The Birthday Float

June 24 is a day I must remember every year.  I don’t want to be that husband that remembers the morning of, that its the wife’s birthday.  So far, so good – if memory serves.  I consider myself a good gift guy and always try to put in a lot of thought when deciding on that perfect bday present.  I’ve had some winners and I’ve have some humdingers.  That’s right, I just busted out the word “humdingers”!  After 15 years of marriage and a handful more of dating, the ideas have gotten a lot tougher.  There’s only so many pieces of jewelry you can buy before it gets stale.  And as adults, your wish list becomes a lot more expensive or you can just go out and buy it yourself.  So I’ve run the gambit on the birthday surprise over the years.

Last year was kind of a big one.  I was finally able to score some Dave Matthews tickets, which was a bucket list item for Alicia.  One year, we went to Atlanta and classed it up at some fancy club named “Opera”.  There was Def Leppard one year.  There was the Buckhead birthday where we went wining and dining. This year, we’ll be going to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band at an old landmark bar in Little Five Points.  While the gift ideas are constantly evolving and I’m having to start earlier and earlier on my thought process, one constant is present every June around this date.  That would be “The Birthday Float”. 

The float consists of a group of friends, that also love the outdoors and the creek, kayaking or tubing or boating down the Kinchafoonee Creek in Lee County.  The trip usually starts at the Highway 32 bridge in Leesgurg and twists and turns down to an area behind our neighborhood just north of the Dougherty County line.  The cast changes slightly from year to year but the general core remains the same.  The Normans, Duvall’s and Shivers.  The Lambs are usually in tow but a new baby this year will put them on the shelf.  My constant compadre on the trip is Clemmy Johnny, Mi Hermano de Otra Madre.  We usually lag back a bit to oversee what’s happening and carry on our immature conversations without eye rolls from the women folk.  We also bring our favorite adult beverage mixers to help keep cool if the sun is too hot….or something like that. We also lag back from time to time to avoid the alcohol police who think maybe we’re moving too quickly through the cooler.  There is no such thing I say.  And CJ surely agrees with me.   

We also like to spend some time out of the kayak along the trip.  There is a lot to see and do along the Kinchafoonee besides kayak.  There are numerous jumping spots, from the old rope swing at the Century Rd bridge to the 30 foot cliff just before we get to our takeout point.  I still don’t know how deep it is there but I’ve tried to touch a couple of times to no avail.  There are a couple other jumping spots but the climbing is a little tougher and our coherence plays a part in whether we attempt those or not.  I do remember Michael doing a sweet flip out of a tree once that made me think for a split second that we were going to be headed to the ER.  We’ve talked many people into taking the leap from the large cliff but have never gotten Alicia to take the plunge.  Maybe this year is the year.  Shaina even did it after about 45 minutes of coaxing.  And this was after she flipped her float and lost all of her important items like her drivers license.  Sorry Shaina.

There are also some cool natural wonders to see along the trip.  There is a nice cave that leads from the creek up to the top of a small cliff that the ladies won’t let us jump from because they think it’s too shallow.  There is also a pair of Oakleys in the water somewhere near the mouth of the cave.  There is a waterfall near the end of the trip that is always a nice photo op. Depending on the water level there is also a little area of tiny rapids that are a fun change of pace from the usual slow current.  But the highlight is always the blue hole.  It’s a pretty decent sized pool of clear, cold spring water that invigorates the body and makes everyone a little nervous of being pushed in.  It’s a hotspot on the creek and usually the most populated area as everyone stops to enjoy the cool water.  It’s usually where we stop to get a bite to eat and stretch the legs. 

Of course, we typically aren’t the only species of creature on the creek, enjoying the water and sun. The most common sighting is the Kinchafoonee Creek Monster, pictured above.  He’s known to perform daring acts from any height and also occasionally shows off feats of strength by crushing tree branches in the gathering of firewood.  There are also a variety of snakes and gators.  The gators are usually less visible during the day but the snakes are more than ready to come out and dangle off of a tree limb.  You must remain vigilant when around the trees.  The quicker CJ and I get through those coolers, the less alert we are.  There have probably been lots of times where I was only a few feet from a snake and never even knew it.  It’s just the normal law of probabilities.  It’s their habitat, it’s the south and it’s summertime.  

The trip typically takes about 4-6 hours depending on the water level, how much time we spend at different stopping points and our overall pace.  By the end of the float, we are all tired, sunburned and waterlogged.  But we are also happy and relaxed.  I always sleep really well the night after a float on the creek.  The combination of physical exertion and heat will wear your body out and leave you just plain beat.  It might be why we only do it a few times a year.  There are people that do it every weekend or twice a month.  But when we take our group to the creek, we are all in and push it to the limit.  Some of us party pretty hard!  But it’s such a great time.

Alicia loves being on the water and I can understand why when I go out there.  I am typically more of a fisherman or swimmer but floating and taking in all of the surroundings is peaceful and a heavy reminder that we are living in a beautiful world.  Getting on the creek on a hot summer day with cold drinks and good friends can make all of your problems go away for a while.  And who doesn’t need that.  We usually take 2-3 big group trips a year but the one on Alicia’s birthday is always a given. I’m thankful she kept poking me to me change my stubborn attitude about getting out on the creek from time to time.  I still enjoy my cool air downtime but our trips on the Birthday Float always create memories and I’m sure this year will be the same.  So we will once again be launching tomorrow to take this excursion with our group of misfits and I am looking forward to it.  Our goals are to have fun, stay safe, enjoy the outdoors, leave nature as we find it (or better off) and see if we can find the bottom of the cooler by the end of the day.  We’ll be enjoying a nice band, good food and companionship soon for the official birthday present.  But tomorrow, we float….and dive….and swim….and love life and each other.  Happy Birthday again Alicia and I’m looking forward to enjoying another float with you!


Father’s Day

Today is a wonderful day for guys like me.  We spend all year quietly, and sometimes loudly, trying to guide our offspring through the pitfalls and trapdoors of the world.  Sometimes minor pitfalls, sometimes major, but the job is 24/7/365.  The pay is abysmal but the benefits are better than any other job.  I am a proud father of two daughters, 9 and 2 (almost).  I make mistakes everyday.  I question decisions almost everytime I make them.  I’m learning.  What I have learned about being a father over my lifetime though has all been thanks to one man; Dewey Wayne Shiver.

My dad is and always has been a hard working man.  A truck driver since he was old enough to see over the wheel, he has spent more than 40 years riding the pavement all over the southeastern United States.  Thankfully, while the workload hasn’t changed, the routes have become shorter and he’s home most every night.  He leaves before daylight and sometimes gets home after the sun sets but I’m sure it beats leaving on Sunday night and getting back on Friday night.  So even though it took many, many years, I had the perfect role model for work ethic.

My delay in picking up that work ethic may have been due to some of the things I was recruited for growing up.  We all had our chores and things we had to help with around the house.  Sometimes, your parents profession has an impact on that list too.  My fun list included many a Saturday, in the South Georgia heat, helping change some oil or helping change some tires or even helping rebuild something I couldn’t even identify, like an alternator or transmission. I probably wasn’t the best apprentice but I got sweaty and dirty and lost my fun Saturday.  Even worse than that though were the nights the weather decided to turn south and he would wake me up from my youthful slumber at 4:00 am to go tarp a load of lumber.  You might as well have asked me to walk on hot coals to Atlanta.  I was a pretty happy guy when the new Wal Mart was built in Camilla.  Where it now sits, used to be the the old Phillips 66, where I spent those Saturday’s and 4:00 school mornings.  The gas station is still there but where we worked is gone.  I wouldn’t trade the memories now though.

When he wasn’t working though is when the real memories were in production.  We spent a lot of time at the lake.  We had a place at Fort Gaines for most of my life.  It started out as a small camper that housed about 4 people and eventually grew into a nice place that housed as many as 10 or more at times.  No matter the lodging though, the man’s best time was spent on the water.  He’s a master at crappie fishing and was able to put us on the fish everytime we backed the boat in, which he taught me how to do also.  We even dominated the adult/child division of the southeastern crappie tournament trail for several years and our plaques remain prominent proof.  While the fishing was excellent, he had some less than shiny moments in the boat.  He once fell out of a tree trying to navigate the boat and his line in the dead of winter.  He, or allegedly his fishing partner, toppled a small charcoal grill in the boat once almost burning the vessel.  But most famously, he had a knack for putting himself on the fish and kicking the back of the boat around leaving me out to dry.  He claims he did not do this and even over corrected in the latter years of our fishing excursions.  

Though there were hilarious moments, the ones in the boat pale in comparison to some of the gems that were later memorialized in a video me and my brother made for him one Christmas.  A lot of them inside jokes, a lot of them just plain embarrassing.  He spewed Pepsi all over his front windshield in a coughing fit.  He slipped while pushing the trash can to the road and tried to eat the can itself.  He yelled from one grocery aisle to the next, “Pam, these yo weinies?”  He had multiple, now infamous, spats with customer service reps leading one such confrontation to end with my dad’s friendly advice that the clerk “may as well work in the panty department and maybe he would actually know something about them.”  Good times.  

Of course, we had our rough patches too.  I was not the best student growing up and usually went half speed when asked to do something.  I also went through my fair share of lawn mowers while blindly running over everything possible in our yard.  I backed into my moms car in our own driveway.  I almost smashed my uncle, his brother, playing with levers on his big truck while the cab was open.  I tried to decapitate myself when I was a wee tot.  I dove down a flight of stairs yelling “yee haw” in what I’ve only been told was a horrendous audition for Dukes of Hazard.  So, when you look at it that way, he’s taught me patience and faith.  I don’t know how else you explain either of my parents surviving my 18 years at home.  

Amid all of that though, he still taught me how to play baseball, how to fish, how to collect baseball cards, how to stand up for what’s right, how a marriage works (when things are good, bad or you’re on the road all the time), how to do the right thing and how to catch a good afternoon nap.  The list is too long to outline in its entirety but it’s very comprehensive.  I’ve never met anyone who was so committed to living the right way and treating people (with the exception of the occasional Sears personnel) with respect.  I’ve learned how to be a good person from my mom and my dad.  If I can live up to half of their example, I’ll be satisfied.  Nowadays, my dad is no longer the stern disciplinarian he was when I was a kid.  He’s a big ole teddy bear with Georgia and Bailey and lights up whenever they are around.  They will never question whether their Dew Dah loves them.  That’s one more lesson that I am learning.  Take care of the people that mean something in your life and let them know you love them.  Thanks Dad for all you’ve taught me and continuing to take care of us even when we’ve grown up and started our own families.  Happy Father’s Day and I love you big guy!


Age Is Not Just A Number

It’s a saying as old as time that we have all been told at some point in our lives if we have lived any reasonable amount of years – Age is just a number. I’m here to tell you that we have been lied to. Age is in fact many things, both tangible and not, some good some bad, but clearly more than just a numerical identifier of our existence. But before I go on a ramble of what those things include, I want to get some general understandings out of the way. To begin with, I am aware that I am not the oldest person on this planet. I am not even the oldest person that will be reading this blog. There are others that have had tougher lives, have more physical issues and are generally hanging on by thinner threads than myself. The point of this is not to complain about getting old or seeking sympathy. However, this is my first time “getting old” and I don’t have any prior experience. I am figuring this out every day and while there are several obvious downsides to aging, I want to point out (and also remind myself) that there are some less known positives that need to be discussed. So let’s talk about what age really is.
Wisdom – We all have different experiences in life. Those experiences help us form our opinions of the world and our fellow man. Some of us go through physical issues or loss while others go through emotional or mental difficulties. While unique to each of us, they provide lessons that are crucial to our continued survival. These experiences teach us who to trust, how to deal with adversity, how to protect ourselves, how to protect the ones we love, how to love, when to let love walk away, when we need to reach out to friends and when we need to try and figure out things on our own. Wisdom is more than just being knowledgeable. Wisdom is using our knowledge (more detail below) to make more sound decisions than when we were 18 years old.

Knowledge – This characteristic could be good or bad. Like wisdom, our path through life forms the amount of knowledge we have. The way we were raised, the people we surround ourselves with, the amount of news we take in and our presence on social media help us stay in touch with what is going on around us. The world is constantly changing and as we age, we are better able to sort the junk from the real information. You may be asking how knowledge can be bad. Consider this – Alicia has decided that there are just some things that she’d rather not watch or know about. She doesn’t watch the news like I do. She sees things and hears about them from me or friends but she does not sit down and watch the news programs. I, on the other hand, will turn on one of the 24 hour news channels when I lay down for bed and watch until I fall asleep. While she is sometimes in the dark on what polling numbers are, she also doesn’t let contracting flesh eating bacteria consume her thoughts when she spends a day on the creek. She isn’t concerned about Zika virus when she’s working in the yard. So you see, sometimes too much knowledge can be a bad thing.  

Awareness – The older you get, the more you can say, “I’ve seen it all”, with conviction. Of course, the more you see, the more you are able to see. Think back to the Allegory of the Cave, discussed last week. When you first step out of the dark and see the sunlight, the harder it is to keep your eyes open and look around. You have to become accustomed to the light. As your eyes adjust, the more you can open them wide and take in the view. As you age, you become more aware of when people are lying to you or when they need help and are afraid to ask. If used appropriately, awareness, and to a greater degree, self-awareness can be powerful traits to possess. I think that the older I get, the easier it is to tell when I am pushing too hard or when I am overstepping my bounds. I hope to continue to hone that skill and become ultimately self aware.

Empathy – Some people may be born with empathetic traits but most are developed during life. Some people never even develop them. I have found that aging has increased my ability to be able to understand and feel for people when they go through tough times. By no means does this mean the person with empathy totally gets it and can relate to the person going through those times. But as we get older, we realize how precious life is and how important each year, month, week or even day becomes. We don’t want to see people we love spend those days in turmoil or misery. By extension, we feel a certain level of pain for that person and want to help or take away that pain. We can only imagine that if we feel it, even if on a small level, the person experiencing the issue must feel like they are in figurative hell. When we hear about a friend being diagnosed with cancer or a couple losing a child or someone going through a divorce, we have the appropriate experiences in life to put that event in a perspective that makes it real enough for us to understand the gravity. This can be a tough one when it becomes a part of our make up but I would rather have empathy than be someone who can’t feel it.

Apathy and Intolerance – These go together because I have reached a point where I care so little about certain things, I can’t tolerate the thought and effort it takes to be upset about it. This is not the intolerance you may immediately think of. Getting older hasn’t made me dislike other religions or races or sexual preferences. The intolerance I am referring to is that of mundane activities or bullshite. When we live in this world long enough, we tend to become sick of the latest public outrage or “false flags” of our twisted society. We stop caring about some things, for better or worse. I don’t really care that much about waiting in a long line to do something that lasts 2 minutes, i.e. roller coasters. Do I still love them? Yes, but if the line is too long, I’m good without it. I don’t dwell on the fact that I am not a homerun hitter in softball. I don’t need that to prove my manhood. And I especially don’t need steroids or illegal equipment to keep up the charade. I don’t have to see movies in the theater. I don’t have to have the newest automobile accessory or sound system. I guess it’s not so much “not caring” as it is caring more about important things. A lot of times, I just don’t care…..  

Strength – This is not about brute physical strength. This is about being a strong person with moral fiber and a belief system we don’t compromise to satisfy others. This is about being able to support one another when needed, to be a shoulder to cry on – holding our children when they are tired even though our body is weak too – staying awake on a long car ride when everyone else in the car is asleep – pushing through a work day when we’d much rather be in bed – putting that fun thing back on the shelf because we know a bill is due soon. That is strength and that comes with age, maturity and development. That is one of the great things about getting older but also is not something we tout to a 20 year old as a perk. I am proud that I can do those things but I am not running to Bri or Aaron or Zibby and saying, “Just wait until you have bills to pay and you have to stop buying “toys” or that long night where you can’t lie down and rest yourself because your kid needs to be held until they go to sleep. It is a blast.” While I am not touting it, it is a clear sign of adulthood and a big indicator that you are growing up.  

Fatigue – When there is strength, there will inevitably be fatigue. Carrying the weight of a family, bills, friendships and a perennial fantasy football dynasty means we are going to crash from time to time. The good thing about getting older is that we can accept it more. Fatigue was a sign of weakness at 21. If we couldn’t stay up and party all night, we were lame. I submit to you that it is a sign of strength when you reach your 40th birthday. The fatigue comes from doing things that the body and mind have a more difficult time doing than they did 20 years earlier but you still do them. It comes from pushing yourself to your limits mentally and physically. All of the things above create that fatigue. Being empathetic toward others, remaining aware, using wisdom and knowledge, caring for those around you – all of this can cause wear and tear. If you’ve tried to do things the right way, you can wear the scars as a badge of honor. The fact is I am tired. I will get more tired I am sure but when I am comparing myself to a 30 year old Dub, I am beat.  

Respect – With age, comes respect. I’m talking about respect for other people, your world, work and talents. In our mid 20’s, we thought we were the next big thing. We thought we had it all figured out and had the world by the balls. We didn’t know a damn thing. We were just too prideful or ignorant to accept that we didn’t know a damn thing. Now, I respect that friend that is fighting through a divorce or the single mom or dad that is raising their kids alone or that guy from high school who was headed for death or jail that turned it around and is a productive, honest human being. I respect what my parents had to put up with when I was growing up. I respect my teachers for not killing me when I was the class clown. I respect my friends and family for trying to do the right thing and teaching me the same. I respect Andrew Luck, Stephen Curry and Mike Trout for their athletic talent. I respect Chino and Dustin Kensrue for their ability to turn words into art. I thought I was good enough to do what they are doing when I was 22. Yes, that would be the definition of an ignoramus.  

Nostalgia – I guess this is probably the best part of getting older. Every generation experiences it. There was no better time to grow up than when “I” did. For my generation, there will never be another Nintendo or Saved By The Bell or Friday the 13th or Mike Tyson or Michael Jordan. When you age, you long for those things that bring pleasant thoughts and memories to your fuzzy mind. I can’t remember much about school or work but I remember the first time I saw Halloween and I remember the night Christian Laettner hit “the shot” against Kentucky and I remember Sid sliding into home. I remember fishing tournaments with my dad and RA basketball games and spending the summer fishing in Papa’s pond and going to the flea market on Sundays with Granddaddy and Gaga telling us to “put the damn presents down”. I hope I’ll always remember those things. If not, the blog will have to serve as my memory because those were all great things.

So yeah, that age thing. It’s not just a number. As a matter of fact, it gets harder and harder to remember the number every year. Forty will be an easy one but I am guilty of having to back into the number by subtractive the year I was born from the current year, I can’t lie. Well, I can but I am not right now. Getting older is not all bad. Old is relative anyway. I used to think 40 was decrepit but here I am, knocking on the door. Now, I think 60 is old and 20 was a thousand years ago. I think I am doing better at 40 than I anticipated when I was 20 but I can’t say I spent too much time thinking about it. I think about age a lot now. It’s hard not to. I see friends with kids getting married or graduating. I see kids from when I was a teenager having kids. There are no longer any Tecmo Bowl players in the NFL. Michael Jackson, Muhammed Ali, Ultimate Warrior are all deceased. I am getting older and there is no way around it. I am trying to learn to live with it and accept that it is a part of the grand cycle. In the end, it is worth noting that I am thankful to be here. Hopefully, I’ll feel the same at 60, should I make it.



Subconsciously Conscious

My mind doesn’t work quite right. I know, earth-shattering stuff, but hear me out. We all interpret or have feelings about things that differ from one another. Some of us see the sunlight and think about its warmth and recognize how beautiful the world is around us when lit up. Others can think about how hot and uncomfortable it makes us. The opposite of sunlight is darkness, the night. That can bring about feelings of calm, peaceful rest or it can be associated with tension and apprehension about facing tomorrow. It all depends on who you are, how you think and the experiences you have that have led to that thought process.

This is not an uncommon or unique paradox. In fact, it’s been around since almost the beginning of time. “The Allegory of the Cave” is one of the most famous (and original) views on the way we perceive the world around us. For those that don’t know about it, you can look it up anywhere on the web and there are even animated videos on YouTube for you non-readers. But I don’t suppose I have many “non-readers” perusing my blog to begin with.  

I’ll try to summarize it for the benefit of this discussion. There are also multiple variations but I’ll keep it broad. It is the story of 3 people that have been held prisoner in a cave since birth. They are chained up in a manner that forces them to face the wall on the opposite side from the cave opening. They are unable to turn their heads and can only face the wall in front of them. All they are able to see are occasional shadows on the wall in front of them that are reflected by a fire behind them with puppeteers carrying objects to convey images of people and animals. Over the years, they begin to name the shadows that appear on the wall and identify each activity they see. While all in black and white shadowy vision, as the years pass, their eyes have become adjusted to the dark and that is all they know.

One day, one of the prisoner’s shackles break and he is able to walk to the opening of the cave. At this point, he discovers the sun and he can’t see because of its power. He is fearful and contemplates returning inside or pushing forward. However, the longer he stays near the opening of the cave, the more adjusted his eyes become and he begins to be able to see around him. He begins to explore the outside world and begins to see the color of his surroundings made visible by the sun along with the people and the animals that have provided all of the background for what he thought the world was. He begins to notice that they have a texture he never before understood, they are so well defined in the light of day. He is overwhelmed by what he sees and returns to the cave to tell the other two about the new world he’s discovered. They reject him and his descriptions thinking he has totally lost his marbles and it must be a side effect of going out in the sun, outside the safety of the cave. He offers to free them so they can see for themselves but they physically refuse and demand that he leave them just like they are because they understand the world they are in.

There are many layers to the lessons that can be taken from this story. First, the symbolism of the cave and the fire represent people living in ignorance or oblivion only seeing what is being projected in front of them. The shadows symbolize perception and limited understanding. We are chained to the world we are living in and only know and understand what it is we see and deal with on a daily basis. When we are taken out of our element or comfort zone, we can be figuratively blinded by our surroundings and want to run back to what we know. But many times, as we open our eyes, hearts and minds to the new surroundings, we realize that there is more to the world than the limited shadows we are used to seeing. Further, we can sometimes try to bring friends with us to our “new world” and receive push back because it’s not what they are used to and they aren’t quite ready to step out of their comfort zone.  

I believe that we all reach the point in our lives, if we live long enough, where we face this issue in our own way. Maybe it’s maturity, maybe it’s the world evolving, or maybe it’s just our own minds continuing to develop. The world is absolutely evolving but it’s also majorly screwed up. And I don’t think I will ever fully mature so, for now, I’m leaning on my mind being in some sort of “continuing education” stage. The question I keep going back to though is whether or not I am wasting some portion of my life on something that isn’t real. I can tell you that I used to waste a lot of my life on things that weren’t real but I’d like to think that I have advanced past some of that. Some days I can’t convince myself.

Entertain me for a moment and think about your daily life and this allegory. My day begins with waking up and wanting to stay in bed for the rest of the day. Everyday, it’s the same feeling. Then I take one of the kids to school or a sitter and go to work to get started on contributing to society in some form or fashion. There are lots of unreal things that happen during that typical work day, or at least I pray they aren’t really happening. After work, it’s either softball or to the house to work on supper, the laundry, and general housework. This is the part where Alicia says, “Housework?” Then it’s a shower, some TV, some social media and darkness. I say darkness because sleep usually comes several hours after the darkness. I have been doing pretty much that exact same thing for the majority of the last nine years, since Bailey was born.  

Now think about how easy it is to lock in on that day after day after day. That becomes the world to me. No bombings, no terrorism, no war, no gun control, no transgender bathrooms, no elections, no racial tensions, no false outrage, no conspiracy theories. When I pull up Facebook and I see someone carrying the torch for the anti police movement or the anti Target movement or the NeverTrump or NeverHillary movements, it makes me think (sometimes aloud) why those things mean so much to them. Am I saying these things don’t matter? No – but 90% of the people fighting for or against these causes can’t give one meaningful example of when those things personally affected their lives. Before your morals get offended or you start challenging why I think who the President of the US is would be considered trivial, I want to remind you of the terms “meaningful” and “personally affected” and also went with 90%. We can all read and share a viral article that may or may not contain facts and proudly broadcast our stance. That’s not a very hard thing to do and it’s generally met with resounding likes from like minded friends. Feel free to share the hell out of this post because I need more subscribers. But you must agree with my opinion…..joking.  

I’m not getting sidetracked on government and LGBT issues. I am using those as examples of what I am questioning to be real or not. It is clearly real to some people but is it real for me? Which brings me to a few culminating questions: Should I lose sleep about things that don’t affect me? Because something doesn’t affect me today, does it mean it won’t affect me tomorrow? If something doesn’t affect me, am I cluttering my mind or soul by even knowing about it? If I am avoiding knowing about something does it mean I am cold and don’t care? I don’t know the answer to these questions. That’s why I am having this discussion on paper now. I may never know. What I do know is that I ask myself these questions a lot. The older I get, the more they seem relevant.  

Ultimately I think I have to decide which side I want to be on. Do I want to live in a world where everything is comfortable and risk missing out on something? Or do I want to push my limits and experience some of the things the world has to offer outside of my view but risk being caught up in an environment where I can’t see anymore because it’s too unfamiliar and brash? I truly haven’t decided. I think my opinion changes from day to day. I think there is something that is out there that I need to find. I don’t know what it is I am even looking for but I feel like it is out there, outside of this cave. I just can’t seem to get the courage or strength up to break these shackles.

Of course, this might actually be it. This might be the truth that I am living. There may be nothing more. I would not be unfulfilled but I think I would be a little surprised and probably at least a little disappointed in some recess of my soul. The disappointment would arise from my belief all along that there was another life out there – that there was more truth to find and the day to day experiences I get bogged down in weren’t shadows after all. It’s always possible that this is it. That brings me to a song that I recommend you taking a listen to and marinating over for a brief time. The song is called “The Window“and it’s based on other interpretations of the Allegory of the Cave and similar works. It really speaks to this issue and conveys some of the feelings I have when I lose myself in these thoughts.

“All that I’ve known’s within the walls of this room, where there’s a window, roughly boarded up. It’s true the gaps are patched, but even through the tiny cracks I feel a wind blow, I see a light of strangest hue. Late in the night I lay awake, my eyes fixed on the window. I strained my ears until I thought that I might have heard a song, somehow hiding in the soft glow, old as time and ever new. I found a note scratched in the wall, in a pained and earnest scrawl. The hand, I recognized, was somehow mine…..I read each line with dread: ~There’s no wind and there’s no light, there’s no song you hear at night, there’s nowhere to hide, be terrified, it’s all inside your head.~ There’s nothing I can say – there’s no way I can prove, that there’s a place, beyond this room. But still, there’s something in the way the light comes shining through and in the way the curtains move.”

 Am I in a room? A cave? Or is this my world?



The 15 Year Vacation

Alicia and I just finished our cruise celebration of 15 years as husband and wife.  Our first vacation as a couple in several years.  The last 9 have included the kids for at least some duration with the focus on each other being secondary.  This year we planned our own so we could celebrate surviving the last 15 years of love, dedication, anger, pain and hard work.  Let’s just say it was quite the rousing success!  One of the best times I’ve ever had and it was just us for 5 straight days (and counting), with a few new friends introduced along the way.  We didn’t know if we could handle each other alone for that duration after all these years but we’re both adorable so we made it.

Our cruise was a 5 day out of Tampa to Grand Cayman and Cozumel.  It was also our 4th cruise with Carnival, if you count our senior cruises, which were separate and definitely not as fun for me.  At any rate, the trip to Tampa was fairly uneventful, which is how I prefer most road trips.  We made several stops and actually arrived at the terminal about an hour earlier than we had planned which is pretty unbelievable considering our track record.  We were able to get on board without much incident and found our cabin pretty quickly as it was on the same deck as the entry gangway, another first for us.  Of course, it wasn’t all that simple as we got to our room to find a couple of bunk beds and a rollaway.  A quick check of the paperwork on the desk of our cabin revealed that the room was intended for a family of 5.  A detour run over to guest services got it cleared up and we kept the room.  Not sure what happened to the family of 5 but I assume they were in a room with a king bed and needed additional amenities.  We quickly moved on from that hurdle as it didn’t take us long to find the icy drinks!  My choice for the week was the Hurricane Wave and Alicia’s was Miami Vice.

Our first full day at sea was action packed and rather restful at the same time.  We didn’t rise early enough for regular breakfast but thankfully, they had something perfect for us, appropriately named “Late Risers Breakfast”.  We had perhaps our most memorable “run-in” at this breakfast.  There was an omelette bar that ran into a buffet.  If you didn’t want an omelette, you just kind of meandered towards the middle of the line and got in somewhere along the buffet.  It was a little chaotic.  Well, it got even more chaotic when a lady decided she would meander to the buffet line but also grab her an omelette without going through the line….right in front of us.  Everyone knows that Alicia and I are yin and yang in the matter of public confrontation and where I may take a moment to consider all outcomes, Alicia tends to react with emotion.  As Alicia instructed this unfortunate woman how lines in normalville worked, she had the nerve to say “If you’ve got your omelette, you don’t worry about me.”  I calmly placed my plate down and began searching for the nearest lifeboat because I knew a hurricane was brewing.  Luckily, only minor position jockeying and territory marking ensued.  After some laughs at the insanity of the whole thing, we were able to continue on our day which included napping, eating and the occasional blackjack hand.  

The end of our day was the highlight as we attended one of the funniest comedy shows in history.  Manny Olivera is one of the funniest riffing comedians I’ve heard and I’ve heard a lot of them.  His standup lacked a bit but when he engaged the audience, he slaughtered them!  I don’t even know if it’s fair to say the standup was lacking because the audience engagement may have just been so good, it made the standup look that way.  Either way, he had a second show on the final day at sea and word had gotten around because the Punchliner was “standing room only” for his closer and it did not dissapoint.  Seriously, quite possibly the highlight of the cruise ship entertainment. We also met Kat, the English comedy club manager that saw us off the boat at our excursions and on the last day as well.  She did very well as the comedy booker.  Also, Lauren from Alabama, who reminded me of Holli from Albany (only in appearance though because Holli would have been able to withstand the comedy barbs), was also a highlight in the comedy club.  This was just an innocent 18 year old girl that came to enjoy a comedy show.  She sat in the front row and was swiftly introduced to the adult world in a way I don’t think she was prepared for.  Oh, Lauren from Alabama.

Our next day was our first port of call – Grand Cayman.  We didn’t have an excursion planned for this one but we knew we wanted to go to the beach.  We followed some advice from fellow shipmates and just flagged a taxi to 7 Mile Beach, which wound up costing us a total of $16 round trip versus the $75 per person the ship was going to charge.  Of course, there were some additional bells and whistles the cruise line offered but all we needed was sand, sun and water.  And we got it for around $20.  We also got an informative and comedic taxi ride of 12 people in a mini van.  The water was beautiful, clear and cool and the beaches were unbelievable.  We also did a bit of shopping for the kids and made it back to the ship in plenty of time for another nap and dinner.  Naps were a common theme of our vacation without the kids.  I miss quiet sleep.

The next day was our second port of call and our big excursion.  Prior to the cruise, Alicia had researched the things to do and we wanted something a little different.  We went with the Amazing Secret River and it was worth every penny!  The taxi over to the mainland and the wait for a missing family (not really missing) placed a little damper on the day as a whole but the excursion was unreal.  The visit to Playa Del Carmen was a nice surprise and it was a good bit different from Cozumel, which we had been to before.  We traveled through the city and into the jungle to explore a 22 mile cave system that had a river running through it.  Cold, blue spring water under ground in the dark and surrounded by bats, silence and 8 new friends made this one unforgettable.  The pictures for this one will follow later as we were not allowed to take our own cameras.  We have a couple of photos on a cd that highlight the beauty of this underground wonder.  We also met Veronica, a recent grad from a university in Mexico, who was starting her career in a field that she had a tremendous amount of passion for.  I saw a lot of guides for this excursion but we couldn’t have had a better one than Vero.  She glowed all day and obviously cared about what she was doing.  It was refreshing to see.  Needless to say, we were worn down by the end of this day and dinner was swiftly followed by sleep.  And game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.  Yeah!

Our last day at sea!  Always bittersweet.  Tired but sad that it’s ending.  There was so much we were able to do but so much more to see and take part in.  We missed the game shows and the hairy chest contest and the lido deck fiesta!  We didn’t miss each other though.  We spent each moment together, awake and asleep, and it was like turning back the clock. it was something we both needed.  We do like being around each other for extended periods after these many years.  We also made some new friends.  

Dinner is always a special time on a cruise because you get placed at a table with 8 other strangers and you have no choice but to get to know them over the week….or skip supper.  We didn’t miss a single night and had a blast with our table.  Mark, Jeanna, Chris, Krystal, Robert and Nesi were all Georgian’s so we hit it off great!  And Wilson and Norma were both from Tampa but originally from Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, respectively.  We saw them on a couple of trips off the boat and thoroughly enjoyed hanging with them as well.  We all gelled and shared stories and food and drinks over several nights in the Elation dining room.  One day we’ll have to plan a reunion and invite Ben and Sara, who we met on our last cruise.  That would be a good time!

Our vacation isn’t quite over as we are slowly making our way back home while fitting in some kayaking and swimming in springs in Florida but we’ll soon be back to reality and will be lost in the day to day grind that is life.  We’ll both be pulled in different directions as we take care of the kids, the bills and Alicia allows me to play softball.  We’ll have some days where we do little more than pass each other in the hall like a couple of cabin stewards trying to keep the ship sailing smoothly.  But we’ll have each other and these memories.  We can look forward to another 15 years that will be similar in ways but likely much different than the last 15.  I guess that is a part of the big story though.  We have to take advantage of the times we have together, just us.  We started this journey a long time ago and we have half our lives ahead of us, God willing.  Here’s to the next 15 Alicia.  I love you!