Warning: This Article Contains Truth

family

When I was a kid my mom would always collect our photographs and put them in a scrapbook. We loved to go back and look through them and remember the good times that we had. Almost all of the pictures showed us having fun and getting along. We were on vacation, or eating good food, or opening Christmas presents, and it made it look like our lives were a wonderland filled with joy.

My mom never put pictures in our scrapbook of me trying to run over my brother with a power rake, or my sister falling off of a horse and breaking her tailbone, or the time we had to stay home all Thanksgiving  weekend because of the great chicken pox outbreak. Why isn’t there pictures of that? Who in there right mind is going to take a picture of their oldest son trying to run over another son with a dangerous piece of machinery?

I was thinking today about scrapbooks and social media. Social media is used for a lot of things but a majority of what people post is really like the scrapbooks that my Mom used to put together. It’s the good stuff. It’s the things that we cherish and that we want to remember. That’s also what I put on this blog. It’s a scrapbook. I don’t want to insinuate that everything is awesome but that’s how it comes across because I want to remember the good things.

I know you all probably assume this already, but it isn’t all sunsets and ice cream cones while we travel. I have a lot of worries and fears. It’s time for me to add some reality to this blog. Here goes.

I Don’t Know How to Parent: I don’t know what I am doing as a parent. I love my children and I want what’s best for them but I probably don’t always do what is best for them. Sometimes it is easier to let them have as many Otter Pops as they want than to say no. Sometimes I just want to buy them what they want and spoil them. It’s hard for me to walk the line between showing love and showing discipline. I’m worried that I am going to screw them up with my parenting. There are nights I can’t sleep because I am so worried about whether or not I am doing more good than bad.

My Kids Don’t Like Everything We Do: Do you remember the angst of being a teenager, or the boredom of being a child? Yeah, my kids have that too. I don’t really blame them but I want them to appreciate and love everything we do, and they don’t, and I need to get over it because I don’t even like everything either.

Marisa and I Get in Fights: When you are with each other almost 24 hours a day in a small space you best learn to communicate. At the beginning of our trip we fought a lot and we learned that we had to communicate a lot better than we did when I worked full time and we hardly saw each other. We couldn’t ignore the crap. We have learned to hash it out and communicate and forgive quickly when we have fights, because we will have them.

I Still Question Our Decision: Marisa and I put a lot of thought and prayer about this trip before we left and we know that this is what God wanted us to do. That doesn’t mean that on a day to day basis I question if we are doing what is best for our family. I worry about my kids and if it is good for them to wake up in a new town and state day after day. I question whether it was a good idea to quit a job I enjoyed. When things break down on our RV I wonder why we decided to live in a house on wheels when we had such a good thing going at home.

I Miss Living in a House: It was very freeing for us to get rid of most of our possessions and move into a small space, and I want to live a more minimalistic lifestyle for the rest of my life. I do miss having a bigger house. I miss not having having hot water always available. I miss having a shower I can fit in. I miss having more than 3 days worth of food in our fridge. I miss lazy Sunday afternoons in our neighborhood visiting dear friends. I miss being nearer to my parents.

I Am Not Perfect: I know that this is not surprise to anyone and I am not trying to imply that you think I am, but I need to admit it. I am quick to anger at times and I am slow to love. I still fight depression and anxiety even though I am on a long trip. I have a hard time eating healthy and I struggle with my weight. I often don’t have enough gratitude for the blessings that I have.

None of these things are earth shattering but I wanted to point out that life is not only what is on the blog or our scrapbook. I’m glad we are on this trip and I know that we are blessed to be able to do it. Just like you however, my life is not always easy and fun and there are days that I don’t want to get up.

I just hope that when our trip is done I can look back at this blog and remember the lessons learned and the wonderful experiences. I want to remember the many people that influenced me and helped me move forward. I hope I can do the same as I look back on my life. There will be good and bad, but I hope with all my heart that I have improved, and grown, and become better.

~Michael~

Better Plans are Those Unplanned

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Now don’t get me wrong. I have lived a life of planning and I think that it is necessary for us to plan our lives. You know the old saying, “if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.” However, one of the things that I have learned on my trip is that sometimes the best things that happen are unplanned. In addition, we can miss the best things in life that are around us right now, because our mind is planning for something in the future.

As our family travels, we don’t usually plan much more than the next stop we are going to make and more often than not, we decide where our next destination is the day before we leave our current camping spot. This usually serves us well and we don’t usually have a hard time finding camping spots. However, when we decided to come to the Asheville, North Carolina area we had a really hard time finding a camping spot that was open.

We finally found a place called Lake Junaluska campground in Waynesville and it was awesome. We had never heard of it and the night we pulled in it was across a busy highway from the lake. Even though we have a lot to do when we get to a new camping spot we decided to take some time and go walk around the lake.

It ended up being one of those magical unplanned nights. We weren’t at a destination spot and we wouldn’t rush to tell everyone to come here but it was a dream for us. We took a walk around the beautiful peaceful lake and just let the moment fill us. We marvelled as a mother duck watched her ducklings as they swam and played.

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We gazed upon weird topiary sculptures and guessed what they were supposed to be.

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Best of all we just spent time together.

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You don’t have to go to great places or spend a lot of money to find magic. You just need to focus on the moment and let it roll over you. Watch the wonder in your child’s eye as they see new things. Hold your lovers hand and appreciate them with all of their strengths and their flaws. Breathe in deep and cherish the fact that you had another breath in this beautiful tragic world. Forget about what comes tomorrow and experience what is happening now.

~Michael~

A Walk Among the Dead

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As I walked among the graves in Savannah’s Bonevanture Cemetery I travelled through history.

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The Oaks covered with Spanish moss bowed down under the weight of the history of those that lay beneath. There was a spooky calm that filled the 100 acre graveyard.

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I couldn’t help but feel the regret of those that passed to soon, or didn’t live the life they were destined to. I couldn’t help but feel the peace of those that experienced a fulfilled life. When I am buried how will others see me? When I look back on the life I have lived will I feel peace or regret, sadness or joy?

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I don’t know the answer but today is the day I can determine my trajectory. Today is the day I take the step on the right path. It is not yesterday, I can’t change the past. It is not tomorrow, for it may never come. Today is the day I choose, and live, and create my life. Today.

~Michael~

Tis’ the Set of the Sails

sailboat
One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Cottonwood Madonna

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This is another article in a series of letters that I am writing to my children about some of the things I hope they can learn about life from my observations.

Dear Children,

This is a carving that we saw in old town Albuquerque. It is a carving of the Virgin Mary that was done in an old cottonwood tree and I haven’t been able to get the story that we were told about it out of my head. I haven’t been able to confirm it’s veracity online but I choose to tell it to you because of how it inspires me.

According to a tour guide, this carving and painting was done by a parishioner of the San Felipe church in 1970. He lovingly carved the virgin from the interior of a cottonwood that was behind the church. The story is that the parishioner died immediately after completing the painting. Since he had to reach inside the tree to paint, his hands were still blue when he died. The embalmer couldn’t get all of the paint off of his hands so he was buried with blue hands.

Originally the painting was hidden behind the church and few people saw it. Then the cottonwood tree blew over an the carving remained undamaged so they moved it to the front of the church so more people could see it.

This story touched me a lot. First, like the parishioner, how many times do people do things for others, or for our Heavenly Father, and it remains unseen. They continue on through life doing good deed after good deed and remain in anonymity much like this painting remained in anonymity behind the church. Then they pass on and meet their maker. I imagine that like the blue paint on the artists hands, God will be able to see what our hands have done. He will be able to see our hearts. He will see what we did to help others, and make the world a better place.

Like the paint on the artists hands, our good deeds and bad deeds leave a mark on us. We will take these marks with us. I believe that we can always repent and change our path for the better. We can erase the bad stains. However, I think of this artist and I know that he had no idea that he would be buried with blue hands that showed his devotion.He didn’t know that he would take the physical evidence of what he had done with him.

I hope that when I die, when I am gone, I return to Heavenly Father with blue paint on my hands. I hope that the last few things I did will show my devotion to him, to my family, and to making the world better. I am far from perfect and I make a lot of mistakes. I am constantly trying to overcome my weaknesses and sins, but I also always hope that my next decision will be a good one.

It is hard to do the right thing. It is hard to always follow our faith. I hope that this story can make it easier for you, like it has for me. I hope that when you have difficult decisions to make, or hard things to do, that you will remember this story and think to yourself, “if these are my last moments, will I return to my Heavenly Father with blue paint on my hands?”

Love,

Dad

Operation Underground Railroad

 

I wanted to take a break from talking about our travels as a family to share a charity that I care about called Operation Underground Railroad. This is what they do according to their website:

Since being founded in December 2013 we’ve gathered the world’s experts in extraction operations and in anti-child trafficking efforts to bring an end to child slavery. O.U.R.’s Underground Jump Team consists of former CIA, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives that lead coordinated identification and extraction efforts.

Once victims are rescued, a comprehensive process involving justice for the perpetrators and recovery and rehabilitation for the survivors begins. 

It is time for private citizens and organizations to rise up and help. It is our duty as a free and blessed people.

 

This is probably an uncomfortable topic for a lot of us to think about but I think it is necessary to be uncomfortable. This organization goes out and arrests sex traffickers and rescues their victims. In the time since they have started they have rescued 436 victims and assisted in the arrest of 136 traffickers.

Marisa and I have had the opportunity to talk to the founder of this organization and some of the people who have participated in the rescues and they are very inspiring. I can’t think of a better organization to consider helping.

I know that there are a lot of worthy places to donate money, but I would ask you to consider in your heart if this is something that you would be willing to help with. This link shows you the many ways you can help. You can donate, start a fundraiser, volunteer to help, or even get your employer to support the organization. One of the easiest ways to help is by setting up a monthly donation.  Please consider what you can do to help remove the scourge of child sex trafficking and slavery from this world.

Join the fight.

~Michael~

Happy Easter

Oil and Wine

My wounds are bound
With Oil and
Wine

Oil drawn from intense pressure
Between two great stones
Between sky and earth
In a garden
While they slept

Wine the color of blood
the color of the sun as it set on a hill
Long ago
On two thieves
And in between them
My Salvation

~Michael~

Have We Lost Our Sense of Awe?

We  are fortunate to see a lot of cool things on the road. I think it is human nature to become accustomed to things when you see them a lot. In the following video Marisa and I discuss the fact that some of the wonders we are seeing aren’t necessarily as amazing as we think they should be and what we are trying to learn from it.

~Michael~

 

Abundance From Gratitude

 

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle

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I think it is common for us as people to always want more. We seek abundance in our lives. We work hard so that we can have what we need, then what we want. For me in my life, it is easy to focus on what I want and what I don’t have. I find myself thinking that if I could just have a Tesla Model S, or a big screen TV that I wold be happy. There is a problem with devoting all of our energy to what we want and what we do not have. It creates a reality where we lack.

If all we see is what we don’t have we will never see what we do have. Our lives are full of abundance but we need to see that abundance. It has become true for me, that when I am able to focus on all I have ( I still am working on this), that my life becomes one of abundance and gratitude. I believe that as we focus on what we have, we receive more as well because we attract abundance instead of scarcity. Here are some methods that I have used to help me see the many blessings I am surrounded with.

Gratitude journal: Write in a journal on a consistent basis about what you are grateful for. The more consistently you write, the more you will see that you have been given. You will start to see the multitudes of abundance in your life and it will cause you to feel satisfied and surrounded by prosperity.

Prayer: Whether you believe in God, or just in a higher power, communicating your gratitude helps you notice what you have. A deep and personal relationship with your higher power will cause you to want to thank that power for all you have. You will not want to be repetitive and give thanks for the same things daily so you will notice new things to give thanks for.

Volunteer: Service allows us to help someone in a way that they can’t or are unable to help themselves. When we help an elderly neighbor with a project in the yard, it makes us cognizant of our health and gratitude follows. If we collect clothes for the needy we realize that we are blessed with what we have and see the abundance in our lives.

What are some of the things that you do to help you be more grateful? Share them in the comments below.

~Michael~