Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Just like her MaMaw

Watching your children grow up is both extremely rewarding and extremely sad.  Tonight I was looking at a portfolio that Reagan has of herself from kindergarten. I could not believe how different she looked, how much younger she looked. It was not that long ago, yet she looks like a teenager comparatively. I love what a beautiful girl she has turned into, but its sad to see that she isn't my little baby anymore.

One of the great things about watching them grow is seeing what traits they have of you, and what traits they have of their mother.  Reagan is almost entirely her mother, and therefore her Mimi.  All things biological are Brooke dominated, the characteristics that are environmental are a little more split.  That is to say, traits that she is wired for are from her mother.  Interests, and things that can be learned, she is more of a 50/50 split.

Caroline is wired just like me.  Everything that is a biological trait of hers, she got from me.  Because Brooke has had to live with me for 14 years, Brooke has learned how to work me.  This has helped her with Caroline, because Caroline has many of the same buttons to be pushed.  As far as environmental traits go, Caroline has picked up a lot of my traits, too.  She loves many of the same things I love.  Super heroes, history, science, movies, etc. she and I are like two peas in a pod.  She reads like I do, not to just fly through a book (cough cough Brooke), she reads and retains everything.  She sat and watched (almost) the entire Roosevelt documentary on PBS along side of me. While she struggles with many of the same things I struggled with as a kid, she is caring, loving, emotional, just like me.

Baylor Grace is a difficult one to figure out.  She is driven to do the right thing (like Reagan and Brooke), hates to get into trouble (like me), but is still developing who she is.  Her likes and dislikes are also all over the map.  However, I have noticed two traits lately that I know exactly where she got.  It isn't from Brooke, and while I passed it to her, it isn't fully from me.

Baylor Grace is a hoarder.  Seriously, she throws nothing away.  I am not as bad about throwing stuff away, but we both place emotional ties to objects that have little to no value.  We have to purge her room every so often, or it will just be overrun with junk.  This is entirely her MaMaw.  We love MaMaw, but she is a bit of hoarder herself.  Not enough to need an intervention (or a TV show), but she keeps almost everything and attaches emotional value to things.  I remember Mom used to keep every ticket stub from the movies in her glasses case.  This is something Baylor Grace would totally do.  Baylor Grace is very much like her MaMaw in that sense. I think its cute.  My father has said that as long as I am alive, Granny (Tim's mother) will never be dead.  Our personalities are too similar.  I think Granny would just absolutely love Caroline.  From what I am told, they are so much a like. I'm starting to think as long as Baylor Grace is alive, MaMaw will be too.

Tonight, I noticed something was bothering Baylor Grace.  I had to asks few times to pull it out of her, but then she began to tell me what was wrong.  25 minutes later she was still going.  I have no idea what she said, she made very little sense, but she told a very, very, very, long story.  Just like her MaMaw.  It had something to do with two of her friends and a car, but that was about all of the sense I could make of it.  Much like a MaMaw story.  Are you every driving down the road and you sort of zone out only to come through minutes later? You have no idea how you got to where you are, or what happened getting there, you just refocus on paying attention to whats ahead.  That is sort of what happens when MaMaw and Baylor Grace tell a story.

It is one of those qualities we love about my mother, and I love seeing it in Baylor Grace.  It is sort of like life.  You don't always know the point, you sometimes question if there is one at all, you don't remember how you got there, but you are very appreciative at the end of it.  Im glad my mother was teaching me those lessons, even when I didn't realize it.  I am even more thankful that I have BG to pick up her slack when I don't talk to MaMaw as often.  I think MaMaw would be proud to know that part of her lives on in Baylor Grace.

Now we just have to see which one is the amazing cook like their MaMaw.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Superhero Poovie!

We have a small obsession in my house, and by we, I mean everyone except Brooke. In fact, the thing we love, Brooke generally does not like. We love superheroes.  I have to give my brother, Patrick Ayers, all the credit.  I liked comic books as a kid because he did.  He was an X-Men fan, I liked Spider Man and The Punisher. We have very different personalities, but that was one thing we had in common.  I was never the nerd (in this case its a compliment) that Patrick was at it related to the marvel world, and growing up the movies were terrible.  This has changed in the past 15 years, the comic book movies are awesome.  It has drawn me back, and also gives me another way to connect with a lot of the guys I work with.  Im not just a dumb, redneck,  jock, I am also a nerd (and not just a history nerd).  Nerds are kind of cool now.

I try very hard to introduce to my girls the same things I would if they were boys. As far as interests go, I don't want to treat them any different. The girls get more than their fair share of SEC sports (we love the new SEC Network), all types of history movies, and yes...Indiana Jones. They love Indiana Jones. It all started when Caroline took a liking to Captain Jack Sparrow. I thought maybe I would have a chance to get them to like some of the same things I did. She would always want to watch Pirates of the Caribbean.  Then it became a Star Wars thing, and it has now morphed into a complete love for The Avengers.

All four girls love the movies and have seen every movie starting with the original Iron Man. Many of them at the theatre. They often know more about the comic book characters than many of my friends. For instance, Caroline knew that Falcon in Captain America 2 was not wearing the same outfit that he does in the comic books. Here in Park Ridge, its a trendy thing for kids to load up their backpacks with key chains. Baylor Grace has one, it is a heavy hammer.  Thor's hammer to be precise. She likes Thor, because they both have long blond hair and blue eyes, Reagan often wears Captain America's shields as her ear rings.  This is her in her Captain America T-Shirt.
The girls often go with me to the movies to see them when they first come out.  Here I am, walking into a comic book movie with anywhere from 1-4 girls following behind.  It does get some looks.  I could not care less.

It really was good for Caroline that she liked to read comic books.  Reagan will read an instruction manual if it is all she can get her hands on.  However, with her eyes the way they are, reading a continuation of items (like a chapter book) was always harder on Caroline.  Comic books were written in a way that was enjoyable and not too difficult for her eyes. She she would read every comic book I would give her.  She is currently reading Marvel's Civil War graphic novel, which is one of their best series (and no, it has nothing to do with America's Civil War)  Now that she has bifocals it isn't as difficult for her to read, but for a while, comic books were the majority of her reading.  I was totally okay with this.  It was something else her and I could bond over.  

I think they get that superheroes are not real, but we believe in them in this house for sure.  Much like Santa, Captain America stands for everything their Daddy stands for. While girls are getting into all sorts of things that have questionable morals, most of our comic book heroes stand up for what is good. The movies are done in such a fantastic way that I don't need to skip too many parts. Maybe a little of Iron Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy (which is awesome) probably need to wait a bit until they are older.  But in life, you have to believe in the good guys. You have to pull for the good guys.  That's why Capt's shield is something I'm glad they enjoy.  If I am in a good mood, Im often wearing my Captain America clothes, if I am in a bad mood...its The Punisher.  That is probably a different blog on a different day.  

Caroline once asked me if I were Captain America? I asked her, had she ever seen Captain America and her daddy in the same room at the same time? Perhaps its what I do when I go on my "work trips." You should have seen the look in her face. Their feelings for The Avengers changed a little when Reagan told me that Baylor Grace thought Thor was handsome. Now, they all have a crush on Chris Evans version of Captain America. Hey, I don't blame them, he is a good looking dude.  

So this brings me to the picture of Hadley above. This has been her first week of her new school, where she knows virtually no one. Hadley is doing what Hadley does, charming everyone into loving her. If they only knew what a holy terror she really is. Anyway, after school on Thursday her teachers let her select something from the prize jar, and she selected the Hulk pez dispenser.  The teachers, at first, weren't sure if she really wanted that.  Did she really know what she was getting? Why would she select Hulk, when she could have selected all the princess ones? Hadley insisted, because she loves "Superhero poovies," as she calls it.  She knows all about Hulk, Captain "Amerta" and "Four (Thor)" "Fiderman (Spiderman),  and the Hulk one is the one she wanted.  I couldn't have been more proud of her. She was so proud of herself. I think its appropriate that of all The Avengers, she gravitates towards Hulk.  They both sort of have the same effect on a place... HADLEY-SMASH! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mission Accomplished

I feel like I accomplished something big today, something that makes me want to blow the dust off the blog and write about it.  As y'all know, I'm a big history guy.  I am, in many ways, an actual historian.  This subject matter has really defined my entire educational life.  While many were doing volcanoes for their science projects in grade school, I was doing one on the conspiracy theory surrounding the JFK assassination.  One of my first trips with my new (don't worry its the same wife I have now) wife, was a Civil Wargasm through PA and MD.  At one point during my first walk down Pickett's Charge, a rather dramatic point due to the rolling thunderstorm that was about to hit,  I asked my wife "can't you just hear the guns?"  She, rather disgusted at this point, replied: "No, its hot.  Lets hurry.  Its a good thing you're cute, because you are a nerd."  She meant it with love....I think.

I spent one summer tracing down my family history, and I may do it again shortly.  Now that I have kids of my own, its more and more important to me.  I was digging through all the census records I could find, just to get a little clue into the past.  Turns out, one of the most interesting stories was right in front of my face all along.

As I have mentioned before, my mother's father was in WWII.  He was actually in every major European campaign after and including D-Day.  He was a truck driver, transport guy, drove a big truck.  He said the scariest moment of the war for him was the night prior to D-Day (not the actual invasion itself).  James was slightly delayed into Normandy because they had to secure the beachhead in the morning for him to drive the supplies up.  He told his story about how he had to move every large vehicle on the ships en route to Normandy, at night, in as much silence as possible, with no lights.  He said he had to move the vehicles right up to the edge of the ship without driving overboard.  Don't forget the ship was moving in the ocean.  They could only communicate by clicks, and no lights from the vehicles were allowed.  He said that was the most stressful moment for him.   He later told me had to sleep under his truck on the beaches of Normandy because there were explosions going off everywhere.  That didn't bother him too much.  He later then participated in Northern France, Ardennes, and Rhineland campaigns.   Click on each campaign to learn more.

I could never get PaPaw to talk much about the war.  One thing that always stuck out to me was when he said "That's (going to war) just what we did.  We went over there, did our duty, and came home."  As he has gotten older, and probably realizing the bell will toll for him sooner rather than later, he has opened up about his time over there.  Now, he just talks to me about it without me having to ask any questions.  He gave me his dog tags this past November when I took my girls to see him.  Caroline gave him a Veterans Day thank you card.  Where before it was like pulling teeth, now he just talks.  Talking is harder for him to do and all of this was 70 years ago.  Some of it, you can tell, he doesn't want to remember.  However,  I can imagine recall would be difficult for anyone.  I don't claim that my PaPaw was a larger than life figure.  I don't even claim that when I was younger we were all that close.  I was certainly closer to my PawPaw (Dad's Dad) who was taken too soon by pancreatic Cancer.  That doesn't mean I didn't love my PaPaw, and that I didn't appreciate the gift of my mother.  She is just an awesome mother, and an even better MaMaw (have I lost you with all of our southern parental nicknames?)  Anyway, as I have gotten older and learned more, my PaPaw has become someone I admired more and more.  As I once told him, they make video games and movies after stuff he did.  I think what made him more admirable, is the "aww shucks" attitude he had about the whole thing.  He is, in many ways, a living hero. 

I can recall watching videos of the last Confederate soldier who died in 1959, I have even asked my father if he remembers that moment when it happened.  The last WWI American soldier just passed 3 years ago, something I will never forget.  It is now WWII soldiers turn.  Every day we lose brave men (and women) who fought in that campaign.  Each one of them should be thanked, appreciated, and talked to, before it is too late.  That brings me to my "Mission Accomplished" moment.

When I was doing the family research, I made copies of my grandfathers discharge papers from the US Army.  I was surprised to see how active he was and how decorated he was.  He doesn't have a ridiculous amount of medals, but having any from that time period is pretty cool.  The papers were something I was going to hold on to forever.  Flash forward about 7 years, and I see "my" Congressmen Andy Bar (R from Lexington KY) say on twitter that his office can replace your relatives WWII medals.  I was instantly determined to have that done for my PaPaw.  I called PaPaw's Congressman's office (Yarmouth D from Louisville) and asked if they could do it.  Ironically enough, the staff member who has been helping me along the way is my brother's ex wife.  To her credit, she has pushed this through and stuck with it until the end.  I am very thankful for that.  It turns out that all of my grandfathers war records were in a file folder in a warehouse in St. Louis.  Sounds good, right? The problem is, that warehouse burned down in the early 70's, so there was very little evidence the government had to verify my grandfathers record.  In fact, all they had were two pay stubs.  Thankfully, I had his discharge papers (glad I did the research years ago and kept those papers).  They matched the numbers on the pay stub with the papers, and everything was quickly verified.  Now, James F. Rissler's records will be digital stored in the governments files. The cherry on top is that his medals were quickly sent to the Congressman's office, hence the GWB picture above.  Mission Accomplished.....almost.  Still don't actually have the medals in PaPaws hands, but it won't be long now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


My father was an excellent baseball player.  In a lot of ways, baseball (and maybe the Cuban Missile Crisis) defined his teen years like football did mine.  He has occasionally told me stories about the no hitter he threw, or the championships they won at Flaget.  Generally when it comes to baseball, he tells me about how his father never missed again.  B(o)urbon, no matter the weather would make it to all the games. Dad would even tell me about the times when Burbon's tuberculosis would be acting up, but his father was still there to watch his son play.  If it wasn't a story about his father, it was a story about Mickey Mantle.  To hear it, Mickey Mantle would hit a home run every time he came up to bat (he was that good).  As Dad's stories would go, everyone in the stadium would stand on their feet every time "The Mick" came to the plate.  In my fathers eyes, there was never a better ball player than Mickey Mantle.  I got taught that at a very early age, so the Yankees (baseball team) were never viewed as the "Evil Empire" in my house.  You also have to remember that they never won a title for the first 16 years of my life. I was unfamiliar with this Yankee's dynasty I heard about from the 50's and 60's.  It was a down time for what Dad always told me was the greatest sports franchise.  One of my favorite players growing up was Dave Winfield.  Dave Winfield is the only person to get drafted in three professional sports (football, baseball, and basketball).  I liked him for a lot of reasons, but I think I liked him because it became a connection with my father.  Another great Yankee, one for me to like just the same as he did growing up.

Then in about 1995 that all changed when Derek Jeter started playing for the Yanks.  Not only did the Yankees start to win again, Jeter epitomized everything that was right about baseball.  I always felt that he would have been viewed much differently had he played for any other team than the Yankees. He did play for the Yankees though, and he played every game like it was his last.  Watching Jeter, you never got the sense he felt it to be a burden.  No matter the score, not matter the scenario, he would dive into the stands, he would make an incredible play, or he would come up huge with an opposite field base hit.   While some people "hated" Jeter because he played for New York, everyone respected "The Captain." I was very fortunate to be a teenager during both Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter's prime.  Both were sporting icons.

When I had girls I thought that connection that I had with the Yankees and my father would die.  For the most part it has.  The girls like baseball well enough, I suppose they are Cubs fans. They enjoy the food at the ballparks more than anything, and I am okay with that.  Their loyalty is for sale, and if cotton candy and hot dogs wins them over, fair enough.  Them being Cubs fans is probably a good life lesson for them, they need to learn that you can't always win.  The Cubs will teach them that.  Back in May I took Reagan to see Derek Jeter play at Wrigley, then the next day I took all the girls to see him play at The Cell.  I tried to give them a crash course on how important of a player Derek Jeter is to baseball and to me.  I tried to tell them the importance of carrying yourself like Jeter, and how Jeter once said "there is never a reason not to play hard." Jeter teaches a lot of life lessons through sports.  It was awesome to see at both games that every time Jeter came up to bat, everyone stood up and cheered.  Just like Dad used to say about Mickey Mantle.  The Cubs game went into extra innings, so we got to see two extra Jeter at bats.  Every time we thought it might be Jeter's last at bat at Wrigley, he would get another one.  The Yankees won the game (of course), further teaching Reagan that you don't always win in life.  I'm not sure they really got the importance of a sports hero like Jeter, I don't blame them.  Baseball isn't their love, probably isn't really mine (like it was with my dad) either.  I do love parts of the game.  I think much of what I love,  I love because it makes me think of Dad.  My sports love is UK and SEC, that's my sports connection with my girls.  Regardless, they enjoyed the games and they learned a little about their Daddy in the process.

So flash forward to tonight, the night of the MLB All Star game.  Here I am sitting on the couch with all 4 girls...watching baseball.

Hadley: Is this baseball or basketball (we have a lot to learn)?
Baylor Grace: its baseball, Hadley
Hadley: Can we watch Sophia?
Reagan: After Derek Jeter bats, Hadley!

Everyone on TV was standing when Jeter came to bat, so did my girls in our family room.  We watched with as much anticipation you can have for an exhibition game, and what does Derek Jeter do? He hits an opposite field base hit that he stretches into a lead off double.  DJ did what DJ does.  My girls and I went crazy.  I'm not sure they really knew why, but boy they were excited.  Everyone cheered.

We might not have that lifetime connection that my father and I had, but for that moment we most certainly did.

Reagan: Dad, I want a New York Yankees hat.  Not a pink one for a girl, but navy blue, like Jeter's.

Maybe I did teach them something.....

Monday, June 23, 2014

We are off!

Howdy folks, blogging today from the actual site of Little House On The Prairie. Now truth be told, this means very little to me.  However, apparently my wife and my oldest daughter love these books.  I vaguely remember the TV show, didn't know there were books until about 6 months ago, and didn't know it was an actual story until about 6 hours ago.  Anyway, so here we are in South Dakota.

We started our "Oregon Trail" journey yesterday in Chicago, IL.   Well my day actually started in New Orleans.  I was up at 5 in the morning to get home, repack, and then get on the road.  The drive though IL was boring as usual.  I will give Wisconsin some credit though, it is a prettier state than I would have predicted.  The Minnesota border area around the river is beautiful.  The Mississippi River was way up which kind of added to the prettiness of the area.  It was a very unusual day for two reasons: 1) I saw the Mississippi River at is southern most point, and I then later crossed the Mississippi River at its northern most point.  2) I let Brooke drive much of the drive yesterday.  This never happens, by never I mean I can't remember the last time she drove on a trip.  I was so tired from being in New Orleans the past few days, it was probably dangerous for me to drive.  I sort of liked being in the passenger seat, no pressure at all. Maybe I will have to let her drive again......neh.  Anyway, about 15 miles in MN starts to flatten out, and apparently this fact doesn't change until western South Dakota.  Not much happened last night, other than a fun night at a Hampton Inn.  I sort of feel like we are the family equivalent of a zombie hoard when we travel.  We come, we use all the towels the hotel has in stock, we eat all the free hot breakfast they provide, then we leave without a trace.  I used points for the hotel last night, so they didn't even get paid for our destruction.  Ayers family 1- Hampton Inn-0.

Today was a great day, capped off by a selfie with the Jolly Green Giant.

Its not every day you pass a 60 ft statute dedicated to the HQ of JGG.  Being that we were on a great family adventure, we felt it was necessary for the brief detour.  Today was only about 5 hours of driving, much of the scenery was the same.  I will say this, it is pretty.  Its a different prairie pretty, but pretty nonetheless.  We rather enjoyed the ride today, but that could partially be because we don't have to make it again.

The second half of our day was spent here on the 170 acre site.  This is where we are sleeping tonight, on site of the homestead.
The girls had an absolute ball this afternoon.  They played with the horses, the ponies, the baby ponies, they (all 4) road the horses, there is a baby cow, 3 baby kittens that they love, they went on a carriage ride, school house, did the whole nine yards.  I went on a 7 mile run, I think both groups were happier with what they decided to do.  During my run it was crazy to see some rainstorms off in the distance.  You sort of thought they were coming, but then you remembered you can see so far that you probably weren't really in danger. We had a simple dinner at our campsite (above), and now we are anticipating some star gazing.  Tomorrow its off to western South Dakota.  Bad Lands, Mt. Rushmore, etc. Im excited to eventually see the site of one of my favorite HBO shows.  We can only hope our ox don't break down along the way.

If you are friends with Brooke or I on Facebook, there are a lot more pictures there.  Feel free to check them out over there.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Thomas Jefferson is one of my favorite political men of our past, one that I love to take in whatever I can on him.  Lots of people from history you enjoy to read about, many that's all you can do.  TJ, is one of the few you can really walk in his footsteps.  If you have never had the privilege of walking "the grounds" of UVA, you really should make a trip.  Yes, Monticello is awesome, but so is Mr. Jefferson's University.  Mr. Jefferson wasn't a perfect man, he had his faults.  However, his vision was something that arguably may not have ever been matched in the history of America.

I think that what you put on your tombstone says a lot about what your priorities were in life.  Think of all the accomplishments that Thomas Jefferson could have put on his tombstone, and look above what actually made the cut. This is what was most important to Thomas Jefferson.  Not President of The United States.  Not 1st Secretary of State.  Not Vice President of The United States.  He thought writing our Declaration of Independence, Statute for Religious Freedom, and helping create UVA, were his greatest achievements. That speaks volumes about TJ, and I absolutely love it.  Your tombstone might be the only thing a person ever sees of you.  What would you want it to say to the person if you could no longer say it yourself?

As Eminent Supreme Recorder for SAE, I could very well be at the pinnacle of my professional career.  However, I have told anyone who will listen that being ESR will not make my tombstone.  There are two reasons for this.  1) I am going to be cremated, so I won't have a tombstone.  2) This job does not define me, validate me, or give me some sense self righteousness.  Don't get me wrong, leading this organization is an incredible honor.  Like I said, its probably all down hill professionally after this job because its an amazing position. There is no question that Sigma Alpha Epsilon is such an incredibly important part of my life, I am so just so fortunate (honored) to sit behind the desk that I do for whatever timeframe I hold the office.  However, it will not make the cut for my tombstone despite its magnitude.

If I had to think of three things that would make the cut for my tombstone, I think I would want it to read:
Father &
True Gentleman.

That's it.  I understand that to many people out there this doesn't seem like a lot.  Perhaps you would interpret that here rests a man that in life who did not accomplished much that is extraordinary.  That doesn't bother me that someone may think that.  This weekend encompasses everything that matters the most to me.  Its the girls last day of school tomorrow, Saturday is my 11th anniversary with Brooke.  I honestly can't believe its been 11 years since we said I do.  Then Sunday is Fathers Day (my parents anniversary too).  I haven't fully gotten into this holiday until very recently.  I guess its partially because I'm still learning what it actually means to be a Daddy.  I love it when I get home from work and all 4 girls (well 3 of the 4) come running to say hello.  They all scream for Daddy and give me a big hug.  Ive had lots of titles, but Daddy is the best.  This weekend though I am going to do nothing but spend it with my girls.   All weekend I am going to fully embrace my Daddyhood, and do Daddy things.Saturday we are taking Caroline downtown to Chinatown for her birthday. I was told by Caroline I am going to grill out on Sunday night.  I may get a good run in too, but I'm going to be a husband and a father. Thats it.  The two things I love the most, the two things I am most proud of.  I may not be the father of a major university, but I am the father of some pretty cool girls.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What time is it?

If someone asks you "what time is it?" there are a lot of ways you could respond to that question.  You could, of course, respond with the appropriate time.  You could simply respond with some southern saying about when a dog hunts, or when a frog croaks.  You could enthusiastically respond "GAME TIME!"  There are so many traditional ways you could respond to this very simple question.  Not in my house, not when I was growing up.

If you ever make the "mistake" of asking my parents "what time is it?" they will answer your question, but not until they sing the entire Howdy Doody theme song.

11 year old me: Dad, what time is it?
Dad (with Mom joining in from somewhere in the house): It's Howdy Doody time, it's Howdy Doody time, Bob Smith and Howdy Do, sing Howdy Do to you.  So give a rousing cheer, cause Howdy Doody's here.  Its time to start the show, so kids lets go!"  It is 2:43.

This happened every. single. time.  It still happens to this day.  I would make it a point to not ask my parents what is the time, just so that I don't have to listen to this song.  I would rather take a picture of the sun's position in the sky, find an old encyclopedia and chart the sun compared to the picture,  run outside and check our sun dial (yes we had one), than ask them that doomed question.

So this morning we are sitting around the counter celebrating Baylor Grace's birthday.  One of my girls asks me that all important question.."Dad, what time is it?"  Then it hit me, that moment when you realized you have turned into your parents.

I know how annoying it was to hear that damned song. I know how much it drives me crazy to this day.  So what did I do when I was prompted by my child about the time? I sang the entire damned theme song.

It was actually a pretty cool moment. I went into the explanation of what/who Howdy Doody was, how my parents used to do this to me all the time, etc.
Me: This was a show your grandparents used to watch in the 50's when they were kids.
Caroline: Like in the 1500's?
Me: No, Caroline, they aren't that old.

As I was leaving the house this morning, I gave all 5 girls a kiss and wished them well for the day.  Taking my last steps out of the house I heard one of them singing the Howdy Doody theme song, a song they had just heard for the first time.

Baylor Grace asked me in the car ride home about the time, with this really anticipatory look on her face, hoping I would sing the song.  A song that her and Reagan sang along with.  When I got home, Caroline was signing the darned song too.  I hear them upstairs in the shower, singing this song.  It haunts me.

I suppose it could have been worse.  Its kind of funny that when they sing it it doesn't bother me like it did when Mom and Dad would sing it. You win (again) Mom and Dad, you win again.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Thank you, Reagan

When Brooke and I moved into our first house as a married couple in December of 2003, my mother gave me a bird feeder.  It was a pretty basic feeder, but I loved it.  I always enjoyed watching the birds come and eat from it, I enjoyed watching the squirrels trying to get at, and the many other  various animals who came to the buffet.

When Brooke, Reagan, and I moved to Lexington, the feeder came with us.  It wasn't new when I got it, and it was constantly getting beat up. Bad storms, fat animals, high winds, all would knock it to the ground and break it even more.  When time game for all us to move to Chicago, the feeder came with again.  Winters and wind are hard here in Chicago, and after a few weather induced falls the feeder was destroyed.  I was actually a little disappointed when I had to toss it a last fall.

The last weekend I was home (at the end of March) Reagan and I were outside bumming around, and I mentioned that when I returned I wanted to go with her to pick out a new feeder.  She didn't really say much when I said that, in fact I wasn't sure she heard me. In between my hectic travel schedule, I was recently home for about 15 hours.  Before she left for school, Reagan said she had a surprise for me.  She got this long box and gave it to me.  The smile on her face was ear to ear, it looked very much like the one on the top of this page.  She was very proud of herself about something.  I opened the box and inside was this new bird feeder.  She told me that she helped Mom (Brooke) pick it out.  I thought it was a nice gesture, and I do love the new feeder. I will hang it up when I get home on Sunday. I come to find out from Brooke, that there is more to the story.  Reagan actually paid for the feeder with her own money.  She went to Brooke and asked her mother to help her buy me a new bird feeder.  She works hard around the house to get money. She doesn't get it for just consuming oxygen. She saves and saves every penny she ever makes.  Most of the money she gets goes directly to her bank account, but she does keep some in her piggy bank. This is the money she wanted to use it to buy her Daddy something.  Brooke and I are fairly sure that this is the first gift I have ever gotten from the girls that was purchased with their own money.  It really warmed my heart when Brooke connected those dots of me, it made me feel really good. Thank you, Reagan-I love it.  I just wished I had realized all this when you gave it to me.

My first bird feeder came from my mother.  It traveled to multiple cities and weathered many storms. At some point it just gave out.  Maybe it was fate that kept me from picking one up on my own, maybe just luck.  Regardless, having Reagan give me (with her own money) one is pretty darn cool.  I'll never forget the smile on her face when she gave it to me.  I think her Mamaw would be proud to pass this torch to Reagan.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I have a confession to make-

One of the hardest things for Brooke and I to do is carve out time just for us.  We have to really work at it to have time where we aren't distracted by life.  I'm sort of proud that we are getting better and better at this, and I think it has been really healthy for our relationship.  It was just a few weeks ago, when we were just sitting around talking when I had an eureka moment.

Here is my confession.  I was not a good husband early on.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't awful, but I have come to realize that I was not as mature as I thought I was.  I still sort of had the college mentality, but I was living in "the real world." Brooke and I were too young when we got married.  Well at least I was. I have only recently realized this, and its not an admission that I am proud of.  When I got married in 2003, I didn't actually have a true grasp on what it meant to be a man.  I certainly didn't understand what it meant to be a husband. Without question, I didn't know what it meant to be a true partner. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely.  Ask Brooke the same question, she might tell you something different.  That's a joke, I think.  In retrospect, would I do certain things differently and handle life differently? Absolutely. Truth be told, I didn't start growing up until Reagan came.  Then we moved to Lexington and Caroline came.  Then Baylor Grace, then Hadley Blaine.  At that point we moved to Chicago and we were really on our own for the first time.  This is significant because it made me realize how much I lean on Brooke, and how important she is to me.  Ive heard the saying that kids make a good marriage better, and a bad marriage worse.  It is absolutely accurate to say they have made our marriage better.  However, I think a reason for that is because they made me better.  They made me realize I needed to grow up.  The girls made me realize I needed to be more careful with how I acted.  The girls made me realize I needed to be better with how I was to Brooke.  The girls made me realize how important my conduct really was.  I now know I need to take better care of myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. They are always watching me.  While I am proud that Caroline thinks its fantastic that she farts like her Daddy, I realize now what I need to do for them.  The greatest thing I can do for my girls is love their mother.

I have no idea why I was the way I was back then.  For the record, my parents raised me better than that.  I am probably harder on myself than anyone else is, but I am deeply disappointed in myself for those early years.  I can never have those years back, I can never give Brooke those years back.  I guess it is all part of life's maturation process, even the parts you are disappointed in.  I'm lucky to have survived those early years when I was not the man I should have been.  I am even luckier to have Brooke be blessed with the patience of a Saint.  Life isn't about doing it perfectly.  Its about doing it better than you did the day before.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

#TBT We shouldn't tolerate second class citizenship

I thought I would go way back for my #TBT (throw back Thursday) today.  This picture is one I am particularly proud of, one that probably guides me in my everyday work more than I realize.  It is a picture from the late 1940s in Kentucky.  What you are looking at, is a restaurant that my Great Grandfather worked at.  Delbert (who is in the foreground) worked at this place with his brother in law, my Great Great Uncle (who is in the background).  It was that side who owned the store, not my Great Grandfather.  This picture might not mean much to you, but I ask that you to put the picture in its historical context.  This was in the segregated South, during the height of the Jim Crow laws.  Not only was "separate but equal" rarely enforced, it was often ignored.  My GGF had no reservations about serving African-Americans.  In fact, as a result of their reputation, 90% of their clientele were African-American.   All my ancestors in this picture were raised on the Tennessee border. They are just removed from grandparents who fought for the Confederacy.  I don't claim they were perfect, but at a time when it was excused by society to treat a particular section of the society as second class citizens, my family did not.  I am very proud of that.

The next decade, late 50's early 60's, their business interests moved to more of a general store.  It was a store in the front of a "shotgun" house.  Again, my family's reputation preceded them, and much of their loyal clientele was African-American.  Not only did they proudly serve any person who came in the door, they even offered credit to the African-Americans.  This is something else that seems routine in today's world, I assure it was not back then.  They knew their clients, they treated them with respect, and they trusted them.  In return, my Great Grandfather was trusted, treated with respect, and had a loyal customer base.  He also had very little problems collecting on the debts that were owed to them.   That is what happens in a reciprocal relationship built on trust. 

Again, they weren't perfect.  While Delbert served in the Navy during WWI and fought off the Kaiser's men, I am told he liked the ponies a little too much.  Despite all that, he didn't tolerate someone being treated as a second class citizen.  Delbert's daughter in law was a fiery red haired Irish Catholic (God rest her sainted Irish soul).  Her family knew all too well, both in the homeland (Ireland), and here in America, how poorly Irish Catholics were often treated.  

I can't tolerate it either.  I don't care if you're African-American, Homosexual, Hispanic, Muslim, Jewish, or even a pledge.  Second class citizenship in America, in SAE, is unacceptable.  We are better than that as Americans, and we are better than that as SAEs.  Many of  y'all may think I am crazy, maybe I am?  You may also think that its a leap to make some of the comparisons in the above sentence.  I assure you it is not.  At some point in time you have to take a stand, even if it makes you uncomfortable, even if it leaves you vulnerable.  At the end of the day, there is never a wrong time, to do the right thing.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

As the world turns...

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog, I feel it is time to blow the dust off this keyboard and get to blogging.  Brooke asked me why I hadn't blogged in a while, I told her its because I feel like my mother is the only one reading them.  She is probably 50% of the people who regularly comment.  Regardless, I realized that I probably need to get cracking, I have a lot of stories to tell.

I have been extremely busy with work lately, we are on the cusp of doing some amazing things.  The holidays came and went, and I had a fantastic time with my girls (and family).  We even got (another) trip to Disney, and the girls were surprised by Aunt Brooke, Aunt Callie, and Baby Brayden joining us.  It has been a crazy few months since I last wrote.  Not too mention, its literally snowed about 70 inches here in Park Ridge.  I have not seen the ground here in Chicago since prior to Christmas.  Seriously.  Im not sure grass even exists any more.  We have to google image "grass" just to prove to Hadley that grass once did surround us all.  Im not really sure there is light at the end of the winter tunnel, I feel like we moved to a prison camp run by the Gulag.  Welcome to "Chiberia."

Speaking of Gulag, there are a lot of reasons to dislike Sochi.  I don't care much for the Winter Olympics to begin with, but Sochi is terrible. Not only do they have a ridiculous anti-gay law, they are going around killing all the stray dogs.  On top of that, the hotels are not finished, the infrastructure was never completed, they have practically manufactured a city for this Olympics.  I can't imagine what it will look like 6 months when the circus leaves town.  I also love NBC's converge of this charade,  as they mentioned the "pivotal experiment" of Soviet Russia.  It is all a sh*tshow.    Below is a picture of the tap water, don't drink it or wash your face with it.  Seriously.  You can get really close to the person using the toilet next to you, and don't worry about that live wire in your shower.

Here is the funny thing about the Winter Olympics....as much as I loathe the vast majority of sports (anything having to do with cold weather except maybe a hot tub), I have a soft spot for the entire ceremony.  Why you ask?  It is because of two nights spent 8 years ago.  If memory serves me correct, the Olympics were in Italy that year.  Due to the time difference, a lot of the live action was shown at night. I remember I couldn't sleep those two nights in February.  You may think that is normal for me, since I suffer from sever anxiety and can't sleep now.  Truth be told. that wasn't always the case.  I used to be able to sleep with relative ease, and not spend my nights worrying about everything. Those two nights, I couldn't.  Not only was it nerves, it was also because I couldn't get comfortable.  I feel like I was sleeping on a plastic chair, that every time I moved, sounded like polar bear chewing on a gigantic rubber tire.  Truth be told, I was actually "sleeping" on a plastic chair, and the tv was my only company.  Well, I also had the regular, somewhat hypnotic, beeping from Brooke's machine.  We were in the hospital waiting for baby Reagan.  I had no idea what to expect.  Being a parent for the first time, having a little girl, I wasn't sure exactly how much my world was about to be turned upside down.  I can recall watching so many horrible sporting events those nights because it was (literally) the only thing on.  Those Olympics that I once hated, actually helped pass the time.  I can't watch them now and not think of those two nights.  I actually have grown to appreciate the WO, and its all because I feel like we bonded for about 48 hours.  No matter what, when you associate something with such a positive emotion like my love for Reagan, how can you not have a soft spot for it?

Brooke once told me that Reagan would be the best thing to every happen to me, I've blogged about that before.  Yesterday, we went to downtown Chicago for breakfast at The American Girl store to celebrate her 8th birthday.  This past Friday, I watched Reagan dance her butt off with her friends, as if I wasn't even there.  It hurt a little bit, but thats okay.  She is getting to be a young girl, but she would eventually come back to me at the dance (I hope she always does, come back to her daddy).  No one was more excited for me winning the dance off as Reagan was.  She thought I roped the moon that night.  I couldn't get over how big she looked on the dance floor.  I can't believe how fast the time has flown by.  I would give anything to hold my baby Reagan again, or have her yell out "sit next to me Daddy" as soon as we get to the restaurant.  She is changing, and if I want to remain part of her life, I must change, too.  I consider myself Lou Gehrig for having those 4 girls, and it all started with Reagan.

This morning we watched Father of the Bride together, I warned her it was going to make me cry.  She said I cry a lot, which is true.  This scene gets me no matter how many times I watch it. I told her I will probably embarrass her on her wedding day, I'll be such a mess.   I love seeing Reagan come downstairs in her princess dress in the morning, just as Steve Martin talked about in the movie.  I will cherish those little moments forever.

So here we are, the week that my BFF turns 8.  It has been an incredible 8 years.  I am a better man because that little girl is in my life.  I know that in the same amount of time that has already passed, I will be teaching her to drive.  Im not ready for her to grow much more.  We want her to stay little forever, and we know that can't happen.  So, I will embrace the fact that I have a front row seat to the greatest movie I have ever seen.  Thanks for letting me be your Daddy, Reagan.  I love you "more than all the stars in the sky, and fish in the sea."  Happy 8th birthday, my love.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My eyes have seen the glory...

Goodbye old buddy

This past Monday, the coldest day in the history of the world, I went downtown to have surgery on my eyes.  I chose to have PRK instead of the commonly selected LASIK.  I didn't want to go the rest of my life with two flaps on my eyeballs that could at any time be reopened.  Most people choose LASIK because that prior mentioned possibility will probably never happen, and because there is a lot less pain.  I admit to have a very low tolerance for pain, but there were some tense moments after the surgery.  The first 36 hours were the worst.  I just had to keep the end goal in sight, so to speak, that by the end of the week I would be able to see.

The first night was interesting.  I had to spend most of my time in the basement where it is always dark.  Reagan wanted to sleep in the bed with me down there, she wanted to take care of me.  She knew that I couldn't watch the BCSNCG, so she sat down there with my iPad and gave me the play by play.  That was pretty interesting in of itself, having a 7 year old tell you whats going on in a football game.  Every time I would move in bed, even at 2 in the morning, I would hear Reagan say "are you okay, Daddy?"  The next evening, when the pain was at its worse, she would sit on the couch with me and just rub my back.  As I rocked back in forth, my eyes literally unable to open, watering uncontrollably, she sat there in silence and comforted me. It would probably be worth a blog on its own.  A father being taken care of by his little girl.

As the week went along, I could see better and focus more.  I still have a hard time with small print (like computers- so yes this blog is a struggle), but I can see big picture pretty well.  On Thursday I could finally watch TV again which couldn't have come at a better time.

One of my favorite books of all time is Lone Survivor.  I read it about 2.5, 3 years ago.  I have even given the book to people I work with as a gift.  I gave it to my father this past year for his birthday.  Its a book about leadership, sacrifice, belief, love, and loss.  I cannot tell you how excited I was for the movie.  I have waited, and waited, and waited for it to come out.  I was excited that Lone Survivor would be the first thing I tested my new eyes out on.

So I went to the movies to see it by myself.  Keep in mind I know what happens (as if the title didn't give it away).  I read the book so many times that I remember a lot of the specific details.  I knew I wasn't watching a biography or actual footage of the battle.  I knew the actors from different movies.  I knew it was filmed in New Mexico. I knew that everyone in the movie would actually be okay.  I knew all this, but I was still completely lost in this movie.

I love history, I love war movies, as much as you can love movies about war.  This one hit home, this one was different.  This wasn't a movie about a war fought long ago, by people who I couldn't really relate to.  I realize that this was the first war movie with people my age.  People who were married like me, people who had kids like me.  People who looked like me.  People who had a lot more courage than I could ever dream of having, some who gave their last full measure of devotion for our country.  Its the first war movie where many of my friends, ex roommates, and fraternity brothers, had been over there (are currently over there) doing very much the same as what I saw on the screen.  I take a lot of pride of saying I know people like Cheno, Joey, Truelove, and Seth.  All SAEs who served our country over there.  Here am I at the movies, by myself, knowing the outcome of the movie, and I found myself crying at about 4 different times in the movie.  Not an ugly face, snot waterfall sob, but a cry just enough to pull at the heart strings.  I didn't care who saw, I wasn't the only grown man who this happened to.  I couldn't help but laugh at myself for the "pain" I was struggling with earlier in the week, versus what I was watching on the big screen. I wanted desperately for those men to make it out of the valley.  I wanted desperately for those men to return to those who they loved.  I wanted desperately for those men who were suffering to have it end quickly.  For the most part, that didn't happen.  I knew going into it that it wasn't going to happen, yet I hoped it would anyway.

I cried at the end of Field of Dreams.  I get emotional during Gettysburg when Lou Armistead is talking to Longstreet about his friend on the other side.  Other than that, I don't get too emotional with movies (Old Yeller aside).  This one got to me, and I knew what was going to happen.  It is a rare time when even if you have read the book that the movie enhances the experience.  Maybe someday I will be fortunate to meet Marcus, the Lone Survivor.  You never are out of the fight.

Its been a strange week.  It started with my 7 year old acting like a parent for her Daddy, and ending with the Daddy getting lost in a movie he had waited years to see.  When I got home, Brooke asked (in a somewhat sarcastic tone) "was it all you wanted it to be?"  I told her "you have no idea."

I got new eyes this week, and in some ways I am seeing things differently than I ever have before.