Tag Archives: Kansas

The middle.

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The places where we’re from.

We just returned from a trip to Kansas. A plan initially booked to bid farewell to my ailing grandmother, we unexpectedly found ourselves in the middle of a full-fledged love fest.

We put in our time at the nursing home. We spent hours entertaining my nephews with song, dance and wild rides in the Kubota. We shared stories with brothers, mothers, aunts and uncles. And the whole time one simple phrase kept going through my head: don’t forget your roots.

I’m proud of these who’ve influenced the person I am today and slightly embarrassed that I don’t go home more often. It’s now more obvious that ever why I’m so drawn to these people. Good parents—and the family that surrounds them—provide a support system unlike any other. It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s a network of kindness, built-in backup plans and places to crash.

I’ve thanked my family before. I’ve tried to keep up with phone calls, Christmas cards and birthday gifts. But this last visit was absolute proof that spending time with them is still the best way to indulge in their generosity and knowledge.

Life on the west coast is everything I could’ve ever hoped for, but my heart will always be in Kansas. At least as long as my family lives there.

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A Kansan and kawaii.

Still battling jet lag following a 10-day Asian adventure, I find myself reflecting on food, what it means to be an American and the art of communication—specifically advertising and signage.

Living in a time in the US where sponsored messages are dominated by attempts to project realness, Japan offered a world of cute cartoon characters (kawaii) posing as brand icons and spokespeople. Here’s a quick overview of what I saw…

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Come Monday.

Sunday morning began with a couple of cups of weak coffee and a special-occasion Camel 99. As you can imagine, Kansas camping tends to stir up more than a few bad habits. By the time my nephews arrived fresh from a warm night’s sleep in town in a proper bed, they were full of energy and I was an easy target.

“Take us down the hill in the TRUCK—it’s fun. We’ll ride in the back and you can drive,” was their plea.

Ten minutes later, accompanied by my highly-responsible sister-in-law, we set off on a gravel road adventure. Like a rural cab driver, I took direction from the kids in the bed through the sliding back window in the cab. We visited the massive drilling rigs that some shady oil company is using to slowly, but steadily destroy the east end of my family’s property. We surveyed a flat-bed trailer carelessly dropped face-first in the mud. We stopped by a collection of big logs just beyond the gate on the land next door.

Headed back up the hill, assuming our tour was complete, another request came through the window. My little buddies wanted to go see the road that used to lead to the bridge that used to lead people across the creek to another series of gravel road interchanges. The bridge was taken out years ago, but the intrigue still remains. I complied—checking over my shoulder and keeping a close eye on the speedometer. I had very precious cargo.

Roughly two miles down down the road, the boys had gotten cold and decided to ride up front with me. They also informed me they were hungry—which meant it was time to head back toward our camp where bacon and eggs were packed away on ice. Growing restless, Nephew Maddox leaned forward and turned on the radio. To my surprise, their was reception in the middle of nowhere. Billy Joel was wrapping up We Didn’t Start the Fire which the kids both reacted to with smiles. Then the soft pop-country sound of Jimmy Buffet’s Come Monday quietly filled the cab.

Not Jimmy’s most well known album (as far as I know), Living and Dying in 3/4 Time is the collection of songs I remember best from my youth—mostly because of my dad’s boisterous sing-along antics near the turntable. It suddenly hit me that I knew every word to Come Monday and I had two captive victims on the bench seat next to me.

I knew exactly what I had to do.

I serenaded the annoyed boys exactly the same way my dad used to when we were kids. I hit the chorus with extra energy. James gave me two thumbs down as we turned the corner. Maddox flashed mean looks my direction. I turned the tiny knob on the stock stereo until they both covered their ears to block the sound.

I thought of my dad and the joy he seemed to garner from torturing us with the same song. I thought about how lucky I was to be there with my family. I thought about the process of making memories, the passing of time and the unpredictable, amazing mess that life seems to be.

As I parked the truck and the song ended, I mentioned how much my dad liked the tune we’d just heard. They both looked at me curiously—processing the significance of both my dad and I liking the same thing.

Maddox responded first. “It wasn’t that bad, I guess.”

James followed, “yeah, not that bad…I guess.”

And with that the two budding Jimmy Buffett fans headed toward their respective breakfasts cooking in the distance.


A fuzzy photo of the boys slowly getting to know the joys of Jimmy Buffett.

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That’s a wrap.

2014 was a year of good people and major shifts. We moved halfway across the country. Bought a car, sold a car and totaled the car we bought. For better or worse, Cristi learned how to use PowerPoint. And perhaps the craziest of all, I went back to riding a bike with gears.

Along the way, we were fortunate enough to make some amazing friends in Springfield, Missouri. I will always be grateful for the generosity of MarlinCo and the Springfield Shifters Car Club.

Today, as we ease into 2015, San Francisco is fulfilling our expectations. It’s beautiful and filthy at the same time. It’s a city that often feels like a small town. West Coast people don’t have the soul of Midwesterners, but they certainly know good food and drink.

A couple of paragraphs of reflection and now it’s time to look back on the year in photos. Here are a few of my favorite moments from the year we left behind. May 2015 be filled with adventure and plenty of iPhone snapshots.

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Moment of clarity.

I figured a few things out this weekend. But I’d forgotten them all by Monday afternoon.


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