The Laugh of My Father

It’s been a while since I had a dream about him.  Maybe a month or so.  But I woke up early this morning after visiting with him in my dream set at a pool party in college where he dropped by to support.  My Dad.

The dream was just an epilogue to the conversation I had with my wife the night before.  You see, Zane reminded me some months ago about his favorite thing about my Dad that he missed.  His laugh.  A sinking feeling overwhelmed me in that moment when he spoke this aloud.  I had somehow forgotten my Dad’s laugh.  By now I take no fault of my own.  It’s been years since I heard his booming yet somehow high-pitched laugh fill the house on Jordan Drive.  He wasn’t able to laugh much in his last few years of life because of his illness, so it’d been seemingly forever.  But that flood of memory that filled my heart that moment will always make me thankful for Zane.  He has a knack for saying the right thing to me when I need it, whether he knows he did or not.  If he hadn’t reminded me, it might not have been until last night that I recalled that wonderful man’s chuckle.

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Lee Horn, Sr. didn’t laugh at comedies. No, sir.  Comedies weren’t funny to him.  You could hear his bellow when, and only when, the hero of the story rallied back from near-death by grabbing the villain’s AK-47 and spraying invisible bullets across his pixelated standard definition television in his bedroom.  Of course, no need to reload.  As each perpetrator of the story got what was coming to him in a sea of red-dyed corn syrup flowing into a pool of victory, my Dad would begin this overexcited laugh that would make my friends’ ears perk up as though they were border collies in the living room tilting their heads slightly in confusion and study.

So last night, as Jess, Emerson and I are watching Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, rally from his gold sickness to lead the battle against the advancing Pale Orc’s army, I find myself trying to stifle a brewing cackle.  It was the first time I can ever remember getting that overexcitement that was about to turn into a laugh.  As the mighty dwarves and elven lopped off the heads of their enemies across the beautiful high definition television at the camp house, I was calling up that Horn family tradition from my gut.  The more we grow older, the closer, we realize, the apple has fallen to the tree. Like that orc’s head.

Then, as I’m trying not to laugh at the death and destruction on the screen, I look to my wife and explain what I’ve said here above.  The weirdest thing about it all, I don’t think she’s ever heard my Dad’s laugh.  A laugh that almost defined him in my childhood, and the woman I’ll spend the rest of my life with will never get to hear it.  That was a deeply sorrowful moment for me.

So many people in my life will never know the man I knew.  The silly side of his rugged exterior.  The hilarious laugh that shook the walls of my childhood home.  The reckless nature he approached life at the lease all the while still protecting those close to him.  For those of you who knew this man as I did, and I’m so thankful you did know him this way, I hope you’ll take a moment on July 4th to honor him with me as I close my eyes and pray that he’s watching over us as we light firecrackers, drink beer and reminisce on Becca’s Bactine-cured hand out at his shop.  July 5th will undoubtedly be a hard one for me, as that’s one-year gone, but gratefully I’ll still hear that beautiful, unbridled laugh in my heart.

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Lake House Turns to Snow House

The weather here has been crazy.  I attribute it to my bold statements in the face of God.  Let me explain.

Over two years ago, I met a girl.  Not familiar with it?  Read previous posts.  Anyhow, I meet this girl who is clearly going to change my life.  But I don’t really want her to change me.  And Dallas had become very much a part of me.  Lo and behold, she did change me.  And my bold statement?  My exact quote was, “don’t even ask me to move to Shreveport because I’ll never live there.”  So, in my defense, it was my idea to move here and I’m not totally wrong. But I like to embellish the story at dinner parties and say, “I told her I’ll move to Shreveport when hell freezes over.”

Back to the original paragraph, my bold statement in the face of God.  I’m not sure if there’s a Bible passage that says “never say never” but there should have been.  We’re here.  In Shreveport.  And hell hath frozen over.  Look at this place.

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The bridge over Cross Lake has been closed for days and my first week of work has been marred with tardiness in the morning and frustrations galore as Shreveport drivers remind me that I don’t live in Dallas anymore.

Living in Haynie Camp House has been… cold.  Like real cold.  There are windows everywhere to enjoy the summer view except it’s winter.  The central heater works well most of the time.  The pilot light went out on the furnace, but we got that one figured out. I was so handy, I was surprised I didn’t get Tim Allen’s job on Tool Time.  Probably about as accident prone too.  The next thing was the pipe bursting from the freeze. This one proved to show me that I’m not supposed to be a plumber in the next life.  We left to stay at Jess’s grandma’s house and Emerson is getting some quality time with her great grandma Nana.  So my life consists of waking up and driving to the camp house to feed the cats and then off to work to try and make some connections.  Then back to feed the kittens and then over the hill and through the woods to grandmother’s house I go.

Building a house is not going fast enough, though they’ve cleared the lot and started framing already.  We’re moving along. Maple Grove Avenue, here we come.  In June.

Moving Sucks

Moving sucks.

Officially, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, I joined Jess in Shreveport, LA where we would put our roots to raise our daughter around family. A ton of family.

But that was not without it’s difficulties. The new bank paid me a lump sum to move, which I assumed would be more than enough. To the point that I thought we might even get white glove treatment. I was dead wrong. Moving is crazy expensive. We ended up with enough to order 2 PODS and box and store everything ourselves. The big stuff went in the first POD when Buddha came and helped me move the heavy stuff for about 2 hours. Jess watched, entertained her friend Kristi, and held our 2 week old daughter. I’m proud of her as she’s becoming a great mom.

So we get that POD loaded and off the weekend before. The next one, which is to hold all the rest of the house, arrives on a Monday and I’m leaving on a Saturday. I told Jess I could handle it. And handle it, I did not. Saturday morning came so fast, I couldn’t believe it. The workweek was so fast, trying to tell customers, coworkers and friends “goodbye”. I had a ton to do on Saturday. I spent all day boxing, taping, packing and hating life. But it was done and it was time to take another step in life.

But not before I had to get these two critters into the truck to start a 2 hour 50 minute drive. I was nervous about how they’d react. I drugged them with this herbal calming stuff caked onto treats, which seemed to calm them a bit. It made them all lovey at least. Until it was time to get in the truck.

I wasn’t out of the driveway before Millie was hiding under the seat. I could handle that as long as she didn’t pee in the truck. But our vocal little kitty, Georgia Ann, wasn’t having it. I guess she made it about 30 minutes of quietly pacing around the truck, from front seat to back seat to my lap to my shoulder over the seat back to the back. Over and over. But that wasn’t so bad, I could handle her pacing. I pace too. But when Jess called to get a status update, and Georgia heard her mom’s voice over the speaker, she had to answer. And answer she did. For the next 2 hours and 20 minutes, she meowed. She paced, she meowed, she repeated. It was like all of the Super Trooper “right meows” I’ve dealt out in my life all came back to haunt me on the road.

Thank God we didn’t move to the coast. Wow.

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Anyhow, we made it and the family was reunited at the Haynie Camphouse. A new adventure begins.

Emerson Kate Is Here

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That’s a cute baby. Welcome to this world, Emerson Kate Horn. I think your official spawn time was 6:31 AM, but don’t hold me to that. I was delirious. And you can’t blame me. Watch (or read, don’t complain about semantics, it’s our blog)…

Monday was MLK Day, a bank holiday. My buddy Buddha and I went to play golf and had a great time. The time was nearing for our baby to be born and I had a feeling golf wouldn’t be happening much after that. We were also discussing something Jess and I had been praying about quite a bit – the move to Shreveport to raise Emerson around her family. But golf was afoot and it was a beautiful day for it. We finished up and headed over to one of our favorite watering holes, The Lot, by our house on Springwater. Jess came up and met us there. John, the proprietor of said establishment, came by and said something to the effect of “don’t have that baby in here, please.” He told us the story of his first child and some spicy food that set his wife over the edge. I should note, the popcorn at The Lot is incredibly spicy.

Later that Monday night when Jess started feeling some pains, I told her it was probably the spicy popcorn. Me, being the loving husband I am, sent her packing upstairs. I wanted some sleep. “Suck it up, Jess.” Okay, that might not be at all how that happened. But alas I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed, and she still felt crummy. We decided it was best to head into the doctor’s office when she got a chance. Around noon, I left the bank and headed down to Dr. Gaitonde’s office to find my bride.

Dr. Gaitonde is a great doctor. One of the best I’ve ever met. Quick-witted and fast-talking, he’s also caring, straight forward and calming all at the same time. I will always be thankful Jess chose him. He checked Jess to see “how far along she was”. I’ll explain that to Emerson when she’s old enough, but my better sensibilities don’t allow me to type all the details of such procedures. Once he made his determination, he sent us to the hospital into the maternity waiting area or something like that. I’ll call it the “baby on deck circle” to reference some sports today. Anyhow, it was just a row of beds separated by those hospital curtains and a few nurses just hanging around waiting. And that was the start of a lot of waiting.

Once they determined she could have a “birthing room”, we made our way upstairs and did some more waiting. It was about 5 PM, five hours into our endeavor to meet our child, and it was time to call Jess’s parents to come over from Shreveport. So for the next 3 hours, Jess and I sat in this dark room listening to relaxing music and talking about what life will be like in these next steps. Nothing would be the same.

(Oh, if you’re wondering what the playlist is, it was Great Lake Swimmers, Iron & Wine, Blind Pilot, The Avett Brothers, Band of Horses, Ben Howard, and maybe Trespassers William. So Emerson was bound to have good taste.)

A nurse would come and check on us, I would go grab snacks from the hospital cafeteria, we’d sit and talk, her parents showed up, and we just waited and waited and waited. Our baby wasn’t in a hurry to be born on a Tuesday. So we sent Mr. & Mrs. Moore back to our house to get some sleep and we kept awake, visiting and planning. Around 4:15 AM, after almost 24 hours of being awake, they decided to call Dr. Gaitonde at home to get him up there. It was getting close to time.

Dr. Gaitonde walked in with a giant mug of iced tea (because it was too early for the coffee shop to be open) and a bout of delirium that made me question if he was huffing laughing gas in the break room. And once he explained my “role” in the birthing process, I assumed it must have been a concentrated formula of laughing gas. What? You want me to what?

I’ll just fast forward here. I did what he asked, without watching the process, and tried to be a supportive husband and new father. The moment Emerson Kate was born, all the nurses scooped her up and put her in the baby E-Z Bake Oven to clean her up. They all looked at me and told me to take pictures and this and that. It’s an overwhelming experience, coupled with 24 hours of being awake, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to do. But I did snap a few photos.

The best part of the whole experience (well technically I guess that would be getting a bundle of joy out of it, but again, it’s our blog), was right after Dr. Gaitonde completed his job and he looks around, proud of himself, and loudly proclaims, “Not bad for having watched a ‘How to Deliver a Baby’ YouTube video before walking in here.” I laughed like a crazy person; the nurses looked at him like he was an idiot; Jess didn’t know what was going on (<—drugs). I still laugh about that comment.

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Some men cry, some men smile, some men crack jokes. I’m not real sure what kind of man I was that morning. I hope by the time you read this, Emerson, you know the kind of man I was.

Busy October / November So Far

It’s been about a month since we’ve posted anything.  No other reason than we’ve been busy little bees.  A little recap:

Took a one-day trip to Shreveport to meet with a banker.

Went to a networking happy hour at The Rustic.

Enjoyed a concert at The Dallas Arboretum with some friends, food trucks and a few bottles of wine.

Attended a luncheon for Metrocrest Services called Seasons of Service honoring our wonderful and dedicated volunteers.

Embarrassed myself with awesomely awkward elevator speeches at a “speed networking” event.

Wrecked my truck but luckily no one was injured.

Passed out candy at Kyle & Lacy’s house in Shreveport for Halloween (a full blog on that to come).

Watched LA Tech beat Western Kentucky for homecoming in Ruston.

Helped Jess make a carrot cake cheesecake for a coworker’s birthday.

Bailed on going to the First Aid Kit concert because I was too exhausted from all the above.

Worked out while Jess volunteered at a booth at the Dallas Market Center for the Arboretum’s Women’s Council.

Toured the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit at the Arboretum (a full blog on that to come as well).

Had a doctor’s appointment to check in on Emerson Kate.  She’s apparently as tall as she’s going to get, now she just “fills out” over the next several months.  Jess is 28 weeks and 1 day.

And, finally, sat down to write a quick blog to remind myself of all we’ve been doing.  There are always going to be really busy months for us.  Fall is usually the busiest, but it’s also a lot of fun to be able to do all these things.  Minus wrecking the truck; that sucked.  Despite it, I try not to sweat the small stuff.  I’m thankful for the blessings in our lives.

I use the phrase “burning the candle at both ends” quite a bit, and I’d say that’s an accurate description of the last 30 days.  Tonight we celebrate our friends’ daughter Ellie’s 2nd birthday party and watch Chris & Brandy become man and wife. We’re going to need a longer candle.

TSRHC: Treasure Street

Tonight was our annual trip to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children where the hospital’s biggest fundraiser of the year takes place.  Treasure Street is a collection of food vendors, hospital supporters, volunteer staff, silent auction items, live auction items, a band or two, and lots of well-dressed rich people.  It’s a hoot of a time, in my opinion; I’ve been going for many years and now, with Jess by my side, I feel like a real supporter of the hospital.

As you leave your car with the valet (always tip when they take your car instead of when they bring it around; it makes valets less likely to peruse your personal effects when they drive off initially), you walk through the outdoor playground area in a long, meandering line.  Photographers stop you on the pathway to take your picture as you make your way to the white reception tents.  There you get your bid card and your auction number.  From there, I usually start by hitting the bar and then rummaging through the silent auction items.  There are iPads everywhere for you to constantly check your silent auction bid items throughout the night.  This year, I had my eyes on a bronze statute of a cowboy, a painting from one of the patients, and a few sundries.  But alas, the well-dressed rich people beat us and we didn’t win a thing.

More important this year than previous years was getting Jess some food first.  I’ve come to find out that pregnant girls don’t like to wait to eat.  So we found the Kent Rathburn tables placed strategically throughout the affair and selected various delectables for our enjoyment.  My favorite was the fried chicken and potato dish.  And the wine.  Jess enjoyed the street tacos and desserts.  And the water.   Poor girl.

We ran into our old friends Jamie & Courtney, John & Sylvia, Trip & Ashley, J.J. & his wife (whose name unfortunately escapes me now), and a slew of volunteers I used to work with on Wednesdays.  It was a great night of food, friends, and fun to wrap it up in a cliche.

The most important part of the night, however, was the giving.  I haven’t seen statistics on how much money the hospital raises from this event but it has to be significant.  Though if you think about how many free services they give to children with orthopedic conditions, the hospital deserves every dime we can afford to provide.

A Date for Four: Dracula Untold

When I lived in Lubbock, I always used to take my Sunday afternoons to treat my Mom to a date day.  We’d pick whatever scary movie happened to be out that week and go see it.  It was kind of a Judith and Lee tradition.  The most memorable of the past dates, though, happened to be when there was a third wheel, Zane Perry.  I don’t recall what we were seeing that day.  In fact, the only thing I recall was opening the door to the stairs leading up to the stadium seating for the first time and hearing an audible, “Oh my!” from my Mom in the impending climb up to Mount Ebert.

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Well we finally rekindled the tradition on Sunday.  Somehow, I convinced my Mom to get out of the house again (second time that day even!) to go to a movie.  We decided Dracula Untold over Annabelle.  And, as you can see from the stubs above, we had another third wheel who was sneaking in a fourth wheel, our little Emerson.  The excitement of the smell of popcorn, the promise of the movie trailers, the mixed flavored Icee; the movies still have a magical power over me.  Sharing this moment with Jess meant more than she’d ever know.  My plus one on this date was my plus one in life.  Yeah, crazy cheesy statement, but I’d rather say it’s extra buttery.  Movie pun win.

The West Texas Run & Shoot

Jessica and I started our weekend out early.  Friday was a day off, which is always much appreciated.  Thanks, Work!  So anyhow, we loaded up the Buick Enclave and headed out to San Angelo, TX.  Not quite the F-150 4×4 that we should have brought out there, but this is the family car.  This weekend would mark the 6th or 7th time I’ve attended the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children’s San Angelo Clay Shoot.  My first shoot ever happen at the San Angelo Claybird Association course in 2007, if I remember correctly. It was the first time I fell in love with the hospital.  That early morning, especially as a mid 20’s man, was foggy.  A late night of drinking, an early morning of cleaning my shotgun and the boss’s shotgun, as that’s what analysts are for after all, lead to a tired shoot.  But, for some reason, I found that shooting clays in a known flight path was kind of easy.  That morning I knew I’d keep shooting clays.  But it wasn’t until that afternoon, after another young man got up and shared his story of the hospital, that I knew I’d stay involved with the hospital too.

Imagine, for a second, a young man who was born without legs.  Whose family couldn’t afford the care he needed to fit him with prosthetics to give him the mobility most, no all, of us take for granted.  Imagine that impact hearing him talk about his triumphs but also never speaking of them as a “disability” but more as a challenge that was conquered.  It would take me years to realize that this young man wasn’t the exception, he was the norm.  The Scottish Rite Hospital is a place of acceptance, hope, success and an energy that can’t be explained unless you’re immersed in it.  And I will always be involved just as I said I would that day hearing that young man tell complete strangers how the hospital gave him free care, free prosthetics and free hope.

After that year, I told my Dad about the shoot.  I asked him to come to the San Antonio shoot that next year.  At that time, the hospital had 3 shoots a year.  San Antonio, Dallas then San Angelo.  My Dad came to all of them that year and saw the same thing I did.  He was sold. Every year, every shoot. We went if we could.  We got to the point that we would even coordinate our shirts.  I have pictures to prove it.  And I’ll say that every day I pick out a shirt for the shoots for here on out, I’ll always wonder what he’s wearing too.

So that’s my plug for the hospital.  But that’s not the reason for the post.  We left Dallas for San Angelo on Friday morning, as I mentioned.  And the post is about the day.  We got to the hotel in time to check in and then headed to the Friends of the Hospital dinner.  There we sat with friends, Ashely and Trip, and new friends too.  Miss Hattie’s Cafe & Saloon.  We both had the chicken fried steak.  Eat this.  So good.  I’m still full.

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The morning came early.  We faced cold and windy conditions.  But coffee.  So we (well decaf for her) could face anything with a little hot coffee.  It would end up being a tough course all in all.  Though I’ll say we were blessed on the course to be with people that care about us as much as we care about them.  “Friends” can mean a lot of things.  These types of friends are people that give without ever asking for anything.  Want proof?  Go back to our wedding photos and find John and Jamie in the background after miles of travel helping us celebrate our nuptials.  They remind me of a philosophy I adopted in college thanks to the Jim Carrey movie “Yes Man“, which is to always be willing to say yes to new experiences.

So we shot some stuff.  And had fun.  None of us won the raffle ticket shotguns that I’d hoped, but we did drink a free beer or two.  And that was enough.  Again, it’s all for the kids.

The next morning we awoke to wind, wind and more wind.  It was time to head to Lubbock up the scenic Highway 87.  As we ran up the road, we stopped several times to take in the scenery.  There were cotton fields, sunflower fields, and oil fields.  It’s really a beautiful drive when you look at it through another’s eyes.  Being married to a girl from Louisiana, you see the prairie lands a little different.

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We made it to Lubbock around 1 PM and hit the Crafthouse Gastropub where we ran into Erica Perry, Presley Perry, Darrin Kaucher, Abby Kaucher, and Miles Kaucher.  Of course we knew they’d be there since we’d talked to Zane Perry earlier, but it was a pleasant surprise.  We had some absolutely amazing brunch there.  Soon after, we headed off to my Mom’s house to pick her up for Jaden’s football game.  Jaden is my nephew; did I tell you that yet?  Well let me tell you.

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We snatched up Judith, my Mom, and took her to Monterey High School to watch his YFL game. They lost, though it was fun to watch him compete nonetheless.  After the game, we headed on home and the next part is for another post.

A Fall Saturday

Was it the day before Tyler’s birthday or just a random Saturday, October 4th?  Well both.  So Jess and I celebrated either way.  We woke up early to head to the pumpkin patch.  Though it was not an actual patch; we live in the city.  Previously, we talked about Walton’s as our preferred nursery, but we prefer Ruibal’s when it comes to buying pumpkins.  Equally as close, Ruibal’s is a really neat place.  They have giant pumpkins, small pumpkins, white pumpkins, green pumpkins, multicolored pumpkins… if you’re getting the reference to a Robert Rodriguez movie, sorry.  I love this time of year.  Particularly because it’s almost Halloween.  But fall is an amazing time of year.  I enjoy it almost as much as Jess.  And there’s an important piece to this pumpkin-themed acquisition.  Color.  We bought these crazy fire-colored plants called crotons.  See two types on the porch.

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Now you’re asking yourself… “Wow, that’s a giant pumpkin!  Lee must be really strong!”  You’re correct.  And my back hurts now.  It was really just a punishment for the massive amount of money we spent on buying me four new suits that morning.

But still focus on the overall picture above.  Don’t think about the fine fabric I will be dawning in two weeks.  That’s a heck of a fall outfit on our house, huh?  Well it continues to the kitchen.  We bought a three-tiered hors d’oeuvre stand.  And the second tier is now decorated. DO NOT EAT. Or try, but don’t complain to me.

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All this work got us hungry.  After our Son of a Butcher hot dogs, we decided to try to make our own.  I started the grill with a massive amount of lighter fluid. I’m a man.  It’s kind of important.  Well as I’m burning the midday oil, we found our little kittems under the bushes.  Georgia was doing her best Blue Steel look.

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Then we found Mille in her lioness pose.  We have such models.

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Speaking of a modelesque look… check out this guy. I’ll explain it to you since you can’t see what it’s called. The Ballast Point IPA I’m imbibing in this photo is called a Big Eye.  And now the light bulb above your cranium clicks.

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So the day dusked into evening and we were us again.  Just a happy couple enjoying a day together.  Laughing, swatting mosquitos, yelling at orange kitties invading our backyard, and smiling at each other.  Ready for what’s next and thankful for the day as it was.  Nothing more and nothing less. Be thankful for the days, the mornings, the evenings, and every moment in between.  I am.  Oh… so the result.  Yeah, we made some hot dogs.

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In retrospect, I’d say they needed to be on a hotdog bun instead of a baguette.  Maybe a little more stoneground mustard and some more spice.  But the day made up for all of it.  A wonderful, beautiful day.

The First Flutter

Last night as we were watching Bones, Jessica grabbed my hand and put it on her stomach.  I felt little Emerson flop around.  Not like she’s a fish on land or anything.  Maybe a better choice of words would be a flutter, a wiggle or a jostle.  Hey, is that where the name Jocelyn came from?  A really dance-happy baby?  Good thing we already have her name.  Anyhow, I digress.

Kind of a cool moment.  Thought I’d share.  Many to come, no doubt.