on a girl like her.  I suspect she will get run over time and time again. But youre never really judged by how many times you get knocked down, its how many times you get up.  She always gets up.  We can learn a lot from her.  I hope that this mean and ugly world does not change her, because she is what is right with this world.  She can make this place better simply by being her.  When I am down and out, when I need a happy place, it is Caroline.  She is so beautiful inside and out, and she doesn't even know it.  

So this song is for Caroline.  It makes me think of her every time I hear it.



Friday, September 7, 2012

A very moving song...

This made me think of Patrick, the little boy in TN we lost a while back.



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Honor

This is the video we made for our recent Leadership School.


Honor




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The tug of war with(in) Reagan

Please take a second to watch this video before reading further.  It is a great song to sum up what is going on with Reagan right now.  To put it shortly, Reagan is growing up and in some ways this is such a struggle for me.

Reagan has always been my BFF.  I have written about it before and don't need to repeat it.  Lately, Brooke and I have seen a change in Reagan's attitudes and behaviors.  Some of it good, some of it bad, all of it just the course of nature.  I can see Reagan struggling with being my little (baby) girl and wanting to be a "young lady."  She gets angry when her mother and I treat her like a little kid, yet she gets sad when Baylor Grace gets to snuggle with me and there is no room for her. She can read like someone 2 years older than her (literally), which is fantastic.  However, that also means she wants me to read to her less.  It is surreal seeing her sit at the table with her bowl of cereal while she reads a book.  This is something she sees her Mimi do all the time.


One of the things I have always loved about my girls, particularly Reagan, is how she always wants to wear an elaborate princess dress to bed.  She wants to look exactly like a Disney princess.  In fact most of what she slips into for bed is a dress from a specific Disney character, see above.  Then, there are a few moments when she says she no longer wants to do that, that's for "little girls."  Or "whittle girls" as Baylor Grace calls them.   She occasionally has the eye rolling, the sassy attitude, and the smart mouth.  She is all girl.  Thankfully, her and I have a relationship to where when she realizes she has pushed my button the wrong way,  she right away feels bad.  Very much the same way I was/am with my father.

Just last night I called on my way home.  She answered the phone, which still takes me some getting used to, then eventually went to hand the phone to Brooke.  Instead of actually handing her the phone,  in a brief sassy because I can be moment, she short of threw the phone towards Brooke.  There was no ill will intended,  she just didn't think about it.   This is a bad equation all around (her throwing and Brooke catching) and the phone ended up smacking the floor.  Later on I picked up the phone to use it and it sounded like I was making a call from Apollo 13.  Our phone is broke.  I wasted no time into laying a guilt trip into Reagan.  Thats what we do, we tease.  At first she tried to deny it, but she quickly knew that her actions caused the phone to break.   She then disappeared.  I figured it was to go and pout somewhere because her parents were giving her a hard time.   She comes quickly down with the phone from upstairs (to change them out) and a $5 bill in hand.  She gave both to Brooke.  All the money she could get a hold of was the money her MaMaw and PawPaw had just sent her.  She wanted her mom to have it to help replace the phones.  She ran off to the playroom slightly embarrassed.  Honestly, it was a stand up thing for her to do, very mature.  Of course we didn't take the money, it was all really an accident on her part.  She was upset that we were upset and she wanted to make it right.  Something I totally respected.  We gave her the money back and explained the situation to her and she seemed much better.  Besides, we told her if we took the money that we could no longer tease her.  To us, that is priceless.

Next week we drop her off for her first day of first grade.  I remember like yesterday her first day of "two day twos."  I remember how sad I was to see her go.  She would only be gone a few hours but it felt like a life time to me.  To this day, I still don't do well with with dropping any of them off at school.  A part of me hurts every time.  

She is getting bigger, but she will always be my first "little" girl.  It was once my hand that she held when she walked.  Now she is holding the hand of her little sister.  She is growing up indeed.