Shark Thank

Shark Thank

It’s been over a year since I post to my blog. To say these last 365+ days have been a whirlwind is quite an understatement. Still, it feels good to shake off the cobwebs and put fingertips to keys. The question is, however, where to begin?

On Sunday, February 28, 2021, Lee and I were sitting in the attic of our rental home in Dothan, Alabama. We were beginning the ever-exciting process of going through all the ‘stuff’ in the attic, diligently placing items in one of three piles: keep, sell, donate. As the mundane became yawn-inducing, my phone rang. I did not recognize the name on the caller ID, but my wife did. It was the name of a former colleague of hers from years ago. This colleague was now a recruiter for a technology company, and she was asking if I’d be interested in an interview for an opportunity in her organization.

Months earlier, I resigned from my previous job. It was a culmination of multiple issues that prompted me to step away from a role I thoroughly enjoyed, but in the end, I honestly felt the best decision for me was to leave. I took the opportunity to try and gain traction with the small business my wife and I started in 2019, but one client later, I realized the entrepreneurial option was not going to get it done for me. Needless to say, I emphatically said yes to the interview.

The following morning, I had a virtual interview via Microsoft Teams. Twenty-fours later, I had an offer sheet from the company. This new employment, one that is for a remote position, opened the door to the idea of house shopping and moving back to Florida. We contacted a realtor, made an impromptu trip to Tampa, had a maniacal weekend attending open houses and meeting with builders, and five days later we were under contract to build a new house.

In less time than you can say, “What the hell just happened?”, I went from unemployed to on the hook for a large amount of money. Insane doesn’t quite explain the whole experience, but in a lot of ways, it kinda does.

Fast forward through planning a move, finding an apartment, actually starting the new job, coming up to speed with the reality of 15-hour days, packing, cleaning, actually moving, unpacking, settling in; the chaos had no end. It was now May 1, the movers finished unloading all our stuff into our new apartment, and I was sitting at a German pub in New Tampa eating lunch with my best friend. Proximity to my children and my peeps was such a huge reason Lee and I decided to return to the Tampa Bay area, and although I was mentally and physically exhausted post-move, I was also insanely happy to be home.

The year zipped by as we tracked the progress of the house build, got to know our new neighbors at the apartment complex, routinely spent time with my daughter and son (so amazing), languished through a two-month delay in the build due to lack of availability of windows, saw our target completion date come and go, and rang in the new year with nervous anticipation as our lease was coming to an end and we still did not have a set closing date on the house.

Philippians 4:6 teaches us to not worry about anything and to pray about everything. There’s an “easier said than done” aspect about that particular verse in Scripture, but it was one to which we strived to adhere as the level of uncertainty only seemed to mount. And in the end, God, in His perfect timing, opened the doors for us to go month-to-month at the apartment and delivered a closing date for the new house. We closed on February 16, 2022, three hundred forty-two days after we signed the contract with our builder. We moved two weeks later, and here I sit, surrounded once again by boxes and chaos.

I sit here recapping the year that was on the one-year anniversary of my start date with my employer. I can’t believe it’s been a year, and at the same time, it feels like five. I’ve learned so much and have had the pleasure of working with so many excellent people, and it’s so fulfilling to play a small part in a program that helps others in their time of hurt and need.

But this blog post is not about the doors that opened for me as much as it is about the big door that opened for my daughter. As I capped off the workday with a mind full of retrospection, my daughter called to tell me the news she’s been accepted to graduate school. Now, all my brain can do is look ahead and start thinking about the days, weeks, and months that are yet to come.

My giddiness and excitement for the next step in my daughter’s dream becoming a reality are tempered by the realization she will no longer be only twenty minutes away. Instead, she will be on her own, three and a half hours away, her wings outstretched as she soars into this new chapter of her adult life. Natalie will pursue a Master of Science in Nutrition at Nova Southeastern University (#GoSharks), and I know she will excel in every aspect of her studies. I’ve watched in awe as she completed coursework to qualify for this graduate program, and now that investment in herself is paying dividends. Her excitement is palpable, and I’m so eager to watch with vicarious eyes the journey she’s about to undertake.

In this past year, God has granted me a new job, a new residence, a new house, and a wonderful and eclectic collection of new friends. Yet the one thing for which I am most thankful is the experience of hearing my daughter’s elated voice as she said, “I got in!” As a parent, that feeling of sharing in the joy of your child never gets old.

All For Me

All For Me

God is found everywhere, but I know that I really feel and appreciate Him more in those random, serendipitous moments of life. You know, those times when God gives you a wink as if to say, “Here, this is .. All for You.”

After becoming part of the Sister Hazel music community (aka Hazelnuts) back in 2006, Lee and I made the music of Sister Hazel part of the foundation of our relationship. If you trace back all the dominoes that fell that directed us to where we are today – including our renewed faith walk together and moving to the Dominican Republic – all those footsteps of fate lead back to Sister Hazel and everyone we met that summer of 2006. I look back at the last fifteen years of my life, at all those moments in which I was able to .. Hold On .. and I think, “All because two guys in Gainesville decided to start a band.”

God is in the details, and there are so many detailed little memories that make up my story, Lee’s story, and our story; memories that extend from the collection of friends we hold near and dear to our heart, all of whom we met because of music. All because of the friendships that .. Effortlessly .. fell into place.

I just drove back from Florida, a trip in which I got to share time with my two best friends (#MyTwoJeffs), and sandwiched in between that was taking in another Hazel show at the House of Blues. Truth Is .. it felt great to be in those familiar confines, and as I drove back to Alabama, I wondered when we’d be able to see Hazel again. Since that first show in 2005, Lee and I had seen them at least once every year.

Then 2018 happened, and even though we wouldn’t change our mission experience for the world, I have to admit it was a massive departure from the norm. And in that departure was going almost 18 months without seeing our favorite band. It was all very .. Surreal.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I hopped on Facebook this morning and saw SH is playing a show right here in Dothan!

I don’t think I’ve stopped grinning. To say it makes me .. Happy .. is an understatement.

And now I’ll look at the calendar with giddy anticipation for November to .. Come Around .. so Lee and I can not only be in the crowd one more time but also so we can share that experience with the wonderful friends we’ve made since moving to Dothan.

There’s so much in my life for which I am thankful, and I honestly feel my life as of late has been blessing upon blessing. And now, having the date for this concert on my calendar really is a .. Beautiful Thing.

Engage

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in an election year. I know, it’s tough to miss given the re-runs of Apprentice airing on Fox News and CNN. Still, this November 8, we’ll be going to the polls to elect our 45th president.

Election 2016 Illustration

Before that, however, each political party will nominate a candidate to be their representative on that presidential ballot, and primaries or caucuses will be held to help make that determination.

In my state of Florida, we hold a closed primary, meaning only voters who are registered as members of a political party prior to the primary date may participate in the nomination process for its candidates. In Florida,the deadline to register is February 16, which is only 31 days away.

So if you haven’t already, of if you are – like I used to be – registered as an Independent, and you want to take part in the primary election, be sure to complete the registration form and return it to your County Supervisor of Elections (the address can be found on the second page):

[ Florida Voter Registration form (PDF) ]

Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation remember Captain Picard’s quip at the end of nearly every showing as he instructed his crew to proceed to their next destination. “Engage,” he’d say. That is exactly what we need to do as the beneficiaries of our democracy. Engage. We must educate ourselves, discuss the topics at the center of the campaigns, listen, learn, and, most importantly, engage.

Engage

For more information on voting in Florida, click here to visit the State of Florida Voter Information website.
To find out more information about registering to vote in your state, click here to visit the Election Assistance Commission website.  

Cinco Times Two (Equals Ten)

Ten years ago today, I set out with my friends on what remains one of the greatest adventures of my lifetime. I was still new to motorcycling (I did not start riding until March of 2004) and smack in the middle of a transition period in my life.

As I look back at my written re-cap of this trip, it’s very clear to see how not only my writing has grown, but also how I’ve grown as a person. In 2005, I did not maintain God as the focus of my life. I’ve come a long way since then, and I know I still have a long way to go. I thought about editing the more crude parts of my recap, but I decided not to so they will serve as a reminder of the immaturity and lack of tact that, I hope, the evolution of my writing has shed over the past decade.

Still, one thing from my summary of the trip holds true: Don’t be afraid to live your life. To quote myself, “it’s in learning from the misses that we score our biggest hits!”

I hope you enjoy. <click here to read the recap>

Key West 2005
Three wild and crazy guys.

Sebring, Racing, and Camping Culture

I am a sports fan. Underneath that very broad umbrella lies the category of motor sports. I follow motor sports – peripherally – but in no way would I all myself an avid fan.

I am, however, a fan of taking time off of work and taking part in new experiences with my friends. That is how I find myself at Sebring International Raceway this weekend taking in the 12 Hours of Sebring race. I won’t go into specifics about the race except to say it last twelve hours. When you’re sitting out in the sun, drinking beer, and watching cars scream by, twelve hours feels like twenty four.

But for my wife and me, this is less about the race and more about the time shared with friends. For us, it’s about fellowship, and considering we’ve been here since Wednesday, sharing the close confines of a 30-foot camper (i.e. one bathroom), it’s very safe to say we really like our friends.

Our Camper

 

In addition to the good times, grilled food, and empty beer bottles, I have learned a lot these last several days. Here’s a recap in no particular order.

  1. I know very little about camping, campers, RV’s, and the entire culture that goes with it. I am 42 years old, and I feel there is a slew of life lessons I still need to learn like; how to empty the tanks on an RV (I’ll just pay someones else to do it for me, thank you very much), and how a refrigerator can run off propane (I am still perplexed).
  2. Corvettes are beautiful. Prototype Corvettes are bleeping gorgeous. Vette Prototype
  3. The logistics that go into a racing team – specifically for endurance racing like Sebring – are amazing. From scheduling how long a particular driver will be out of the track to tuning the car to account for weather, wind direction, surface temperature, to the crew involved with loading and hauling the cars; it’s all mind-blowing when you stop and think about it. I know all motor sports teams deal with it, but to see it so up close makes it a more tangible experience.
  4. Green Park at Sebring is Spring Break for old men. Yes, there are many who partake in the festivities of the free-for-all that is Green Park (an open camping area on the north end of the track), but for the most part, it seems to be dominated by dudes looking at 40 in the rear view mirror and still trying to drink as if they were 20. If you’re looking for a crazy party atmosphere, Green Park is something you may want to experience. If you’re looking something a bit more family friendly, then Green Park is something you’ll want to avoid. Green Park Party Animal
  5. There’s no escaping the sound of the race cars. They wake you up in the morning (practices start at 8:00), and the high-pitched whine of a car accelerating out of a turn will seep into your subconscious. Even in the moments between races and practices, you’ll swear you can hear cars running. It’s akin to having sea-legs after a cruise. I will probably hear the buzzing of race cars in my brain for the next week.
  6. There are a lot of innovative campers at Sebring. From makeshift disco lounges, to tents anchored by pickup trucks, to elaborate party zones, the campers at Sebring have merged the best of function, imagination, and craftiness when it comes to watching the race.

As the race comes to a close, I look back with a relatively proud, “been there, done that” attitude. Growing up in Florida, Sebring was something I’d always heard about, and it’s cool I am now able to say I’ve experienced it. In many ways, it reminds me of when I finally got around to watching a shuttle launch.

I’m eager to continue to check off the list things to do in Florida, and we’re already planning to do the 24 Hours at Daytona in 2016. But whatever the event or the destination, what makes it all worthwhile is being able to share those experiences with the people you love.

Team Sebring

Three Six Five Four

You’ve heard the old cliché: Time to close this chapter in your life.

Have you ever had a season in your lifetime that was more like closing a book …. and moving on to a new book ….. in a different library ….. on the other side of town? That was my 2004.

I’m a big fan of milestones. It’s amazing to me that in January, I will hit the mark of having lived in Tampa longer than I did in my hometown (17 year, 6 months). Last June, I celebrated my five year wedding anniversary with my wife. Just last month, I reached seventeen years of service with my employer. It really is amazing how time flies.

But now as we’ve reached the end of Summer 2014, I am hitting a new set of decade-long milestones in my life. The second-half of 2004 was brutal for me. In addition to dealing with the savaging hurricanes that pummeled Florida that summer, my life was – for lack of a better phrase – in a free fall.

My marriage had dissolved. I was living at my friend’s house, getting by on a steady diet of beer (as in cases) and no sleep. I was unsure of what each day would bring, and, in poetic parallel to Mother Nature’s wrath, everything seemed like a dizzying whirlwind.

As if that weren’t enough, it was 10 years ago yesterday – 3,654 days – that my father passed away.

His passing was expected. Having been diagnosed in the summer of 2002 with Mesothelioma, we knew the outlook for my dad’s life was not a long term one. He underwent chemo and battled his cancer, along the way prolonging his life just enough to sneak in some extra memories with his grand children. I remember shortly after his diagnosis he and I went out for beers, no longer sharing a father-son relationship, but rather one of friends. For one night, we were drinking buddies, and I remember laughing at the fact I out-drank my dad and had to proverbially carry him home.

Losing my dad was tough. In the time following his death, I’d still pick up the phone to call him during Miami Dolphins games. As my kids took up recreational soccer, I’d anguish inside at the fact he was no longer around to see them play. My mentor for all things DIY was gone. I didn’t just lose my dad. I lost my friend and my hero. Although the memory of my dad still influences me and what I write, it’s not the same as if he were still alive.

They say time heals all wounds. There is some truth to that. Wounds do heal, but some wounds never disappear. After ten years, I can still see in me the void that exists with the absence of my father. My life is amazingly better today than it was at this time ten years ago (a testament to God’s amazing grace and His ability to put us back together). But I still miss my dad, and I am saddened that he never got to know the me I am today. I know he was proud of me, but the me he knew in his final days was a lie. I showed him a facade to keep him from seeing the lying, cheating, and broken man I was at that time.

I hope that when it comes time for us to meet again in Heaven, he’ll meet me with a hug and with the words, “You did good, son.” The book of Matthew teaches us to store our treasures in Heaven. In trying to be the best dad to my kids that I possibly can be, I like to think I’m doing just that. 

My eulogy for my father

Dad

My Contribution To PolicyMic

I was honored to have been asked to contribute to PolicyMic, a site devoted to, “amplifying excellent unheard voices from across the political spectrum.” Being in Florida, I was asked to provide a submission about the possibility of Senator Marco Rubio being selected as the Vice Presidential candidate for the GOP.

Click on the link below to read my piece on PolicyMic.

Marco Rubio VP Pick Would Put Romney Over the Top