G-096: Dispatch from the DMV CA

I hadn’t been into the Department of Motor Vehicles in a long time. And so when it was time for my 2019 Driver License renewal? It was time to pay a DMV Field Office a visit.  I was headed to the office in Santa Clara.  It was the place I had taken my original driving test long ago.  It is actually the only DMV office I’ve been to.   I was psyched.

I didn’t think far enough ahead to make an appointment before my license was due to expire, so I queued up on the Non-Appointment Line when I arrived. It was 7:49am on Saturday. There were already 50 people in line outside. The office didn’t open until 8:00am, so the website said. I thought, “51st in line? Shouldn’t take too too long.”

A little boy in a black and red checkered hoodie was waiting on a bench, brought along by his parent on a Saturday morning for the adventure.  My kids were still in bed at home.  Actually, our son had woken up just before I left the house.  The other two were still snoozing.

“Good Luck,” my wife said as I departed. “Enjoy the solitude and your book.” Funny thing, being a parent with three little kids, any time to yourself is luxurious.

When I got inside the DMV building, it seemed like there were a couple hundred folks in various lines, at different stages of being processed, taking care of their business. There were a lot more than the folks I’d seen in line.   But everything seemed to be clicking along at the many work stations scatted throughout the big room.  Bureaucracy at its finest.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take.  Funny thing? I didn’t mind.  I was happy to be taking care of something that had been on my to-do list for a couple months; I was happy about that little bit of solitude; I was happy about the hot coffee in my travel mug.

I chatted with a nice lady in line, enjoyed a little people- watching (I’m told by others that it’s more like “staring”, but I’m working to be more discrete). The variety of people reflected the variety that live in this busy and diverse San Francisco Bay Area. Various languages and attire, on folks of all ages and persuasions. I love it.

A lot happens at the DMV, a variety of transactions and tests and miscellaneous state government business. It’s a main government channel to the masses. If you haven’t been in an office for a while, or haven’t browsed the department’s website, you might forget. I sorta did. So I was grateful things kept moving. Every minute or so another number was called; screens overhead told us what numbers were being served where.

My number? It was G-096.

I waited maybe a half hour, maybe 45 minutes. Then I heard my number on the loud speaker, saw the number on the screen, and things started moving.

I went to Window Number 9. The person there was pleasant and professional. She cut me a little slack to help me correct an error I’d made on my application.

After she was done processing my application and support documents from her station, she sent me on.

I arrived to queue in Line D. Another 10 minute wait. Another nice person at the desk to do her part helping my application move though the process, including the universally loved / hated license headshot photo. I gave a little smile.

Then I moved to Line C to wait for the final steps  of the transaction and issuance of the temporary license.

And then it was done. I walked outside into the brisk morning sunlight. I felt a little moisture in the air, promise of the rain due later in the day. I heard geese honking in the distance.

A couple hours of my life complete, the rest of the weekend ahead, a quiet satisfaction in my head. A basic but very necessary task was accomplished, and some simple lessons, ones I seem to learn over and over again.

Be early. Be prepared. Be friendly. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Be patient. Take your time. Think.

These lessons I try to teach my kids, kids like that little boy I saw sitting on the bench. They’re lessons I keep learning over and over again, too.


A Dad’s List, #5

The Dad’s List Series continues after a little (medium-size?) hiatus.

Super stoked to be back with another edition, this one like, “…FIVE golden rings, four calling birds…”, no wait, stay on track.  Just a little humor is at play; almost never a bad thing, humor.

But to the matter at hand…The Number Five Dad’s List, or “A Dad’s List, #5 — without any further delay, here you go…!

1/  Helping your kid in the middle of the night; like when they fall out of bed.  Compassion, and a little humor too, might be appropriate to cope, for him or her, and you too.

2/  Dancing in the family room to a toy piano playing “Old MacDonald…”, or whatever that song was.

3/  Kids reminding me to say bedtime prayers; instead of the other way around.

4/  Eating left overs, especially cold, kid’s leftovers, builds your adaptability, provides fuel in the immediate, reduces waste, and increases your appreciation for hot meals.

5/  Being Happy and Helpful is super important to keeping a family humming along successfully.  Much better than nagging.

6/  Nagging is never really the best option, or very effective either.

7/  Up early is still the best option during the week.  But sleeping in a bit on the weekend is also worthwhile, and helpful to overall rest, and feels really GOOD.

8/  Dishes don’t wash themselves.  But if they pile up on occasion, for a little while, no biggie.

9/  I love my wife.  A LOT.

10/  Fancy dress up before dinner, during that dance performance.  Including fancy sparkly shoes.  Super fun.


When You Get Home

When you get home, what happens? I’m regularly amused, challenged, and sometimes left in simple wonder on this side.  My story isn’t unique, I’m sure, for anyone with little kids and a full time job.  It goes something like this…

Up before the sun most work-day mornings to get some personal time and maybe a little work done from the day before, to get a jump on the day.  Get yourself ready to head out into the world, then help your kids get ready.  You might have a day-care or school drop-off before heading to work yourself.  That’s my typical routine.

Then maybe you have a commute on your hands to get to the office.  Maybe it’s 30 minutes, or maybe an hour and a half, or somewhere in between; or maybe more.  You put in your seven, eight, nine, (ten?) hours at your job, doing your best to focus on the professional “you”, to earn your keep.

As the day winds down, it’s time to head out on the road again…that same commute again, only the other direction.  Maybe it’s longer now, as the day is coming to a close and more people are headed home.  Battle the traffic, the weather, your attitudes about the day, as you make your way.

Get home, and the second job begins.  Wise to change your clothes at least, but you may or may not get to do that.  If you thought about dinner before you left the house for the day — if you have a slow cooker and have a meal prep started, it might not take much to get supper on the table.

If you’re like my wife, that might be the case.  She’s dialed in often times, especially with the slow-cooker dinners.  If you’re me though, you scramble and hit the creativity switch, hoping something pops up, that the kids will actually want to eat.

Tonight I got lucky.  I changed my clothes, and the kids went with the first dinner proposal I offered.  And the TV wasn’t even on.  They had cheesy roll-ups and vegetables, with some apple slice on the side.  Except for the grief I got from my youngest for the smell of my dinner (sardines and roasted veggies with parmesan), it was pretty successful.

When my wife got home, we all meandered around a bit through the rest of the dinner hour, went through the mail, got caught up on the day (another victory — as it doesn’t always happen), and then it was bath time TIMES three.  And that finished within the next hour.

And here were are.  Time to scribble down a blog post.  And do a little email catch up for a meeting I have tomorrow night.  And sip a little more tea.  And time for bed.  GOOD.


At Capacity

Lots of context for this concept. You might be “at capacity” in any of a variety of ways.

At capacity in learning, a sort of plateau of absorbing new things;

At capacity with activities, not able to fit another event on your schedule on a given day;

At capacity in repetitions, not able to do another pull up or arm curl or plank;

At capacity with projects, every day already full with no room for another thing;

At capacity eating your vegetables at dinner; this affliction happens on nearly a nightly basis at my house.

You get the idea. But here’s the thing.

Capacity is a dynamic quality. It’s a parameter that must always be considered. Capacity might be limiting in the immediate, in the short term.

But in the aggregate, it’s just another variable that must be considered in striving for optimal outcome.

You should always consider capacity, and you should also test its limits. Carefully, thoughtfully, but for sure, test, push, strive to expand the limit.

The outcome?

It will make you better. It will help you reach your goals. It will make things GOOD.


Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about what games I can play with my kids as they get older.  This one fits the bill.  No screen, no board, no cards; all you need is a few peeps (two or more, actually), their brains, and a good attitude toward having some fun.

This game and post content courtesy of Mr. Seth Godin.  All credit due is to that fine gentleman.


This is my favorite game.

It doesn’t involve a board, there are no cards and it’s free to play. It works for two to six players.

You can do it in a car or a plane, it works great for two, and if you’re kind, you can play it with someone less skilled than you.

The more you play, the deeper and more fun the strategies go.

I thought I’d share the rules here, because more g-h-o-s-t is good g-h-o-s-t.Summary:

Go around the circle of players and each person adds a letter to a spoken string, striving to not be the person who actually makes the string of letters into a word.Players go one at a time, in order.

Of course, you can sit anywhere you like.

When each player has taken his or her turn, begin again with the first player.To play a round, someone says a letter.

The next person in the order has to add a letter to the first, beginning a word.

For example, the first person might begin by saying, “y” and then, the next person could say, “o”.

The third could say “u” because three letters don’t count as a word.

Beginning with the fourth letter, the goal is to not complete the word. So, if the letters are y-o-u from the first three players, the fourth player shouldn’t say “r” because that would make a word.

But it’s fine to say “t”.

If, on your turn, you are stuck and there’s no choice but to say a letter that completes a word (in this case, “h”), you lose the round.

Every time you lose a round, you get stuck with another letter in the word ‘ghost’, hence the name of the game. If you lose five rounds, you’re out of the game. The last person left, wins.

If you lose a round, it’s your turn to start the next round by picking a new letter.

Okay, three simple complications:

1. The letter you say has to create a possible word. So if the string is, “y-o-u”, you can’t say, “x”. (Unless you’re bluffing, see rule 2).

2. If the person before you says a letter that you believe is impossible, you can challenge their play. If they can respond with a legal word, you lose the round. If they can’t, because they were bluffing or in error, they lose the round.

3. No proper nouns, no contractions, no hyphens, no acronyms, no abbreviations. These words don’t exist in the game.

And the big complication, the one that changes everything and makes this a game for the ages:  Once you get the hang of it, the group can play reverso.

This means that when it’s your turn, you’re allowed to add a letter before the string, if you choose, instead of after.

So now, words can be built in either direction, and game becomes magical. ‘y-o-u’ can now become ‘a-y-o-u’ and then ‘b-a-y-o-u’.’r-d-s-c-r’ for example, isn’t worth challenging, because ‘hardscrabble’ is a word.

If you want to play reverso g-h-o-s-t as a finite game, with thrown elbows and strategy, it makes a terrific two-player game.

If you want to play it as an infinite game, setting up friends and family to do ever better, a game that never ends and has wordcraft and humor to it, you can do that as well.

Have fun.


And if you want more from Seth Godin?  Well, he’s got a bunch.  Check him out here.


Thinking a lot about the sport of wrestling lately.  It’s a topic that comes to mind often for me, truth be told.  

Though I only wrestled for six years, the sport had a profound and lasting affect on who I am.   Clearly that must be the case, because more than three decades on, my heart still quickens when I think about the time I spent rolling on the mat, near and far.

At the core, I learned a lot about mental toughness while I wrestled.  I learned what it was, I worked to strengthen that trait in myself.  It was personal test every time you hit the mat.  Learning to push yourself further and further, to never give up, to keep going.

Sure I learned a lot of moves, learned and developed my physical conditioning, but most important for me, the thing that stayed with me above everything else, was the concept of and goal to maximize my mental toughness.


The wrestler learns not to panic under stressful situations – i.e. when your opponent is trying to wrench on one of your limbs, or grinding at your face.  You develop an ability to think and act while in uncomfortable situations.

How does that carry forward?

Throughout life we have times when are down and getting grinder on. Plenty of struggle and failure lurk, waiting to take us down.

The key is in the response: when you go down, GET BACK UP.

My heart quickens now when I think about all those hours of practice and matches and struggles, but not because I’m reliving my wrestling years.  Rather, it’s because I’m still trying to be mentally tough during difficult times.  And more important for me now as a parent, it’s because I want to teach my kids to be strong, to persevere, to never give up but rather, to get back up.

And I know in the end it’s up to each of them to learn these lessons.

GET BACK UP.   Stay after it.


My Stove

The stove, metaphor for my life.

Four burners equals four priorities:

Children, wife, work. Wait, that’s only three? The fourth burner is for everything else: my elderly parents, the Lions club I serve community thru, my extended family, my friends.

Sometimes one of the first three get moved off, but I try not to let that happen. When I die I don’t want to regret short-changing those I’m most responsible to.

God and faith are the fuel for that stove, the natural gas that keeps me going.

Take care of your stove.