Category Archives: General

Flowers Wither

Like many couples, my wife and I have discussed the value of flowers as a gift to express love.

Of course, a good arrangement is beautiful, and it’s culturally customary, and if you do some research, you can communicate a lot of great sentiments with the flower selection and color choice.

But they’re expensive, and they die quickly, and also they’re expensive, and then they’re useless and dead.

I’m not biased at all. These are objective facts. (/sarcasm)

My wife’s Facebook post of her gift, with an added sparkly filter.

As we headed toward my retirement ceremony, I thought about what I had seen couples do during their celebrations. Usually the active duty spouse gives the other spouse a floral arrangement or some similar token of thanks for all the support that makes being married while working in the military possible.

I certainly wanted to express my gratitude for all my wife has done and continues to do. People often ask, “Does your wife work?” And it’s like, “Yes, of course she does. She deals with four children every day while I’m sitting in my office or on a jet. She handles the whole household while I go off for months to fly missions somewhere else in the world. On top of maintaining and managing a home, she homeschools the kids – because she wants to, not because I’ve ever asked. I can go to work and focus on my job because I know I don’t have to worry about what the boys are up to, or what’s happening at home.”

For over twenty years of marriage, she has stuck with me through all the ups and downs and sideways corkscrews of life. When everything goes pear-shaped or when we’re flying above the storms, she is there, supporting and encouraging no matter what.

But flowers. They’re just going to wither. They’re going in the trash a week or two later. What’s the point?

At first, Jami and I thought about using something like the platinum-covered rose I bought her. Something that says, “Yes, flowers, but actually one that will last.”

Because, hey, eternal love and “not wasting money” and all that obviously super-romantic thought put into this expression of thanks (more sarcasm, I hope you could tell).

Later, Jami said, “You know, maybe it’s selfish, but I think I want some flowers. Is that wrong?” This is my wife, who is worried that after twenty plus years as a military spouse, it’s not right or perhaps too much for her to get the spotlight and a simple bouquet of roses and carnations.

“Of course I can get you flowers. This is your celebration too.” That’s what I think I said.

“God, I hope they’re not TOO expensive,” or something similar, is what I’m ashamed to admit I thought.

It wasn’t until I was standing in the room with chairs arranged and people filing in for the ceremony that my slow and stupid brain finally clicked into gear and understood.

Yes, flowers wither. Yes, they’re temporary. You can’t buy one and have it last, expressing forever the sentiment when it was given.

But that’s how our love works. It’s not an “I said ‘I love you’ when we got married, dear” kind of thing.

Love is expressed in the day-to-day decisions, the small sacrifices and acts of service, all the little things we so quickly forget which add up to a confidence and certainty that wow, this person really does like me.

Plenty of military marriages don’t make it. I’m not judging or assuming anything about them, but I know that my wife kept choosing, day after day, to show her love for me through consistent decisions and deeds that proved her commitment.

That’s all any of us can do to build a real relationship — keep doing the small things, the messy jobs, the hard decisions, the stuff we easily ignore in favor of something flashy or showy.

Love is expressed day by day. At any point, the relationship can wither and die if left unattended, if not nurtured, if not refreshed.

Maybe flowers that wither are exactly the right kind of way to say, “I love you.” Maybe I needed that reminder that saying it once with a big gift isn’t the same as saying it every day with small but meaningful acts of service and devotion.

Out for a stroll

The highlight of my transition to civilian life is the location of our new apartment.

I mean, other than no more military performance reports, surprise schedule changes, last-minute flights, PT tests, uniforms, and so on. (I wanted to include computer-based training or CBTs on the list, but I will still have to do those in my new job. Sad face.)

We’re located at Toguchi Beach – the point on Okinawa where US forces first made landfall during World War II. There’s a sand park with a slide for the kidlets, walking trails to explore, cool rock formations to climb on, and of course the beach itself.

The struggle is real. There’s all this parking lot between us and the ocean!

Our apartment is smaller than what we had for Base Housing, so despite all our downsizing, we still feel like we have more stuff than space… but we’re adjusting to the change.

The apartment has a balcony patio thing even though it’s on the first floor, so we’re looking forward to evening tea with the sunset or a Saturday morning of writing with a cup of coffee.

During my retirement ceremony, I mentioned that one of the things which kept me grounded and sane in the military was the knowledge that nearly every problem I have is temporary. Next week, next month, I probably won’t even remember what was bothering me so much today. It’s a wordy version of the old adage:

This, too, shall pass.

Meanwhile, I drive to work looking at the ocean every day, watching the waves roll in and the clouds streak the sky with gold.

Now I have that every time I look out the window or step out the door.

Even though I shared that thought with my friends and family last week, and even though it’s something I learned back in 1999 or 2000, I still have to remind myself of the truth of this outlook.

We still have a lot of changes to sort out. There are some temporary hurdles I know will get solved soon, and some longer-term questions that need answers…

But the waves keep splashing and babbling, and the sun keeps shining through the clouds. It’s a good place to be to start off 2019.

New Year, New Me (Really!)

The apple comes from our squadron’s history flying COMBAT APPLE missions, and normally is a red apple with 100 in the center, to signify that you’ve flown 100+ flights locally while a part of our unit. I had 753 total flights, most of them from Kadena, so I made my retirement patch a golden apple with 750 to commemorate the milestone.

We joke about the “new year, new me” phrase people hashtag or share, and I suppose there must be some people who actually use that unironically.

For me, it’s more true this year than it probably will ever be!

As of 1 January, I am officially retired from the United States Air Force after 24 years of service!

I posted some time ago about all the chaos and upheaval in my life, and how that would affect my writing and my activity on my site… but I had no idea what a mess of paperwork and bureaucracy I would be wading through to reach this point!

We’re not even done yet, as a family, but we’re close. Over the next few days, we’ll hopefully sort out details like driving legally, closing out our old home, and proving that yes in fact I do have a job that requires me to be on Okinawa.

The next month or so will be full of forms and procedures to get me back into the building I just left last week, along with finalizing all the details of military pay and housing expenses. That said, now that the hectic holidays and (most of) the terrifying transition to civilian life are behind us, I can start posting here and getting back to the writing I so often claim I love.

Over the next few posts, I’ll capture my thoughts about retirement (my coworkers are awesome and took great care of me), and I definitely want to show off the view from our new place at Toguchi Beach on Okinawa.

Wishing you all the best in the new year!

— D-Will

Toward a New Normal

To those who faithfully or even occasionally visit this page, thank you.

This is less a “Why I haven’t been posting” blog and more of an update on my personal life for those who value that sort of thing.

I’ve spent some time juggling and reevaluating where all my efforts are going, so I thought I should post an update to projects I’m involved in and commitments I am pursuing, as so much of my life is currently in flux. Most of these changes come from one primary cause:

In the next three months, I will retire from active duty in the United States Air Force after 24 years of service. 

All the chaos of the ever-changing flight schedule with my squadron won’t be a factor anymore. I’ll have a relative stability to my future planning that I haven’t known for a long time. My wife jokes that every appointment or get-together we plan has an asterisk next to it, with the caveat “unless the flight schedule changes.” That will be a thing of the past… and I don’t think I’ll miss that part at all.

We finally get to focus more on family matters. While I’ve had it pretty good as far as not having to deploy repeatedly for months or years, I’m excited to think I can be around more for the time and activities my wife and children desire.

Right now, I have a couple job opportunities that will enable me to continue supporting my military friends and squadron family in some capacity, which thrills me. I’ve seen our squadron crush a demanding and ever-changing mission even when we ramped up to more than double our usual workload. The number of operational sorties is never going to decrease, so any way that I can help keep some aspect of squadron life a little more together is exciting to me.

Meanwhile (and starting next week), I will be more involved in music ministry than I have been in the last ten years. While I love filling in and helping out at local church services or gatherings, I haven’t found a reliable, recurring need, until a month ago, when an opportunity dropped into my inbox out of the blue.

I’ll be performing every week as a contracted musician for the Contemporary Worship Service on Kadena, and while I’m excited and passionate about that, it comes with a learning curve as I learn to work with the Choir Director and look for ways to fulfill the chaplain’s vision for a service that is on a restricting schedule (sandwiched between Catholic masses).

I’m excited about this because having an upcoming worship service in mind on a regular basis usually keeps my attention and thoughts on grace and the Gospel more than the garbage and glitz that beckon from everywhere else in life.

Additionally, the band is full of amazing talents both on vocals and on their chosen instruments, so I’m eager to jam with old friends once more.

In the writing world, I have a number of friends who routinely ask me about Book Two of my fantasy novels, and I don’t want to keep letting them down. I also have a number of projects incubating in OneDrive files and Scrivener folders into which I would love to invest time and effort.

The local writing group has really become that critique group I always wanted, with a core group of four writers sharing chapters every other week.

NaNoWriMo 2018 is rapidly approaching, and that has been a fantastic experience for me every year I’ve done it. I will continue working as a Municipal Liaison for Japan – specifically Okinawa. While I don’t know how much of a chance I’ll have at cracking 50,000 words in the month of November, I will be able to facilitate and support regular meetings and ‘Come Write In’ events for those who can pour words onto the page.

Additionally, infrequent but recurring events like BlogBattle give me a chance to write something disconnected from bigger projects, so I’ll probably continue posting Grant & Teagan stories once a month at a minimum.

My experience with tabletop roleplaying games has shown me that it’s a wonderful opportunity to gather friends around a table for laughs, snacks, excitement, and fun. I’ve got a growing list of co-workers and friends who express interest in an ongoing campaign, but I have barely been able to keep the one group I’m running going.  On top of that, I have a few settings and two or three systems I really want to run. (BattleTech… D&D 5E Curse of Strahd… those 5E Lord of the Rings setting books…)

Once my schedule finds smooth air and level flight, I’m looking forward to arranging some gaming groups where I can commit to bringing my best to the table.

Maybe I can finally work out some opportunities to be a player as well. There’s nothing like being a Storyteller or Dungeon Master (or whatever your chosen system calls that role)… but it’s nice to be on the other side of the screen sometimes and react to the game without knowing what’s lurking beyond the next fork in the road.

In other words, all of this mess of conflicting interests and passions will still be simmering in the crock pot of my life, but the sliders for various activities and priorities are going to shift a lot in ways I don’t fully know just yet. All of this adds up to a lot of reasons to say, “No, sorry” to things I might otherwise enjoy or participate in, especially in the short-term.

I appreciate your thoughts, encouragement, friendship, prayers, and any other support you might offer during this period of instability.

An Invocation of Connection

Invocation: the act or process of petitioning for help or support; specificallyoften capitalized a prayer of entreaty (as at the beginning of a service of worship)
– Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.

After a quick introduction, almost every military ceremony officially begins with the National Anthem (plus the anthem of the host nation when stationed overseas), followed immediately by an invocation or prayer, usually offered by a chaplain.

“Let us pray.”

Though we gather, often in the same uniforms, adhering to the same standards, sworn to the same commitment of service to the same nation, these three well-intentioned words can sometimes create a divide when we should be united in celebration.

The religious will bow their heads in reverence, and no doubt a good many people with no particular faith will go along with what they deem a harmless gesture. However, more and more, there are a group of servicemembers who hold no faith or spiritual belief and find themselves staring ahead, waiting for the actual content of the ceremony to begin. They stand in silence, ignoring what feels like a strong nudge of “official” religion… perhaps making furtive eye contact with and recognizing like-minded individuals.

Look at this amazing, lifelike image of an invocation in progress which I totally didn’t make in five minutes in MS Paint!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the purpose of a ceremony is to honor an individual, such as retirement from military service, that person has a huge say in how their event will take place… including whether or not to begin with an invocation. Over the last few years, I’ve seen a few ceremonies begin without one. Some people feel no need for a religious gesture, and that’s understandable. After all…

What would a non-believer “pray” for? 

Religion or no, we have a shared humanity–a connection of experience and interdependence. By definition, no one gathers by themselves. Honoring and celebrating achievements is best done by others, not oneself.

With all the bustle and distraction of modern life, an invocation doesn’t have to be a call to worship or a prayer for help from the Divine. Instead, it can be a means of reminding all present of the meaning behind the moment, the sense of community within our diversity, the shared purpose represented by the proceedings.

Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege of delivering an invocation for the retirement of a dear colleague and friend. As a believer, prayer seems pretty normal… but I haven’t offered a non-religious invocation before, nor do I recall ever hearing one given.

Figuring out what to say without suggesting that everyone bow their heads or close their eyes took a few moments, but when I thought of my friend and his impact on our unit, the words flowed freely.

I later discovered that there are in fact some secular invocations online. (That middle link even has some invocations given by a David Williamson. That’s not me! How unexpected!)

Even so, I offer a modified version here that can be easily adapted to a retirement ceremony:

(UNIT or ORGANIZATION) family and friends, let us pause for reflection.

On this momentous occasion, in this beautiful location, we gather to honor the service, dedication, and bond of friendship we share with (RANK NAME).

We take this moment to reflect with gratitude on our time spent with (NAME)  – for a constant smile that softened the frustrations of difficult days, for a wise voice that offered rational perspective to challenging issues we faced, for a bright light of joy in spite of the myriad stresses and struggles to which aircrew life is prone. (1)

We take this time to honor (NAME’S) sacrifices and steadfast devotion, and we celebrate the impact of his career on so many present and distant in our community. We draw inspiration from his example spurring us toward better action and deeper passion for excellence in our own service, in all the varied capacities to which we are called.

We rejoice at the blessing of companionship we’ve enjoyed, and cheer as (RANK NAME) now crosses this finish line. It turns out that things will, in fact, ease up. (2) 

As he moves forward to a much more relaxed pace – probably set to a Jimmy Buffett tune (3) – we express our shared hope that he and (NAME OF SPOUSE / PARTNER)  will enjoy the rewards and satisfaction so deserved for all their effort to advance the cause of the Air Force, and his contributions to the grand endeavor of manned reconnaissance. (4)

Family and friends, thank you for sharing this moment.

Naturally, you’ll have to change pronouns and such. (Seriously though… people forget this all the time in drafts for awards and citations.)

1 – Be specific about a few qualities for which the individual is known and appreciated. We’re a flying unit with dynamic needs and a demanding schedule, so my friend’s great personality helped ease that stress.

2 – Make the speech personal to the organization as well. Our unit has an old joke from the Vietnam War era, where someone in charge promised that “Things will ease up.” Now we’re working harder than ever.

3 – My friend is a huge Jimmy Buffett fan, and I totally see his retirement plan as a lounge chair on a beach with a margarita in hand. This invocation is about connection;  personal touches and laughs will help.

4 – Capture the broad overview of what the individual has done. It should feel like breaking the tape at the Boston Marathon.

A Year of Bullet Journal: Lessons Learned

“This one notebook will make you delete all your productivity apps,” the clickbait headline promised. It came from a writers’ group, so it couldn’t be all bad…

So began my Bullet Journal experience about a year ago.

Side jaunt: What is a Bullet Journal?

A Bullet Journal is a paper brain that never forgets, so that your real one doesn’t have to juggle so many reminders, priorities, and worries. When followed, Ryder Carroll’s system is quick, easy, and efficient at what it’s designed to do: track what you’ve accomplished, record what goes on throughout the day, and assist future planning.

Today’s notes, events, tasks, and questions are recorded as they happen. At the end of the day, unfinished business is evaluated based on “Is this worth my time in the future?” If so, it gets migrated to the next day or scheduled for a later date. Notes about upcoming events feed into the monthly calendar, which also feeds back into the new day to assist with planning one’s schedule and efforts. Notes taken today can also be added to pages set aside for certain projects or areas of responsibility–a page dedicated to writing, perhaps, or to a list of references and rules for a program at the office. The brief few minutes of planning in the morning and reflection in the evening are crucial to making the system work as designed, but other than that, there’s no significant commitment.

As originally designed, it’s minimalist. However, it’s also individualized and customizable. The Bullet Journal website has links to a variety of blogs and videos with advanced options people can incorporate. Some are elaborate and artistic, others are crisp and functional, but all are optional.

Don’t be fooled by Pinterest-perfect pages and Instagram-worthy layouts. No one needs 50 water-based Stabilo pens and mild-liners, nor is a degree in art required. You don’t have to buy a special notebook from a German company or the Bullet Journal site store in order to make the best use of the system… though I do like the dot-grid pages.

Over the course of the year, I went from artistic to… we’ll say “thrifty with my time.”

Pros: The basic system works great at what it’s designed to do.

  • I tracked a bunch of tasks, events, and projects throughout the year–professional work, personal stuff, and random things.
  • I had a personalized schedule that covered my days, month, and year–and it wasn’t tethered to my phone or wi-fi access (I work in a facility where I can’t have those things on hand).
  • I expressed my creative side while keeping the system fast and effective.
  • I can review everything I invested my time in over the last year.
  • More importantly, notes of fond moments and special experiences with my wife and kids bring those memories back.
  • Tracking efforts, habits, and tasks revealed several times when parts of my life went off-course.
  • I invested positive energy into my journal, which fueled me later when I needed it.

Cons: Anything I tried beyond the basics fell apart over time through neglect.

  • For the first half of 2017, I used a bunch of artsy spreads and habit trackers I’d seen online. That turned into more work than it was worth for me.
  • Looking back, I find several pages half-filled with material on particular projects or areas of interest. I didn’t go back to those and put them to use like I thought I would.
  • I had a great many lofty ideas which never came to fruition. “I’m going to read all these books… I’m going to write these other books… I’m going to document my daily word count… I’m going to fill up this list with songs recorded and posted on my Facebook page…”
  • If I wasn’t working at the office, it was easy to ignore the Bullet Journal. My holiday weekends are often blank gaps in my daily entries.

As you might guess from the above lists, the pros far outweigh the cons. In fact, part of the benefit of a journal or tracker system like this is seeing where efforts go half-finished or forgotten, and deciding if those efforts are worth continued investment. I could argue that some of my cons are the system showing me exactly what it’s supposed to about my actual commitments and priorities.

All told, my Bullet Journal experience has been positive. It’s a beneficial tool I will continue using for years to come.

Want information on how to set one up or adapt the system to your needs? Give yourself a Christmas present of better organization and time management. Start here.

A Bright Future

Netflix released Bright starring Will Smith the other day (Dec 22nd), and I found some unexpected free time today where a 2-hour movie could fit.

Vanity Fair reviews Bright here
“Be nice if you could do some of that magic $#!+ right about now…”

The above image comes from Vanity Fair, who are far less flattering in their review than me. I might be biased, wanting a movie like this to work more than I care about whether it deserves a place in a cinematic hall of fame.

Here are my spoiler-free thoughts:

Bright is a good movie–not amazing, not without some obvious faults–and I look forward to more of this fresh setting and novel concept.

I say “novel” because I can’t think of a modern fantasy movie that’s worth its entry fee. In books, video games, and tabletop RPGs, modern fantasy has long been a thing. Shadowrun springs to mind, though Bright lacks the cyberpunk flair.

Pros: Will Smith is Will Smith. He can’t help but shine. I already mentioned the novelty of the setting, but I like that they pointed to a history they didn’t bother to fully explain. It feels more like a real world that way, and the few times they slipped exposition into the dialogue didn’t feel too painful or forced. Bright touches on the expected themes: racism, privilege, tensions between communities and police forces. For the most part, I think it does this believably and effectively. The action is entertaining, a nice mixture of magic and gunfire. Most of all, Bright scratches an itch I didn’t know I had and makes me want another installment without leaving big questions unresolved. It’s almost like a good pilot for a series, and instead, you’ll get another sequel with Will Smith and presumably the rest of the main characters.

Cons: It felt like a really slow build. I didn’t really care about what was happening until a good half-hour in. Some of the “reveals” felt all too obvious and expected. You’re probably going to call a few things as soon as you realize they are part of a subplot, and you’ll be right. I guess it IS fantasy so certain things are going to go the main characters’ way, or else we wouldn’t be reading about them. This is Tolkien in the modern world, not Game of Thrones… not that Tolkien is a bad thing, but I know it’s not what some people want. Somehow our heroes survive fights with creatures that can breeze through LAPD SWAT teams. The villains felt a little hammy and made some really stupid decisions–or failed to take action when they should have. (Kill your foe, don’t gloat.) Finally, either magic is relatively tame unless you have sweet gear, or nobody really unloaded their magic skill… and I have no way of knowing which is the case.

None of that detracted enough to make me regret watching, and I heartily recommend a viewing. However, I’ll caveat that with…

Bright is definitely for mature viewers. Depending on your taste in films, you might balk at the strong language throughout the film, or the frequent graphic violence, although the latter is more tame than what makes it to the big screen. The characters do enter a strip bar at one point and breasts are shown.

My two cents. Your mileage may vary.

If you watched it, what do you think? Let me know how wrong I am in the comments section.

Life’s a Beach

How to Run a Navy Recreational Facility:

Congratulations! You’ve now assumed responsibility for and management of the fabulous White Beach Naval Getaway. It’s a proud location with a rich history, and not much else—you’re going to love it. Here are some pointers, some dos and don’ts to get you started on your adventure serving customers as a Navy Morale, Welfare, and Recreation facility manager.

First, keep in mind that the customers are probably mostly sailors. They’re used to a level of suck that you and I don’t put up with in our day-to-day lives, so when you need to cut corners and save some money, don’t hesitate to take it out of services you provide your guests.

In fact, if you’re honest, you’ll quickly learn that needy, whining guests are the cause of most of your headaches. They’re always wanting stupid things like someone to answer the phone at the Reservations desk, or to be there when it’s time to check in. You don’t actually have to put someone there all hours of the day; after ten or twelve unanswered rings, most customers stop calling.

Email is another dangerous means by which customers will contact you. Not only will they try to use the Reservations mailbox—they might contact your staff members directly. Here’s a pro-tip: no one has to actually read anything customers send. For example, when a customer mentions a problem with one of your required forms and asks for help, ignore that part and send them a six-word email to tell them you still need that signed form. Three exclamation points should convey the right professional sentiment.

Occasionally one gets through to reserve a room. That’s where your fun begins! People will show up expecting something like a hotel room or typical lodging experience, with basic provisions like soap, TV programming, or Internet access. Maybe something as simple as paper towels. You’ll save money and channel more customers to the overpriced mini-mart if you don’t provide standard accommodations. Kill two birds with one stone–after you squeeze some blood out of it.

It’s not really up to you, but if you can help it, make sure there are swarms of ants everywhere guests might go—zigzagging across the walkway leading up to the door, marching in columns up the doorframe, wriggling into the room, running on the walls, climbing on the couch or the bed or the people on those pieces of furniture. Don’t ever mention this—it’s part of the excitement of “roughing it” that guests obviously expect from a Naval Getaway. We have some standards to uphold, and they are low. You’ll do great.

This will be a great pic for the safety brief when I fall off this 15 foot wall…

When you advertise services, here’s a neat trick: don’t give specific details like hours or days of availability. At the check-in desk, for example, we’ve placed a convenient ad for breakfast in the solitary restaurant—which is really just a bar that also serves a variety of greasy food. Let the customers see that and plan for breakfast, then surprise them in the morning with locked doors and darkened rooms. “That’s just on Sunday,” you can explain, with a shake of the head and a condescending tone. Moments like that give you a chance to vent frustration while also channeling customers to the Subway stand—it’s good for everybody! They’ll serve up a freezer-aisle-style breakfast sandwich, “toasting” the frozen meat on top of the bread to keep it soggy and soft—easy on the gums!

When asked if everything is open, say yes, but mean no. For example, the beach is “open” but you can post signs with big red letters warning swimmers, “Jellyfish, swim at own risk.” They might see the enclosed pool across the street and think, “That’s okay, I’ll swim there.” That’s when you can spring the news on them that the swimming pool is closed… like the cable and Internet service in all the cabins. Be sure to remind them of all the ways they can incur additional fees, though, as this is valuable information—unlike interruptions of expected service you advertise as available.

You can throw guests a bone and place complimentary Keurig coffee next to the posted warning about lead in the water—you might help someone kick the caffeine habit! Now you’re paying it forward.

You’re off to a great start thus far, but there are still more corners to cut. Housekeeping workers shouldn’t actually have to scrub the shower clean; a slimy floor can be a fun adventure. A little dirt on the toilet seat never hurt anyone either, so you can leave those weird stains to set into the plastic. If you don’t put light fixtures into the shower, people will only use the water in the daytime instead of running up the electrical bill during the night. You know what would be a good thing to have in the shower? A towel to dry off while still getting sprayed. That’s why we feature a conveniently placed towel rack on the inside of the shower door.

On top of that, as long as there are no visible stains, bed sheets can totally be reused by multiple sets of guests. A stray hair or two in the already-made bed can be the source of fun contemplation as your tenants sort out the mystery of how it got there and what they might be sleeping in.

Beyond that, the little details and subtle touches are what separates your Naval Getaway from all the other available options. Ideally, your ceiling tiles should have a variety of shades ranging from peppered grey with mold or dust, to water-stained brown at the edges, to gleaming white like new. Think of it like a mosaic, and raise the price of your artistically designed and decorated cabin.

Griping aside, the views here really are quite lovely.

Armed with these ideas as a foundation, you’re ready to lead this facility into a mire of mediocrity… which is good in its own way. Even if customers don’t repeat their visit, the advertising and the panoramic vistas will still lure in enough unsuspecting sots to fleece. Striving to be the best on island would waste a lot of time, effort, and resources. Someone has to come in last place, and it might as well be you.

Beach Day

The clouds streak across the grey sky, obscuring the sun’s light if not its heat. Sea-birds squeal and call as they glide over the wide patch of coral-studded sand. Purple flowers pop in the clusters of green leaves that form a line to separate the grass from the advancing beach. The waves rumble at the shore in a soft rhythm like a drum swell to fill the silence every few seconds. And I sit on the cabin porch in the thick. humid air, looking over the scene when I’m not staring into the darkness behind my eyelids. 


This is a day “off” from work, the one full day of a visit to the resort at the north end of the island. I’m on leave from military responsibilities, though they still hover over my mind like a swarm of the mosquitos and gnats that nip at my exposed skin. 

Work duties may be on hold, but that doesn’t mean their voices remain silent. One of my programs requires more attention–something unimportant but neglected too long. Mysteries and technical difficulties loom over one of my aircrew duties–and another program that falls under my purview. We’ve asked for aid and channeled our questions in the right direction, so now we wait for additional details. I have personal responsibilities calling for attention, and my transition to retirement, put off as somewhere forever down the road, approaches next year with the inexorable passage of time. 

The waves crash in their unchanging pattern, one after another–splash… splash… splash…

“Later,” I tell the myriad concerns. “It’s a beach day. I’m taking a day off. You should too.” 

I hear their laughter as they continue their slow, constant pace. 

Commitments pepper my mind like a nagging wife, while my actual wife sits on the porch with me, chortling and giggling at hilarious videos on her smartphone. The woman I love is happy that I have this time to relax, happy that I have no timetable or schedule or task calling for my attention. “You probably need this,” she said as we made ourselves comfortable in our home for a day and a half.

I need to get caught up on weeks of writing courses I’ve neglected. I need to keep up with planning for the National Novel Writing Month events kicking off this week. I have to post something to a blog I’ve ignored for weeks, or perhaps finish one of a half-dozen drafts and concepts I’ve jotted down in various notes.

We snack on sandwiches of turkey and Colby-jack, food brought from home since everything on the resort is so pricy. I look over the groceries in the kitchen—more than we need—and the gym duffel full of too many clothes for the short stay. 

We dragged plenty of bags into the cabin last night, a couple pieces at a time, one trip after another from the minivan.

I always seem to bring too much. “What if we need this? What if we want that tomorrow?”

Urgent news from home occupies my thoughts. My mother is in the hospital, and needs a pacemaker. I’m on the other side of the world, unable to do anything but pray and wait for news. Suddenly some of the “important” things in life lose a little bit of their precedence. 

Wave after wave, worry after worry, tiny little turmoils and troubles that fill the background noise.

My smallest son, age six, proudly displays his catch–this time a water bottle full of hermit crabs, scrabbling and scratching over each other trying in vain to find freedom. “They can’t live in there, honey,” Mom tells him. “You need to let them go.”

“Oh,” he says with barely a tinge of disappointment. He dashes off in the direction of the repetitive rumble and disappears behind the slope of sand that leads down to the water’s edge. The concerned parent in me knows that his older brothers are looking out for him, watching to make sure he doesn’t go too deep or too far into the blue water.

To be young and fearless once again… but that would mean forgetting the truth: some concerns and fears are protective, instructive, the result of experience or maturity, an acknowledgement of reality. Some worries are voices to which we do well to listen.

The buzz of cicadas fills the air, and the noise of the sea dies down. The slight breeze falters, gives up, as if the oppressive humidity is too much to push through. The children return, their hearts light, their voices loud and silly. Water rushes from a hose to sweep away the sand, and then it becomes a puddle in which they splash and play while “drying off.” 

It’s a beach day, a day of rest, free from concerns and cares. We’ll roast marshmallows and make s’mores over a bonfire at sunset, then wonder in awe at the array of stars filling the night sky. In the periphery of our attention, in the background of my mind, the waves will continue their perpetual, rhythmic chant.

“Tomorrow,” I’ll tell them, like I always do… and they’ll laugh as they rumble ashore, one after another after another. 

Forward into April

When I created my Bullet Journal spread this month, I looked over previous diary entries and recorded thoughts to see if a recurring theme would reveal itself. 

The one that caught my eye was the word “Forward.” I’d been making a lot of progress in various areas – losing weight (lost 30 pounds over the last six months), improving fitness, accomplishing personal goals, participating in more events that matter to me… 

At the same time, I realized I waste too many hours on stuff that doesn’t matter, and I make too many spontaneous or thoughtless choices that hinder progressing in the areas I say are important. 

“I could write…” but I play a couple hours of video games.

“I should eat the healthy meal I planned…” but I reach for cheap junk food.

“I’ve got more exercise to do if I’m gonna meet my goal for today…” ehh, but there’s always tomorrow.

“I’ve had enough food. I should drink water and let my body realize it’s full…” but another slice of pizza is sitting right there and I think I heard it beg for death.

Point being, if all these little things are like running a race, I don’t want to step off the track or leave the course when the finish line is in sight. And while it’s sometimes frustrating to realize that there is no true finish line, just a good habit that I continue doing into the future, I realize I’m only tripping myself up and pushing the short-term goals further away when I make bad decisions. 

So this month’s spread is trying to capture the idea of stopping the old habit of “two steps forward, one step back” — or more true to my life, two forward and three back. 


We also watched Moana near the end of March / beginning of April, so that influenced my pictures. Hei Hei is there because he’s awesome and hilarious, and an Alan Tudyk character is always a good choice. The quote I found which I put above Moana’s sail is: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean.

I picked up a pack of Stabilo markers from the base art supplies store, and I love the colors. While I enjoy colored pencils (which I used for the Moana and Hei Hei pics), I hate scratchy media. The Stabilo markers don’t seem to bleed through the paper so long as I’m not going over the same spots, and the colors show up brighter in my opinion. 

Sorry for the quality of the pic – it’s just off my iPad.