Walden, A Wedding and Messages from God


I’m really not sure how to explain it.

As time moves forward and the occurrence of the events I’m about to share multiply, there’s some measure of understanding revealing itself to me – perhaps there ares reasons when connections are made and everything starts to make sense.

You may recall moments where an event materializes and suddenly connects the dots from the past. For a brief and puzzling moment, it seems we have a glimpse into a divine whisper that there was a plan all along the way.

The longer I’m fortunate enough to walk with a shadow, these events are occurring much more often – especially if we pay attention.

Attention? Yes. That’s becoming more of a challenge in the modern age when boredom and presence are sabotaged by everything from the pace of everyday life or our smartphone addition. However, it seems lately, these moments are occurring more often and it’s worth recording and once again asking the question.

Last night, Margeret Welborn and I were standing in the living room in Rogersville. Together with my father-in-law Jim, they had just arrived on a rainy evening to stay a few days and we were discussing the cosmos and among other items – my rocks.

On my desk, there are a few crystals and then there are just… rocks. Nothing fancy. Some that I pick up along the way – round, oblong, gray, cold, nondescript. Just a few memorable moments etched with liquid paper and a date and time recorded with a Sharpie to share with the future where they came from.

Several years ago, I took off on a solo adventure to Concord Massachusetts. The year was 2006 and after reading Walden and as much Ralph Waldo Emerson I could consume – I was compelled to visit the home, community and graves of two of my favorite authors.

As I rolled the rocks over in my hand, my scrawl indicated a few labels. “Walden Pond,” “Emerson’s Back Porch” and “Emerson’s Grave.”

The date…10/11/2006.

kellidavidSurprised and frozen in another moment of deja vu, this date marks the most important event of my life.

One year ago today on 10/11/2014, I stood on the shores of Folly Beach and married my wife Kelli. With a golden sunset lighting her face, her eyes sparkled with turquoise tears that afternoon and this moment will forever remind me how grateful I am to call her my siren.

In 2006, I was sitting in Emerson’s backyard, writing in my journal and asking God several questions.  One of the common ones centered around my fate in a relationship. Would my life continue to be a solitary path of introspection and study – or was something else possible? For more than twenty-five years, the first answer seemed to be a given.

That all changed in February of 2012 when I first met Kelli and looked into her eyes at a Kingsport Chamber event. She was with a client that night and from this one isolated and private moment I became enchanted with every nuance about this woman.

She is beautiful, intelligent, deeply passionate and at the time, my interest was respectfully a courtly love. I followed every blog post and comment shared from her social media contributions, but I had not idea our hearts would find their way toward each other.

My life has always seemed to evolve in a miraculous unfolding – just like many of us.

However, for many years, my appreciation of this fact was a bit too agnostic and ungrateful. Like a swift stream rushing toward an unknown destination, my thoughts were sprinkled with both awe and skepticism. My days were defined by my work, interests and my own story. For the most part, I assumed it was under the guidance of luck and an algorithm of unrelated events.

As I look back upon my journey with the luxury of many wonderful stories, it occurs much more often that God has appeared several times – right in front of me. In a voice, a scene, a sound a smell – most of these events fall into chance. The poetry of this mystical relationship often reveals itself in random and related events that suggest an order beyond our awareness.

Carl Jung referred to these moments as ‘Synchronicity.’ Sting wrote a song about it too, but I’ve always been amazed at these occurrences and lately, they happen so often that they deserve to have a record for my life – at the very least, a few pages in my journal.

Today was another one of those moments.

Before I met Kelli, I would argue the cold agnostic world random coincidences. A cosmos made up of natural causes and unrelated events. Her love and her sweet spirit of grateful living has forever transformed my spirit.

When I remember her eyes on that beach last year and the way her heart beats together with our own very special story – I’m convinced there’s a beauty, a deep relationship each of us can have with God. The only prerequisite is our silence to still the cacophony of our ego and breathe in the gratefulness of a miraculous life.

My soul is changed every moment. The day I married Kelli was a touching and personal testimony of how God, the angels, our family and our friends celebrated another holy event.

Our lives continue to lead toward greater evidence of a divine plan too and I have so much to be thankful for – especially this transformation.

Looking back at these rocks picked up in Concord, I  could never imagined what I have today. A woman with a brilliant mind and an amazing heart, two beautiful and talented girls, rewarding creative work and plenty of laughter and music to animate my blessed life. A miracle indeed – a family.

If you find yourself puzzled by your current state of mind and the complexity of this amazing universe we all share, take the time to still your mind on your own private Walden Pond and be amazed at how blessed we are to catch a glimpse of the divine. It happens more often than you think.

An experiment • Advice for a man entering a life with women


mother-and-two-daughters-molly-wrightA little more than a week from now, my life will change dramatically– for the better.

After 27 years of being single, making my own rules and approaching life alone – I’m getting married and joining three woman for my final act on this planet. One – the woman of my dreams and the other two – something I could only imagine a few years ago – a pair of beautiful and brilliant 11 and 12-year-old sisters.

Yes! I’m aware of where I’m going and I can’t stop talking about them. However, it’s time to face facts and resurect the pop cliche’  – “Men are from Mars and Women…from Venus.” We’re different. Case closed.

In preparation for this transition, I thought it would be a good idea to reach out for some advice. Men who live among a tribe of women / daughters have always inspired me. They seem sage-like in their presence (must be a reason for this smoothness) and the perfect testing ground for “how-to” advice for my new journey.

I decided to reach out to my circle of friends and colleagues with daughters and ask one question. That question, often asked over email or in-office impromptu moments was, “What advice would you have for a man getting ready to marry into a household full of women?”

Over the past several weeks, the answer to these questions and the resulting conversations have given me insight and a evolving manual for this new pilgrimage.

My responses were delightfully varied too. Some had their advice on the tip of their tongue – a volleyed response that took less than a nano-second. Others were taken back a bit to think about the best presentation – most often very serious too.

Doug Olsson is a friend who I used to work with in the Sandusky Newspaper Group. I always see photos of he and his daughters. They are always having a great time together and they regularly post comments about how he’s the “best dad ever.” He was one of my first experiments and had two pieces of advice.

He commented on Facebook – “Learn some patience, fast…..and, remember, you are never right, even when you are.” – Doug

With that in mind, I’ve tried to look out at all things in my life and carry with a lense that look at all circumstances with a degree of reservation. As much as I used to like a candid, immediate response – it might be time to develop a delay tactic. Listen first and respond later.

With regard to the second thought – this started out as a funny way of looking at things. It was a recommendation to stay humble and another friend returns the patience theme a bit later in my inquiry to augment this recommendation.

George Coleman has two very successful daughters. Both are college graduates now leading their own lives and an equally successful wife who works at a local college. George is intelligent, focused and determined during the day, but he’s also someone what’s important among his priorities. When I asked him about living with the girls, he focused on listening as the core genetic / psychic talent to culture.

“Listen to them. They have a lot of things on their mind and you’ll probably need to just need to realize, listening will be your strongest and most unique characteristic.” – George

So far he seems right. I’ve noticed the girls like to dream. They like to play, they love to imagine the future and so far when I try to say something cool, something original – everyone rolls their eyes. Fortunately, I think it’s amusement that drives their appreciation at my attempts to be relevant.

I was talking to my friend Roger Mowen about my personal project. He’s concurs  that listening is one of the most important character traits to respect inside the all-woman household. Living with an Italian for more than 40 years and raising two successful daughters deserves both respect and consideration.

As I was telling Roger about some of the other answers, he seemed amused by Doug’s comment, “You are never right, even when you are.” Roger smiled when he heard that one. He thought for a moment and he responded…”but eventually you will be.”

Without hesitation, I laughed out loud at the thought – imaging the satisfaction of the “I told you so moments.” Of course, this small victory will have to be stirred with a lot of patience.

“You are never right, even when you are – but eventually you will be…eventually….someday.” – Roger

While working on a project together, I met one of Roger’s friends Marc Masso. He’s a CEO of a Tennessee manufacturing firm and suggested I ask him about raising daughters – he has four.

When I met Marc in Rogersville to discuss our business ideas, I started off our conversation asking his advice for a man getting ready to join a caravan of women. Like most of the men I spoke to, they were taken back by the question and paused long enough to provide their best response – they knew this was important.

Marc stopped a moment and talked about listening to them. That’s a common narrative for most everyone I talk to. But then he got serious and said one word, “Consistency.”

“Consistency….(long pause) a lot of parents want to be best friends, but you have to recognize your role and stay consistent. Love them consistently and advise them likewise – that means alot.” – Marc

I see this and hear this often from parents. From comments referring to their parent as their best friend to statements about the never-ending confusion of why some parents reel from nice to mean or happy to grumpy. Being consistent is deeply provoking answer – one that stirs my mind deeply in all things. Most of our problems in life tend to surface from reeling off course. From getting married to parenting – one of the best character traits is a consistent and determined approach toward those we love. Great advice for the quest.

One of my last advisors was Miles Burdine. Miles is president of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and the proud father of two very successful daughters. He’s also a former marine and one of the most successful and most inspiring characters in my own personal business landscape.

I spoke to Miles recently and asked him the question about my new environment.

He was quick to answer to.

“That’s easy. First of all love them….Protect them too. When they come home with the boyfriend who seems questionable – be very careful and protect them. And keep showing up at those cross-country and sporting events.” – Miles

Miles clearly has a guardian role over everyone in his life. He’s humble, proud and serves to protect from every angle. He’s quiet and a professional, but keeps his eyes and his heart on the lay of the land – ready as any good marine would be to lay down his life.

I imagine this experiment will continue to evolve into my new future. There’s no reason for me to stop looking for clues and adding to this new operations manual. I’m sure that I’ll need to refer back to these conversations over and over again.

From what I’ve learned so far, I’ve got a mental sticky note now to approach most every situation.


Good advice indeed. I’m also interested in your thoughts, especially if you have some nuggets that haven’t made my list and I’ll look forward to your suggestions. My hope it to be the best I can be moving forward and all advice, secrets, mantra and magic incantations will be greatly appreciated.

B17 Flying Fortress and a Chicken Hawk


wwii_bomber_2This morning, I heard it in the distance. It was a cool September morning and from behind the trees, I could hear the roar of the motors. It wasn’t until I saw the undercarriage that I remembered a B17 Flying Fortress was stationed at Tri-Cities Airport for a few days giving flights and tours aboard the vintage aircraft.

My grandfather, Harold Cate was a tail-gunner for a short period in World War II and I’ve always been fascinated by this sturdy and iconic aircraft – always drawing pictures of these birds when I was a kid.

I watched and listened in awe as the metal goliath slowly paced itself flying toward the Northeast. I had a small window to view the airplane through the trees. And just as before, as it passed behind the canopy, all I could hear were the engines.

Almost immediately as the plane passed beyond my vision, there it was. Silently, peacefully, a red-tailed hawk was flying high in the trails almost as soon as the B-17 disappeared.

My apologies for citing another coincidence, but I’ve started to pay attention to hawks in my lifetime and they continue to show up at the most unusual times. I am not about to speculate as to why they show up when they do and why I’m so compelled to notice their arrival, but this one was worth recording – once again.

As of the flying fortress faded into my valley here in Tennessee, the peace of that Hawk took me away once again to many other moments of this iconic totem. I only wish there was a photo of the moment and this blog post will have to serve my memory of this moment in time.

Secrets of life and marriage – 98 year old Eula Riddle had the answer


1912552_10152730971692953_448018332904515040_nI was working remotely earlier this week at Sloopy’s Diner ( one of my many local wireless refuge ) when I heard a man in a white t-shirt and a tight hair cut talking loud for no reason at all. In fact, he was talking and coughing louder than anyone on the block. Apparently, he was mowing lawns and hanging out in the air-conditioning on a hot summer day.

Occasionally, he’d blurt out some random statement about the weather or the price of hot dogs, but when he said he was turning 59 next week – Eula proudly spoke up and said, “I’m 98!”

Well that caught my attention. I stopped by Skype chat and turned to the little lady in the corner and asked, “What did you say?”

She said, “I’m 98 years old.” Read more

Kernie Timmons – People of The Greenbelt


KernieTimmonsThe Greenbelt’s history includes many people who over the years have helped to shape this extraordinary Kingsport treasure. Kernie Timmons is one of those individuals who has been there since the beginning – when the trail was mud and gravel and was rough on tennis shoes. After all, he’s a marathon runner and he had to do something about that.

Kernie was a former plant manager for AFG Industries. He currently lives near Mendota, VA with his wife and together they have a wedding venue called Swinging Bridge Farms.

He describes one his early experiences with the Greenbelt from a Rotary meeting he was attending.

“Kitty Frazier was talking about the Greenbelt and she asked how many people used the trail in the past month. Well, several people raised their hands. Then she asked every week and a few more went up. When she asked everyday, I was the only one with his hand in the air.” Read more

People of The Greenbelt – Zellie Earnest

zellieearnestIf there was a title for Greenbelt patriarch, we might give this distinction to Zellie Earnest.

From Christmas trees to bluebirds, Zellie’s attention to detail has helped  The Greenbelt evolve to what it is today for the citizens of Kingsport and the wildlife – especially the bluebirds.

It was Zellie’s grandfather who taught him how to spot a bluebird nest among old fence posts and ever since, he’s had an lifelong interest with Nature.

With the warm voice of a seasoned story-teller, Zellie talks about how he came to Kingsport in 1961 with a baby on the way and began to work at Tennessee Eastman. Read more

A Downtown Kingsport mystery continues…


Earlier this week, John and Angela Vachon were showing available business spaces available in Downtown Kingsport. They both have accumulated a lot of interesting locations with their company Urban Synergy. They also do an amazing job at renovating some of Kingsport’s old buildings into a hip Urban charm that is starting to set apart our small industrial age row of antique and consignment shops.

One of the buildings they presented to me was recently taken over and they’ve started to gut the building of old fixtures, cabinets, lighting and carpet. As they pulled up the carpet, an old logo appeared on the floor that has become somewhat of a mystery for me and others.

It measures about 15 feet long and looks to be a letter “K” surround by a possible abstract “d” and a “p.” Unfortunately though, nobody has come up with a good guess as to what it might be. After all the building is problem close to sixty years old and there have been plenty of tenants over the years.

Nevertheless, here’s the image. If you have a guess, I’m all ears. Let’s see if we can solve this mystery.

Improvisation from the cedars


This past weekend, I was caught up another one of Nature’s details in the middle of a Virginia pasture along the Virginia Creeper Trail.

It was a crisp Saturday morning with no one around for miles and one my favorite musicians of the animal kingdom was echoing a glorious mashup of some of the greatest songs of the South.

The Mockingbird is one of my favorite sounds near to hear in Tennessee and Virginia and this mimic was jumping up and down in the top of a cedar tree reveling in the warm air. It appeared to have a nest, but I marveled for about 30 minutes at the range of songs and melodies this bird brought to my morning ride.

There must have been a hundred different sounds this little bard sang that morning and I was amazed at the reverie and the color which this little guy added to the day before darting off into a field to look for more food.

Enjoy this little serenade…

Improvisation Assignment – Week 2 – The scales…

jazz-largeGot a busy few days coming up, so I decided to finish my class assignment for the Improvisation courses from Coursera.org.

This is week two and old Gary Burton isn’t giving up any secrets for the class, but he is sharing a few good pointers.

The Peer Assignment this week includes having everyone download what he titles as the “Ten Most Common Scales” used for improvisation.

From this outline, he asks the class to play each of the following scales and record a 30-60 second improvisation based on the chord outlines.

The scales include;

  • A Lydian flat7
  • C Locrian
  • F7 Altered
  • D Dorian
  • B Lydian
  • Eb Aeolian

Here’s my homework submitted for review this evening. Enjoy – suggest or criticize.