Sunday, March 17, 2013

Appreciative of the Little Things

You have heard that you need to focus on the "Big Picture" right? You cannot see the forest for the trees. Don't sweat the small stuff and on and on. All these sayings are very good words of wisdom. They tell us how important it is to make a master plan of things (no matter what the issue) and develop all the smaller pieces underneath. When you write a story, you come up with a point, and then define that into usually three sub-topics. When I design a building, I don't begin with the lavatory or door knob first, I have to begin with the overall concept and then return to the smaller items when it comes time.

But I think sometimes we don't appreciate the little things as much as we should. We look at the overall and miss out on the minuscule. Minuscule, not insignificant. How many times have you missed out on something precious because you were rushing around doing something else. Something that was obviously more least it was at that time.

When we are younger, we strive to become successful, to develop our careers, to initiate the "plan", whatever that may be. It isn't usually until later in our lives that we begin to realize that all that running around has made us miss some of the more special times. We were always focused on the big picture that we missed out things that we didn't realize (yet) how important those little moments would become.

I look back now and wish that I had spent more time with my grandmother while she was living with us when I was in high school. I could have found out about the history, about her life during the depression, about my grandfather that I never met and countless other stories.

Or how about hearing stories from my father, unfortunately he passed away after my first year of college. I didn't even get the chance to understand about life to ask him questions about what it all meant. Or his life growing up. Because of those missed little moments, I will always have an incomplete hole in my life.

That makes me wonder what I have missed about my kids. While I was so busy building a business, what was missed when they were growing up. I know I wished I had taken more pictures than I had. It is so much easier now that we live in the digital world. Cell phones with cameras and the wonderful social network that allows us to post everything.....if we choose. Sometimes too much....sometimes too little.

What was I thinking about? Probably the big picture. I do remember some of the little moments. I do recall the funny things the kids said or did. They make me laugh when we recount them. You know it was just the other day that all four kids were just little babies. Where did the time go? They are all grown now and either married or about to get married. They have their lives now. They have their relationships now. They have their ambitions now. Just like we did.

I have to force myself to slow down sometimes and look more closely at the little pieces or moments. The times when my wife and I can sit in our garden in the mornings and enjoy a nice cup of coffee before work. Or maybe the moments when my flowers begin blooming in that garden and I get to trim them up and enjoy how wonderfully beautiful they are. Even the patio is wonderful with the fire crackling while we relax in the evening after a long day.....or a short day.

When we travel I so much dislike the drive. I have to force myself once again to take the time to see what is special and not miss out on the moments. Driving back from Lubbock Texas this last week I joked about what there wasn't to see. But there were a dozen times that I wanted to pull over and take a picture of the old rusted gas station in that tiny town to small to even be called a town. Or the cactus plants that looked amazing growing up along miles of barbed wired fences held up with crooked wooden posts. There was this one shot that I could visualize in my camera lens where there were a cluster of trees barren of any leaves or for that matter any signs of life. It wasn't warm enough for spring to kick in yet. These trees were dark and the branches just looked wicked like some sort of menacing black forest. But alas we didn't stop at any of those was more important to make time down the road. A missed opportunity.

My wife and I visited New Orleans this last week and while there was so much big stuff to see, we chose the small stuff. Yes we took some times of some of the main architectural structures but we spent the majority of that brief afternoon taking pictures of all the unique homes around the French Quarters. And not just a picture of the entire home but I focused on the idiosyncratic characteristics of their doors. So many different colors and shapes. And then even further looking at the iron work on the garden entrances and the brass door knockers. You could see the age in these pieces and possibly a story behind each. I wonder what story each held? I may never know, but the families that have lived there certainly may....I hope.

I realize now that before long my kids will have their own families. We will just be the grandparents. You know that long road over the river and through the woods? It is long sometimes. This weekend our oldest son had to have emergency surgery. He had problems with his stomach that was ultimately discovered it was his gallbladder that was infected. It was minor surgery but any surgery is scary. He was certainly in pain. It troubles us as parents when our children are suffering and we cannot help. We didn't do much to help. We just sat and waited the weekend. Yes, I could have accomplished so much after being gone on the trip for over a week and my wife for two weeks. But that wasn't important. Being there was important. Just a small moment in the overall big picture, but still important.

You don't know when time has slipped away until it is already gone. Once it is pasted you cannot click the remote control of life to step back in time to replay. (I do that to often. Look for the remote to replay what someone said or did like everything could be controlled by a armchair electronic. Well not today anyway but maybe someday.) When it is gone....the moment is gone. Rarely do we really catch the moment....the real precious moments on camera. I guess that is why they are special because they continue to live with us in our hearts and minds. Not in some digital folder. But if your not there....even that won't exist. I am glad we were here, even if we did nothing but sit. And sit. And more sit. We are here.....for the moment.

Be sure my friends to spend time with your family and enjoy each and every moment.....not just the big ones.....but appreciate even the little ones!

This song just came on the radio: Cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

March Madness - AFTERCATION

Ok, here is my last blog post for our trip. It is no longer a vacation but an aftercation. Wednesday's journey from just outside Atlanta was pretty much the end of rest and relaxation and the beginning of work. Actually, the moment we left New Orleans was the end. There is the moment when you realize that your vacation is over that sort of feels like the last Christmas present that is being opened. It is all over.....backup to the normal....whatever normal is in our lives.

I will have to qualify this not really as a vacation though. That would have to be a period of time that exceeds 24 hours, maybe even more like 72 hours could qualify. However, a minimum of a week would be preferred. We had the destination of Lubbock with a purpose for that portion of the trip......driving great distances across Texas and Louisiana cannot in any way be consider "part of a vacation". New Orleans.....yes that was a respite for a period of 6:15PM on Monday night to 2:00PM the following afternoon......less than 24 hours......does not qualify as a vacation but certainly a nice time. We will have to do it again to see more.

We were trying to head out of New Orleans to make it into Atlanta to possibly visit with an old high school buddy but unfortunately staying longer in NOLA prevented that. There are some other friends there that make Atlanta fun as well. Perhaps another trip? Then it was on to Columbia for the first jobsite meeting. After a few hours of field measuring and photographs on one of the strangest and largest Wendy's I have ever seen. We are going to have to be creative to figure this anomaly out. My wife also has a good friend that she wanted to visit with that evening for a time but our client pushed another Wendy's up in the work schedule in Durham, North Carolina and we needed to head that way. There could be some fun in that part as well but alas it looks like we are going to push to make it home tonight. See I did try to throw a little pleasure into the mix.....or a lot of pleasure into a little mix....or maybe it was just a sprinkle......okay can you tell I am bored driving....well riding right now as my wife drives.

I am really not a fan of driving long distances. Not sure how my wife does it. She left almost two weeks ago from home driving to Texas and now thanks. Maybe we can come back soon. We will more than likely have to come back down to Columbia when the construction drawings are completed. That could be a fun trip. The city looked like it had some fun sites to see. A long weekend would be good. And then again in June once the construction begins. I am sure that there will be some things that need figured out as we begin demolition and expose some of the structural concerns. A short stay in Columbia and then maybe on to NOLA for another visit....a summer visit.....sounds fun. I can't wait.

But until that time friends you will have to wait as well to hear about another madness trip......June Madness? Summer Madness? Not the same ring. Until then my friends.....enjoy!

PS. Before I got the chance to post this, we had arrived home that evening around 6PM. My wife briefly talked with my oldest son who lives nearby with his wife about some health problems he has been experiencing. He had some stomach problems that were giving him some great pain. Then at 3AM that morning our daughter in law called us saying they were taking him to the hospital. He was having problems breathing. Long story short, after many tests they confirmed it was his gallbladder. Several surgeries are needed to clear out the tubes of stones and then remove his gallbladder. See......the madness always continues around here.

Love your children NOW my friends.
It hurts us parents to see them in pain or trouble.

Et this I believe

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March Madness - New Orleans style

We couldn't wait to get to New Orleans Monday night. I had made reservations to stay in the French Quarters at Bourbon Orleans Hotel. A fun historic place right in the middle of it all. Unfortunately our drive took us much longer Monday than we would have hoped. We weren't going to make it in until after 6:00. We were acting like a bunch of kids on their way to Disney.....counting down the miles!

It was awesome as we pulled up to the hotel and checked in. The hotel was beautiful and the room we selected was in the older section of the structure....of course! What else would suffice? We had a sweet little balcony over looking the courtyard and heated saltwater pool. We read up on the history of the hotel while waiting for our bags to be brought up. A quick clean up and shave and we hit the town.

It was awesome to see the sights that I have only really seen on tv. All the famous locations we had to take a quick snapshot of before we found a place to eat. We were starving by now. We were recommended a casual fine dining place called Orleans Grapevine where we sat out in the garden courtyard under a heated umbrella. It was fantastic. We enjoyed a bottle of red and relaxed enjoying a night to ourselves. Appetizers, fresh bread with bourbon butter, of course my wife got chicken.....she always does. Lol. I had bowl of crawfish soup and swordfish steak. All of it finished off with....what else? Key lime pie! The best!

Okay enough eating.....lets see what this Bourbon Street is all about. It probably isn't going to be too busy since there isn't a party and it is Monday night......WRONG! Every night apparently is a party in The French Quarters! A live band in every bar, people singing, people dancing and yes people drinking. It was funny just to watch it all......and then.....yep......the clock struck 10PM and we were both pooped......had to go to We are so old. Less than four hours and we are done. What a bunch of party poopers we are. It was still craziness.

We awoke the next morning and got a nice breakfast at the Roux downstairs before heading out to get souvenirs and t-shirts. We always get the traditional pair of ear rings.....not for wife. And new coffee mugs. Once that was checked off the list it was time to set out walking to see everything we could over the next five hours or so before we needed to get back on the road.

We got the chance to see a few of the sites fresh in the morning light without all the crowds. I guess they didn't go to bed at 10 and were still in bed! The architecture is so diverse and unique in the French Quarters. Different styles side by side. Some with porches, some with full balconies, some with small partial ones. Some had yards in front and some had courtyards. Some were just a single skinny salt box while others were comprised of three small structures surrounding a garden in the middle. It was great.

There were areas where many homes had been completely refinished yet others that were about to fall down. So strange. Of course there was the thought of IONIC NOLA......what do you think? I like it. I think this needs to be given some more thought.

We did a quickly study of all the different doors in the area....okay not all of them but a lot. You will have to wait and see my results of the research. With tired feet, we grabbed a fried crawfish po boy sandwich and headed out of town. On to the next adventure.

Goodbye NOLA, we will be back to visit again soon.

Enjoy my friends.
Et this I believe.

March Madness - Day 3 and 4

Today was a little less dramatic. After a late evening chatting with the Young's, we had to get up early for church and deal with the daylight savings loss of sleep. Class was fun with all the young men and women. And service was pretty much right on cue other than the fact that there were over 1200 in attendance. Slightly bigger than we are used maybe 150 It was different.

Wrapping up our day and visit with lunch at a Mexican restaurant.....of course, we couldn't leave Texas without! And then leaving the kids.

Long drive across Texas without much to see. Tumbleweed, windmills, cattle, little tiny towns, cactus and long roads without anything else. We decided to push on since we got a later start out of Lubbock and drive past Dallas as far as we could.

Nothing special. I don't like

We stopped the other side of Dallas at just a random place....random as far as we could drive at night sort of place. We were pooped with all the activities of the weekend so rest and sleep was good. A little too good, we should have got up earlier so we could have made it in quicker to New Orleans.

So we hit the road Monday for another long drive. Nothing special about this drive other than the time when a truck pulling a flat bed trailer full of giant canvas bags of pecans. I mean huge bags, like four foot tall and four foot square! No that isn't the exciting part. Half of this giant bag spilled over and scattered all over the highway bouncing back towards us doing 75 mph. Crazy stuff! (Breakout in song, "It's raining men.......I mean pecans, hallelujah, it's raining pecans") okay so maybe not a top ten hit but you get the idea.

Drive drive drive drive and more drive.........tune in to the next episode to find out if our heros make it New Orleans safely, was there more chaos?, what happens on Bourbon Street?.....Will what happens on Bourbon Street stay on Bourbon Street?

And there you have it.
Drive safe my friends!

Et this I believe

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March Madness - day 2

Okay after all the craziness from yesterday, I can finally enjoy a little peace. Last night we all went out for a dinner at The Cotton Patch and had the special.....fried catfish. Yep....we're in Texas. It was an opportunity to get to know our son's future in-laws from Alaska. It was good and we had fun discussions and getting to know each other better.

After that, I hit the sack and was out fast. But woke up at 6:10 this morning...just like clockwork. Texas time. Went for a run to test out my rested Achilles and did a slow 3 miles. Yep it was sick of this. Just gonna have to ice and stretch this thing during our vacation and keep the runs to short ones. I have to be ready for the 8K in a week. Glad I only signed up for that instead of the half marathon....however the Dismal Swamp half is only five weeks away. Got to get this thing cured.

After the run we had breakfast in the lobby with the Young's continuing on our " getting to know each other" conversations.

Rest and relaxation is good, even if I have to force myself to take it.

So after a few housekeeping duties we headed over to the campus to a meeting for parents of the newly returned AIM students. It was all about how we can support the kids when they return from such a dramatic environment. Many have been in countries where the financial and economic climate were so bad that many of the people they knew went hungry or were politically repressed. Coming back home from that to a land where we have so much....and waste so much....and care so little is troubling. It is a re-entry process. Having been away for 18 months and returning to friends who don't really care, don't have time, don't want anything else but the Cliff note version of their experiences. That is difficult. It was a good talk and we all contributed how us as parents have dealt with their absence and return.

Afterwards we visited a neat little place called The Crafthouse & Gastropub. Some unique beers on tap and nasty little snacks to hold us over until the evening meal. If you ever make it to Lubbock, not that it is the great Mecca for tourism, visit this little retreat.

The graduation and meal was pretty amazing. There were over 700 people that were people there in attendance. Some this class, some past classes, some assistants, instructors, sponsors new Aimers and all the parents and families. A really good turn out. Some fun little discussions and then the graduates. Each walked up from their individual mission fields. About 40 in all. For many this was the end of their journey, for others it was just a short stop along the way. An emotional event for many.

At the conclusion, what we had been waiting for, our son had asked to speak to the assembly. He eagerly jumped to the podium, made a few thank you's and then said that he wasn't there for that today. He reached under the podium, grabbed something we couldn't tell but had an idea. And with microphone in hand to jumps off the stage and ran over to his beautiful girlfriend. Her smile was beaming across her face. His words went something like this:
"In front of all these people, our friends, our families and a whole bunch of people I don't even know who they are." Then he got down on one knee, open up the little box and asked, "Would you be my wife?"

Still smiling and probably speechless, she nodded yes and he slipped the ring on her finger. The audience erupted in cheers and clapping. A pretty exciting moment. Our son succeeded in showing his love in a big way. And with that, my wife and I knew we were now completely empty nestors. Our little boy was no longer a little boy....but we already knew that.

After all the congratulations and meetings and greetings, the two love birds took us leaving us parents behind. So all four of us went to celebrate ourselves at a place called Manna Bread and Wine. Great eclectic hoe in the wall spot that will be another favorite spot for dinner on one of our return visits. More great chatting and finally an end to a long day.

Achilles hurts, I am tired and tomorrow the time changes. He plan on hitting the road to Dallas after church and lunch.

With that, we ended our second day of March Madness.
Enjoy my friends....your kids grow up fast.

Et this I believe

Saturday, March 9, 2013

March Madness Journey

The NCAA is celebrating 75 years of March Madness this season.....I am enjoying my first day of madness.

Here is the beginning of my journey that started off just what the title says....madness! My wife, son and future daughter-in-law headed out of Virginia Beach last Sunday driving all the way to Texas. They planned on taking a few days getting there and stoping by my mothers to say hello. A couple of days they made it there and then the last day driving on from Oklahoma to Lubbock. Pretty uneventful and they had the ability to switch drivers along the way.

This whole trip was planned to go back and watch the kids graduate from their AIM Program. It is a missions ministry called Adventures in Missions that took my son to Bolivia and my DIL to South Africa. Pretty amazing kids. Anyway we planned on getting there and meeting her parents at the same time. I couldn't take off that much time from work so they drove and I was going to meet them the following Friday by flying out. I me a bum. Couldn't help it. Too much work to do. And the work week was crazy all along the way. Every night working until at least 10PM. But that is another story.

So lets start the story from Friday morning. Early morning. My flight was scheduled out at 6:55 so it was going be about 4:30 wake up time. Well I got a call for some 800 number at 2AM and I almost didn't answer it. But I did.....flight delayed until 8:30. Okay that may not be too bad. I texted my daughter and told her to sleep in another hour as it had been delayed. While I was awake I ended up reading an email from a client that had responded about a new design we had done. Long email, a hour later, think I can go back to sleep.....couldn't really.

Finally up plenty of time. ll is good. Daughter slept in and I had to call her. Still plenty of time. I get the airport at 6:30 and they gave me great seats in the exit aisle. Fantastic! And my connecting flight from Dallas to Lubbock was only an hour later. No big deal. So instead of arriving at noon, it would be 1:00. No worries. After all this was going to be a vacation as well. I was even joking them the ticket attendant about someone waking me up at two in the morning. You will have to keep reading the post updates about this travel experience and see if it continues to be madness. So far though all is good. Then the attendant says, "Here you go, hopefully that flight will make it." Huh? A sign of troubles right there.

So I head up to the security, again no problems. This is a breeze, I have don't this before many times. I have it down to a science. I head over to the Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a muffin and just relax. Type a little story, make a few posts. All is good.

Then a get another call from that 800 number....hum? No body on the other end as this are automated. I hung up. A few minutes later the call comes in again. I answer, waiting for the other end. The flight has been delayed again......this time until 12:30! Really? And the kicker is now my connecting flight has been pushed even further back. I won't get in until almost 6PM! This is crazy. Already there is a ridiculous long line at the gate so something had obviously happened. Broke part, waiting on it to arrive. So that may not get there and it may not even be ready until after the 12:30 window passes.

I make a call rather than waiting in the ridiculous line and I am glad I did. After an eternity on hold they switched me to another airlines that was leaving at 9:41 to Atlanta, and then onto Dallas.......still won't arrive in Lubbock until late. But I am moving. Yes, now I got stuck in the middle seat....yeah :(

Ok, pause in the action. I am writing this on the plane. Go take a potty break, get some popcorn and get ready for .....the rest of the story.

Ok we are back and we return to our hero battling the struggles of air travel.....okay I can call myself a hero if I want.

Anyway, we landed Atlanta without incident and I headed on over to the gate counter just to make sure everything was okay. After all things happen. The lady at the Delta counter asked me why isn't they give you a better seat? I don't know, I just feel lucky that I am making it there......6 hours after I was supposed to be. She apologized.....hey it wasn't her fault, things happen. It wasn't even her airlines. She handed me a ticket had been upgraded! Awesome! So great, I thanked her when I went back up to board the plane. So I don't know what this lady's name was but she was at gate B09 in Atlanta for flight 2010. If word ever makes it back to her...tell her a big thank you!

So now I started adding up the arrival times because I didn't have them before. I was going to be sitting in Dallas for two more hours before my flight that AA had booked for me. Okay.....but there were two other flights before that. What?! Now I was upset....why didn't they first try to get me better seats on the Delta...what's the deal? And second why didn't they book me an earlier flight out of Dallas? Not cool! And let's do one more. Three, they knew at 6:30 that my once delayed flight wasn't going to make it at 8:30.....why not switch me then?

Okay, we will see if my wife can make the changes for the earlier flight when I land. I flight now, happy, have a monster leather seat and all the leg room and no body next to me.......why didn't AA take care of me?

We will be back right after these brief messages from our sponsors.

Ok, we want to thank our sponsors for today's episode of madness, they are Excedrin, Tums and Lone Star Beer.....just not all at the same time!

Got off of the extremely peaceful flight from Atlanta to Dallas hoping to get a text from my wife once I turned my cell phone back on about an earlier flight on into Lubbock. No such luck though. She said there didn't appear to be any vacancies. So I headed to the actual gate to ask. Maybe someone wouldn't show up and I could be on standby. Long train ride to the next terminal, DFW airport is huge. This meant waiting around for two and a half hours or just fifty minutes if I could get on this earlier flight.

I went up to the gate, the actual gate changed on the monitor twice from when I left by other flight to the new gate, that was making me a little worried. I told my story, he gave me a easy as that! Awesome. I felt like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and just received the last golden ticket! So excited......then the fire alarm went off! No way! This would be my luck, however after about five minutes it stopped. False alarm.

The flight was a little puddle jumper, okay maybe just a little bigger, but it was tight. Who cares, I got on! Didn't get a chance to write this final episode until this morning. I sat next to a lady who was just getting back from Guatemala with some teens on a mission trip. She took up all my time in conversation......I was in The midwest....friendly people....that was great.

Got off the flight, saw my lovely wife dressed in red waiting for me. I could wait to kiss her and hug her and.........


et this i believe
Another day in the adventures of Eugene Thompson.....but that is my life!
Enjoy my friends