Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

With several recent trips and weekends spent tailgating, we hadn’t gotten around to carving our pumpkin.  Since today was Halloween, I figured we better get on it.  This year, Brenda had found a great little ladybug costume for Hailey that she ordered online.  We had asked Grace what she wanted to go as and she had told us she wanted to be a tiger.  We hadn’t found the “right” costume for her yet and we are glad we didn’t.  As soon as Brenda had Hailey’s costume in hand, we tried it on her to make sure it fit well, and Grace decided she wanted to be a ladybug too.  Gram and Granddad came over to handle candy duty at the door, while Brenda and I took the girls on the walk.  Here are some pics from the day!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Abrupt Reminder of Things Important

Cherish the people and opportunities that matter to you, because all too often, they can be taken from you.  I know we have all heard it time and time again.  After all, each of us have lives full of “wish I could have”, “know I should have”, and “could I have?”. 

I am going through this exact type of moment right now.  About a year ago, somewhat out of the blue, I received a call from Terry Cornish.  Terry is my biological father, whom I had not spoken with in about 12 years, and hadn’t seen in about 30.  I have a family that is not too dissimilar to a lot of stories from our generation.  Terry was a veteran of the Vietnam War, who upon returning home continued to wage the same battles, this time within his own mind.  In today’s military, there are resources for our American heroes that return and struggle to adapt to civilian life.  We are aware of posttraumatic stress syndrome and its affect on military families.  In Terry’s day of returning to the civilian life, it just wasn’t something that was dealt with very well. 

His battle continued in the dreams he dreamt each night.  Reliving memories of the villages and orphanages in Vietnam made restful sleep an elusive goal.  About the only friend Terry could find that could help him escape his memory, turned out to be a foe that would destroy him.  Terry sold his soul to the bottle.  I don’t know if he ever escaped his dreams or not, but I know that alcoholism cost him his marriage, a relationship with his family and probably more than a job or two along the way. 

My mom remarried, and I feel blest to be able to say that I have an incredible family.  I have brothers and sisters that I dearly love, and a dad in my step-father that I would never trade.  My family is absolutely crazy, there is no doubt that we put the “fun” in dysfunctional.   We find plenty reasons to give each other a hard time, but we are also the first ones in line if one of us needs a hand or a kick in the pants.  When the clouds start to roll in, I can hear the thunder and life starts to get hard, my family is the first thing I think about when I begin naming what I am thankful for.

Thirty years is a long time to try to recapture.  When Terry first called me, I was taken aback to say the least.  A flood of emotions overwhelmed me, fear, anger, sadness, shock, and certainly happiness.  This was a man who had left us all those years ago.  No birthday cards, no Christmas calls or visits, just gone.  As I mentioned before, I certainly had plenty to be thankful for in my family life, but a divorce decree and a new marriage license certainly is no match to a biological bond with a man who makes up half of who I am as a person. 

I kept our renewed relationship at an arms length, which is one of the regrets I am dealing with today.  Over the last year, as he and I talked more, I remained protective of my world.  I mailed pictures of my family, and I could sense his bubbling pride in his beautiful granddaughters.  But I never introduced him to Brenda and the girls, believing that would be something I would open up after I had a chance to visit him face to face first.  The approach still seems logical, I felt I had a lot to protect.  After all, this was a man who had walked away from me, I wasn’t about to let him do that to my girls.  No, the approach was right and I had reasoned that with my work travel, I would find a business trip that took me within a reasonable proximity of Philadelphia so that we could visit.  That visit never did take place, and now I am saddened that our first reunion will be at his funeral. 

I recognized on our very first phone call that this man was a shadow of his former self.  His voice and demeanor sounded old, tired and sick.  A near miss with death had prompted him to search for me, and he knew that he didn’t have many Christmases left.  He tried to be jovial when we talked, fighting back coughing bouts brought on by COPD.  We shared a few memories and it was obvious to me that he had some very fond recollections of the 4 years we had as a family.  Most often we talked about the girls, the weather and whatever sport was in season at the time. 

I never did press him on why he left, that topic just felt taboo to me.  I reasoned that these types of questions were only appropriate with a face to face visit.  It was a conversation that felt on par with breaking up with someone on a voicemail or with a text message.    All I knew was that now I have a 4 year old baby girl that I dearly love and I just can’t imagine what could allow me to separate myself from her without so much as a phone call.  It was clear by the sound of his voice, that I was not talking with someone with immense mental clarity.  The years had been hard on him and hard on his family in Philadelphia. 

I have come to peace with knowing that we won’t ever have that discussion, and frankly, why in the world would he owe me an explanation?  I am trying hard to remember that he is worthy of the grace I have been given.  I wouldn’t want to take a step in his shoes, let alone walk a mile.  Besides, what would his response possibly benefit me?  Regardless of what the answer was, the hands of time were not going to rewind.  The way I see it now, the obligation I have is to simply remember. 

Life is short, life is precious and life is worth living to its fullest.  I tell my girls daily that I love them and that they are precious to me.  I also ask them both everyday, “who loves you?”, and even Hailey has learned to respond “Daddy does!”.  It is so important to me that as I go through my life, that no matter how big of a mistake I make, no matter how much I mess something up, that my girls will always be able to look back and know that their Daddy loved them fiercely. 

This week, we will bury Terry in a family plot in Philadelphia with the military honors he earned.  His military service was a source of pride and it is fitting that he will be buried in his uniform, with his VFW hat.  I am also looking forward to getting to know my uncle, aunt and cousins, whom I haven’t ever met face to face. Even though we are going to Philadelphia for a funeral, it is going to be a good week.  My twin sister and I are Terry’s legacy, and these are not wasted lives.   For that, we will celebrate Terry’s life and we will use this time to renew a relationship with my cousins that I hope will be lifelong bonds. 

Count your blessings, name them and thank God for each one.  And if you have the opportunity, tell your blessings what they mean to you before you have to count them as a memory as well.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Amnesty Posting

I am guilty!  Good grief, how in the world have I managed to let our family blog get so out of date.  I assure you it isn’t because nothing exciting has happened in the last month and a half.  So much is going on, it is hard to keep up.

I have updated some photo albums, so go check that out if you haven’t already. 

We have a 4 year old!  One of the many exciting things we have celebrated as a family since my last posting was Grace’s 4th birthday.  I keep reflecting back to see if I think the 4 years have flown by, but time has a funny way of staying relative.  I find it so hard to imagine our family without her, that it seems that she has been here “forever”.  I even have a hard time remembering when she wasn’t a toddler.  What a fantastic little girl she is growing into. 

Just before Grace’s birthday it was “back to school”, or rather back to pre-school.  Going to school everyday has done so much for Grace’s development.  She has definitely opened up into a more outgoing, social little girl.  I am excited that she will begin reading this year.  How fun is that?

Work has kept me busy, and on the road a bit more lately. As I write this blog posting, I am sitting in the airport in Houston awaiting my return flight to Austin.  Over the last 2 weeks, I have been in Poughkeepsie, New York and Charleston, South Carolina.  I enjoy the travel, it is great to visit some of our country’s gems, but it is always so nice to come home.  When I travel, Brenda makes it a priority to call me before the girls go to bed.  Its so nice to hear those sweet, angel voices each night.  Hailey is starting to put words together in distinguishable sentences.  So when she says “I love you, daddy”, it’ll melt your heart.  Her new one this trip was “Sweet dreams!”  Awesome stuff.

With Grace’s birthday, and kids returning to school, that signals our entry into a familiar season in our home.  Naturally, it is football season which means of course means tailgating.  Grace has become quite the helper when it comes time to get things ready and Hailey has a ball too.  The fact that our girls like it so much, I think makes it more bearable for Brenda.

We are in the midst of a bit of tailgating break right now as the Longhorns start a 4 week period where they will be on the road before returning to Austin on the 23rd.  I am excited that Uncle Craig is coming to town for that one.  Should be a lot of fun, and Grace is already asking when he will get here.

Good things are happening at our house these days.  Notably, we are chasing after a new, healthier lifestyle.  Over the last 8 weeks, I have lost over 20 pounds, and Brenda has lost 10!  We are getting the girls outside more (the cooler weather is definitely helping), going for walks and bike rides and eating better portions of healthier foods.  I confess though that these last 2 weeks on the road has put a considerable dent in my progress.  Nonetheless, we are undeterred!  We aren’t doing this alone, I am engaged in a bit of a family rivalry with 2 of my sisters in a family-style “Biggest Loser” battle.  It’s fun to have some accountability and I have to admit, I still get a kick out of competing with them.  Tracy and Missy joined Brenda, the girls and I for a local 5K here in Austin a few weeks ago and this week Missy is doing the Susan G. Koman in Houston.   Brenda and I will be taking on another 5K soon and I am pursuing an ambitious goal of training for a triathlon next year.  There will need to be many more 5K in my future to make my goal a reality.  I have registered for a Warrior Dash in Houston next March.  If you haven’t heard about these crazy events, it’s a 5K on steroids.  Specifically, it’s a 5K run with a dozen obstacles like scaling walls, climbing cargo nets, logs, fire jumping, etc… I am participating with a group of tailgating buddies for that one, and I can’t wait. 

All right, I think that’s about enough for now.  I will try to be better about updating my blog.  Oh, here’s a scary thought for you… assuming you only get to do any serious shopping on Saturdays, you now only have 12 shopping days until Christmas.  Better get on it!