End of an Era

Caleb charged out of his room. He was 2 years old and his pants were dry, a miracle at the end of a day filled with potty-training drama. The washer steamed in the background from continuous operation.

He looked at Rachel, and then at me. A dark spot formed on the front of his pants, grew down his legs, and drained into an expanding puddle on the floor. He shifted his bare feet slightly in the liquid.

“Nooooo!” Came Rachel’s voice, forced from exhaustion. “What is that?!”

Caleb looked at the puddle, and then at us, before stating the obvious: “PEE!” He punctuated the statement with a firm clap in front of himself, then quickly raised his arms above his head like a European footballer celebrating a goal in overtime.

Elizabeth was a hide-and-seek ninja-master at age 2. She couldn’t count, but would hide her face with a rhythmic da-da-da-da while Caleb scrambled to hide. On her turn, she would fit in the smallest of spaces in silence while we looked for her.

Isabella is 2 for another month. If all goes according to plan (embracing here the risks of public family planning), she will be the last 2-year-old for Rachel and me. She takes this responsibility seriously, for example by charging suddenly out of the Airstream and into the woods to put a toy “sphider” (spider) in time-out behind a specific oak tree. We watched with curiosity as she went (she is the third, after all), and she did eventually come back.

It’s probably a good thing the 2-year stage only lasts for a while. It’s also a good thing that they’re funny, or you (and they) wouldn’t survive.

And I know we have bigger and better parenting adventures ahead of us. But it’s still a little sad to see “the end of two.”



Midlife Crisis Planning

I turned 35 last week. Just 5 years short of 40.

In early preparation, I selected a ‘93 Mustang as my midlife crisis car. It was unfortunately vetoed by Rachel as too ugly (despite my explanation that it epitomizes the American Dream in 1993, the year I first arrived in the USA.) We settled instead on a ‘97-ish Corvette (a ‘93 Corvette is apparently also too ugly). Marriage is about compromise.

I did plan ahead and marry an engaging woman whom I intend to keep, so that will save me the trouble of seeking a midlife crisis trophy-style replacement.

Jokes aside, there must be something to the midlife crisis thing, and I will speak to it when I get there. But I already have a suspicion. I don’t think it comes from a fear of age, but rather a fear of not getting enough done. “Did I build a great company yet? Did I gather a seven-digit 401k? Am I a recognized expert in my field? No?? Well drat! I’m halfway out of time!”

That’s my theory, anyway.

And the topics listed above are interestingly impossible to complete. Because each one has a next step, and so can’t be finished. “Could I build the company better? The 401k bigger?” Yes, and yes.

And pursuit of them won’t avoid a midlife crisis. Even the Corvette, I suspect, would just be a patch.

No, a company is just a tool to build relationships and engage people, and the Corvette is only an instrument to have fun and engage a co-pilot. (See earlier paragraph about lifetime trophy wife.)

And thus the real midlife crisis solution seems to be people. Time with great friends like Ben Morrill and Ben Kaesekamp, Eric Schlange and Eric Stine. Time with mentors like Eric Sims, Doug Bridges, David Bantly, Glenn Bridges, Garry Zeek and Steve Hines, with the team at Six Sigma Ranch, business partners, and with my kids, parents, siblings, miscellaneous family and beautiful wife. The categories, of course, begin to blend. For what’s the purpose of mentors who aren’t friends, or friends who don’t challenge or teach, or business associates who aren’t good people?

35 years in, and I’m still learning this stuff, that people matter more than projects, and time spent matters more than spreadsheets completed, even though Jesus said it 2000 years ago: “First love God, then love people, and the rest will work itself out.” (My paraphrase.)

35 years in, and that’s what I’ve got so far. Midlife crisis averted. But I’m still keeping an eye out for that perfect ’97 Corvette ; )



You Have 3 Cows… no really.

3 cows

It’s raining and getting dark.  The kids are doing homework and I’m making dinner.  Isabella (1.5 yrs) is standing in the window of our Airstream, watching the clouds and blowing leaves.  Water is dripping off the awning. 

Suddenly, she looks at me, excited, and yells “coooooooow!!!!!”  “What’s that honey?”  She points out the window.  “Cooooow!”  Sure enough, 3 cows are sauntering up the steps to our Airstream above the ranch, proudly flashing their Six Sigma brands. 

I put on a movie to entertain the kids, and go outside to engage our trespassers… and keep them off the road!  I call Christian to tell about our guests. He promises to bring home hay that they will enjoy more than the meat sauce (beef!) I made for dinner.  I explain to the ladies that there is better grass in the valley of Six Sigma Ranch than our place.  They agree, and with a little encouragement from me they return the way they came.  Christian arrives with the dinner for our guests, but they have already left.  Better safe than sorry. 

 Ladies and gentlemen, You Have Three Cows.



Food, Friends, Airstream

I threw my first Airstream dinner party a couple Sundays ago! Twenty –five good friends all gathered around long tables under the awning to celebrate our son’s 7th birthday. Magical as the party was, it was also hard work.


Because I love good food, we made everything from scratch. This included Six Sigma Ranch sausages with mustard, apple slices from the tree by the tasting room, pork stew of our own raising, my grandmother’s chocolate pudding cake and, of course, the Six Sigma Tempranillo-based red blend wine for the perfect pairing. I cooked all day.

The food and party were superb. It felt like a family meal!

One exception I will remember: Don’t put anything on the metal plate above the burner in the oven, even if you think you need to. It will burn and you will spend an hour of your life cleaning burned chocolate pudding cake off a casserole dish.









IMG_1256The bathroom was huge on this flight. Usually they’re cramped, right? But this one felt like home. No more, and no less space than the bathroom at my house. Serious airline upgrade, I thought to myself. But then remembered that Rachel and I moved into an Airstream trailer with the kids in May.  So, yes, same size as my “house.” Felt great.

Our destination also was an exercise in perspective. If you had told the natives of this country centuries ago that they could vacation in a tent, they would have been unimpressed. Even a fancy tent with a fireplace would have been a tough sell. But today, a tent-inspired vacation phenomenon sweeps the country. Mobs of people leave cities each weekend to live outdoors, in tents, or small huts. The weekly exodus is particularly interesting because the mobs leave comforts and luxuries at home that they work hard to afford.

When Rachel and I arrived at Huttopia in Sutton for our anniversary weekend, we were issued the key to a tent, and the opportunity to purchase firewood to heat said tent. We cooked over open flame, leaped off the deck and ran wooded trails along mountain streams, and talked with the excellent staff. But mostly we talked to each other. We talked about life and dreams and challenges, all the things that were easier to keep up on three kids ago. We talked about raising kids and growing business. We ignored our phones, except to take a few pictures. And we collected ideas with open arms for use at our own take on simple living, our Airstream at Six Sigma Ranch.

We landed late on the flight back, and booked a Best Western near the San Francisco airport. The bathroom there was glorious, even bigger than the plane. But the room came with a thermostat, and little opportunity to roast marshmallows.

Meanwhile back in Sutton, another slightly frazzled couple prepared to take over our tent. I bet they ran the trails, talked about life and dreams, and cooked over an open fire that also heated the tent.

And just like us, I bet they loved it.








IMG_1241I was sitting on the floor in the kitchen, going through a box. It was a keepsakes box that had been packed and taped for 10 years. There were papers and pictures, letters from childhood friends, nick-nacks and homemade creations that I had no memory of making.


It was the mantra I had to keep telling myself. Simplify. I had to simplify because Christian and I had decided to move ourselves and the kids into a 200 square foot Airstream trailer and all this stuff was not going to fit. I had recently been inspired by some amazing people in history. Mother Teresa and Gandhi and Jesus had very few possessions.   They didn’t spend time on maintenance activities. All effort was poured into their cause. They inspired me!

They inspired me until I pulled out the lime green porcelain vase boot that my grandmother had given me. I held it in my hands for a while. My grandmother had touched it. This was not a family heirloom. It was not valuable. It was not even pretty. But my grandmother had touched it.


I had to do something. I had to set up some sorting criteria or I would continue to keep and collect stuff in boxes. I chose to only keep things that were uplifting, valuable or inheritable. That meant family pictures could stay and that pictures of my 12 year old boyfriend had to go. That meant letters from my grandmother would stay but cards that were only signed by people would go.


I finally put the vase boot in the box labeled thrift store. It was not valuable and my kids would never want it. And I havepictures and actual letters from my grandmother that are golden. In the end we got through all the stuff. We packed our family into the Airstream, and any remaining nice furniture into a 10×10 ft storage shed.


And I feel somehow lighter. The battle is not over. Stuff still piles up and from time to time I have to purge. But I’m hoping that lifting the burden of stuff will give me time. Time is my most valuable possession. If I have more time I can pour it into my family and my cause.



2 Week Airstream Update



It’s fun to watch faces when people ask “sooo, how’s it going?!”

They are referring, of course, to our full-time Airstream adventure.

We woke up the first morning when the sun popped over Jim Dollar Mountain at Six Sigma Ranch. It lit the inside of our shiny dwelling to a golden glow, and breakfast began.

The decibel threshold for sending kids outside is lower in the smaller space. So they end up riding more bikes, and finding more treasures and dragon flies, than they did when we lived in a “normal” house. We also end up on spontaneous family hikes, and the occasional fishing trip. (Real fisherwomen don’t need waders.)

Home repairs and maintenance adventures are different, but no more complicated. (Review of the “Water Wizard Toilet Wand” to follow ; )

It takes just a few minutes to sweep the coach, but no less time to clean the bathroom.

It takes longer to do the dishes, with less counter space and no dishwasher. So we’re stuck talking to each other as we work. On the same note, it’s possible to communicate at a conversational volume from anywhere in the rig.

This tiny home thing isn’t for everyone, but it’s probably less difficult than you think.