Thursday, May 29, 2008

Route 66

Before dipping South to Texas, we spent a few days in Tulsa, Oklahoma visiting family.

If you are visiting Tulsa anytime soon, you have to visit these two places.

The Gilcrease Museum has Native American, pre-Columbian, cowboy art and a beautiful park out back with turtles that eat Krispy Kreme donuts.. If you want to feel nostalgic and get a taste for a bit of Oklahoma history, this museum offers an escape. We spend our Sunday afternoon there any my girls picked a favorite, The Stampede, by the famous wester artist, Frederic Remington.

And if you want to do something really interesting and fun, a visit to the Sushi Train on Route 66 in the North part of Tulsa is a fabulous eating event.

I know, I know, my west-coast friends are cringing at the thought of Sushi in Tulsa, but you really can't knock it until you've been there. They have this very enjoyable mix of old, retro, Asian, kitsch, and Ikea, all rolled into one. Oh yeah, and the food is 'to die for' as my wife likes to say.

I guess that is what I like about Tulsa so much, you can find a little bit of everything mixed into it, and somehow, it all comes out charming and enjoyable.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Checking in from Tupelo, Mississippi

What's in New Albany, Mississippi?

If you're driving 50 hours to Mexico (it was 40 until my dad reminded me that math is not my strong suit), you will want to stop along the way somewhere really nice to rest a bit.

If you drove through Tupelo, Mississippi, and didn't care to see where Elvis was born, you could go on a few more miles down the road and arrive at my friend Todd's farm.

Everybody needs a friend like Todd. Not just because he is the most generous person I know, but because he inspires me. Actually, his whole family inspires me and I have to remind myself not to be jealous of his talents or creative pursuits.

Todd does it all. He designs movie sets, writes stories, collects war memorabilia, designs restaurants, restores vintage army jeeps, paints magnificent paintings, and has an incredible knack for being able to predict consumer trends.

We dropped in on Todd and his family for an amazing reprieve from the road. They were amazing hosts and let us do everything from feeding their calf to digging a hole with their backhoe to riding around in their WWII ambulance.

Everyone needs at least one friend like Todd and family. It's the Todds of the world that keep us reaching for a little more and keep inspiring us to dig a little deeper into our creative toolbox and discover a little more of ourselves.

Thanks Todd and family! Next time we promise not to roll your 4 wheeler!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Keeping It Real at the Cemetery

Leave it to kids to keep things real.

We were all gathered around the grave of my grandpa this weekend, honoring his memory with my grandmother and our extended family.

All the adults knew the drill. You walk across the cemetery in a meaningful and thoughtful sort of shuffle, showing what a deep thinker and sensitive person you are. You stand around the grave, eyebrows slightly knit in pondering lofty things. No jokes, no flippant remarks.

I found this photo from our visit. My son is taking it all in and enjoying the day. I don't know where he got the glasses and I don't know what the funny faces were for, but there he is, taking life in and enjoying it.

Yeah, it's a good thing to honor the past and honor our elders. It's also a good thing to keep it real and remember that life is for living and enjoying.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Last Piggy Back Ride

Yes, I'm sentimental.

This is my daughter Sofie. This is her at 7. She is now 9 and lots taller.

I was walking through the grocery store parking lot with her last week and on impulse, picked her up and carried her on my hip on our way into the store. The thought came to me that at some point, I won't ever carry her this way and one of these times, it would be the last time I carry her like this.

I do this often.

When we are out as a family and get home late, and there are a few of my children asleep in the car, I usually carry them into the house and upstairs into their bedroom. Every time I do this, I think to my self, "Do you think this is the last time?".

At some point, carrying your teenage or junior-high child into the house on your shoulder becomes awkward.

Life is full of 'firsts'. Who doesn't remember the first time they visited New York City? Remember the first time your child rode a bike without training wheels?

While I'm all for celebrating 'firsts', I think celebrating 'lasts' is just important.

I'm going to visit my grandmother today. She is 93. She's got lot of life in her and I know I'll see her again. But even so, I'm going to hug her tight, kiss her forehead, not like it is the first time, but like it is the last.

Yeah, I know, I'm a hopeless sentimentalist, but I think taking a moment to ponder a 'last' and enjoying it makes life a little more rich and memorable.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A 40-hour road trip

This is it. The beginning of a 40 hour trip to our new home in the mountains of Mexico.

We sold our car and bought a truck and trailer to haul our goodies. That, and a good bit of beef jerky to keep me awake on the overnight drive to Mississippi, means we are all set to go.

What lofty or pithy thing can a dad say at the beginning of such a long trip?

I read lots of historical books. I get jealous of all the cool things people say before going into battle or before laying their life on the line for something they believed in. History is kind to these people, for they seem to be the most well-composed and articulate individuals.

Somebody needs to publish a quick reference book for the rest of us normal folks who want to be in the history books some days. That way, my kids won't have to look back on this momentous embarkment and tell their kids that all I said was, "God, bless our trip and help the dog not to vomit"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Goodbye Vespa, Hello Trailer

Moving takes sacrifices.

Sleeping bags on the floor for a whole week. Your favorite comfort coffee mug being packed away in a box. Having to dig through boxes to find your passport you mistakenly packed with all your stuff that you will need to cross the border.

Another sacrifice for me personally was seeing the Vespa leave our family. It has been around in our family before our oldest daughter was born. We needed a trailer to haul our life goodies to Mexico and we really didn't need a '64 Vespa up in the mountains where we are living.

So to ebay it went and to a happy NASA engineer who will enjoy her.

We are now the proud owners of a big, not-so-cool functional trailer, (pictured here with previous owners), that will follow us all 40 hours of the trip.

It's not as sexy, granted, but it will be awfully nice during the rain to have that passport stay dry in that box that was packed at the back under the other box marked "Things for Mexico".

Boy Insurance

My friends who have teenage daughters tell me we need a horse.

Yes, they agree, it costs a whole lot of money, the vet bills are crazy, you have to buy a truck and a trailer to haul the thing, you have to build a barn, etc, etc....but, it's worth it.

They say it is boy insurance. It keeps the boys away.

I have three stunning daughters, each unique and special and beautiful in her own way. Honestly? This 'boy insurance' sounds pretty good already.

Our family was invited out to visit Kayla and her two horses on her beautiful farm. One Saturday was spent just cleaning out the barn and getting things ready for the horses. The kids LOVED the excitement and anticipation of getting ready for the horses.

The next Saturday was 'horse day' and the kids got to clean, saddle and ride the two horses. They had a blast and learned the value of working before pleasure.

If Kayla is any indication of how the horse boy insurance works, I'm sold!

(By the way, Kayla is recently engaged to a spectacular young man so I probably call it 'bad-boy insurance')

Sunday, May 18, 2008

There is no 'Cruise Control' in life

I've had a few people ask me recently why we're moving to Mexico. When they hear the news, they either conjure up a romantic escape or summon a cliche' image of the little concrete lawn ornament with the sombrero guy resting his head between his knees.

We're on a family adventure. For 10 years, since we have been married, my wife and I have talked about and dreamed of doing 'something international'. We've collectively travelled to 45 different countries on business, pleasure, missions and to visit friends and family. The trips were amazing, but we always came home wanting more.

My wife is a former Chiropractor, turned domestic manager and home-school teacher and amazing wife.

After working 10 years in the corporate creative management arena, I started to itch a little and wonder what life was like outside of the nurturing and safe 9 to 5 workplace. I stepped out last year feeling called to something different but still not sure what it was.

It has been a bit scary and my wife has been an amazing support and encouragement. It seemed like there were lots of opportunities to be faithful in the little and I believe God took care of us. We made it and found that we replaced our income from our fancy big-britches corporate job and we had lots more family time and flexibility.

I believe in God. I believe he is sovereign and has plans and has a place and role for me to fill. I believe he gave me desires and giftedness in specific areas to get some stuff done that he wants done. I think he has been helping me out in my past 'corporate' assignments and I believe he will continue to help me as we chart into new territory in Mexico.

I've not been the best a living it, but I've always said that I wanted to be intentional about life and not just responding to opportunities or taking what comes along and skating through. I've seen a few friends tolerate jobs they hate or stick around with an institution or church they don't feel passionate about or called to. I have been there and know the dilemma of thought and expectations. But I've seen too many old people look back on life with regret, and wasted days, wishing they could spend their short lives in some other more meaningful way. I don't want to be that person.

I think I want my epitaph to say something like, "I lived being more afraid of complacency than failure". I'm sure I could get an editor to write something more snappy than that. In other words, the 'cruise control' option in life is a pretty dim one.

Living in Mexico is the next season for us. It may be short one. And we may 'fail' to be a success in some people's eyes. But we'd rather try and fail than to be in a retirement community some day talking about that thing we always wanted to do but never got to try.

Give a dog a good name...

This is Moses.

He's new to our family.

We counted the cost, the kids saved their money, and we took the time to find just the right name.

Dale Carnegie says that you should give a dog a good name and he will live up to it.

I found the top 10 dog names for 2005. They are:

But none of these names were for us.

We considered "Pancho" as in the notorious Mexican version of Robin Hood, "Pancho Via". But he did some really bad things and depending on who you talk to, he was not much to aspire to be like.

We liked the movie 'Nacho Libre' and considered Nacho, but if you live in Mexico and have a dog named 'Nacho', it just feels REALLY cliché'.

It's always awkward when you happen to name your dog a person's name and then that person comes over to your house. I know, I met a dog named Jason once. (My apologies to all the people named "Moses" out there.)

Moses was a man of the bible who wasn't perfect, made some mistakes, but the bible says he was the meekest man on earth. I know, I know, you don't want a dog standing watch in your front yard being the 'meekest dog on earth', but I think that is only because we don't understand the meaning of the word 'meek'.

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, fleeing the grasp of the worlds most powerful leaders. Moses was royalty, turned lowly shepherd, turned leader of a nation. Moses lead a bunch of stiff-necked people through a parted Red Sea, and got them through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Moses was the man. It was said the God spoke to Moses plainly and that he didn't need to do it through dreams or signs. I think that is just really cool.

I realize 'Rocky' would have been a perfectly good name, but the hopeless sentimentalist in me could settle for nothing less than 'Moses'.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Indecision May or May Not Be My Problem

I think it was Jimmy Buffet who said in song, "Indecision may or may not be my problem."

Yes, it may or may not have been my problem in the past, but that is about to change. I'm deciding that it is my problem and I'm deciding to decide to do something about it.

We sold our house with plans to move to Mexico. After moving all our stuff into storage and vacating the house, the sale went south and the buyer backed out. I've been hunkered down trying to decide if I should move forward with our plans to move, or retreat and move our stuff back in the house. After a week of sleeping on the floor and living out of suitcases, I got sick of the languishing and made the decision to move to Mexico despite the fact that our house did not sell. That decision is scary, but it sure beats watching the kids eat their breakfast cereal sitting on the kitchen floor.

Indecision and procrastination wreak hovoc in my life and for one reason only...I'm trying to predict the outcome of my decisions. Simply put, I'm trying to see the future and arrange my present decisions to produce the best outcome. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it can create an environment that brings life to a standstill.

I've always heard that the military sergeant who hunkers down and stays put during conflict while weighing the options is the one who gets his men killed. It's the sergeant who decisively moves forwards or backwards who not only preserves the life of his men, but somehow overcomes the obstacle.

I don't live by it enough, but I've always said, "A bad decision is better than a non-decision." The reason? If you make an honest decision, and it's a bad one, at least you can learn from it and start heading the right way. If you never make a choice, life gets slow, complicated and you languish in uncertainty.

E. Stanley Jones, in his book The Way, gives this brilliant little tip on life:

"Decide things, not on the basis of a prediction of results, but on the basis of principles. If you are always trying to foresee the actions of a dilemma, you are always in doubt. But if you decide on the basis of principles, leaving the results to the moral universe to take care of, then you are always on sure ground."

That's good stuff and I'm moving the troops forward at first light Monday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Dead Guys Yard

We have this neighbor next door. Actually, he doesn't live there anymore, he's dead.

We knew him for 4 years, and I have to tell you, he was a grump. I thought we were pretty good neighbors. We waved a spatula in a friendly 'hello' way to him while cooking out. We shoveled snow off his driveway and didn't hint around for a tip. We even hosted a block party and invited him. He never came.

I don't know why he wasn't friendly. It may have been because his wife preceded him in death. Maybe it was because at 91 years of age, he still practiced law and had to go to work every day. Or maybe it was because he lived next door to a bunch of kids who liked to climb his trees.

One day last year, while he carried his groceries in the house, he slumped over and that was it. He was gone. Sadly, he was there long enough for the milk to spoil and for his girlfriend to get annoyed that he was not returning her calls.

Today I asked my wife where the kids were.

"They're climbing the tree in the dead guy's yard" was her reply.

The dead guy. That's what we call him. It's the dead guy's house. The dead guy's tree. The dead guy's limbs that we have to pick up in our yard. I'm not proud of the fact that I don't know his name, I just don't know what else to remember him by.

I got to thinking about the dead guy and wondered what people will say about us when we move away.

I don't want to be 'the dead guy' when I'm gone. I want to be the guy who laughed a lot or the guy who read books.

My secret wish is that some day a parent goes looking for their kids who are climbing a tree in my yard and a mom has to tell her spouse, "They're climbing a tree in the adventurous family guy's yard."