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.