Saturday, April 28, 2012


While vacationing in Florida, my wife and I were invited to breakfast by a close friend of my parents, Hans. 

Both my mom and dad were there visiting him as well so we readily agreed.

I must say it may have been one of the best mornings I've had in years. After, back on the beach, I thought through what made it so memorable...and what I could learn from it:

It was a perfect morning. Sunny, warm (but not hot), a bit of a breeze, just the morning that makes you want to move here permanently. It seems Hans thought the same thing years ago...and acted on it.

We arrived at Hans's home, and it was just amazing. Walking into the front door brought us right into the lanai (screened-in pool, hot tub, open air living room, no bugs, and makes it feel like you're outside in the shade). The grill was in the corner heating up, and walking through the rooms showed an airy, inviting, and comforting home.

Later we learn that Hans custom designed the layout...So that from every room the lanai could be seen and walked into. Fantastic. It showed us without words that Hans cared about details so that everyone he invited would feel included.

Hans grilled breakfast for us. That's right...Grilled! It was like I was at a "Barbique University" show. Everything was so tasty, and it was fascinating to watch the process itself. Watching how he grilled the eggs, multi-grain pancakes, sausage was a delight. He showed us without words that he wanted us there; that we were important enough to spend the time grilling (which obviously includes a lot of preparation).

We saw good taste wherever we looked...not only in food, but in cars and music technology!  We open his garage and see two convertibles: a modern and a vintage Volvo. Beautiful! Then next to the cars is a junction box where he routes music from any source to any room. Loved it. Back in the kitchen he pushes a button and the music in the kitchen changes from radio to cd to something else... showed without words his forethought and ability to anticipate future needs and varied tastes of his guests.

Oh, and his choice of music...modern worship music...showed he has a passion for Jesus that needs to be shared.

Hans is interesting. He is a retired pilot, emigrated from Finland, and is a great story-teller. But most impressive was his interest in his guests. He showed through his questions that he was truly interested in what we thought, experienced, and our lives in general. We learned that my wife's family and his family lived close to each other, and had a similar heritage.

He made us feel that he was honored to have us visit and that he cared about us.

I felt that his primary hope was that we would leave better people than when we arrived. Wouldn't we all be better if that was our daily goal.

One possible ingredient that added such a deep texture to the morning is that Hans is a widower, and since my wife and I were in the middle of an unknown diagnosis that had our minds constantly thinking of our future...every conversation, observation, joke, and comment was bathed with the undertones of loss, love, and what is most important and pure in life.

In the corner was a beautiful blooming orchid. 

We learned that his wife grew orchids and filled the lanai with flowers. He has kept a few around since she passed, and it seemed to me this single orchid was a statement saying that she will aways be remembered, be honored for the beauty she brought to his life, but also that his life is moving forward onto new adventures...

...but at any time, fond memories are just a glance away.

I wonder if part of the reason for the visit was that God wanted to show us how to gracefully live through traumatic episodes of life.

He showed us without words that it is possible to lose the love of your life and still live a purposed life for Jesus.

It was obvious his faith is strong; not just in how he conducted himself through his loss, but through the whole morning. Yes, he was successful in his career, he was successful in raising a family, in investing, and in his choice of cars. But it was all tempered in the foundation of a faith that didn't seem to waver.

I don't see my parents that often. When I do, it's usually with the whole family filled with kids and chaos. I love those times, but this time it was just Hans, my parents, my wife, and me. 

I'm sure the kids would have loved the pool, but on this morning there was no interruption of conversation, no need to break up squabbles, just a constant stream of conversation that flowed from fruit to food to faith to work to investing to grilling to living in Florida to life as a retired widower to being excited about what the future holds. I was able to take 148 long gazes at my wife. She is so beautiful but that morning she was simply stunning...complete with a Gardenia in her hair that were lining Han's driveway.

What a gift. Maybe God whispered to Hans to invite us over because me and the wife needed this....

...a morning of peace, reflection, inspiration, conversation, laughter...

...and really great food.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In The Time We Have Left

Note: I wrote this at the end of our April 2012 Florida vacation. Since then additional data has shown we are most likely "in the clear"...but at the time, we did not know...


Three days before our beach vacation in Ft. Meyers, my wife had a follow-up ultrasound. They found something. They don't yet know what it is, but she goes in for a consult and a biopsy when we return.

It's probably nothing.

We hope it's nothing.

We pray it's nothing.

But what if it isn't?

With these thoughts swimming between our frontal lobes and the back of our minds, this week was surprisingly wonderful. Me and her had a more focused, intentional, and loving week than we've had in a long time. We were so connected. Everything else fell away and became irrelevant. When one of us wanted to go for a walk, it was an assumed we would walk together. When one was getting low on water, the other filled it even before words were spoken. When one hand was opened, the other grasped it tight...and she's never looked more beautiful to me.

We're obviously praying that the biopsy comes back clear. We're also praying that we don't lose this sense of focus...this sense that we can't take any time we have together for granted. We've done so many great things together, and have been intentional at times, but most of the time life's fast current sweeps my best intentions away.

We could very well have over 50 years left together...but we might not.

Either way, I think it's time to declare what we will do with the time we have left:

... I will hold your hand, instead of my phone

... I will sit close to you, instead of the chair across the living room

... I will swim with you, instead of just wading in because the water is too cold

... I will take you on adventures both near and far...instead of waiting for 'the right time'

... I will celebrate your birthday and valentines day like its our first...or last

... I will study to become more like Jesus

... I will be more patient with our kids

... I will buy that car we dream of sooner rather than later

... I will listen, sometimes speak, and always love

... I will focus on what I love to do at work...because it puts me in a great mood for you when I get home...instead of trying to please everyone at work...and come home frustrated and impatient

... I will write and record songs for you to sing

... I will grill more often, instead of asking what's for dinner


... I will hold you close through whatever adventure is in front of us because you still make my heart flutter, my eyes sparkle, and my face smile.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Deep Florida Vacation Thoughts

While on vacation in Ft. Meyers last week with my wife's extended family, I found myself thinking some pretty deep thoughts.

As a public service I am sharing some of the deepest:

~~~ Perspective ~~~

I'm not usually the one that goes grocery shopping for the family, but I've helped enough to know what we usually get (PS: the wife is an amazing shopper. She gets super healthy stuff, organic when it matters, and even a small something sweet). However, the wife and I had to pick up food for the week at the local Publix while in Ft. Meyers beach.

I have to tell you...

...when the food you choose is what you have to carry 2 miles home have an ENTIRELY different perspective. It seems that the more healthy items are top choices for keeping the bags light and few.

For example: Pop? No chance. I'm not carrying pop for my kids. It's heavy! And chips? While not heavy, they take a lot of space...and more bags = harder to carry (instead we got un-popped popcorn...much lighter per ounce eaten).

~~~ Creation ~~~

I never like getting sandy...until I do...
...and once past that barrier, I help build some pretty cool sand creations (and have tons of fun while doing it!). My favorite creation I helped my girls make is a Mouse head...that grew an alligator's body. A Mousigator... (my better half suggests Mousidile). Later we built a mouse with an alligator's head; an Allimouse. Here's the finished creation (Wren made the snout...pretty good, I think)

The next day my 3 year old niece wanted to make something so we created a small mouse head. It was great to briefly have something in common with her...even if it was a small mouse head with a flag poking out of its ear. She then wanted to draw the mouth and asked, "Is it a happy mouse?" I replied, "Yep! was happy until the 'incident'". That was a pretty good bonding moment I tell ya...

...and leaves the creation of the story describing the dark and sordid past of this particular mouse wide open :-)

Maybe there are other things I don't like doing just becaues they're messy, but that once I get past it, I find they are quite fun.

~~~ Focus ~~~

While looking at some photos of the beach, I noticed that if I focused closely, I could gain a much greater appreciation for the various sea creatures that shared the beach with us...

Here's the original that Karyn took while we made you see the creatures?

Here is a focused shot of them:

Here's the original of Allimouse as it looked down the beach:

Here is a focused shot:

Finally, here is a great shot of our girls playing in the tide pool:

...aaaaand here's a focused shot:

~~~ Perfection ~~~

Beer on the beach is good. Really good. I usually avoid having anything in the daytime, and I learned that while flying beer really goofs with my head...but on the beach, with the salty air, and the sun, and the cold lime-tinged is a perfect combination.

~~~ Memories ~~~

Seafood in local fish restaurants is The best places are so basic  (no windows, plastic utensils) that it's obvious they spend all their time on catching and cooking great food. I also learned a big lesson: fried in seafood-lingo does NOT mean "pan-fried", it means breaded and deep fried. I am not a fan because you don't taste the seafood as much as you should. Broiled is definitely the way to go. Especially scallops. I LOVE big 'ol scallops.

~~~ Life Lessons ~~~

Finally, and deepest thought: I learned why my towel always hangs on the left hook...why my water glass is the left one... and why I sleep on the left side of the bed...

...because my wife is always right.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How A Novice Repaired a Passenger Mirror

Early this spring, I was driving to bring my boy to a friends house. I missed the turn on a rural road, so I did a U-y...and WHAM, the passenger mirror shattered. I didn't even see the mail box so near the road!

I was soon stunned at the cost to repair/replace it. 

After estimates of nearly $200 (installed) and $100 for just the mirror assembly, and a crazy $50 for a custom cut mirror to slap on the old probably-broken assembly, a nice NAPA guy said, "Just get the part on eBay for $50 and install it yourself. It's Easy!"

It's easy. Psshht. Didn't he know who he was talking to? I'm the "ice" in novice, the "skilled" in non-skilled, the "i" in naive, the "me" in bring-it-to-a-mechanic.

But I'm also constantly on the lookout for a good I gave it a go.

Take a look at this video to see how it went...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sand Dollars, Brothers, and Memories

It started with one of my daughters saying, "Ya, Uncle David found them!"

"Where!?!", I yelped as I jumped from my afternoon slumber on the beach. She pointed in the general direction and I started know, that run that makes you think you look like Magnum PI running into the surf, but really makes you look like Ronald McDonald sloshing through a McFlurry. I was on a mission that started in 1984, resurfaced once or twice a year when I happened to wade into an ocean, and was determined to conclude this very day!

What mission?

To finally catch up (even briefly) to my brothers unreachable 'cool'.

You might think that after living with a brother for nearly 43 years that I'd get used to his 'cool'...and that it came from some unknown, mysterious well bubbling up 'cool' through his easy-to-tan it would be impossible to catch up to it.

Well, you'd be wrong.

I know where his 'cool', came from.


Yep, and not from some rare vanilla bean that we're not supposed to eat while south of the border, but he did anyway, and after a weekend of hallucination and fever came out of it with feathered hair, friends as far as the eye could see, and a mean pickup basketball game.

No. His Mazatlanian "cool" was bestowed upon him when he was taught by an old local to...hunt for sand dollars.

That's right, sand dollars.

I remember it clearly: I was sitting in the sand making my really neato 'mighty-mouse' sand castle (complete with 'go speed racer' moat), and my brother (glowing from his just completed sand-dollar-apprenticeship) walks up with a tube-sock-full of recently living sand dollars. He said this guy taught him how to hunt for them...that you wade out to your shoulders, sift your feet around, feel a prickly circular item, dive down and receive your bounty.

I was in awe...he was so COOL! In a flash of excitement to prove my own "cool", I rushed out until the waves lapped my shoulders...sifted sand with my feet...and...


I tried the rest of the week, and...


We flew home. 2 years later we went to Hawaii, and I secretly waded out to my shoulders, sifted feet...and...

...screamed like a little school girl.

I learned that sand dollars are not the only thing that live just under the sand. So do sting-rays, and other slimy-goopy things that really should not live near a beach.

Editors note: I suppose this could be a "how to live your life" axiom: Your mission in life will be fraught with slimy-goopy things...whether you proceed or not will tell the world what kind of person you are: A "little-school-girl-screamer" or ... well... "Cool".

I was not Cool. That incident ruined my mission for quite some time.

Years later, as I traveled the world for work, and went on beach vacations with my own family, I occasionally resumed my mission...Miami, Myrtle Beach, Daytona Beach, Sea of Cortez, Mediterranean, Mexican Atlantic, Sydney, Mississippi River (hey, ya never know), Singapore...


Then one day (meaning yesterday), the mission came to a head...with the announcement from a REAL little-school-girl that sand-dollars were out there to be found.

I ran out until the waves lapped my shoulders...

...sifted my feet around

...felt a fuzzy circular item

...pulled it up

...and screamed (yep, like a little-school-girl), "I FOUND ONE!"

A real, live, honest-to-goodness sand dollar.

I did it. An unexplainable rush came over me...until I look around and it seemed everyone was pulling them up (including my 2 little-school-girls).

Did I succeed in even temporarily approaching my brothers' "Cool"?  Hard to say. It only took 28 years to accomplish this mission...including several incidents of little-school-girl-screamitis...repeatedly; AND I wasn't manly enough to capture them, instead honoring the resort's catch and release rule. But, I DID accomplish the mission, so maybe I came close.

Oh, and my wife just reminded me that I can play a mean maybe I didn't have anything to prove in the first place.

PS: Later that day, the afore-mentioned Uncle David pulled up a star-fish...and didn't scream like a little school-girl, and proceeded to show it off to the whole beach.

Now THAT'S cool!

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Winter Blanket

Note: I initially wrote this at the beginning of February. I never posted it because it sounds pretty sad and if I write too many of sad ones in a row, people start to worry (or worse, bring up the 'd' word). But right now I'm watching the sun drift into the gulf of mexico while my wife pretties herself up for the evening (who am I kidding...she's crazy gorgeous all the time). In this blessed moment, I can appreciate how having lows make the highs more appreciated.'s just a part of who I am, another lens of my life, and I think I'm not the only one... here it is.

"My Winter Blanket"

It comes out each January 

It envelops me

I hold it close

I need it...

...but I don't like it

It keeps me distant

Mutes all of my senses

But I cling to it

My Love tries to pull it off...

...I snap it back.

She stops trying

I think part of my blanket falls on her, too

Why don't I just take it off?

I need it?

Makes me feel important?

It's not on year round...

...only winter

...when it's cold

...when I'm cold

I wear it at night

I wear it at work

I wear it at church

...especially church

Sometimes it falls off when I play guitar

I like that.

Makes that time sparkle

But it usually finds its way back on

My kids notice

"Why are you so sad today?"

or worse...they wear their own blanket

What a gift... dad-made, multi-generational, winter blanket

How thoughtful.

Come spring it's put away

By summer I've forgotten all about it

The fall is exciting...a new beginning!

...and then it's winter...

...and I greet my winter blanket.


But I have hope.

I recognize my winter blanket for what it is

I'm studying what it's made of... it clings to me

...what I can do to let it fall off keep it off

Is it working?


I feel spring coming...

...both through the warmer weather...

..and through the warmer moods...

I guess we'll find out next winter.

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