Dreams, Thoughts and Regrets

I’m trying so very hard not to make the early posts on this blog solely about the loss of my Dad and more about the hope we have moving forward as a family.  I want Emerson to read this blog one day and know that everything I’ve done has been for her.  She’ll already know that her mother loves her, cherishes her and makes so many sacrifices for her.  But I want Emerson to also know that her dad took “Honor thy Father” from Exodus 20:12 to heart. It means more to me than just a few words in the Bible.  It is real to me, but was real to me only because my father deserved it.  I want Emerson to think I deserve that too.

But I need to talk about my Dad now.  Or at least the memory of my Dad.  Emerson will never know him and that’s the one thing I can’t change other than to be the man that he taught me to be.

So where do you start with such an incredible task?  You don’t.  You build  You remember.  You remember the times he taught you patience in a deer blind.  You remember the time he cared enough to help you build a wind tunnel science project.  You remember the time he taught you the meaning of right and wrong by letting you do wrong and just watching you learn from it.  You remember him laughing at you getting a Ford Mustang stuck in the mud, but helping you out of it.  You remember a good man.  A great man.  A man that meant so much to your life and who you are.  And as you grow as a man you see just how similar you are to him.  And you’re proud to be a carbon copy of him.  To share his name.  To honor him through your actions.

His funeral was a beautiful tribute to the man he was.  Hearing his willingness to stop on the highway and help a strander traveler.  His love of all these children who weren’t his progeny.  And, to me, that was his greatest triumph.  My father loved my sister, who wasn’t his own.  Loved her to the point that I often felt he was more proud of her conversion from teen to adult than anything I ever did.  And, honestly, I loved that.  My sister’s friends had a father, often for the first times in their lives, because of my dad.  He was everything I want to be.

I have a dream every week about Lee Horn, Sr.  Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they don’t make sense, and sometimes I wake up crying.  I don’t mind those mornings either.  At least I had another moment with him.  I welcome those dreams.

So that’s dreams, thoughts but what about regrets?  My regrets are easy.  Simply not spending enough time with him.  I didn’t know he’d be gone when I was 33.  I didn’t know he’d lose a battle to a cancer that had a 90% survival rate at 63.  I simply didn’t know I should’ve spent more time with him.  And I absolutely regret that.

This morning I heard his voice again, like I do many days, on my voicemail.  I saved 3 messages from him over a 4 month period in 2013 when I thought things were turning worse.  And his voice is like it never left.  A harbor for me when my mind is adrift.

I don’t know how to end this post.  Not sure I’ll even post it.  But I had to write it, cry trying to say enough to honor him as he deserved, and ultimately feeling like no one will ever know him like I did.  But that’s exactly what I said to him as I held his hand during his final breaths.  I told him that he did everything he could to make me the man I am today. I am so very thankful my wife stood strong over my shoulder as I poured my heart out to my Dad telling him it was okay.  I told him that I could handle it as he let go from this world to watch over us in Heaven.  It wasn’t easy for him, I assure you.  It was a vision I’ll never forget.  The first time he opened his eyes in days.  To look at his son who was telling him that it was okay to leave us here.  That we had it from here.  That he’d better serve us, as he always served his fellow human, from Heaven now instead of in this mortal body.

But, Dad.  I have to say this here.  I miss you dearly.  I lay in bed missing you at night just to hear your advice.  It’s not fair.  I lay silently spilling tears onto my pillow so I don’t upset my wife, just like you taught me.  I find myself wishing I could just talk to you in person again, not just find you in prayer.  I find solace in prayer, in church.  Knowing you’re hearing me.  Thinking that in just a few moments in your timeline, we’ll all be up there celebrating with you. But on this mortal Earth, I miss you.  I miss you every day and I want you to hear that.  I love you.

Sunday Landscapes

Sundays are typically busy days for the soon-to-be parents called the Horns.  We wake up early to cats in the blinds (sounds like an Always Sunny reference) and eat breakfast before church.   Then we do some churching and start our weekly errands.  Mostly grocery shopping at two different places because we’re in Dallas and that’s just how it goes.  And occasionally we’ll do a little home improving.  This Sunday would be that.  A lot.  Jessica took our sweet garden sheers and got to hacking away at the holly bushes or whatever bush the 60’s houses all seemed to demand.  This picture is what we started with.  Then we made our way to our local nursery, Walton’s Garden Center.  Jess had drawn out the plans, measured the space and had her vision.  I’m the laborer in this story.  You’ll see that as a common theme.


Look at that.  Just an empty landscape waiting for da Vinci’s touch. Come and get me, Lee.  And I did.  Digging up them little sonsawitches isn’t easy.  It takes an axe, a shovel, beer and patience.  Luckily, I had all of those things.  Boom.


Are you seeing the irony of my shirt?  And if you’re curious what victory tastes like… it’s equal parts Sam Adams Rebel IPA, sweat, dirt, blood and awesomeness.  So I keep going.  I think that was the first of the four Medusa heads I extracted from the earth.  Jess helped too, I guess.  Oh and Millie helped…


You’ll see the lawn taking a little shape now with that little plant to the right of Millie.  Don’t ask me what it’s called because I don’t know.  All I know is that I suffered many a mosquito bite trying to pick them out and then digging in the yard.  They’re still everywhere. It’s almost October.  Go away and watch playoff baseball or whatever it is you do, little bloodsuckers.  Anyhow, I was on a mission to finish this yard crash.  Determined to own this curb appeal.  Other clever references to landscaping shows on TV.


And thusly it’s complete.  In total, I think it took us around 3.5 hours.  Enough time to finish and watch the Cowboys game though.  But I was out of beer and energy.  Still though, that’s looking pretty good.  Way to go, wife.  You rock.

White Rock Farmers Market


Son of a Butcher hot dog at the White Rock Farmers Market.

I woke up on Saturday morning realizing I’d spent Thursday night watching my Red Raiders get destroyed at a friend’s house and then Friday night with some new friends out and about in Uptown.  Clearly, I hadn’t spent enough time with my wife.  Well I wanted to fix that.  I mean she’s like 22 weeks pregnant after all. So I thought about The League and maybe it should be Terrific Lady Day.  We were heading to A Pea in the Pod first and then to Athleta.  Pants are apparently tough on pregnant ladies.

So the plan of the day was to start around 11:30 AM or 12:00 PM and head straight to the store, but the farmer’s market caught our eyes and we had to stop.  Good thing we did.  We ended up with some Thai chilies, a new spice from Chef Milton and a jar of spicy pickles from In a Pickle.  Basically a successful hour and a half and a very good reason I find it hard to want to move to the ‘burbs.

My motivation for getting all of this done early was to get home and watch the LA Tech game against Auburn.  And I kind of wish I hadn’t seen it.  Not that I had great hopes or anything but damn.

The night ended with some episodes of Bones on Netflix Instant and then a bourbon chilled by a giant ice cube.  So I’ll wrap it up like this.  Delicious hot dog, football, bourbon.  Win.

Pre-Church Meal: Love Goes First


This morning we actually woke up on time, no thanks to Georgia and Millie for waking us up at 3, 4 and 5 AM just in case.  “On time” means “treat time” to me.  So we ventured over to Village Baking Co. on University by US-75 as we used to do when we attended a different church with the same moniker.  Nowadays, we are Munger Place returning visitors.  Jess and I haven’t taken the plunge into full-blown membership quite yet, but that’s coming.

Today, as we sat in the church parking lot stuffing faces with delicious pastries such as the one pictured above known as the plain (though it’s anything but) something or other in French, we didn’t know what the third part of the Come Home series at church was going to be.  It was all about putting fears aside and love going first.

Jess and I have been reading a verse a night from the Good Book over dinner, attending church on Sundays, and really starting our home down a path that will, God-willing, put Emerson in a place to know God before we both did in our individual lives.  Jess is much better at all of this than I am as she’s in a regular Bible study on Mondays too, but as a man, I’m supposed to be the leader of the family.  A  challenge to come, but one I’m willing to fight for.

Something important I would say to Emerson today if I knew she could hear me – Love God first.  Love yourself and then love your family.  Those dominoes should always fall in that order.  Always be true to yourself and love who you are even if that’s a little different.

Also, go clean your room.

20 Years & 18 Weeks Before Emerson Gets to Read This Post

Another weekend in the books.  Well, not technically, but we have 18 weeks before we meet Ms. Emerson.  Yes, I’ve converted to the Louisiana colloquialisms of saying a title and then a first name instead of a last, like I was raised.  Sue me.

But really the weekend is still in the works; I’m just counting down weeks either ending or starting on Fridays because of this What to Expect App on Jess’s phone.

Anyhow, we left our lovely home in Dallas and took the 3.5 jaunt to Grand Cane, LA to see Jess’s parents on Thursday night after work.  Our mission was secret.  Clandestine lunches in Bossier City.  Danger at Silver Star Smokehouse.

The weekend was great.  As it always seems to be when around family.  But my biggest complaint was two-fold.  One, we never got a delicious daiquiri from the convenient stores like only LA can provide.  Two, we never picked up a 12 pack of Bud Light for Mr. Moore.  What kind of son-in-law am I?  Seriously.  I’m surprised Ronny hasn’t hurt me yet.

We left Saturday morning after a lovely breakfast prepared by my wonderful wife and her mother, Charlene.  Off to Dallas.  And on our way, I picked up some local brews from the only craft brewery in Shreveport, LA. It’s called Great Raft Brewing Co. and I bought two sixers being the Southern Drawl and the Commotion APA.


So the first thing you’ll probably notice is all the fall decor instead of the cans of beer.  As penance for my purchases, I was forced to stop the Enclave in Canton, TX, a mere 50 miles from our domicile.  There, the fine salespeople of Paul Michael Co. sold us a plethora of fall festive foam leaves and other such items.  I think there are now 5 decorative pumpkins and a duck, which I’m kind of partial too, if I’m to be honest.

Oh the beer.  So Commotion APA is like a light IPA, as by definition.  I enjoy.  The Southern Drawl is like a light Heineken, which is just odd but drinkable.  I’m a hoppy kind of guy, so I’ll always go with the IPA.

The Fleeg and The Stace are inbound and thusly I’m outbound to not dress exactly like him for once.  Stampede 66 for dinner in about an hour.  Have an enjoyable evening as well.

Venice Italy, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 in Venice, Italy:


Lee had been planning it for over a month.  Client meetings that happened to be close to the engagement ring store; secret trips to meet with the jeweler.  He had it all figured out, except how the heck to get the ring to Italy without getting caught.  In comes Robert Adams.

Robert is Lilie Adams Wiley’s brother and Jessica is basically considered one of the Adams’ clan.  Lee and Jessica were at his baby shower in Keatchie (or Keachi – yes it’s that confusing), LA, and Robert was proudly displaying his new vest he’d picked up while traveling.  As Robert sipped his 15-year-old Glenlivet scotch, automatically gaining the immediate respect of Lee, he showed him the secret zippers and pockets no one could find.  Perfect way to hide the ring.  It was now all set.  Lee ordered the vest online the next day.

How she didn’t notice 4 straight days of Lee feeling his chest, just over his heart, to make sure there was a circular object still present, he’ll never know.  It was the perfect set up.  Knowing Lee to be a fairly unique man that would never do something as cliche as take a girl to the most romantic city in the world just to propose, Jessica didn’t have a clue.

As the train pulled into the station in Venice, Italy on the 3rd day of their trip, Lee began looking around for a particular spot.  Several months before that, Jessica and Lee attended an event at the Dallas Museum of Arts where he’d seen a painting of a corner in Venice from the 1800’s.  That would be the spot.  The search was on.

As Jessica’s knee was giving out and Lee’s inner-bear was rearing its head from starvation, he gave up that day.  The elusive corner from the painting didn’t exist.  The perfect spot wasn’t there.

The next morning Lee and Jessica woke up to catch a boat to Murano, Italy, a small island famous for glass blowing.  They watched a demonstration and walked through the showroom after.  Jessica was so excited about the experience.  A set of wine glasses caught her eye in the third or fourth room they walked through.

Maybe an hour later, Jessica whipped out the credit card and paid for some truly unique wine glasses that the couple could share forever.  It was her glow that gave Lee the feeling that he needed to ask her the second they stepped off the boat back in Venice.  He suggested she get the date engraved on the pitcher, knowing that would be the date he’d ask her to spend the rest of her life with him.

A nice English couple shared the boat back.  Lee’s plan was to have the couple get pictures of him getting down on one knee.  Little did he know that chance would never come to pass.  They stepped off the boat, Jessica still ecstatic from the purchase of her new stemware.  Lee gave them Jessica’s camera and unzipped the inside zipper of his vest.  But no one would stop and respect the “camera pause”.  The crowded bridge was a thoroughfare and Lee’s plan didn’t work.  Instead, he looked Jessica nervously in the eye and said, “Jessica Rene Moore, I love you.  I may not be the perfect man for you, but I know you’re the perfect girl for me.  And I promise that I will spend every day of the rest of my life trying to be the perfect man for you.  So I want to ask you, will you marry me?”

Our First Year Anniversary: June 22, 2014

One year after our nuptials.  How so many things have changed already.  I don’t think God lets you face things you’re not able to handle.  So clearly He thought Jessica and I we ready for anything.

Claire McCormack made the memories permanent.  But the afternoon and into the night will always be unforgettable to us even without her beautiful depiction of those moments.  The morning of our wedding started different than I thought.  I assumed most everything was done, but I got a call from Jess about decorating the backyard.  Help was needed.  And I’m blessed with amazing friends.  Tyler and Ilia happened to already be in town; Regan and Stacy too.  They came to the rescue and worked their asses off.  Quite literally, our wedding wouldn’t have been perfect, which it was, without those four people giving as they did.

The night, as always with every wedding, was a blur.  So many family members.  So many friends.  So many drinks.  It was magical.  It was exactly what we wanted it to be though my father was too sick to make the trip, so my parents couldn’t be there.  Luckily, my uncle Jamie and my aunt Mary Beth were stand-ins and excellent at it.  Seeing Jess walk down the aisle was something I found kind of amazing.  She had a bounce to her step that I’d never seen.  Her parents by her side, I felt like she was leading the family for the first time instead of them leading her.  That moment felt important.  And, if you’ll look through Claire’s photos, you’ll see how dumb I looked, though I’d rather call it dumbfounded.  I, quite reluctantly, show you my face at that moment…

Jessica & Lee Lousianna Wedding CLAIRE MCCORMACK PHOTOGRAPHY-6920

So back to what happened over the year after that smile.  We bought a house and moved in together.  I changed jobs.  Jessica changed jobs.  We spent our first Christmas together snowed in alone and love it.  We found a church we could grow with.  We took vacations like Napa Valley over Valentines Day.  We found out we were having a baby. We lost my father.  We celebrated.  We cried.  We loved this life we share together and we were thankful.

I learned a lot about myself, about my wife, about life and about loss.  Celebrations come in small packages often and not huge blowouts, especially when life gets in the way. I want our daughter to remember another little life lesson.  Remember that you don’t have to only celebrate life on a birthday, New Years Eve, St. Patricks Day, etc., but that life should be a celebration everyday.  Be thankful for those small moments in everyday life.  Be thankful for those people who choose to be around you on your worst days.  And love them right back.

How We Met: June 2, 2012


Lee had an early morning golf outing with Regan Wright, Tyler Srygley and John Bloch on a Saturday, June 2, 2012.  Late as usual, he felt rushed and hurried to the first hole without warming up… never a good start to an 8 AM tee time.  A driver hooking into the woods, an approach slicing into the woods on the other side, several chunks of grass replaced, and finally a putter ceremoniously wrapped around the nearest tree.  The day did not start well to say the least.  His game got worse from there, but the day would hold something special for him to find.

Jessica’s morning started with some clarity after several weeks of mixed feelings.  She’d been contemplating leaving Dallas for Shreveport again to take a different job and be closer to home.   She’d prayed long and hard over the decision.  But something was different on this morning.  A welcomed phone call from her friend, Ashton Danna, inviting her over to the pool helped confirm her resolution.  Dallas was a place she needed to be.  She packed a bag but only for the pool and she was off to get some sun.

As the boys rounded the 18th, Lee had sworn off golf for good and wasn’t in his generally playful mood.  Noon quickly came and the round was over.  Easily his worst round ever.  The guys wanted to have lunch at the course, but he wasn’t having it.  Lee was heading home to go sit at the pool and have a drink.

Jessica arrives at the pool seeing Ashton and several other friends lounging on the chairs in the sun as the pool starts to fill up with people.  She enjoys the company and finds comfort knowing she’ll be able to grow these relationships into lasting friendships.  They relax, talk and just enjoy the day.

Lee pours a stiff drink into a plastic cup, grabs a towel and walks out to the pool.  Nowhere to sit, of course.  The apartment pool is very popular.  There looks to be a few people leaving and an open spot at the end of a long line of lounge chairs.  He politely sets his towel down to claim his spot.  The pool is pretty full, but he doesn’t care about that.  The iPod buds go into his ears and he’s off to his own little happy place trying to forget about golf.  A girl gets out of the pool and sits two lounge chairs away.  Lee notices her and pulls an ear bud out to make sure he hasn’t stolen their seating.  She replies “no” with a smile and they make small talk for a quick minute.  She, now known to be Ashton, goes back into the pool and another girl comes out of the pool and sits in the lounge chair next to Lee.  Again, he double checks his bold move of taking the lounge chair and she tells him their friends just left so it’s all his.  She has the greatest smile and a wonderful southern accent.  Her name is Jessica.  Lee keeps the conversation going, quickly finding out she’s in banking as well.

After some brief career advice from Lee (which Jessica did NOT ask for), it’s time for them to go.  A last line from Lee, “Well if you ever need any more banking advice, I’m in apartment 185.”  Jessica and Ashton walk towards the gate to, what Lee assumes, will be the last time he ever sees her.

Ashton grabs the gate to leave the pool and traps Jessica in.  She recognizes the last words Lee said to her and tells Jessica that he was trying to get her number.  Ashton fishes out a used Sweet ‘n Low packet she was using as a bookmark and wrote Jessica’s name and number on it.  She said she wouldn’t let Jessica leave until she went and gave Lee her number.  Jessica took off her sunglasses and walked back over to the lounge chairs.  Lee perked up as she approached, assuming she must have forgotten something.  He wants to ask her if she’s left anything behind, but he’s immediately mesmerized by her eyes and can’t say a word.  Jessica hands him the Sweet ‘n Low packet.

Lee still has the Sweet ‘n Low packet in his wallet to this day.

Why “Horn Cotton Tales”

Well this blog is simply going to be a running storyline about a child and her journey in this life as seen through her parents eyes.  So “Horn” and “Tales” – done.  As for “Cotton”, that’s a much harder topic for me to write about.  My father, Lee Horn, Sr., who lost his battle to cancer July 5, 2014, was a cotton man.  I asked my beautiful wife, Jessica, about keeping his company name in some way.  As we discussed back and forth different site names, she suggested Horn Cotton Tales.  To me, it’s a touching tribute of the circle of life.

On Father’s Day 2014, I told my Dad that he was going to be a grandfather to our child, Emerson Kate.  On Father’s Day 2014, he told me he had maybe 6 months to live, which put their paths to likely cross for a short time.  At least, that’s what I prayed for.

My father didn’t make it to see his granddaughter born, but there won’t be a spec of him missing in her life.  As my father taught me, so shall I teach my daughter.  He visits me in dreams, I have his voicemails saved, he watches over all three of us (and our two devil cats) from Heaven, and, of course, his advice both good and bad lives inside me.

So this blog is our tribute to the circle of life, to our daughter coming January 30, 2015 God-willing, and to all those who love us for the family life we’re creating together.