The trip. Part One

It’s time to go. I’ll be in London tomorrow.IMG_4121

A few years ago I hatched a plan. It was crazy. Extravagant. Audacious. Inspired by my friends Walker and Mark, with a little help from a couple of experiences with “Raising a Modern Day Knight,” I decided to take each of my sons on a father/son rite-of-passage “welcome to manhood” adventure.

The rules were simple. The year they turn 16, we would take a father/son trip anywhere in the world. They would be the “Team Leader,” taking on the responsibility of planning the trip, setting the itinerary, and making sure we got great deals. I would play the role of adviser and angel investor.IMG_3642

He was so little when the plan was hatched. Where did the time go? The day for the trip is here, the adventure has quickly turned from fantasy to reality.

I’ve heard “must be nice” comments about our trip from others. Ten days in the UK? Sunrise at Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice? Overnight train to the highlands of Scotland? They’re looking at the finished product. They are ignoring the humble beginning.

 

Here are a few behind the scenes key points:

  1. Get intentional. Unforgettable things rarely happen on accident, particularly good ones. Make the decision. Write it down. In my case, it was a decision to do something meaningful, memorable, and significant with my sons before they left the house. It’s not just about one trip either, it was a decision to be intentional about fatherhood.
  2. Make a reasonable plan. Because of what I do, how I’m compensated, and the lifestyle we live, I knew that “anywhere in the world’ was a reasonable plan for us. We can’t do it every year, but with enough warning, we can make “anywhere” happen. Not everyone can. That’s okay. There are mind-blowing sights within a couple of days drive of where you live, no matter where you live. A rental car (or van) is more affordable than an airline ticket. As long as you ditch the electronics, a lot of bonding can happen on the road. The adventure is in the journey, not the destination.
  3. Think long-term and take baby steps. Sunrise at Stonehenge on the solstice doesn’t sound reasonable. It isn’t–if it’s an impulse. With a couple years of warning, though, amazing things are possible. Cut back on the premium TV channels and funnel that money into a savings account. Tax refunds or bonuses? Don’t buy that 50-inch TV or the fishing boat…put it into the dream account. Twenty dollars a month adds up to nearly $500 in two years. Every little bit helps. You have to think long-term.
  4. Adjust as necessary. In my head, my son would’ve been a project manager. I wouldn’t have done anything. He would have had budgets and spreadsheets. There would have been multiple options, all color-coded with their respective strengths highlighted in yellow and weaknesses highlighted blue. He would’ve worked a job (preferably for a company he started himself) to help pay for the trip. But one thing I learned through this process…he already works hard. He earned straight As in school, held parts in multiple dramatic productions, learned three instruments, played in two bands, and taught himself how to program. I wouldn’t ask him to drop any of that to start a lawn mowing business. My expectations were too high. So I adjusted. I started off putting the responsibility for driving this project entirely on him. When I made it a “we” project instead, things came together quite quickly. I scheduled a weekly meeting with him. During our meeting, he’d share what he had found and what direction he was leaning on important decisions. I’d offer advice and give him goals for the next week. It worked beautifully. In hindsight, it was exactly how things should have been running all along!

And now, we’re about to embark. Two parts of the the family are headed across the pond while the other two remain domestic. The adventure begins.

“I don’t remember getting older…. when did they?”

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Oh, shoot. Vanity. (#31days)

Ah, the selfie. Scorned by many but pervasive and ever present. Shunned as evidence of vanity and narcissism. That one word borders on vulgarity in many social circles. Can it be redeemed?IMG_9537

At some point during this 31 day blogging challenge I decided on an idea for a final post. Selfies. Honestly…I take a lot of them. It’s not because I think the white in my whiskers or the glare off the top of my head is worthy of adoration. It goes deeper than that.

Looking back through these pictures weaves a thread of vivid emotion through the tapestry of my memories. I can remember the exhilarating fatigue of a 9 hour flight to Brazil. Fond memories of treasured family and friends I may never see again spring to life. Baseball games, sunsets, museums, theme parks. More than just remembering the sights, I remember the feelings. Anxiety, sadness, elation, comfort. Peace.

So take a look at my video. See if you can spot the world’s most famous hacker. Maybe you’ll see the Colorado River. There’s a woman named Wellen and another named Regicleide mixed in. A family picture in the rain. Soulmates. A guy named Toooooolllllieeeee. It’s more than just memories.

And a dog. There always seems to be a dog.

Oh, and if you think this is vanity… reflect on one question for me… did you look for yourself in that video?  Gotcha.

 

Oh, shoot! I’m crazy! (#31days)

 

IMG_9634I’m insane. Clinically, certifiably insane.

I graduated from college in 1997 with a couple of degrees. I graduated again in 2005 with another one. It’s been almost exactly nine years since I put my pencil down on after a final exam.

Two days from now, class starts again. Am I a bit nervous? No. That’s too much of an understatement. It goes beyond nerves. I’m scared. Terrified, even. Even though this is familiar territory, this leap is more mentally disrupting than I expected.

My books were delivered today. My online account was activated this week. I’m in that magically uncomfortable space somewhere between “This is real” and “you’re going to be able to do this.”

There are a few people around who confident in me. People that have been through this. People that know me. They believe in me.

I have frequently told people, “I believe in you, even when YOU don’t believe in you.” As an outsider looking in, we can see the ability, character, talents, and potential in others without the burden of that internal critic that can be so overwhelming and loud. I guess that’s what I need my closest friends to echo back to me right now.

 

Deck your walls, build a dream

I’ve had a few people ask about the best way to get prints of a few of my recent photos. If you fall into that category, I’ve got some cool news. While I do already have a few available here, but for a very limited time I’m going to offer a few of my recent favorites in a new way. And it’s for a good cause! Many of these aren’t available anywhere else, and some won’t be offered again later.

My good friend Randy is working on launching a new enterprise. He is building a community based around big dreams and mutual cooperation. For example…if your dream has been to start a new business, you can go to this community to get practical advice from experienced experts that have already done it. If you’d like to write a book, start a blog, or become a photographer…you can find practical answers and genuine encouragement here. If you need to crowd-fund a new invention, you’ll find the resources you need. If it’s time for some personal fitness, become debt-free, or you’re looking for marriage or parenting help, this community will have the answers you’re looking for. This site is all about changing lives. I love that.

Sounds awesome, right? So what’s the catch? The site will be free to you and I. But… some seed money is needed to get the project off the ground. This is where we can help.

I’m offering up prints of the photos below. If you contribute at least $25 to the NEXTworkHQ Indiegogo campaign, I’ll send you a print of the photo of your choice. And my offer scales… $50 gets you 2, $75 gets you three, and so on. That’s in addition to the other cool incentives on the page (check out the coffee mug at the $40 level and the LibbyDoodle at $75).

But wait, there’s more. For $100 you can get prints of all 5 of the sunsets. For $150, you can get all 8 pictures in the State Fair series. I’ll let you do to math on those, but they’re a good deal.

The Fair:

Sunsets:

Travels:

This prints will all be poster-sized. Most will be 13×19. The pictures that aren’t the aspect ratio to be 13×19 will be slightly smaller, but will still be a beautiful, high-quality poster.

I’m sure if you’ve read this far, you’re screaming: “But Dave! How can I take advantage of this incredible, limited time deal?!?!??!?!??”  Here’s the fine print:

  • Head over to this site: NEXTworkHQ and contribute the amount of your choice.
  • Contact me with a copy of your receipt, the names of pictures you’d like, and your shipping address. All the pictures have captions to make it easy.
  • Help me spread the news… share this deal with your friends.
  • This offer begins now and is good until midnight Pacific time, October 2, 2014 or until I’ve given away 20 prints.
  • $25 for one print, $100 for ALL 5 in the Sunset gallery, $150 for ALL 8 in the Fair gallery.

Life through the Glass

Glass Wall

The view from my glass wall

As I browse the internet, I see article after article lamenting the fact that people are missing out on life because they’re too busy snapping pictures. There are videos demonstrating people missing relationships and experiences because they are too busy obsessing over their phone. Yes, those articles and videos make some good points. Relationships matter. Life is meant to be lived, so live it. Or as I always say…  Have adventures. Tell stories. My story is different.

My Canon SX50 HS came wrapped in pretty paper on Christmas morning of 2012. Instead of isolation, though, owning a camera with 50x zoom has driven me more deeply into adventure. It has connected me not only with LIFE but with OTHERS. It helps me to tell the stories.

The first week I owned that camera, I found myself taking my boys on long hikes. We explored. Sure, a better father than me might have already doing this. I wasn’t. Until I got that camera. That glass had power that went way beyond magnification. We started having adventures again. Together. We went places we hadn’t been before. We saw things that most people don’t see. And we took others along when we could.

Instead of undermining relationships, the camera has built new bridges. Although it might be hard to imagine now, on Christmas Day 2012 I could identify about 3 different types of bird. But 50x zoom has a way of making birds pretty interesting. My dad has always been a birder for a long time, though. My fascination has given us a new common ground to tread together. I can send him pictures and he’ll help me ID them. When we get together, we enjoy spending the day outdoors hunting birds together. Exploring the world while having fun together.

Oh, and the joy of a new-found perspective! Periodically seeing life through a new lens has altered the way I see life even when the camera isn’t around. I notice light in ways I hadn’t before. The sun shining through the fog. Rays reflecting off a cloud after the sun has already set. The golden hour. A dragonfly or a bee. My son points out things he notices, too, like a frozen drop of dew on a blade of grass. There is beauty everywhere. Just owning this magical looking glass helps me to slow down and notice.

Not just experiencing life…the camera has helped to cope with life at times. When the dog died, a photo walk was a great excuse to get out and get moving. Quietly meandering along the river provided time and space to process the loss. It’s also been a catalyst for sunset photo walks with my sweetie…a great way to carving out time to spend with each other.

Rather than separating us from our experiences, pictures capture those incredible moments in time and allow us to relive them again and again.

"Dad"

“Dad”

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my kids won’t remember what I look like in their memories. They’ll only remember me with a glass wall in front of my face. That guy that always was around documenting life but never living it. I don’t think so, though. I’ve seen and appreciated more sunsets and sunrises with the camera than I ever did without. I’ve noticed more beauty in this world, which has a way of changing not only perspective, but outlook on life. A side-effect of this looking glass has been joy. Contentment. Satisfaction. Connectedness. It has opened up the world of this introvert to a innumerable new relationships. Looking through this glass has led to adventure…not just for me but for the kids. We’re all having adventures and telling stories. It’s beautiful.

“A time” in Villers Saint Paul

Our incredible driver handed us off to the people of Villers Saint Paul just after 11AM on the 8th of May, just in time for the Liberation Day ceremony. (read the story of the journey here)

A few weeks before leaving for France, I filled out a form on the Villers Saint Paul web site letting them know we were coming. Some other crew members from my grandpa’s bomber had visited previously, as have some of my relatives. Any time they know that any Americans are coming, they show an incredible amount of hospitality. I corresponded via email with the Mayor’s chief-of-staff, who told me that they would like us to be included in the day’s ceremonies.

The mayor and I

As we hopped out of the car and race toward the crowd, I spotted the mayor right away. Gerard Weyn has been mayor for quite a few years and his distictive hair and beard are easy to spot. He made his way to us, accompanied by the lovely (and fluent in English) Isabelle Rose Massein, who was our gracious host for the rest of our time in Villers Saint Paul.

Isabelle welcomed us and the ceremonies began. Outside of the town hall in every town in France is a monument dedicated to those that have died protecting the country. It honors not only the French that have given their lives, but also the people from all over the world that have fought and died alongside the French. There were quite a few people in uniform present. Isabelle later told us that some were firemen, paramedics, and police, who attend every ceremony.

A few speeches were made, reminders to all of the incredible sacrifice that was made during the previous wars. Every year they honor the American soldiers. They realize and acknowledge that the Americans were here by choice. We were not defending our homeland, we were fighting for a principle alongside our fellow man. Freedom. Liberty. And we chose to fight.

Flowers were laid on the monument. Being the grandson of the pilot who was shot down and crashed in Villers Saint Paul, they allowed me to walk up with the mayor and place the first set of flowers on the memorial. I can’t express how humbling it is to be honored by this town because of what my grandpa did.

I have re-read my grandpa’s story a few times leading up to today. As I read it, I get the sense that life changed for him as he was floating to the earth under his enormous silk parachute. The war suddenly went from 20,000 feet to ground level. Being a bomber pilot was a dangerous job, just like any combat job in the second world war. But there were a lot of airmen that didn’t survive as prisoners of war. The conditions were harsh and seemed hopeless. Like Viktor Frankl theorized in his incredible book “Man’s Search For Meaning,” it is nearly impossible to survive hardship if you have no hope. Hope gives us something to live for, and something to live for is more important than food.

When my grandpa made his unscheduled stop in Villers Saint Paul, the first people he met tried to help him evade capture. Guns, however, are incredible persuasive devices that can be more powerful than good intentions. Once captured, he was held in an older couple’s home. This couple generously gave him what was probably their ration of wine for at least a month. He had been through so much that he didn’t even realize it was wine until he had downed it all. He gave them his aviator’s helmet in return.

At his next point of detainment (in Creil), he was helped by a young French woman named Janine. Her bravery and attempts to help him escape in spite of the fact that the cost would likely be her own life left a big enough impression that both my grandpa and his co-pilot (Cunningham) named their daughters Janine. Then name has passed on in my family for three additional generations so far.

The courageous and bold actions of the people of Villers Saint Paul in the face of the danger and threats of the occupying enemy was uplifting. I believe my grandpa saw the best of humanity just before he was plunged into experiencing some of the worst parts of humanity. I can’t help but wonder…without the heroes of the French Resistance, what would my grandpa’s state of mind been when entering prison camp? Having these examples fresh in his mind must have been reassuring. Personally, I believe the impression made was so strong that it has passed on to new generations. That is part of the reason that we Bouchards have a strong sense of justice and an aspiration toward seeking out the best parts of human nature. We love freedom, liberty, and independence. We rebel against oppression, wherever we see it. Can that thread be traced back, at least in part, to the second of June, 1944 in Villers Saint Paul?

The mayor and my son placing flowers

After the ceremony at the town center, everyone piled into cars for a quick journey to the crash site. The people of Villers Saint Paul have name the street “Rue du Liberator” after the plane that crashed there (my grandpa’s B-24 Liberator). There is also a memorial plaque there honoring John McGeachie, who was killed by flak on-board the plane during the bombing run. At the crash site, they had a French flag and an American flag flying on between the street sign and the plaque. They played both the American and French anthem, then the mayor took my oldest son and together they put flowers under the plaque. We were informed that they have this ceremony every year to honor the Americans. They realize it is important to never forget.

As I walked down that street to the car, my mind drifted back to my grandpa. He walked this street once, almost 70 years ago. When he did it, he had guns pointed at his back. He was about to be interrogated by Germans. He must have seen the huge church tower that dominates the town. Did he see sympathetic villagers peering through the windows? What must they have thought of him, too?

After the ceremony at the crash site concluded, we were escorted back to the town center for a reception. They had champagne, soft drinks, juice, and finger foods. Isabelle showed us a photo book that had pictures of the time John Cunningham (the co-pilot) visited Villers Saint Paul in the early 90s. That year they had a parade with vintage vehicles. That was the year they renamed the street and put the plaque in place in honor of Mac. At this ceremony, the mayor presented me with a medallion from the town. It beautiful and bronze, with the name of the town on it and a large image of the large, old church that is at the center of town. I’m sure it will be a treasured keepsake in our family for a long, long time.

Once that ceremony concluded, we posed for some pictures with the mayor and with Isabella. Then we walked back to the crash site on our own again, taking in the sites. Wondering which fence he tried to climb to get away from his captors. Which house was he held in before being transported to Creil? What else happened in this ancient town of only 6,000?

The cathedral/church in the middle of town. I’m certain my grandpa saw this clock on his way through town.

“Rue du Liberator” The Stubby Gal II‘s final landing spot was at the end of this short street. Her bombs hit some major transportation lines for the Germans (4 days before D-Day) but she managed to land in a field, not on any houses.

 
My sons and I on Rue du Liberator. Passing the torch to the next generation. These are important stories to remember. They help us remember what man is capable of, both the best and worst parts. Remember helps to appreciate what we have, aspire to be more, and fight against the darkness that can be found at the depths of humanity.

The green area at the end of the street. The plane must have gone down right around here, but I am not certain of the exact location.

When our time at Villers Saint Paul wrapped up, Isabella met us again and treated us to coffee and tea, with her lovely daughter joining us. Then she drove us to the train station in Creil, helped us get tickets, and stayed with us until we were on the train headed back to Paris.
Although I’ve already written a lot, I can’t seem to put into words the emotions that surround this day and this time. So many random things aligned for us to be in Villers Saint Paul today. The trip to France was scheduled knowing we’d go to the crash site, but without regards to the day. I found out much later that we could possibly be at the crash site on “Liberation Day.” Then to hear that they wanted to include us in the ceremonies was almost unbelievable. Of course, the journey from 8AM to 11:07 was nothing short of a miracle, facilitated by the most chivalrous gentleman in France. The stories, the people, the places, sights, and sounds. It’s mind boggling.
It’s 2AM, the day after Liberation day. This story started for me in June of 1982. It started for my grandpa in June of 1944. My two sons have now been written into the story as well. The chapter is now over, but this story must never end.

Pete’s Castle

Once upon a time there was a dog named Pete. He was a great and majestic king.

All was not well in the kingdom. King Pete had been having a ruff day. He decided to have a feast and invite all his friends. He ordered his 47 kitty-servants to make the preparations.

Pete ran into the dining hall. He jumped up onto the table, eager to begin the feast. He sat attentively at the end of the table, watching the kitties bring in dish after glorious dish of food. The smell of roasted goose, crispy bacon, and cheese penetrated the regal air surrounding him. He almost began drooling, but managed to hold his composure.

The feast table was full but something was still missing. He summoned his kitty-servants and ordered them to call all his friend and ask them to come right away!

Bob, the dragon, was the first to arrive. It helped that he lived in the castle, valiantly guarding its high walls day and night.

Possum, the earth worm was next. He is never very far away. Plus he’s a ninja.

Many, many other friends came. Beaver, the raccoon was there. Sparrow, the mockingbird came too. Pete’s good friend Elephant, the red fox wouldn’t have missed it. Of course, Tiny and Snowy (the dogs) were there too. All his squirrel buddies were there too. A grand time was had by all!

While everyone else ate, the kitty-servants dressed up in funny costumes. Some blew songs on trumpets while others danced around and did acrobatics.

Suddenly, everyone heard a large “SPLAT” sound coming from the roof. Everyone got quiet very quickly. That sound could only mean that the vicious geese of doom were attacking. They couldn’t stand for anyone in the kingdom to have fun!

But Pete is a brave dog! He is a valiant king! “No goose of doom is going to ruin our fun! Come with me, everyone, we will teach them a lesson. We must stand and fight! Me must defend the castle and defend our right to FEAST! Onward! For BACON!”

With renewed courage, every animal stormed to the castle towers. They worked together to load the anti-goose canons. Bob ran from canon to canon, lighting them with his breath. Possum (the worm) helped spot the geese. Others busied themselves loading ammo, hauling gunpowder, or aiming the giant canons.

Boom after gigantic boom filled the night. The animals all stood in awe at the incredible display of fireworks filling the dark sky. Geese were fleeing in all directions. The feast was saved!

Pete led his friends downstairs, where the kitties were all cowering under the table. Pete thought it would be a great time to do a celebration dance. But, after he spun in three circles, he realized that he was tired. Everyone took a big nap instead.