• 1000 miles in 3 days across western France

    We loaded our Kia Carens, left our Paris apartment, and said “farewell” to the barista we’d seen every morning for a week by 9am...

  • 1000 miles of California National Parks

    After our 3 days in Disney parks and L.A., we took our Kia Sedona for a 1000-mile road trip to explore some of the...

  • the 2017 Dad 2.0 Summit in San Diego

    During one of the keynotes at this year’s Dad 2.0, the speaker quoted Mark Twain: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and...

  • London

    We boarded the train in York and arrived at King’s Cross on July 7, briefly stopping at Platform 9 3/4 before depositing our bags...

  • Driving 1000 miles through Arizona

    The 5 of us took a one-way flight to Phoenix on Thursday morning, December 29th, picked up a 2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo, loaded...

When I was young, I was very interested in the American Civil War.  In fact, after reading “The Killer Angels” in school and later seeing its film version, “Gettysburg,” my family took a vacation in which we visited several of the battlefields, including Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg.  So, when I realized Netflix was showing Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” a few weeks ago, we started watching it. Our trip to the battlefield in Franklin, TN over Memorial Day weekend helped create even more interest, and I’ve been happy to pass along my love of U.S. history and learning about our bloodiest war to the children.

Speaking of U.S. history and active learning, I’ve also taken my children to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta during a visit from my friend Doug.  So, they’re familiar with the atrocities we bestowed upon one another even after the Civil War, especially in Alabama (where much of their family lives or lived) just a few decades ago.

So, when my friend Jim facilitated my receiving a Karcher pressure washer to try out for Father’s Day, I thought, “Do I want to clean my car or driveway with this thing, or do I want to make sure my children really understand the dark times of American history?”  I figured I can clean the driveway later.

power washer

I hooked up the hose to the contraption and told my kids to go pretend they were marching from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to the Birmingham Mayor’s office in City Hall to promote equal rights.

wailing babies

Then I came outside in my old Air Force BDUs and a Mexican wrestling mask, so I looked all villainous.  And I full on went Bull Connor on them.

spraying babies more

They sang “We Shall Overcome” as I gave them a small taste of what our neighbors to the west faced not long ago for having the audacity to be black and in downtown Birmingham.  Sure, the water pressure was turned down fairly low–and I didn’t use the attachment that can take paint off of brick–but I think they got the message.

upset children sprayed

It was a great way to spend a few minutes outside on Father’s Day, and I’m certain their knowledge of history from the 1960s is forever solidified.

And that’s how we Netflixed and chilled this June.


with baby L

Most of us dads are used to being appreciated a bit as Fathers Day approaches, but should we thank our babies for making us dads?  Is that ridiculous or a deep, insightful exercise?  Life of Dad  and Pampers seem to think such an inquiry falls into the latter category.  As such, I’ve been asked (read:  paid) to participate in an exercise that includes an analysis of how becoming a dad has benefited me.

with baby M

Hmmmm.  Okay, I got this.

Because I’m a dad, I no longer hold others’ babies as far from my body as my arms can possibly reach, like I’m offering the gods a living sacrifice.

Because I’m a dad, I know that urine goes right through a Herman Miller Aeron chair!

Because I’m a dad, I’m ready for Big Brother and the ubiquitous surveillance that will one day come to our society, as I’ve been meticulously watched, noted, and imitated for the past 9 years.

Because I’m a dad, I’ve expanded my vocabulary to include new, obscure references to expletives or abbreviations for same (most of the time).

Because I’m a dad, I know what Pixar is working on at all times.

Because I’m a dad, I drive a much safer vehicle and even drive more safely, whether I have passengers or not.

Because I’m a dad, my birthday parties start at 5pm, and the yard has more games in it, fewer piles of dog manure, and drastically fewer late night appearances (by me) in drag.

Because I’m a dad, I feel guilty about frequently leaving my dad’s tools in the woods 30 years ago, because I know how it feels to buy the same hammer 3 times.

Because I’m a dad, I fly to conferences where other dads go to learn how to be better dads.

Because I’m a dad, I buy 5 plane tickets instead of 1.

Because I’m a dad, I can’t ever sleep in or late.  No matter what time I go to bed.

Because I’m a dad, all my old Star Wars action figures, GI Joe action figures, Transformers, and GoBots have gotten a new lease on life. Some of my old stuffed animals, too.

Because I’m a dad, I find videos like this one endearing:

Because I’m a dad, I rush to get home every night that I can, so I don’t miss family dinner and bedtime reading time.

Because I’m a dad, “bjorn” no longer means “tall Swedish dude” to me.

baby O in sling

Because I’m a dad, I prioritize becoming a better version of myself.  Or try to, anyway.

Because I’m a dad, I stop making lists like this one, so I can go see what the hell that noise was coming from the den.

Happy fathers day!

I learned about an event in the backyard of one of my favorite writers a couple months ago and decided we’d go to Nashville for Memorial Day weekend.  The problem was that I had to spend a week at Camp Bullis outside San Antonio (Air Force training) and half a week in Washington DC (National Leadership Summit for Anti-Defamation League) earlier in May, so Memorial Day weekend sort of sneaked up on us, and we didn’t really start planning our trip until a few days before we left.

We exited our driveway a couple hours later than planned, thanks to a speeding ticket after getting the dog washed and a pushy sales guy for a basement moisture remediation system.  Traffic was bad, so we arrived after 5 hours at my friend Natalie’s house in Franklin about 15 minutes before we were supposed to be in Donald Miller’s backyard for a party for benefactors of The Mentoring Project. We were a bit late.

The event was great.  I got to see my friends Angus and Samantha Nelson again, hear great music from (and meet) Brandon Heath and Jill & Kate, and meet Donald Miller, one of my favorite writers for over 10 years. We met other fine folks, too, and learned about the great things The Mentoring Project has been doing and continues to do.  We also had some pretty awesome BBQ and got to meet Don’s dog, Lucy, after reading about her in books and seeing her on Instagram.

with donald miller

We were the last to leave (along with the Nelsons), as is my custom.

The next morning, my son woke us up at 5am local time.  A few hours and several mugs of coffee later, we visited The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s home.  We toured the house, the grounds, and rode on a horse drawn wagon.

riding in wagon

Then, we had more awesome BBQ at Peg Leg Porker before visiting the Opryland Hotel (since rain was forecast for the afternoon).  No one in the family was all that excited about the latter excursion, until we walked inside, and neither the children nor my bride could believe just how pretty and enormous it is.  Or how awesome the dancing fountains and waterfalls are, or how cool an indoor river with boat rides is.  We loved the exploration.

babies w lobby fountain

on boat inside lobby

We eventually got back into the car and started to head back to Natalie’s house when I had a thought:  we should go to Cooter’s Place.  And so we turned around and went, despite the protests from my youngest.

I love Cooter’s Place.  I even changed my Facebook profile picture for the first time since joining the website in 2008–from me sitting in the General Lee, to me sitting in the General Lee with my children:

general lee

Then we walked next door to the Willie Nelson museum, where my youngest got a Willie Nelson doll and referred to him by his first and last name for the rest of the trip, as if he’d done something to get in trouble.  Only after insisting on having the doll did she ask if Willie Nelson was “on the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ or a former President” (a reasonable question given the other places we’d gone that day).  I told her who he was, that he is still alive, and that I saw him play at Chastain (which included a a rendition of “Amazing Grace” with President Carter and the former First Lady) the previous weekend.

I knew the magic was with us when we got back in the car and “On the Road Again” came on the radio.


The next morning, we visited a local church with Natalie and her 4 children before having brunch at Gray’s on Main in Franklin and visiting Centennial Park and the Parthenon.

babies w parthenon

Sunday was a lot hotter (> 10 degrees) than was Saturday, so we opted not to stand in a long line to enter the structure and let the children enjoy the shaded playground instead.  Then, we headed downtown to see the sights on 2nd Avenue and Broadway, which I had thought would be a lot of fun, but turned out to be a lot of crowded.

We spent a few minutes inside the Wildhorse Saloon, the Ryman, and a few other places, but it was too hot and crowded to really enjoy the area very much, so we headed off to the Bluebird Cafe an hour before doors opened at 5pm for the 6pm songwriters’ show, but we were 116th in line for a show that generally allows about 75 persons at most, so we left the back of the line and instead went to get BBQ at Martin’s. It was delicious.

I was still really disappointed about our time downtown and even more disappointed about not getting into the Bluebird Cafe.  Apparently, Nashville has grown tremendously in popularity since I last spent any time there, and from what I hear, huge crowds are commonplace.  More advanced planning would have made the Bluebird possible another night, but one apparently has to get there much earlier than an hour before doors open to get into the “no reservations” Sunday night performances.

Determined to do something everyone would like before heading back to the house, I took us atop Love Circle after dinner.  My boy asked if there were any geocaches around, and there was one–we found a box placed by a local 5th grade class and signed the log book, which the kids loved.

atop love circle

We went back to the house; the kids went to bed; the grownups sat outside and talked until nearly 10pm.  We were just about to go to bed when my phone indicated my friend from my 2003 Iraq deployment, Shane, was back in town and wanted to see if I’d meet his wife and him for a beverage.  So, I did.  I officiated their wedding 2.5 years ago but haven’t seen them since.

Gilliam wedding

The next morning, our family visited Carnton Plantation, site of the above wedding picture.  We got a great tour of the house, learned about the Battle of Franklin, and saw the McGavock family cemetery and the 1500 graves for Confederate (and a few Union) soldiers at the Battle of Franklin. Fitting, given that it was Memorial Day.


Afterward, we met Shane and his wife at Franklin Mercantile for lunch, where my children were as poorly behaved as they have ever been in public their entire lives.  That was fun.

Despite the couple of setbacks, this was a great trip.  I love visiting Nashville, not only because of its history, its music scene, its “vibe,” and the like, but because of all the wonderful people who are there whom I’ve known since childhood or my 10 years of service in the Tennessee Air National Guard.  We’ll clearly need to go back sometime when we can secure reservations at the Bluebird and spend some time in Hendersonville, where I grew up and where several friends (and parents of friends) live.  It’s a fairly easy drive (or short flight) from Atlanta.  Y’all should go.