But, this is the best kind of insanity. I spent nearly a week in The City of the Angels with my son, Pete, enjoying his loft in the art district and checking out a number of eateries and some local points of interest. Great time with the “chip off the old block.”
Then a week ago Friday, I drove down to Hawthorne, California, a Los Angeles suburb, where Pete lived last year when I had an unplanned, extended stay in the small guest house he was residing in at that time. If you've been reading this blog very long, you'll remember I blew my engine on the trip over the mountain from the San Joaquin Valley into the Los Angeles basin in early January 2015. I had my engine rebuilt in Hawthorne by a very competent and honest man, Wilson, and his team of skilled technicians. I stopped and visited Wilson and team (and met his lovely wife) at A1 Engine Rebuilding Service. I highly recommend these folks.
I had called ahead and made an appointment with Marco at Song's Front End Alignment Service while I was going to be in Hawthorne. Marco did a great job last year, and also proved to be both competent and very honest. Once again, he took care of My McVansion and gave me a feeling of confidence as I rolled toward that same mountain where the ill-fated engine incident occurred last year. This time approaching from west to east. My McVansion scaled that mountain (as it has several higher mountains on the way west from the east coast only a few weeks before). But, once over the mountain and into the San Joaquin Valley, again, is where the insanity was awaiting.
Insanity = 5 Birthdays And A Family Reunion
Once in the San Joaquin Valley, Clovis, California (a Fresno suburb) to be more precise, the insanity, the really great, fun insanity, began. I arrived on Friday evening after doing battle with the Los Angeles metro area Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. That is not fun insanity.
Sunday, June 26th was my former mother-in-law's birthday. BJ (as she's known, short for Bonnie June) turned 90 years old that day. You may recall last year when she was a member of an Honor Flight of WWII veterans (she's former Navy) who were flown to Washington, DC to be honored. They visited the World War II Memorial (and other memorials as well), were honored by their Congressional representatives and other special events for these brave men and women. They are members of the diminishing number of veterans who preserved our nation from the Third Reich and the Japanese Empire. There was a heroes welcome awaiting them upon return to the Yosemite-Fresno International Airport.
This year, BJ was honored for her 90th birthday. She's still sharp as a tack, active and in good health. BJ worked with me for a number of years, probably close to at least two decades in my businesses. She was and still is a loyal friend and confidant. But, along with BJ's 90th (that they termed her second 45th), Joe, her next to the youngest son (of her eight offspring) was celebrating his 50th birthday and Forrest, her third to the youngest son was celebrating his 52rd birthday. Additionally, BJ's youngest granddaughter was celebrating her 6th birthday. And just to add a little more excitement to the times, Forrest's loyal employee, a sharp young man, Jesus, just became the father of a new bambina on Forrest's birthday. Additionally, just a short time ago, Jesus, took his oath and became a full-fledged American citizen.
Family flew and drove in from Manassas, Virginia; Issaquah (Seattle), Washington; Colorado Springs, Colorado, Phoenix, Arizona, Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Los Angeles, California. Lots of trips to and from the airport, all beds in both homes were filled and there were multiple motels occupied. Yours truly, was parked and hooked up in the RV pad behind BJ's apartment in the house that serves as both her home and the headquarters for the business she is a partner in with Forrest.
Between the offspring, the grandchildren and the great grandchildren plus, me, an “adopted” brother into the family unit and a number of friends who came by to share in the festivities, there were in excess of 50 people involved in the reunion and birthday celebrations. It was, as I titled this article, “insanity.” But, it was always under control, laughter prevailed, lots of hugging and love of family and each other was evident.
Who Begat Who?
My son, Pete, was the first of the crop of grandchildren. He is now 37, rapidly approaching 38. (This is so hard for me to believe, but it's fact). The next crop began about five years after Pete was born. So, there is Jeremy, a rapper and host of an Internet radio show in Los Angeles. There is his brother, Justin, who owns and operates a tourist golf cart travel service in the Phoenix area, shuttling tourists through scenic areas. There is Devon, son of David, semi-retired in his mid-50's in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Devon had to leave right after the first birthday celebration so I didn't have much time to interact with him. Then comes 25 year old Joel, who brought his pretty, delightful girl friend with him. Joel is from Fairfax, Virginia now. He works for his father, Joe, in Joe's furniture and disaster restoration business in Manassas, Virginia.
Oh, there are more. There is granddaughter, Sandy (and her husband, Steve). Sandy is older than Pete, but that's a long story not relevant to this article. Great granddaughters Nikki, Amber and Kim, Sandy's daughters were along, along with two great great grandaughers, Sophia and Aubry. Nikki is still carrying another great great granddaughter who'll appear on the scene in another three months. Also in attendance were grandson's Jared and Zachary and granddaughter Kaylee, BJ's son, Forrest and daughter-in-law, Cortney's offspring. Then there is Joel, I mentioned earlier, plus, Owen and Avery, son's and daughter of Joe and, wife Deborah. Son, Don and, his wife, Michelle had their offspring, Garrett and Sidney along
Daughter, Christi, mother of Jeremy and Justin, mentioned earlier, brought along her new beau, Arnold, a terrific guy who was quickly sized up and initiated into the clan. David, father of Devon, mentioned earlier, was accompanied by his wife, Sandy. They drove in from Colorado in their motorhome and stayed in it. Wayne was also there from Colorado Springs with his current lady companion, Stacey. And, certainly, I couldn't leave out the most important person who is the key to my being part of this clan in the first place, Cynthia, aka Cindy, my former wife, Pete's mother and Sandy's mother.
I think I got them all, well, except for brother, Dan. Brother Dan opted not to make the sojourn back to Clovis for this event. He had recently moved back to this area after decades in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But, his heart, after all these years, was still back in “The Springs,” so he opted to move back there a short time ago and it just wasn't in the cards for him to make another trip over the mountains and to the west. Dan, like yours truly, has also done some van camping, though I don't think he ever considered himself a full-time vandweller.
Do you have all that? There will be a “pop quiz” on this in the morning. Seriously, I think you can see where using the term “insanity” comes into play. There were times where there were so many people talking at the same time, it was near impossible to discern who was saying what about whatever. I have a pretty high degree of stamina for someone my age, but to say I was exhausted at the end of each day is an understatement.
Add to all of this the two swimming pools between the two houses and lots of room and rooms for everyone to gravitate to for fun and conversation. We had a similar event in Lake Tahoe for BJ's 80th birthday and it was very similar. However, I think this one topped the cake. Add to this celebrating Joe's birthday a few days later, then Forrest's birthday the day after that along with young Sidney's birthday and the arrival of Jesus's new bambina. This was some great family insanity.
My Unexpected Pleasure
Throughout all this fun, laughter and, at times, chaos, I had the unexpected pleasure of getting to know and interact with three of my young nephews, Jeremy, Justin and Joel. I've known all three of them since they were born, but mainly as Uncle Ed. At this reunion I had in depth conversations with all three of them gaining real insight into who each of them is as a young adult. They are all uniquely different, with individual challenges to face and deal with. They are young, Jeremy is the oldest, at 32, and an Iraq Army veteran. Joel, is the youngest, I believe, at 25. I hope to get to know Devon one of these days, too.
The surprising thing to me was how they related to me and asked serious questions about life issues and challenges. While I didn't expect them to take anything I had to say with much more than a grain of salt. They asked intelligent, mature questions and they “Listened.” I believe each of them gained some insight into each of their individual future paths by opening their minds. I was impressed by each of them. I also was touched that they wanted to talk with me about interesting and deep subjects. They wanted me to learn more about who they were and wanted to become.
Among all the “insanity” this serendipity made this particular family event, possibly one of the most, if not the most gratifying, humbling and fulfilling family event of my life. Each wanted to stay in contact directly with me so they could ask more questions and keep me up to date on what they were doing in their lives. It is, at this stage of my life, most important to me to give back. I want to share as much knowledge and experience as I can to help the upcoming generations and leaders to bypass the mistakes I've made and avoid reinventing the wheel. There are plenty of new mistakes to make without repeating mine.
So, there it is. A very brief synopsis of what has kept me going nearly continuously for the past 9 days. As I sift through all this information (overload) I've experienced, I hope I can bring some new insights to the forefront and share them with you. Unfortunately, I don't have much direct family of my own, but I do attempt to share what I have with them, too. And, I like to regard you, my reader, as part of a very special family. I hope you gain nuggets of information and insight you can apply for your own life.
The 20 Questions Challenges
Now, for a quick change of topic. I am undertaking a new challenge for myself. Pulling from my roots in the recording, production (audio & video) industry and my time as a book publisher, I'm preparing to set out on a new course. While I love music and recording music (the inspiration for a 50+ year career), I have spent the vast majority of my life in the “information” business. I also love the art of the “interview.”
Over the years, I've had the opportunity to interview many incredible people. Some of them have been about who they are, their lives, their achievements, their outlooks, their experiences, etc. So, I've been searching for some way I can utilize my talents, experiences, skills and recording (audio/video) assets as well as my publishing knowledge.
Going back to the 1980's, I created the “Leadership Audio Digest” that morphed into what became known as “SuccessTrax,” I've decided to reignite the spark that created that program series, the interview. To me, it seems a shame to not capture the knowledge, wisdom, experience and outlooks of a broad base of individuals before they leave this earth and take most or, in many cases, all of that with them.
So, here's the basics. I'm creating something new. Ultimately, it will involve audio, video and printed content to suit each individual who chooses to gain from it. I'm currently working on the logistics of production as I'm traveling. While technology is wonderful and I could certainly accomplish much of the content gathering via Skype and other online services, I prefer one-on-one, in person, face to face interview techniques.
Many decades ago, and some readers may recall this TV program, there was a TV game show called “20 Questions.” A panel of celebrities were allowed 20 questions they could ask of a mystery guest, usually not seen by the panel. Through those 20 questions they had to learn the identity of the guest and what his or her significant achievement or celebrity was. My idea is similar, yet a bit different.
I want to create 20 very significant questions that will be the basis for an ongoing series of interviews with a diverse group of individuals. Each individual, while not necessarily a person of any kind of celebrity status, will share insights into living a successful and fulfilling life. This doesn't necessarily mean the individuals have achieved great financial wealth or significant acclaim in any specific pursuit (art, music, invention, athletics, business, medicine, writing, etc.). It means each has found the path to lead a life and lifestyle of freedom, success, personal gratification/fulfillment as he or she defines.
I have some people on my list I hope to be able to interview who are of some celebrity status. It's not about their celebrity, but about their philosophies of life, how they've been able to self actualize and make their people and world around them better. Most of the subjects of the interviews will not be people whose names are “household words.” Mainly, they'll have something to share that needs to be passed on to others and to succeeding generations.
So, here's where I need your help. Right now, I'd like you to think about the kind of important questions you would ask someone to learn what they know that can make your life better. Who would you ask these questions of? Would it be your parents, grandparents, great grandparents? Would it be you employer or the owner of the business you work for? Would it be a champion athlete? Would it be a person who has the gift of writing – books, music, etc.? Would it be a neighbor? Would it be a teacher or college professor?
I am going to ask you in the near future to submit whatever questions you would like to ask someone who has the wisdom and experience to change your life for the better. I will gather these questions (I expect there to be some overlap). I will then sort through the questions and select the 20 questions I believe to be the most compelling and make those the foundation of this project. During the course of any interview there will likely be other questions that evolve out of the interview process, but the 20 basic questions will be the foundation.
The content will be made available in numerous ways including through podcasts, a vlog-YouTube Channel, anthology style books and as many ways as I can find to disseminate the information to whatever audience desires to consume it. This project lends itself perfectly to my traveling lifestyle (which, obviously, is another of the catalysts for this idea).
So, think about the questions you'd ask and the people you'd like to ask. Write them down as you think of them. Shortly, I'll be asking for your input and I hope I gain a lot of input from you.
Until next time, remember to live free and be happy. EH