Friday, December 18, 2015

The Blog Awakens....

"There has been an awakening....have you felt it?"

It's not that I'm the biggest Star Wars fan. In fact, my brother- whose current profile pic is he and Luke Skywalker- is probably the biggest Star Wars fan. Like ever.  

To be honest, I'm more looking forward to Captain America: Civil War than anything Star Wars. 

However, I do really like Star Wars. 

Here is why:

My parents (Timothy Ayers and Nina Ayers) tried their best to give Patrick Ayers and I a great childhood. By almost every measurable way, they did that. One of my earliest childhood memories was when I was about the same age that Hadley is now. My parents took me to see Return of the Jedi in the movie theatre. I was one of the lucky ones to have something so different as part of my growing up. Many kids, 35 and younger, didn't have that in their life. They tried, but they don't know what a game changer Star Wars was for kids. Seeing that type of movie in the theatre for the first time was special. I came in just in the tail end of it. Let's be honest the prequels that came out 99-2005 don't count. They, for the most part, are an embarrassment. Having a slightly older brother who ate, slept, and breathed the original trilogy of Star Wars, made it a huge part of that good memory known as my childhood. I mean it was everywhere. As a 40+ year old husband and father, it would not surprise me if when my family leaves after Thanksgiving,  he still makes my parents hum the music and place a home made medal around his neck like this scene:

If my parents did this once, they did it 1000 times.

To this day, I remember being in the theatre. I mostly remember the final lightsaber duel between Luke and his father. I remember not knowing if Luke would remain good or not. This was a very big deal to 4 year old Boomer.  It was a struggle between good and evil. It was one of the first times I had to pick between good and bad in my life. There was no gray (in my mind).  That Christmas, Patrick and I each got one of the first toy lightsabers they ever made. Patrick got the green one (Luke's) and I got the red one (Vader's). This is ironic because of how we ended up.  Me a total Jedi, Patrick, mostly a Sith.  I kid, Patrick.  No seriously, Patrick, its not too late. I sense good in you. They had black handles with Return of the Jedi stickers on the handle. They were simply long hallow plastic tubes.  If you wanted them to ignite, you had to make the sound yourself.  They didn't light up.  The noise made was the wind going through the hallow tube.  Very primitive compared to the ones my kids had.  Mom and Dad, I never told you this, but I remember being crushed I got the red one. It represented evil. It was bad. I had such a hard time playing with it because I felt guilty playing with that symbol of bad (yes I'm Catholic, too). I wanted to be all things good. I believe that time in my childhood set me on a path that I'm still on today. Probably explains my love for Captain America. 

That's why I'm excited for the new movie. It reminds me of a great time in my life. It also allows me to share some of that with my kids. What other entertainment option has that same ability? Disney? Sports? The ability to pass on something on that was such a big part of your childhood to your kids.  Not only that, now I have girls. And while they all love Captain America, and they have long sat through all 6 episodes of Star Wars, it is sort of my thing. I do like it when they think I am Captain America. But they "can't" think they are Captain America. He is a boy. Hadley is so intent on getting who is good and who bad (in the new Star Wars film) straight. And, she is even more focused on the girl. Now, my girls have a strong female role that they can get behind.  We can enjoy the same movie, and have a female to get the action figures of.  Someone I can get behind as well. Someone who represents good.

A new hope, so to speak.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

You go, Caroline!

I grew up in a big football house.  I was fortunate to play football for a great grade school program.  We won two championships in 4 seasons.  One season, we didn't get scored on all season.  I was privileged to play for one of the best high school programs in the nation.  After making the varsity roster as a sophomore, we won a state title.  While at the University of Kentucky, we went to two bowl games and had the #1 pick in the NFL draft while I was in school.  After I graduated, I went back to Trinity and coached 5 seasons.  We won 4 titles, and finished as high as #3 in the nation one year.  One of my favorite things to do growing up, was watching football with Dad.  It was just another way for us to bond. I was an average player at best, that had a few good highlights.  If I had to bet, I was a significantly better coach. I love football, its a major part of my life. Not in a lets tailgate, get drunk, and cry when our team loses. I loved the beauty of the sport.

I always envisioned that I would someday have that same relationship with my son.  I was looking forward to watching my boy play. Maybe, God willing,  one day coach him in the game that I loved.  Life is what happens when you make plans.

I went to my first youth football game tonight where football wasn't my focus.  I thought it was interesting that the Park Ridge team looks eerily like my grade school team.  I sat on the sidelines and focused more on goofing off with my girls, then the actual football on the field.  We weren't actually there for football at all.  We were there for the cheerleaders.  This is something I never planned on.  There was my Caroline, in a football jersey, cheering the team on the sidelines.  She is in the picture above.  Right corner, back to the picture, pony tail.

Caroline is the one I always worried about.  She has struggled to find something she likes.  She hated gymnastics.  I suspect it was because she was doing it in the shadow of her sister, who is like a Gabby Douglass protege.  She didn't like Irish dancing.  Soccer was more of a social event for her.  She would rather talk to the other team's players than actually play soccer.  Every time she was put into goal, my blood pressure would spike because I was so nervous for her. Dance was boring, etc.  Caroline really just doesn't like competition.  That is sort of hard for me to process. To Brooke's credit, she put her in Park Ridge cheer leading. Like always, I worried for Caroline.  I worried her Alopecia would strike.  I worried that she would be too nervous.  I worried that her team, many of whom are older than her, would not accept her.  I wasn't sure how it would go.

Then tonight happened. She did her sideline routines and halftime routines.  They threw her around (there are advantages to being the smallest), she kept time pretty well, and she wasn't worried about being on "stage".  She really did a great job. I had to contain myself from getting a little emotional.  It was a big moment for "Peaches" (the nickname her team gave her).

I never imagined that I would be the father of four girls.  I never thought that I would go to a football game and that the football would be an after thought. I never thought Id be in Chicago of all places.  Then life happens.  I looked up tonight to check on Caroline when I took the above picture.  I didn't even focus on the football going on in the background. In the end, that didn't bother me at all.  I loved the point of view that life had given me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

R.I.P. Old Betsy

I remember when Brooke and I got this car in August of 2008.  It was the first time I had ever had a brand new car.  The van was ordered just for us.  You might think that I would cringe at the thought of driving a mini van. Truth is, I was excited to do so.  I had always wanted to be a dad, and driving the van was evidence that I was playing that part.  While we had a lesser van at that point, meaning we would be "double vaning" it, my plan was that I would soon be driving my F-150.  This would make having a van in general, much more bearable.  Regardless, this was a great van. It had all the bells and whistles of the time, and it became a car we would grow to LOVE.

Both Baylor Grace and Hadley came home from the hospital in this van.  This van made so many trips to Irish dancing, soccer practice, gymnastic, school, work trips, ballet classes, grocery store, etc. It really was The Ayers Family Truckster.  Most importantly, we drove this van all over the country.  Road trips were such a big part of my childhood.  Some of my favorite childhood memories were being in the car and driving down the road with Patrick, Mom and Dad. Sometimes, I think Id give anything to do that just one more time.  I actually don't remember taking repeat trips with the same car.  For various reasons, the trip never changed, but the car always did.  Regardless, I loved that part of my childhood.  I so wanted to have that with my family.  I think this van provided the mode of transportation for so many of those great memories. We drove down to New Orleans, South Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Disney, Yellowstone and Northern Michigan.  So many amazing family memories happened in the van.  Memories I will cherish forever.  A lot of growth happened in the van too.  We discussed our likes and our dislikes.  Our fears and our dreams.  Yes, we sometimes argued, but we always made up.  We watched a ton of movies, ate a load of snacks,  and had to search for a ton of binkies.  They would always fall in the black hole of spots that all cars have.  Those spots that a normal sized hand couldn't fit into.  You ripped the skin off your knuckles, broke a finger or two, and lost fingernails, just to get that binky for your baby girl.  All while driving down the street.

Honestly, this van was part of our family.  Its easy to think I'm being dramatic, it is just a car, right?  Brooke accuses me (and Baylor Grace) of being hoarders.  Hoarders generally attached emotions to the most random objects.  There is some truth to Brooke's professional diagnosis.  I keep movie tickets, game tickets, programs, etc. because of the memories attached to those moments.  This car, represented those moments.

I really didn't mind when I eventually had to give up that F-150 because it was not practical in Chicago.  I was happy to get Brooke a shiny new van.  That meant I got Old Betsy.  Old Betsy was the name Caroline gave the car.  So here I am, driving the old, beat up van, that smells like a foot.  There were many jokes around work about the ESR driving the van.  It didn't bother me though, I believed it to be a symbol of something more important.  My job as a father, and the trips I loved to take with all the girls.

To top it all, it was paid off.  For two years I was driving a car that didn't cost any money every month.  But as time passed, and the miles piled up, the inevitable service work was coming.  I tried holding it off as long as possible, but I knew it was coming.  Father Time always wins. He wins with humans and cars.  I knew that there was about $3000 dollars worth of work that needed to be done just to keep her safe for the family.  I also knew that I didnt want to pump good money into a car with 100,000+ miles in it.  The time had come to trade her in.

Coach Bob Beatty was one of my mentors that really taught me a lot about life.  One of his lessons he told me early on, was that cars don't love you back.  People put all this money into their cars, and its a depreciating asset.  He is right, cars generally don't love you back.  However, I think this one was the exception.  Caroline was  seemingly the most sad to see Old Betsy go.  All the girls said goodbye to the car.  No other car will have the memories that this car had. It was a great time in all of our lives.

I realize that my girls really don't know how to get in and out of any car but a van.  They arent really sure about opening and closing car doors.  Every car they have had (that they can remember), has been the same height off the ground with automatic doors. Having something different is a whole new ballgame for them. I hope OB's new family, appreciates her as much as we did. We made some great memories in Old Betsy, but as Caroline said, now its time to make memories in New Betsy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Caroline, our sunshine.

It has been a difficult few days in the Ayers household.  As many people now know, Caroline has been diagnosed with Alopecia.  Alopecia is an autoimmune disease where her body basically attacks her hair.  Last Thursday, Brooke was brushing Caroline's hair when she noticed a quarter sized bald spot in the back of Caroline's head. There is also a second significant sized spot on her head.  I could tell right away that Brooke was concerned. She is always the calm, cool, and collected one. One cough and I catastrophize to the worst case scenario.  Brooke, on the other hand, is a rock.  When she walked into the kitchen with Caroline, I could tell in Brooke's eyes that she was scared.   We went to the doctor yesterday, and our fears were confirmed.  Caroline has Alopecia.

Brooke has cried herself to sleep a couple of nights.  I, too, have had a hard time keeping it together.  We fully understand that it could be worse.  We know that this disease is one where she won't physically feel any different.  It wasn't a Cancer diagnoses, even if it might look like one. We know it could be much worse. Still, it is a difficult cross to bear.  This is one that is a big burden for any child to have to deal with.  Its even worse for a girl.  Kids can be mean.  A girl who has always had the best, thickest, prettiest, hair of all of our girls.  We always joked that she had a birds nest on her head when she would wake up.  She used to brag to her sisters that her and I had the same hair.  In some ways, she was like Samson.

While Caroline was aware something was going on, she didn't know the extent of what could happen.  Outside of the two spots that we could cover with her other hair, the only other visible evidence of this was her left eyebrow was almost gone. So to this point, she hasn't been effected too much. We didn't want to worry her in the event it doesn't get worse. We also hadn't said anything to her sisters.  That all came crashing down tonight.  After dinner, Brooke was applying the medicine to Caroline's head when Caroline says "Mom, Reagan said that I was going to have to shave my head.  That is ridiculous, why would she say that?"  I immediately ran downstairs and cornered Reagan, asking her why she would say such a thing to Caroline.  It turns out two of her classmates came up to her and said something like "sorry your sister is going to have to shave her head."  Reagan denied it, not knowing what was going on.  She then asked Caroline about it because Reagan was caught off guard.  We knew it was time to talk to the girls.  We decided to talk to Caroline first.

Brooke has an amazing gift in the ability to talk to younger children.  It serves her well as a teacher.  She knows what to say and how to say it.  This didn't stop her and I from crying in the process.  Having to tell your little girl that she might lose her hair is not an easy thing to do.  We then wanted to bring her sisters up to let them know.  It really was a surreal moment telling her sisters what was going on with Caroline.  Brooke and I are sitting on the couch with Caroline in between us, the other three girls on the other couch.  We were telling them what might happen with Caroline's hair.  We are all crying.  In between us is Caroline.  She has one hand on me and one hand on Brooke.  She was rubbing us both, trying to make us feel better.  She was leading us. Caroline then went to get us kleenex so we could clean up.  After all was said and done, she had one simple request.  If she has to get a wig, she wanted one with a purple streak in it.

It was absolutely amazing to see the strength in Caroline.  Im sure part of that is because she really doesn't know.  Having said that, she talked frankly about not having any hair, what that meant etc.  We also talked to her sisters about what that meant to them as well.  I gave Reagan permission to "pummel" anyone who says something mean about Caroline.  She said, "okay....what does pummel mean?"  We gave them a chance to ask questions, and we talked about what the future holds.

Reagan was pretty upset about this.  She kept saying that she didn't want Caroline to lose her hair.  I went to talk to her when she was getting ready for bed because she was still crying.  She asked "Dad, what can I do? I want to protect her, but Im not always with her."  She then said, "if she loses her hair, I want to shave mine off too."  It was one of the most beautiful things she could have said.  She goes "its taken me forever to get my hair, Caroline has always had better hair than me.  If she is going to lose hers,  I want to shave mine off."

We laughed, we cried, we hugged it out. I should add that Hadley's contribution to the whole conversation was comedic relief.  She tooted.  Then tried to explain to us that it was okay because it was silent.  When then had a discussion about the silent but deadly toots.  Thanks, Hadley.   Hopefully it doesn't come to us shaving our heads.  After our talk tonight it became abundantly clear to all that Caroline won't be going through this alone. In the end, we can't do much more than hope and pray.  We will see if diet has anything to do with it.  If it does, then there will be some significant changes coming to what we eat.  None of us care about that, we all want to do anything we can for Caroline. Unlike Samson, Caroline's strength (and beauty) does not rest with just her hair.  Her hair, or lack there of, won't change that one damned bit. She seems to really understand this.

She has always surprised us.  She can on one hand be afraid of her own shadow and on the other show us unbelievable strength.  She is such a blessing.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Judge

I recently watched the movie The Judge.  Despite the fact that this movie had gotten mixed reviews, I was looking forward to it and wanted to give it a shot.  Let me say, I  really enjoyed this move.  Well, "enjoy" probably isn't the most accurate word. Hard to enjoy some of the topics that were covered.  I laughed, I was moved to tears on 4 occasions, and I loved the dynamics between the characters.  It is a somewhat "dark-ish" plot, but really a movie that left an impact on me. The movie made money but not a whole lot. I think people really missed the boat on this one. For me, it was a very, very, powerful movie.

I will try to avoid spoilers so that you can continue to read in peace.  Robert Downey Jr. plays a hot shot lawyer who lives in Chicago.  Many of the cast of The Avengers, minus Sam Jackson, are having a difficult time breaking away from the super hero type cast. (Might want to watch Snowpiercer.  Chris Evans is really good in an underrated movie)  I know that Downey is trying very hard to occasionally do something other than Sherlock or Ironman.  This was a big movie for him to able to show that he can do just that.  However, he is basically Tony Stark in the courtroom.  I expected any minute for his red and gold suit to come flying in.  On the surface, this role was very similar to his greatest role, Iron Man.  That's okay though, because I think his casting/portrayal of Tony Stark/Ironman is one of the best roles in the last 15 years.  Iron Man has turned him into the highest paid actor in America even in a year when he doesn't make a movie.  Think about how crazy that sounds, because it is 100% true.  Anyway, you find out very soon that there is more depth to this character than perhaps Tony Stark.

He is called home because of a family situation that needs his attention.  He expects his trip to be a short one, it ends up not being so short.  This is where you meet his father, played by Robert Duval.  Robert Duval is one of the best living actors.  He doesn't disappoint in this movie either.  He plays a rigid, black and white, old, crusty, dude.  Not all that of a stretch from many of his other roles.  Just like RD Jr. in this movie.  The back and forth between he and RD Jr. was absolutely fantastic.  One of the best on screen duos and duels I've seen in a while. Seriously.

I don't know much about the lawyer aspects in the film, so I cannot comment much on that part.  While Dad is a lawyer, he wasn't a trial lawyer. The rest of it, I thought was great (I had no problem with lawyer parts for the record).

I am fortunate to know what its like to have a fantastic father.  So the good parts of Duval's parenting, I totally could relate to.   More specifically, I am fortunate to have a father who has always had only one sweetheart in Mom.  This is a theme in the movie. I know what its like for my kids to have fantastic grandparents.  I know a little bit about the struggles of working the way you want to and being the father you want to.  This is a theme.  I know what its like to have a big brother that was the better one of the children.  This is a theme in the movie.  One place where I couldn't relate to the movie, is I am grateful that I didn't have to worry about obtaining my father's approval.  Well I constantly worry about this.  So to that end, I was captivated by the scene in the kitchen. Thankfully, my father tells me when he is proud of me and that he loves me.  This happens almost daily. So that void that RD Jr. has in the movie, I do not have.  Thank you for that, Dad.  The theme that I found most compelling throughout the movie is the theme on a man's legacy. This is something all men care about.  From U S Grant to Ronald Reagan.  How will we be remembered?  What will people say when they talk about us after we die? More importantly, what are we willing to do to build our legacy?  What are we willing to compromise in order to keep it?

In the end, this movie is about home.  Not just in the bricks and mortar sense, too.  Where you are from, who is there, who is buried there,  your last name.  All that defines you, all that you call home.  Like RD Jr. I find myself in Chicago because of work.  Like RD Jr. discovers in the end, not only do you have to do your last name proud, you have to be proud of your last name.  It is all you got.

Monday, February 2, 2015

My dearest Mildred...

2nd February, 1917

My dearest Mildred,

It has been far too long since I have written, and even longer since I have gazed upon your beautiful skin.  I long for the time when we can be in each others warm embrace again. Its not so much your embrace that I cherish, it is the warmth.  The memories of the warmth are the only thing that keeps me going during this horrible winter.  We spend much of day digging trenches (above) and fighting off the rats.  The rats here are as big as dogs.  We are in the middle of somewhere France, called Park Ridge.  Translated to English its pronounced Park Ridge.  I have never been this cold in my life.  The cold numbs you to the bone and it seems that it is impossible to warm up. There is no more room for the snow.  We are all tapped out.  You actually warm up a little when we have to dig more trenches, but then the cold just returns in full.

I miss you Mildred, I wish this damned war was over. We consider it a victory if we can dig 10 yards. 10 yards is progress. I'm not sure this war will ever end with this mentality. I have been fighting for seemingly six months now, and I don't know how much more snow I can bear. I don't feel any pride in digging snow for my country. All day long all I see is people digging and I think I am next? Will I be digging tomorrow? I see people jump up out of the trenches alive and then two seconds later fall back down dead from frostbite. Two weeks ago while sitting in the trenches someone started yelling Snow! Snow! In that instant I feared for my life. I grabbed a snow mask, hoping that I would get it on in time, so that I would live to see another day. There aren't enough snow masks for everyone so I had to watch my friend freeze from the snow. I can't believe I am here and I wake up every morning wondering if I will wake up tomorrow. Pray that the war is over soon and I am able to return home alive.

Pray for peace, pray for our health, pray for an end to this struggle, but most of all, pray for an end to the snow.

With all my love,

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

So I will dance with Cinderella....

Today is a sort of say day in the Ayers household.  Today is the day that Brooke is shipping out the Irish dancing dresses that the girls had worn for their competition.  Irish dancing was an activity that I really loved the girls participating in.  It was a rare sport that three of the girls could do together.  The activity gave us an excuse to travel together to competitions in Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  It gave our parents excuses to travel to see all of us, to be together.  Irish dancing gave my girls a connection to a part of their heritage that I believe is very important.  Their great grandmother (God rest her sainted Irish soul) would have loved to see them Irish dance, just as she always made Burbon square dance.  My parents used to cook Irish food for my class in grade school, I studied abroad in Ireland during college, and Brooke and I spent our honeymoon in the land where the term originated (so they claim), Ireland.  Irish history has always been big part of my life.

So you can imagine that the move up north was softened a bit when we realized the girls had plenty of opportunities to Irish dance. Opportunities that were much more scarce in Lexington.  Very quickly after our move up here we found a good dance school to affiliate with.  Before long, we were marching in parades, racking up medals, and buying very expensive dance dresses.

Then something changed.  Irish dancing is not something you can just fall out of bed and do.  The girls were moving up in the ranks which required more practice.  For the first time in their lives, they were forced to practice something every day.  I used the term forced very specifically.  What was once fun, turned into a pain for Brooke to get them to do.  The girls would go through the motions every day, just to get the practice done.

This past September we had a competition in Nashville.  We knew this would be a good opportunity for the girls to medal and move up a rank.  The farther south you go, the weaker the competition is.  Of all the competitions the girls had done, in all of the games they have played, they never looked as disinterested as they did in Nashville.  It was horribly disappointing/embarrassing for Brooke and I.  Not because they didn't do well, but because we knew they did not try their best.  All four grandparents were there to watch them "half ass" it.  The car ride home was not a pleasant one for the girls.  Poor Hadley had nothing to do with it, yet she had to sit there and take it too.  We were....teaching...the girls a lesson about life. No matter what, you always give your best effort.  We talked about the effort it took for all of us to get down there, the money it took, the time, etc. etc. for them to sleep walk through their performance.  We were at a crossroads with Irish dancing.

There were a few more practices and private lessons after that.  Brooke refused to make them practice on their own, so as you can imagine, the daily practices stopped.  It was time to move on. We couldn't make them do something they did not want to do.  It was a tough moment for me for a lot of reasons. I wasn't sure how I felt about it really.  I felt like they were giving up, something I didn't want to let them do.  In the end, if my first desire is for them is to be happy, I had to let it go.  Did I want them to Irish dance for me, or for them?

I remember the time when I told my father that I wanted to give up playing baseball (a sport I was good at) to play soccer (a sport I ended up being good at).  I think it sort of broke his heart.  Baseball was something that he did with his father and it made him happy to pitch to me.  I also remember how with relative ease he let me do what made me happy.  He even went to every game, yelling "ALRIGHT BOOMER STICK SOMEBODY!" at my first game.  In the end, it all worked out.  Eventually, I would have had to stop playing baseball and soccer to play two sports I really loved, football and track.  I was good enough in football, I was best at running.  My experiments into baseball and soccer just helped me develop those skills that I would need playing other sports later on.  Dad was always one of my first coaches in sports, turns out he was coaching me about life lessons, too.  Lessons I wouldn't fully learn until I had to let my girls choose which sports they wanted to play. Very similar to the choice I had to make back in the day.  Dad had set the table for me to learn, the girls did the rest.

So, tonight Brooke is bagging up those expensive Irish dancing dresses that I bought for them way back when the girls decided they wanted to be world famous Irish dancers. They are being sold to someone else chasing the feet of flames dream. Tomorrow I will pay for cheer leading outfits or gymnastic class time.  Either way, its all part of the journey.  I am thankful for the dancing memories they gave me, but more appreciative for the lessons they taught me along the way.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hadley, The Brave

I went and saw the movie American Sniper today.  I knew what happened in the movie, because I had read the book as soon as it came out.  I was also aware of the ending, a dark cloud that hung over the entire movie.  American Sniper moved me, but I am not ready to write about it yet.  However, I will say a big congrats to Aunt Kristin. She worked with the star of the movie, Bradley Cooper, helping him with his diet.  She has been mentioned by name by Bradley a few times in the past couple of weeks.

Anyway, there was a particular scene early on that stood out to me.  It was a scene where young Chris is at a table with his (younger) brother and parents.  His father begins to tell an abbreviated version of  this story:

Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident. We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.
Then there are the wolves and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy. Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.
Then there are sheepdogs and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf. If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the unchartered path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
We know that the sheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids schools. But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours. Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports, in camouflage fatigues, holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, Baa. Until the wolf shows up; then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.
It is a story very relevant to our society issues today.  Regardless, the story was told to the young Kyle boys to instill in them a sense of protection.  Specifically, it was about the older brother Chris taking care of his younger brother.  The younger brother was being picked on at school, Chris had come to his defense in a fist fight. The father was adamant that they do not start fights, but they do finish them.  Most importantly, you stick up for your brother.  I leaned over to my friend that I was at the movie with and said "my father had that very same talk with my brother and I."

I recall one time when I was younger, I couldn't have been more than 5 or 6, getting bullied by some guy I didn't even know.  I really don't remember anything about the dude.  The only thing I remember was Patrick coming to my defense.  It was the first time I ever heard of a thing called a fight.  I once found  myself in the Principal's office because (as a 7th grader) I had gotten into it with an 8th grader who was picking on a bunch of folks.  I knew it was all a formality, because both the principal and my folks had no issue with me causing a ruckus for the reason I did.  I was taking up for someone getting picked on.  

It was one of those family lessons that really stuck with. While I have all girls, I have tried very hard to pass on to them that very same belief.  I do this to the point that I don't event let them fight with each other.  It is not acceptable.  On numerous occasions I have told them that no one else will be there for them except the four of them.  I have even said that there will come a time when Mom and Dad won't be around anymore to take up for them, so they must do it for each other.  We have spent time at dinner talking about Reagan's responsibility she has in always sticking up for Caroline.  I don't want anyone picking on Caroline, Reagan must not allow any of their mutual friends do that.  Caroline must do the same for Baylor Grace, and BG must do it for Hadley. At the end of the day, all they will have is the four of them. You never know how these lessons are going to take with girls, particularly young girls. No matter what, I won't stop preaching it.

The other day, Hadley and Baylor Grace were walking after school with their mother.  There was a boy at the corner who is known to be sort of a bully.  He was throwing snow balls at people when they would pass.  Apparently, no one felt the need to say anything to him.  That is, until he made the mistake of throwing one at Baylor Grace.  This set Hadley Blaine into a fit of rage.  "HEY, DON'T YOU THROW A SNOW BALL AT MY SISTER!"  Brooke said that she practically had to restrain Hadley from going after the boy.  He was bigger, he was a stranger to her, and he was a boy.  Hadley didn't care.  Don't you pick on her sister.

It gave me a little hope.  Hope, that when the day does come that Brooke and I aren't around,  that the girls are going to be alright.  They will have each other.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Divine Intervention

Hello y'all, did you miss me? It has been a while since I have posted.  I don't like to write just to write. I like to write when I am inspired, or I have a story to tell.  Brooke said that some of my blogs were starting to sound the same, so I felt like it was time for me to take a little sabbatical.  I'm not sure I am entirely back, but I guess there was some divine intervention that brought me back tonight.

Caroline will be receiving her First Communion this year.  It was a great moment for our family last year when Reagan did it.  Prior to that sacrament, you must go through your First Reconciliation.  This is when you confess your sins to a priest.  It is a big deal for us Catholics, something that separates us from other Christian religions.  Being Caroline's first time, you can bet she was nervous. Now, my inclination was to make up some scary stories to get Caroline more nervous.  That's what my father did to me when I had to get my first physical for football.  I am proud of myself, I showed a lot of restraint.  I didn't tease her at all.  I tried to make her as comfortable as possible.  We rehearsed her lines, repeated the steps she would need to go through, and tried to prepare her as best as possible.  She was ready to go, of course she would go first.

We walked her up to the priest and presented her to him.  I remember that feeling of nervousness and helplessness the first time I dropped her off at school.  Caroline was different than the her older sister.  I was more nervous for her than Reagan ( & Baylor Grace).  I wanted to protect Caroline.  Tonight came with sort of the same feeling.  When we walked her up there, it was like she was entering a new stage in her life.  It was another one of those times when I had to let her go. It wasn't that big of a deal, I just one she was originally very nervous.  So there I was behind the alter, watching my daughter who is scared of her own shadow all the way across the church, going through her first confession.   I honestly thought she was going to need a hook.  I was moved with emotion to see her hamming it up with the priest.  Obviously, I have no idea what they were talking about.  Whatever it was, she was full of smiles.  Caroline was nervous no more.

After she rejoined me and the two big sisters, we went to a kneeler to pray.  As a devote Catholic, I was so proud to kneel at the front of the church with 3 of my girls.  I wondered what they were praying for, and then I prayed myself.  When we were done and in the pews, I reflected back on my prayer.  I didn't pray for a UK win tonight.  I didn't pray for more money.  I didn't pray for a new car, or anything else.  I simply prayed for the health of the 5 girls that I live with, and I prayed for the health of their 4 grandparents.  That's it.  Its interesting how your prayer needs change as you change in your life.  I just prayed for health and more time with the ones we love.

At this point it was time for me to go to confession myself.

Reagan: Dad, that was quick
Me: Well of course, I am a pretty good guy.  I don't have much to confess.
Reagan: Did you confess the bad words you say during UK games?
Baylor Grace: Yeah Dad, you probably should have confessed that.
Me: Well, Baylor Grace, I'm sure you would be a pretty quick confessor as well.  You always try and do the right thing, that makes me very proud of you.
Baylor Grace: Yeah, but not Hadley.
Caroline: Definitely not Hadley.  She would probably spend the most time with the priest.  She would have the most to confess.

We all couldn't help but laugh.  I looked to my left and right and I was surrounded by my entire world.  Additionally, in the same row were some really good friends that I am so thankful we have.  In the back of the church my wife directing traffic.  Somewhere in the building Hadley was running around causing problems.  I couldn't help but feel the Holy Spirit surround me with love.

At that moment I asked for one more thing, and it happened to be a line from a song that I have sung so many times in buildings very similar to the one I was in.  Until that moment, looking at my girls, it never hit me like it did tonight.....

I asked the Lord to "make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand."