Radio Silence, Business is A-Brewing

You haven’t heard from us in a while. I’m not going to make a silly excuse for it and say that we’ve been too busy to post or write or communicate at all for the past two months. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.

The past eight weeks have been a ridiculous rollercoaster of emotions for me and Megan, and the simple answer for all of it is that we can’t seem to make up our minds. We want to go on the trip. We are excited by all that it could mean: new experiences, more music performing for me, and the chance to grow together as a family in ways otherwise impossible. But we love our home and neighborhood. And we fear that once we leave, we might not return.

Many of you know that I have a particular fondness for beer and for brewing it. And that love has slowly grown into a full-blown desire to open a nano-brewery in my hometown of Saint Charles, IL. This, of course, complicates matters even more. I have a meeting with the city’s economic development team on September 8th. How that meeting goes will likely determine our next steps—either sinking in our teeth further  here locally or, possibly, moving ahead to take the RV-trip plunge. The next two weeks could get really, really interesting…

Scarlett, Eleanor picking blueberries at DeGrand Champ in South Haven, MI. 8/3/2017
I’d like to conclude today’s post by sharing an excerpt from a post that I never finished. It was supposed to be our official declaration *not* to do the trip. After taking a week away on vacation in western Michigan, now we’re not so sure:

Post Title: Detour
Last Modified: 6/24/2017
Status: Draft

Sometimes we make plans and sometimes our plans are made for us. It’s important to be able to recognize the signs and adjust accordingly.

We are sad to officially announce today that an RV trip will not happen for us this year beginning in August, as we had first hoped. At best, our traveling adventure will be delayed until Summer 2018. At worst, indefinitely. The decision did not come easy, but only after taking a step back from full-throttle planning, assessing our family’s needs, and truly considering our heart’s desires.

Regardless of taking a year-long road trip, what do we truly want to see happen in our family in the next year? (Yeah, we are talking about goal-setting—at the family level.) What do we consider possible—and impossible—and can we dream big?

For those who know me well, there’s no question as to my level of Romanticism. On a scale from 1 to 10, I’m Romantic Level: Hopeless. I am a dreamer of dreamers. An entrepreneur. (But make no mistake, the mood swings can be extreme. Big dreams are accompanied by equally-big come-downs.)

So what brought our plans to an RV-tire-screeching halt? In a word: growth. Our greatest desire as parents is to see our children grow into beautiful displays of the human spirit—spiritually-attuned, active contributors to society, dreamers, explorers, eager to learn, critical thinkers, empathetic.

“When I was Your Age,….”

So what have we here? What is this cultural trend towards tiny houses and this incredible—and incredibly common—longing for satisfaction and self-actualization? Why the search for meaning and fulfillment?

Some may say that people in first-world countries now find themselves in a unique position in history, having everything their hearts could ever want, but discovering that it does not truly satisfy.

Think of our great, great grandparents or those who have come before us, enduring the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression, or famine or genocide or any number of great difficulties. People before us didn’t have the luxuries we have today. They weren’t afforded the opportunity to think selfishly or to seek that personal joy and fulfillment because they spent all their time working to put food on the table for their families., to make a better life for their kids. You see, we now have that better life that they wanted for their families, don’t we?

I dare say the struggle today is actually the same—it just takes a different form. Everybody still has to work, still has to provide for her family, and still has—and always has had—a deep desire to find purpose in this world.

“Same as it ever was…” – Talking Heads

Our struggles today are nothing new. It’s a human trait. But I do think it’s important for us to keep in mind that many today and many throughout history could not have ever even considered the kind of trip that we now consider. They are, indeed, burdened by work and servitude, slavery and poor work conditions, debt that cannot be repaid, and denied access to the freedoms which we here consider as common as the air we breathe.

Today, I’m thankful for this opportunity. And I simply hope that we do the right thing for our family.

Hard Reset

Well, our Sunday night meeting just over a week ago didn’t answer as many questions as we had hoped. In fact, our date night out produced more questions than answers. But the good news is that it focused the questions we must ask and clarified logistically the order in which they must be answered.

We came  home having decided that we needed to know how much health insurance would cost our family during a year on the road. Second to that, we wanted to know if Megan could officially get a year leave of absence from her work. The final component was making sure that we could, indeed, afford a trip of this magnitude.

A week later, I can now tell you that I officially have an itch to take this plunge into RV’ing. Yesterday, I listed our home for rent.

It’s a change in our original plan, but I’m hoping we can still pull off this trip while still keeping the house. It’s another one of those “first steps” things—where we need to see if there’s actually a market for a rental house at the price we’d need so that we wouldn’t have to sell it. So let’s back up now…

Why would RV’ing be so cool?

I’ve really narrowed down my own thoughts on this, and I’m happy to share them with you here. For me, these are the things. This is life.

  1. We get to enjoy the outdoors—especially rock climbing—while I’m still young enough to enjoy it. I’ve got a bum knee already! But I don’t want to wait until both are shot to try to take a trip like this. I’ve got early on-set arthritis in my big toe. Let me climb while I still can! And let me pursue developing those skills at the country’s best crags.
  2. We get to teach (and parent) how we want to—whenever, wherever, and for whatever reasons we choose. It’s not about rebelling or bucking the trend—it’s about trying to do what’s best for our kids, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
  3. I’d get to “go on tour”. I’ve always wanted play music all over the country “for a living”. It’s been a life dream. In a phrase, my career goal has always been “to write, record, and perform music for a living.” This kind of a trip, although there’s little chance of me making serious cash doing it, would allow me to live out a dream in a way I never really thought possible.
  4. I get to fall in love again. I love my family and I love my wife. Our marriage hasn’t been so great in recent years. I’m excited about the idea of exploring the world with Megan, but also exploring Megan’s world—how she thinks, how she operates—and how to love her in all of the ways she has changed since we first got married.
  5. We get to instill in our children (if only for a season) a sense of wonder in the created world and a lifestyle of adventure.

Why would RV’ing suck?

The reasons really all boil down to relationships. And as born-and-raised Midwesterners, it’s easy to see the hang-up here. We’d be leaving all of our friends, family, colleagues, teammates, and church for twelve whole months. Minimum. (Longer, of course, if we decided to keep going after a year.) So is it worth it?

Of course there are other huge negatives: living in close quarters, not having personal space or time alone, having a small fridge, having little storage room, a fear of the unknown, financial uncertainty, having a wife who has never actually stepped inside an RV before(!), laundry washing difficulty, and more.

Designing a Purpose

In order to answer that question, we really have to start thinking about what we value and where we derive value from in this world. Yep, we have to get philosophical. (Megan seriously eye-rolled me the first time I mentioned this to her.) What’s the purpose of life? Why are we here? And then, once we have a purpose—a mission—what is the best course of action to take in order to fulfill it?

In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that one of my highest honors and greatest responsibilities as a human, a husband, and father, is to love and serve my family, putting their interests and needs before my own. So now we ask the question:

What does my family need right now?

It’s an impossible question to answer clearly and precisely, but I think that’s okay. At the end of the day, we are all just doing our best, trying to make sense of it all, and trying to do what’s right.

Megan talks an awful lot about feeling over-worked by her job—how she needs a break. And you know what? I think she deserves a break after teaching full-time for eight years. I think everybody deserves a whole year off every seven!

And as hard as that is to swallow, this next little nugget just kills me:

My son, my first-born son, a second grader, regularly tells me: “I hate school.” Doesn’t that just break your heart!?! He’s seven years old. No seven-year-old should even be allowed to have that kind of opinion. School should never be boring or dull or anything else that would make someone want to declare that he hates it. This, for me, set off warning sirens about my son’s heart and about what was going on inside the walls of that school six hours a day, five days a week. We know he needs a heart attitude change, in part, but does he also need a different kind of education?

So what does my family need right now? Well it most certainly seems like we need a hard reset. Or at least a break from “normal”.