As we move through life, we reflect often. We all have a place from our pasts that gave us solitude, a place where you were allowed to just be a kid.  I had one of those places growing up. Located just down the hill from my old elementary school, and up the street from my old house. A place where fond memories were made, a place where I felt safe. Close your eyes, go back in time, when life was innocent and listen to the sounds of silence.

The grass was usually up to my waist in mid-summer. I walked slowly and felt the thick, dry grass tickle my legs. The air blasted like a hot furnace. When I stopped, no air moved,  which magnified the loud, whining, buzz-saw sound of the cicadas. I crept down the foot-wide, dirt path. Griffin’s Pond was nestled at the bottom of the field.

A crooked path circled the pond. A ceiling of tree branches leafed out overhead, and it felt like you were walking in a dark, green tunnel.  Through the towering white pine trees, I glanced at our smoky fire pit waiting for me to return. The burnt remains of sticks mixed with the white pines smelled like old mints.

The thick brush and fat, brown clusters of cat-o-nine tails reflected a mirror image. Green water lilies with tiny, white flowers floated in the muck as dragonflies hovered over the pond like a formation of helicopters. A bullfrog’s head popped up out of the water and stared at me. I saw algae dripping off of his shiny head. Water striders skimmed across the water like miniature pontoon boats leaving a trail behind them.

I sat down on the cool bank of the pond and felt the damp dirt through my jeans. The sun illuminated the shallow water and I peered to the bottom. Clouds of dirt puffed as the sun fish darted by. Minnows gulping for food made a plopping noise and left bubbles on the surface. I pelted the water with a handful of pebbles that swooshed as they tore holes in the algae, disturbing the silence. A box turtle about the size of my hand slid into the water, torpedoed down, and hid under a log. I grabbed a handful of water and slime. It felt like thick soup and smelled like the garbage under our kitchen sink when the lid is off.

The sun danced like sparklers on the water. I squinted my eyes and felt my tan cheeks stretch.Two brown ducks in the tall reeds took off. They flew about five feet above the water where their crystal clear reflections made them look like bags of flour. Their flapping wings blurred like fans. They landed like sea planes halfway across the pond,  hitting the water with the sound of hissing steam. The force of their landing sent waves rippling in every direction. I stood up.

Over the small hill on the far side of the pond, I heard the cars on the parkway zooming by like bees. Their sound wrecked the solitude of the pond. I sat down, and the cars vanished from my sight. I was hidden again from civilization, in my own private world of Griffin’s Pond. I looked at the refections in the water. I closed my eyes, the world went away. Years later, I went back to visit. This time with a blank canvas, paints and brushes. Griffin’s Pond stayed the same as I remembered it, but I had changed. How do you capture a lifetime of memories with a stroke of a brush? One stroke at a time. Can you hear it?  Life was good. 


Get Real.



We live in a world where we connect and engage by texting, facebook, face time, tweets, blogs, e-mail, smart phones and we are empowered in all things technological. We might feel empowered, and connected but sometimes we’re not. Especially when it comes to family. Sometimes, we really live in an artificial, communication world.

Last weekend in Hamilton Missouri, the town celebrated the  50th anniversary of Northwest Missouri’s Gas & Steam Engine show.  My wife’s grandparents on both sides were the founding fathers of the show. My wife’s family on both sides, and my father in law, were being honored. That, coupled with two family reunions, became my destiny. At first, I wasn’t interested in going because I’m busy running a company, the travel seemed overwhelming, but this was a big deal to my wife.

My father-in- law, has been in a nursing home for a while now and never complains about anything. Probably the nicest person I’ve ever met.His wife, my mother-in-law is in the same home, has severe Alzheimers and unfortunately, wouldn’t be attending.  Knowing that my wife’s parents were aging in their later years, with fragile health and wanting to support my wife, I went.

Mr. big time, ad guy, who’s created ads for American Idol, Toby Keith and Ford,  who lives in a communication world creating awareness,  connecting, engaging, and making impressions. I packed my bags, and drove 13 long hours to Missouri. In a town of approx. 1,700 people and 1.4 square miles, life took on new meaning in the town where the founder of J.C. Penny was born.

 A long dusty road gave way to a large field, brimming with hundreds of steam engines, puffing smoke, cutting wood, making steam, powering tractors of all shapes and sizes over 100 years old- a place where I’d spend 2 days with families gathered, grandparents, aunts, uncles, in- laws, nieces, cousins, 2nd cousins and kids.Friday evening, we rode on a flat bed truck, sitting on hay bales, wearing matching shirts, in a parade honoring my wife’s families. Families cheered us on, clapped as names were announced, and kids ran for candy. On Saturday, there was simple food, real people, where everyone contributed something- sandwiches, salads, beans, veggies, chips, and desserts and lots of love- and they showed it, with a smile, a handshake, a hug, a few pictures, but it didn’t get posted on facebook.

No one was tethered to a smart phone, no texting, facebook – just real people, talking in real time, catching up, reminiscing, laughing, telling stories. The only thing that mattered was that I was family and I was related to them through my wife who they hadn’t seen in years. I watched a tractor pull for hours- Brenda’s Uncle Charlie Moss came in 1st place going 262’ 10” in the 2,500 weight class. I had a lemon shake and it never tasted so good. I drove a steam engine tractor. A 1917 Rumley with no brakes, cast iron wheels, and 1 gear around the large field, and even parked it perfectly.

My father-in-law is legally blind with macular degeneration, but while driving on miles of hilly country roads, he knew every home, a mile apart from one another, the stories of the people who lived there, where he met his wife 65 years ago, were he grew up, where he went to school, and he knew exactly where Tom’s creek would show up on our drive-and it did. He gave new meaning to GPS- his was built in with life’s experiences.

We casually use the phrase “Get Real.” At the end of 2 days, I witnessed that come to life. It reminded me of the importance of real awareness, real face time, real engagement, where blogging meant a clogged fuel line, tweeting was a sound that a bird makes, public speaking was done without trying to convince anyone to buy something or do anything and a smart phone was no phone at all. As I drove the 742 miles home, with each mile slowly transitioning into the world I live in, I pondered that sometimes, real advancement means stopping and taking a step back. Real communication and engagement is one-on-one and personal.

I made a commitment to un-plug more often, to really engage more with loved ones and toget real, once again. I’d encourage all of you to do the same in your way. Maybe tuck your phone away during lunch with family or a friend, at your next meeting or while watching a movie with a loved one.  And if the opportunity ever comes your way, even drive a tractor, at least once.