I got to be back in Colorado Springs this week for a conference. I lived here for a semester right after I graduated college. But, the last time I was here was 10 years ago with that girl who married me. We were only dating at the time, and she came along with me for my Focus Leadership Institute reunion. While we were here, we absolutely had to see the sights. And it’s no different this time.

Once again, I’m stunned at what the passage of time can bring. Between the last time I was here and this time, I got engaged, married, had two kids, and then was widowed. I’m here once again as unmarried.

When Stephanie and I came, we walked Garden of the Gods and hiked up Glen Eyrie. And this time, we visited Garden of the Gods and wanted to hike up Glen Eyrie. Unfortunately, as the man at the Glen Eyrie gatehouse explained, we’ll have to come back in 8-10 years. Fire and floods have made the area unfit for hiking. It is closed indefinitely.

8-10 years. I could come back in another 10 years.

I can only imagine what my life will be like after that time. Perhaps the fire and flood that has so changed the landscape of both my life and of Glen Eyrie will have been a distant enough past that the path I once walked 10 years ago is the path I can walk once again.

I hope and pray it is so. I don’t believe that path will be closed indefinitely.

Garden of the Gods then and now
Garden of the Gods then and now.

Little Friends

“What’s your name?”

The other boy at the pool doesn’t waste any time with pleasantries.

“Brady. And that’s my daddy.” (After all, why would he introduce himself without acknowledging his namesake?)

“He’s holding a baby.”

Brady is quick to defend. “No he’s not. That’s my sister, Halle.” He’s always very logical and straightforward about such things.

And then comes that ever-present fact of life for Brady.

“My mommy’s dead.” Every time he says it, it’s emotionless, like something he read in a text book. (And yet, he spares no emotion when we’re alone and talking about her.)

The other boy is a little confused. “She’s dead? ”

“Yeah. Now she’s with Jesus.”

That’s my boy! He didn’t quite get to lay out the whole plan of salvation to the other 5-year old, but I love that there’s no way for any of us to share our story without God being a critical part of it.

And I’m not surprised. I’ll always stand firm on the fact that this is not our story, but God’s. We’re just tiny bit roles. Nice job playing the part, Brady.

Random spontaneity

It’s been bugging me for a couple months now. This insatiable itch to do something a little crazy for a widower with two preschoolers.

I love road trips. I’m not sure why, but 12 hours each way to Myrtle Beach every single year has nothing to do with it, I’m sure. And 24 hours each way to Colorado Springs, once on my own and once with Stephanie, also had no part in solidifying that. Sprinkle in a month-long vacation to California and back and countless other locations through my life, and I’m sure there’s no reason I should like road trips.

But now that it was just me and the kids, the task seemed a bit daunting to do alone – no one riding shotgun to divvy out snacks, drinks and entertainment. However, I’ve heard from so many various people how much fun they had when their parents would just up and take them on the road to some undisclosed destination at the last moment. I also fondly remember our various trips growing up.

And so it happened. As I started lunch one Friday less than two weeks ago, I had no plans for the weekend. As I finished lunch, and thanks to a random conversation on Facebook (oh, technology!), I was then giving serious thought to being in Chicago for the next two days.

Dinner came and went quickly due to the promise of time at the pool. (A six-hour drive looming in the near future and we’re at the pool – surely, I’m crazy!) We made quick work of the nighttime routine, after which point I packed up all I could think of in preparation for an early morning drive. Four AM arrived, and we were on the road, presumably while the kids slept and I enjoyed music or podcasts or both.

To my chagrin, the kids stayed awake all but one hour of our drive, but they did really well. We had extra stops for bathroom breaks, but I’m impressed with how well they handled it. In our fifth of six hours on the road, there was also the call from Brady, “Daddy, can we please just go home now?”

He changed his tune for the ride home, though. To say the weekend was a success is a vast understatement. We all had a great time spent with good friends and my cousins (who have four boys under 12). For our ride home, Brady was asking that we spend not one night, but two nights with my cousins.

We’re building memories. It’s not always easy for me, but I’m learning what works for me and the kids that we all can enjoy. And I’m so thankful to my cousins for letting us stay on such short notice and for my friends for hanging out over the weekend at the last minute.

Chicago: we’ll be back!

Brady enjoying the water
Brady enjoying some swimming

Oh, Summer, How I Missed You!

Dear Summer,

I’m sorry that we had a temporary break in our relationship last year and we didn’t spend any good time together. You see, I’m no good at family event planning. That was Stephanie’s department, and I feel most women/mothers are much better than me at that.

Frankly, I didn’t have the strength in me last year to make our time together worthwhile. I was too busy being a widower with two kids. I didn’t hear your knocking at the door above the absence in my heart. I was too wrapped up in the old memories: walks in the park, ice cream Sundays, everyday pool days, and hours in the yard.

I hope this year will be different. Just like my random bike ride recently after years of not touching my bike, I plan to make this just like riding again. My ride last week sparked all of this, in fact. I was able to just get on my bike and ride until I was afraid I’d be too tired to make it back the same distance. (It reminded me of pre-license days when we would ride our bikes what felt like miles to buy trading cards.)

This year, I’m not a widower with two kids. Instead, we… are a family. And we’re going to make new memories as well as reinvent the old. We’ll splash in the pool. We’ll walk to get ice cream. We’ll enjoy the park and have picnics there. We’ll play on the swingset or go to the playground. We’ll go boating. And we’ll find new things to do. Maybe we’ll try camping or a random vacation just the three of us.

We’re going to make it happen, and I am so thankful that you are back, summer, because I missed you. I didn’t even realize how I missed you, because I was too wrapped up in missing someone far more important than you. (No offense, and I wouldn’t change that if I could go back.) I’m glad you came back to me even though I left you in the lurch. And I’m so excited to be ready to enjoy you this time around.

Thanks for being perennially committed. Here’s some proof that we’re already starting.

Brady loves vehicles
Halle captures pure joy in her smile