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Lost

When my children were toddlers, they liked to wriggle away from me to hide in the center of a department store clothes rack.  They delighted in the game of hide-and-seek, and while I frantically searched for them, they quietly enjoyed a little taste of freedom surrounded by last winter’s coats.  The panic, frustration and fear-fueled anger I felt gave way to enormous relief when I peeked into that last rack of clothing to find my giggling child.

I continued to have those same feelings of despair and helplessness, anger and relief when my now grown children began to stretch the boundaries of their freedoms. There was that dinnertime knock at the door, opened to a deputy sheriff. Then there was the discovery of an empty bed, on two separate occasions with a different teenager missing each time, for the Sunday morning church wake-up call. I cannot count the number of times a child went home with a friend after school and did not remember to check-in until walking through the door well after dinner.  While there were many other infractions with four children, these have been among the most notable.

I was once embarrassed by their action because I believed others in my small community would pass judgment on my parenting skills. Then I realized I had done my best to help to raise four very independent-minded people.  Regardless of what I may say to them, or the example I try to set by the way I live my life, my children seem to learn better through their experiences.  Allowing each of them to learn life’s hard lessons on their own is the best thing I can do for them as their dad, even though it is much harder for me than may appear.

Watching my children learn how to become adults, I...

You don’t need a reason

This weekend, I scratched another item off my Bucket List. I spent almost four hours in good company climbing around the treetops and zipping between trees at Navitat Canopy Tour in Asheville.

When I finished, I had completed ten zip lines, two bridges, two rappels, and three short hikes. The longest line was just over 1,050 ft. long. The fastest was the one I show in the video (below), which has an estimated speed of 45 mph. The highest line was about 250 ft. off the ground.

I shared this story Monday with a small group of people and someone in the group asked me why I chose to experience the zip line course. She wanted to know if it was because I liked the thrill and adrenaline of traveling fast, or if I was trying to conquer a fear of heights, or did I have another compelling reason.  No, I told her, this was just about me doing something that I have always wanted to do. There was no other reason.

After she had left the room, I wondered how much of her life she has spent waiting for a reason to do those things she wants to do while the seconds of her life steadily click by.

Don’t do this, okay? Don’t let the moments of your life pass without enjoying each one as best you can.

Go. Do what you want to do, because you want to do it. You don’t need a reason.

Isn’t it about time we all came out?

Today is National Coming Out Day.

Yes, I am coming out. In a manner of speaking.

I am a straight person coming out in support of the freedom of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals to love whomever they may choose, and to live life without discrimination and persecution of any kind.

I was raised to be tolerant of everyone’s differences and have endeavored to be so throughout my life, although I have admittedly been uncomfortable at times when around my LBGT friends. I don’t know why and would not dream of trying to explain such feelings when there’s no rational basis for their existence. I will tell you, though, that I’ve finally outgrown the discomfort.

We live in a different world than the one in which I grew up. Our culture is more open and accepting now. Today’s young adults learned as children–our children–that “everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.” While some may complain about their lack of ambition as a result of the way they were raised, I believe today’s young adults are perhaps the most tolerant generation in history, and their acceptance of everyone’s differences is beginning to influence their parents and grandparents.

Even so, many of my friends still cannot step forward and express their love for someone of the same gender, let alone marry this person in most states. While it appears we have made some progress, there remain far too many people in America who care more about what consenting adults do behind-closed-doors than about the contribution these same adults make to our society.

As for me, I am not interested in the bedroom behavior of anyone I know–regardless of their sexual preferences....

Treasured mentors

Last Sunday, I had at least one thousand books adorning the shelves of my den. I can’t be sure how many were there because I gave up counting when I hit eight hundred. I don’t know why I started counting the books in the first place, or why eight hundred was the number that made recognize the absurdity of what I was doing.

At six hundred titles, I began to realize how difficult the process of purging a lifetime book collection was becoming. I still managed to keep at it for another two hundred more titles before I stopped. About one hundred of them made it to the dining room table for sorting before, overwhelmed, I abandoned the project.

I’ve looked at—ignored, really—those books on the table every evening this week. I also refused to acknowledge the more than seven hundred remaining books on the shelves behind my desk. I knew ignoring them would not make the task disappear. Still, I hoped that I would be able to come up with some rational approach to sorting out the books to keep, and those to eliminate from my collection. After a week of considering options, I arrived at the conclusion that a rational person would not have more than one thousand books in the first place. I am clearly not rational when it comes to books.

I began pulling the books from the shelves today. I sorted and separated them—several boxes to the church yard sale later this month and most of the rest to the public library for the annual book sale. Among my collection were paperback copies of A Brave New World, required reading in 12th grade,...

Mortgaging castles

Yesterday I was reminded my body has an expiration date. I know I will die someday, but the dreamer who drives my soul doesn’t like to think of such things. The statistician in charge of my brain, on the other hand, does expiration mitigation calculations thousands of times per day. I just don’t like the reminders from the outside world.

While I remain hopeful for at least fifty-one more years of life, I recognize living to be 100 with a sound mind and body is an unlikely possibility, especially since both are already questionable. Despite the fact I aggressively manage my health, there are hundreds of non-health related reasons that could end my life well before my planned expiration date. This is troubling to me because I still have things to do, people to see, places to go, and trouble to cause. I don’t want to run out of time before I’ve accomplished it all.

My arrival at middle age a few years ago came with a piece of baggage labeled, “oppressive sense of mortality.” The luggage is scuffed, tattered, and covered with stickers from travels around the world. Its hinges are worn from the constant opening and closing. Bungee cords hook together over latches that no longer have the strength to hold the baggage closed. It’s ugly, this baggage, and still I’m compelled to look inside for whatever answers it might hold.

I’ve learned from my far too frequent peeks inside that my first twenty-four years of life were for learning the basics for living, and my last twenty-five years were for creating a life. The baggage shows my future, too, swirling amongst all of my hopes, dreams, and plans—those I’ve accomplished and those I now wonder if I ever will accomplish— without a clear direction or any certainty of duration.

Perhaps the...

An uncontrolled spin

I once had the privilege of being the marketing director for a large ski resort in the southeast. It was a cool job, with many perks–free skiing and snowmobile access. I even had a furnished condominium on the property as part of my compensation package.

These perks were meant to offset being on call 24/7 to address guest complaints, as well as the thirty-minute-plus drive down the mountain to a grocery store or a decent bar. It never balanced, though. During the ski season, for example, it was nearly impossible to escape the mountaintop, even for a few hours.

These perks were meant to offset being on call 24/7 to address guest complaints, as well as the thirty-minute-plus drive down the mountain to a grocery store or a decent bar. It never balanced, though. During the ski season, for example, it was nearly impossible to escape the mountaintop, even for a few hours.

Occasionally, my boss took pity on me for those long working hours and would grant a weekend furlough. On one such, get-away I spent the weekend in a major city about three hours from the resort. I left on Thursday night and spent a relaxing weekend with friends and family. I wasn’t quite ready to return to the mountain after such a great trip so I stalled my return on Sunday until about 4:00 p.m.

Because I was running later than planned, I decided to take a short cut. About halfway into the drive between the city and the resort I could drive over a scenic parkway and shave twenty minutes from my trip. However, when winter was in full swing, the parkway had a barricade at each entrance to prevent motorists from being stranded at the higher elevations.

On this particular Sunday, I arrived at the parkway entrance to find the...

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