Beach Jottings

Beach Jottings

13, our lucky number these days of family vacation together. California coast, between Santa Cruz and Monterey, house, ocean, sand, good.

Eight adults, five kids, three families stem from one. Feels good to be together. Let the stress and structure fall away, let it be easy for a few days.

Seen along the way:

Early morning fishermen working the surf at high tide. Grey overcast skies, cool breeze, peaceful.

Red-tail hawk flying low over-head, back drop of gray morning coastal chased by two black crows, defending their land.

Further out, a brown pelican flies close to the blue-gray water, looking for fish. The surf nears high tide, the splashing waves leave the sand dark and wet higher up on the shore.

Kids play throughout the day. It’s vacation, adults have time to join in, make the time to join in. That’s one of the purposes of the whole thing. Join in. Be together. Have fun together. Piling up sand, splashing in the water, playing cards or checkers or Switch, loving and relating and being together.

Time to enjoy the sunset, make time for that, on the schedule for the day, part of the plan. It’s simple, purposeful; a way to pause to acknowledge another day, to be present and grateful and there. Be there. Soak it up.

So lucky, so lucky indeed. Along the way, throughout the day, in so many other simple, glorious ways, it is GOOD.

Operation: Little Kids

“Being a parent of little kids is sometimes like being a special forces operator.” That’s the way it’s been feeling these last few days.

Of course, we don’t have to apply lethal force in the course of conducting parenting operations; and certainly we are not in harms way (typically) when parenting. So no one is trying to kill us, and we’re not trying to kill anyone.

But there are similarities otherwise.

Sleep. Interrupted or otherwise, often there will not be enough sleep. You have to operate at the highest level possible all the same.

Frequently you will be operating at night. Therefore, stamina is critical.

Non-lethal, hand-to-hand combat might be necessary from time to time. Wrestling or JJT skills can help in this regard.

Attention to detail, ability to quickly adapt, and a sense calm and focus under mounting chaos and discomfort are all very helpful attributes for field operators and parents.

Often times things with little kids don’t go as planned. You might the best intentions and ideas as to how to proceed on a particular objective, and then things go sideways. You have to be able to quickly and complete adapt to move the mission forward, improvise, and make the best of it.

Finally, as in special operations, personal excellence, solid teamwork, and fundamental ability to leave your ego at the door will all help in parenting little kids. Parenting: It’s one of the highest callings there is anywhere.

#dadlife #dadslife #parenting #perspective #worthit


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.

On Maneuvers


Often it’s important to circle back to things you’ve walked away from to have another look.  You get fresh, valuable insights from this practice.  Here’s the latest example I’ve come across.

I was 75% along the way to joining the US Navy out of high school.  I was going to use an NROTC scholarship to pay for college.  I wanted to be a Marine.

Ultimately I made the decision not to proceed along the military path.  Over the many years since that time, I’ve come across lessons time and again that stem from military practices and history.  I’ve taken to heart a lot of those lessons.

The concept of “maneuver warfare” came up most recently that has me thinking about the parallels to how we approach our lives, getting things done, being busy, juggling personal affairs, work, and family.  Some basic principles stand out.  Applied regularly (daily) you’ll find these five tips quite helpful.  At least I have.

[Note:  These are my paraphrases, not necessarily direct quotes.]

  1. Be ready for the unexpected.
  2. Be able to adapt your plan while keeping focused on the same goal(s).
  3. Don’t just give orders.  Empower your squad.
  4. Take calculated risks with the knowledge you and your team can recover if necessary.
  5. Maintain a Positive Attitude and Esprit De Corp.

I boiled these five “hacks” down from  Jocko Willink’s fast-growing, fast-moving, often insightful podcast.  He focused on H. John Poole  during one early podcast, a veteran of Vietnam who studied, wrote, and trained thousands of soldiers on small unit tactics.

Funny where you can find lessons if you’re open.  In the daily maneuvers through your life, remembering that might be the most important thing of all.

Ownership: It’s on YOU


The title says it pretty well.  With maybe capital letters to accentuate who needs to step up.  YOU have ownership.  Of EVERYTHING.

Lately I’ve been listening to a great voice on leadership, Mr. Jocko Willink.  Am sure I’ve mentioned him elsewhere in this blog.  Suffice to say, he knows a lot about leadership, and has some very defined ideas about what that looks like.  Want a taste?  His first podcast was a great indication of the content he’s bringing to the world.  Fresh yet timeless, simple yet not easy, and worth applying to YOUR life for sure.

What’s maybe the best thing I’ve gotten from following Jocko is taking his motivations and inspirations and examples and spinning them into the context of family and parenting.  In fact, when I think about it, a lot of what he has to say I’ve heard time and time again throughout my life:

Take responsibility for your life, for what you do, who you are, and where you want to go.  You can’t control a lot in this world, but you can control yourself. So focus on that.  That is how we make it better.  That is how we make ourselves happy.

It’s simple.  But often not easy, for sure.

With current events in my world right now, taking responsibility, taking ownership for everything that I can control is key to moving forward positively — and just plan maintaining sanity — on a day-to-day basis.

Over the past week I’ve thought more about engaging my family — my wife and kids — to take this approach as well.

I’m very thankful that they’ve taken steps in that direction.  Of course, we all “take ownership” in our own way.  The main thing is not the how — that will evolve, it will ebb and flow — but to simply to think differently, to be responsible.

Here are two quick examples.

First, one of my main roles at home is to be the dishwasher. Especially when the kids were infants, it was a task I could do easily, do quickly, and help keep the house running.  Besides, I was raised that way.  I’m happier that way.  It’s ingrained in my DNA to keep the kitchen sink clear of dirty dishes.

However, in the last few weeks I’ve not had nearly the discretionary time at home in the evenings to do my duty.  This week my wife stepped up to support our family (and my own mild neurosis) by doing the dishes.   That’s ownership.  In this case, my wife took ownership of something I was lagging on to lend a hand.  BIG help and I’m grateful.

The other example is related to the kids.  As you may have learned from my other blog posts, we have three little kids.  They are five years old and younger.

I’m responsible for taking the kids to daycare on my way to work.  It’s a tight time frame. To cope, we have a very established routine in the early morning to leave the house in timeline fashion on workdays.

As we’ve worked to maintain this routine over the past five years, I’ve been thinking of late how important it is for each of the kids to be more responsible for being ready to go.  How does this translate for a five year old child (or three, or two year old)?

They like having their loveys with them on the ride to daycare.  Up to this point my wife and I are the ones who make sure the loveys are in the car when we leave the house.  More than once I’ve elected to go back in the house and find the fuzzy little dog because one of them has forgotten.

I’m taking a new tact starting this week.

I’m reminding my kids that each of them needs to be sure they have what they want to take to day care; they can’t simply rely on mom and me.  That includes their loveys.  Granted, it’s early in the process, and I’m sure they’ll falter some.  We ALL forget things, at least some of the time.

The main point is, learn to be responsible.  Take ownership of the things you want in your life and the things that happen in your life.  It’s the only way you’re going to change things for the better.  It’s really the only way to be happy.


Thanks. Giving. 

Love this twist of phrase so much, and so thankful for the last two days, gotta share the, well, GRATITUDE.
Two days of celebration with two sides of the family: mine yesterday, my wife’s today. The common denominator? Easy company (if not down right camaraderie), good conversations, delicious food, warmth and respite shared.

If I think about it a bit, I suspect the early Thanksgivings celebrated by those first settlers in the American colonies had similar experiences. Together with family and friends and folks they didn’t know very well, but all happy to be together to share what they had, and be thankful.

Which is the whole idea, anyway.