Tag Archives: daddy

The Cricket and the Starfish

The Cricket and the Starfish

The Cricket and the Starfish

When my kids were little, we did all sorts of silly things for fun.  Truth be told, I’m a kid at heart myself, so finding fun ways to see the world and make young children smile has always been very easy for me.

They’re only 11 and 14 now, but they’re also much older than you might expect kids their ages to be.  We’re still a goofy lot…  nonsense always has been and always will be our forte!  We’ve all had some extremely close brushes with adulthood this past year, myself included.  There’ll be none of that in this house!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m an adult exactly as much as I need to be, but not a minute more than I have to be.  My kids have structure and discipline, but structure and discipline are the roof and walls which make up the house;  they aren’t the home.  It’s the hearts and souls inside the house which make up the home.  We have a delicious blend of young hearts and old souls here, and I intend to keep it that way.

The Cricket and the Starfish
The Cricket and the Starfish

A few days ago, I was at a local discount store and I heard the sound of crickets.  At first, I thought it must be a recording because it was so out of place among the other sounds you hear in a discount store.  I followed the sound to find myself in the sporting goods section, looking at huge cups of live crickets.  Bait.  I have neither malice nor love for crickets, but it just seemed so unnatural for them to be trapped in foam cups.

My first thought was that the kids would enjoy a rescue caper!  My second thought was that they might find that silly because of their ages.  My immediate, and most important, third thought?  When did we grow up so much that I would even question such a thing as being too childish?  Young at heart and childish are two very different things.

You only stop being young at heart on the day that you choose to allow the possibility that someone might see you as childish to stop you from acting young at heart.  I am proud to report that that day will never come for me.  Hopefully it will never come for my children either, and if it does one day ‘come for them’, it will have to go through me to get to them.  I am not easily bypassed or pushed aside.

I talked all of this over with the boy, because it’s the type of thing we would have planned together in advance in the younger years so that his little sister could enjoy a fun adventure.  Immediately and overwhelmingly he agreed that this was something we had not done enough of recently, and that we must make it so.  Soon.

On our way home from other ‘keeping your heart young’ endeavors today, we stopped at said discount store to procure said crickets.  200 of them.  200 crickets.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of the fact that I purchased 200 crickets today simply to keep us young.  No matter how old you are, or how long you live, you’ve never before heard anyone else say that and you never will again.  That’s how old souls and young hearts do things in this home!

Little Lady is growing up way too fast, and it was worth the cost of 200,000 crickets to see her face light up with the delight of a child enjoying one of our ridiculous adventures.  The Boy enjoyed it just as much as we all always have, and we all played along with the ‘just act natural and pretend we’re buying crickets for bait’ charade until our casual demeanor become suspicious in and of itself.  The fools at the discount store never suspected a thing!  (Yes, we did consider freeing them within said discount store, and no we did not.  Not this time, anyway.)

Ok we have 200 crickets.  Phase I complete.  What could Phase II possibly be, you ask?  Well, just as we set the sun, we’re also responsible for planting spring crickets.  All of them.  Every one of you will at some point listen to crickets soothing the night outside your home or campsite sometime this summer.  You’re welcome!  Had we not released these 200 crickets into the wild (suburbia) on this day, you might have had to listen to…  nothing.  All summer long.

We let 100 go in the woods across the street from our home, and another 100 in our back yard.  Already this evening I could hear them singing their song of freedom, thanking us for our efforts, and pledging their service until the fall.  My kids are of course old enough now to know that I’m just painting a valiant picture of our evening’s nonsense, but they enjoyed it every bit as much as if they were young enough to believe that we planted crickets that created soothing summer sounds for all of North America.  Honestly?  You can’t prove that we didn’t!  I also have to say that watching 200 crickets scatter into the grass was well worth the $12 we spent on them!

The whole adventure reminded me of the old parable of the boy and the starfish.  The boy is walking along the beach as the tide retreats, throwing starfish back into the ocean before they die.  An old man passes by and tells the young boy that he can’t possibly make a difference because there are thousands of starfish and miles of beach.  The boy tosses another back, smiles, and says, “I made a difference to that one.”

The one cricket in the picture above?  Yeah we made a difference to him.  He went from being canned dinner for a fish to being free to roam for the rest of his days.  Good stuff.  I’m sure I’ll cuss him when he turns up in my basement!  The real difference this act makes?  It keeps hearts young.  It doesn’t matter how many starfish or how many crickets the youth saves.  What matters is that the youth remained young because of the act itself.  The trick is to simply keep doing the things which keep us young at heart, and let karma extend the blessings to whichever crickets and starfish she chooses.

The most beautiful part of all of it is that it all comes down to choice.  It seems that too many people choose to be the crotchety, nay-saying old man on the beach, even if they chose to become him by an accidental lack of diligence.  I choose to remain the boy tossing starfish back into the ocean and freeing crickets, and I write these stories as reminders for myself along the way.

Cheers from The Uncommonly Crickets

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane

Riding Shotgun Down Lover’s Lane

Riding Shotgun Down Lover’s Lane

In the 40-something short years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve lived a lot of different lives in lots of different places.  I’ve known people in, and had friends in, all walks of life.  In all of my travels, the finest man I’ve ever known lives right here under my own roof, and I call him Son.

Just like my daughter shows me things I never even knew existed, my son teaches me new ways of seeing things that I’d never have imagined I’d entertain.  It takes a great man to teach an old dog new tricks, and personally, I find it refreshing to be that dog who gets to learn something new now and then.  More accurately in this case, to relearn something so old that it seems new again to an old dog in his eighteenth lifetime.

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane
Riding Shotgun down Lover’s Lane

In recent months, I’ve had the privilege of riding shotgun with my son on his first drive down Lover’s Lane.  Honestly?  It’s been a rocky road for me, because I’ve had to share not only my time, but my son’s heart, with another human being who may or may not handle either of these things with care.  It’s harder than it sounds, and if not for my absolute faith in my young man’s judgment and character, I’d likely stroke out.  Any ruffian worthy of the position of ‘shotgun’ knows, though, that you gotta keep moving.  Keep the car running.  Eyes peeled, and all that.  As usual, he has proven more or less clairvoyant while I’ve done my best to not fire the shotgun wildly at everything in sight.  The days of actually using the shotgun from the shotgun seat in the car are waning…  it’s becoming more of a figurehead position given that the young man’s driving necessitates less and less shotgunning all of the time.  I am blessed.

Since my view from the shotgun position is more or less recreational now, let me share with you what I’ve had the good fortune of seeing from my perch.

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane
Riding Shotgun down Lover’s Lane

Have you ever had a rock chip in your windshield right in your line of vision?  Or even a crack that runs across your view, or a chip off to the side that is an irritation when you have to look in that direction?  If you grew up in the country like I did, with lots of gravel roads, you know that a windshield can be a normal wear item like brakes or tires.  Replace regularly for optimal performance.  After months (or years) of driving with said chips and cracks, you stop realizing how much they obscure your vision.  Then when you finally do get it replaced, you can’t believe how clear your view is!  How did I drive for so long with such poor visibility?  That’s what it’s been like riding shotgun down Lover’s Lane with the boy recently.  I’d forgotten how detailed, vibrant, and beautiful an unobscured view of love is.

Regardless of what road you’ve taken in life with respect to love, once you reach a certain age, your windshield is chipped and cracked and spider webbed, even if it’s been that way for so long that you don’t even notice anymore.  That redhead that broke your heart in high school ruined you for the reds.  You shy away from them now.  Losing your 401K might have soured you just a bit on the topic of marriage.  Husband ran off with the secretary?  Not likely to date another insurance agent.  Marriage riddled with discontent due to your significant other’s hobbies/habits/etc?  As much as I want to slap some people for the nonsense they allow to obscure their view of love through their windshield, those rock chips and cracks are there for everyone.

Everyone except teenagers in love.  Not a rock chip in sight.  I’m sitting here in the shotgun seat watching rock after rock after tin can after road debris after moose after boulder bounce right off this shiny new windshield.  It’s amazing?  Unbelievable?  No, it’s not magic.  It’s youth.  Unjaded, heart wide open to everything, drive like hell, never had a windshield replaced, beautiful day for a drive…  youth.  I just sit here in awe looking through glass so clean that it’s almost invisible, wondering how my own windshield became so unrepairably shattered.  Shotgun in this ride is far better than driving my own.  I got tired of replacing windshields oh about last April.  I’ll just drive it like this from here on out.  Hell, I’m blind in my left eye anyway, what difference does it make?  But the boy?  Hammer down.  We’ll fix it if it breaks.  Pit stop in 20, Dad, let’s not dally at the gas station.  Road to cover.  Ok Buddy, I’m buying the roadtrip chips and soda.  You drive.

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane
Riding Shotgun down Lover’s Lane

In all of my years, I’ve heard countless youths swear they would never become their parents, or grow up, or become as dead inside as the adults around them appeared to be.  At some point, many adults gave up their convertibles with their shiny new windshields and perfect visibility, and plopped themselves behind the wheel of more practical transportation.  Some of us bought bullet proof glass only to find that it too can be chipped even though it’s unbreakable.  I have largely succeeded at remaining young at heart on the grander scale, but this recent passenger seat view of Lover’s Lane has been a wakeup call regarding how much I’ve slipped in recent years when it comes to aging of the soul.  It’s a slippery slope, and right now I’m scrambling back up it…  and so help me if you get in my way I’ll use your head as a stepping stone to get my own footing!  You get your own shotgun seat!  Or, if you have good insurance, go out today and get yourself a nice new windshield.

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane
Riding Shotgun down Lover’s Lane

I know it’s not that simple…  as parents, we have to be at the ready to grab the wheel if things get too badly out of control.  Shotgun is never an entirely honorary position.  You shouldn’t grab that seat if you aren’t prepared to fulfill its obligations.  At the same time, like it or not, if you have a teenager in love, you’re in that seat anyway.  (Don’t kid yourself, you aren’t driving even if you really really think you are.  You’re the passenger.)  You may as well enjoy as much of the ride and the view as you possibly can.

You might even learn something you forgot so long ago that it’ll seem new again when you see it.

Cheers from the Uncommonly Shotgun Rider

The Dad of a Daughter

The Dad of a Daughter

The Dad of a Daughter  

Being a Father is an amazing privilege.  Fatherhood comes in all shapes and sizes;  some Dads have many boys, some many girls, some a few of each, and some have just a single boy or girl to call their own.  By chance, I happen to be blessed with one of each.  While I do raise them with essentially the same parenting plan, there are differences between being the Father of a son and the Daddy of a daughter.

I get to be lots of things with and for my son.  Today, I’m going to talk about the privileges that are afforded to the Daddy of a daughter, because it became evident to me recently that not everyone chooses to see the Daddy/Daughter relationship the way that I do.  We’re all entitled to our opinion.  I wanted mine to be crystal clear and out there for all the world to see.

First, I’d like to repeat an old saying that I have always thought to be absolutely true; “You can judge a man by how he treats a person who can do nothing for him.”  This quote can be traced as far back as the late 1800’s, to an English sermon:

I think you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart.”

The Dad of a Daughter
The Dad of a Daughter

Having a little girl is a monumental responsibility.  When she’s little, you must do everything for her.  Over the years, you become her provider, her protector, her teacher, her confidante, her comfort, and her very first love.  You are the standard by which she will judge all other men for the entirety of her lifetime.  If you set that standard too low, she’s going to have a rough go of figuring out who to trust and who not to.  If you set it too high, she’s going to be frustrated by the majority of the men she meets.  While those standards are stories for another time, I wanted to point out that it is certainly true that having a child, in this case a daughter, is a situation where as the parent, you’re responsible for doing pretty much everything.

Sadly, there are still elements of our society who believe that a man is only a paycheck, and should have no bearing on the moral or emotional upbringing of a child.  I met one of those elements recently.  It’s like bumping into a dinosaur at the grocery store.  It’s unexpected in this day and age, and hard to believe, yet there it is right in front of you.  Extinction isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Regardless of the occasional unsavory element, I believe that, for the most part, we all love to meet a man who takes all of those responsibilities seriously.  Yet, when I talk to people about Fatherhood, especially in the context of a Daddy/Daughter relationship, they seem to see it as a responsibility that is being fulfilled on the part of the adult.  It’s so much more than that.  So very much more.

It’s an absolutely amazing privilege.  I get to be her provider for her needs, but also the bringer of gifts when I know there is something that will warm her heart.  I get to be her protector, the hammer that comes down when she is in danger or has been wronged, and I get to be the teacher who shows her how to swing her own hammer, and simultaneously avoid those who will create the need to do so, so that she will not be helpless when the day comes that she needs or wants to fight off dinosaurs on her own.  I get to be her confidante when she has joys to share that she affords only her closest trustees.  Most of all?  I get to be her very first love, and I get to be possibly the only truly pure and unconditional love she’ll ever know.  I get to be all of these things in this context only with my daughter, because she is possibly the only truly pure and unconditional lady love I’ll ever have.  This relationship is not fraught with emotional complications, arguments about the mortgage, or concerns over whether or not this is a long-term relationship.  All of those roles, responsibilities, and privileges were carved in stone the day she took her first breath.  I don’t get to be these things with anyone else.

I may never be a fire fighter or a super hero.  I may never have the luxury of crossing off those last 3 seemingly impossible remaining lines on my bucket list.  There are lots of amazing things I may never accomplish.  I don’t need to.  I get to be a hero every single day for the rest of my life, I get to enjoy all of the luxuries listed above, because I see them as luxuries.

Now, with all of that said, didn’t I just spend several hundred words convincing you the exact opposite of what our good Pastor from England said in the 1800’s?  There is something that my daughter can do for me.  She can essentially make me a hero, right?  That’s a lot more than nothing.  Well, yes and no.  The thing is, in order to claim victory on that, I have to keep up the good work for oh, say…  about give or take the rest of my life.  If, on my last day, she feels that I taught her well, protected her, provided for her, and cherished my time with her more than she could have ever hoped?  That’s the day I can claim victory.  My very last day.  Not a moment sooner.  Checks and balances, and whatnot.  (The cosmos thinks she’s soooo smart.)

The rest of my life…  that’s a long time.  How on Earth will I be able to continue eating this delicious cookie for that long?  When I am blessed with kind words from people who are not dinosaurs, and appreciate the need in our society for a child’s bond with his or her Father, I feel a little guilty as if I just got complimented for eating a cookie.  “Great job eating that cookie, man!”  The cookie is the part we all see as the treat.  The only question is whether or not you think cookies are a cumbersome expense, or a joy to be celebrated.

I suppose it’s much the same way people appreciate fine art.  They appreciate the artist’s work.  They see the artwork for what it is; the product of love and devotion.  What most people don’t see is that the artwork shapes the artist as a person just as much as the artist shapes the artwork that he or she creates.  My daughter shapes me as a man every bit as much as I shape her as a woman.  The artist became an artist through artwork, and the Dad becomes a Daddy through his daughter.

Undoubtedly, Dad is a better man with her than he was before her, or would he be without her, because he wants more for her than he himself can give her.  Dad only needs to choose to see it that way.  The dinosaurs?  I believe that the cosmos has made her feelings about dinosaurs as crystal clear as I have made mine about being the Daddy of a daughter.

Cheers from the Uncommonly Daddy of a Daughter <3<3<3

P.S.  I asked said daughter to read this story before I posted it, and let me know if she understood and/or approved of the publishing of said story.  The 3 hearts above were her response, and addition…

Charlotte Speedway Christmas

Charlotte Speedway Christmas

Charlotte Speedway Christmas
Charlotte Speedway Christmas

Charlotte Speedway Christmas  

Just a quick note tonight to let my local friends know about another of our favorite Holiday outings, the Charlotte Speedway Christmas!

For the locals, think of it as Tanglewood, only zigzagged around a giant famous race track!  Tons and tons of lights of course, with some bonus stuff like a petting zoo, pictures with Santa, horse-and-carriage rides, marshmallows roasted over open fire pits outside, indoor craft and food vendors, and possibly my favorite part, a drive-in movie in the infield!

The cost doesn’t seem too harsh at first, $20 on the weekends for a car load when the movie is playing and the Christmas Village on the infield is open.  I believe it’s a bit cheaper on week nights when you’re really just seeing the lights.

Charlotte Speedway Christmas
Charlotte Speedway Christmas

It’s much like a day at the fair though…  you can get in and walk through everything for $20, which also includes the movie, but be prepared for $4 here and $10 there if you want a funnel cake or a picture with Santa.  The petting zoo is free but the feed costs $2.  The fire is free, but the marshmallows are a couple of bucks.  That sort of thing, you can do it cheap or you can end up spending some cash if you do everything while you’re there.

Charlotte Speedway Christmas
Charlotte Speedway Christmas

Their web site has rates, tickets available for purchase in advance, and movie schedules:

http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/schedule/speedway_christmas/

Word to the wise-  apparently, you’re not supposed to pet the animals in the Bethlehem Village scene at the entrance!  The townsfolk chucked me right outta there, politely, and while they weren’t too harsh on me at all, they did mention that word of my shenanigans may make it to Santa!  The petting zoo is farther into the infield.  True story.

We love to go for lots of reasons, even though it’s about an hour from us.  This year we took the boy’s car so that we could gloat that it has run up Turn 2 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway!

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Holiday Speedway

Waterfall Problems

Waterfall Problems

 

Waterfall Problems  

Waterfall Problems
Waterfall Problems

Not too long ago, my Little Lady said something really funny about my rough edges.  I was explaining to her friend that the little lady makes me a better man by rounding off my rough edges, to which my little lady added, “Yes.  I’m the waterfall to his rocks.  And it’s taking SO.  Freaking.  Longggg!!!”  She was just teasing me in good fun, although admittedly telling the absolute truth, but it got me to thinking about the comparison.

Ever heard someone say that some problems in life are ‘rock problems’?  I’ll summarize the concept for you;  they’re saying that when you face a problem in life that can’t be changed, you have to accept it and work around it or you’ll spend your entire life beating your head against it.  Or, at least, that’s how I interpret the saying.

To some extent, I think too many people see a rock where none exists, and use it as an excuse to remain indifferent to something that they could probably change if they were willing to put real effort into it.  At the same time, there are truly things in life that cannot be changed.  If you continue to run marathons after you lose a leg?  You’ve worked around a rock problem.  The problem still exists-  your leg is still gone.  You could have spent the rest of your life bitter about the fact that you lost your leg, but instead you continued to be who you are by finding a way to do what you love in spite of the rock.  Prosthetics aren’t available to all rock problems, but they are a great example of the choices some people make when faced with seemingly insurmountable issues.

Point being, regardless of which path you take, the rock remains.  The rock’s surroundings are all that change.

Rocks do change under extreme circumstances, though.  Wind and water erode them.  Occasionally, rocks change quickly during catastrophic events such as landslides or earthquakes.  In either case, it takes a lot to change a rock.  Either several lifetimes’ worth of slow erosion, or a catastrophe’s worth of energy.  Neither of which any mortal has at his or her disposal.

Waterfall Problems
Waterfall Problems

Waterfalls change rocks.  Over many many human lifetimes, they’ll make a rock smooth.  The rock will still be there, though.  The rock affects the waterfall too, just like the prosthesis changes the runner.  In fact, I’d submit that the rocks make the waterfall that much more beautiful.  The waterfall has to flow and swirl and dance around the rocks…  it makes the waterfall that much more elegant.  Do you suppose that waterfalls ever get frustrated with the rocks, and the amount of time it takes to affect them?  I am certain that they do.  Yet, I’d much rather be the waterfall than the rock.  The rock is a stagnant and stubborn reminder of how resistant change tends to be.  The waterfall is vibrant and alive and making the best of things.

The waterfall has its ups and downs while the rock remains seemingly unchanged.  During drought, the rocks soak up the sun and bask in their break from slow transition.  During floods, the waterfalls roar and shine and make up for lost time withering away those rocks.

The thing about rocks and waterfalls is that nature pairs them together just like it does all things it means to balance.  The waterfall flows because it has to, and the rocks sit because that’s what they’re meant to do in the grand scheme of things.  They’re examples that Mother Nature offers us, I suppose.

Waterfall Problems
Waterfall Problems

I love waterfall people.  Their souls have been shaped by an unchangeable problem, and they have chosen to embrace it and make it a thing of beauty, rather than beating their hearts up against a rock for an entire lifetime.  The rocks really shouldn’t try to take any pride in that-  the waterfall would have been beautiful with or without the rocks.

In life, we get to choose.  People tell me that the rocks don’t have a choice, and that they’re born in a way that they cannot change in this lifetime.  I disagree.  One thing I know for certain about all people is that they all have a choice.  Every day.  Not to mention, now and then Karma gets impatient and tosses an earthquake out there if the rocks have created too much tension.

I believe that inside every human rock, there is the potential to be a waterfall, and inside every human waterfall there is the potential to be a rock.  The only difference between them is what each person chose to be.

No matter which way they choose, there is always the potential for a waterfall, because sadly some people will always choose to be rock problems.  To all of those out there who face a rock problem, please know that you can still be the waterfall that flows elegantly in the face of that rock.  I prefer to see them as waterfall problems, because the elegance of your waterfall is the gift you get in return for facing something that cannot be changed.

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Waterfalls

Papa Goats Tree Farm

The Hunt for the Perfectly Imperfect Christmas Tree

The Hunt for the Perfectly Imperfect Christmas Tree 

In the spirit of writing a little ditty about each of our local Holiday jaunts this year, I wanted to freshen up an old story and add to it regarding our recent trip to Papa Goats Tree Farm in Sparta, NC!

Papa Goats Tree Farm
Papa Goats Tree Farm

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on my Grandparents’ farm.  One of my favorite places on the farm was the pasture, which had towering oak trees, rolling hills, and several small bubbling streams.  I ‘played down by the creek’ for those of you who speak ‘country’!  While I often ended up IN the creek, I also liked to simply watch it flow around the bends and rocks.  There are always small pockets of calm somewhere along the edges, no matter how quickly or slowly the stream is flowing.  They’re hard to see, because of course it’s crystal clear water, but you can spot them by the occasional leaf that gets sidetracked off of the main current, and becomes subdued quietly in one of those little pockets of peace.

Papa Goats Tree Farm
Papa Goats Tree Farm

There are pockets of peace like that hidden everywhere, right out in plain sight, if you know how to spot them.  Your favorite spot on the beach.  Our favorite sunset spot.  Your favorite booth at your favorite coffee shop or restaurant.  These spots are probably different for everyone.

There are, however, some universal places that are likely to be little pockets of positive energy.  I was sitting in front of the fire at our favorite tree farm last weekend, watching all the families coming and going, some new to the place and the experience, some like ourselves old hats on the coat rack, and I realized that the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree is an event that brings lots of good will to one single place.  For us, that place has always been Papa Goats.  I know there are lots of tree farms in NC, but we’ve been going here for years and have never had any reason to even consider going elsewhere.

Papa Goats Tree Farm
Papa Goats Tree Farm

We do always find just the perfect traditional Christmas tree, and we very much enjoy decorating it when we get it home.  Something else we love to do that’s a bit untraditional is, well, we also hunt a mutant tree!  The Little Lady likes to ‘save’ a tree that appears to be unable to grow into what others might consider the perfect tree.  This year’s Charlie Brown Christmas Tree was something we found growing wild in the brush, wildly misshapen, alone, and well, not likely to ever become anyone’s Christmas tree.  It is now living the dream in our living room!

That trip has now become a staple in our recipe for the Holidays.  Your ingredients and results may vary, but for what it’s worth, here’s our mix:

  • Plan a day when you can kill the whole day, and sleep in!  We live about an hour and a half from Sparta, so part of the fun is the mini-roadtrip!  Roadtrip junkfood is a must. Mix CD or playlist of your latest favorite Christmas songs is also a nice touch.  NO other electronics-  Sing.  Talk.  Play tacky roadtrip games.  Seriously.

 

  • Check the weather!  Sparta is up in the mountains, and the weather can be significantly different up there.  Colder for sure.  Bundle up!  You wouldn’t want your hunting to be cut short by cold feet!

 

  • Papa Goats Tree Farm
    Papa Goats Tree Farm

    Take the dog.  The family dog belongs on this roadrtip as much as he or she belongs in front of a crackling fire or at the foot of your child’s bed.  Willie Wonka and Pretty Lady can now check ‘Hay Rack Ride’ off their bucket lists.

 

  • If you’re approaching Sparta on 21 North, stop at the scenic turnout just before you get to town.  You can see Pilot Mountain which is about 60 miles away as the crow flies.  It’s an amazing view in all directions.  I’ve been getting a picture of the kids with the tree atop the van and the mountain in the background at this turnout each year for years, so I can do a little slideshow of them growing up once they’re older.  Both kids agreed this year that I can ride in the back and rile up the Grandkids when they’re piloting their own family trucksters in the future.  Win.

 

  • Go to Papa Goats!  I know there are many tree farms in and near Sparta, and I’m sure there are many good ones.  I can only speak of this one though, and we’ve never had any reason to go to another.  This is a family day and I do work hard to find family-friendly places to take my kids.  Big fire outside to roast marshmallows over?  Check.  Free hot chocolate?  Check.  Hot apple cider?  Check.  Little gift shop?  Check.  Photo op with Santa?  Check.  Hay rack rides to and from the tree fields?  Check.  Lots of friendly help to assist you in finding, wrapping, and securing atop your car just the right tree?  Check.

 

  • But here’s the big thing-  every single person we’ve come across in all the years we’ve been going to Papa Goats has always genuinely been happy to see us, and glad that we bring the family to visit every year.  We’re not just valued customers, we’re also welcome.  ‘Welcome’ is one of the top secret ingredients to all Holiday Fun that I’m happy to spill for anyone and everyone who might apply it to all their Holiday endeavors.

Even if you get home late because you stopped to clown around at various locations on your return trip home with your tree as we did, get that tree in the house right away!  Our house smelled of fresh pine at bedtime last night.  It’s another one of those things that opens up the bag of memories that welcome in the Holidays for us.  And it’s a magic bag-  when this kind of day trip story opens that bag of memories, that story also instantly becomes a memory that goes back in the bag when you tidy up from the Holidays in January.  Holidays Welcome the Magic, and the Magic Welcomes the Holidays.  And whatnot…

Papa Goats Tree Farm is located at 687 Three Creeks Lane, Sparta NC, 28675 and you can find them on facebook at the following link:

Papa Goats Tree Farm on Facebook

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Holidays

Ladies in Red

Ladies in Red 15-September-2014

Ladies in Red  15-September-2014

Ladies in Red
Ladies in Red

Valentine’s Day is less than 5 months away!  I’m all set.

On the right in this photo is my Mommy.  On the left is my Baby, wearing my Mommy’s Valentine’s Day dance dress from February 14, 1958.  The dress is rich with antiquity, history, and love…  it fits Baby Girl’s soul as perfectly as it does her figure.

In the spring of 1958, my Mommy allowed a young man by the name of Dick Dunsworth the privilege of accompanying her to the Valentine’s Day dance at the Colusa High School near her home on a small family farm.  Excited about the dance, my Nana drove my Mommy to the distantly neighboring city of Burlington to shop at Schramm’s Department Store for a dress.  Mom fell in love with a dress much like this one, but alas, being humble farm folk, the dress was financially out of reach.

My Nana was not a woman easily discouraged or quick to give up.

Ladies in Red
Ladies in Red

Nana drew a detailed sketch of the dress, and off she and my Mom went to another department in the store to find a dress pattern and materials to make the dress.  Armed with materials, determination, and love, Nana and Mom hopped back in their ’55 Chevy (yep I’m telling you the truth, the family truckster was, at that time, a ’55 Chevy…) and headed back to the farm.

Nana was a busy woman.  She was a farm wife in 1958.  Anything on the farm that did not require a tractor, Nana did.  All of it.  She cared for many children besides her own, she fed the farmers and farm hands, she ran the errands for the business needs of the farm, and on top of all of that she worked part time at the local bank.  Not once, ever, did she order pizza because she was too tired or busy to prepare a meal.  Not once.

Probably late at night, or early in the morning, or between errands and/or meals, Nana stole minutes and hours to work on this beautiful dress.  She pleated both the jacket and the skirt, no lazy lackluster puckering skirts at Nana’s house!  Every inch of the lace is hand sewn onto the dress.  It is amazing in both quality and detail now nearly 56 years later.  Hard work and love are woven into every stitch in this dress.

Then my Mommy wrapped it around her teenage self and went on a fun date, the details of which I did not ask, because well…  I don’t want to know!  Date for the dance in 1958?  Check.  Love sewn into gorgeous dress?  Check.  Fun night at the dance?  Check.  Now what?

I’ll tell you what!  That dress hung in my Mom’s closet at the farm for many, many years to come.  Eventually Nana passed, bless her soul, and the farm sat empty much of the time.  At some point, Mom cleaned out the closets and came across this dress, which she knew right away would be perfect for my Baby, who loves antique things drenched in rich family history!

Over the summer, Mom visited and brought the dress along as a gift.  Baby immediately infused the dress with even more love and family history by glowing with excitement at both its beauty and the beautiful history that led to it joining our home.  I had already secured a date for Valentine’s Day 2015, but now the “What to wear?” question has been answered for the Lady.  Where will we be going in this historical dress?  A Historic Inn, of course, also rich in history, at the request of the young lady with the timeless soul.

On February 14th, 2015, I will have the privilege of accompanying this young lady to dinner and a retreat to our favorite place in the mountains, all the while wearing this dress from 1958.  I’m the richest man alive.

I do need some advice, though…  what sort of vintage formal wear do I need to find to match this dress’s era?  White overcoat with a red bow tie?  Please chime in, I don’t want to show up for my date with a 4th generation of historical infusion dressed anything other than worthy of the occasion!

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Red

We Set the Sun

We Set the Sun 25-July-2014

We Set the Sun  25-July-2014

We Set the Sun
We Set the Sun

Who doesn’t love a good sunset?  I think that most people can enjoy and appreciate the beauty of one if they stumble upon it, even if it isn’t their favorite thing to watch.

We do (most) things just a little differently than (most) other people, though.  Often, especially in the summer, we plan our evening around the sunset.  Dinner early or late to accommodate the current sunset ETA.  Sometimes it’s our entire evening plan-  to watch the sunset.

We Set the Sun
We Set the Sun

There’s no wrong time of the year for it, though.  In winter, some of our favorite sunset spots are less scenic due to the barren nature of winter.  Yet, the winter affords us earlier sunset times that tend to be easier to work into an evening while still achieving a respectable school night bedtime.  In spring and fall, the scenery surrounding the sunset is fantastic here in the heart of North Carolina.  In summer, we have more time to be leisurely about our sunsetting thanks to the absence of homework or early school mornings.  No wrong time of year for sunsetting.  For sure.

We Set the Sun
We Set the Sun

Sunsetting is a lot like fishing, I suppose.  No matter how good you are at forecasting sunsets or fishing conditions, sometimes you catch a big one and sometimes you go home empty-handed.   Sometimes the best fishing happens at random with very little time invested, and sometimes the most careful and strategic planning harvests naught.  Same with sunsetting.  Sometimes you stumble across an amazing sunset by chance, and other times the seemingly certainly perfect sunset conditions you drove 40 miles to reach get snuffed out at the last minute due to a cloud bank rolling in 100 miles away on the horizon.

We Set the Sun
We Set the Sun

I suppose you could say it’s become something of a family hobby for us.  It’s an experience you can’t get online or on your couch.  No matter how many amazing pictures I get of sunsets from high atop this or that favorite place, they are only glimpses into what it’s really like to watch it happen in person.

All of this makes me wish I could give the sun something back.  The best relationships are those in which everyone gets something wonderful from the others in it.  Yet the sun just keeps on giving all of humanity this show every single day, all over the world, completely free of charge, whether anyone is watching or not.

We Set the Sun
We Set the Sun

Remember when your kids were little, and would make you pretend meals?  Bring you a plate of plastic cheeseburgers, corn on the cob, and plastic vegetables?  And you’d pretend to eat them like they were the best foods you’d ever put in your mouth?  Your kids did that for you because you always fed them, but they didn’t really have anything to give you in return.  Or so they thought.  They gave you joy, and showed you gratitude, all at once with those make-believe meals.  All of those things matter a lot, even though the plastic food didn’t do much for your empty tummy.

Likewise, we don’t have anything to offer the sun which will actually fuel its fire or help it set.  If I were the sun, it would bring me joy to know that people loved to watch my bedtime show, and I’d feel like they were showing gratitude by going out of their way specifically to watch it.

A lot of things in life are this way.  The world doesn’t revolve around any of us, as much as we’d like to think it does.  We can’t always give back as much as we get.  Sometimes, we have nothing at all to offer in exchange for the things we treasure most.  Since this paragraph is overstuffed with clichés, I’ll add that the best things in life truly are free.

We Set the Sun
We Set the Sun

Therefore, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the best things we can give back in gratitude and appreciation are also free?  I think so.  I am most proud of my children when I can see that they are grateful and appreciative.  Neither of which costs a dime.  Just like the sunset.  100% free of charge.  Always has been, always will be.

We are grateful for sunsets, even though the sun will continue to set whether we appreciate it or not. Some people believe that money makes the world go around.  I would rather think that gratitude sets the sun, and the sunset keeps the world spinning.

If you choose to believe that along with me, that makes it your turn to take a shift setting the sun. Tomorrow night or the next will be fine.  Someone else will be out there setting it if you miss a shift anyway, but it’s your appreciation that makes the sunset go around…  on top of all that?  You get to watch the show free of charge in any case…

We set the sun.  It’s more fun to watch if you look at it that way.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Sunsets

‘Til Death Or Maybe Longer 21-June-2014

‘Til Death Or Maybe Longer  21-June-2014

Til Death Or Maybe Longer
Til Death Or Maybe Longer

I have a beautiful story to share with you, and in exchange for reading it, I hope you’ll follow the instructions at the end.  This isn’t a chain letter or a legal document…  but hopefully I’ll talk you into it.

My Grandma outlived my Grandpa by many, many years.  ‘Until Death’ parted them…  She lived alone in the farmhouse they had shared for 49 years up until her health got bad enough that she shared a roof with my Mother.  During those years, she was surrounded by local friends and family who visited her often.

Til Death Or Maybe Longer
Til Death Or Maybe Longer

I moved away from home when I graduated from college.  I don’t regret that decision, but I did often miss holidays with family.  Since I wasn’t there in person, I used to write to my Grandma.  Probably not as often as she’d have liked, or as often as I should have, but I still did.

Specifically speaking today, I wrote to my Grandma on December 20, 1999 to fill her in on what we’d been up to, so that she would have a nice letter to go with her Christmas card.  Aren’t I a good boy?  I’ll sit on my hind haunches, smile a big hound dog grin, and wait for you to pat me on the head.

That letter was written akin to 15 years ago now.  Consequently, I wrote that letter exactly 5 days before we learned of our first pregnancy, the boy who is now nearly 14 years old and named for my Grandpa.  The history lesson matters, I promise!

Til Death Or Maybe Longer
Til Death Or Maybe Longer

I long ago forgot about that letter from December 20, 1999.  I read it with great interest recently, when it found its way back to my home, and can see that I clearly enjoyed writing it.  It contained lots of anecdotes, some I’d forgotten myself. There were the Legos I got for Christmas one year, and a slot car race track…  those Legos are now mixed in with my son’s, and are still providing us with family fun more than 30 years after I tore the wrapping paper off of them under Grandma and Pappy’s Christmas tree.

Here’s the best part-  my Grandma, in 1999 and 2001, wrote love notes TO me on that very letter, and tucked it away somewhere that my Mommy eventually found it while cleaning out old boxes of Nana’s stuff, and returned it to me.  Just a few days ago.  Almost 15 years, 2 kids, and 3 generations later.

It meant the world to her, my Grandma, to hear about all the wonderful memories I had of holidays at her home.  To hear about all the memories I had of dinners with family and time spent on the farm with her and my Grandpa.  It took only minutes of my time on December 20, 1999 to write that letter, yet it was something she enjoyed for the rest of her life.

Til Death Or Maybe Longer
Til Death Or Maybe Longer

And now today, it means the world to me to have that letter back with my Grandma’s love notes written on it in her handwriting, as well as my Mother’s explanation of how it all happened, now 6 years after Nana left us.  Love notes from beyond the grave?  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Stop what you’re doing right now and write to your Grandma and Grandpa.  Please.  Karma will smile upon you for it, and it will mean the world to your Nana and Pappy.  I promise.  Grandma and Grandpa, I’m talking to YOU too!  Take those letters, write on them whatever comes to mind, sign and date them, and make sure they’re tucked away somewhere that they’ll make their way back to your Grandkids long after you’re gone.  It’ll mean the world to your Grandkids.  I promise.

Tonight, this will be our bedtime story, and I’m going to cap it off with a request that my own kids encourage their young to write to me as often as humanly possible.  I don’t need to grow old to already know that I’ll cherish every single sentence, paragraph, and…  letter.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Some-Day-Grandpa

Jagged Edges

Jagged Edges 11-April-2014

Jagged Edges 

Today marks 7 years no longer a slave to seizures, big pharma, or major medical intervention.  Cheers to being the one in a million that got away.  Sometimes I wonder if that one admittedly miraculous narrow escape burned a lifetime of luck.  I wonder about a lot of things.

Since today is a day I celebrate for reasons that most people don’t understand, I’m going to ramble a bit.  A bit more than usual, and not worry too much about any of it making any sense.  You’re welcome!

Jagged Edges
Jagged Edges

You don’t escape that sort of thing without having some jagged edges to show for it.  It’s like fighting your way out of a patch of thorn bushes to escape from a wolf.  You can lick your wounds later, after you’re not dinner for the wolf.  Like any good escape artist, I’ve learned to keep the attention of those around me focused on the sparkling spots I still have that shine up nicely, so that my sharp edges don’t glisten as much in the spotlight.  This year, I have mixed feelings about that act.  It has served its purpose well.  It has also had some crippling side effects.  In all likelihood, I may start to show my jagged edges more often.  Or at least hide them less…

Jagged Edges
Jagged Edges

My feelings about all of that aside, those sharp and/or jagged edges are still there.  Some of them…  many of them, dull with time.  Laughter dulls them, and recognizing blessings dulls them.  Family time dulls them.  The family dog at my feet dulls them.  Watching the sun set from my favorite spot on the entire planet, with my kids looking on along with me, dulls them a lot.  Camping trips and nights on the beach dull them.  Letting go of things that don’t matter, and holding on tight to things that do matter, dulls them.  Lots of things dull them, but they’re still there.  Even a dull jagged edge is still a jagged edge, and will be obviously recognizable as such to an onlooker.  Especially an onlooker who never saw the tragedy that created the jagged edges to begin with.

So be it.  Very few are dealt a perfect hand in life, so we all have our jagged edges.  And having them helps us to accept the jagged edges of those around us.  I think.  I hope?  It probably should more than it does.  I suppose.

Jagged Edges
Jagged Edges

In any case, here I am with my jagged edges and there you are with yours, and low and behold, when we try to hug it out, sometimes we just cut each other up.  We had good intentions, and we probably didn’t even realize what cut us.  If I could see your jagged edges, and/or you mine, we’d do some sort of awkward hugging thing where we’d try to get a heartfelt hug in there somehow without lacerating each other beyond what good the hug would do us both.  Therein lies the problem.  If you break a glass, or the wind rips a tree in half, or a bridge collapses…  you can see the jagged edges.  You can’t see them in people.  You can’t touch them or smell them or taste them or even feel them.  You have to spend a lot of time getting to know a person before you understand where their jagged edges are.  Even then, you just know.  You really can’t ever map them out or explain them in detail to anyone else.  It’s something you know because you took the time to understand.  You took the time to understand because you cared enough to, and because what was inside all those jagged edges was far more reward than any injuries you sustained getting inside.  That’s why the top of the mountain is so far up, why the beach is generally so far away, and why the rose has thorns.  Only those worthy of the rewards of the journey end up with the rewards of the journey.  Karma would have me believe that, anyway.

Jagged Edges
Jagged Edges

The problem becomes compounded when there are a lot of jagged edges, especially really sharp ones that time or dogs or kids or beaches or roses or sunsets haven’t worn down yet.  Sometimes we even surprise ourselves in finding new sharp edges we had no idea we had.  Where the hell did that one come from???  I thought this area was all polished up!?!  All too often, it seems, a few surprise lacerations are all it takes for most people to give up.  I’m not entirely sure I blame them.  I’m not entirely sure that I don’t.  I don’t like getting cut either.  I don’t jump anymore when it happens though.  Dunno if that’s good or bad.

Here’s what I do know…  the select few that keep coming back for hugs even though sometimes they get a little cut up in the process?  Keep those people.  Hug them really tight even if you get a little cut up sometimes yourself in doing so.  If you can count on one hand the number of people who know you well enough to feel their way through your jagged edges in their sleep, then you’re a very rich person.  They see themselves as rich people as well, because they know that what’s inside you is worth wriggling past the sharp edges for.

I remember one time when she was very young, Little Lady dropped a jar of coins.  Busted all over the kitchen floor.  We spent what seemed like forever sifting through that mess to get the coins separated from all the broken glass.  Truth be told, we were really broke back then and we didn’t have any choice but to dig through the mess.  I find myself thinking about that simple random event a lot these days though.  I truly believe that the people with the most jagged edges are also those with the most character.  They got their character by surviving the shattered glasses, the storms that splintered the trees, and the earthquake that collapsed the bridge.  That character is worth getting hug-cut now and then for.  In my humble opinion.

Jagged Edges
Jagged Edges

By the same token, if you retreat every time you get cut, and find yourself surrounded by lots of people who don’t (seem to) have many jagged edges, yet also don’t seem to have much character, well…  you get what you pay for.  Nothing worth having comes free or easy.

Recently, I have questioned my own philosophy about both my own jagged edges, and those of the people I seem to find myself most drawn to.  I know myself well enough to know that I’m not going to change how I do things.  I know that every day when I get the best hugs I’ll ever get from my two favorite humans, (my kids) they jump straight into my arms without even thinking about the jagged edges that might sting a little sometimes.  They know that what’s inside is well worth that minor flesh wound now and then.  I know that people who know how to hug me without getting cut are those that deserve what’s inside me most.  They took the time to perfect their cutless-hug techniques.

The things I don’t know, I wonder about with a great deal of mystery.  The things I do know, I know very well.  That’s what I know today, after 7 years of polishing my jagged edges.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Edges