Monday, November 30, 2015

Weekend of Extremes

Every once in a while a cosmic singularity occurs in our marriage...

...a series of events that make a single weekend a blessed encounter where nothing else exists except and her...together exploring the world's awesomeness...

A few weekends ago (November 13th) was one of them:

  • Our groupie band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers was playing in St Paul
  • My work travel stopped and provided points for a fancy-dancy hotel
  • Our kids were away at camp (the three littles at a weekend church camp, and the oldest at a 20 week Military Police camp)
  • The dog was at grammas
  • The weather ... November! ... was warm enough for our Miata 

...and when it was all over, it was one of the best weekends ever for us, but I couldn't help but think about the extremes that surrounded this weekend...for some reason we were in the middle of this cosmic singularity protecting us and providing us this glorious weekend, while extremes could have meant the exact

Roger Clyne vs. the opening 'band'
While I always enjoy hearing RCPM, the band was extra-awesome this weekend.

...which was completely opposite of the opening band. I won't even write their name in the off chance that the Google will link this blog to their internet presence. They were beyond bad...disgusting? vile? I've actually never been embarrassed for a band before. Sure I've heard angry bands who make a statement...but this duo was just sickening.

Maybe once Roger and crew took the stage the difference between the bands was why I was so impressed with RCPM, but I think there was more to it. They were recording every show so that may have pushed them, but to me, it was like they met earlier in August and said, "We're sounding pretty darn good...lets see how good we can actually get". Each song had nuances I hadn't heard before...syncopated hits, guitar riffs, the bass and kick drum were more in sync than ever, and vocals were great!

We left overflowing with happiness...and happened to find their bus and thought it would be cool to measure the extreme difference of our traveling vehicles :-)

Flowers vs. Dormant Grasses
We went to the Como Zoo conservatory. Inside was lush, flower, beautiful...whereas outside was approaching winter. Everything inside was colorful, alive, vibrant, whereas everything outside was brown, dormant.

Normally, November can be brutally cold...not really in temps, but in combination of damp, cold, windy...yuk.  But THIS November weekend was superb!! 55-60, sunny, calm, no need for jacket, simply delightful!

Safety Vs. Danger
We were always safe. St. Paul is a great city, and the RCPM fans, us 'Peacemakers', are kind, supportive and awesome. We all gathered for a concert to listen to our favorite band and rock out with a bit of tequila and amazing musicians.

This was in stark contrast to fans in Paris who on that SAME NIGHT also went to a concert to listen to their favorite band and rock out...only to be attacked and many killed. This was awful on so many levels, but to me it was especially bad since it was during something I love so much...listening to awesome, live music with a community of like-minded fans.

Commitment Vs. Slumps
We saw Bonsai trees that have been in training for many, many years, and have been living for even longer. The level of commitment is stunning to me...and I should know.

I used to own around 30 Bonsai trees at various levels of training. Over time some of them died due to mysteries, and others died due to my mistakes. But last year I had a down period and I just gave up on my last two. One I had for 20 years and it was alive for probably 30 years. My hard-heartedness still surprises me that I'd just give up on it and let it freeze.

But for a moment I was able to stand in the presence of wonderful Bonsai that have been lovingly cared for...and it inspired me, and reminded me that anything truly remarkable takes time, takes commitment, and takes grit to push through low times because the result can be awe-inspiring.

Superstition vs. Reality
I didn't even think that it was Friday the 13th. While I'm not superstitious, it still impressed me how the reality of the weekend was so outstanding...that it completely wiped out any thought that it could have been a weekend of disaster, dread, or 'bad things gonna happen'.

But then again, that was our reality...and the reality of others was, in fact, filled with disaster, dread, and countless bad things.

I guess in the end, all I can be thankful for is our reality. That our weekend was filled with extreme love, music, beauty, craftsmanship, outstanding service, food, and above all, the weekend was with an amazing wife that I get to spend all my days (and nights) with.

Here's to life!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Impact of a Military Police Graduation

It seems I can, for the first time, freely express my thoughts about my son's MP basic and advanced training.  I have so much to get out, but for some reason didn't want to jinx it or make any statement that might have some irrational cosmic effect on our amazing son who is now a Military Police Soldier.

First - graduation; Then - the impact it had

Graduation Week
What a week...what an experience for us to get the smallest glimpse of what he's been through.

As we arrived to Fort Leonard Wood, we saw the company flags

These alone brought emotions since we saw them over and over during key phases on the company's Facebook page, but now could see them for real.

Once we entered the field house for Family day, we saw all 200 or so soldiers, completely focused and still...and they stayed there for over an hour. The drill sergeants were close, and I assumed hawkishly monitoring their discipline for no movement. Some parents got really close and took at a wax museum! One soldier made a twitch, and once the parents left, the drill sergeant swooped in and gave them a stern talking-to.

We heard a short presentation...and then the soldiers were dismissed. The first hug could not come fast enough...

...and was a fitting bookend to when we last saw each other 5 months earlier:

It was so great to have the family together again, and the smiles seemed genuine all around

I couldn't wait to take some photos of him with places that mattered to him so we took pictures of....

His company and platoon flags:

Him and his mother outside the Military Police Museum:

...and in front of the steps leading up to his barracks he spent 20 weeks living in. These steps are where his bus dropped him off at the beginning of Basic Training, and where, he said, "this is where I I heard my drill sergeant's voice for the first time".

After we dropped him off at battalion headquarters, we did get a quick shot of him and some fellow soldiers just before their last night of cleaning and  (as we learned later) very little sleep ... kind of a end of training hang out.

Graduation Day
The next morning was graduation ceremony. Full of emotion. The videos, the speeches, but especially the cadences they chant as they march. Some were fun, "Proud Mary", but some were super sad and thought provoking, "Jonny" - where a soldier performs admirably, ends up jumping onto a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, who later we learn had a new child he never knew.

2nd Platoon marched up, and each soldier shouted their name and home town: Our soldier makes us so proud!!!

At the end, the master drill sergeant shouted, "COMPANY",

...and that was it. 20 weeks of the hardest, fiercest, best, worst, most memorable experience he's ever had ... over with a simple dismissal.

We did get a shot with his favorite drill sergeant. From a Dad's perspective, I couldn't have asked for anyone better...he wasn't even the platoon's drill sergeant, but was one that understood my son...looked past his initial quiet demeanor and saw the quality-soldier he could be.

With a final family photo, we were finally able to take our soldier home to his next adventure

...we did capture a few photos of friends he made

And some the 5 days he spend in the fields being a gunner on top of a HUMVEE just like this:

In the end, our family is together again

Our grown and growing kids:

and our amazing, can't believe our awesome family

The Impact

...and what do I think of all this?

I am so proud of my son. He's accomplished and proven himself (to others, and more himself) more in these 20 weeks than most do in 20 years. He's had to pull himself out of failure and into success in such visceral ways that no matter what happens in his future he can look back and say, "Oh, yeah, this is nothing like that time in Basic".

He is the finest example of a respectful, smart, capable young man I can find. He is part of a brotherhood that takes him farther, makes him better, pushes him harder, demands his best, offers respect and demands respect ... and creates a bond between humans that most of us can't even comprehend.

I truly wish every young man and woman in this country would partake in this training. Not that everyone needs to be a soldier, but just imagine if everyone learned how to do more than they thought they could, learned discipline, grit, respect, honor, how to be humble...even with...or especially with lethal skills, and how to work with all walks of life, culture, economic background to work as a team and accomplish a mission for the greater good.

Thank you,  787th Military Police Battalion Delta Company...for protecting, training, breaking, building, improving, and giving my son clarity, commitment, confidence, and a sense of belonging he'll have his whole life.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Like A Dream

This summer could not have been a better summer.

...especially for those that own a convertible.

Thankfully, after years of looking, I can finally talk about the car that my wife and I bought in June.

Our 2008 Mazda Miata Touring:

We had been looking for some sort of convertible for years, and on-and-off actively looking for a Mazda Miata for around 4 years.

This was not a rash move.

In fact, we started our lives together with fun sports cars:

1984 Plymouth Laser
My first car. Loved it!

1987 Dodge Daytona (T-Top, Shelby edition) 
(sadly, this isn't a photo of mine. For some reason, I have zero photos of my '87 Daytona...the T-Tops were awesome and it was a great car. The only reason we sold it is that it didn't fit 3 kids in back without stacking them in the hatch like guitar cases)

1990 Nissan 240sx 

Once we had kids, we still tried to keep with something fun and got a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee, but then eventually we sold our souls for minivans.

The trigger for getting the Miata now, I think started this spring when several friends conveyed bad news that made us think about how fleeting our time is, and if we don’t “DO IT” now, we may never.

While I was on a work trip to Vancouver, my wife texted me a photo of our future car sitting at Wayzata Nissan, a good omen since that’s where we bought our first car together (the 1990 Nissan 240sx). Once I returned, we kept an eye on it, and from the time we looked at it and the time we finally called to set up an appointment, it had dropped by 1K in price!

On our trip up to see Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, we took it for a test drive and bought it.

Now after having it for the summer?


We take it wherever we can, and revel in serendipitous moments when we find ourselves with no kids to carry with us.

...there's nothing like just popping the top down and ride.

Even if it’s at night to run errands…it just makes things better.

Now that school starts and cooler temps are here, I have to take the minivan to haul 4 kids to school. Still, I walk out to the garage, lean over, and stare...

…soaking in what this car has brought to us:

  • Time together as a twosome
  • The release of responsibility (not because we are irresponsible, but because we saw it through to raise wonderfully independent kids that can hold their own)
  • Fast corners
  • Fun music 
  • A sense of adventure

……and most of all anticipating the next moment of our journey.

Basically, I feel we’re getting back to our core…me and my Lady…soaking in all that the world offers…side by side.

(now, if we could only add a side-car that Orchid could ride in…)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Homecoming Ladies

Since my girls were 2, I have called them “Ladies”.

…when calling them for dinner, when referring to them in public, when walking through the door to greet them.


I never liked the sound of ‘the twins’…seemed a tad dehumanizing, and “kids” seemed to casual.

I think in my subconscious I wanted them to know that, at least to me, they are royalty...not queens that get everything they want, nope: Ladies…who deserve respect but still have to work hard and define their own journey. During these years of training, while I wanted to guide them in many ways, I wanted them to know at ALL TIMES they I respected them…that they deserve respect from others, and they should demand respect from anyone who dares court them or take interest in them.

…and what better way than to call each of them a Lady.


This last weekend was their first homecoming weekend.

They wanted to go but they are new to the school so didn’t know anyone…

…so they took each other.

Over the past month while traveling I heard stories of how one got a dress, the other got a necklace, but it wasn’t until they came down ready for pictures that I realized how stunning they both are…

…and how truly proud of who they are turning out to be.

…and how truly not-ready I am for them to be launched into the world.

I took photos of each of them, and the camera betrayed me.

Whether it was the “magic hour” of lighting, or the “now all grown up” lens filter, I felt like I was shooting a fashion show with two familiar but wholly foreign young adults:

First Julia:

Then Renna

Then some together:

Once those were done we took some of us parents:

I think my goal was to show that we are still the adults and that they are still just children…

…but I think these photos reinforced is that the adults are just OLD and the children have grown into wonderful young Ladies.

After looking at these, I started to wonder, “What’s left for me to do?”

While the "make sure they’ve got clothes and food and a roof over their head" is checked off, I know I still have a few years to reinforce what being a Lady means.

  • Demanding respect
  • Confidence in your self, and your unique journey
  • Not letting anyone define you
  • Not letting your identity be subject to any boy/person/sport/job/event
  • Staying humble
  • That true happiness comes from genuine relationships with God and others, not things (although horses are things…and they make them quite happy…but maybe it’s the relationship they are creating with the horses…I’ll go with that)
  • Helping others
  • Putting others first

I’ve basically got 3 years left. I feel I’ve done OK so far, but time is fleeting…it’s time to double-down.

The most effective way? To model those traits in myself, to live in more moments, to not be defined by my job, but in my self and my unique journey, and possibly most importantly: in how I treat MY lady…so they know how a Lady is treated and not accept any less from anyone.

Here’s to life! It never stops changing, and my prayer is I can become a better me…

…if not for my own benefit, then for the benefit of my 3 Ladies.

Love you, Ladies.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Secret At A Taylor Swift Concert

I haven’t blogged in a long time, which is weird because SO MUCH has happened in my life, our family's lives, that I should be posting a couple times a week.

The problem is I start to second guess myself. I think, “Uh, oh. It's been a while. The next entry has to be awesome”…after all, all the people in the world that read this will expect an amazingly thoughtful piece of work after so many months of inactivity.

Which made me start thinking, "Why am I even doing this?".

It's not for the money, it shouldn't be for vanity.

I had to remind myself that it's for my future family: My future self in 5, 10, 35 years, my wife, my kids, grandkids...anyone who is interested. If others enjoy it? Great. But There some pretty interesting things they may want to experience through my eyes that if I can capture a glimpse of what I thought as these experiences whizzed on by, and they can learn/grow from it, then that's all I hope.

So what better time than a weird moment I'm experiencing at this second to start blogging right now!

This is my view right now after dropping my girlies off to the Taylor Swift Concert. I thought I’d try to find myself an “extra” ticket by wandering the streets. You know what I found? Tons of others wanting a ticket, and 15 professional scalpers who are giddy that scalping is now legal.

I did hover (Stalk? Leer?) around the will-call window in hopes someone would shout, “Dang, I can’t believe Sally couldn’t come…what ever are we going to  do with this ticket!?!”

I never heard that.

What I did hear is, “Fraud!?!”  “Decoy” “Fake!?!” Several folks bought craigs-list or street corner (just outside of the arena) tickets, walked in, and they couldn’t enter. They were out hundreds of dollars (the sad part was a little girl was usually next to them crushed I'm sure).

That got me to the point to not even ask, “you have an extra ticket” because the only thing worse than not getting a ticket to a show I’m marginally interested in is to get a ticket that is FAKE and be out $50-$100.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wow, you got 26th row on the floor near the catwalk you must have purchased them months ago”.

Well, you’d be wrong.

I bought them yesterday.

Turns out, thanks to a chance AC/DC concert, I learned a secret from a wise “yeah I been to 87 concerts and never bought a ticket more than a day before” concert-yoda-meister.        

The day of that AC/DC concert, I decided I wanted to go. I called ticketmaster and they said, “Heck ya, we’ve got section 102, 12th row”. I looked and it was just off the stage…so close I could almost touch Angus’ AC/DC labeled boxers (if you haven't been...don't ask).

Once I sat down I commented how crazy-unique it was to get a ticket the day of, and concert-yoda leaned over and said, “I’ve been to 87 concerts, and buy all of them between 3 and 4pm the day before the show. The radio/contest tickets get released, and you can pick up REALLY GREAT seats…far better than anything you’d get buying them the day they go on sale…and you’ll know your schedule works for the concert!"

So, yesterday at 3:30pm I look up tickets and found 2 great seats on the floor next to the runway where she walks down the center of the floor. Since I didn't have much time I chose 2 tickets only since 3 together would have been a long shot.

I got them at face-value, no risk of scalpers, and now they’re enjoying a fantastic concert.

I love providing my kids concert experiences. My oldest I took to several hard-rock concerts, and the girls I bought tix for Miley Cyrus, Lindsey Sterling, and now Taylor Swift.

My next goal is to find something that my youngest wants to see. He’s unique in that he’s a GREAT drummer (at still 11), but he hasn’t found a band he can really sink into yet. We do play along with some classics, and we jam to blues and other songs to increase his chops. In fact I had him learn a “You’re a drummer? Prove it” riff.  Now he can rip off a really cool intro, beat, interlude groove, and ending that will summarize his skills. Awesome.

There ya go. soul searching, history, tricks, and fathering all in one post. Phew! 

PS: Now that I’m at the nearby pub, I see all kinds of people who were looking for tickets along with me. Reinforces I made a good decision to mellow and type my thoughts (with a Surley on the side). Turns out this is a focal point for all the scalpers! So interesting to hear them talk about the night…who they scammed, how much they made with each ticket, I wonder who they know that gets them these great seats? Unless they're all fakes.

Ah well...back to my Surley.

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