Timberline Adventures - A Couer d'Alene Must-visit

I took a play day yesterday and conned the eldest grandson, Jeffrey, into going on a zipline adventure by telling him it "would be fun, dude!" My daughter could have warned him that my idea of fun spans a range of activities a mite more exciting than tiddlywinks. She didn't. I think she figures that three girls survived me as a dad talking them into crazy things, so the grandson would survive, too. Probably.

This little jaunt was planned back in January over a glass of wine. Last year, everything aligned to treat my daughters and eldest two granddaughters to a series of concerts - Pentatonix, The Piano Guys, and Lindsey Stirling.

It was time to do something fun with Jeffrey and this struck my fancy as a grand way to treat Jeffrey to a memory that would stick for awhile.

Timberline Adventures in Couer d'Alene runs the excursion. They do it well. The check-in process - yes, they will make you sign a waiver - was smooth as silk. Then, they weigh you. This part had me a little worried as the weight minimum to zip alone is 80 pounds. Jeffrey, like most of the grand-kids, does a fair impression of a beanpole. He didn't make weight which meant that he'd have to zip in tandem with someone else. Not me, though. Our combined weight blew right past the upper limit to 270 pounds.

Our guides for the trip, Ali (Big Al) and Taylor, set us up in harnesses and helmets and covered the ground rules. Mostly, listen to them and don't be stupid stuff. Then we left, eight of us, all newbie zippers. in a van to a chunk of private property with seven ziplines, a couple of bridges, and a very cool tree house under construction.    

Jeffrey got a little more wide-eyed the closer to the top of the mountain we got. Pretty sure he was reconsidering the wisdom of hanging with Papa. Still, the kid is a trooper and stuck to it. We hit the first zip, a short little bunny of a line according to Ali. I asked Jeffrey when he wanted to go.

"Last." Sensible. Let all the big people go first. Just in case . . .

Taylor, who is not a big person in stature but oozes personality, zipped over first. The system that Timberline established makes eminent sense. One guide heads over first. That one handles the brake on the line that they use to keep the rest of us under control when we get to the next platform.

One at a time, Ali clipped us into the safety lines, then transferred the rollers to the zip line, then locked us in. She and Taylor maintained radio contact. No one zipped until it was cleared on both ends. Ali, too, oozed personality, but not the showmanship ham of Taylor. She was quieter and funny and kept all of us on an even keel.

Down the line they went, the family of four, the couple from Spokane, and then, my turn. As with most things in life, I'm too tall. Ali's directions - "Step off the top platform and go." My result? I could walk to the next step down. And the next. Then, I could go. And did.

Zipping on a steel cable sixty feet from the ground is a rush. You can steer your body to face whatever direction you like by shifting weight and arm movements. It took about three seconds to realize just how good Taylor and Ali's balance must be to have the level of control that they maintain.

I hit the next platform in good order - surprise! - and waited. The folks back at the storefront mentioned that Jeffrey might be able to do some of the early zips by himself. The longer ones would be in tandem. I hadn't thought it through, but watching some of the lighter people gliding in on the longer lines, the physics kicked in. The lighter bodies didn't have as much momentum to over come the friction loss as they came up to the landing platforms. More on that later . . .

. . . because here came Jeffrey like a rock star. zipping on his own. He'd done the first zip solo. He was easily the youngest in the group by a decade. The others couldn't have been more supportive. If this was a representative group, then zippers, experienced and the newbies, are incredibly pleasant people to spend an afternoon with. Jeffrey did seem relieved to actually slide into a landing.

Each zip built on the last one. There are seven total with the first four acting as the training lines and the last three exhilarating. Jeffrey only did the first zip solo. The second he did with Ali. After I had made my way down, they had a conversation. I wasn't privy to the details but, given how slowly Jeffrey had hit the end of the first run, I think Ali was concerned that he might get stuck in the middle.

Ali took absolutely terrific care of Jeffrey. He zipped in tandem with her for the rest of the lines, though he walked the bridges solo. She talked to him like a buddy and had him smiling and enjoying himself.

The rest of us had fun. One of the young ladies had more faith in the safety harness than I did and leaned into space from the platform, imitating Taylor. She laughed when I mentioned that I spend my days minimizing my risk of falling. Ali, when we first geared up, asked if I was afraid of heights. I'm not. It's falling that gets to me, so I don't do it.

Both Ali and Taylor kept up a steady stream of conversation, but their attention to detail was impressive. The training that Timberline does must be effective. At no point while we were tree-bound was a guest not hooked to at least one safety line and usually two. When the two of them transferred safeties, they moved precisely to snap each carabiner in proper sequence. (We had been previously warned not to mess with them ourselves. I declined to mention that I had already figured out the catches. In my defense, it was at the storefront. Once in the trees, I behaved.)

Midway through, we took a short break from Line 4 while the group ahead of us cleared. Taylor told us to follow him, and we made a short jaunt through the forest to a very cool tree house that Timberline is building. Since you can't show me a house without my inspector instincts kicking in, I was checking out the glulams and inverted trusses. It is a neat piece of engineering. Next time I go, hopefully it will be open. The views of Lake Couer d'Alene alone will be spectacular.

To get to the launching pad for Line 5, you need to cross a bridge. The bridges swayed and bucked more than the lines did. Even here, they keep the guests tethered. The safety protocols were impressive.

The last three lines got progressively longer and faster. The last one was 1600 feet long. Taylor reminded us that over-steering slowed the descent and to be careful not to strand ourselves out in the middle. Each one of the lines has sag built into it, a thought that hadn't occurerd to me, but make eminent good sense. If the run was tight and downhill, the arresting mechanism would be the tree. Ouch.

So, instead the line sags. You accelerate down it and then, at the bottom of the arc, begin to slow. The slack and drop height between the anchors is set up so there is more acceleration time than the reverse otherwise the friction would leave everybody hanging around looking for a hand.

On the last long line, it dawned on me that you should be able to optimize speed (cannonball maybe, or an upside Superman position - Taylor would know) and flare out at the last minute and use air resistance to slow down.

If your mental picture just included a body going splat! into the tree trunk and was accompanied by the theme music to George of the Jungle, welcome to the club. I wasn't trying it on my first time zipping.

Maybe next time. Jeffrey is already game to try it again and, with a host of grandkids getting bigger, we might even talk a couple of others into. In the meantime, if you find yourself in the Spokane/Couer d'Alene area with a summer afternoon to spare, might I suggest giving Timberline Adventures a try?

As I said, it's rush.


Free Range Parenting

From 1972 to 1976, my family lived in Alice Springs, Australia. At the time, it had a population of about 13,000 people, and no major grocery store, movie theatre (though it did have a drive-in), bowling alley, or mall. What it did have was abundant space for a teenage boy to get in the appropriate amount of trouble.

Sometimes inappropriate amounts, too, since teenage boys are inclined to do dumbass things like set the lawn on fire. Here on the Palouse, the adults set whole fields on fire, so I think I should get a retroactive pass on that particular infraction. Just saying . . .

My brother and I, on a regular basis, would shove a can of beans into the sleeping bag and head into the bush with our friends. When asked where, we'd kind of wave a hand in the general direction we intended to go. Parents would nod. It was understood that we should be home at a reasonable time the next morning.

Sleepovers (always outside in sleeping bags and sometimes tents) were augmented with a midnight trip downtown to the donut shop/Christian center next to the pizzeria. They had the best donuts ever, and I first started drinking coffee there.

Random Saturdays would see us climbing Mount Gillam, random granite formations, or heading off to the pool on our own. Lizard hunting was popular, too.

When we got back to the States, we wore the tread off bike tires, hiked the woods behind the house, and messed around with pellet guns. Again, general notice was required to be given and permission was pretty much assumed baring a major punishment.

When I became an adult and had kids, we encouraged them to head outside and play. Yep, needed to know roughly where they were at and with who, but the kids were relatively free to explore. My with and I used the same admonitions as our parents. Don't get into trouble. Be home by dinner/dark, whichever came first.

They have a term for such bad parenting behavior now - Free Range Parenting. In Maryland, they'd like to make it a crime. The authorities get substantial help from busybodies who apparently have no idea that the world has gotten safer, not more dangerous. In this case, CPS abducted the kids, held them for five hours, and then returned them to the parents.

Now my daughters are having kids and I am tickled that they are raising free range youngsters. I'm watching as they grow more competent and independent as they learn how to conduct themselves in a variety of environments and discover their own capabilities.

You know, the kind of things that lead to adulthood.

I want what I paid for, please.

I think the way American businesses package their products could do with a few changes, not the least of which would be making it so I could actually get to the product I just bought.

I want:

  • A potato chip bag that tears open completely at the top seal without me deforming the bag by seven feet.
  • Frozen veggie bags that don't require a knife to open
  • Eggs that crack properly - yes fresh eggs are tougher, but fresh eggs don't run all over the pan. These aren't fresh eggs.
  • Salad bags that don't decorate the floor with a confetti of lettuce
  • A pull tab that opens the bottle (or this morning, the box of coconut milk) instead of tearing free.
  • Products that come in recyclable paper boxes instead of thermally sealed plastic designed to handle globe warming, global cooling, thermonuclear war, and the average homeowner with a paring knife.

I get that manufacturers are trying to reduce breakage and spoilage. I'm pretty near certain that they have forgotten, or more likely, decided to ignore, the person buying their products.

Evergreen Aerospace Museum

I made an interesting discovery while in the Portland area. They have an aerospace museum. More accurately, McMinnville hosts the Evergreen Aerospace Museum.

A short digression - the museum sits next to the waterpark. The entire gang, minus me, went and all the kids had an absolute blast. Dozens of slides and pools. Four of the slides start in the body of a 747 set on the roof. The youngest ground-mobile granddaughter floated the wave pool while a pair of nieces went dare-deviling all over the place. 

Why didn't I go? Opted for a trip to the Portland Running Company. Love those folks and, since I don't have a running store close, I try to make an effort to swing into PRC when I'm in town. Left with new gear to replace some of my older (more than a decade older) stuff. 

Back to the museum. From the instant you enter, the Spruce Goose dominates the rather large hall. 

spruce goose

For scale, look at the people on the gangway. The windows that you see along the fuselage are passenger observation windows. The actual cockpit sit on top of that - see the little windows waaaay up there? 

Inside, it feels like a whale swallowed you and your companions in one gulp, except maybe a little roomier. Though the ribbing appears to be metal, the majority of the airframe was constructed of wood. Birch, not spruce but I can't think of any birds that rhyme with birch and I guess neither could the original reporters. An amazing piece of engineering. 

The exhibits left plenty of maneuvering room and it never felt crowded. Most exhibits had signage with historical information about the pieces. 

I loved that my  grandson, Jeffrey, got intrigued enough to look over the boards. A first-grader, the verbiage was a touch of his head, but the combination of pictures got him to stop and assess. Very smooth production by the museum. 

Over course, the big kids lingered too. Two of my sons-in-law were there and, at various points, we would scatter like quail, each heading for a different part of the exhibit. 

I found a little aircraft, built from a kit by a Moses Lake man, that stood scarcely taller than an average Duffau grandchild. I'm now lobbying Jeffrey's dad to build an airplane for the kids. The four of us, three adults and one child, decided it would be a 'good' thing, educational even. I'm betting I can get a couple of granddaughters on board. The wives might take a little persuading. . . .

I found a P-38, a World War II aircraft that has always been my favorite for reasons I can't explain. They also had an engine for one, a V-12 brute. Apparently, the engines came in right and left rotations to reduce the torque on the airframe. Interesting stuff to the nerds among us. 

The Evergreen Aerospace Museum also owns a DeHaviland DH-4 that still holds an airworthiness certificate. These aircraft started as single-engine bombers in WWI and were adopted by the US Post Office for the original Air Mail service.  I'm guessing that when I'm pushing a hundred years old, I won't be nearly as able to fly high. Of course, the DH-4 is seeing much better maintenance. 

We hit the theater - they have multiple shows every day - for a documentary on D-Day. I think Peter Jennings narrated but didn't catch the credits. The show was well-done and in 3-D.

We only covered one building of the exhibit as  Jeffrey started to wear down, plus we had to get back for a surprise birthday party. We didn't get to look at the more modern planes, some arranged on the exterior, F-16's, F-18's, an F-4. Inside the other building where we ate a reasonably priced lunch, were drones, including one that I think, if I am recalling my old comic books correctly, was a V-2 rocket. 

On the way out, Will noticed that not only do they have a tank exhibit outside but you get to climb in. Gonna have to come back. 

Smash it flat and send it to China

Years ago, I went car shopping, hoping to unload a Chevy Lumina minivan that belongs in the pantheon of terrible vehicles. We eventually did trade it, for a Ford Ranger pick-up that I used for work. The dealer managed not to laugh and gave us a grand for the pile o' crud we had been using.

My girls were little then - we could actually fit all five of us into the supercab - and wanted to know what was going to happen to the Lumina.

The headline above, "Smash it flat and ship it to China", was undoubtedly blunt. What I hadn't realized was that they were attached to the vehicle. I had thee girls burst into tears and my wife had to explain that I was just 'joking.' I was busy shaking my head, but no one was paying any attention to mean old dad.

We're out car shopping again. Now it's time to replace that Ranger. It's got a lot of miles on it, but runs decently well. We've put some work into it to make sure that it does. When we let this go, I'm going to be the one attached. It's been a nice little truck that has served us well. All three girls got their first lessons on how to drive a stick in that truck and we had given it to the youngest daughter - but she had a baby and the pick-up isn't really suitable so we got it back.

It's not suitable for grandmas either, so it's time to bid it goodbye. I'm hoping to find something that we'll like as much.

And we're hoping to find a good home for the Ranger. No "smash it flat and send it to China" this time. The Ranger deserves better than that.

Why 'Runner, Writer, Father, Guy?'

Okay, maybe it’s time to explain the tag line on this blog – ‘Runner, Writer, Father, Guy’ – as more than a few people have questioned why there is not a ‘husband’ tag in there. A couple people have also offered additional suggestions, but these have been politely declined as most were not suited to a G-rated blog.

Most people that grew up reading spy thrillers from the 70’s will have a list of authors embedded in their brains – writers like Alistair MacLean, Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, and Ken Follett. All became international best-sellers. As did a man named Fleming, creator of a spy named Bond.

George Smiley was the antithesis of James Bond or Jason Bourne. A bureaucrat in the British Secret Service, Smiley played a cerebral spy handler beset with moral doubt about the rightness of his cause.

 John le Carré was the author that wrote the novels. His Karla Trilogy culminated with Smiley’s People. This is the only le Carré novel I've ever read. It's the last book in the Karla Trilogy but I've never gone back to read the other two.

The first of the trilogy was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The le Carré novels were everywhere when I was growing up but they were dark, and lacked heroes. Like most boys, I wanted to be a hero (still do, as a matter of fact) so I found other diversions, among them James Bond and, for fans of old, old sci-fi, the Grey Lensman.

So why did I choose a novel I didn’t read to mimic with my tagline?

The rhythms. Can you hear them?

Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy.

Runner, writer, father, guy.

Same beat and bounce.

And it captured an essence, in four words that can sum me up.

Runner – I am, by the measure that counts. I get out the door and, when I can’t, I ache to.

Writer – A recent development that surprised nobody that knew me. I think everyone thought I would eventual try to write. Once I had something to say, I did.

Father – A conscious decision that if I was going to good at one thing in my whole life, I wanted it to be this. I could have been better but I was there when my girls needed me.

Guy – More specifically, her guy. I told her I loved her when I was seventeen. Meant it then. Mean it more now. I’m her guy until she throws me out. Since I outweigh her by a bunch, I don’t think she can do it, so she’s stuck with me.

So, it’s not really a tagline. It’s the shortest description of a life you’re likely to ever see.

Down Time

For the first time in recent memory, I have Labor Day off. Normally, this would bother me - I celebrate Labor Day by working as that seems more appropriate than having a barbeque. I know the history of the holiday, so for my union brethren, I am not in need of re-education. I just like to celebrate the holiday with the activity rather than it's absence.

What's different this year?

Well, two new grandbabies within the last week. It's amazing how emotionally draining this is for everyone, grandparents included. Grandparents get to sleep at night, though. I told the newest mom in our family that the tired feeling goes away after 22 years. She thinks I'm joking.

Work has been steady. That's good, as writing, despite early successes, has not yet overtaken the day job. While my daughters inched closer to delivery, I had to get the Rick Riley article done, some 10,000 words in a week.

Coach Cowdrey and I have survived the first two days of junior high cross country. We have a good bunch of kids - Asotin always seems to - but early in the season until the rules get passed down, it's a study in chaotic systems.

So, everyone around our place is a little frazzled. Tomorrow I'm taking a trip up the Snake River on Beamers Tours. I'll get some pictures and put them up when I get back.

And on Labor Day, I think I'll put my feet up. Maybe bounce a grandbaby or two (or six.) After I get a run in, of course.

A Good Soaking Rain

Did know what to write about this morning. My sweetie suggested "reforming my snarkiness." Yeah, woke up in a good mood.

Anyway, opted against that idea as I wanted a project that was a wee bit more . . .manageable.

It's raining here, which is nice. As I posted to Facebook (if you're not following my author page, the little button is up there on the right - I promise it won't hurt a bit!), it's good weather for putting out fires, doing home inspections, running, writing, and reading.

Perfect after a bunch of hundred degree days. I'm switching from a boring run on pavement to playing in mud this afternoon. Much more fun.

And to the firefighters here in the Northwest - I sure hope the rain is reaching you and helping. Get home soon - and safe.

How to Embarrass Your Daughters (Part 1)

I can see this building into a never-ending series since they were once teenagers and I am, well, Dad. It's part of my job to embarrass them, or part of theirs, growing up, to be embarrassed. Not sure which or even if makes a difference.

I was surprised at one thing that embarrassed one of my girls - saying hello, howdy, hi to people who were out running. She couldn't believe that I would actually talk to strangers.

It was one thing to chitter-chat her way through a run with her girl friends or teammates but saying "hello" to a person you didn't know who was out for a walk or run of his own was just audacious. And when I did the same with women out walking and running, it was semi-scandalous and I was "flirting".

Maybe I don't get it because I was never a teenage girl. I grew up in the early running boom when runners still counted themselves as iconoclastic figures, fighting to be recognized as individuals in a society that expected everybody to conform. We wore mismatched socks, grew out our hair, and dodged traffic because there weren't any running paths yet.

Or maybe I'm just getting older and don't care. I know that back when I did speed work on the U. of Idaho track, my running buddies would always strip off their shirts and blow themselves up when women walked by. Me, I trudged along, doing my thing. I was pretty sure the young ladies were not interested in me, given they were about the age of my daughters.

Still, if I had been on the road instead of the track, I'd have said hello. Not because they were pretty girls but because they were people. I know that I enjoy it when someone looks at me and offers a pleasant hello.

It's a moment of connectedness, saying hello, a way of saying "Hello, I see you, I am glad that you are here, I hope that you have a nice day."

It's a bit much for one word, so I usually add a smile.

Even though I can't actually see you right now, Hello!


A post that didn't go in the direction I planned . . .

It's always a shock to my system when I meet someone who doesn't have goals, the folks just drifting along with events, bouncing with the prevailing currents. I don't understand it because my hardwiring is different. Very different. Plus, I hang with folks that want to accomplish things, large and small.

I'm a huge fan of goals. However, I operate a little differently than the majority of the population, including those that are goal-setters.

Seven Devils 001.JPG

I have a son-in-law, very goal-oriented (as is my daughter that he is married to.) Both of are planners, identifying their goals, laying down the path to the goal, often writing it down on paper to make sure all the steps are clear. Then, they pick up the first task and begin a march to the goal.

Which makes it sound easier than it is, but you get the idea of their general process. It's the one that most of the books you can order on Amazon will recommend, that teachers teach, that gurus advocate.

That's not my process. What they do, we call "Ready, Aim, Fire!"

My process is to identify my goal, like writing a book. Then I start. No plan, just an idea worth doing. Launch, and figure it out as I go.

Ready, FIRE!, Aim

It's the difference between an arrow, released to a target, and a self-correcting guided missile.

There are advantages to both approaches. The arrow already knows the target, the course, all the factors. The odds of hitting the target are good, and, the better your planning, the more likely you are to achieve the goal. There is the comfort of certainty in the process. Surprises can still happen but the planning stages will remove most of those.

The guided missile knows where it wants to end up but everything in between is in flux. A thousand possible paths exist and some will lead to dead ends. Others will lead to serendipitous points that enhance the journey. The very nature of the journey will be unpredictable and it's not for the fainthearted.

The guided missile has another advantage.

It can aim for the stars. There isn't any in between reasoning to explain why the goal is unreasonable or impossible. Truly transformational goals build off dreams, get their power from the passion that you invest.

Not everybody will understand the passion. Some will actively work against you and tell you the goal is unattainable.

Actually, they do this to the planners as well. My daughter, the planner, is studying electrical engineering. She's also raising a family, one daughter here, a son on the way. She's had classmates, especially the women, tell her she'll never complete the program because of the kids.

I laugh because they obviously misunderstand my kid. She's a stubborn one, and determined. She'll take in the insults - and that's what they are - and use them for motivation. In the meantime, she has a husband who's wonderfully supportive.

All three of my girls are like this. My wife and I joke that we doubled up on the stubborn gene but we also taught them to aim for the stars - and that they got to pick those stars. Yamaha motorcycles once ran an ad campaign targeting Honda, whose tagline was "Follow the Leader!" The Yamaha response, "At Yamaha, we don't believe you need to follow anybody!" and showed a bike kicking up dust across the open desert.

Whether you're a "Ready, Aim, Fire" person or a "Ready, Fire, Aim" sort like me, you have the right to define your own goals, your dreams. You also get to the right to define the path to them. Never surrender those, ever.

And, now a confession.

The picture I have embedded in this post doesn't match the content. That's because, in guided missile fashion, I originally aimed at something different, an explanation for why I needed a return to the Seven Devils to run the loop trail, all 30 miles of it, this year.

A serendipitous diversion on the way to that post. I'll put it up later this week.

For those that like Facebook, click and like to follow me there. All my posts end up on my author page. Also, the occasional smart-alecky aside.


Is your measuring stick too tall? or are you just using the wrong one?

I introduced my granddaughter (one of them, at least) to Lindsay Stirling and Pentatonix a little bit ago. At 18 months, she's a little young to find the music or videos herself, but that's what grandpa is around for - that, and engaging a little brain with occasional weirdness. She gets that both acts are very cool and dances that little toddler dance, bopping up and down when I put them on. My daughter hadn't heard of Pentatonix yet so she looked them up on Wikipedia from her phone.

And went into a minor case of shock.

They are younger than she is. Not by much but they are and, as she read about how they got started, she kept marveling at how young they were to have already become so accomplished. The core of the group (Kristi, Mitch, and Scott) started together in high school. After two of three graduated, they split, Kristi for Oklahoma and the Musical Theater program, Scott for USC and the Popular Music program.

Then life took an odd a cappella turn that ended up with the trio getting back together to win The Sing-off, a show that I had never heard of, dedicated to a cappella singing. By rule, competitors had to have at least four singers. The call went out to Mitch, who skipped his high school graduation to make the first addition. Avi, the bass, was recruited from the local scene in L.A. and Kevin was spotted on YouTube when a cellobxxing video of his went viral.

They ended up winning season three of The Sing-Off, a contract from Sony, and set a goal of a goal of the group becoming the first mainstream a cappella group in recent times.

Pentatonix is well on their way.

Back to my daughter and the psychic jolt from discovering that these already accomplished musicians are younger than she is. I'm pretty sure that she was measuring herself to them and feeling a tad discouraged.

She shouldn't but she's making a pretty common mistake. Young people often do. Old people like me make different mistakes. Welcome to being human.

Her mistake? She's using the wrong measuring stick.

Her accomplishments won't land her a recording contract but they are still accomplishments.

She's in school, working on a degree in Electrical Engineering. She worked at an ammunition manufacturer until her hubby got his degree. She stopped working when they discovered that birth control is 99.999 percent effective.

She went back to school anyway (she hadn't really left, part-time in school while working full-time) and changed majors to the EE. Dug in and started to do the hard work of becoming an engineer while raising a daughter. She has an advisor who is terrific (though the institution is NOT very family friendly!) who understands that this life will be balanced.

Which is good, because she's growing another human. If everything runs to plan, the next baby will arrive right before the fall semester but after summer school (yep, she's taking extra classes - and thinking double major.)

She a determined young lady, and stubborn. All my girls have some moxie, each in their own way.

Sometimes they get a little sideways though, and pick up the wrong measuring stick. They have to chart their own courses. Each is on a different path. One is a stay-at-home mom for now, until the kids are grown. One is pursuing a difficult degree - there are darn few women engineers. One is already on working to be an independent business woman.

Separate paths, just as Kristi and Scott choose when they dropped out of school to chase a dream. By a conventional measuring stick, the two Pentatonix singers were taking an enormous gamble because performing is such an uncertain venture.

Sometimes my girls need a reminder, but they get to choose their own lives, to define their own successes, and live with their mistakes. It all goes together.

And when you take measure of your life so far - make sure the measuring stick is the right size and shape. I have no illusions that my writing will ever be mentioned in the same breath as Hemingway or Fitzgerald or Vonnegut. It won't be a remunerative as Lee Childs or Grisham. But I have a few people that I want to write for, even if I don't make money from it.

Likewise, I won't ever be an electrical engineer. That daughter has already surpassed me in mathematics. The youngest is likely to be very, very good at her ventures because she's smart, and caring, and tough as heck when she needs to be. The eldest? Different dreams. She's already a great mom with great kids. When the kids are bigger, she'll probably return to school and work on becoming a great teacher, her early dream. Or she may choose a different path, now.

For each path, I have one piece of advice.

Make sure your measuring stick fits you.