Of Pools and Manatees


Lil Jan and I have worked tirelessly for weeks to get our Fishhawk home ready for closing today.  We had a massive yard sale.  We moved all our remaining stuff out.  I did a final lawn mowing and hedge trimming.  We hired someone to do a final cleaning of the house and carpets.  We even had the driveway and sidewalks pressure washed.  We were exhausted, but the house and yard looked great, and we were ready for closing.  Or so we thought.

Last night I took a final load of stuff to my parents’ condo in Port Charlotte.  While there, I received a text from Karen, our awesome realtor.  She had just done a final walk-through of the house and said it looked great, but noticed some sand at the bottom of the pool.  She explained that the buyer was pretty picky, and may take issue with closing on a house that had a pool that wasn’t completely clean.  I reluctantly agreed, realizing she had our best interest at heart and not wanting any issues at closing.  I told her I would vacuum the pool upon returning that night.

I arrived back at the completely empty house at 10:15pm and walked back to the lanai.  I turned the pump on and prepared the hoses and such.  Our pool setup is such that it is best to do the vacuuming while in the pool, especially to get sand at the bottom.  But it occurred to me that the only clothes I had were the clothes I was wearing.

I surveyed the scene.  Full hedges blocked the view of our neighbors to the right.  Our neighbors to the left had a partial view but are typically in bed at that hour…or at least not in their back yard looking at my lanai.  What to do?  The pool had to be cleaned.  Closing was the next day.  With a determination and rational/logical assessment that only my fellow ENTJs could appreciate, I developed a plan which went something like this:

1) turn off all the lights

2) go to the edge of the pool and prepare to unclothe

3) realize you can’t see the sand with the pool light off; so get up and turn just the pool light on

4) go back to the edge of the pool and take a deep breath; play “I Lived” by One Republic on iPhone at low volume for inspiration

5) quickly and fully disrobe

6) roll over into the pool, sort of like a manatee being released into the wild after being treated at a marine life sanctuary

7) hit the water and do an immediate 180-degree turn to put the bare backside toward the pool light, keeping the more sensitive regions in the shadows where they belong

8) wonder just for a moment if this is some sort of sick practical joke by Karen the Realtor

9) vacuum as quickly and efficiently as possible while striding across the pool; try to stay bitter and resist any thoughts that “this is actually kind of refreshing”

10) step and roll out of pool (not unlike the “drop and roll” that is recommended when one is on fire)

11) dry off with shirt, then clothe self with remaining dry clothes; drive home to RV, arriving shirtless and proud

12) close on house, and walk away with fond memories of the final pool cleaning

Big Steve


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A Mother’s Love…and Legacy

I recently got to spend a wonderful Easter weekend with my dear mother, Peggy “Meme” Johnson, along with my dad and sisters.  Mom is in a tough battle with cancer, and is nearing the finish line in her life’s journey.  It was tough to see her frail and in some pain, but I’m so thankful that we had a chance to talk and share some heartfelt feelings with each other.

There’s something really special about a mother’s love.  She has always been my biggest fan and in her eyes I can do no wrong.  Everyone can use someone like that in life, and the role frequently falls on moms.  If my whole world were falling apart, I knew mom would have my back and everything would be alright.


I will always remember three things about my mom’s life.  First, mom always made Christmas time special.  The first 36 Christmases of my life were spent with my parents, usually at our home.  Mom instilled so many traditions:  ringing bells on Christmas morning and the pronouncement that “he (Santa) came!”; children lining up on the stairwell in order to rush downstairs together to see what Santa had brought; opening presents while drinking hot chocolate and listening to Christmas music; the discovery that Santa had left cookie crumbs and half a glass of milk (just like last year); and the big Christmas dinner with everyone at the table telling what they’re thankful for.  We always looked forward to the magic and wonder of Christmas and mom always delivered.  She gave us such wonderful memories and traditions to continue with our children and grand-children.

Second, mom has a thing for thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, and bargains.  She is passionate about them.  I’ve seen her buy out entire yard sales and take all the boxes home to sort through them.  I remember going to a neighborhood yard sale with my mom when I was about 10 years old.  I came across a toy that I liked that cost a quarter, and mom asked the lady if she would take 20 cents.  The lady agreed and mom handed her the two dimes and then looked over at me to make sure I understood the significance of what had just occurred.  Through the years, I’ve received scores of “care packages” from mom with a variety of interesting things she had come across in her latest thrift store adventures.  Sometimes I’d think, “I don’t need all this stuff.”  But I suspect someday when mom is gone I will miss receiving those packages from her.

Finally, and most importantly, I’ll always remember how mom spent much of her life looking after disadvantaged people as a volunteer and later a social services coordinator.  During my middle school and high school years, I never knew what special needs person would be there when I came home from school.  Mom would take in these individuals for a night or a weekend to give their parents or caregivers a respite.  Raymond wore a helmet because he liked to hit his head against the wall.  Lurleen was in her late teens and once ripped her shirt off and ran around the yard in her bra to make a statement about something.  As my parents chased her, I shrugged and explained to my middle school friends that she was a friend of the family.  Gary was a sweet little baby who we took turns holding and loving on.  Marge was an older woman who loved to brush my mom’s hair and then have my mom brush her hair.   Tommy was about eight years old and decided one afternoon to take a permanent marker to the living room wall.  Mom loved and care for these special people and taught us to do the same.  She was the first solid example in my young life of a Christian following Jesus’ instructions to care for “the least of these”.  (Matthew 25:40)  I hope some day my sons and grandchildren will be able to say the same thing about me.

Before I left my parent’s home on Easter weekend, I hugged my mom and told her I loved her and how much I appreciated all that she had done for me through the years.  She expressed similar feelings to me.  I told her that if it so happened that I didn’t get a chance to see her again that I would look forward to seeing her in heaven.  She smiled and said “promise me you’ll be there too”, and I promised her I would.  As I drove away from their home that afternoon with tears flowing down my face, I was thankful that we had had this time together.  And I reminded myself to try to live a life that would make her proud, and to keep my promise.

Big Steve

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The Great Purge

Yeah, we got roosters
Yeah, we got roosters

The Great Purge is underway.  After 27 years of marriage and accumulating stuff, we’re unloading it.  Well, about 75% of it.  We’ve given (or will give) about half of our stuff to family, friends, and charity. Another 25% will stay with the house for use by the new owners.  We’ll put most of the remaining stuff (some antiques, family heirlooms, and “meaningful nicknacks”) at my parents’ condo in Port Charlotte.

We’re not against stuff.  We like stuff.  I’m sure someday we’ll settle down and accumulate more of it.  But for now, we’re just going to try to live for awhile without so much of it.  Here’s why…

1. A lot of our stuff is no longer necessary.  Books and old magazines that we’ll never read again.  Dozens of Air Force plaques and mementos that have served their purpose.  CDs we no longer listen to.  Games we no longer play.  Weights we no longer lift.  Clothes we no longer wear.  Kitchen roosters…dozens of them…that are lovely (really they are!)…but just seem to beget more roosters.  You get the idea.  If something hasn’t been used in a couple of years, it’s time to…let it go, let it go…

2. Stuff has a way of complicating our lives and draining our energy.  It has to be maintained, dusted, transported, or at least stored.  The more stuff we have, the more it ties us down.  Without it, we’ll be more mobile and we can focus our energies elsewhere.

3. I suppose we’re transitioning into the “empty nest” phase.  I remember earlier phases in our lives when we were growing a family, accumulating bigger and better things, and wanting bigger and better homes to store those things.  That process is now in reverse…and it feels awesome!  I recently had a conversation with a woman who is in the process of building her 5000+ square foot dream home.  I was happy for her because she was happy.  But I was so not envious of the required upkeep and maintenance of the house, yard, and all the stuff that would be in it.  We’re just in a different phase.

4. Seems to me that when people reach the end of their lives, and look back on their lives, it’s not the accumulated stuff that matters.  Instead, what’s remembered…what’s cherished…are the relationships and the memories.  So, it seems wise at this stage in our lives to shift more energy to building relationships and making memories.

5. Finally, it’s worth noting that when Jesus sent out The Twelve, he instructed them not to take any money or bags or extra clothes.  (Matthew 10:9-10)  He wanted them to rely on the generosity of the people in the towns they visited.  I think he also knew that material possessions…stuff…would drag them down and divert their attention from more important pursuits.

I wish I could say we’re as dedicated as those disciples…but we’re not.  Not even close.  We’re going to take some money with us.  And a couple of bags.  And enough hang up clothes to fill a 3′ wide RV wardrobe.  And several books we’ve been wanting to read.  And “the ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp” (Navin Johnson, The Jerk, 1979).  But maybe by downsizing a bit, we’ll be able to focus more time and energy on the “stuff” God has planned for us.  At least that’s our theory.  And if it doesn’t work out, we can always settle down and buy more kitchen roosters.  – Big Steve

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