Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Closing of a Chapter

Three months ago I was at home with Henry when I got a call from Cash. I heard him shut his office doors, so I knew it was serious.

"Have you seen the news?"
"The company just announced that it is selling."

I sat in a state of shock for, well, going on 3 months now. During this time we have temporarily relocated to Houston, had another baby, brought said baby back to Midland, and made yet another trip to Houston for a check-up. While we had so much going on with AnnLouise, on our minds for 90 days has been the closing of a chapter, the end of an era.

learning the ropes with my favorite rockhound
It would be easy to sit here today and hang our heads about the pure sadness of Clayton Williams Energy selling. Instead we will reflect on our time and reminisce on so many incredible memories that the past decade has brought. CWEI was one of the last companies from the old wildcatter days, and much like the man at the helm the company itself was truly unique.

I can't talk about CWEI without talking about the culture. After 10 years Cash was still one of the young guys. Many people have spent the past 20+ years calling CWEI home, and it was obvious throughout the office that it was truly a home to most. The culture and family atmosphere was never discussed or pushed; it just...was.

Cash was blessed to work directly for a great man, Sam. When Cash was in college and went in for an interview to intern at CWEI, Sam's one and only question was, "How much do you want to make?" I think they settled on something like 10 bucks an hour, and that was the beginning of one of the most impressionable relationships Cash has ever had.

Sam with Henry at the 2016 crawfish boil
After two summers of interning, while Cash was back at UTA finishing his last semester, Sam called him and offered a full-time position. No questions. No doubts. Cash took it and never looked back.

The next decade brought fishing trips, ranch parties, deer camps, political dignitaries, tequila shots, and a couple butt chewings or two. If you know much about Claytie Williams, you know his persona is big and mesmerizing. He ran his company the same way. Nothing was ever small, and nothing was ever predictable.

The first year Cash and I were dating he took me to the annual Ranch Party for Claytie's birthday. I had never seen anything like it. Way down close to Alpine, Texas, Claytie had invited a couple thousand of his closest friends to his ranch. That year the main entertainment was The Oak Ridge Boys. I couldn't believe it. People mingled around the ranch listening to The Oak Ridge Boys in this private concert like it was normal. It was not normal for a small town schoolteacher like myself. It was the coolest thing I had ever done. Claytie brought in another band to play the dance that took place on the tennis courts (because why wouldn't you have a tennis court on your ranch?!). So all night we danced and talked and ate and drank.

Ranch Party 2011

the buffet at the ranch parties

Claytie doing Claytie things

Oak Ridge Boys at the 2011 Ranch Party

Barbara and I hanging with the ORB

another year, another Ranch Party
Ranch Party 2013

mariachi band--a must for any CWEI event

Clint Black at the 2012 Ranch Party
Another perk of the job was fly-fishing trips to Wyoming, although the mass of people was scaled down tremendously. Claytie flew a group up to Q Creek Ranch, a remote destination in Wyoming which he used to own. Once there the group would spend their days fly-fishing or prairie dog hunting, and the nights would be spent listening to stories about the good ol' days or to local bands, maybe play a few hands of poker, take shots of tequila, whatever the night may bring.

Cash and one of his brown trout

Q Creek Ranch

Cash and his rainbow trout
back to Q Creek Ranch for a deer hunt
In the fall Claytie would host a deer camp on one of his ranches where some employees would get to hunt the enormous ranch via old Land Cruisers. Their guides would be the "big dogs" of the company, the senior guys who had been with him for decades. Typically Cash's boss Sam would be his guide, and they would drive around all day looking for just the right one. At night they would bring in folks to pick guitars around the campfire and they would eat feasts cooked in the back of a chuck wagon by the camp cooks.

Sam and my FIL, Big Russ

Cash slaying those Texas mule deer

Sam guiding for Little Johnny
I'll never forget the days Cash would come home and say some big political figure had been in the office. It became so common to him that if it was "just the lieutenant governor" then he seldom mentioned it.

During the recent oil boom I never knew what story Cash would have that day. One afternoon I got a call from work that he'd be home late because he had to drive a local philanthropist home who took so many tequila shots (chased with beer) in the war room with Claytie that he couldn't stand up. Some days he would tell me about Claytie telling them to come into the war room for a meeting, but to enter they had to tell a dirty joke first. Once he even called and invited me to happy hour with him, his boss, and a couple of the engineers. When I got there, they had been there for some time. His boss bragged on him and the younger engineer saying they had just had a record quarter all because of those two. I was so proud of Cash for his hard work, and I knew this was the way things like that were celebrated at CWEI. However, this was much milder celebrating than years past. Afterall this is the CEO who once made a deal at the urinals in The Bar, so that acreage block was termed the Urinal Tract. That's how things were.
with Modesta at a Ranch Party
Every December Claytie would have Santa come into the atrium of ClayDesta where the kids could have their picture taken. Christmas parties of course were never what I had known in my past life, and like most other parties you could count on a mariachi band. That was typical Claytie--a mariachi band.

Henry's first time to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus
Oh, there were hard days too. Cash is the type of guy who is never too high or too low. He is just pretty laid back. So it caught me by surprise when I begged him one day for a story on a bad day he had had; I really didn't think the guy had bad days. The story started with a few of them having to call Claytie and tell him about a major mistake they had made on a well. And it ended with Claytie telling them to never call him with that kind of news again; instead just shoot themselves in the blankety blank head next time they do something so stupid.

Yet it didn't matter what kind of day he had, Cash loved working at CWEI. He loved that Sam threw him in on day 1 all those years ago and let him learn horizontal drilling by doing it and making mistakes. He loved Friday afternoons when Sam would say, "Hey, today let's go golfing instead." He even loved those mornings at 2 AM when the rig would call, and he would have to get up and start steering the well. It was not all fun and games. It was definitely a work hard, play hard kind of business. Cash loved it, mostly because he really loved the people he was doing it with.

Yesterday before his boss left he came in and gave Cash a hug. After 25 years Sam's life at CWEI came to a close. When Cash told me about saying goodbye to him, I just wept. After all the wells drilled and trips taken and parties enjoyed and meetings had, they ended with a hug. It is hard to watch your husband talk about saying goodbye to the person he respected more than anyone.

In our near 5 years of marriage I've often asked Cash if he would be willing to look for another job. "No. I am loyal to Sam." And he never did. Even when the company made paycuts across the board because the bust had hit them where it hurt, he never even considered looking. Until 3 weeks ago his only interview in his life had been the one where Sam's only question had been how much did he want to make. So today we close a chapter of our lives. We will forever hold these years dear to us as we reflect on a decade of memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Thank you, CWEI and all of your many people who became family to us. We love you. We will miss you. And we will always remember you.

Oh...and piss on Obama.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Back to Odessa

Update from my last post: my sister became curious what made their house safe and warm to her kids. My nephew Braeson, with his 12 years of wisdom, informed her the only thing he likes is the pool. Well, Sister, you win some and you lose some. (For the record, I think he mistakenly left out the fact he can see his Nana's house from his window. Anyone who knows Braeson knows THIS is the best thing about his house.) 

Those teenage years are going to be fun.

Speaking of teenage years, I have been thinking lately how God gives us such Grace in our fleeting memories. Being in the middle of these first few weeks and months with AL made me reflect on those times with Henry. I remember those times with Henry being much easier than they are this time around. I kept wondering what we were doing wrong with AL that we did right with Henry. Then it hit me. I simply don't remember the first few months of his life. 

Sure, I remember how cute he was. I remember him getting cradle cap and wondering if this was the start of my failure at motherhood (ha!). I remember he couldn't roll over or run away yet so changing him was a breeze. But I seriously do not remember nights before he was sleeping 6 straight hours. And that means that I don't remember nights the first 2 months of his life. I'm starting to realize I don't remember nights with AL even from last week. 

My sister-in-law told me a while back that she only remembers a blur from when her kids were this age. "Nah, not me," I thought. "I'm soaking it in." But I'm not. Apparently I'm surviving just like every other parent of babies. And that is okay! I see this as God's grace. If we remembered the hardest moments, we would only have 1 kid. Instead God allows us to remember the love and the fun, and we decide that hey...that was fun and totally doable, so let's do it again (and for some of you...again, again, again). Then we end up with these sweet families with multiple children, no sleep, and a lot of great times together. 

Then they become teenagers. Yet again God shows us Grace. While He is pruning us for patience, He is also allowing us to forget those years potty training or learning how to not run straight into the street or figuring out what goes in the trash and what doesn't (like, Mom's phone doesn't go in the trash but the diapers do). When our kids get bigger, we remember ice cream trucks and baseball games and Santa Claus. But never the time your toddler slapped you in the face when you tried to kiss him. When they are teenagers, we can't believe the aliens they have become. 

Then they become adults. And we probably remember that the teenage years weren't the best, but we also remember how fun it was to pick out prom dresses and make team meals before football games and do real, adult stuff together for the first time. So when you leave them at the dorm that very first night, you leave in a pile of tears because God has allowed us selective memory. We remember the Sundays together in church, but we forget the fights trying to get there. 

It is God's goodness, His love for us, His grace that allows us to so easily remember the good and let go of the bad. So, Braeson, right now you may think that pool is the only good thing about your house. But one day you'll remember the nerf gun wars with an unsuspecting victim, the 4wheeler rides to Nana and Bumpy's, the chopping down of trees with your machete (although I still can't understand why you have a machete?! Because you're a little cray cray). Oh, you may hate when Mom makes you do your homework at the kitchen table now, but one day all you'll remember about that table are the meals your parents made for you and the conversations that surrounded it. 

It wasn't that long ago (like January) when we were going to Odessa every week for ultrasounds. I loathed weekly appointments. It seemed never ending at the time. But we loved our doctor and genetic counselor and ultrasound tech. Today we went back to let AnnLouise meet them. When we walked in, I barely remembered what it was like to go. Every. Single. Week. No, I just remembered the best day of my life when Oscar saw her bladder had gone down and it was ultimately confirmed it wasn't fatal. 

When AL got to meet both Dr. Bruner and Oscar, it was surreal. Like this bringing together of a dream of what AL would be like and the reality of the beauty that she is. It was like the past met the present. 

Before Oscar got to Odessa, he face timed AL. We couldn't fathom leaving before he got there though.

AL meeting her biggest fan, the one who first thought her bladder had shrunk. Oscar, we love you.

She knew his voice immediately. Loved watching her meet Dr. Bruner.
We will forever be thankful for all Dr. Bruner and his team did for us and for the foresight to send us to Houston. It was a hard journey, but it would have been impossible without the perinatal center way out here in West Texas. 

So today, my favorite things are AnnLouise Scout meeting those who kept us all going those hard, trying months and walking back into the office where God's miracle was discovered. And walking in there with that miracle in my arms.

Avery Jane

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Count Your Many Blessings, Name Them One By One

Cash and I have really been enjoying that new show on HGTV, Home Town. Last night I was reading about the Napiers and saw that she has kept a list since 2010 of the best thing that happened each day. Now, I don't have the energy to write those thoughts down on the daily, but I thought what a neat idea to at least contemplate the best every day has to offer.

When I was growing up, I loved where I lived. I loved my parents' house, my small town, Arkansas in general. I was never the one who couldn't wait to get out of my hometown. Actually I was the exact opposite. In college I went home almost every weekend because I just loved it so much. It was peaceful to me.

So you can imagine how hard it was when Cash and I got engaged to realize I would never live there again. I knew my life would be in an oilfield somewhere. I wouldn't trade my life with Cash out here in West Texas for anything, but I struggled a great deal (and if I'm honest, sometimes I still do) leaving the beauty of the Ozarks and the comfort of my utopia.

My hometown is perhaps one of the most gorgeous places on earth. I tell people that and often they chuckle because they have this image of Arkansas. I get it. But in my opinion folks are really missing out not experiencing the Pig Trail on a beautiful fall day. (Trust me, Google it.)

Ozark is settled in at the foot of the Ozark Mountains with the Arkansas River running along its southern border. While the river bridge is an often photographed portion of the town and beautiful in and of itself, I have always favored the mountains. And my most favorite place to view these mountains is on the front porch of my parents' farm. Looking over a hayfield, beyond the tree line where the forest begins, you can watch the rain roll across the mountains on a summer day or bask in the glory of those hills wrapped in a blanket on a cool Fall morning. No matter the season. No matter the weather. That front porch and mom's sweet tea are my favorite things in this world.

Arkansas River bridge in Ozark
Jethro Farms

A shot of the Ozark Mtns from Upper Jethro Road (yeah, really, Upper Jethro)

Moving to West Texas has had its own joys. The sunsets (I don't tend to be up in time to watch the sunrise...never been a sunrise kind of girl) are exquisite, and the desert has a beauty all its own. But I often long for a cool morning with my mom sitting on her front porch. If I was making a list of the best things in life, that would be at the top. Every time.

So lately I've been trying to find things that can give my kids a feeling of warmth and home. As I've grown up I've learned I can't recreate Ozark. I have to take Midland for being Midland and find the beauty in that. But how do I make this a warm, inviting home for my children? What are they going to grow up and remember about home? What is it every day that makes it a great day?

Last night Cash decided to get grilling season started at our house, and he made a slam dunk with pork chops, green beans, and corn on the cob all grilled to perfection. We decided to eat outside and enjoy family time in the wonderful Spring weather. It was so peaceful. When we were going to bed, I told Cash eating outside was my very favorite thing from today.

It was Henry's favorite too. I knew because he began crying as soon as we picked him up to go inside and didn't stop crying until he was asleep. I promised him I would take him out the next morning for breakfast.

As soon as I picked him up out of his crib this morning he began signaling MORE MORE! I sat his high chair up, whipped up some breakfast, made a cup of coffee, grabbed AnnLouise from her basket, and sat outside with my little loves. H enjoyed his breakfast listening to the chicken cluck (oh yeah, we have a chicken?!) and watching the dogs play.

After he was done, he ran around checking eggs and exploring the backyard. It is not quite noon, but I think breakfast outside with my 2 little loves, a couple dogs, and a chicken named Popeye will be my favorite thing today.

A boy and his dog

Man on a mission

Sissy girl enjoying the morning

Checking for eggs

Getting quite the collection

So, I may not be Erin Napier and writing this down every day. But it has already been uplifting to think about the best things of today. I'm counting my blessings and naming each one of them, naming them one by one.

Avery Jane

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In These Moments

Yesterday was my 6 week postpartum checkup. But, seriously, how?! How is my baby 6 weeks old already?

I was visiting with the doctor about all things AnnLouise and catching him up on Houston. If you remember my OB was the only one who ever mentioned Prune Belly. Of all the specialists we saw and the possibilities we heard, the very first possible diagnosis from our regular OB was the right one all along. Looking back I'm glad I didnt know. Prune Belly can be very, very fatal...many babies are stillborn or the parents are told to abort (as we had been told). I'm just glad I didn't have that to know to worry about.

Anyway, so we were talking about checkup things when he asked if I wanted to discuss birth control. I looked at him very seriously and said, "Doc, I'll take one of everything you got." And I meant it.

He told me our options but was open and honest about his recommendation we don't do anything permanent yet. He said so many people who are still living in the emotions of a new baby (let alone what we've been through) think they're done but wish years later that they hadn't taken such drastic measures. For one fleeting moment that was lost in time a beautiful thought of just 1 more pregnancy and 1 more baby ran through my mind. But as I said that was fleeting, and I opted for the first plan of taking 1 of everything.

But, really, they're pretty cute.
I'm trying my hardest to live in the moment, to savor these days. I see someone everyday who looks at my whole mess I've got going on and I can read in their eyes that they miss it. It is the couple at the doctor's office who plays with Henry and talk about their grandkids who are graduating high school or the lady at church who reminisces on her babies when she sees us dragging ours in the doors or the picture of my dad as a little boy with his brothers and parents hanging in my hallway that tells me to love these days in a mighty way.

I do. I really do. I love these moments. I joke about them a lot and go on about how tired I am, but these days are the best I've ever had. I literally just told Henry I would parent him today once I finished my coffee and he threw his sister's socks into said cup of coffee, but I'm trying to take mental pictures of these days and live in them real-time.

Often I wonder what memories it will be that stick with me. Will it be the day they both had naps and I cooked a fabulous dinner? Or will it be the day I left them in their PJs until lunch and called in pizza as they strung toilet paper through the house? Hopefully it is both. I hope I remember the crazy that made up so many days, but I hope I also give myself grace and remember that by goodness I did a pretty good job most of the time.

Well, my coffee cup is empty and I keep my promises, so I have to go parent Henry now. And by the smell of the diaper as he just ran by, I think he really needs me to.

Avery Jane