right and crazy

Sometimes I start to tell people, “Yeah, man, this trip has changed me.”

But, this trip hasn’t really changed me all that much. Distilled, clarified, validated, those are probably better adjectives. Or maybe it’s most accurate to say it simply slowed me down, helped me do a better job listening to myself.

I am such a consultative person, always seeking opinion and consensus. Mostly making decisions after many conversations with trusted advisors. Having ten months where this consultation was, largely, not happening, my chief advisors being my wife and my own gut, was very different for me.

Liberating, even. Enabling me to make decisions unencumbered by outside opinion, operating on what puts my insides at peace versus how others may advise or respond. Like a solo decision you’d make in the heat of the moment: considered, weighed, decided, then acted upon. Self-reliance is empowering. Feeling good about choosing something that feels right is a powerful reinforcing thing.

I’m leaving my job of nineteen years. Not going back. The job has been great to me, but that season is over.

It means a lot of change. A new job, a move across the country, being farther from those we love and finding our footing in a new environment.

I’m excited.

i haven’t given up

I have this hat that I love.

I got it nearly fifteen years ago. It’s from Australia and it’s all leather. It’s made by BC Hats and they call it the “Bac Pac Traveler.” It’s entirely chrushable, it’s waterproof, I love it so much.

I’ve worn it on the John Muir Trail, in China, at Disneyland, at Disney World, in forty five states, in the Pacific Ocean, in the Atlantic Ocean, in Canada, in England, in underground lava caves, in Mexico, in Costa Rica. It has traveled with me and bore the weather and my sweaty, greasy head.

It has a smell. Like well-worn leather. Like when the funk of being a human settles in to a thing. It’s pliable and soft and smells like mine, my scent.

I enjoy wearing it so much and the signs of age it shows only make it look better. I hope I never lose it, it would take so long to get another this perfectly used.

Goodnight.

thanks dad

Oh, and another thing…

Some mornings I wake up and this RV home is a mess. Crap everywhere. I really dislike clutter. Clutter, to me, is as bad as dusty baseboards to Sharaun (except one you can actually see and one you can’t). I’d take neat and organized over microscopically clean any day.

I feel this clutter press on me more acutely when it’s humid in the RV. I imagine the damp air and surfaces, and that the mess everywhere is stuck-on. The rug feels wet, the air is dank, everyone but me has left everything the touched yesterday anywhere but where it belongs.

But guys, and this is the best part, it takes no more than ten minutes to get this place back in shape. Things stowed where they go, loose items piled all symmetrical like in right-angled piles, etc. What’s more, cleaning the thing to Sharaun’s standards, like wiping down surfaces that are inaccessible, unseen, and unused, takes only another ten minutes.

Boom. And we’re tip-top again and ready to roll. Hugs.

walmart parking lots

I take a strange pride in the fact that my family is fine sleeping in Walmart parking lots overnight.

I suppose this isn’t the most common of reasons a father and husband may grade his shepherding favorably, but for me it’s a mark in the pros column.

I bet I’ve done several things in a Walmart parking lot that you’ve not. I’ve made spaghetti and fried eggs in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve taken a shower in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve watched a movie with my family in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve pooped. I’ve shaved. I’ve slept soundly through the night. I’ve done it (yes, it) in a Walmart parking lot.

This morning I woke to Father’s Day in a Walmart parking lot, and, man, I couldn’t be happier. I mean, my family is here and we’ve got our little space and we’ve got plans and ideas and things to talk about and share with each other and learn together.

Wherever this family goes, whatever we do, I feel like we’re ready. If we can be happy making love and eating spaghetti in a Walmart parking lot, what really can shake us?

Peace.

attending

Last night, my my thirteen year old daughter took me to a concert.

Sure, I paid for everything and drove, but I was the guest at this event. And what a thrilling experience, to be shown new things by a person you swaddled.

The show was good. The music is catchy and the production was simple but fun. The real standout for me though was seeing thousands of tween and teen girls so deeply and completely under this young woman’s spell. Teen girls may be fickle, but last night they were transfixed – hanging on every word, every movement. It was adoration, it was admiration.

And, I know it’s such a dad thing to say, and I also know I’m not supposed to start sentences with “and,” but I’m gonna say (and do) it anyway: I was warmed of heart to see that what these girls were soaking up from their guru was a message of positivity, self confidence, love. Listening to her between song banter I heard young Ms. Eilish affirm them, empower them, and give them license to be real (which many likely don’t yet know they need from no one).

Keaton asked me after the show, “Dad for some reason I feel like the girls at that show were ‘good,’ because, like, Billie is ‘good,’ know what I’m saying?” And yes, I did know, and yes, I told her I knew. Subjective as it is, the air of the place seemed to hum with “good,” and the whole vibe felt like a bit of a foil to some of the more potentially negative versions of what kids see as fame and accomplishment.

I know it’s a stretch, but I swear I could see a sea of young girls around me trying on who they are, becoming themselves bit by bit. Bouncing around and turning to their moms and dads with huge smiles as they sung along, maybe forgetting for a minute we aren’t really hip enough to share this with. Daring to just let loose and scream if they felt it.

Most of the time, Billie didn’t even need to sing, the crowd hitting every word in tune and time at the absolute top of their lungs. It was a thing to behold, and hear, and kept me in perma-smile the whole evening. Sharaun said that because most of my concert experience is swaying gently back and forth to “stoner music,” I just don’t understand a “good pop show.” Well, whatever, Sharaun… excuse me for never being a thirteen year old girl.

Watching Keaton let go a little, do that thirteen year old girl at a “good pop show” thing, screaming and jumping and just feeling, was great (although I was wise to pretend like I wasn’t watching, of course).

I think I was an OK dad. Perhaps not a cool dad, but I don’t think I was a total square, either. Can OK dads use the word “square?” For most of the show I was watching Billie, letting Keaton do her thing. At one point though I couldn’t resist and turned around to give her a quick side-hug out of happiness for the good time we were sharing. She allowed it.

This kid is pretty cool, you know? She’s also very important to me. Oh, God, how has she grown up so fast? Are we doing OK by her? Is she turning out alright?

Hugs.

bonjour!

Hey, friends.

It’s a beautiful day in Quebec. The bottom bread of the sunny-and-warm/rainy-all-day/sunny-and-warm sandwich we’ve had since crossing the border. The sky is that cloudless blue and the air tastes/feels clean and the lakes are pristine.

And the bugs. Black flies and mosquitoes in biblical proportion which, to be fair to Canada, have plagued us since Vermont. They love my life blood and are relentless. I dance around outside and wear layers and cover my face with my Buff and look like a cat burglar.

And everyone smiling and saying, “Bonjour!” And poutine and gas prices that look all kinds of wrong with too many numbers and commas in them.

Tonight we sleep at a winery outside Montreal, and Keaton and I are doing a daddy/daughter dinner and concert date, finally seeing Billy Eilish, she’s been so excited, and I’m excited to share the experience with her. Let’s pray the tickets I StubHub’d are legit, not sure I could explain our way in in my broken highschool French.

Chewing up the kilometers. Later.

kids

Waking up with a headache, when there’s no reason to wake up with a headache, is frustrating.

Lemme relate to you a story.

This past Sunday we dropped in on a church in northern Maine. We got up early, showered and dressed, and the ladies made their faces and hairs nice (boys’ faces and hairs don’t have more than the one mode). We made the RV into traveling mode and jostled the ten minutes into town over the awful Maine “roads.”

This church was in a highschool gymnasium, with folding chairs and put-up/take-down front pieces. Lots of people and a really good representation of kids of all ages were milling around finding seats and visiting as we arrived. In good church fashion, several folks came and introduced themselves to us as a visiting family, which I always enjoy. Inevitably we end up explaining our current road-trip lifestyle multiple times.

At one point, as I was happily chatting with someone, I glanced over at Keaton, our thirteen year old, and noticed her eyes glistening, wet. Upon further inspection, I could tell she was working diligently at not crying. Concerned, I concluded my conversation and, when the coast was clear asked her simply, “Is everything OK?”

“Yeah,” she replied. Liar.

“It’s just that you look sad,” I say. Dumb dad. That did it.

“I am,” she said, and the tears came easy, they were already brimming, and her face flushed quickly from the effort of finally letting go what she’d been holding in. Seeing that actually crying in church was obviously worse than almost crying in church, I didn’t press it. Put my hand on her back, watched her compose herself, and kept churching. But I was curious.

Later in the day, back in the campground, there was a moment where it was just us. I dared ask, “Hey what were you upset about this morning in church?” She considered for a moment, “I was sad that I didn’t have cute clothes.” A couple hours later she sought me out to say, “Dad remember when I said I was sad because I didn’t have any cute clothes? Well I wasn’t sad, I was embarrassed. Especially with all those other kids my age around.” The distinction seemed very important to her.

Oh, I see. I didn’t expect that.

And at first I thought how silly… and that I could never recall feeling that way, let alone crying in public, over such a thing as a kid her age. But then I found myself remembering how badly I wished I had one of the cool Billabong jackets everyone was wearing in 7th grade, and how much I wanted name-brand jeans vs. the discount store kind, and how my shoes needed to have air in the soles or I’d never make friends.

So, I found myself in a position to both offer sympathy and empathy. Re: empathy, I didn’t bother. From experience the parental “I know how you feel, I’ve been there too” tack isn’t well met in teenagers unless accompanied with a very specific story in which they can imagine themselves, and anyway this wasn’t the time. I didn’t really go heavy on sympathy, either. Instead I just said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

“It’s OK,” she said.

And it was.

Kids.