Like sands through the hourglass…

My Mom was not your typical farm wife back in the sixties. She grew up a city girl, attended college, then met my Dad, in the Service at the time and just back from the war, at a dance. The rest, they say is history. They got married, moved to a farm in Northern Minnesota, raised kids, and settled into their life roles. My Dad took care of the farm, my Mom took care of the house and us. I spent a lot of time with my parents. Other than some jobs I did outside the farm, I always was connected to and worked on the farm alongside my Dad. Lunch was at exactly noon, and dinner at 5:00. When you work hard outside all day you get plenty hungry, and my Mom always made a big meal. My Dad ate real fast. Said he had to when trying to get as much food as you could in the Air Force. My Mom ate real slow, like she wanted to enjoy and savor the food she worked so hard to create. I was somewhere in the middle.

We had a small black and white TV on the kitchen counter. My Mom had it on when cooking, and it was on during lunch, not dinner. There was a show on at exactly noon that we came to watch every day. Days of Our Lives. The beginning of the show had a picture of an hourglass, and the phrase “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives”. It has always stuck with me, that phrase, and that simpler time is also one of my fondest memories of my parents.

Much to my surprise and delight, my Sister gave me an hourglass for a present a few years ago.


Her meaning to me was that time passes, and be aware and try to enjoy every minute. Do what makes you happy.  To me it meant much more, and brought me back to those times with my parents, enjoying a great home cooked meal, and watching the Hortons with all their struggles on the show. It does symbolize in a very real way that time marches on. Appropriate for me it involves sand, too. My hour glass was hand blown, and doesn’t stand very well on one side, has a bubble where the indent should be. I’m ok with that, as time doesn’t always go as smooth as you would like. So I have to prop those hours up against something, just like a friends help when you need it most, and flipped over, goes smooth as silk. There’s been a lot of sand pass in my life.

I have a lot of Facebook friends. 189 to be exact. Not a lot by some people’s standards, but a lot to me. I don’t go out and purposely try to get more. If someone I know asks to be mine, then I accept. I have a few people in there I have no idea who they are, and some don’t even know English. Must have been a Burl Johnson they thought they knew somewhere, and thought that was me. I don’t accept those people anymore.

I am not a big poster on Facebook, and don’t comment on things much anymore. It seems when I did, someone always found something wrong with it and wanted to start a Facebook fight. I don’t fight. So now I express my opinions on here, and you can chose to read them or not. Thank you if you do.

But I do like to keep up with what’s going on. This morning one of my friends posted a few beautiful pictures of Lake Superior, which he does often, and the simple words “Enjoy your life”. For me, it’s easier said than done.

Enjoy your life.

After I wrote these words, I turned my computer off and went to the beach. Somehow, the sand under my feet always grounds me, and I seem to see a bigger picture. It’s like the sand is my life, each grain a moment in time. Walking helps me to stay focused. If I sit, my mind starts to wander, so I walk from one end to the other and back. On my walk I encountered a Sea Turtle lying in the sun, sleeping.


I wondered if it was enjoying it’s life. Certainly seemed to be enjoying it’s day. There’s a big difference there.

I don’t think I am very different than most. I would enjoy my life if not for the When’s, If’s, and But’s. When I get enough money, grow up, retire, move.  If I get that job, win the lottery, get married, have kids. And but negates everything. Do I enjoy being alive? Without question. Am I enjoying my life? As soon as I can get rid of the When’s, If’s, and Buts. Even now a wood chipper pulled up next door, and a chainsaw is disturbing the peace. When it stops, I will enjoy my day better. I know I have a long way to go.

Looking back do I have regrets? Of course, lot’s of them. I think my life would have been easier if I had enjoyed it more. I guess it’s true, it’s not destination, it’s the journey. Making the move to Maui fulfilled one of my When’s. I think I am going to keep it in the journey category as long as I can.

My parents passed on many years ago. They gave me my life and I know they would want me to enjoy it. I am going to make it a top priority from now on. And when my hour glass is turned for the last time, I will be standing on the last piece of sand as it sifts through the neck. And the very last thought I want to have in this life is that I enjoyed it.


PS:  While I was at the beach, my long awaited desktop (almost a month), arrived at my door. The box looks pretty good except for a few dings. I’m not going to open it up today and see if it’s broken. I wouldn’t want it to ruin my day.


But will I be happy………

Living with less. Less than what? It depends. It depends on your starting point. And do you really want to? It depends. It depends on your point of view. Since everyone’s needs are as different as their fingerprints, all I can do is give you my point of view.

I don’t think I have ever been a big have to have everything kind of person. How I ended up with so much was more to do with who I was with, and my kids, than my desires. To tell you the truth, other than T-shirts on vacations, I actually bought very little for myself. It did however give me pleasure to be able to give to those I love the things they wanted. Somehow, I ended up with the stuff.

A few years ago I actually started the process of downsizing, the term for old people getting rid of their junk. A few young people do it too, and they end up on the show, Tiny House Hunters. I got a Kindle, and signed up for Kindle Unlimited, which gives you access to thousands of books for 10 bucks a month. I took advantage of that, and read hundreds of books, some of them about this subject. They said that clearing the junk from your house is the same as clearing the junk from your mind. You will live more peacefully, in more harmony, and be better for the Earth. The most I ever did was have a rummage sale a couple of years ago, and cleared off my kitchen counters. Didn’t have the effect I was hoping for.

My son asked me the other day what D-Day was. Luckily, I’m old and could give him a pretty good answer. I think my answer turned out to be too long for him, as he put his headphones back on and ignored my speech. Other than the war meaning, D-Day refers to the day on which an important operation is to begin or a change to take effect.

This is my D-Day:

I think I am like a lot of people. You get what you need, or think you need, based on your job, your friends, your spouse, your income, your insecurities, and a thousand other variables. I grew up in a big house. Always bought big houses. Lot’s of room to run. In retrospect, I think they made me a servant to them. It’s a lot of work to keep a big house going. And costly too. Heating, cooling, upkeep, yard work ( I hate mowing the grass), painting, cleaning, it’s never ending. I realized that my last big house didn’t need to be so big when no one ever, and I mean ever, went into the finished basement for anything other than to store something. 1/3 of my house had no value, but I still heated and cooled it, cleaned it, painted it. I had to go down once a month to flush the toilet just to keep the bowl from getting stained. What a waste. A servant.

Now I have reduced my footprint. My Ecological Footprint that is. Here’s the meaning. “The Ecological Footprint measures the amount of biologically productive land and water area and individual, a city, a country, a region, or all of humanity uses to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates with today’s technology and resource management practices”. I really don’t give a crap about that. I know here in Maui especially there are a lot of tree huggers who do. Don’t want to rock the boat. Only saying that my current needs match their gripes so let’s just leave it at that.

I definitely have been using less energy. No heating costs in Maui. I go to bed pretty early because you get tired from a day with fresh air. Thought about buying an air conditioner, but I can put up with the 3 hours or so of the house being too hot in the afternoon until it starts to cool off for the night. I don’t water my grass. I did in Minnesota to not stand out as the driest yard on the block. I don’t have a dishwasher.  I don’t watch a lot of TV.  I have my windows open, my doors unlocked, and never wear shoes.

Don’t think I haven’t spent countless, and wasted hours, agonizing over the amount of money I have squandered on now worthless things. We all have. I need to move past that. You can’t change the past, you can only update it. (Burl Johnson, August 2017),

This whole moving to Maui and downsizing is pretty new to me. I will keep you posted. So far I like it.


There is no friend as loyal as a book.

Earnest Hemingway. Wish I thought of that one.

I have always had a fascination with desks.  Somehow I thought they held the key to power. I never really got the one that I wanted. In my 28 years at a desk in the Car Business, my desk was in the middle of the action, surrounded at all times by people, no privacy, and everyone stole my pens. I was interrupted like every 15 seconds for 10 hours a day. (So maybe 30 seconds, but not kidding for 10 hours).

I was sure the great novelists, playwrights, industrialists, and people of importance all had one thing in common. A big desk. We had a fairly decent desk and office setup in Minnesota when we first moved in. Then the kids got older, and no one wanted to use that desk. That is for homework, and homework is boring. So the office transitioned into an art room. and the desk became a drafting table with a computer and printer.

art room rochester

If there was one thing I was used to, it was getting interrupted every 30 seconds.

I never did one creative thing at that desk. Looked at news, checked stock prices, email, and helped my kids with homework. (Yes, it was boring)

In January of this year, I moved into a VRBO (Vacation rental by owner). I stayed there until the kids got out of school and we headed back to Minnesota to sell the house. This was my desk there.

cottage desk

Not sure I made it 30 seconds without interruption.  But I did write and publish the now hugely ignored dud, Best Buyer Book, which is a book about how to buy a car. (On Amazon). Didn’t have any illusions about getting widely rich or famous off it. It was more an experiment on how to put a book together and get it published. For that, it was extremely successful to me.

This is also the desk that I wrote my widely anticipated Children’s Book, and illustrated by my sister, Nikki. (Widely anticipated by my sister and me, we live widely apart).  In case you haven’t found it yet, it’s on one of the tabs at the top of my webpage.  Going to be fun getting it out there. Working on a cover right now, and should have it online in a couple of weeks. You will be the first to know.

So the crummy little desk turned out to spark a creative streak in me. It’s also the spot I figured out how to make a website, develop some discipline to write, and give me hope there might be a future in this.

So now the creme de la creme….In keeping that literary genius in mind, I now have THE DESK.

(Notice I don’t have my desktop yet. A story in the making).

hemingway desk

In the coming months and years, I hope to stuff the shelves with published books, works of art, and family pictures. It’s now my place where I can contemplate and write about the things I feel are important, funny, sad, commonplace or out there. Doesn’t matter. I have found writing is truly something I enjoy. And I intend to do more, much more.

Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.               Earnest Hemingway




Shattered: A package shaken, not stirred…..

By now you know that I shipped very little to Maui. What I did send, was through the US Postal Service, not UPS or FedEx. I am still waiting for my computer to arrive, which I dropped off at the Minnesota Post Office July 28th. Today is August 16th. Punching in the 22 digit tracking code, it tells me it is “On it’s way to Makawao”. (Sounds like it could be a song, or maybe a Bing Crosby/Bob Hope movie). I didn’t take the insurance. I’m a pretty considerate person when checking out anywhere. I always have my payment method in hand. I don’t write checks (who does that anyway). I don’t chit chat or ask a million questions. So when the huge line behind me at the Post Office is glaring a hole in the back of my head by mailing a package, they asked about insurance, I knew it would stop the entire process, fill out more forms, and cause others inconvenience. So I said no.

I wouldn’t even be thinking about my desktop computer (I have a laptop here now), but for the TV I had waiting for me on my arrival back to the island. I had ordered it on Amazon Prime Day, had it shipped to my Maui address, so I would have a TV when I arrived. I did, except the screen was completely shattered when I took it out of the box. Even the great and mighty Amazon can’t control those things once they leave the warehouse. Obviously they were great about getting a replacement to me quickly. Amazon is number 1.

I originally priced out shipping furniture, my car, and household stuff, but the cost was about as much as replacement used here, so decided not to. As it turned out, I was able to fill my 3 bedroom in Maui for close to what  I got for my furniture in Minnesota. By sharp bargaining and a keen eye I am sure. No, I gave up my 60 inch TV and leather recliner sofa, But was able to go with more of an old Hawaiian look that I feel more suited for here. And I watch about 90% less TV too.

Let’s talk real numbers:

Master bedroom set in Minnesota: Sold for $1400 with lamps, bedding, pillows. The bedspread I took with me.


master bedroom Rochester

And here is what I have now. Much smaller room. Same King size bed. Bed and new mattress and box springs: $325.  I got the bed frame for 50 bucks. Ordered the foam mattress and box spring through Amazon. End table and lamp: $110. Teak dresser:  $400.  Sheets and pillows: $78.  Total:  $913.  My old bedroom set weighed about 900 pounds. At a cost to ship, it would have been around $2700.  Shipping- bad idea.  Buying here- good idea.



Let’s look at the living room. I sold my sofa, end table, lamp, and TV for $600. Obviously, shipping is out of the question.



Here is my Hawaiian Living room. I wanted it to feel  like Hemmingway lived here. Total cost so far: $1820. My kids rooms about washed out for cost. Total set up in Maui $2733. Sold my old stuff in Minnesota for $2000.  For the $700 bucks, I got just what I wanted in a Hawaiian home. And I met a lot of interesting people in the process.

hawaii living room

In fact, some of the stuff I shipped I wish I hadn’t. Other than the breakage, which I will talk about in a bit, it just doesn’t fit like I had hoped. Looking back, I wish I had shipped more of my mundane stuff, like power cords, tools, silverware, the stuff you use everyday. When you are going to replace these items new, it would have been way more cost effective to mail them. It’s not much what you get for $20 in flatware.

Here is something interesting (at least to me).  My desktop computer weighs about 25 pounds. At the UPS Store in Minnesota, they wanted $165 to pack and ship it here. I sent it in it’s original box with the post office for $64. Before I crow about it, I just want to remind you it’s not here yet. Then I gave them another shot. I had a picture, actually some newspaper clippings about this big storm in 1991 in Duluth that I really wanted to have here. Knowing it would cost more, I removed it from the glass frame, and took the clipping and the mat they were in to the same store. After measuring, weighing, contemplating, the young man told me $165. Of course I didn’t do it, but now I’m thinking I should have shipped my car. I see a pattern there for $165.

The stuff I ended up sending with the post office, I used their Flat Rate Boxes, which is a pretty good deal if you have small heavy items. For glasses, cups, and picture frames, not the best idea. I had packing peanuts and bubble wrap, but still lost about 75% of my breakable stuff. I can see some disgruntled Postal Worker smashing boxes. Back in the seventies, we used to call that going Postal.

Everyone is going to have a different experience with moving. Sometimes what you bring with gives you comfort, sometimes pain. At 64, I want to eliminate the pain. I made the right decision to leave my stuff behind. I wonder if my stuff feels the same.



Reality Shift

I feel I need to complete  this thought process before it vanishes. Even now it is entering the realms of  dreams barely remembered, the kind you want to remain in forever, and as you close your eyes to continue the fantasy, are just out of reach, and soon those deepest of thoughts are gone forever. and you mourn in silence, the long lost loves that never were, a brief encounter in time forever recorded, a could have been, a should have been, but never was. I have had thousands of those encounters, dream sagas you want your eternity to be, but wake to find it was a mind trick, an encounter to remind you of your humanity.  Sometimes I wonder if the pull of remaining with that utopia (or hell), is stronger than getting up, pouring a cup of coffee, and moving on whatever moving on may be.  If you choose the former, maybe you are dead. if you choose the latter, maybe the same result, only later and with a different ending. Hold this thought please.

I returned to Maui, and after 4 days of trying to get my house together, decided it was a day for the beach.  No kids, no job, no big deal.  As I have mentioned earlier, my favorite beach to relax in is Baldwin Beach, a locals hangout, and the closest of the beaches to where I am currently living. A beautiful beach for a walk and few tourists. Because it is on the windward side of the island (which means the windy side), I always sit by a grove of trees on the south end so you don’t get sandblasted by the wind and sand, and walk from there. It is also the end where the homeless people got kicked out of just before I went back to Minnesota. Had some friends over last winter and they loved it too.

The beach is gone.  In the sixty days since we left it has changed from this:


To this:


The sand that once was, is replaced by trees and roots. The sand was moved farther down the beach to add to the expanse a half mile down. The trees came from a half mile up the beach.

I felt as if something was taken away from me.  I looked at the uprooted trees being pounded in the surf and wondered why something so magnificent in life was being tortured now. The soothing sounds of the waves on sand was replaced by the pounding of waves on wood.

Even the mystical sounds of hippies playing ukeleles and guitars was gone. Someone set up a tent in the trees and was pounding out what I believe to be Techno.

An Englishman asked me to watch his bag. He had a daughter and a son with him. I said ok, and he vanished for about an hour. Enough time for me to drink the two beers in my cooler. , When he came back, we started to chat (love that word). He was a worldly engineer, as were his kids (worldly that is), and loved the beach with the huge trees and roots. Then it hit me. Who am I to judge. Who’s to say the beach isn’t better, the trees enjoying their remaining days better, the ecology better, who cares. I took my very, very narrow view of the beach as it should be, a few months at best, and assumed that is how it should always be. How absurd is that.

A butterfly may only live a few weeks, a fly 28 days, a mouse about a year. Do you think they care about that beach. Even if I lived a thousand years, who am I to say what’s right.

Tonight I am going to dream. I can’t change the beach, and thank God for that. I can’t change my dreams, and that is a blessing too. Tonight I may be a king or a slave, lion or a bug, in love or hurt until I can’t stand it any longer. I don’t get to choose the nightly journey, I only get to participate in what I can, watch what I can, or feel what I can. The morning will erase what it will, and I’ll hold onto what it doesn’t. It feels as if I have lived a thousand lifetimes in my dreams. Perhaps I have.

They say one third of your life is spent sleeping. I wonder if it’s true.


The House Diet

It was the deadliest of unions. A guy who never threw anything away, and a gal who loved to shop. What you end up with after 12 years is a stack of stuff that would shame a hoarder. As the days of my return to Minnesota to erase my life there drew nearer, the more apprehensive I became. I knew what was waiting for me. Not only had I been hauling the remnants of my past with me for a lifetime, but moving into a 3250 square foot, almost too big to fill, home just accelerated the accumulation process. On top of my stuff, my Ex had sold her home to make the earlier move to Maui with the kids, and moved her whole house into my garage for storage. It was a formidable challenge awaiting.

So this then is the story of how I went from this:

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3250 square foot , 3 story, 3 car garage home

To this:

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A 5 by 5 foot storage unit

And this:


11 Flat rate boxes and a fan. (Computer not arrived yet)

I could feel the pressure in the house release as I opened the garage door for the first time in months. Tons of stuff pressing down, like a backpack full of rocks on your back. Had to jump start my Pilot after having sat for so long. Pulling it out gave me a small footprint of garage floor on which to contemplate, surrounded by piles of boxed household goods, furniture, and clothes. This was June 6th. My son’s birthday was two days away, and my kids were anxious to see their friends and family. The mess had to wait.

My first order of business was to do what every other red blooded American does to get rid of stuff, have a Garage Sale. It took me three weeks of organizing, pricing, agonizing, crying, laughing, and drinking (maybe a little) to get to the day of the sale. I only advertised it on Facebook and Craigslist, but still had a line of cars in front of my house an hour before the official start time. I opened early.

I had two blessings that week. One, my kids were camping with their Grandparents the previous 5 days, which gave me time to focus on the task. Second, they were there to help me with the sale. They collected the money. It’s a funny thing about garage sales. When someone knows you own the stuff and can make decisions, they want to bargain. With my kids collecting the cash, I think people are too polite to ask for a discount. How can you bargain with two cute kids struggling to make change. We finally closed up shop at 3:00 PM, because I had a house showing at 6:00, and boy, did I need to clean the place. If you have ever had a garage sale, you know the house devastation left behind. I finished with 15 minutes to spare, and cleared out. By the way, those people ended up to be the buyers for my house.

Anyway, the tally for the sale: $3200 bucks give or take some change. Not too shabby, but it really gave me some inspiration to continue on with the house diet. For the next 4 weeks, I concentrated my efforts on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to sell my big stuff like furniture and my car. My neighbors bought my living room and bedroom furniture and were kind enough to leave it there until the weekend before I flew back. Only had to sleep on the floor for 4 nights.

I decided on shipping very little, and some stuff I just couldn’t part with (although if you look at the storage unit picture, why would I keep an air compressor. I’m a guy).  I had three things that made it all possible. The storage unit, Goodwill (Salvation Army too, although they are a lot pickier), and a well placed dumpster in an apartment complex where we used to own a rental. The kids loved going to the storage unit, it was in a two story indoor building with an elevator. The people at Goodwill were starting to get sick of me, and I always got nervous about getting caught dumping my boxes of stuff in the dumpster. Not that they would do anything, but I would lose that source of disposal.

With every box, every piece of furniture, every bag of clothes, I could feel my house breathing freely again. Years of dust collecting boxes, tons of seldom used furniture, racks of clothing, kitchen cabinets jammed with old appliances, expired chili, and multiples of every utensil ever made. It started to feel light and airy, free. I was starting to feel that way too. You don’t realize the burden of material ownership until you come face to face with it. I don’t care of it’s a steak knife, a gift from an old flame, a present from your Mom, or a treasured lamp. It’s not the thing. It’s what the thing represents. The memory is what counts. I found out that the memory exists even when the thing is gone. I have absolutely no regrets, the things are gone, but the memories live on.

On August 2nd we flew back to Maui for good. It was a summer vacation for my kids, not for me. Not that they noticed with visiting with their friends and family, but I wish I had been more available to do stuff with them. If you were to ask, they said all I did was work on the house, which is true. Getting rid of stuff was huge, but also the repairs and time spent in showing, selling and closing on your house is very consuming.  I had done it. The final project, the last piece of the puzzle, of making my dream change to reality. The ties that bind are gone.

We were the houses first occupants. Just like having kids for the first time, you don’t know what to expect. We brought love, kids, a dog, laughter, sadness, drama, plants. A family. In return it gave us safety, comfort, pride, and a home. Now a new family will take our place. I hope the house makes them a great home as it did for us. And even though our stuff is no longer there, it still has the memories.


It really is like riding a bicycle, writing that is. You never really forget how once you have done it, but the longer you don’t, the harder it is to start again. And your butt is pretty sore the first few times. It’s been over two months since my last post, and I have been doing everything I can to avoid writing one. Not that going back to Minnesota the day after my last blog with my two kids on summer break, selling my house, getting rid of 98% of everything I own, visiting friends and relatives to say goodbye, and the million other things you have to do when changing your life in such a big way was stressful and took up an enormous amount of time. It did. But just like my bike I kept in the garage until the last day there, I never got on it to ride it, but had good intentions, just like my wanting to continue writing during the upheaval, but didn’t do that either.

Unless you live on a bike trail, it takes a bit of commitment to load the bike and your gear in the car to the trail. Unless you work on a computer all day, it takes a commitment to remember your passwords, log in, get your thoughts in order, and get started. I know they are both good for you, biking for your body, writing for your mind. Putting your thoughts to word takes effort, except for the rare moments of creative inspiration when you can’t type fast enough for your thoughts to hit paper, but a better exercise for the mind will not be found.

I can understand and rationalize, even though the perfect opportunity to share in my adventure was there at the time, that the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and write while unwinding my Minnesota life. I finally gave up two weeks before I came back and mailed my desk computer. (It’s still not here yet). Even when I returned to Maui a week ago, I have had the hardest time pulling up a chair (actually a stool), my desk chair is not here yet, and sitting down to write about the excitement, pitfalls, frustrations, wins and losses, and emotions that have dominated my mind for the last 60 days. Funny the goofy things a person comes up with as an excuse to not do something.

Mostly it’s fear of failure, of losing your edge, the entertainment value gone. I can avoid it no longer. Am I good enough just has to be good enough for me. Put my helmet on, climb on the seat, and start, just start.

In the days ahead, I am making the pledge to write more, get to the beach more, spend time with my kids more, and eat healthy more. (Wow, did that go by the wayside. I have eaten more fast food in the last two months than the last two years).
If my bike was here, I might even take her for a spin. But this rider fired up the laptop, found my passwords, made a pot of coffee, and formulated thoughts into words. I guess it’s not so tough after all.

Even though it’s been a short ride, my butt just may be sore anyway.