It’s Show Time, Folks!! (Hurricane Irma Update)

The worst part of Hurricane Irma has started in central Florida now. It is here, and it announced its arrival with a bang… literally. I have no clue what that sound was, but it was loud!!

About two hours before the hurricane force winds arrived, a possible tornado passed through the area where I live. I didn’t seen any damage, but it hit suddenly. The only way I can describe the sound is that it sounded like a jet was flying about 100′ above my roof. For a few minutes, I couldn’t even see the building across the street from me.

Winds have gradually increased throughout the day. I still have electricity, but the lights have flickered a few times. The strongest rain bands (accompanied by the arrival of the hurricane force winds) just hit here about 45 minutes ago. Once again, it hit suddenly. There was no gradual increase this time. I heard some loud bangs outside that I have to assume were from debris hitting something.

The biggest change, which none of the “experts” predicted is that this storm is moving north… STRAIGHT north. It was supposed to move north-northwest, and the eye was supposed to pass over the Tampa Bay area. The eye of the storm, if it stays on its current track, will either pass directly over (or just to the west of) Disney World. If that is the case, the eye of the storm will pass just a few miles to the west of where I live. There is even a slight chance that I could end up inside the eye of the storm.

As I am typing this, the constant roar I have been hearing outside for the past hour or so seems to have calmed down a bit. Not a sign that anyone can let their guard down, but it is nice to hear things quiet down for a little bit.

So far, I haven’t seen any damage, but I have to imagine there is some damage in this area. The wind has been crazy at times. The rain has been blowing sideways most of the day, and, at times, it has been so heavy that it has looked like snow. In a way, watching the rain blow over the buildings around me reminds me of a North Dakota blizzard.

The rain is still pouring down here right now, and the wind gusts have to be well over 80 mph. The wind will likely continue to increase as the eye of Irma moves closer. Strong winds will continue until around sunrise tomorrow. After that, we can start to breathe a sigh of relief.

I may or may not write another update again tonight. I imagine the rest of the night will be more of the same… just windier. If anything comes up that is worth sharing, I will do so, if I can. If not, I will try to update everybody again tomorrow once things start to settle down, if I still have power.

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And Now, We Wait… (Hurricane Irma Update)

Hurricane Irma has officially made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida. The wind here in the Orlando area is now gusting up to around 50 mph. Moderate to heavy rain has been falling for the past few hours. I didn’t sleep very much last night, due to getting notifications for Tornado Warnings on my phone every 45 minutes or so. You know you’re in “hurricane mode” when a Tornado Warning alert doesn’t even phase you anymore. haha

I hope everyone along the coast who was told to evacuate listened and got out safely!! I have seen pictures and videos from both the Gulf coast and the Atlantic coast. There is already a ton of damage, and this storm is just getting started. While I am on the “dirty side” (the bad side) of the storm, I am very thankful to live in the middle of the peninsula, and not on the coast. There will be wind, rain, and possibly tornadoes here for the next 12 hours or so.

I slept in as late I could today to make sure I’m as well-rested as possible for tonight. The worst of Hurricane Irma is expected to impact central Florida at around 2 AM tonight, so I will likely not be sleeping tonight.

Hopefully I will still have power so I can update again later, but all I can do now is wait. I spent the afternoon finishing some last minute prep work at home. I have plenty of water and food to last me for several days, if needed. I am now done with my storm prep. I am as ready as I can be for Irma.

In such a serious situation, it’s important for people to not panic. We all need to stay positive and remember to laugh on occasion. Keeping your sense of humor and positivity helps to keep things feeling a little bit more normal. I was watching a live hurricane report from a local golf course a little bit ago, and, while the reporter was standing in a foot of water on one of the fairways, there were guys on the course playing golf!! hahahaha Obviously, that’s not smart, and I hope they get home safely, but it was nice comic relief from the seriousness and severity of this storm.

This isn’t a very detailed update, but there’s still not much to update everybody on so far here in the Orlando area. Conditions are continuing to deteriorate, but the storm seems to be weakening some now that it has made landfall. Hopefully it will weaken more quickly than forecast. If possible, I will write another update later tonight. Hopefully there won’t be much to talk about then either. Stay safe, everybody!!

The Eve of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma started its turn to the north a couple of hours ago, as predicted. The storm has moved off the coast of Cuba and is headed toward Key West, FL. This will be my first experience feeling the full effects of a hurricane. I got a little taste of the power of hurricanes last October during Hurricane Matthew, but Orlando was on the weaker side of that storm. In the area where I live, I think the highest wind gust we had was 68 mph. Irma will be a completely different experience.

The strongest winds (outside of the eye wall) in a north-bound hurricane are on the northeast side of the storm. As Irma makes its way along the Florida Gulf coast and through Tampa/St. Pete, Orlando will be on the northeast side of the storm. Nobody knows yet exactly what we can expect here. A slight shift in the storm one direction or another could make a big difference, either good or bad. The last few updates have moved the path of the storm slightly farther west each time, so the eye keeps moving farther away from me. A big shift to the west isn’t likely at this point, but those of us here on the Florida peninsula can always hope this storm stays offshore.

Friends and family have asked me two questions repeatedly so far: 1. What’s the weather like there right now? 2. How bad is it supposed to get where you live?

The answer to the first question is, tonight was a beautiful night… but things are changing. Anyone who has ridden out a tropical cyclone of any kind before knows that it just has a different feeling to it. It’s hard to describe. Florida is always humid, but it’s almost like Florida humidity on steroids. You go outside and everything just feels wet instantly. The outer bands of Irma have arrived, and the wind has started to pick up with gusts to 30 mph right now. There is some heavy rain coming, and there will be a high risk here over the next two days for very weak, short-lived tornadoes.

The answer to the second question is, I’ll know tomorrow night. The storm is looking like it will weaken slightly more than was originally forecast, but winds here in the area around Walt Disney World could still gust over 100 mph. Sustained winds could possibly still be around 80-90 mph. Between Sunday afternoon and Monday night, the Orlando area is expecting to get around 14″ of rain, so flooding will be an issue in areas. I do not live in a flood plain, so that shouldn’t be an issue here. I also don’t live on the ground floor of my building, so I have no concerns with flooding.

A lot of people have sent me well wishes and have expressed concern for my safety. I very much appreciate everyone’s concern and positive wishes, but I ask that none of my family or friends who read this panic. This storm is going to be bad, but I am remaining calm. I have always been a “weather nerd”, and am more curious than anything. I am not scared, and I feel safe. I am prepared. I have food, water, and other supplies to last me for several days. I am more concerned for my friends who live along the coast, especially the Gulf coast. The biggest reason people die in hurricanes is because of storm surge. I really hope that anyone who lives in an area that is vulnerable to storm surge and flooding made the wise decision to evacuate.

As much as I am curious about what this storm could bring, I also am not stupid. I know not to take risks. I am in a safe place and will not be going outside until probably Tuesday.

At this point, there is not much else to say as far as an update. There will be occasional heavy rain and gusty winds overnight tonight, and a chance of a weak tornado. Starting early tomorrow afternoon, conditions here will start to deteriorate. It will get progressively worse throughout the day. Between 9 PM on Sunday and 5 AM on Monday is the time that people in the Orlando area are being told to “hunker down”. The worst of the storm will likely be around 2 AM on Monday here. I will try to write as many of these updates as possible throughout the storm, but widespread power outages are expected across Florida. If I lose power, I won’t be updating, obviously. If that is the case, then I will fill everyone in on the details of the storm after power is restored in my area.

Please keep sending positive vibes and prayers to everyone in the path of Hurricane Irma. It looks like the forecast will not change much now, but we can always hope for a miracle. I hope everyone in the path of this storm, especially everyone on the coast, stays safe!! While preparing for the storm this week, I was reminded several times of just how great this place is. I am proud to live in central Florida, and am amazed how people here never fail to pull together in times of need. We will all make it through this storm together! Irma may cause damage and destruction, but Florida will come out of this stronger and better than ever!

The Life-Changing Power of Music

For as long as I can remember, music has been a major part of my life. When you stop and think about it, I think most of you would start to realize that there is some kind of connection between music and some of the most important memories of your life. Music is powerful. It draws emotional reactions from its listeners. Music has the power to make you laugh, to make you cry, to make you happy, to make you sad, to make you angry, to make you relax, to inspire and motivate you… I could keep going on and on. Regardless of the style or genre of music you prefer, music is powerful. Really great lyrics can sometimes say what you have been thinking, but struggled to say yourself.

When I think back to most significant memories in my life, or think about the people I have met, music nearly always seems to have a connection to those memories in some way. If a certain song happened to be playing or happened to be stuck in my head at the time I have met somebody, I often associate that song with that person. The song may not have anything at all to do with the person, except that I was hearing that song when I met them. Whenever I hear that song, I think of that person, and vice versa. Maybe that isn’t as common as I think it is, but it’s just the way my brain has always worked.

When I was a little kid, I wanted to grow up to be a musician. It was the only thing I wanted to do. I have a pretty wild imagination, and have always been able to daydream such specific details that it can almost feel real at times. Countless nights while growing up, I would stay up incredibly late listening to music. I would put headphones on and turn the music up loud. I would close my eyes and picture myself onstage in front of thousands of people performing the music I was listening to.

My neighbors probably thought I was crazy, but, a lot of days, I would stand on my driveway or on the back deck and strum a plastic guitar while singing along to whichever artist’s music I felt like listening to that day. In my mind, I was on a stage in a sold out stadium playing to 50,000+ people.

I realized quickly that I had very little actual musical talent, so my dreams of being a star someday faded quickly. But, my love for music and its connection to the most important times in my life continued to grow.

It’s amazing that even today I can listen to a specific song and instantly have a flashback to a specific person I met in first grade. I can remember where we met and remember exactly why that song reminds me of that memory and that person.

As I started to get older, I started paying closer attention to lyrics and the stories in songs. It was almost like having an epiphany. Songs I’d heard countless times throughout my life took on a whole new meaning. I finally realized what those songs were about. This opened up a whole new world for me. Artists I had never paid much attention to in the past started to become some of my favorites. To this day, the lyrics are the first thing I pay attention to when I hear a song for the first time. My taste in music has changed a lot throughout my life, and the lyrics are a big reason for that. I absolutely can’t stand listening to most music that is popular nowadays. I feel like I’m 90 years old saying that, but it’s true. I would rather listen to the music I loved growing up than new music, in most cases.

Music is the reason I am the person I am. Music completely changed my entire life. When I was in high school, I dealt with several traumatic events and major losses in my life within a very short period of time. It was the kind of situation that would be difficult for anyone to deal with, but high school is such a confusing time that it just made things worse. I started to get depressed and felt lost. Very little in my life seemed to make sense suddenly.

One night, I was listening to music, and the Garth Brooks song “If Tomorrow Never Comes” started playing. I had heard this song literally thousands of times in my life, but I had never listened to the lyrics closely. The second verse completely stopped me and grabbed my full attention.

“‘Cause I’ve lost loved ones in my life
Who never knew how much I loved them
Now I live with the regret
That my true feelings for them never were revealed
So I made a promise to myself
To say each day how much she means to me
And avoid that circumstance
Where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel”

Those were EXACTLY the words I needed to hear at that time in my life. That night, I made that promise from the song to myself. Since that night, I have tried my best to tell everybody in my life exactly how I feel about them. Whether they feel the same way about me or not, I just want people to know how I feel about them. I don’t want anyone to ever have to guess. If, for any reason, I should leave this world unexpectedly, I don’t ever want anyone to have to wonder how I felt about them. Fulfilling this promise to myself has resulted in several awkward moments and conversations, but I don’t regret any of them. I said what I wanted to say, and am happy I said it. My life has been pretty great so far, and it makes me feel good when I have the opportunity to tell someone that I appreciate them, and let them know that they have brought happiness to my life in some way. I hope they appreciate it, as well. Even people I don’t know well, or at all, who have, in some way, made my day a little brighter and put a smile on my face should know that they have had some kind of positive impact and that I appreciate them. I would hope knowing that would make them feel good. If I ever have the opportunity to meet Garth Brooks, I want to share this story with him, and just tell him thank you for the impact his music has had on my life. The power of music truly is amazing!!

I could tell a ton of stories about how music has impacted or changed my life, and I will probably get to more of those stories in future posts. This is something that has been on my mind for a while, and I wanted to share it. What kind of impact has music had on your life? Do you associate music with memories as often as I do? Has music changed your life in a major way like it did for me? I would love to hear stories from anyone who reads this, if you can relate to it.

And since I mentioned that I always want to try to make sure people know how much I appreciate them, I would like to take a moment to say a huge thank you to everyone who read this, and to the people who have read my previous posts! It really means a lot that people actually take the time to read the things I write! People told me for a long time to start blogging, but I just wasn’t sure if it was something I really wanted to do. Once I started, I wished I had started earlier. I enjoy sharing my thoughts with the world, and I am genuinely surprised and appreciative when people from around the world take the time to read my blog. Thank you all!!

 

Me Playing Guitar

The Calm Before The Storm

This is a change from my regular posts. In fact, my next few posts might be a bit different from the things I have written to this point. Feel free to come along for the journey, if you’re interested.

Last year, my first full year in Florida, I had my first experiences with tropical storms and hurricanes. Growing up in North Dakota, we had tornadoes fairly frequently during the summers, but any form of a tropical cyclone just isn’t something you ever encounter up there.

Both as a way to update my friends and family back home, and, also, as a way to create memories for myself to look back on, I posted a few videos on social media during Hurricane Matthew last October. Now that I have started blogging, I figured it would make perfect sense to use this as a way to update everyone as we prepare for Hurricane Irma to impact Florida in a few days.

Over the next week or so, I will probably post regular updates on the storm if/when Florida does get hit by this storm. Obviously, that will depend on whether or not I still have electricity.

Here is what we know so far…

Hurricane Irma is now the strongest hurricane to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean before moving into the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. This is a bad storm. It’s VERY bad!! Several islands throughout the Caribbean are going to be impacted by this storm, unfortunately. I can’t even begin to imagine what those people will experience, if they weren’t able to evacuate the islands.

Here in Florida, there is still a lot of uncertainty. We are expecting this storm to impact the entire state, yet there is a chance that we could end up missing the worst of the storm. We won’t know much more information for a couple of days still. Preparations, however, are well underway. I started buying food and other supplies on Sunday. I will get everything else I need to prepare over the next day or two.

Several of my friends have decided to evacuate and not take any chances with this storm. I don’t blame them one bit. That is a smart decision, especially for the people who have families to protect. We can always replace any possessions that we may lose, but people cannot be replaced.

Since I am single and don’t have any family here with me, I have decided to ride out the storm in the Orlando area. I feel safe and prepared to get through the storm at home. If I lived closer to the coast, I may have a different mindset though. Being in the middle of the peninsula, I feel this is the safest place to be in all of Florida.

Floridians are now preparing for the worst, while hoping for the best. Since no one knows yet where this storm will go, we all have to prepare for what could potentially happen, but hope nothing happens. I do want to say this though… I have been thinking this for the past week, but felt better when I heard other people say it, too. Nobody wants a hurricane to make landfall anywhere. Nobody wants anyone’s life to be affected by a devastating storm. But, at this time, I would much rather see this storm hit Florida than continue its current path and impact Texas. The people along the Gulf Coast who were affected by Hurricane Harvey recently have been through enough. They don’t need to deal with another storm. I would much rather see Irma hit Florida than Texas. I would hope most people would agree with that.

Anyway, there isn’t much to talk about at this point, but I just wanted to give everyone a quick heads up and mention that my posts might be a bit different for the next week or so. I have been working on some things that are more in line with my usual posts, but they just haven’t seemed as important with this storm coming. I will get back to those posts in the near future, after Irma passes and life gets back to normal.

I hope everyone in the path of this storm stays safe!!

Be Nice to People, It’s Really Easy

This world is full of hate, negativity, and things that just don’t make sense. Tonight reminded me how awesome people can be. Nothing specific happened that made the night extra special. It was just one of those nights where everybody I spoke with and everybody I saw just seemed to be in a good mood. Everybody was smiling, everybody was polite, and it was just a wonderful night. My initial reaction has stuck with me all night long… why can’t this always happen? That is not a rhetorical question. I seriously would love for somebody to explain to me why there is so much hate and negativity in this world. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and everything in between. I just can’t comprehend any reason to not treat the people around you well every day. If you don’t understand something, do research and get educated. If you disagree with someone, ask questions and consider a different point of view. You may not always change your mind, but at least you tried to see things in a different way. If you dislike something, what is the point of judging someone who does like it? I just don’t understand. This world is diverse. We are all individuals. We all have our own opinions, dreams, goals, beliefs, etc. Why do people get pissed off when someone doesn’t agree with them 100% of the time. I just don’t understand.

With all of the crap that we all have to see and hear about on the news every day, tonight was incredibly uplifting and refreshing. I interacted with people from four different countries. Every single person was smiling, polite, respectful, and just enjoying life. I know that I’m a dreamer, but that is the way the world is SUPPOSED to be, people!! Be a good person. Be nice to the people around you. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, how much money you make, what color your skin is, which language you speak, what your sexual preference is, which religion (if any) you practice, which gender you are… I could go on and on. None of that matters. We are all human beings. We all share one Earth. My wish for this world is that nights like tonight become more common for everybody, everywhere. People who don’t know each other and don’t speak the same language found a way to communicate, and were very nice to each other. I feel very fortunate to have witnessed it and to have been a part of it. This world can be a pretty great place. Why don’t we all get together and make it as great as it can be? Being a good person is easy. All you have to do is be nice. It’s simple. Treat others well, be respectful, don’t judge people, and be open-minded enough to at least consider other opinions, even if you disagree with them. Life isn’t difficult unless people make it difficult.

This is a bit of a random rant, but I hope people take the time to read this and get something out of it. I honestly do believe that love conquers hate. Over time, I hope more people start to realize that and keep spreading the love with everyone around them. Every small change helps. It can start with you. Be a good person, and make someone smile. Never underestimate the power of the little things in life. I hope everyone is having a fantastic week!!

Gulf sunset

“The End of the Road”

“The end of the road” was exactly what it sounds like, it was a dead end in a road about one block north of the house in which I grew up. At the end of this road was a wheat field. Off in the distance, there were trees. Beyond those trees was the fairgrounds. This was the edge of my hometown growing up. Most people who ever saw “the end of the road” never paid any attention to it, because it was just a dead end. But, to a bunch of kids, this was the coolest place in the world to hang out for a few years. Some of the greatest memories of my life are from “the end of the road”.

When I tell people I’m from North Dakota, they tend to ask if I grew up in the country. My answer has always been, “No… but I grew up one block away from the country.” At the west end of the block I grew up on, the backyards met fields. This was the edge of town at that time. Since then, things have changed a lot. The small town I grew up in is now a growing city. I haven’t gone back to visit in over a year, and I fully expect to not recognize most of the city next time I’m up there. When people I meet nowadays ask where I’m from, I tell them Fargo, North Dakota, because people who aren’t from that area have never heard of West Fargo. Yes, West Fargo and Fargo are two separate and very different cities. I always used to make a point of telling people I am from West Fargo… “the GOOD city”. I was proud to be from West Fargo, not Fargo. Since most people I meet now know nothing at all about North Dakota, I have learned that it’s pretty much pointless to explain the difference between the two cities, so I now just say “Fargo”. And no, it’s nothing like the movie.

I grew up in a time that seems like yesterday, but also seems like a completely different universe. As fairly young kids, my friends and I would go to “the end of the road” and spend several hours there most days. This was back before everybody had cell phones. Our parents weren’t there watching everything we did. We all told our parents where we were going, and off we went. Nowadays, I can’t imagine kids that age would be able to do that, which is very sad to think about. Some of the greatest times of my life never would have happened if I had been born just a few short years later.

For as long as I live, I will never forget summer afternoons at “the end of the road” with friends. We always brought baseball gloves and balls, footballs, and anything else we could think of to play with that day. For over a week every June, those afternoons faded into evenings with beautiful sunsets, and the music from the nightly concerts at the Red River Valley Fair providing the soundtrack for those incredible memories.

Many times, there was a group of us who went to “the end of the road” together. Sometimes it was just a couple of us. Eventually, I started going there by myself when friends were busy. The times I spent there alone watching the sunset and letting my mind wander fed my already wild imagination, which led me to enjoying time to myself just sitting quietly and thinking as I got older. I never thought about this until right now as I am typing this, but those times I spent alone as a kid watching the sunset and thinking at “the end of the road” are actually what probably led me to start blogging all these years later. I learned as I got older that I couldn’t bottle things up inside of me. I needed some way to express my thoughts and feelings, and writing became that outlet for me when I started college.

Of all the great memories I have from “the end of the road”, my favorite memories were always when the fair was in town. Since I very rarely got to go to the concerts at the fair back then, I really looked forward to listening to them from “the end of the road”. Being less than two miles from the fairgrounds, the music was loud and clear, especially when the wind blew from the west. Although my friends didn’t all share my taste in music, they still seemed to have fun. I probably enjoyed those nights the most because I was creating great memories with friends while also listening to some of my favorite artists.

I have always been a dreamer, so, in my mind, I was able to make some already great memories even better by just letting my mind wander. I’m not sure if this is exactly normal for a 10-12 year old kid, but I remember evenings at “the end of the road” listening to concerts and imagining how great it would be to have a girlfriend to share those memories with. With an amazing sunset view, music playing in the distance, and perfect summertime weather, the only thing that seemed to be missing was someone special to share it with. As I started traveling when I grew up, the memories from “the end of the road” and the thoughts in my head from those times stuck with me. I started searching for quiet places everywhere I went where I could not be completely surrounded by people, and just enjoy being in the moment.

Now, many years later, I still have those same thoughts all the time. Whether I’m at the beach, at Disney World, or somewhere else, I always try my best to find a spot where I can just unwind and let my mind wander. I enjoy the beauty of the sunsets every night, but still can’t help but think how much better it would be to have someone special to share those moments with. Someday. Someday…

As my friends and I started to get a little bit older, we gradually started to spend less time together at “the end of the road”. We started to actually buy tickets for the concerts at the fair every summer, and life came busier for all of us. Each time we went to “the end of the road” at that point, our group seemed to get smaller. The last time I went there was by myself when I was 14 years old. It was December 31st, 1999. New Year’s Eve in North Dakota is usually ridiculously cold and there is normally a lot of snow on the ground. That year, there happened to not be any snow on the ground yet, and that day was unseasonably warm. While I didn’t go to “the end of the road” that day planning on that being my last time going there, I knew it would at least be one of the last times. My friends and I were older and had started to out-grow a lot of the things we had enjoyed in the past. Also, the field that began where the road ended had been sold. Construction on a housing development would be starting soon, and the road would be extended.

To this day, whenever I get a chance to pass by that spot, I still picture “the end of the road”. It is now just the middle of a city street. Only a few people in the entire world will ever know where that spot was where my friends and I created so many amazing memories. Most people will never know about the great times we had there. Most people wouldn’t care. My friends may not remember those times in the same way that I remember them, but I know that they still cherish those memories, as well. It’s pretty crazy to look back now and realize that the place that, in so many ways, has led to me becoming the person I am today no longer exists. “The end of the road” may be gone now, but those memories will live on for the rest of my life.

ND sunset

Experience Life By Yourself

When I look back to some of the greatest experiences of my life, many of them have one thing in common… they happened because I was alone. I wasn’t surrounded by a big group of people.

To most people, the thought of going out to eat alone, going to a theme park alone, traveling and exploring new places alone, etc. doesn’t sound very appealing. Believe me, I used to be the same way. But, over time, I learned that going solo allows you to experience things you likely would not get to experience if you were with a large group. When you decide to experience life by yourself, you are giving yourself freedom. You have freedom to do whatever you want to do. You have freedom to go wherever you want to go. You have freedom to eat and drink whatever and wherever you choose, without having to worry about anybody else’s preferences. You have the freedom to suddenly make a split-second decision and completely change your plans, and you don’t have to worry about upsetting or inconveniencing anybody else.

My life today is very different from the way I grew up and the way I lived most of my life. When I look back to the turning point in my life, Chicago stands out for me. For those of you who have read my previous posts, this is repetitive, but for those who haven’t read my previous posts, I traveled with a band for six incredible years. It was a dream come true, and I got to spend about 180 days a year on the road. During that time, places like Cincinnati and Chicago became almost like a second home for us. I remember a few times in Chicago when we had a day off, or even just a few hours to kill before a show, and the rest of the guys either had other plans or just wanted to rest, so I started going out on my own and explored downtown Chicago by myself. I spent hours wandering around Grant Park. I found random, small restaurants and decided to stop in and eat by myself. These experiences taught me to live in the moment and just enjoy everything going on around me. People watching quickly became a favorite hobby for me. You can learn a lot about the world around you when you sit by yourself at a table that is out of the way of the crowd around you and just watch people interact with each other.

I specifically remember randomly running across a small NY style pizzeria in downtown Chicago. It was the kind of place that you could easily pass by and never notice it. The sign happened to catch my eye, so I decided to check it out. I ordered two slices and a beer, then grabbed a corner table that was as far out of the way as possible. After my first couple of bites, the owner walked up to my table and introduced himself. He asked if I was enjoying the pizza (it was amazing!!), and then asked how I found the place. I told him I was in town for the weekend, and just happened to be passing by. I told him it was my first time eating there, and would definitely not be my last. He told me to wait for a minute, and walked away. When he returned, he brought me an additional slice and another beer, on the house. I thanked him, shook his hand, and told him I couldn’t wait to come back to Chicago and eat there again. This was definitely an experience that never would have happened if I had been with a large group. Years later, I still haven’t forgotten that experience, and I can’t wait to get back to Chicago again someday and eat there again. I have only eaten there twice, but both times were fantastic!!

Another perfect example of benefitting from being alone was last October at a Garth Brooks concert here in Orlando. Ticketmaster sold me a seat that was supposed to be in a wheelchair accessible section. The seat they sold me was actually in the middle of the floor at the Amway Center. When the usher showed me to my seat, he said, “Obviously, people will be standing in front of you during the entire concert, and you won’t be able to see anything. You should not have been sold this seat. Please wait here, and I will be back to help you.” About 45 minutes later, the usher came back and said, “I spoke with Garth’s people and told them about your seat. I explained that you are in a wheelchair and are here by yourself. They have given me permission to fix this situation. Please come with me.” The usher proceeded to bring me to a spot on the side of the floor next to the fifth row!!!! It was one of the most incredible concert experiences of my life, and I got to see my idol, Garth Brooks, from five rows away!!

Experiencing things solo puts you in a position to meet new people more easily. When you are by yourself, strangers are more likely to approach you and introduce themselves than if you are with a group of people. I find this to be true everywhere I go. You can meet some of the most incredible people just by simply being there. You don’t have to put in any effort at all. If you are in a busy place by yourself, people tend to notice.

Back in May, I went to the Jimmy Buffett concert in Orlando by myself. The guy sitting next to me introduced himself and said he had been to over 20 Jimmy Buffett shows. He asked where I’m from and how I became a Parrothead (there will likely be another post about that in the near future… stay tuned!!). The guy was a jazz musician in New York City for many years, before he got sick of the cold winters and decided to move to a warmer climate. This guy had a lot of great stories to tell, and it seems he has lived a pretty amazing life. Once again, he said he noticed that I was by myself, and he wanted to keep me company. That conversation was one of many great memories from that night.

Earlier tonight, I met some really wonderful people while waiting for the fireworks to start at Magic Kingdom. I was there and was by myself. They introduced themselves and joined me. This happens to me all of the time at Disney World. Last time I was there, I met a nice family from Ireland. The time before that, I met people from Connecticut and New York. The people I met tonight were from New Jersey and Australia. In all of those situations, if I had been surrounded by a big group of friends or family, I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t have met any of these people I have met. When you’re with a group of people, you tend to focus more on your group and less on the people around you.

While you should never ask for it or expect it, people are more likely to go out of their way to do something special for you if they see that you’re by yourself. Just by being by yourself in the right place at the right time, you can have an experience that most people only dream of having. The difference between you and them is that you dare to step out of your comfort zone and experience life by yourself. You don’t need a group with you to have a good time. You can always create your own fun and your own memories. As a result, you will have stories to tell to people who say they just can’t imagine going out without a group surrounding them. Life is too short to waste time waiting for others to make up their minds. If your friends or family can’t agree on somewhere to go or something to do, don’t be afraid to make your own plans and go solo. You just might end up having an experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life.

 

GarthGBLights and SpeakersChicago statue

Time Flies!!

Time flies. It really does. The older you get, the more quickly the time seems to pass by. The phrase “time flies” is something I think I have said more than any other words over the past few years. Life can get extremely hectic, and it’s very easy to get so wrapped up in trying to keep up with everything that is currently going on in your life that you forget to take a little timeout every once in a while to reflect on the things you’ve done, the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, etc. up to this point. Your past is what has led you to the present, so taking time to pause and look back every once in a while is important. Knowing how you got to your current life situation can help guide your future decisions. You can reflect on your successes while also learning from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them.

As I’m sitting here right now writing this, the thought that is on my mind more than anything else is two years ago. It was two years ago today that I packed my last few remaining items into my car and began the nearly 2,000 mile drive to Orlando. I left behind my family, my friends, and the only life I had ever known. The only plan I had was to earn a college degree, and then figure out the rest. I had no idea what to expect in my new life in Florida. I had no friends down here. And, I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do with my future. Because of the person that I am and because of the way I have always lived my life, looking back, I honestly can’t believe I actually left North Dakota. It is absolutely crazy to move to a place thousands of miles from home with no job, no real plan, and hardly any money, yet convince yourself that there is nothing to worry about, because “I’ll figure it out.”

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love life in Florida. Being the kind of person who can’t stand snow and cold weather, North Dakota was never a place where I would willingly spend the rest of my life. As a golfer and a Parrothead, Florida just makes sense for me. “Never say never” is another phrase I’ve learned to be very true. I can’t say I would never move back home again, but I would have to be dragged back kicking and screaming.

When I look back at the past two years, it has been a pretty ridiculous rollercoaster ride. Most of my close friends and even a lot of my family don’t know most of this, so buckle up, hang on, and enjoy the ride.

My first weekend in Florida, there was a hurricane forecast to make landfall. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. That same week, I started school at Golf Academy of America’s Orlando campus, and played my first round of golf in the Florida heat… in summer. I found out pretty quickly what can happen when you aren’t prepared for the extreme heat and humidity in Florida. I almost collapsed on the golf course from heat exhaustion, and my day ended after only nine holes.

After that adjustment period of getting used to a new climate and a new state, school started off extremely well. I decided immediately that I had chosen the perfect school for me.

Less than three weeks later, I was involved in a car accident and my car was totaled. Since I need hand controls installed in my car to be able to drive, this meant the process of finding a new car and having hand controls installed was a long, frustrating process.

For three weeks, I had to rely on Uber to get to and from class. I live 25 miles from the school, so you can probably imagine how expensive that commute was 5 days a week. When I finally got a new car with hand controls installed, I was relieved, to say the least. Life finally started getting back to normal for me a little bit after that.

At the beginning of January 2016, I became a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder. After a stressful end to 2015, having the option of going to Disney was a nice perk of living where I live. It was nice to escape reality for a bit and just have fun after a busy day at school. As I became more familiar with the parks, I began to visit more frequently. Telling myself, “You get to go to Disney World after your homework is done” was great motivation to work harder and get things done as quickly as possible. That motivation to get things done right away, instead of procrastinating like I had always done in the past, resulted in me consistently finishing each semester at Golf Academy with the highest GPA I’d ever achieved in any previous level of school.

The next several months were filled with lots of school work, volunteer work, Disney visits, and a lot of opportunities I never thought would be possible for me to experience. I got to volunteer at the PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day here in Orlando, and then attend the merchandise show for the rest of the week as a guest. I had always seen the PGA show on Golf Channel, but never thought I would have the opportunity to experience it.

Two months later, was another dream come true for me when I not only got to attend the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, but I also had the opportunity to help set up the merchandise tent before the tournament started.

Not much changed for the next few months. I was busy every day between completing schoolwork, and trying to enjoy Disney as often as possible.

Summer of 2016 is when things started to change for me. The realization that graduation was only months away and I still had no real plan for the future started to sink in a bit. I became stressed out and terrified.

One of my greatest fears in life is the unknown. I hate not knowing what to expect in a situation. You can’t control what other people do, but I like having full control in my life, and I felt like most of 2016 was a mystery. I just kept moving forward and hoping for the best without being able to control much. At this point, I started to feel like whenever I was down, life would walk up to me and kick me in the ribs for no apparent reason.

Over the past two years, there have been probably 10-15 times that stand out to me as being times when anybody with any common sense would have packed up and gone running back to the safety and comfort of home. Over half of those times occurred during the summer of 2016.

When things seemed to finally start to settle down in August of 2016, I thought maybe my luck was about to change. I got to live one of my lifelong dreams when I had the amazing opportunity to play a round of golf at Bay Hill. It was well worth the decades of waiting for the experience. One week later, to the day, my doorbell rang. I was served with a lawsuit from my car accident from nearly a year earlier. One of the passengers who was perfectly fine after the accident, decided to sue me, claiming he was injured in the accident.

For those of you don’t know me, I am the kind of person who worries a lot about how the things I do and say might impact those around me. I would never intentionally do anything to harm another person in any way, and tend to over-think and obsess over certain things. The thought of that accident, which I thought was behind me, causing someone to be injured is something that honestly brought me a lot of anxiety. The lawsuit dragged on for nine months before it was settled.

In that time, my emotions from day-to-day seemed to bounce back and forth between relief and near depression. Attorneys told me I couldn’t control anything, so I didn’t need to worry. The thought of me not being able to control the situation made me worry even more. There were many sleepless nights over that nine month period for me. One of the happiest days of my life was the day I found out the lawsuit had been settled. Most people maybe wouldn’t have worried about it as much, but it was on my mind almost constantly for nine months.

One night I will never forget occurred in late September 2016. It was a Sunday night, and I needed to buy golf balls for my tournament the next morning. I was driving into Winter Garden, FL to buy golf balls when I received 3 text messages from different friends within just seconds of each other. My phone was sitting next to me and I saw them as they popped up on my phone. One read, “Oh no!! Arnie!!”. One read, “Oh my God, no!!” The last one read, “Arnie!! What the hell?” Without hearing any news, I knew what they meant. I was stunned and almost swerved off the road and into a tree. When I arrived at the store in Winter Garden, I went inside and everyone was crying. Strangers were hugging and sharing stories of a truly incredible man. Arnold Palmer had passed away. Those of you who don’t live in the Orlando area will likely never understand the impact that great man had on this city. Although I had been around him, I never had the opportunity to actually meet him. That didn’t matter though. Arnold Palmer is the person and the role model that people in the golf industry strive to be like. It felt as though a good friend was gone. I went out of my way to drive by Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge on the way home that night. Media vans and helicopters had already begun to swarm the area. Although I didn’t know Mr. Palmer personally, I went home that night and cried. The next morning, I wore a Bay Hill shirt and hat for my golf tournament and decided I was playing that day in Mr. Palmer’s honor. I ended up playing one of the best rounds of golf of my life.

As graduation approached, I was able to get a little break from every day life when my best friend since birth (we were born five days apart), his wife, and her sister came to visit me for a few days. I hadn’t seen them in over a year, so it was nice to have fun for a few days and show them my new home and my new life.

After that visit, the rest of 2016 was nearly a blur for me. Halloween and Thanksgiving seemed to be about 4 days apart, because my life was in fast forward at that point. Right after Thanksgiving, my dad flew down here and spent three weeks with me.

On my dad’s birthday, I ended up staying at school five hours later than normal to finish a final project, which would allow me to graduate. When I got home, I picked up my dad and we needed to make one quick stop before heading to a restaurant for his birthday dinner. As I was putting my wheelchair into my car to head out for the evening, my wheelchair broke. A metal bar on the side of the seat just snapped randomly. Since nothing in my time in Florida had ever seemed to go as planned, I figured it was fitting that my wheelchair would break as I was in the middle of finishing final projects and preparing for final exams.

As always, life threw me a curveball and I found a way to adjust. It wasn’t convenient and it wasn’t easy, but I did what I needed to do, and I finished school. I ordered a new wheelchair, which thankfully happened to arrive the night before my graduation. What had been a stressful, confusing, frustrating, thrilling, depressing, amazing, fantastic, horrible, ridiculous year ended with me walking across a stage to receive my diploma. Nothing in my life ever works out the easy way, so 2016 was really not a surprising year for me. You just have to take the hand you’re dealt in life and make the best of it.

2017 started out with a lot of promise. I was done with school and ready to get started in my career in the golf industry. There was just one problem. I had interviewed for multiple jobs, and was turned down every time. I have learned quickly that, as somebody in a wheelchair who is new to the golf industry, very few people are willing to take a chance on me. I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad for me or make excuses, but it’s the truth. There were interviews where I arrived and the person interviewing me said, “Oh…” when we first met, as they looked at my wheelchair.

The most important thing I learned in school is that your success in your career relies more on who you know than what you know. You have to network and make great friends if you want to succeed. Between my unique situation (being the only Golf Academy student in a wheelchair), my background in coaching youth baseball, my perseverance, and my willingness to volunteer as frequently as possible, I quickly became good friends with one of my instructors at Golf Academy.

Soon after graduation, he offered me a position as the director of a special needs junior golf program. He founded the junior golf program in 2008, and added the special needs program a couple of years later. 2017, for me, has been all about learning how to teach and grow a junior golf program for kids with special needs. I still have a lot to learn and need to keep getting better, but I am excited about the possibilities for the future. I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I finally feel like I am on the right path in life. I feel like I am doing something meaningful. Being able to be a positive role model and to help kids achieve their goals is something that brings me great joy. I absolutely love what I do!!

Now that it has been two years since I left home, life isn’t perfect. I love my life, but there is always room for improvement. Every day, I try to find ways to make my life a little better. My days are filled with golf and Disney, for the most part. Some people would say that’s a pretty great life. I have to agree. I started blogging a little over a month ago now.

For years, people told me to start blogging. I was hesitant, but here I am, sharing my thoughts and my life story with the world. I realize that many of you who are reading this don’t know me. I appreciate you taking the time to read it, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please like, comment, and follow if you enjoyed this and want to read more. I have lots to say, and I hope everyone gets something out of it. Life is a crazy journey that can bring a wide range of emotions, but I always choose to focus on the positives in every situation. Life isn’t always perfect, but no one can stop you from following your dreams except yourself. Keep pushing, and keep moving forward. As many times as I should have thrown in the towel and gone running back to my comfort zone, here I am positively rolling through life.

Me at Legacy ClubCastle closeupMe at Beach

Do What You Love, and Be Genuinely Thankful For It

How many people settle for just doing whatever they need to do to get by in life? And, how many people actually put in the time and effort to discover their true passion and make it their every day life? Every day, I hear people say they are just going through life. They don’t know what they want. They have found something in which they have no interest that provides them with money to pay their bills, so they settle. They dread waking up to do something they don’t care about. But, they do it, because it allows them to keep living. Far too few people focus on the things in life that they truly love. It’s not crazy at all to turn your passion into your career. People just need to realize that it is possible, and they need to step out of their comfort zone to make it happen. Is it easy? No. Is it doable? Absolutely!

In my life, I have been very fortunate, because I have never had to do something I despised just to get by. I have always found ways to go through life doing the things I love. I am not wealthy. Believe me, I am far from it. But, I am happy. That is something not everyone can say. I’m sure everyone has heard the saying, “Money doesn’t bring you happiness.” While money does provide you with opportunities and does allow you the freedom to try things, it can also cause a lot of problems. I have never been in a situation where happiness has caused problems. I’m sure it happens, but it has never happened to me.

This past weekend, I was talking with some peers about how lucky we are to get to do what we do. We all are passionate about golf, and have decided to make it our career, in one way or another. How many of you who are reading this right now have woken up to your alarm clock ringing early in the morning, and have hated the thought of getting out of bed to go to work? Many of you likely have. During this conversation with my peers, I pointed out that I am a night owl, and always have been. I’ve never been a fan of mornings. When I made the decision to attend a golf school, and eventually begin a career in the golf industry, I knew two things: 1. I would be turning my favorite hobby into my career. 2. I would need to learn to wake up early. Several times over the past couple of years, my alarm has woken me up early in the morning, after not falling asleep until the middle of the night. Every time, I have reminded myself that I was either waking up to play golf, to learn about the golf industry, or to teach golf. When you are waking up extremely early and are exhausted, it is easy to lack motivation. But, when you are waking up to go do something you love, how can you honestly complain? If you complain, then you aren’t doing what you are meant to do in life. Not every day is perfect. Not every day goes as planned. But, when you do what you love, you really can’t complain. Take a moment and consider what else you could be doing with your life.

This past weekend, I ran myself to my breaking point, physically. I was so exhausted and so dehydrated that I ended up getting sick. Looking back at the weekend, the only things I can think of are how much fun I had, how many things were accomplished, and how many potentially positive things could come out of these past few days. Getting sick was just an annoying, minor distraction in the middle of a really fantastic weekend. The reason I got sick was because I was so focused on what I was doing in that moment that I forgot about the obvious… August in Florida is ridiculously hot! You need to drink an excessive amount of water every day. When you feel like you can’t drink any more water, you force yourself to drink more. It’s just necessary for your health.

When I think back to conversations I’ve had in the past with people who were unhappy with life and were just doing something to get by, I have to wonder if they will ever decide to make a change and start living a life that they love. We only get one chance to go through this journey of life. Why not do what you love, and enjoy it? The idea of settling has just never appealed to me. I always want the best that I can find for myself, in every situation. That probably explains why I am finally deciding on a career after all of these years. That probably explains why I’m 32 years old and have been single for most of my life. That probably explains a lot of things, to be honest. I just believe it will all be worth it in the end. I have no problem with holding off and waiting for quality. I am an incredibly patient person. As I have said in previous posts, I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. You have to just keep living, focus on the things you love, and everything will eventually fall into place.

When I had this conversation with my peers this weekend, I couldn’t help but smile the whole time. I already knew that I was doing what I love, but I was happy to hear other people say the same thing. That made me realize that I am surrounded by people who share a similar mindset. Maybe I’m not totally crazy. Maybe we are some of the few who dare to be different and live life in a way that most others only dream of living. If you are someone who is just going through life getting by and wish you were happier, take some time to focus on yourself. Think about what you really enjoy in this world. I guarantee you can find a way to make money doing something you love. I guarantee you can find happiness in this world. The most important thing you can ever be in this world is happy.

Use today as your opportunity to begin a life of happiness. Why would you wait until tomorrow to be happy when you can be happy today? Take some time for yourself today and think about the things in life you love most. Make those things your top priorities. Focus on those things every day. Life isn’t always perfect, but it’s a lot better when you know that you are waking up every day to do what you love to do. Do what you love to do, and be genuinely thankful for it every day. Not every is quite as fortunate.

LL 1LL 2LL 3Graduation