Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Profiles in Courage

It has been a while since I profiled a friend of mine.  I started with JR (my brother in law) who is a cop.  I then did one on Col. Bartholomew (a fraternity brother, friend, and US soldier). This is my next chapter in that series.  Is this not an absolutely fantastic picture?  It is one that truly is worth a thousand words.  You see one solider fishing.  You see another, presumably, who is in Special Forces.  You cant really tell where they are, although the camo pattern would signify Afghanistan.  I only know that because I'm oddly into football and military uniforms.  This would be a great picture on its own.  Its made an even better picture because the man with the fishing rod (which is made of makeshift parts) is my former roommate from college.  That is Chad Chenoweth.  Chad and I shared a room while at the SAE house.  He was the most southern, redneck, person I have ever met from Ohio.  I mean that as a compliment, and Cheno would take it like one.  He was a freshman, when I was a junior.  We were sort of at different points in our lives when we roomed together, so we didn't hang out more than suite mates would.  The four of us (Priest, Hart, Cheno, and myself) all got along great.

I was gone, done with UK, before I really got to see the man that Cheno had grown into.  That is one of the great things about Facebook.  I would see occasional updates on Cheno.  I saw where he married his high school sweetheart (which is pretty cool), who he once bought a rat for..... for valentines day.  I remember because he would occasionally have the d*mned thing in our room.  He called the rat "sweetheart" because it had a heart shaped brown spot on his back.  He actually affectionately called the rat, sweetie if I remember correctly. I don't get it. I never got.  But that was Cheno.  He later had a baby girl and a son, a complete family.  With those few details alone, I was happy for Cheno.  Good for him.

One day out of the blue, I got a call from Cheno.  He was rising up the ranks of the U.S. Army, and he needed a reference for top secret clearance.  He wanted to ask if it was okay if he used me as a reference as he attempted to get the clearance.  Not only did it catch me off guard, I was incredibly humbled and honored.  As many times as I have been asked to be a reference, never had it been in this capacity.  Never had it been from someone like Cheno.  As a result, Cheno and I started to keep in better contact. I won't lie and act as if we are best friends.  That's honestly probably more to due with proximity than anything (and I don't just mean him being in Afghanistan).

I was fortunate to have a lot of fraternity brothers at UK that went on to do great things.  I was proud to simply know so many of them.   Of all of them, there are a few of them that I look upon as they have grown into men, almost as a proud father.  Not because I had anything to do with their success, just because I'm so fricking proud of the men they have become.  Jonathan Cummins (with a wife and two baby girls, also served our Air Force) is one, Cheno is the other.

The other day I asked Cheno what he had done in the Army, because I knew I wanted to write the blog about him.  I figured it would be easier to simply ask him.  Here is what he sent me:

Infantry Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, Scout Platoon Leader and Battalion logistics officer from 2005 to 2009 stationed in Hawaii, and deployed to Iraq for 15 months. After that, Captain's Career Course at Ft. Benning in 2009, Ranger Instructer and RSLC Operations Officer from 2009-2011. Deployed again in 2011 for 6 months. Took Company Command in May of 2012, and completed that command yesterday, 4 months of Command in Combat on my 3rd Deployment to Afghanistan on a 9 month rotation this time. Going to RC-South to work for Brigade HQs now.

I don't know what the majority of this means.  I just know that it is pretty bad a*s.  I can decipher that he has gone above and beyond in protecting our freedoms.  I can decipher that he has become highly successful in his field, and I can decipher that has far exceed any of us in life's accomplishments.  He is the type of guy they make video games out of.  He is Cheno, he was my roommate.

Phi Alpha, Cheno.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It was a beautiful day.

Today was a great day.  It was that rare weekend when I didn't have to travel, and we had nothing on the schedule.  One of my favorite things to do on days like this is cook a big breakfast for the girls.  The whole 9 yards.  As we sit down for breakfast, here was the conversation:

Caroline :Mamaw cooks the best breakfast!
Hadley: Mamaw (she now can say Mamaw, instead of Memaw, which incidently enough was my grandmother, my mother's mother).
Reagan: Yes, Mamaw is the best chef.  She cooks everything better.
Hadley: Mamaw
Me:  Yes, if I had a restaurant, I would call it Mamaw's and it would be all the food she cooked.
Hadley: Mamaw
Caroline: Her turkey, her dumplings, her french toast.....
Reagan: thats because she grew up on a farm (which is pretty much true).
Me: Thats true, and it was on that farm...I think, that Mamaw saw Santa!
Caroline: Wait....Mamaw has seen Santa?
Me:  Yes, Sport.  She swears by it to this day.  No one keeps the spirit of Christmas alive year round like Mamaw.

That's when I realized that this will be one of my mother's legacies to her granddaughters.  As long as they are alive, they will remember their Mamaw as a great cook, and someone who always believed.

That's sort of what I love about my mother, too.  She has always believed.  She has always kept the faith.  She has always believed in my father, she never stopped believing in Patrick and I (even when we pushed her away), she never stopped believing in the spirit of Christmas, and she has never stopped believing in her faith.  No matter what, she stays the course.  This is what her granddaughters will always remember of her.  That's pretty cool.

We then loaded up the van and headed about 40 miles north to pick apples.  This is sort of a big deal, because in Lexington we used to do this stuff all the time.  You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a farm that was growing something for you to pick.  We used to go all the time, and it is some of our greatest memories of the girls.  We did it almost this exact time last year, so we decided to head back to the same farm.  We picked 20lbs of apples, many of which we weren't supposed to pick.  We didn't want the smaller apples that were ready to pick, we wanted the big, fat, juicy apples.  So we picked those.  The owner liked the girls so much, she gave us special permission to pick her personal raspberry bushes, not open to the public.  We got two whole batches of raspberries.  When we were checking out, the lady asked Hadley if she has picked any berries, Hadley points to her open mouth and goes "yummmmmm."  I told Hadley she was telling on herself, and the lady asked Hadley if she should weigh Hadley (because she had eaten so many of the berries....and apples for that matter).  We went from there to lunch at  Red Robbin, one of the girls favorite places to eat.  It was a beautiful day.

We got home, all rested a bit, then went to their school to ride bikes. Caroline did it on her first try.  I later helped walk Mimi and Pop through setting up their new iPhones, and then had Ramen Noodles for dinner (which is what I wanted). We capped it off with movie night and SEC football.

I realized that all throughout the day, we were doing things that both sets of grandparents would be proud of, things they both would want to do with us.  Big meals, berry picking, playing at a park, riding bikes, at the school, taking pictures, and dozing off on the couch.

It was a beautiful day indeed.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It was love....

Tomorrow, when we are reminded of that horrible day, just remember this one thing....  When chaos was all around, when people thought jumping was a better option, when they looked out the window as their plane flew closer to the tower....it was not hate in the victim's minds, it wasn't war either.  Over and over again, their last words were words of love.  Tell my wife, tell the girls, tell my boy, tell my husband, tell Mom and Dad...that I love them.  It is all over the news.  That is why the terrorists will never win.  When terrorists do what they do, they have hate in their hearts.  On that day, those victims had love.  Love is much more powerful, and love always wins in the end.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Never meant to last....

I love Jimmy Buffett, who amongst us doesn't?  However, I dont love Jimmy Buffett like the vast majority of people out there do.  Most people get into JB in college, and the only album they own is Songs You Know By Heart.  They can sing every word of Margaritaville, but look at you like you're an alien if you mention Gods Own Drunk, Little Miss Magic, or Steamer.  Like the best Sunday drives, I generally prefer the songs that go off the beaten JB path.  While I have never been drunk, done my bit of smugglin, or some of the other things Jimmy sings out about, much of what he sings about has always resonated with me.

The first concert I ever went to was a Jimmy Buffett concert.  I believe this to be one of the cooler facts of my life, and always enjoy it when its an icebreaker question.  How many people can honestly say that?  I was about 5, it was at Old Cardinal Stadium.  I remember Mom and Dad debating if I should go, but ultimately letting me go.  I also seemingly remember watching some of the concert on Mr Fulner's Chuck Fulner's shoulders.  I remember fearfully looking for a stadium shark when the song Fins was played.  It is probably one of my earliest memories in general.  Thanks to a thing called Google, I can confirm that the show was 7.03.1985, as part of the Sleepless Knights tour (and yes I was five).  Mom and Dad will have to confirm the other details.

Sometimes the important songs come and go, depending on my stage of life.  For instance, the song Steamer, has always reminded me of Brooke, and that time when we fell in love.
You can ignore the pics, they obviously aren't mine.  I appreciate whomever put this together, because its about the only online version (again not a high traffic Jimmy Buffett song).  Anyway, songs come and go depending on what you're facing in life.

Today I was cooking breakfast for the girls when A Pirate Looks At Forty came on (the first clip above). I have heard that song 1000 times in my life.  Its one of the more well known songs, but its one that sort of took on a different meaning to me lately.  This past week I had a birthday, got a little bit older, and am currently facing forty. While Im still closer to 30 than 40 (for a little bit longer), there isnt any going back.  As I mentioned before, Jimmy Buffett also reminds me of my childhood.  I can recall multiple briefcases of Jimmy Buffet tapes being brought with us on our family vacations to Florida.  We were a road tripping family.  We all loved to hop in the family truckster and head to Longboat Key.  We had a few rules as it related to Jimmy Buffet.  We couldn't listen to Jimmy until we go to the Florida boarder, then we had to listen to Margaritaville on full blast.  We would always stop at the Welcome Station, get fresh orange juice, grab all the brochures, then head to LBK.  It was another 5 hours or so of non stop Buffett playing.  Jimmy Buffett reminds me of those good times, those safe times, when I was younger.  I can recall the feeling of being where I belonged when I would stare at the Gulf of Mexico.  Some people believe we are called to the ocean, because the  sound of the waves crashing subconsciously reminds of us when we were in our mother's stomach.  The sounds of the waves are very similar to what we heard at that point.  Could be true, there is an unusual calm and peace I always feel on those white sands.  Inevitably, life's memories seem to flash before your eyes as you watch for the green flash.

So not only am I getting older,  Im getting all those things that come with getting older.  There is some beauty in climbing that ladder, watching the girls grow up is truly a daily gift.  Having someone to grow old with, is one of the greatest gifts of all.  But there are scary moments as well.  Moments when you're not sure if the money will stretch, moments when the lack of any job security makes you uneasy about the future, and moments when a test comes back and the doctor says its "abnormal."   Its all part of the deal.  You cant have the beautiful, without the ugly.

Dad always loved this song, he said one day I would understand.  I think that day has finally come.  Dad and Jimmy are both looking at 70, and this swashbuckler is staring down the infamous barrel of 40.  I guess we are all "pirates" in our own way, and there comes a time when we all realize it was never meant to last.