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Dewey’s Last Ride

13 Apr

I am saddened to report that Dewey passed away yesterday after a brief bout with canine cancer. In Dewey’s twelve years as Thatch Caye’s island dog and ostensible mascot, he played the role of protector and friend. He was also our best guest relations manager.

Hundreds of visitors have come to know and love Dewey over the years. He introduced himself by barking loudly at every arriving boat and wished guests a fond farewell in the same way. Dewey was one of a kind. He often made his presence known at mealtime and, judging by his weight, was successful in getting a little extra food from time to time. For the many of you in possession of a “Chilln’ with Dewey” T-shirt, you now own a real collector’s item. Wear it proudly.

Dewey was rescued as a pup from an uninhabited island in the Tobacco Range and made Thatch Caye his domain. To our knowledge, he only left it twice, both during hurricane evacuations. In a sense the island was more his than it is ours. It was his one true home.

We have known many dogs. Dewey was a good one. He possessed a set of virtues that we should all hope to emulate – loyalty, bravery, and friendliness. He was a good-looking dog that worked hard, but also knew how to relax and have a good time. Thatch Caye will never be the same without him. He will be missed.

So, join us in celebrating a dog’s life well lived. We may grieve, but our sorrow will cement our recollections of Dewey in our memories forever. Make yourself your favorite tropical cocktail and raise a glass to a good dog. Adios, Dewey!

Hanging out with Marshall and Dewey in May 2016

My Lowas

26 Aug

My Lowas

“The most alive is the wildest.” – HDT

After eight years, six continents, and hundreds and hundreds of miles, my hiking boots finally gave up the ghost.

The death of my Lowas was a little like losing a close friend. We’ve had so many memorable adventures. We hiked the Inca Trail, stalked lions in Botswana, tiptoed knife-edge ridge lines in Hawaii, walked on the Zuidersee Works, traipsed through Australia, climbed mountains in Korea, dangled off the south rim of Big Bend at sunset, almost died in a freak summer storm in the Alps, and tread dozens of wild places across the United States.

Thinking back fondly on these expeditions and the people I shared them with allows me to relive those experiences in my mind: the secret bottle of cabernet stashed in the bottom of my pack, picking fruit off the tree for a meal, catching salmon by the boatload, the lone little goat with a bell around its neck encountered high up on a ridgeline, finally making it to the summit, and too many amazing sunsets to count. There were laughs and tears as well: trying to start a fire with no matches, running out of water, a curious skunk, a cocktail party in the African bush, a collapsed tent or two, being charged by a Kodiak bear, rain, wind, snow, more than a few bumps, bruises and blisters, and one severely broken ankle.

My old Lowas took me to the wild places. They were my passport to nature and took me away from the over-civilized people that populate my day-to-day life. My boots took me to the mountains where I drew my strength and satisfied myself that there was meaning to be found in the woods. Who can look at wonderful nature and not be prompted to wonder more? There are answers on the mountaintop.

My grief will abate. I’ve already begun to get to know a new pair of Lowa hikers. The relationship is still stiff and uncomfortable, but I am committed to making it work. Over time, I expect the bond to grow and for our relationship to become easy and supple. There is no telling what adventures await us just over that yonder hill. There are many, many more miles to go.


A timely quote for you to consider. It’s as if he were right here with us today.

“Short-sighted men, who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Bored and Brilliant

21 Aug


“Saturdays, holidays, easy afternoons, lazy days, sunny days, nothing much to do.”

Our individual creativity is under attack from our hyper-connected, over-scheduled, over-stimulated way of life. Research shows that problem-solving and critical thinking require letting our minds wander where they may. Breakthrough ideas are not likely to result from thinking hard about a subject. Think about nothing and see what happens.

Planned downtime is not just for resting the body and recharging the spirit, it is also great for the brain. We need time to process inputs and make sense of the flood of data that comes our way. “Bored and brilliant” is the new mantra of the creative class.

I’ve got three simple pieces of advice for becoming a more innovative thinker.

The simplest and most powerful thing you can do to increase your creativity is to stop using your phone as an alarm clock. When the first thing we do each day is grab our phone, it creates an overwhelming urge to check and see what messages arrived overnight.

When we do this our brain starts unconsciously and unproductively working on the problems of the day. Even if you try to push those small thoughts out of the way, they creep back in. Unless you go to bed before 9 pm, or are heavily invested in Asian stock markets, it is unlikely that anything earth-shattering happened while you were asleep. Those Instagram pics of Australian models on the beach will still be there an hour later.

By keeping your phone out of the bedroom, you can give yourself thirty to sixty minutes each morning to reflect, daydream, and think deep thoughts. This way, you will not be involuntarily thinking about the minor problems of the day while you are in the shower or making coffee. Your brain will be free to wander without the distractions of email. An early morning walk without your phone is another great way to start a creative day.

My second piece of advice is to turn off all notifications on your phone, tablet and laptop. Why do we knowingly let other people interrupt and interfere with our cognitive processes? Consume inputs on your own terms. Do not let email devour day. Set aside specific blocks of time to disposition the items in your multiple inboxes.

Get a screen time tracker and set limits on the number of times a day you pick up your phone. The “You’ve got mail” notice may be the single biggest contributor to destroying your creative capabilities. Recapturing them is a more urgent matter than your friend’s less-than-insightful missive on the latest Game of Thrones episode. Most of your incoming messages are bullshit. Read them if you wish, but do it on your own terms.

Lastly, we should celebrate the deliberate act of doing nothing. We do not need to constantly be entertained. Make the snooze button your friend. There is nothing wrong with a relaxing morning spent lounging around actually savoring a cup of coffee. There will be plenty of time to catch up on your shows later in the day. Mindfulness is a sound practice that requires quiet contemplation of the task at hand. For a few hours each week you should make doing nothing a priority task and see what happens.

Technology and culture are driving us to be less creative in our day-to-day thinking. We may be extremely productive, but we are not terribly effective. Try these few simple tricks and see if they don’t change your way of thinking. Research suggests that you’ll be better off – and you are less likely to encounter a spoiler before you get around to watching that last episode of The Bachelor.

My Whole30 Journey

23 Jul

May 2017

No one ever called me fat.

But I was woefully out of shape.

After more than twenty-five years of putting work and family ahead of caring for myself, I had grown from a scrawny college freshman into a typical middle-aged American man. At 44, my daughters asked me to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. After researching the trip online, I wasn’t certain I could make it.

Like most people, I had made periodic attempts to lose weight over the years. We had acquired a home gym, a fancy treadmill, and a high-tech exercise bike. There were even some success stories; once dropping 15 pounds while working in Germany, running a 10k in less than an hour, and occasionally flirting with giving up alcohol.

My reality was mainstream as I bought pants with multiple waist sizes that I bounced between as I expanded and contracted. That summer, I weighed in at 200 pounds and looked like an average dad and businessman. It might have been normal, but it was not good – I was carrying around 60 pounds of fat on a 5’10” frame.

So, I began to get serious. The hike in Peru was a motivator. I did not want to disappoint my daughters and I did not want to disappoint myself. Over the next few months of serious dieting and exercise, including weight training and lots of cardio, I lost 25 pounds of fat and gained 15 pounds of muscle. A month after my 45th birthday I hiked the Inca Trail at 190 pounds. I felt pretty good about the accomplishment.

That is where I stayed, more or less, for the next couple of years. I continued to exercise and continued to struggle with controlling my weight as the goal of the hike was replaced with the everyday stresses of work and home. At 190, even after the transformation, I was still carrying around body fat equal to almost 20% of my weight.

There seemed to be no amount of dieting or exercise that could affect that. It should have been simple physics. Burn more energy than you consume and you will lose weight. I was stuck in the “calories in – calories out” paradigm and it wasn’t working.

And then, at 48 years old, a friend challenged me to try the Whole30 eating plan for a month. I researched the plan and thought that it would be near impossible to follow. But I had been challenged and I never back down from a challenge. (Thanks Kasey!)

So, I did it for thirty straight, life-changing days.

The elimination of all added sweeteners, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol from my diet had a profound effect. After a ten-day period of feeling like I had been run over by a truck, I began to feel fantastic as I lost another twenty pounds, bottoming out at 170 at the end of the month. It felt as if I had uncovered a secret formula for beating back the dad bod. As an added benefit, my chronic heartburn was gone, my cholesterol was down, and the nurse no longer looked concerned when taking my blood pressure.

Over the past two years I have completed three more strict Whole30 programs at roughly six-month intervals. The plan, however, has had an incredible impact on the way I eat all the time. My relationship with food has changed dramatically. I do not deprive myself, but I am very conscious of what I put in my body and how it makes me feel. I had been eating crap and trying to exercise it off in the gym. It wasn’t working.

I am now pretty steady 180 pounds with a body fat percentage of less than 10%. During my bi-annual strict Whole30s, I usually drop another five or ten pounds and once pushed my body fat down below eight percent. I still exercise, but now I see real results. As I shed layers of fat, the muscle I had gained by lifting weights was exposed.

Whole30 adherents will object to my focus on weight loss and body composition. They just want me to talk about the health benefits of eating well. Whatever. I have abs at 50! And I have more energy, and I sleep better, and I have greater mental clarity, etc., etc.

Fitness experts say that no one regimen works for everybody. While I think that is probably true, I cannot help but believe that it must start with food. The American diet has changed so dramatically in the past 40 years that it takes real effort to avoid the bad stuff. Every processed food in the store has added sugar or sweetener. The industrial agricultural complex has sold us on unhealthy and unsustainable ways of eating. Getting back to basics opened me up to a whole new world of flavorful options. This is not about deprivation. It is about exploration and experimentation and listening to your body. Many chronic health conditions can be linked to, and addressed by, what you eat.

Whole30 changed my life. I won’t claim that it is easy, but the results are so dramatic as to be indisputable. It is still a struggle to balance work, family and fitness. I can be lazy and undisciplined. I still love pie and wine. The good news is that I can afford to eat whatever I want if I’m smart about it and maintain healthy eating habits most of the time.

You should try this too. Read the books. Follow the plan strictly for 30 days and see what happens. If you throw in a little exercise, I am willing to bet you will experience a massive transformation in how you look and feel. Get ready to buy some new pants.

The Eulogy Virtues

16 Jul

Grove BrameOn July 4th we said goodbye to our friend, Grove Brame. Lost too soon at 59 to the same form of brain cancer that has taken two other good friends in recent years. While it is close to impossible to find anything positive in such a tragedy, there are lessons to be learned and messages to be reinforced.

The thing that struck me during the service was how little airtime was allocated to Grove’s enormous list of accomplishments. He was a classic “up by the bootstraps” corporate success story, spending a storied career at Dr. Pepper that included too many promotions and accolades to track. Grove was also an amazing athlete and scratch golfer that you somehow didn’t mind losing to over and over again.

He spent forty years knocking down goals and building an envious resume. In the end, no one seemed to care about those things. Instead, what we heard about during his funeral was what we consider to be common virtues. The personal stories that were told were always about some kindness, about the way he made the storyteller feel, about some casual good deed, or about something funny he had done.

Grove was generous. He was kind. He was a great listener. He could fit with any crowd. Grove was a great father, stepfather, husband, brother, brother-in-law, and friend. These are the virtues of the eulogy. The ones that define a life and the person that lived it. In the end, it is character that matters.

I’ll readily admit to spending the last twenty-five plus years building my own resume. I, too, have a long list of accomplishments of which I am quite proud. And I do not intend to stop doing the work I love, hoping for success and maybe some recognition along the way. You may be doing the exact same thing.

Resume accomplishments are typically marked by readily identifiable milestones. The graduation, promotion, raise, award, and championship can all be celebrated. We pursue these and rejoice at the achievement. The eulogy virtues are acquired more subtly. There is no celebratory milestone for learning to practice empathy. We do not get an award for honing character to a certain level. They don’t give out black belts in compassion. The rewards for the development of the eulogy virtues are intrinsic.

The hard lesson from Grove’s death is that we should think about how we balance our investment of time. We should consciously work to develop the eulogy virtues just as aggressively as we pursue the resume accomplishments. These are not mutually exclusive pathways to personal development. Both are worthy goals, but one without the other is probably not the legacy you want to leave.

We can all honor Grove’s memory by bringing some balance to the task of creating better versions of ourselves and critically evaluating if we are having a positive impact on the lives of others. Aloha friend.



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