2018-9-2 Getting settled back in

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

I’m back from vacation and it has been a crazy time.  I think my favorite part of the whole adventure was the day I got to spend in Iceland by myself.  I didn’t have a lot of time, so I didn’t try to go anywhere other than Keflavik where I stayed the night.  I explored the coastline.  Discovered a real Giantess’ Cave (for real). Watched the fishing boats bringing in their catches just off a peninsula. Enjoyed a wonderful native meal of fish. And generally poked my nose in various stores and chatted with the locals.  I’ve posted a few of my favorite pictures below.

Once I got back I received some real good news.  Just before I left, I took a really hard test to become certified in LabVIEW (the language I program in).  I’m already a certified developer, but this test was to be an architect. Turns out that I not only passed the test, but I made a 90%.  This was fantastic news.  It’s the highest level of certification.  I had studied and practiced for weeks prior to the test.  I attempted it last year, but failed. So, this time around, I went in prepared and it paid off.

Work is still incredibly challenging.  SpaceX is a very fast developing company and as a result, we are always improving our processes and workflow.  In the week I was out, a lot had changed and now I feel like I’m in permanent catch-up mode.  It’s very hard work and I love it.  Its all worth it when I can hear the rumbling of an engine fire up out on a test stand.

I came back up to DFW last week to pick the girls up from the airport and take them home.  After I left Europe, they journeyed east and visited Holland where it dips down between Belgium and Germany.  I was almost jealous until they reminded me they were stuck at the airport in Iceland for a few hours and never got to get out and about.

Well, I’m at the end of my summer journeys and trying to settle back into daily life.   And as usual, I imagine you guys being here.  You know I chat with you two in my head all the time.  I wonder what you are up to.  Joseph, I know you’re in college somewhere exploring and learning from the world outside of Woodville. Lucia, I know you are enjoying your Senior year of high school.  That can be a double edged sword, full of excitement, but a lot of drama.  Through all this, please know you’re always in my thoughts.  If you ever want to reach out to me, but don’t want to post here, you can always email me directly at markus.randel@outlook.com.  I promise I won’t flood you with a bunch of emails  and I’ll respect your wishes.  The rules for dialog are completely in your hands.  But until you are ready, I’ll wait.

Love,
Dad

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2018-08-17 Greetings from Europe

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

I’m writing to you this morning from Tervuren, Belgium. Michele and the girls and I came over so all the family could get together. Michele’s mum and sisters live in Belgium, so it’s a nice treat for her to get to come visit and be with her family. It’s been four years since the last time we were here.

We’ve only been here for 5 days so far and it’s already been quite the adventure. We flew in via WOW airlines. That’s an Icelandic airline so every flight to Europe is routed through Reykjiavic. We didn’t get to see much during the layover on the way here, but next week, I’ll get to spend a whole day there. I can’t wait. Michele and the girls are staying another week. I just don’t have that much vacation time yet at work.

The day after we got here, we all packed our bags again and headed off to the beach where Michele’s sister is on holiday with her kids. It was a fun 2 days in Knocke-Heist. We walked a LOT! We stayed in a rental cottage half a mile from the beach, so if we wanted anything, we had to strap on our shoes and hit the road. We even rented a bicycle built for 6 people. It might look nice in the pictures but it was hard work.

Michele has two younger sisters: Vicki and Elizabeth. They each have children between 8 and 12: Joshua, Nandi, and James. The two boys are full of energy and always up to no-good. Luckily, I brought my laptop with a whole bunch of movies loaded up, so they got to watch Black Panther, Coco, Lego Batman and the such. It gave all the grown ups a well needed break and time to catch up and relax.

On the way back, we stopped in Bruges for the day. That is probably my favorite place in Belgium. It’s really old and full of huge churches, canals, chocolate and lace shops, and fine restaurants. All the roads are cobblestone so after a long day walking, my feet were killing me. It’s ironic. I’ve gotten more exercise on vacation than I ever do at home.

Yesterday, I dropped the girls off downtown Brussels so Michele could meet up with an old classmate of hers who came down from Holland to see her. Mel and Rachael went along too. They got rooms at the Hilton right next to the Grand Place. I hung out with them for a while before heading back to Michele’s mothers house in Tervuren.

It is so lovely here. A hot day might get into the 80’s. Right now I’m sitting in the sun room listening to the city slowly wake up and the last of the rain from last night drip off the trees. Linda (Michele’s mum) has a wonderful garden full of life and little secrets if you look close enough.

So as always, my thoughts drift to you guys and how much I wish I could share this with you. It’s just such a great experience that stays with you for the rest of your life. I hope and pray that one day, I can bring you two over here and show you all these wonderful things. But until then, I’ll wait. You are both getting old enough to start wanting real answers. I’m here anytime you want them. Just ask. But until then, just know, you are always in my thoughts and I love both of you so very much.

Love,

Dad

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Dear Joseph and Lucia,

I have not written many posts on this blog, as I had mainly suggested this as a venue for your Dad to express his feelings, and let you know about his life, so that maybe one day, you would be able to read them and have “another side to the story”.

As you may have read earlier, I live very far away from my family and I very much relate to Mark’s pain to live far from his. However, I am able to sit at my computer at home and open a program called “Skype” and have a video chat with my Mum, Sisters, niece and nephews, which helps me stay as close as I can.

After our visit to Belgium in 2014, the following year, I was on a business trip to Austin and received a phone call from your Dad that was unexpected. My Mum had called him to say that my Father had passed away and that she was unable to get a hold of me. He knew that I would be very upset, but helped me set up Skype on his laptop that I was borrowing and put me in touch with my family, so that I could say goodbye to my Dad and mourn with my family over a long distance. He was very patient and understanding, as my initial reaction was to lash out at him and be impatient, it meant the world to me that he made it possible for me to “be there” at such a crucial time for my family.

We are now planning to go back for a visit this summer and I look forward to seeing how much my niece and nephews have grown in 4 years, and hug my sisters and my Mum over and over.

I had a fabulous relationship with my father, even though we had not been able to talk much the last few years, because he struggled talking over the phone due to the multiple strokes that he had suffered from over the years. He was pretty much bed-ridden for the last 10 years of his life. After he passed, I felt that there were still things unsaid, questions not answered, and that I would have wanted to know much more about him as a person. Don’t get me wrong, we talked a lot before I moved to the States and he always knew that I adored him, respected him and to this day I am astounded at what he was able to achieve in his life, with the many challenges he faced. You don’t really realize many things about being parents until you are one yourself. The phases of seeing your parents first as “all-knowing”, then as “knowing nothing” and then as “people, just like me, with weaknesses, feelings, strengths and shortcomings” is a normal rite of passage, you both are still working your way through those passages.

What I want to let you know with this post is that I wish with my entire being that you have an opportunity to say all the things you want to say to your father (good and bad), to ask all of the questions that you probably have, and to get to know him as the person that he is now and understand the person that he has been in the past. The feelings of regret that I had with my Dad, however minimal, is something that I do not wish upon you both.

Your Grandparents Mama Mickey & Papa Gene, Great Grandparents Gommi and Bill-Bill, and your Grandparents on your mother’s side, that you never had the chance to meet, or learn about, or hear stories from, loved you. There are stories that you need to hear from your other family, your Aunt Trisha, her Son and Daughter, and your other Aunt. Those stories will help you understand how you fit into the world and how people sometimes react to circumstances and make decisions that can change the course of a life.

If you ever want to hear any stories from my point of view, I’m here, with two willing ears to listen and open arms, no judgments, your terms. If you want to know about the type of person I am, look at my Facebook posts and reach out to any of my friends or colleagues.

PS: I’m very proud of your accomplishments – your Grades have always been spectacular and Joseph’s Band pictures and Lucia’s Long Distance Running pictures (for years, I’ve hunted for them on the internet for hours in the middle of the night, so Mark can see you) made us both very proud! As you saw at Joseph’s Graduation, we applaud your accomplishments and want to show our support from a distance, without disrupting your current lives or causing a fuss. I may be so bold as to suggest that you read about Parental Alienation, as there are many other people that have a similar life story to tell and it might be good to know of other people your age that have experienced similar life situations.

Lots of Love, Michele

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2018-6-9 Summer Break

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

Summer time is in full bloom and this looks like its going to be a busy summer. I already started it off with an extended holiday weekend on Memorial Day and my birthday.  We all had fun.  What better way to spend my 51st birthday than to go see the latest Star Wars movie.  We also went down to Waco together and hung out at my former boss’s country pond where there was a lot of swimming, gun shooting, and star gazing after the sunset.  But the funnest time was spent re-organizing my comic book collection. I’m a little odd like that.

Next weekend I’ve got tickets to go see Monte Montgomery play live.  He’s a fantastic guitarist out of Austin.  He never got that big or famous so it’s not a big venue which is fine with me. It’s going to be more like a small dinner theatre.  And for my birthday, Michele got us tickets to see Fleetwood Mac in Austin… next FEBRUARY!  Oh well.  I can wait.  But that should be fun.  I know almost all their older songs since I’ve been singing along with their music since I can remember.

Work is going well.  I’m finding my place within the group and making friends.  I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing a Hawaiian shirt everyday. For me, it’s like every day is a day at the beach.  My desk has plenty of Lego projects including a scale model of the Apollo Saturn V rocket and big foam Hulk hands.  But all fun aside, I’m enjoying the work.  I end up getting all the work that everyone else hates, which is fine with me.  A lot of it is very repetitive and meticulous requiring focus and NO MISTAKES.  In a way, I get the same gratification as when organizing comics.  I’m slowly taking something messy and making it right. And the perk of getting to watch rocket engines test firing right outside my window is amazing.

Well,  I need to get around and start getting some chores done around the house.  That lawn isn’t going to mow itself.  I hope you both plan to have a wonderful summer break.  Spend it with friends. Enjoy yourselves.  My greatest wish for both of you is that you can find peace and happiness in life. I think that is the most precious gift God can give us in this life.

So, until next time, I’ll still wait for you.  I’m always here with answers to your questions.

Love,
Dad

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2018-04-23 The latest news… good and bad

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

This is always such a fun time of year.  As the temperatures slowly get warmer, the plant life blooms and everything turns green again.  It’s also the time of year we get the pool ready for another season of swimming fun.  Every year I do, I always hope this is the summer one of you two will reach out and come and enjoy this with us.  At first it was really hard, figuring out how to take the filter apart (and back together) and getting the pool clear of all the stuff that makes its way into it during winter.  But this year, it was pretty easy.  Michele and I have it down to a science and were able to get it all done yesterday morning.  It’s really gratifying to see the water clear up and the little water fall run at full flow.

We also went a bit outside our comfort zone this weekend and went to a concert downtown Saturday night.  The Foo Fighters played at an outdoor venue and I was able to get us tickets for the lawn.  I doubt this is a band your mother would approve of.  They play rock and roll quite loudly and use a lot of foul language.  Of course, it rained off and on throughout the concert.  We had rain gear, but that still didn’t keep us dry.  The band played for 3 hours straight.  We all danced and sang and didn’t care about being soaked.  A friend of mine from work, Richard, came with us.  Michele and Rachael bailed before it was over, but Richard and I stuck it out.  I haven’t sung that loud for that long in a very long time.  I hope you guys are able to enjoy different kinds of secular music now and not just limited to church music.  There is a whole world of experiences you will miss out on if you don’t try new things.  Hopefully, going to public school introduced you to friends that shared this with you.

I’m not sure if you guys know or not, but, your grandmother passed away last week.  Irma Foreman, your mom’s mother, held on for quite a while, but finally passed Wednesday, the 19th.  Your Aunt Trish has been amazing.  She took care of everything.  I’m sad to say I couldn’t make it to the funeral.  It would not have been a good idea to go.  A bright spot is Trish came across some old photos your grandmother kept from a few of our visits.  I’ve added them to this post.  When I look at them, it really digs deep how much I miss both of you.  You guys mean so much to me.  It’s taken 10 years for me to be able to live a “normal” life without you two.  I just do the best I can to be the best father I can be so when you do finally reach out, I’ll be there ready.  I’m waiting.

Love,
Dad

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April 10, 2018 – Just another update

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

Last August I wrote you about my adventures as a contractor at SpaceX.  At the time I was hoping for an extension to the contract.  Well, that did happen.  And then in January of this year, I was converted to a permanent full-time employee.  It was an honor considering they actually had to create a position for me.  Until now, there haven’t been any non-degreed programmers in the company.  So my official title is Software Specialist.  The work has been fantastic.  I still have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure this is real.  This is the dream job.  I work hard every day to make sure I stay here and don’t slip up.

It is a bit of a bummer that the work has me living in Waco during the week.  I only go home to Michele and Rachael on the weekends.  But, it makes for some really fun times together when I’m home.  Besides, I’m never bored during the week.  Work takes up almost all my time.  In the evenings I can relax and play with Lego’s and watch all the science fiction movies and bad re-runs I want.

Michele is doing very well at her job too.  Since last time I wrote, she’s been promoted to Director at her hotel in Frisco. She’s a big-wig now.  I’m still not sure why she puts up with me, but I’m grateful she does.  Racheal is doing well also.  She’s gone back to school and is working two part time jobs.  She still lives at home, but is helping out a lot and picks up the slack for me not being around during the week.  Melynda is off on her own and has been for a while.  We are very proud of her.  She’s getting her degree this fall and is already working full time in advertising.  She stops by occasionally and stirs it up around the house.

As I mentioned in my last letter, even though I don’t write to you as often as I used to, it doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about you guys.  Not a day goes by that I don’t have conversations with both of you in my head and pray for your well-being.  I’m comforted to know Lucia is still in Woodville and doing well with her grades.  Joseph, I only wish I knew where you were going to school.  I have no intention of intruding into your life.  As an adult, it is always your decision when to reach out to me if you ever want.  Just know, I’m not the monster you have been told I am.  Just read all these letters.  If you doubt them, reach out to Michele or Rachael or Melynda.  They are all on Facebook and can be contacted.  I’m sure any one of them would be glad to answer any questions you might have.  Both of you are loved dearly by a whole family you’ve never met.  Please don’t miss out on that. (oh, and if you happen to be dating Joseph Allen Randel or Mary Lucia Randel and am reading this out of curiosity… please share this with them)

Ok. Enough with me being pushy.  I’ll be patient and wait as always.

Love,
Dad

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2017-09-02 Recap from the last year

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

It’s been over a year since I last wrote you.  A lot has happened during that time.  My work in San Antonio got cut a little short due to getting real sick.  I was forced to come home.  It took months before I was anywhere near myself again.  By last November, I finally felt strong enough to start working.  After not finding anything in the immediate area programming, I opened up my options a bit and went to work for Geek Squad.

Kids, I’ve done a lot of different things for a living. Some were good and some were bad.  I can honestly say I’ve never let my pride get in the way making a living.  I will also tell you this… I loved working there.  I got to talk to people all day, make new friends, learn new tricks, and have fun.  I was old enough to be everyone’s father, but I was a kid right there with them and joked and laughed.  Probably the greatest part was seeing people have their problems solved quickly and their happiness as a result.  The best ones were where I could just “flip a switch” and fix their computers right at the counter.  I made deep friendships with the other agents that worked there.  Yes, we called each other “agents”.  “Hi. I’m Agent Randel. How can I help you today?”  Oh… and the uniform. The white shirt, black tie, black slacks and white socks.  I loved it.

While I was there, I took a test and got my next certification as a LabVIEW programmer.  This opened up new doors professionally.  It wasn’t long before an opportunity opened up out of town.  It was April of this year by then.  I started working for SpaceX at their engine test facility in McGregor, TX.  This is the best job I’ve ever had.  I say that unequivocally and without hesitance. I’m learning so much every day.  I’m working with advanced programming techniques on rockets.  What more can I say?  I was made for this.

The work environment is a mix of jocularity and seriousness.  Our work affects lives and the future.  We are designing technology to take mankind to other planets.  That’s not just some pie in the sky mission statement.  That’s fact.  We are designing rockets powerful enough to get to Mars and back.  Sadly, it’s only a contract which will end in October.  I’m still hopeful that it will extend or convert to a permanent position.  Regardless, if it ends and I come home, I will gladly put on my white shirt and black tie and fix peoples computers until the next contract comes my way.

Back in the beginning of June, something special happened.  We all saw each other.  Joseph, I really had NO intention of ruining your special day at graduation.  My only thought was to just see you and shake your hand.  If you wanted more, I left myself available.  I’m sorry your mother took it so far as to bring in the police.  Just for the record, there are no restraining orders in place.  I’ve left you guys in peace by my own choice, not by any mandate from the courts.  Lucia, I’m sorry if you were upset or disturbed.  I know you will have many hurdles to face in life after your youth.  Just I’ll be here waiting to answer ANY questions you have.

Lastly, Joseph… you’re a grown man now.  An adult.  Your decisions are your own now. If you ever want to reach me, you can leave a comment here.  My direct email address is markus.randel@live.com.  Not hard to remember.

If I don’t write again soon, it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of you guys.  You are in my thoughts every day.  Its taken me years to find the emotional footing to live sober and serenely without you.  Writing these letters tends to rock that boat a bit. But, I do you and myself a disservice by pretending they aren’t needed. So, I go off to mend and wait.  Always, I’ll wait for you guys.

Love,
Dad

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2016-05-04 May the 4th be with You

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written you. I really should have last week while I was in Dallas for the week. My health hasn’t been all that good, so I stayed home for a week.

My new job is really challenging. I’m working with new technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. I can’t say much more than that since its company proprietary. It’s only a contract for 6 months, but I’m hoping it gets my foot in the door with a good company.

We had quite the challenge at our house over the last month. Our pool pump gave up the ghost and the pool ended up sitting stagnant during a very intense pollen season. We ended up with a very dark swamp in the back yard. Michele has done the lion share of the work, but every time I’m home, I’m cleaning filters, changing gaskets, and emptying traps. It’s been quite the effort, but it looks like we finally recovered. Now, I’m just waiting for the water temperature to come up enough so I can enjoy floating. In the meantime, I can always turn on the heat in the spa.

For Mother’s Day, Rachael and I got Michele some solar powered shiny lights for the backyard. It’s becoming quite the light show at sunset with all the shinies we have now. It’s beautiful. I’ll see if I can get a good picture this weekend.

Speaking of which, I have my tickets reserved for the MegaBus trip home for the weekend. It’s nice to not worry about driving. I can put on a headset and just lean back, but it’s really hard to sleep. The seats aren’t quite big enough. But the trip is the same cost as I would spend on gas. So in the end, it’s worth it.

Well, I need to get back to work. I’ll be here waiting as always.

Love,
Dad

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2016-04-01 Worried about you

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

I was very concerned this morning when I saw the news reports about the bus accident yesterday with the Woodville track and field team. There were conflicting reports as to if it was just the boys or girls too. Lucia, I’ve been thinking all morning trying to figure out a way to make sure you are ok. Even if you are fine, I hate the thought of you going through a scary crash like that.

Michèle saw the news last night, but waited to tell me anything just in case she could make sure you are ok. I know there are some readers of this blog at the county hospital. If I could find out from one of them that you are ok, it would be a great relief.

And as always, I’ll wait to hear from you. I pray for both of you every day.

Love, Dad

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2016-03-22 Had Fun Last weekend

2016-03-19 12.08.26

Michèle down on the walk.

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

 

I had fun last weekend.  Michèle drove down from Dallas and stayed in San Antonio.  She was pooped Friday night when she got in.  There was a big thunderstorm she had to drive through right as she was coming into San Antonio.

Saturday morning I got up early and got breakfast for everyone and took care of some long overdue maintenance on my car.  When everyone was up and around, Jen joined us and we went downtown to explore.  There was a festival going on at our first destination which made parking impossible so we went on to destination two… the River walk.

It was a chilly day, but it warmed up and it got progressively more populated.  By the time we finally stopped to eat in the afternoon, it was elbow-to-a$$hole thick with people.

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Dad sporting his white socks

We were hoping to get to see the Alamo, but by the time we got there the line was around the block and I had lost all patience with my fellow man.  Instead, we looked into an old hotel with some really cool shops off the lobby.  There was a cigar shop and a toy soldier shop.  I enjoyed myself quite a bit.

 

By the evening, Martin grilled a meatloaf and we feasted like royalty and laughed at a good movie.  It was just a perfect day full of fresh air, good food and great company.

Before Michèle left for Dallas on Sunday, we changed her oil and went to the local disc golf course with Martin.  I took the camera and got some good action shots of him and his friends.

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Uncle Martin launching a disc

I also got a few photos of Michèle in a less than graceful moment trying her best on the parallel bars.  (Yes, I posted them on Facebook.  Yes, she is less than pleased that I did.  Yes, I giggled despite the trouble I know is coming my way when I go home next weekend).

 

I rested wonderfully Sunday evening feeling very blessed. Even though I miss you both horribly, I’m still living and experiencing life around me as it happens.  I’m sure you will want me to keep living.

So, I’m already well into this week.  I’m knee deep in developing a new self-teaching algorithm that’s giving me fits.  I woke up this morning at 3:30 and couldn’t stop working on it in my head.  I finally gave up and have been at work since 5.  I’ll do my best to last until 4.  I’m running out of steam pretty fast this afternoon.

I’m adding some other photos from the previous weekend when Martin, Jen and I went out to Pipe Creek.  I look forward to the day you can spend a nice spring weekend with me and your family.  Until then, I’ll wait.

Love,
Dad

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