Browsing Tag: hawaii


    I Don’t Want Normal Anymore

    September 24, 2023

    My feet are freezing.

    It’s 90 degrees outside in August and I’m walking barefoot on our hot back patio, but my feet feel like they’re suffering from frostbite. It’s been this way since my accident last September.

    Only my feet aren’t really freezing.

    Every so often, I’ll ask Cari to touch my foot.

    “Does that feel cold to you?”

    It never does.

    This is, fortunately, about the worst physical ailment I deal with now, a year after almost drowning in the Pacific Ocean while we celebrated my birthday in Maui. Cari and I were swimming at Kaanapali Beach — my favorite place on earth.

    Suddenly, an unusually big wave grabbed me for…I don’t know…maybe 10 seconds??…and tossed me around like a ragdoll. It slammed me headfirst into the sand and left me unconscious and paralyzed underwater. If not for the heroic actions of a handful of angels on the beach, I’d be dead.

    But today I’m very much alive. And my feet feel cold all the time. It’s something to do with the nerve endings not recovering after the accident. It’s annoying, but not painful. I look at it like a souvenir, a gift — a reminder of where I was then and where I am now.

    The First 24 Hours

    The hardest thing, physically, was not being able to move my neck. Two neurosurgeons worked with me in the 24 hours I was at Maui Memorial Medical Center. They put me in a neck brace and gave very clear instructions: Keep my head and neck perfectly still.

    Matt in the Maui ER

    “Do I have to wear this thing while I sleep?”

    “Yes,” neurosurgeon #1 said.

    “What about when I shower?”

    “You can remove it then, but be extra careful. (Looking at Cari) You’ll probably want to help him in there. (Looking at both of us) Be sure to put it back on as soon as you’re dry.”

    I passed all the physical/occupational therapy tests that Sunday morning at the hospital, which basically involved taking a slow walk from my room to the nurse’s station and then doing random pushing, pulling, and squeezing exercises with my arms, hands, legs, and feet.

    They said I could fly home the next day and told me to see my primary doctor and a neurosurgeon.

    “Will I need surgery?”

    “That’s for them to decide,” said neurosurgeon #2. “If you were in worse shape, we might’ve done it here. But you really dodged a bullet. We see a lot of people who go through what you did, and we send most of them home in wheelchairs.”

    The neurosurgeon said I’d need to wear the neck brace for six weeks to help my neck and upper spine stabilize. SIX WEEKS?!? I wasn’t looking forward to that at all, but JFC how could I possibly complain?? No surgery (yet) and no wheelchair?? I was just glad to be alive. Still am.

    First Days at Home

    I could walk on my own, but very slowly and gingerly. Both kids were at college, so it was just me and Cari. She had to escort me whenever I wanted to move from one room to another. I was weak and wobbly and had to hold on to whatever I could as I moved around the house.

    (Cari was incredible this whole year, but especially in the beginning when I was pretty much useless around the house. I get emotional to this day thinking about how strong she was in my weakest days.)

    I sat at my office desk for a couple hours on Tuesday, the first full day home. I checked in on my co-workers in the HomeLight Slack. I answered some emails. It hurt to type, so I figured out how to use the speech-to-text tool on my iMac. But there was a lot of I’m tired, I need to lay down every day in the beginning. I napped a lot.

    My body was tingly all over — like a million sharp needles were pricking my skin non-stop. It hurt to put clothes on. There was a moment in the first couple of days when Cari gently touched my arm and I screamed in pain.

    The underside of my forearms itched like crazy. I scratched them so much that I opened up a couple small wounds.

    Headaches were a regular occurrence in the beginning. I started taking Advil to help with that and the tingling and the general pain. I took a lot of Advil for about 3-4 months. Probably too much.

    You never think about how often you move your neck until they tell you not to. I dare you to not move your neck for the next five minutes. Look straight ahead. No tilting your neck up or down. No turning it left or right. Perfectly still. Good luck.

    Showering was a huge challenge; and yes, Cari did help with that. We had a chair in the shower, which helped a ton. A detachable showerhead did, too.

    Shaving was another problem. I’m right-handed, but I couldn’t stretch my right arm far enough to shave the left side of my face. And I couldn’t turn my neck. So I became ambidextrous as fast as I could, out of necessity.

    (Possible TMI warning here.) Using the toilet was also rough. Guys, try aiming when you can’t tilt your neck down. Right?? The Maui hospital had sent me home with a plastic bottle that I had used to go #1 while I was there, so I ended up using that at home, too, for a while.

    Then there was sleeping. Challenge #1 was the damn neck brace. Challenge #2 was that we had a queen-sized bed with a very high mattress (about 36 inches if you’re curious). I couldn’t get in bed without a step stool.

    Sleeping challenge #3 was my wife. God bless her…she’s a violent/active sleeper. She tosses, turns, and kicks a lot. There’ve been nights where I’ve been startled awake because she rolled over and inadvertently punched/slapped me in the face. 😅

    We agreed it was too risky for me to sleep next to her in the close quarters of a queen-sized bed, so we brought in a twin bed from one of the kids’ rooms, bought a new mattress for it, and placed it at the base of our main bed. The first couple nights were tough, but I eventually learned to sleep perfectly still on my back all night and with the damn neck brace on. About a month later, we got a king-sized bed. (FFS, what took us so long??)

    Two Weeks Later: Freedom

    We saw my primary care doctor first — on Sept. 29, five days after the accident. I told him my feet were so cold that I was worried my toes were going to fall off. He told me to take off my shoes and socks, touched the toes on my right foot, and promised me they weren’t cold. I didn’t believe him.

    During the visit, he made a bold prediction: I wouldn’t need to wear the neck brace for six weeks.

    Fast forward to October 7, just about two weeks after the accident. That’s when we saw a local neurosurgeon. He’d received all the x-rays and scans and MRI results and everything from Hawaii. He showed us some of it, including the x-rays of my upper neck. He pointed out the two discs that had pretty much been destroyed. It was crazy to see those scans compared to the other, normal discs.

    He said he didn’t think I needed spinal surgery right now, but I might in the future depending on how the healing goes. He talked about a couple of different surgical options. It all sounded scary.

    “What about the neck brace? The neurosurgeon in Maui said to wear it for six weeks.”

    “You can stop wearing it now.”

    “Are you serious??!!??”

    “Yes, but keep it around and put it back on if your neck and back start to hurt more than normal, or if you’re just feeling like you need some extra stability.”


    “What about driving?”

    “I don’t want you driving until you can move your neck enough to see traffic to your sides when you’re making a turn. And don’t drive when you’re on Advil.” (I drove for the first time at the end of October, about five weeks after the accident.)

    Recovery, Rehab, and a Backyard Breakthrough

    The local neurosurgeon didn’t prescribe any medicine, but he did want me to start physical therapy as soon as possible. I started going to a small PT facility just a couple miles from my house. Cari drove me twice a week.

    There were usually 3-5 other patients in the facility at the time, and almost to a person, everyone had a look on their face that said I’d rather be anywhere else in the world than here. A few were genuinely struggling with their rehab, but most seemed to be going through the motions. I didn’t get why everyone else seemed to not give a shit about their own recovery and rehab.

    Then there was me — and I’m proud of this — giving everything I had to beat what I’d done on the previous visit. If I did two sets of 10 rowing pulls, the next visit I’d do two sets of 15.

    That wasn’t all. There I was, an unabashed, keep-to-myself introvert, smiling and talking to the therapists on every visit. Asking them questions about what I was doing and feeling with each exercise. I usually keep pretty quiet and to myself, but I was the life of the facility most days. What’s gotten into you?, I’d ask myself.

    Our German Shepherd, Blaze, was about 2.5 years old when this happened, and still thought she was a puppy. (She still does, for that matter!)

    In the first days after the accident, it was Cari’s job to play with Blaze. That was normally my responsibility, but I could barely get outside in the beginning. And when I finally did get out there, I couldn’t throw a ball more than 3-4 feet. I still remember the look on her face, wondering why the hell I wasn’t playing with her.

    After a few weeks of physical therapy, I could throw the ball underhanded further and further. A month or so after the accident, I was finally able to throw a ball across the entire backyard. Blaze was thrilled!

    The sweetest thing was when she’d follow me into the bedroom when I needed a nap, and jump up on the little twin bed to keep me company. Dogs. I tell ya…

    I stayed in physical therapy until mid-January of this year. I probably could’ve stopped a month earlier, but I wanted to be sure. The regular exercises had gotten pretty easy by Thanksgiving. I wasn’t making much new progress.

    What I continued to love about PT, though, was the heat/electrical treatment and massage. They’d attach four little pads to various spots on my upper back, turn the electricity machine on, close the door, and I’d just lay there on heating pads for 15 minutes with the electricity pulsing through my body. It was awesome. And that was followed by a 5-10 minute massage, which was also awesome.

    As we got closer to the holidays, I had a couple conversations with the main therapist about my release date. I said I wanted to wean myself off of PT rather than stop cold turkey, and he agreed. So for the last month, I only went once a week until my last session on January 12.

    The Emotional Rollercoaster

    I cry a lot since the accident.

    In the first few months, I would cry at the drop of a hat — anything emotional that I’d read or hear or see on TV and BOOM! Tears. I’d break down hearing the stories of contestants on The Voice who overcame some personal tragedy to pursue their dreams. I’d cry during episodes of Yellowstone. I’d cry during songs that never moved me emotionally in the past.

    I had to be careful what music I’d listen to before going to physical therapy or to the store or wherever, lest I had to walk in with red, bloodshot eyes. It’s tapered off a bit, but I’ve cried at all but two of the 12 concerts I’ve seen this year.

    And here’s the thing: I’m cool with it!

    It may sound weird, but I think I’m in the best emotional “shape” of my life. I feel like I’m more in touch with my own feelings, and the feelings of others, than ever. I feel like I’m more empathetic than ever. Not to say I don’t have room to improve — I sure do! But I’m a different person emotionally than I was before the accident.

    The Mental Roadblock

    The mental stuff is still difficult. I have problems with water.

    Cari and I were at a real estate conference in August in Dallas. It was 100+ degrees each day, and our hotel had a beautiful rooftop pool. We brought our swimsuits. The idea was that we’d both go to the pool together, Cari there to help and support me as needed.

    But we were too busy to make it happen. 🥺

    Just last week, Cari and I booked a return trip to Maui! I wanted to stay in the same hotel room and get back in the ocean at the same spot where the accident happened. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it again. That I could get over the fear.

    But after booking the flights, hotel, and rental car, I immediately had second thoughts. It was the fear of water, but with a twist: I couldn’t get past the thought of spending ~6 hours flying over the Pacific Ocean. I’m now apparently afraid to fly over the ocean for that long.

    It was a weird mental struggle: Part of me thinking about all the things that could go wrong on such a long, overwater flight…part of me telling myself that flying is the safest form of travel.

    The former argument won the day. I canceled everything. We’re not going anytime soon, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever be ready to go. Kaanapali Beach is my favorite place on earth. I used to love being in the water there — swimming, snorkeling, you name it. Now all I can do is hope and pray that I can get over this mental hurdle and go back someday.

    One Year Later

    Life today feels about 90-95% normal compared to before the accident. I’m learning to live with the few physical issues that remain. I wear socks a lot to keep my “cold” feet warm. I use a TENS unit a couple times a month to recreate the electrical stimulation that physical therapy used to provide.

    My body hates cold and loves heat. Hot showers are the best. I believe Thermacare heat pads are mankind’s greatest invention. 😂 I wear them regularly around my neck and lower back.

    Every so often I still get wobbly/dizzy spells and need to hold on to something to keep my balance.

    I still get tingly almost every day. Some days it’s better than others. I can usually deal with it and get on with life. When it’s worse than usual, sitting still or lying down for 20-30 minutes usually resets everything and makes the tingling go away.

    I’ve gone to 12 concerts this year all over the country…part of #MyYearOfConcerts. It’s gotten easier over time. I had to sit down several times during the shows early in the year, but I stood for all of Counting Crows’ gig two weeks ago, which lasted about an hour and 45 minutes.

    The Gift of Clarity

    The biggest thing the accident has given me is clarity.

    Everything changes when you come a few seconds from dying…when your head slams into the sand and you think, If this is it, God, come get me. I’m ready. And moments later, when you regain consciousness underwater, unable to breathe and unable to move, and you think again, Is THIS it, God?

    That wasn’t it. This world isn’t done with me yet. I have more life to live. And I know better today than ever what that’s supposed to look like.

    The accident gave me the clarity to realize that I needed to get away from the corporate job where I’d been underappreciated and underpaid for 3+ years. The change to being my own boss has been tough. I’m not yet earning anywhere near what I did before, but Cari’s had a great year despite the Tri-Cities real estate market being down ~30% in sales activity.

    The accident also gave me clarity about living in the moment and chasing the things that I love, the things that make me happy and feel alive. Not in a selfish way, but in a life-should-be-lived-to-the-fullest way. That’s why this year has been #MyYearOfConcerts. Live music is my love language. I’m gonna keep seeing more shows as long as I’m able. No more “I’ll see them next time.” Carpe diem. You may not be around to see them on the next tour.

    The accident gave me the clarity to ignore life’s bullshit…especially the kind of bullshit that permeates social media. I can’t count how many times I’ve been this close to adding my two cents to some overheated discussion on Twitter, Facebook, or Nextdoor…then realizing: This. Doesn’t. Matter.

    In my final moments, I’m not going to wish I’d spent more time arguing with strangers, gossiping, and trying to get more likes with hot takes on the latest political or entertainment scandal. I say that with confidence because I’ve already felt what I thought were my final moments, and none of that shit mattered.

    You know what did matter in those moments when I thought I was about to die?

    Here’s a list: My wife, first and foremost. My kids. Love. How you’re going to remember me. Did I give everything I could to this world? Did I squeeze everything I could from this world? Did I lead a good life?

    The accident gave me clarity about the importance of feelings — i.e., how you feel and how you make others feel.

    I’m glad to cry during concerts and TV shows because it proves to me that I’m feeling something. We guys, especially, are taught not to show emotions, and not to let our feelings get the best of us. Fuck that. I want to feel everything there is to feel. That’s how you know you’re alive. Since the accident, a good day is when something makes me laugh and something makes me cry.

    The accident gave me clarity not only about how I feel, but also about how I make others feel. I don’t get angry as often when I experience bad customer service. That’s another human being and who knows what they’re going through? Empathy matters. We’re not here to judge and attack others. We’re not here to lift ourselves up by putting others down. If you can put a smile on someone’s face, make them laugh, or make them feel good inside…you’re having a good day.

    More than anything, the accident taught me that every day is a gift. And when you really understand that — not just understand it, but act on it — everything changes. Everything.

    Looking Back, Looking Ahead

    There was a tweet a little while back where someone asked, “What’s one thing you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?”

    I half-jokingly, half-seriously replied, “Don’t get in the water on September 24, 2022.” 😂

    My great friend Tim, who happens to be one of the most thoughtful people I know and is a therapist/counselor in his day job, replied to my reply with this: “Serious question…would you?”


    That hit me like a brick wall. I thought and thought about it. I told Tim I’d probably need a counseling session to come up with the answer.

    In the weeks since he asked, I’ve come up with my answer: No, I would not tell my younger self to stay out of the water.

    Sure, if I didn’t get in the water a year ago today, I’d feel better physically. I probably wouldn’t cry as often as I do. I probably wouldn’t be afraid to get in the water again. Life would be normal.

    But the past year has taught me that I don’t want normal anymore.

    I want more. I want extraordinary. I want to feel all the feelings. I want to see all the sights. I want to count all the blessings. I want to really live whatever days I have left. That’s what we’re all here to do.

    That’s what I’ve spent this year trying to do. And this year, in all the ways that really matter, has been the best year of my life…even if my feet are freezing right now. 😄


    A Near-Death Moment … A Miracle Month

    October 22, 2022

    There’s a camera shot you’ll see in most movies or TV shows that have a drowning scene: The camera is in the water, pointed up toward the sky above. You see the drowning person’s POV as they presumably look toward the air that they need to survive. It might be a few inches away or many feet, but the point is to show the desperate distance between where they are and where they need to be.

    Speaking from real-life experience, that camera angle is incredibly realistic.

    On Sept. 24, 2022, I was lying on my back on Kaanapali Beach in Maui with probably six inches of water above me, unable to breathe and, worse, unable to move. I remember looking up, my head on the sand, and seeing the gorgeous blue sky above the water, desperate to get one more breath of that fresh Hawaiian air. But the six inches of water felt like a mile, and I felt like I’d taken my last breath on earth.

    Today, exactly four weeks later, I’m sitting in my office chair, writing this blog post generally pain-free. There’s a minor tingling in my arms and hands, but it doesn’t impact my ability to type. I’m wearing a long-sleeve shirt without pain, which is remarkable because a day or two after the accident, I screamed in pain when Cari gently touched my left arm. My lower legs are still fairly weak, and always feel tired. But earlier today, Cari and I spent probably 45 minutes walking and shopping at Target — my first real trip outside the house, other than doctor visits and physical therapy sessions.

    At the risk of hyperbole, this all feels like a miracle.

    The morning after the accident, the neurosurgeon at Maui Medical Center came to see me as a physical therapist was gently helping me walk from my room to the nurse’s station. The neurosurgeon looked surprised, maybe shocked. I sat down in the wheelchair as he spoke. “You really dodged a bullet,” he said. “We see a lot of people who go through what you did, and we send most of them home in wheelchairs.”

    What Happened

    Cari and I had planned to celebrate my birthday (Sept. 23) with a 5-day visit to Portland and Seattle. My favorite band, Gang of Youths, was playing in both cities right before and after my birthday. We were gonna see both shows and then do a bunch of touristy stuff on our free days — we had reservations for a whale-watching boat tour in the San Juan Islands northwest of Seattle, for example. But when the band canceled their tour, we decided Plan B would be a quick trip to Maui.

    On the 24th, Cari got a spa massage in the morning while I hung out in our hotel room catching up on emails and watching college football on my laptop. When she got back, we decided to get in the ocean for a quick swim before some touring and driving around the island in the afternoon. The water had been choppy the day before, but we knew that high tide was still 3+ hours away.

    We’d been in the water maybe 5-10 minutes when the tide got really high really quickly. Cari was a little further out in the water than me as I saw a big wave forming behind her. “There’s a big one coming behind you,” I said as I pointed behind her. “We should go in after that one.”

    As the wave reached Cari, she says it grabbed and tossed her around, but she got through it without anything bad happening. I wish I could say the same.

    As it got to me, I dipped myself underwater to let it go over me. But I was apparently right at the spot where the wave began to break. It grabbed and tossed me like a ragdoll. You think you know how powerful water is, but you have no fucking idea. I’ve tried to explain to others what it felt like, and the best analogy I can come up with is that it was like how Hulk manhandles Loki in the Avengers movie.

    via GIPHY

    After twisting me in every direction, the water slammed me headfirst into the sand. I felt the left side of my head hit bottom, and I instantly thought, “Oh, that’s not good.” The hit left me unconscious for a few moments. I remember saying to myself, “OK, God, if this is it, if this is how it ends, come get me.” Then I saw an image of Cari’s face and said goodbye to her.

    The next thing I remember is what I described at the beginning — laying on my back, looking up through the water, desperately trying to breathe. The sky was so perfectly blue.

    I don’t know how long I was like that, but the tide eventually went out and I was able to breathe!!! But I still couldn’t move. The hit had left me paralyzed. I started yelling, “Help! Help!” as loud as I could.

    Angels Among Us

    A few moments later, people started to arrive! I must’ve still been pretty far down the beach because another wave came up and covered me again, leaving me unable to breathe for a few seconds. But people were at my side. They held me as the water receded again, then they started wedging themselves — planting their feet in the sand so the powerful waves wouldn’t knock them over.

    The group eventually got a good grip on me and started dragging me up the beach to higher ground. But at one point, I heard someone say “We shouldn’t move him, he might be injured and we could make it worse.” So they put me back down on the sand and I got really angry. “Don’t worry about that, just get me out of the water!!” I’m pretty sure I included an F-bomb or two. I was worried that the water would keep coming up and eventually drown me, especially since the tide was getting higher. They listened to me and started dragging me again, eventually getting me far enough away from the water that it felt safe.

    I think it was 4-5 people who rescued me. They started talking to me. The first guy to arrive, and the one asking me the most questions, was a guy named Aaron from Minnesota. He was a retired first responder. (What are the chances!?! Are you kidding me?!?) Someone called 9-1-1 and while we waited for official help, Aaron was directing traffic and telling everyone how they could help.

    At one point, he started touching my feet, then my legs, then my knees — “Can you feel this?” No, I couldn’t. That was really weird to see someone squeezing your leg and yet not feeling a thing. I remember thinking, “Okay, maybe I’ll spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. At least I’m alive.”

    They asked if I felt nauseous and I said I did. Not wanting me to vomit while lying on my back, and potentially choking on my own vomit, they propped me up. One of the guys sat behind me, his back to my back, so I’d be somewhat upright. I never did vomit, but I did pass out.

    I’ve fainted a lot in my life — probably 20-30 times — but this was the trippiest of them all. Most times when I faint, all I can “see” is the color black … i.e., a blackout. But this time, I saw white and streaks of colors and I felt like I was flying or gliding through the air, or maybe being propelled through the water. If you’re a U2 fan, it was kinda like a brighter/whiter version of the PopMart video screen during “Streets.”

    I eventually came to and everyone was still around me. I didn’t notice this, but at one point, Cari says two of the guys laid at my feet, perpendicular to my body, forming a blockade to keep the rising waves from reaching me. (Are you kidding?!? Who does that for a total stranger!?!) I’d kept my eyes closed through most of this, but at one point when I opened them, a woman was standing over me, propping up a big, blue beach umbrella — protecting me and the people caring for me from the hot sun. (Again … are you kidding?!? Who does that for a total stranger!?!)

    At some point, I was able to move my toes!! I think I told Aaron to look at my feet, and I think he was like, “He’s moving his toes!” That gave me hope I wouldn’t be in a wheelchair for life.

    The Maui Police were first to arrive, and they asked a bunch of questions that I answered pretty darn well, IMO. I was fairly coherent considering all that was going on. Cari and Aaron also answered a bunch of questions, too. EMS showed up shortly after, and they started prepping me for the 45-minute drive to Maui Medical Center. The ambulance was last to arrive, and when it did, the EMS folks got me on one of those stability-type boards and carried me from my spot on the beach to a gurney that was waiting up on the Kaanapali Beach walkway. You can see them doing that in the last 15 seconds of this video.

    That video was shot by a guy named Tod who shared it on a Maui community Facebook Page. I’ve tried to connect with Tod for permission to share it, but never got a reply. I’m hoping he’s okay with me putting it on YouTube unlisted.

    In the earlier parts of that video, you can see how violent and high the waves are; Cari and I have been to Kaanapali Beach probably a half-dozen times and I don’t recall the waves ever getting like that. It’s very difficult for me to watch that video, especially at the :45 mark when you see the boogie boarders narrowly avoiding what happened to me. I sure hope nothing happened to them and the other people still in the water.

    The people who dragged me out of the water and saved my life are heroes. More than that, they’re proof that angels exist. What are the chances that the first person to reach me would be a retired first responder? And who else but angels lay themselves down in the path of a rising tide, letting the waves hit them so they wouldn’t hit me? Incredible. I continue to feel so blessed.

    The Medical Pros Step In

    The ambulance ride was looooong. Maui only has one hospital, and it’s about 45 minutes from where the accident happened. While in the ambulance, I heard a call on the radio that sounded like a similar accident to mine was happening again. I asked the EMS gal if that’s what it was, and she confirmed. A female swimmer had the same thing happen, but at a beach in south Maui. I heard something about “deformities” over the radio, and the EMS gal confirmed that they’re saying she had multiple broken bones. She said it sounded like the bone was visible. 😬

    The care I got in the ambulance and at the hospital was very good. I was in the emergency room for about 3-4 hours then moved to a regular room. They did an MRI and CAT scans and all kinds of other tests: no broken bones, no life-threatening medical issues, nothing. As I look at the ER report now, it says I had a neck sprain and something called Central Cord Syndrome. They put me in a cervical collar (neck brace) and said I had to wear it around the clock. They said I might need spinal surgery, but that was a decision to be made by my doctors at home. Cari and I got a kick out of this description of me from the emergency room summary: “Well-developed, boarded, and collared male.” (Thanks, I suppose.)

    They said I’d be spending at least one night at the hospital, and could maybe be discharged on Sunday if I continued to test/monitor well, and if I did well with the physical and occupational therapists the next morning.

    And that’s exactly what happened! Best of all, they gave approval for me to fly home on Monday, which we did. The 5-6 hour flight was pretty awful — all kinds of turbulence, which made it impossible to sit still and pain-free in my cervical collar — but we made it home safely.

    The Miracle Month

    As I mentioned above, the past month here at home has been mostly about doctor visits and physical therapy sessions.

    My primary care physician (the same guy who prescribed alcohol 11 years ago!) was really optimistic when he saw me, and he’s proven to be pretty accurate. The Maui doctors told me to wear the neck brace for at least six weeks, but my doctor said I wouldn’t need it that long. He was right; when I saw a local neurosurgeon eight days later, that doc told me I could stop wearing it. (Hallelujah!)

    The neurosurgeon said I have two degenerative discs that, while not fractured, are basically worn out. These discs are what’s causing the tingling in my arms/hands and the weakness in my lower legs. He also said I don’t need surgery right now and might get away with never needing it! But if I ever start to regress and the pain/tingling gets worse in my extremities, that’s a sign that surgery is probably needed.

    When we first got home, I couldn’t type at all — the pain in my arms and hands was too much. I used the voice-to-text capabilities on my iMac when I needed to type. Today, I’m typing as well/fast as I ever have — the pain in my arms/hands is 95% better in just four weeks.

    When we first got home, I couldn’t throw a ball more than about 3-4 feet. Today, I’m able to throw underhanded about 50-75% across our back yard, which makes the dog happy. She loves fetching balls. I’ve even done a couple overhand throws without pain.

    In the beginning, Cari had to accompany me if I wanted to walk from one room to the next. (She’s been soooo amazing this whole time!) Today, I’m walking wherever I want, whenever I want, as often as I want — no accompaniment needed, knock on wood. That said, I’m still being careful not to overdo it.

    Our friends and neighbors have been incredibly generous. Some cooked and delivered meals in the first couple weeks. Our neighbors across the street (hi Rob and Tara!) came over and installed one of those handheld showerheads to make cleaning myself easier, since I was in no position to install a showerhead myself. Cari’s admin (hi Lisa!) bought a shower chair (and the new showerhead) and had them waiting for us when we got home from Hawaii. People have been amazing. Thank you. 🥰

    Overall, I’m probably about 80-90% “normal” in just four weeks. I still can’t lift really heavy stuff and need to be careful about that. But I can cook and type and brush my teeth and do all those basics that I needed help with four weeks ago. I’m working mostly full days during the week, but I still get tired very easily, so it’s not unusual for me to nap or just lay down and rest in the middle of the day. I think that’ll change as I get stronger.

    I’ve had four physical therapy sessions. They wipe me out, but they’re really great. I imagine I’ll continue going for at least several more weeks, if not longer. At least I hope so. They’re super helpful.

    Four weeks ago, as I lay on the sand looking up through the water at that perfect blue sky, I was probably a few seconds away from drowning. Then the angels showed up, dragged me out of the water, and took care of me until the pros arrived and did their job.

    Today, I’m not far from living my “normal” life. What a blessing. What a miracle.


    Stumbling onto the LOST beach in Hawaii

    December 11, 2021

    We were on a day trip to Oahu last month. The purpose behind the trip was to learn more about Oahu, scout some neighborhoods, and see more of the island than Honolulu proper.

    We were up on the north shore, driving around, getting out of the car here and there, all really casual and such. Lunchtime came and we decided to stop at a burger place in a little town called Haleiwa.

    As we waited for the food, I fired up my Swarm app to do a check-in. I’m looking through the list of suggested places and one of them says something like “LOST place crash beach.” I was like … WTF!?!? I had no idea we might be close to that beach!!

    LOST was always one of Cari’s and my favorite shows. We watched it religiously every week from beginning to end. So I told her what the app was saying and she got as excited as me.

    Did a little more research as we scarfed down our burgers and sure enough, the beach where the plane crashes in the pilot episode is only like 10 minutes away!!! We had a bunch of places we were supposed to go, but this quickly became priority No. 1!

    Sure enough, just as advertised, we found the LOST beach. There were only a couple other people walking in the area and I didn’t see any signs or anything else to indicate that this was where the plane crashed.

    But you couldn’t miss it.

    The mountain ranges were a dead giveaway. The shapes and curves of the beach and ocean. The vegetation in the area. It was exactly what you’d expect it to look like 15+ years after that first episode. Here are a few comparison pics, then and now with the TV show and what we saw.

    I’m not in the exact right spot for either photo, but you can tell it’s the same place. And it was soooo freaking cool to be there and walk on the beach. I still can’t believe we accidentally stumbled onto the LOST beach.

    I’ve been talking about rewatching the entire series for the past 4-5 years, but I keep not doing it. Maybe this will spur me to dive back into it one of these days!


    My Top 10 Snorkeling Tips

    November 27, 2021

    Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I’m not the world’s best snorkeler. (Does such a title/honor even exist?)

    So why read my snorkeling tips? I get it. I hear you.

    Look, I’m just a guy who loves snorkeling, has done it a few dozen times, and has a knack for finding turtles, rays, squid, octopi, and other assorted sea creatures when I snorkel. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, but I do some things in the water that seem to help me have a good, safe time while seeing as many creatures as possible.

    So while I was in Hawaii a couple weeks ago, I thought … why not share some of this with others?

    To have a really fun and successful time snorkeling, you should do more than just stick your head down, swim in a straight line, and look as far down as you can see. But every time I go snorkeling, I see other folks doing exactly that.

    So let me share a few tips that might help you develop a knack for seeing more fish and having more fun next time you go snorkeling! These first few are obvious, so I’m not gonna spend much time on them.

    The Obvious 4

    1.) Know the local rules and follow any and all safety requirements wherever you’re snorkeling.

    2.) Have the right gear and know how to use it. If you can, be sure to spray defogger on your mask so you can clearly see the beauty of the water.

    3.) Don’t be an ass to other snorkelers. Don’t bully your way through a crowd to see a turtle. You’re not Aquaman and you don’t rule the seas.

    4.) Coral reefs are great place to snorkel. A lot of fish, turtles, etc., eat along coral reefs.

    The Less Obvious 6

    5.) Be careful about kicking.

    When I’m in active/alert mode — i.e., looking for sea creatures — I try to kick/swim as lightly as possible. When you kick hard, you a) might scare a fish away, and b) create a lot of bubbles in the water that make it harder to see. It can also be rude or even dangerous to people behind you that may not be aware of.

    Kick lightly when you’re in “find fish” mode. The only time I ever kick at full strength is when I’m alone and actively swimming to a specific spot.

    6.) Look up.

    Don’t just look down when you’re snorkeling. A lot of creatures swim closer to the surface, including turtles. Also, wow, up near the surface can be really beautiful with the water bending the sun’s light.

    7.) Look around.

    Don’t just go forward. Turn around every 30-60 seconds or so. Do a complete 360-degree turn. Turtles can come toward you from behind. Some of my best/favorite turtle encounters began with one of them coming towards me from behind.

    8.) Look at and listen to other snorkelers.

    I know you’re trying to spot cool fish, turtles, or whatever, but sometimes the best way to do that is to keep your eyes and ears peeled on the people around you. If there are turtles nearby, there’s probably a group surrounding them. Go join them.

    And listen as you snorkel. When someone spots a turtle, they almost always yell “turtle!” to the rest of their group — that’s your signal to go join them. But remember rule #3 above.

    Watching and listening to others around you is also a good safety tip. Speaking of which…

    9.) Never be the furthest person out.

    Kaanapali Point is one of my favorite spots to snorkel. There’s a shallow area right off the beach that often has fish and even a turtle or two. You can also snorkel further out toward Black Rock, where the water is a lot deeper. That’s where you’ll see turtles, rays, and various other fish.

    But that far out, not gonna lie … it gets a little nerve-racking. When I’m out that far from the beach, I always make sure there’s someone else further out. If I can’t, then I’ll swim back closer to shore. I think it’s smart to always keep someone else between you and a hungry fish.

    10.) Keep an eye on the depths.

    As long as I’m talking about self-preservation, keep an eye on the depths further away from you. Don’t just look for happy, harmless creatures right in your line of sight. If there’s a hungry fish 20-30 yards away, you want to know as soon as possible.

    Your Turn

    I have a feeling some of my friends who are also experienced snorkelers might see this at some point, and I hope they’ll add their own tips and advice to mine above. What about you? If you have something to add, drop it in the comments below!


    Where to watch NFL games on Hawaii’s Big Island

    November 12, 2018

    We found our tribe of Seahawks fans (12s!) at a neat sports bar in Kailua-Kona!

    If you’re a big football fan who’s traveling to Hawaii during NFL season, you might reach a point during your trip planning where you wonder … Where am I gonna watch the football game on Sunday?

    My wife and I have been to different Hawaiian islands probably 2-3 times during NFL season, and each time we’ve managed to find some good places that open up early Sunday for tourists to catch their favorite team’s game. Our most recent trip was last month when we visited the Big Island (Hawaii) with friends. But we were the only ones who wanted to find a place to watch NFL games — preferably with other Seattle Seahawks fans! — so the planning was all on our own.

    Good news: There are three sports bars nestled closely together in Kailua-Kona and each one opens early on Sunday mornings for NFL fans!

    My wife and I ended up at Oceans Sports Bar, which is just off Ali’i Road, the street that runs along the coast. As we were walking there, we passed by two other sports bars that were also open early and had TVs on for people to watch the games — Bongo Ben’s and Laverne’s. There are a few other bar/restaurant-type places in that same area that may have also been open, but we didn’t walk to them.

    (By the way … we’re talking 7:00 AM in Hawaii. That’s when the early games kickoff, at least before the mainland changes its clocks. If it’s after the clock change, kickoff will be at 8:00 AM Hawaiian time.)

    Oceans has a pretty big bar area with a bunch of TVs above showing the games, and then several more TVs placed throughout the dining areas.

    My wife and I arrived just as the game began and picked a table in the first dining area, where about 10-15 Seahawks fans had already gathered. It’s always fun to watch a game with other 12s, and this was no exception.

    The crowd grew as the game went along, and there were eventually about 25-30 Seahawks fans spread across two dining areas. There were also some Broncos fans, Chiefs fans and a few other teams represented … but Oceans Sports Bar seems to be the place for Seahawks fans to gather.

    Service was excellent. Our waitress was quick to bring my wife a mimosa and kept me filled with various tropical juices all morning. For breakfast, they offer a buffet that runs $14 per person, as I recall, which is pretty much a bargain for Hawaii. It was fairly standard stuff — scrambled eggs, bacon, home fried potatoes (to die for! OMG), biscuits and gravy, fried rice and some fresh fruit options. I think they had the fixins for a loco moco, too. As part of the buffet, you can also order a Belgian waffle — it looked delicious, but we were too full to try it.

    All in all, we had a great morning. The food was good. The service was good. The atmosphere was really fun. And we got to watch the Seahawks beat Detroit alongside a big group of fellow football fans. If you’re an NFL fan looking to watch the games on Hawaii’s Big Island, you can’t go wrong with Oceans Sports Bar — especially if you’re a Seahawks fan!


    Dublin, Driving, Hawaii and … Dread?

    January 26, 2016

    The sunset, as we saw it after driving up Haleakala Mountain in Maui.
    The sunset, as we saw it after driving up Haleakala Mountain in Maui.

    I flew to Dublin back in November for U2 concerts and had a great time. But in the days leading up to the trip, I began to dread the thought of flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Weird, because I’ve flown to Ireland a couple times in the past and flown to Hawaii a handful of times just in the past five years … and never did I worry or think about any dangers/risks of flying over the ocean.

    In December, while making plans for a trip to Hawaii, I decided not join my wife and four friends on a snorkeling trip that involved riding out on the ocean on a sailing canoe. On the surface, I made the decision because it was way too expensive. But I later figured out there was a subconscious decision that was really guiding my decision — I was afraid to get on the little sailing canoe and head out into the Pacific.

    When we made the trip earlier this month to Hawaii, the same fear of transoceanic flight hit me.

    And then, when we were in Hawaii, everyone drove up to the top of Haleakala Mountain for a combo sunset viewing/astronomy tour. It was wonderful, but I hated the drive. The road was thin and dangerous with what seemed like a couple dozen switchbacks. There were cows grazing along the side of the road and sometimes standing in the middle of it — dangerous to any vehicle coming around a blind turn. I vowed afterward to never drive up Haleakala again.

    A year ago, or five years ago, I would’ve never been afraid of the drive up the mountain. I would’ve never been afraid of getting on the sailing canoe. I’ve never been afraid to fly over the ocean.

    What’s going on??

    While the rest of the group was out on the sailing canoe, I had about three hours alone and time to think about that question. The answer I came up with is that it’s because my dad died last year and I’ve been subconsciously fearing and/or avoiding risky things that could involve death. Now that I’m without my dad, I don’t want to die and leave my son without his dad.

    Sure, walking outside or just getting the car and driving to the store could involve death, but those are common things that I do regularly. The stuff above isn’t.

    It was something of a relief to have come up with a reason for my sudden fear of certain activities. But now I’m asking myself new questions: What else will I suddenly dread or try to avoid? Is this a temporary thing that I’ll get over someday? If so … when?