August Book Recommendation and Words of Wisdom

This is taken from the August 2022 Newsletter.

Book Recommendation

Believe it or not, coming up with just one book to recommend is the most difficult part of the newsletter for me to come up with.

I have a reading problem. I’m always reading a new book or listening to an audiobook, so to come up with one recommendation feels like a lot of pressure!

What if you don’t like the book? What if the book has a different political or religious or philosophical stance and I lose any respect you may have had for me?

It’s a lot to juggle. But, I gotta do what I gotta do.

So, I’m going to cheat a little. I’m going to give 2 recommendations AND I’m going to show you the book lists I’ve been keeping over the past 3 years, complete with a review system. This is where I’m pulling my recommendations. 

Recommendation #1 – Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

This is the same author who wrote The Martian, which was later turned into a movie starring Matt Damon who grew potatoes on Mars using, well… I don’t want to give away the story.

I am a space geek and Project Hail Mary is a fictional story that I found very entertaining every step of the way. There is space and science, and there may or may not be contact with other intelligent life. I really enjoyed this one.

Recommendation #2 – Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta

If you look at my book list, I have this ranked as a 3 out of 5 because the book could probably be cut in half in terms of content. The author repeats a lot.

Now, the topic isn’t the most comfortable, but it is something that is so very important to address. This book is about brain health and spends a lot of time on Alzheimer’s and dementia. Maybe that’s why he repeats himself so much.

My family has a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia so it is a concern that weighs heavy on my mind as I age and watch members of my family age. 

There were some important pieces and tips in here on what I can be doing at my age to help with brain health as well as what my parents can do to help with brain health.

Now, if you want even more book recommendations, you are in luck.

I have a list of the books I have read over the past 3 years. I rate a book from 1-5 after I read it based on how that book impacted me at that point in my life.

If you wrote any of these books or know the author of any of these, and it isn’t ranked high, it’s all a timing thing.

2020 Book List

2021 Book List

2022 Book List

Words of Wisdom

I want to thank all of you who reached out with your support after last month’s post about our dog Petie.

Your thoughts and words came at the perfect time, so thank you.

Hopefully, you were able to connect with someone meaningful in your life and share how much you appreciate having them in your life.

On to this month’s learnings.

My kids just started up school and, as many of you know, leading up to the school year it’s almost as though the kids can sense that they are running out of time to drive us parents crazy as effectively as they have been able to during the summer. They feel the need to cram as many messes, broken toys, destroyed glassware, and permanent marker wall drawings as they can to make up for the time that they’ll be in school.

Given this, my wife and I were in a vacuum chamber of our own kids and only seeing their behavior for the past 3 months. We got to thinking that our kiddos were little hellians and would cause chaos and destruction wherever they went. Luckily, they are 9, 7, and 4, so while they can cause trouble, it is USUALLY inexpensive trouble and generally just results in broken toys and some occasional screaming – the kids at each other, of course. Who am I kidding? My wife and I get a bit upset as well. 

However, we spent this weekend at Bear Lake with some family friends. We stayed in a 1 bedroom condo with our friends and their 3 kids. So, we had 6 kids (5 of 6 were girls) and 4 adults – sleeping on bunk beds, couches, and pull out beds. Yikes!

It was actually a wonderful time, and it was nice to get away and spend time with my wife and kids without a lot of distractions. We didn’t have a solid internet connection. We didn’t watch TV except for right before bedtime. We didn’t have great cell service, so all of this made it a bit easier to just be present and focus on our friends and family.

But we also got to see how other similar-aged parents deal with similar-aged kids. 

Now, I am not saying that my wife and I are better or worse parents, or that our kids are better or worse than these other kids, all I’m saying is that everyone is different, and we see the world differently, and we respond to different stresses in different ways, and that is okay.

Oh… and our kids are WAY better.

I’m joking, I’m joking.

This is actually the point of the attempt at words of wisdom.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

It’s an interesting idea, and one that I’m still trying to wrap my brain around in a realistic way. 

One of my personal foibles is that I find it impossible NOT to compare. Whether that’s comparing our family to another’s. My body to another’s. My house, my car, my income, my toys, my kids, my city, state, country… the list goes on and on. Humans compare things to make better sense of the world and to learn preferences. And we’re not the only creatures doing this, either. Animals compare mates, foods, shelters, colors, and much more. My golden retriever is picky about her dog food because she likes the taste of one over the other, but I can promise you that if the less-tasty food is all we have, she eats it. All while glaring at me with this accusatory look and I can’t help but think she is trying to let me know how poor of a provider I am. But I digress.

Comparison feels impossible to avoid and, quite frankly, is used for both good and bad.

I’ve mentioned before that I was involved in athletics growing up and my parents would let me know that, “there’s always someone out there working harder, doing more drills, who is bigger, faster, stronger, or all of the above than you.” Depending on the day, my teenage brain would feel discontent, jealous, and sad or motivated and determined.

Or, when I’d complain, I’d hear, “you can always find someone doing worse than you. Be grateful for [insert what I was complaining about].” Which, again, depending on the emotions of a teenaged brain, could lead to me feeling grateful, happy, and accomplished… or that my parents were nuts. 

How weird is that?!

So, maybe comparison isn’t all bad, but being unable to find contentment is what leads to frustrations?

After this weekend, I feel more love and admiration for my wife and kids. They handle situations so well and, for the most part, with a lot of poise and calm compared to others we saw. I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world.

I also sincerely believe that my friends feel the same way about their family.

And that’s great!

Behind the scenes, everybody is dealing with something that we would never wish to face. Everybody is armed with unique skills and gifts that allow them to cope with situations in a different way than our skills and gifts allow us. Humanity is so cool that way. We are all working our way through life, one minute after the next, trying to leave a mark on the people we care about in a meaningful way.

I don’t think it is realistic to tell you to never compare yourself or others to anyone else ever again. It’s just not going to happen. However, I do hope when we do find ourselves comparing, that we understand just because someone on a micro-level is doing better or worse than what we perceive ourselves, it does not mean that on a macro level their life is any better or worse. All we can control is ourselves (to a certain degree) and our circle of influence (to an even lesser degree).

So, if you made it this far, thank you for being the human soul that you are. Thank you for the good you bring to the world and for the wherewithal to understand that while you may have flaws and you may solve problems differently than your neighbor, we are all people doing our best to do what we feel is right.

I always enjoy hearing from you, and have a great month.

July Book recommendation

This is taken from the July 2022 Newsletter.
The words of wisdom portion of this newsletter was actually already published as a tribute to our beloved Petie dog who was put down in this month that you can read here: Petie

Book Recommendation

My book recommendation for this month is:
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. 

Oh… my… goodness… I listened to this with my wife on a road trip to Oregon and found myself laughing out loud, quite hysterically, at several points during this book. I thought it was so fun and playful and a reminder to me to live life to the fullest. Highly recommend this one. 

June Book Recommendation and Words of Wisdom Request

This is taken from the June 2022 Newsletter:

Book Recommendation

There is a popular show on Hulu right now called Dopesick. It portrays the opioid epidemic, specifically the company (Purdue Pharma) and family (The Sacklers) that produced OxyContin.

The story is devastating and unbelievable. I have several friends and family members who were/are impacted by this crisis.

Odds are, someone in your family and close group of friends has been as well.

If you’d prefer watching a cinematic rendition of the story with well-known actors, watch Dopesick on Hulu.

If you’d prefer to read or listen to a much more detailed account, including the history of the Sackler family, read The Empire of Pain.

I just finished this book earlier this month and it was absolutely crazy to hear about what goes in on in the pharmaceutical world. 

Words of Wisdom

This is more of a request from you.

I am in my mid-30’s, stumbling through life and trying not to crash into too many things.

I have been fortunate to have the life I do. My parents, siblings, wife, kids, friends, neighbors, coworkers and countless other people have made my life heaven on earth up to this point (knock on wood). But here is my question for you:

If you could go back and speak to your 35-year-old self, what would you share?

What advice would you give?
Would it be financial or professional advice?

Would it be relationship or interpersonal advice?

Maybe it would be more around outlook, perspective, or religion?

I’d love to hear your words of wisdom, if you are willing to share with me.

May Book Recommendation and Words of Wisdom

This is taken from the May Newsletter and message.

Book Recommendation

I have 2 recommendations for you because it was too difficult to settle on just one.

They each appeal to a different kind of reader so, you get to choose 🙂

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

Hans passed away before his findings could be published, but his family finished his work and published this book. It was eye-opening when it comes to where the world is moving. We see mostly negative stories through the news, but when we look at the world as a whole and the direction we are moving when it comes to life, health, and luxury… the results are surprising. I really enjoyed this one as more of a study of humans, perceptions, and data behind what’s really going on.

If you think you have a good pulse on reality, try out the Factfulness quiz here: Factfulness Quiz

Book #2

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

If you are more into real-life stories, this one was fantastic. It is about the University of Washington rowing team back in the 30s and their quest for the 1936 Berlin Olympic gold. Unbelievable story if you haven’t read it already. As a millennial, it amazes me to see the work ethic, resolve, strength, and character of previous generations.

Words of Wisdom

This past week has been an interesting one. My 7-year-old boy has been having nightmares where I or my wife die. If one of us leaves the house after the kids have gone to bed, he usually comes downstairs crying, asking why one of us left and if we are coming back.

I remember doing the same thing as a kid. My dad owned apartments and would often go to his properties to handle issues late at night. It was hard for me to fall asleep until I knew my dad was back home safe.

When I was 7, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, so during her treatments, there was always the concern that she wouldn’t be around much longer. 

7-year-old Erik’s biggest fear was losing my parents.

Once I became a teenager, my parents magically transformed into the enemy.

You know the drill: They tried keeping me safe. They wanted to help me see the big picture and prevent me from being an idiot. I thought I knew everything and that they were lame. I didn’t appreciate them like I should have and constantly asked them to pay for stuff.

The classic parent/teenager relationship.

And, as a result, my thoughts were almost exclusively about myself, with my loyalties shifted to my friends.

I remember having recurring nightmares where I would see my best friend at the time die in the nightmares, and that worried me.

17-year-old Erik’s biggest fear was watching my best friend – Donnie – die.

My twenties brought a new shift in mindset because I somehow convinced a girl WAY out of my league to not only talk to me, and not only agree to date me, but marry me. While my parents and Donnie were still important to me, my biggest fear quickly became losing my wife. I still have anxiety whenever I see a number I don’t recognize come through my phone. I fear that it’ll be the phone call telling me there has been an accident. I still occasionally have nightmares where I lose my wife.

I’m older now.

I have three beautiful kids who are so full of light and love and energy and everything good about the world, and all of these worries still float around in my head. They have all the potential, and as their parent, my only hope is that they get to continue growing and realize their own hopes and dreams.

My biggest fear now is a tie between losing my wife and losing my kids.

The Unimaginable

As I mentioned earlier, it has been a thought-provoking week.

Tuesday marked the 2-year anniversary from when my stepbrother was killed in a car accident. My stepmother had to experience, in real life, what I have only had to experience in my nightmares:

  • The phone call telling her something happened.

  • The drive to the hospital.

  • Seeing her son, battered and lifeless on a table.

  • Identifying him to the coroner.

She never got a chance to say goodbye.

She never got another chance to give him a hug, or tell him how much she loved him before he was tragically taken from this world.

He left behind two young kids who now have to live through 7-year-old Erik’s worst nightmare.

We don’t have time to go over the whole story, but one thing she and my dad shared about the experience at the hospital was that while they were there, Life Flight helicopters took off and returned multiple times. Ambulances came to the Emergency Room entrance, and doctors and nurses were running to help other patients and families whose worlds were crashing in.

Every second, of every day, someone is going through incredible suffering.

Statistically speaking, based on the number of you who subscribe to this newsletter, there are several who have lived through something similar. You know the feelings, the sounds, the emotions, the fear, the pain, and sadness all too well. Many of life’s petty problems become insignificant once you’ve been through something like this. The fog changes you.

This attempt at words of wisdom is not to depress or make sad, but to bring perspective.

We’ve all lost someone. Some more recently than others.

We’ve all experienced bad days. Some more recently than others.

And we will all experience more. Some sooner than others. 

And so does everyone else.

As part of my job and other interests, I get the chance to interact with a lot of people. Most are super nice. Some… not so much.

It takes effort to pull myself out of the immediate situation and see past what is happening right in front of my nose.

I’m not perfect at it, but I’m getting better at realizing that I don’t know this person’s story.

I don’t know what they’ve been through nor what they are going through in that moment.

And I start to like people a lot more with this mentality.

For a period of time, I got super into the musical Hamilton.

And when I say super into it… I was SUPER into it.

Running around the house belting out the entire soundtrack (male and female parts).

Pulling my kids in to pretend to be one of the other characters.


All of it.

(I am a terrible singer and dancer, so my wife, bless her soul, endured this like a champ)

One of my favorite songs is called “Quite Uptown,” and is performed just after Alexander Hamilton’s son is killed in a duel.

Some of the lines that hit me hard:

“There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable

The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down…

If you see him in the street
Walking by her side, talking by her side, have pity
They are going through the unimaginable.”

So, over this next week or month or however long you can latch onto this idea, as you see people walking down the street, or you interact with other human beings who seem crazy, or mean, or confused, or don’t do things the way that we think that they should – have pity, they could be going through the unimaginable.

If any of you are going through the unimaginable right now, I hope you find peace.

I hope that we can all avoid tragedies and pain for as long as possible and, when it does come, that we can find strength, and accept help from others who can carry some of the burden when the weight is too heavy for us to carry alone.

I hope to be the type of person who can recognize when others are hurt and have the courage to do something about it.

You are all incredible people who have experienced the good and the bad of the human experience.

It truly is a miracle, all of this around us.

I consider you a miracle.

So today, let’s be just that.

If this made you think a little, consider subscribing to see more.

April Book Recommendation and Words of Wisdom

This is taken from the April 2022 Newsletter. This was near the time when the war broke out between Russia and Ukraine.

Book Recommendation:

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse
(click the blue link to see it on Amazon)

I enjoy reading. A little too much sometimes. In fact, I publish my book list every year so I can keep track of what I’ve read. I love reading a book that can challenge my way of thinking and get me to see the world in a different way. This may come in the form of a good biography, science fiction, a murder mystery, or just a short book with simple messages.

Some of you may have already read The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse since it has been out for a few years, but this book got me to smile and helped me connect thoughts I’ve had in my head with the bigger picture of what truly matters. My wife and I gave this book out as our Christmas gifts this year. You’ll want the physical copy. I had a good friend listen to the audiobook and it just doesn’t have the same effect. You need to see the pictures to understand.

Words of Wisdom:

This may be more of a somber Words of Wisdom thought, and I hope you’ll forgive me for that.

Something that weighs heavily on my mind is what is going on between Russia and Ukraine. I lived in South-West Russia for a few years, right near the border of Ukraine. I have dear friends who are Russian and dear friends who are Ukrainian. It is awful to see what is taking place and the lives that have been and continue to be devastated by what is happening over there.

I do not have the full story. I do not know what will happen. Like most people, I am fearful of where this conflict could lead.

I do know that there are unbelievably kind, caring, loving, peaceful, and beautiful people who happen to be Russian. I do know that there are kind, caring, loving, peaceful, and beautiful people who happen to be Ukrainian. I do know there are millions suffering, not just in this conflict but in other like conflicts around the world, most often at no fault of their own.

Whether you believe in a God, or karma, or nature, please keep these other human beings in mind as the world tries to figure out a way to resolve this issue. I love humanity. The human experience is an incredible combination of good, bad, joyous, and devastating – and I hope that we can all look for empathy as we interact with others. It is easy to judge someone without knowing their story. It’s easy to critique when we, ourselves, are having a bad day. It takes a lot of effort to pull our vision past the front of our noses and see a bigger picture – that we are all, each and every one of us, trying our best to find connection, peace, happiness, and good health. I wish these for the people of Ukraine and Russia. I wish these for you.

Hey, if you enjoy the random thoughts of some guy who’s doing his best to find his place in this world, consider subscribing.

March Book Recommendation & Words of Wisdom

This is taken from the March 2022 Newsletter.

Book Recommendation

A couple years back, I read a fascinating book called Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (thank you for the recommendation Bogdan). It tells the story of Ernest Shackleton and his crew’s attempt to explore Antarctica. During this expedition, their ship – The Endurance – got stuck in the ice and ultimately sank, never to be seen again… or so we thought…

Well, earlier this year, after 107 years, it was announced that the Endurance was found! 10,000 feet below the surface of the ocean!

I highly recommend this book as it describes the extreme hardships that humans are able to endure. Every one of his crew members survived after months of fighting through cold, boredom, shelter and food issues, and just dealing with other human beings. 

You can find the book here on Amazon: Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Or most audiobook apps have the story as well. 

This leads me to the words of wisdom.

Words of Wisdom

My wife teaches several different types of fitness classes every week. Her favorite discipline is the spin class (cycling in place to music). Occasionally, she is able to convince me to join her as she drags me out of the house to go exercise. 

A while back, she and I took a class from a different instructor. As I’m pedaling away, pretending like I am totally fine while trying to hide the fact that I’m crying on the inside because my legs are burning and I can’t breathe, the instructor said something that stuck with me. 

She told all of us riders to focus our minds on taking a bigger-picture view of what was going on right then, in that moment, as our bodies were fighting our minds. She told us to acknowledge the trials we’ve had in our life, and recognize that we have overcome every single one of them.

100%! A perfect record! 

There is not a single obstacle, hurdle, tragedy, or hardship that you have not scratched, clawed, and fought your way through, making it out to the other side each and every time. 

Of course, we have bumps, bruises, and scars – some of them deep. But you, me, and whoever else is reading this have overcome 100% of what life has thrown at us so far. And that’s pretty cool!

So, whether you are stranded in the middle of Antarctica and your only means of getting home just sunk, never to be seen again for 107 years… or your body is turning against you and can’t do what it used to… or you’ve lost a loved one… remember, you are strong, you are tough, and you not only can, but you will get through this. 

Hey, if you’re into this kind of stuff, consider subscribing to get notified when a new post comes out.

February Words of Wisdom

I know, I know… it is November, so why is this titled “February Words of Wisdom?!”

As part of my job, I get the opportunity to put together a monthly newsletter.

I work in the Medicare world where our company helps those approaching 65 navigate the Medicare Maze that exists for them. Once someone becomes a client, they can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter that has ongoing Medicare tips, helpful videos, and other Medicare-related updates.

To make it more interesting, I added two sections each month:
1. A book recommendation
2. My attempts at words of wisdom

So, the next few posts will be taken from those newsletters and include the book recommendations and the words of wisdom. This site is a way for me to keep a journal of sorts for my kids and I hope they find something useful at some point in their lives from this.

This was last February’s (the first newsletter) message. It did not include a book recommendation, but stay tuned… they are coming!

February’s Words of Wisdom

My dad was my basketball coach for most of my childhood. 
During particularly close, intense games, as we moved into the 4th quarter, he would ask, “Erik, are you a 1st-quarter player or a 4th-quarter player?” 

“A 4th-quarter player.” I would answer.

This question would come often if I had a particularly poor first quarter, 2nd quarter, or entire game up to that point – in an attempt to help me understand that the past is over, what am I going to do now?

Or… if I was having a good game, it was again a reminder that the past is gone. Going into the 4th quarter, the other team would know that they needed to, among other things, slow me down to win the game, and a lot more attention would get directed at me.

This only makes the 4th quarter more challenging.
His point was that while the beginning of the game was important, how you finished the game was what so often separated a victory from a defeat. 

Would I play free and aggressive at the beginning of the game, where my mistakes could be fixed later, but hide and freeze under the pressure and responsibility of the 4th quarter? When the game was on the line, would I sit back and be content with a good 1st quarter, but disappear during the 4th? Or, would I be a 4th-quarter player, step up, and make the plays we needed to win at the end of the game?

At lunch this past week, he shared with me that he has been reflecting on his life and, given his family’s life expectancies, that he found himself in the 4th quarter of his life. 

He and I went on a conversational journey through his life as I asked him, “In your first quarter, what was your best year? What was going on in your life? What were your successes and failures?”

We continued this review through his 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter, and present day. 
I asked him to compare the best year of his 2nd quarter with his best year of his 1st quarter. I continued this line of questioning and comparison through all four of his quarters. What I found interesting was that in his situation, he always rated his later “best year” better than his earlier “best year.” 

Meaning, that the best year during his 2nd quarter of life was rated better, in his perspective, than the best year of his 1st quarter. However, the best year of his 3rd quarter of life was rated even better than his 2nd quarter best year. And now, he has come to the conclusion that this past year, despite all the challenges and hardships, has been as good or better than any of his previous “best years.” 

You already know the question I asked him:
“So dad, are you a 1st quarter player, or a 4th quarter player?”

I guess the point is, whatever quarter you find yourself in, perspective and mindset are powerful things. Every quarter is important, so don’t be afraid to make this moment, this day, this week, this month, or this year, better than the one before.

Hey, if while reading this you thought, “you know what… this isn’t half bad” maybe you could subscribe?


I think I can officially say that this past week has earned its place as the saddest week of my life.

Once you learn why, you’ll quickly see that I have lived a sheltered and easy life up to this point *knocking on wood* however, for me, it has left a hole in my heart that’ll take some time to shrink.

Today, my wife and I made the decision to put our beloved dog – Petie – to sleep.

It was a moment we have been trying to postpone for months, but he was in too much pain for too long. 

Petie joined our family as a puppy 5 months after my wife and I got married. We figured that we would want kids one day and what better training than the most perfect little animal ever created? If we can keep him alive for a few years, surely we can handle baby humans.

I’ve had several dogs throughout my life and, given that my mom shows dogs professionally, I’ve been around a lot of dogs. Like… a lot. Petie was special.

Petie was born into a show-dog litter. His parents were like… Sheltie dog royalty with pure lines and champions and all of this razzle dazzle stuff that, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about. We got Petie because he was born with a defect. His upper left canine tooth had developed abnormally. It grew inward toward the center of his mouth rather than down like normal teeth. By every measure, Petie was the “perfect Sheltie” except for his tooth. And that alone disqualified him from becoming a show dog.

The breeder had actually taken him to a human orthodontist to see if there was any way to put braces on him to straighten his tooth. It was worth it to her because Petie’s fur, bone structure, height, everything was perfect in the Sheltie world… except that snaggle tooth. The orthodontist advised that it may not be the best look for his human patients to see him working on a dog and he politely declined. And that meant we could have Petie as our boy.  

Petie was debarked before we got him. This is a procedure where a vet will make a small incision in the vocal cords to make a dog’s bark sound like more of a whisper than a bark. Since he was meant to be a show dog, living with lots of other dogs, his breeder debarked him and all her other dogs to keep the noise down.

Having done more research on it, the procedure itself isn’t scary. It is less invasive and the recovery time is quicker than spaying or neutering. The dogs still bark, it is just quieter. This post isn’t about whether or not debarking is okay, it’s just to say that he had a cute, quiet bark.

He would let us know when he wanted to go play or go potty based on his bark. We’d tell him, “Bark twice if you want to go potty.” *bark, bark…* “Bark 3 times if you want to go play *frustrated snort followed by, bark bark*

Now, did Petie actually understand the concept of human English, numbers, and complex algorithms?
Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind he knew astrophysics and no one can prove me wrong.


I’m sure many of you have had a pet like Petie. He was loyal. He was always looking to please us, our kids, strangers, basically everyone he met. He rolled with the punches of 3 little kids tackling him, pulling his ears, and snuggling him at all times. 

With each of our 3 kids, whenever my wife would get up in the middle of the night to feed them, Petie would wake up, follow my wife and sit by her feet as she changed diapers, fed babies, and rocked them to sleep. Every. Single. Time. 

Petie was my fetch buddy. As soon as he’d see me reach for my tennis racket, he knew the game was on. He would play fetch for as long as I was willing to hit a tennis ball, trotting back to me just happy as a clam and dropping the ball by my feet for another shot. When it snowed, he’d dive head first into the snow after the snowball we had just made and tossed across the yard. He’d come bouncing back with he mouth open and his tail wagging ready for the next snowball to replace the one he couldn’t find.

As Petie got older, he couldn’t play fetch for as long. He couldn’t jump on the bed and wrestle like he used to. A couple of years ago we got a 2nd dog – a golden retriever – who brought a new energy into the home. Unfortunately, the golden retriever got a lot bigger than Petie and didn’t realize how big she was. She beat up on Petie a bit, but they eventually became friends.

Petie’s snaggle-tooth began to affect the rest of his mouth. His teeth started to decay in a way that made it painful for him to eat. As we moved to smaller kibble and eventually wet foods, he started turning down meals more and more frequently. On top of that, for the past year and a half, he’s slowly gone deaf, and for the last 7 months, he hasn’t been able to hear us call his name, or that he’s a good boy, or that we love him. 

We tried to prolong his life as best as we could, but over the past week, you could see the fight to live leave him, and he was in too much pain to stand, to walk, and to eat. He would lick some ice cubes but he refused to eat anything. Chicken, turkey, gravy… all of his favorite treats were repulsive to him at this point. If he did swallow anything, he would throw it up.

The last week has been miserable for him. He didn’t want to get up or move. He went 5 days without food and so, this morning, we took him to the vet.

The people at Brookside Animal Clinic were great. They were compassionate, they were kind, they gave us the space we needed and Petie the dignity he deserved. The first step was to sedate him. Within a minute or two, Petie was laying on the table sleeping. I think it was the first time in a long time that he hadn’t been in a lot of pain.

After about 10 minutes, the vet returned and put Petie to sleep for good. She mentioned that his heart would stop within a minute or two, but he wouldn’t feel anything. After a minute or two, she listened and his heart was still beating. He held on a couple more minutes and then we got confirmation that he was gone.

Petie just missed his 12th birthday. He will be missed greatly by me and my family.  

I used to cry. A lot. I think I scared my parents because I would cry over just about anything. I’d remember pre-school friends and cry because I missed them. I’d cry during sporting events, movies, everything. Very sensitive soul.

But then my parents got divorced in high school and I didn’t want to cry anymore. I lived in Russia for a couple years after high school and I guess I learned how to suppress emotions rather effectively while there. I didn’t cry when my wife and I got married. I didn’t cry when we had our kids.

The first time my wife heard me cry was after 10 years of marriage. I had nightmares over two consecutive nights where I was forced to watch my kids die in the nightmare. I was crying in the nightmare, and woke up crying. So technically, she has never seen me cry… until today.

I tried hard, but just couldn’t hold it back – and it’s not a pretty site, but it is what it is.

The emotions come in waves. I went into work after I had calmed down and it was a good distraction. Held strong through most of the work day and then went home and started writing this and, well… let’s just say that I’m glad you are reading this and not watching me type it. I’m a mess. But, this blog is a journal of sorts for me and a way to memorialize Petie, so we must… keep… going.

I feel like dogs embody so much of what is good in the world. 

However, for better or worse, all dogs seem to be terrible at one thing:
Hiding their feelings. 

If a dog is scared, or hurt, or tired, or they have to go potty… they just can’t hide it. If my childhood dream ever did come true, and dogs could magically talk, you’d never need a lie detector test because their bodies and eyes would tell you exactly what they were thinking. 

Most importantly, any time their person pulls in the driveway, and walks through the door, a dog’s ears perk up, its eyes widen, its tail turns into a helicopter, and they spin around barking because they are so happy that their person is finally home to pet them, play with them, and snuggle with them. 

And this is what I’d like to focus on.

I wouldn’t necessarily call this next feeling a fear, but it is something that I want to avoid at all costs. 

There are people in my life that mean so much to me. The easy family answers are obvious, but there are several friends, coworkers, and neighbors that I care so deeply about that it almost hurts.

Just like Petie, if I know they are coming to my house, I stand by the window, look down the street trying to catch the first glimpse of their car, and then run back away from the door so I don’t look too crazy and desperate, yelling to my wife, “They’re here! They’re here!” while spinning in circles, waiting for them to come to the door. 

Of course, when I answer the door, all of that changes. I’m cool. I’m calm. I’m collected. I answer the door like I just don’t care, “Oh hey, *head nod* I was busy doing stuff, didn’t hear the doorbell ring, you been there long?”

It’s happened… recently… I’m not ashamed to admit it now, but why am I ashamed to let them know how I feel? 

My guy friends and I seem to share the love language of taunting each other and piles of sarcasm. We’d never break down and say, “I love you, man.” And I don’t care how sentimental I get, I’m not going to resort to licking peoples’ hands. Dogs are kinda nuts there.

However, the last thing I want is for the people, about whom I feel so much love and respect, to never know how I really feel about them. 

Whether it’s manly bravado or youthful ignorance or fear of opening myself up to someone who doesn’t reciprocate the same feelings (funny story there with my wife), I find myself hesitant to express how much I love, respect, and admire people in my life. I hold back words I want to say like, “Hey, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate our friendship and I get so happy when I see you succeed. I always look forward to spending time with you and I feel safe sharing my thoughts around you. Thank you for being in my life and making it better.” 

So here’s my attempt at words of wisdom for this month.  Whether it’s a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, a coworker, or a neighbor – will you join with me in taking the time over this next week, maybe even today, to let the people you truly care about know how you feel. It’ll make their day. It’ll make yours. 

We lost our buddy – our boy Petie today, and our house feels empty, missing something that should be there, but I have no doubt that he knew beyond question that he was loved and adored by me, my kids, and his favorite person in the whole world, who I believe he has stayed alive for longer than he maybe should have – my wife. He was and always will be her dog.

Miss you buddy.

Trip to Kaua’i – Day 7

Here we are. Our last day in Kauai.

After a great night’s sleep, we are ready for the final day. We packed up our stuff into our car and prepared to execute a genius plan.

The master plan

We had to be out of our hotel room by 11. However, we had an ATV tour scheduled at 2 with our flight at around 9. The ATV tour warns you that you will get dirty. So, how would we shower off between our ATV tour and our flight?

We figured we would have small bottles of bio-safe soap and shampoo ready and shower at the outdoor showers at our hotel. It was a perfect plan.

Killing time before the tour

We had some time to kill, so of course we went back to Deja Vu to see if there were any clothes I had missed since the last 5 times we had been there. I got me a nice, large sun hat that my friend Brandon still makes fun of me for.

Look at that sun protection!

We spent most of our time around the southern part of the island since that is where our tour would start. After perusing several stores, we headed to the tour company’s building.

We checked in and they gave us a bandana thing to keep the mud off our face (see later pictures) as well as the directions to the real start of the tour, so we drove another 5 minutes there.

Pre-tour fun

We got to the facilities where all the ATVs slept. It was pretty groovy. One couple in a rented Camaro somehow high-centered on a rock. It wasn’t even in the parking lot. It was behind one of the garages. I’m not entirely sure what they were even doing over there, but the lady who high centered it (hold your sexist female driver jokes people…) refused to drive an ATV. She and her husband made an uncomfortable amount of jokes about it throughout the tour. I get it. They were embarrassed.

There was another family next to us speaking in an accent I recognized. I asked them (in Russian) if they were Russian. They said they were and we had a nice little chat (back in English). I rarely get to use my Russian anymore, and when I do, it’s usually asking people I think are Russian if they are Russian, and then we switch back to English because they speak better English than I do Russian at this point of my life.

Let the tour begin!

This ATV tour was wicked fun. It felt like a mix between the Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones rides at Disneyland. You’re sliding around on these muddy, deeply rutted roads and seeing all kinds of cool stuff.

We drove down the road that is the motorcycle scene in the more recent Jurassic Parks with Chris Pratt. They have a little dinosaur skeleton and Jeep to mark the spot.

We drove through a 1/2 mile long tunnel with a cool backstory on how it was made. At this point, you all get out of your ATV and the guide tells you the story. You also introduce yourself to all the other riders. The usual… where you’re from, what you’re doing there… etc.

Met a cool guy from Detroit who works on the Corvette. My family has always been big into Corvettes so he and I spent some time talking cars.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

The tour is called the “waterfall tour.” It is a bit of a stretch because there is only one stop with a waterfall. At about the halfway point, the group jumps out and there is a set of 3 waterfalls, each falling into the other, that you can frolic around. One was deep enough to jump into (see video). Not a big jump, but you do have to jump out over rocks to get to the deep part.

Such a daredevil.

We had a little snack of granola bars and some pineapple juice drink that is fantastic.

We stopped by an old World War II bunker in the middle of a mountain. It was super cool to me. I love history stuff, especially WWII. You’ll have to check it out and see the petrified crackers.

Moving along, we stopped at a big open space where several movies have been shot. Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, King Kong, and several others.

The last stop on the tour was the serene Waita Reservoir. This was a peaceful place with a bike zip line (sold separately). You jump on a bike and ride it across a zip line. Pretty nuts.

If you notice… there is a lot of mud. Luckily, you already know about the master plan.

They had some showers to rinse the mud off your clothes and shoes, so we blasted ourselves off in that. We grabbed a quick ice cream bowl and then we headed back to our hotel.

You might be expecting a big plot twist, something like, “Oh no! We couldn’t get back in the hotel!

But everything went exactly as planned. We showered off at the outdoor showers in our swim suits. We changed clothes in the public restroom, and enjoyed one last meal at the Lava Lava restaurant with our friends, the chickens.

One last sun hat picture with Beach guy.

We still had a little time to kill, so we drove around to a part of the island we’d never been, just west of the airport. We drove through some neighborhoods trying to imagine what it would be like to live here, then, we had to return our car and head to the airport.

Returning home

The airport and flight home were fine.

That’s a lie. The flight was miserable. It is a red-eye flight. I am 6’4″. Me and airplanes don’t get along well. I couldn’t sleep at all so I am grumpy as can be for the 6 hour flight and subsequent day, but all in all, everything went nice and smooth. We were happy to be home, but planning our next trip to Hawaii as soon as we can.

I hope you enjoyed the recap our our little trip to Kauai!

Trip to Kaua’i – Day 6

After the 40-ish miles of hiking over the past 5 days, my feet and legs were sore. It was time to skip leg day.

We slept in because we were both exhausted and the only thing we had planned for the day was a boat tour of the Na Pali coast.

Now, when you do this, you have a few options. The two most common are on a large 55′ catamaran yacht. We did this one the last time we visited Kauai and it is great. They are much more comfortable and typically stay further away form the shore. The last time we did this, we saw whales and had dolphins swimming right next to the boat.

Your other option is a raft.

This is a much more adventurous option as you and 9ish other people jump in a raft that has a massive motor attached do it and experience every wave, wind, and rain that crash into you.

To skip the reading part, scroll down for the pictures.


The tour started later in the day so we had some time to kill. Naturally, we had to stop back into Deja Vu and pickup some clothes. I got a waterproof jacket and a hat. Caitlin got some cute pants.

We wandered around a shopping center and shared a Jamba Juice together. From there, we drove over to west side of the island where our tour would kick off and spent some time in the town of Waimea. There was a cute little cookie shop where we grabbed a few chocolate chip cookies. They were good, but not as good as Caitlin’s world famous cookies.

Boat Tour

We went to the dock where our boat tour would begin. We watched as a few other crews were coming back and there was this local lady who would welcome the crews returning by dancing around and shake shake shakin’ her booty (that was the song that was playing as well as an accurate description of her dancing).

All of the boat captains seemed to know who she was. I wasn’t sure if she was just genuinely into tourists returning from a boat tour, was paid by the boat tour companies to hype them upon return, or (the most likely scenario) was a little cray cray.

She was nice and at least gave us a story to write about.

We were all sitting around a picnic table waiting for instructions on what to do on this tour. While we are all waiting there awkwardly, my mind wanders into the dangers of what we’re about to do. I mean, I would say I’m an okay swimmer, but out in the ocean with huge waves… I’m a dead man. Plus the rocks and sharks and who knows what else could kill me, I’m preparing myself for survival scenarios.

Which is why I’m assessing these strangers that I’m about to spend the next 6 hours with and wondering to myself, “would this person help my survival or hurt it?”

“Oh, she’d definitely be the first to go.”

Turns out, there was another family from Utah on our boat of 10 people. What a small world.

Waves and sores

We chose to go with Captain Andy’s tours. Our captain gave us a long lecture about how this was a vigorous tour and not for the physically weak. If you have any heart issues or physical impairments, you’re going to want to choose the larger yacht, not the raft.

After we agree that we are all okay, we jump in the raft. The captain lets us know that the front of the raft is more extreme and bouncy, while the back of the raft… aaaaand Caitlin immediately runs to the front. She is in the very front. Like, there is a line on the boat where it tells you not to cross and she repeatedly crossed it.

So, we head out and we fly over waves. It feels like we are getting air off of these things and we’re right at the front experiencing it. To help you get an idea of what is keeping us safe and secure in this raft careening over 10 foot waves, don’t worry. We are sitting on the very edge, about to topple over. But we have one foot (bare foot) under a rope in the foot of the boat, and are holding onto another rope along the side of the raft. Not helping my whole death-anxiety.

Our captain is great and tells us all about the island as we cruise around. It takes us a good 2 hours to get around to the other-wordly awesomeness of the Na Pali mountain fingers. By this time, my sore legs have been replaced by sore hands and forearms from holding onto these ropes for dear life for 2 hours straight.

Sea caves

The unique part about the raft experience is that you can go right up to the coast. In fact, they took us inside several different sea caves that were super cool. This one had a waterfall going into it. Check out the swells and how much the water level changes.

Sea cave with waterfall

There were a couple others they took us into that were super cool. One that stood out went into this clearing that resembled a donut. Well, the donut would be the water. The donut hole was rock. And outside the donut was 50 foot rock cliffs and then the clear blue sky. I wish I had taken pictures or a video, but alas, I didn’t. There was a turtle swimming in there with us. He or she (I don’t know how to tell) seemed like a nice turtle. Not one of those stuck-up turtles we all hear about in the news.

Here are a few more pictures to make you go ooooh and aaaaah.

The further up the coast you go, the more dramatic it seems to get.

Someone photobombing our photo.
Crazy, amiright?!

We saw kayakers making their way down the coast, which seems crazy to me considering how big the waves were in certain parts. We also ran into a pretty strong rain storm. Good think I had that waterproof jacket from Deja Vu and my nice hat. I’ll admit, it doesn’t make me more attractive. All function here.

We worked our way back down the coast and stopped at this beach/reef/ancient ruins. We snorkeled for a bit and ate lunch. One of our guides ate with us and we were asking him about the impact of covid. He said that it hit the island hard. His observations were that a lot of people got their covid checks and either blew them on new cars and useless stuff, or they figured they didn’t have to work for a while. He tried to save his and find work, and he’s glad he did. He thinks this is why it is so hard to find restaurants open and stores because they can’t staff them.

I asked him his genuine thoughts about all us tourists who come. He said he loves us, especially the respectful ones. The vast majority of tourists are nice and don’t do stupid things. You get some who are idiots and mess with the wildlife and, if they are caught, have pretty serious punishments.

He was a nice guy and gave all of us a nice tour of these ancient ruins with lots of cool stories.

Check out the cool ‘X’ in the rock.
Can you spot all 4 turtles?

After a good hour or so here, it was time to head back. We hopped back into the boat and got ready for the long ride back.

The edge of the boat is rough, so all that holding-on-for-dear-life business had worn a couple sores on my hand that were burning from the salt water. I complain a lot, and with this being my biggest grievance, you should get an idea as to how awesome this really was.

We got a pretty sunset picture. You can see why they always have you staring into the sun for pictures because with the sun behind you, you can’t see our faces. If we had used a Samsung camera, it probably would’ve looked great. But, we used an iPhone.

The ride in was uneventful other than the large waves and rollercoaster feel of the raft. We made it back safe and sound and thanked our captains.


A common thread throughout all of these entries is that I like to eat, and I get hungry often.

Since we only had a small meal on the boat tour, it was time to eat a lot. I asked our captain where the best burgers on the island would be. She said Street Burger. Turns out, it was within walking distance of our hotel! But, we still drove because my body is screaming incessantly at me at this point from my overall lack of physical conditioning.

The burger was fantastic. I got the Bacon and BBQ burger. They have these garlic and Parmesan fries. Not sure why, but I just wasn’t feeling them that night. I still ate them all. But weren’t my favorite. Still, a super cool restaurant with a rad vibe to it.

We went home and packed up most of our stuff as our trip was nearing its end. We still had a fun day planned for tomorrow since our flight wasn’t until the evening, but our checkout time was 11 am so we made sure everything that we could pack away, was packed away.

Watched 3rd Rock from the Sun, and faded off to sleep.

The final day… Day 7.