Monday, April 21, 2014

Surfs Up

Appearances can be deceiving. According to my appearance in this picture, it appears as if I was having a good time while I was learning to surf. Perhaps from this picture it appears as if I actually caught a wave. 

The truth is while I paddled after my brothers in law, all I could think about was not dying. But while I was focusing on not dying, a wave miraculously caught me! It was a boogie board ride like none other until I tried to position my feet under me and then - well, the expected carnage ensued. 

The surf won that day. But it wasn't a complete victory. Because I might have swallowed enough saltwater to preserve my insides for 100 years, but I also caught the bug. 

my gnarly brothers in law. man, can they shred

I'll be back, you waves of fury. I may never tame you. But my surfing days are not over yet. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Carpet - My Messy Beautiful

Part of the Messy Beautiful Project...

New Carpet
            It was August 9, 2001; I remember it was cloudy. August in North Carolina normally didn’t look that way, which is probably why I remember it—that, and it was the day my grandmother died.
            She was the greatest woman I had ever known, married to the greatest man there ever was. My grandparents were my mentors, my role models, my heroes…
What I loved most was how my grandparents loved each other…the beauty of their ripened romance—their dances to no audible music, their embraces that knew no timetable, the way they talked about each other like the other was a treasure. I loved being at their ranch…Grandma would call, “Bernie!” if she needed more birdseed from the shed; and Grandpa would say, “Yes, Mom,” and walk in his moseying way out the door. I loved hearing their love story; I loved even more the light in their eyes as they looked at each other while they shared it.
            I was standing in the living room when my mother called. I wasn’t too sad; I had known it was coming. Even saints don’t live forever.

            I remember a story Grandma told me once. More of a picture than a story, I guess, the way she described it: Once there was a vase, a beautiful Chinese vase. It had pictures of little children and dragon tails and little firework explosions. It was a very expensive vase, and one day it fell—shattered into a thousand pieces. I was very sad because it was very beautiful. But when everything broke, the inside was revealed: there was a candle, a burning candle. I wondered how the candle got inside and how it survived the fall. I watched it, wondering if there was anything I should do, when a pair of hands appeared from outside the picture. I didn’t see a body, just a pair of strong hands. One by one they put the pieces back together. The glass cut his fingers, but he kept working on the vase. I never saw his face, only his hands. And when the vase was complete it was more beautiful than before because the light shone through the cracks. Oh, it was so beautiful.
            “There is beauty in the brokenness, Ned,” she would say to me. Beauty in the brokenness. 

            The year preceding my grandmother’s death was a broken one, and it was hard to see anything beautiful in it. In many ways, Grandma died on February 26, 2000, the day Grandpa did. Her will to live broke into a thousand pieces, but the candle inside just wouldn’t go out. It didn’t get the message.
            I remember her hair in the mornings, dripping like branches on a willow tree, silver in the cool light of dawn. She would brush it with long strokes as if she were strumming a harp. In a twist and an instant, her locks would disappear, hidden in a bun. She always kept her hair in a bun. But in those last years, she spared herself the hassle, let her hair fall over her shoulders like a funeral shroud. She spent most of her days wearing a robe, unmotivated to change her clothes. She complained of pain—pain when she sat, pain when she walked, pain when she lay down, and pain when she stood up. She had pain everywhere, all the time. My parents and relatives tried new furniture, pads, and other things. But nothing made her comfortable. Nothing can comfort a broken heart.
            It became apparent she could not live alone. She left the ranch. Her daughters rotated responsibility, taking her in over the next year and a half. It was very taxing and traumatic. She was numb and wanted to die, and my mother and her sisters grew concerned. Drugs could not quell her depression. Therapy had no positive effect. She spent a few weeks in a psychiatric hospital before wasting away in a sterile, peaceful nursing home. She never saw the ranch again.

            It was cloudy on the day of the funeral, too…Lia bought me some Buckeyes to cheer me, my first— I had always resisted because I thought they were nuts. We held hands for most of the journey home.
            It had been a long couple of days, with a lot of driving. I was happy to see our condo when its wooden exterior came into view. I pulled the key out from the ignition and grabbed our suitcase and garment bag; Lia unlocked the door.
            We walked inside, and it smelled like shit.
Chelsea (our dog) greeted us at the door as if she had been through a bunker war. When Ella (our friend’s dog that we had been dog sitting) pawed the sliding porch doors, she left shit-prints. The walls of our condo looked like the smeared interior of a latrine. There was a note on our kitchen counter from Jason, our dog-sitter, that read, “Call me.” We did, and he told us the story.
            Ella had purportedly gotten into some discarded chicken scraps in the woods; our dog sitter had found her gnawing on a drumstick in the middle of our living room. I assume she brought it in as a souvenir. Before long she was in a corner taking care of business. And as Jason scurried to clean up the mess, Ella was in another corner unloading another log. Jason hurried over, and Ella wagged her tail into a bedroom and let loose on a chair. That’s right, she crapped on the couches. She dropped bombs on the coffee table. She shot shrapnel on the wall. In a way it was rather impressive.
            From the foyer, we surveyed the damage. There were feces everywhere: on the television, in the bathtub, on the Venetian blinds. There were deposits in places that I, to this day, cannot fathom how she managed to poop them there. And this had been going on nonstop since three o’clock yesterday. Jason claimed cleaning upwards of fifty landmines before giving up. Why he hadn’t simply moved her to the porch after the first shit, I don’t know. I cursed not owning a fence.
            Tiptoeing through turds to the porch light, I saw Ella happy as could be, wagging and dancing in a layer of her own poo.
            Back at the door, Lia erupted in tears. “Let’s move,” she said. “I can’t live here.”
            “Lia, it’s not that bad.” I sniffed. “OK, it is.”
            We found room between brown smears on our love seat, held each other, and cried.

            In 1970, Grandpa left his engineering job to teach, become a cowboy, and spend more time with his wife and girls. Unfortunately, as smart a man as he was, he was pretty poor at business and had foolishly signed an extremely short mortgage with an outlandish payment schedule, which he soon realized he wouldn’t be able to pay. He tried to refinance, but the bank wouldn’t reconsider. They gave him two options: come up with the cash or lose the ranch.
            One particularly hard day he came home and Grandma said he looked like he was dead. His arms hung like a hanged man; his body slumped like a bag of flour. The bankers had told him they were going to foreclose. He walked into the house and met Grandma at the piano bench. They fell to the floor and into each other’s arms. They cried and cried, and when the tears ran out, they kept crying on without them.
            And somewhere in the sorrow, Grandma said God spoke ... She described it as a deep, slow voice. When she would tell the story and get to the part where God talked, she would swallow her chin into her neck and get real solemn ... “God said, ‘Remember this moment. It is the most beautiful moment of your life.’ In fact, God said it twice,” said Grandma, “just so I’d get it.”
            She loved to tell that story. Then, she would tell the one about the miracle of how they managed to keep the ranch. But I think she loved the first more because they were the broken pieces, and in them a light was shining
... and over time, a pair of hands put them back together.
            When I look back and think of my Grandparents, that must be where the beauty came from—the light shining through the broken places of their marriage, of their lives; the light revealing the fact they were only held together by grace, love, and a pair of bloody hands …

            Lia and I cried and cried, and when the tears ran out, we kept on crying. We held each other amidst the mess. And in that moment I saw things with my Grandparent’s eyes: This is the most beautiful moment of our lives. This is the most beautiful moment of our lives. Two times, just so I’d get it.
            I knew Lia wasn’t ready at the time to share in the epiphany. For once, I kept my mouth shut, but it didn’t change the holiness of the moment. It didn’t matter how much crap was in the room. It was a beautiful aroma. Licking the tears off my upper lip, I smiled. In my mind I saw a picture: a beautiful broken vase, a beautiful broken boy and girl, holding one another, held together by a pair of hands.

            We decided it was time to buy new carpet.

this excerpt was taken from my book Falling Into Love Buy it now!

and check out my newest book, CLAY It was written for broken people like you and me.

find out more at

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Have you noticed this phenomenon? How kids don't get cold at the beach. I don't get it. 

Last December, in Charleston, our kids went nuts on Folly Beach. I thought it might have been an aberration. We were with friends. It was a sunny day. We hadn't been to the ocean in awhile. 

it was a perfect day. perfect friends. weather unseasonably warm.

A-Ro looks a bit too old for my liking in this picture

Dave Dave being Dave Dave

hope it's ok Cooper and Beth to show your kid in his skivvies

surf was up

But then we fly across the country to the freezing cold Pacific Ocean. We get off the plane. Drive twenty minutes to Caitlin and Todd's house. And two minutes later the kids are jumping around in the water in their street clothes. 

Crazy I tell you. I went in after them and froze my toes off. 

Didn't bother the kids at all. 

I have noticed that kids are made of a kind of rubber. They take these crazy falls and bounce right back up and go on like nothing ever happened...unless they realize someone saw them fall...then they come running to you with tears in their eyes. Case in point. Anna Rose "bumped" her head in her bedroom tonight. It took her fifteen minutes to settle down. Yesterday, she ate it at a friend's house. Not even a whimper. She didn't want to miss out on the fun.

Is water like that? It's so fun kids can switch off the sensitivity. Is that what's going on? Is that what's wrong with me? I've gotten too sensitive. I like my ocean water at a minimum of seventy-five degrees.  I don't know. 

I do know it was the coldest week in LA since forever. This was Lia's beach-wear for the week. 

hubba hubba
Keep posted. We've got more California coming your way!