School Has Started and You Have Homework!

The best banana pancakes at Café Haleiwa.

It is September 2023. Many of you are enjoying peace and quiet at home – the kids are back in school! For seven to eight hours each school day, you have some time to do things you want to do for yourself. Parents still have to keep the kitchen pantry full, drive car pool and wash the family’s clothes, but you can find some time for you. With the time I have now, I throw my bicycle in my pick-up truck and meet friends at Brazos Bend State Park for a relaxing ride. Of course, my friend and I always go to the Flying Cow in Booth to enjoy Wagyu burgers on the way home.

Exploring Hawaii from our “Aloha bucket list.”

Nancy and I are “empty nesters.” Our daughter is independent, and our son is mostly independent. We like to spend more time thinking about things we want to see or do while we’re blessed to be alive and healthy. We talk about trips, adventures and unique experiences we have enjoyed or want to enjoy. We have what society calls a “bucket list.”  I’m not sure why this list is called a “bucket list.” It probably has something to do with “kicking the bucket.” That’s pretty morbid.  Our list is not on paper, and it is certainly not morbid. Our “bucket list” is filled with our family, our hearts and our dreams.

A huge “bucket list” achievement: Nancy and I completing the Marine Corps People’s Marathon in Washington D.C.

Nancy and I were married on September 25, 1993.   Our first home was in an area called Aiea on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii.  Since we knew I was going to be leaving in May of 1994 for a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf in eight months, we knew we had to make each day together special. When the weekends came, we would jump in our Jeep Wrangler and roll to punch out items on our “Aloha bucket list.”   In January and February, we drove north to watch the surfers try to survive the massive breaking waves of the Banzai Pipeline. We held our breath as a tiny surfer disappeared after being wiped out by a 35-foot wall of water. He popped up after being under the water for fifteen or so seconds.  When we had our fill of surfing excitement, we would have late brunch of banana pancakes at Café Haleiwa.

If you are resident of Hawaii, the local airlines, Aloha and Hawaiian, would give you incredibly cheap, last-minute tickets called “kama’aina” for “native Hawaiians.” Nance and I flew over to Kauai, the Garden Island, to take in the beautiful Grand Canyon of Hawaii, Waimea Canyon.  We flew to Maui to watch the sunrise over Mount Haleakala.  On the big island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa is the world’s largest volcano and is still active, with its last eruption in 1984.  We got pretty cold at nearly 14,000 feet elevation going past Mauna Loa, so we decided to warm up in the old fishing village of Hilo on the east side of the Big Island.  Our plan was to follow the highway along the side of the ocean, back to our hotel on the west side. We had to turn around because the road from the Kilauea volcano completely was completely blocked with lava flowing into the ocean.  That meant another freezing ride past Mauna Loa.  It was great!

The Navy sent us to Washington, D.C. in December 1994. We had not started our family yet, so there was plenty of time to punch out items on our “Washington bucket list.”  We got bicycles and rode all over the National Mall, the trail to Mount Vernon (General Washington’s home), the CNO railroad trail into Maryland and the WOD railroad trail heading to the Appalachian Mountains in western Virginia.  

Our “bucket list” included running a marathon, so we ran the Marine Corps Marathon in September 1995.  My 58-year-old father ran with us, too! The Marine Corps Marathon is called the People’s Marathon, and it lived up to that billing.  You are never alone as you run 26.2 miles.  Marines in uniform are throughout the course, from start to finish, cheering everyone on.  The marathon ends at the Iwo Jima Memorial, which celebrates the image of six Marines (including two Texans) proudly planting a huge American flag on Mount Suribachi.   In classic Marine fashion, signs are placed as the runners approach the finish line.  The signs start at Mile 25.0. Then 25.1. 25.2, and so on.   We’re hurting, but by God, we’re going to finish this run.

All we need is a glimpse of that beautiful memorial through the trees.  We finally hit mile 26.0 – and there it was!  We finished a marathon!  We had to run the last 0.2 miles – uphill – around the memorial to finish?!?  The few, the proud, the Marines.

A daddy/daughter “bucket list” adventure: skydiving.

Kate was born on January 3, 1997.  Grant followed on April 9, 2000.  Nancy and I still had our impromptu “bucket list,” but it had to be modified so our kids could be with us to create memories.  Kate is a daredevil; no ride is too fast or too scary.  I accidentally allowed Kate to put an item on both her and my bucket list. On her fourth birthday, she wanted to skydive.  I did not want to crush my daughter’s dreams, so I told Kate we would skydive, together, on her 18th birthday.  We moved on.  Kate never again brought up skydiving, and I completely forgot my promise.  On January 3, 2015, Kate’s 18th birthday, she reminded me of my promise.  Uh oh.  

So, a few weeks later, we drove to Rosharon.  After a thirty-minute briefing on how we could die skydiving, we climbed up to 13,000’ in a small plane and jumped while strapped to an instructor.  Kate went first; I followed her.  We were on the ground in 90 seconds.  The best memory I have is my little girl with the biggest smile ever on her face!   Skydiving with your daughter is Fort Bend Strong!

Family “bucket list” items are fantastic ways for families to bond.  Grant was a young boy growing up in Texas, so he wanted to hunt for deer.  We put that dream on our “bucket list,” and a dear friend, Bud Friedman, gave Grant and I a chance to hunt deer on his ranch near Gonzales.  Grant and I spent hours cramped in a deer blind waiting for that one shot.  As we were about to leave for home, a nice buck walked out of the brush.  Grant lined up his shot, clicked the safety off and was ready to pull the trigger.  Ready…aim…STOP!  A herd of cattle walked out right behind our buck.  Both Grant and I knew that in Texas, if you shoot a deer, only the deer dies.  But, if you mistakenly shoot a cow, you may die.   Grant held his fire.  We went home with something more important than a trophy on a wall.  We came home with memories we’ll cherish until we die.   Time with your son is Fort Bend Strong!

Enjoying sunsets – definitely a “bucket list” item.

Here is your homework assignment:

Make your own
“Bucket List!”

I would love to know what’s on your
“bucket list.”  Please zip me an email to