Pickin' And Grinnin' In Nashville

It is great fun staying in Nashville because we park our house right next to Scott Brickell’s house. Our kids and their kids can’t get enough of each other and Brian and I thoroughly enjoy the comfort of the Brickells’ hospitality. Brian coordinated a songwriter night at the French Quarter, featuring Laura Sullivan, Nathalie Whisnant, Jayron Weaver, Lane Turner and yours truly. It was a wonderful night of high quality entertainment and fun with our amazing friends.

Brian booked Sunset Blvd. Studios to get a few more songs recorded. I finished “Liberating Paris,” a song I wrote based on Linda Bloodworth Thomason’s book of the same name, on the road from Florida to Nashville. As usual the Dream Team of David Cleveland, Steve Brewster, Mark Hill and Jason Webb gave the song wings. We cut “Surrounded”, written by David and I, and “My Favorite Sport”, written by Brian for Ben to eventually sing. I was SO proud of my little boy when it came time for him to sing it for the guys. We knew he was nervous but he threw off the nerves and sang like a pro. Very impressive! Soon Ben and Jack will have their own CD to share with their friends. I am so proud of my two little boys. To hear them sing thrills their daddy and I to no end. Ben picks out harmonies and nails ’em. Their pitch is dead-on. They’ve even written a couple of songs. When I hear their little voices in the back seat belting out, “Mary’s gone to heaven rainbow in the sky”, I’ve arrived. There’s no greater joy that music could possibly hold for me. I pray that Ben and Jack will know the satisfaction that I have fully appreciated, of being able to sing a song, to accompany themselves, to write a song, to be in a band with amazing musicians, and to share that with people. Not for the gain, not for the glory, not as a means to an end, but for the pure joy of it. What a gift – to be a musician.

Florida – Take Two

We’ve never spent time in northern Florida so our stay in Navarre Beach was wonderful. Our RV site looked out over the bay of the Gulf of Mexico. What a sight to fill our eyes with each morning and evening! Each night, the cotton-candy-sunset-sky found me lounging under a tiki tent, watching Brian and the boys fish from the white sand at the water’s edge. Perfect.

blog%20ready%20dad%20jack%20fishing%20navarre.jpg blog%20ready%20ben%20sunset%20navarre.jpg
My beautiful boys

Brian attended an internet conference in Orlando so we stayed at the Marriot for a few days while the RV had warranty repairs done. In pure “keeping up with the Disneys” fashion, the hotel looked like its neighbor’s yard with palm trees and flowers everywhere. The pool had cascading waterfalls and a water slide. It was a very cozy stay while our RV was in the shop.

We surprised an old friend, Scott Welch, one Sunday morning, when we showed up at the church he pastors in Oldsmar, near Tampa. Scott is the guy Brian and I patterned our youth group after back in ’93. He’s a brilliant communicator, a very funny and cut-to-the-chase kind of guy. We even got to see his daughter, Jordan, who was younger than my kids are today when we brought 20 youth down to Florida to bike the Keys with Scott’s group.

Scott Welch & Brian

He offered us his condo on Indian Rocks beach while the RV underwent further warranty repairs. Our stay there has been a highlight of our travels to date. We could see the ocean from our windows, the beach just a short stroll from our doorstep. Once again the boys were in fishing nirvana, heading out every chance they got with their gear. One day they ventured out to the great deep on a charter fishing boat. I know they caught something because we choked on the smell of it for weeks each time we boarded the Envoy, as the bag of goodies never made it to the fridge, let alone the frying pan. I loved walking on the beach as the sun rose and taking in the majestic sunsets from a beach chair with a little boy on my lap. Jack and I were always quicker to retire than the fishermen. However, one thick night sky witnessed the triumphant catch of a shark, a truly satisfying end to the means.

Finally, our home was finished and we set off for Nashville.

Detour #2: Indian Rocks Beach (and our Shark Story)

The Broadband Wireless conference in Orlando ended and we spent a great (and wet) day at Seaworld.

On Thursday (Oct 13) we headed back to Tampa hoping to pick up our RV from the service department at LazyDays. Unfortunately, the warranty work wasn’t quite completed. “No problem!” says our long-time friend, Scott Welch, and pastor of Fresh Start Church in Clearwater. “I’ve got a condo on the beach that you guys can stay in til your RV is finished.”

OH MY GOODNESS!!!! We couldn’t have been blessed by a better gift. This place is wonderful. You can see the Gulf of Mexico from the deck of this third floor condo, and the sand is only 30 yards from the door. Indian Rocks Beach is just south of Clearwater, FL, and 25 miles from downtown Tampa. If you are looking for a vacation spot near the beach, this is a great value and I hope you will consider giving Scott a call.

What a great detour this has been and the fishing has been great as well.

Day #1
On the first morning, the boys and I jumped on a party fishing boat for a 1/2 day fishing trip. Ben caught the ONLY keeper of our group (a red snapper) and both boys caught a number of small sea bass. I’d like to say that the reason I caught nothing was because I was helping them so much. But there’s no excuse for being skunked!
The deck hand cleaned our fish and handed us a plastic bag. We were excited to get home and grill it. But one thing lead to another and we just stopped for pizza. Somehow we left that bag of fish in our truck overnight…oh, my, what a terrible odor! And we didn’t get to enjoy to fresh fish! Grrrr.

Day #2
We used the castnet to get some live bait (3″ and 4″ minnows). We got lots of bites and Ben caught one whiting and one yellow tail snapper. But, while our backs were turned, a heron walked up to our bucket and enjoyed the easy catch for a tasty dinner. The sunset was wonderful as we went in late (and the second day without fresh fish!).

Day #3 – The Shark Story

After church, we fished for three hours with nothing but a bite here and there. But for a true fisherman, that just ups the challenge! With three live minnows baited on a three-hook-rigging, Ben cast out with his brand new saltwater rod and reel and set his pole against his chair to chase away a few heron from the minnow bucket. He turned just in time to see his pole bend down and the joyful glee could not be mistaken. Ben had caught two ten-inch ladyfish on a single cast.

Ladyfish aren’t good to eat, but are great for bait. I put the shark-rigging (a steel line with a VERY large hook) on my line and used one of Ben’s ladyfish for bait. I cut the ladyfish several times on each side to cause it to bleed while in the water. For over an hour, I got nothing and Ben continued to catch ladyfish. However, the sunset was beautiful as the whole family enjoyed the painted sky.

With only 10 minutes left before going in, I hooked two ladyfish heads onto the large hook and cast the last cast of the night. Five minutes later, I had a nice tug on the line and felt like I was bringing in a nice sized catfish. It was dark by this time and as I pulled the fish up onto the sand Ben yelled, “It’s a SHARK!!!!” A 20-inch black-tip shark! What a blast!!!


Fifteen minutes after we pulled the shark out of the water, we were grilling shark fillet’s on the stove. That’s fresh!!! What a flavor!


Day #4
Ben and I got up really early this morning and went out before sunrise. As soon as there was light, we caught minnows in our castnet and started fishing. WOW! Mackeral were biting. We caught two nice sized Mackeral (sorry for the fuzzy photo) and took them inside for a wonderful breakfast feast!

SCORES Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Brian 0 1 5 4
Ben 6 6 6 5
Jack 2

Bo Directs Us to Don’s Seafood & Steakhouse

We crossed over into Louisiana and our first thought was “Bo Bertholot.” For those who don’t know Bo…I’m sorry. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool-Cajun who is currently living in Southeast Missouri…which means he sticks out like a crawdad on a sushi bar.

We had to call Bo and ask where we should eat. But, really, think about the question. Hey, we are in your state…where should we eat? But Bo was up for the challenge. His answer? Drive on up to Lafayette and find Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse.



We had the best meal: Soft-shell crab, seafood gumbo, fried crawfish, crawfish etouffe, stuffed crab, and crab cakes. Ben enjoyed the spicy stylings of cajun country and even Jack got courageous and tried the gumbo, “At first it takes bad, but then when you finish the bite…it tastes good!”

Unfortunately, we were out-of-season for fresh crawfish. But that’s okay…just one more reason to make it back to Louisiana again.

What a great meal!!!!

Now I’m sleepy. Where’s the closest Wal-Mart?

Travelin' Texas

On long hauls like this one we “boondock” in Wal Mart parking lots to save the time and energy it takes to get hooked up at an RV park or campground. It’s kind of weird, but when all the shades are closed, it really doesn’t matter to me where we lay unconscious during the twilight hours. Brian did, however, have an amusing revelation one morning while showering, “Hey, I’m naked in Wal Mart parking lot!!” It’s best not to think too deeply about it…

We found our way to Dallas where we stayed at a very nice RV resort on Lake Grapevine. The summer drought had taken a toll on the lake so fishing wasn’t what we’d hoped BUT the Dormadys were Dallas’ biggest attraction.

Ben, Marcus/Breck, Jack, Quinten/McKenna (I think)

Mike, Lisa, Quinton, Marcus, Breck and McKenna were finally settled into their new home after leaving Poplar Bluff last summer. Lisa held me together on more than one occasion during our “pulling away from Poplar Bluff” days. She inspires me. It was great to see them happy in their new life, especially with their new church, Gateway. We enjoyed every minute we got to spend with them and have already planned to see them again in December.

Moseying a bit further south we drove our house to my sister’s house located in the gorgeous hill country of Georgetown Texas. She lives there with her husband, Larry, and four kids in a beautiful Tuscan villa style house that Larry designed and built. Jenni may be my “baby” sister but she is wise beyond her years and I’ve followed her lead on many issues including home schooling. She home schools 13 year old Alexandria, 11 year old Nathanael, and 8 year old twins, Micah and Elijah, and makes it look easy – but that’s Jenni. She’s brilliant. We have a lot in common, the most special bond though is our faith in Christ. Visiting Jenni’s family always feels like a retreat and this trip was no exception.

Alex, Jenni, Brian, Nathanael, Larry, Micah, Ben, Elijah and Jack

When we’re together, we laugh and talk, we relax and have fun. And the kids! We hardly saw them once they were cut loose from school to play. They ran wild around the yard playing cowboys and Indians, hunting for treasure and lizards and snakes.

Micah, Jack, Elijah, Nathanael & Ben

When they weren’t playing under the big Texas sky they played in the RV, having commandeered it as their fort. With nine special days worth of fun well spent we pulled away from Georgetown and headed to my old stompin’ grounds – Houston.

In the middle of the Ginormous sprawl of Houston lies a quaint RV park, complete with fishing pond and swimming pool, just four miles from Westbury Baptist Church where I was scheduled to do a concert. While there we were fortunate to catch up with old Poplar Bluff friends, Eric and Carol Luecke and two of their kids, John Carl and James, as we all played hooky one day to hang out at the campsite.

James, Jack, John Carl, Eric & Ben

My “spiritual mom,” MaryAnn Parker, lives in Houston. MaryAnn had eternity in her sights when she befriended me all those years ago, making sure our friendship soared beyond this earthly plane. She told me about Jesus, she told me Truth. I gave my life to Jesus while walking on the beach in South Padre Island, near the club where my band played in the evenings. This was in 1987. I didn’t know how to “do it” or “what to say.” I just traded my life in: I gave God mine and He gave me His. It was so simple and seemed too good to be true. But true it was and I knew in that instant that I was not the same and would never be. What a mighty warrior MaryAnn is and I am deeply grateful for our friendship. Today she is waging a battle against cancer, how severe it is I don’t exactly know, because she doesn’t let it show. She is “unaffected” it seems because she holds such a grasp of the big picture. She is SO not of this world and will lead a very extensive trail of souls in her wake to the Presence of Almighty God when all of our time here is fully spent. I’ll be there! Jenni will be there…and the roll goes on and on.

The concert was a lot of fun. It was refreshing to spend time with the friends who came to see us: Pat Hunt, Jeremiah Jordan, Pat Fleming, Leann LaRocca, Stan and Jan, Steve and Sherry Adell, MaryAnn, Ruby Chapman, Keith and Ray Parker, Pierre DuBois, the Lueckes and many more. I appreciate the help of Kyle Damron and Keith Haggett in making the concert happen.