Dear 2016

Dear 2016,

You sucked.

You took legends. More than your fair share.

You brought out the worst in our political process.

You brought out the worst in our people.

You took my grandmother.

You took other beauty from me, too.

I spent most of yesterday in the ER, after a freak accident in the ocean that’s never happened in my 35 years of surfing. I’m ok, but was very close to not being ok. And I’m blaming it on you.

I tend to see the glass as somewhere between half-full and overflowing, but your glass was drained even before you took Bowie. So this morning I threw it against the wall of the horse barn, and right now I’m using rocks of hope and promise to grind the shards into dust, with all the strength I have.

I’m going to offer you to the sky.

And hope the wind of 2017 carries you into a black hole, where Princess Leia is sitting on the edge to watch you disappear into nothing.

I guess I just wanted to give you some sort of linguistic middle finger.

I gotta get back to work.

I can feel that wind starting to blow.

The Little Girl in a Puffy Pink Jacket

I was on a plane just before Christmas not long ago when a little girl in a puffy pink jacket became what will be my eternal Christmas reminder.

Maybe she can be the same for you, too.


“Do you believe in Santa Claus?”

The question came from the little girl in a puffy pink jacket sitting next to me. She had been in my seat by the window when I boarded the plane and I had told her as much, so she fumbled with her seatbelt and had already slid over to the aisle before I realized how Grinch-like it was for me to tell her she was in my seat. She probably wanted to look outside.

So I asked her if she wanted to sit by the window and she said “yes please” and “thank you” and scooted back over. I settled into the seat next to her as she pulled out a beat-up Hershey’s chocolate bar from her coat pocket. She unwrapped it, broke off half, and held it out to me.

“Do you want to share?”

She introduced me to her stuffed animal and we spent the flight playing Rock Paper Scissors and talking about the important things. She asked me if I was married and then why I wasn’t. She guessed my age and I guessed her’s. I showed her a picture of my horse and she asked me if I was sure my horse wasn’t really a camel.

“The three wise men had camels, you know.”

She asked me if believed in Santa and told me she’d asked him for three things: to be good, to be able to study hard, and to be with her mama forever. But she knew she was getting something else too, because she had peeked in a bag her mama had brought home a few days ago.

She asked me what the tallest mountain in the world is and I said I thought it was Mt. Everest.

“Do you think God sits on top of it and watches over me and everyone?”

I sat there for a second, looking at this little girl whose face was shining and curious and real and beautiful and so full of promise and gratitude and sharing and love and all these things I think I’ve sometimes lost.

All these things that were now being given back to me by this angel sitting in seat 7E.

And I said, “I’m starting to think maybe He does.”

The plane touched down and rolled to a stop and she crawled over me into the aisle. As she started to walk away she stopped and turned around.

“Nice talking to you, Mr. Alex. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!”

And then she was gone.

I never answered her question about whether I believe in Santa Claus.

If he can look like a little girl in a puffy pink jacket, then yes.

I do.



Four years ago today, my friend Scarlett’s six-year old son Jesse was killed as he charged the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary, in one of the most horrific and tragic mornings in our nation’s history.

This is not a story about remembering that day.

This is a story about wildflowers.

Scarlett grieved and mourned more deeply than most of us will ever know, until she heard a voice say be grateful for what is here: her older son, her family, the warm meals concerned people were delivering to her front porch. That small step of gratitude lead her to the next step of forgiveness, so she could step outside of herself to help others.

And from the ashes of the loss of her child grew a wildflower, a beautiful foundation called the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, which works to put social and emotional learning curriculums into our schools so kids can make better choices. She teamed with a Senator to introduce S. Bill 897, the Jesse Lewis Empowering Educators Act, to the U.S. Congress, which gives teaches training in classroom instruction and school-wide initiatives that enable students to acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills most conducive to social and emotional competency.

And as more kids learn the power of choosing love over fear, more wildflowers are rising from the ashes.

Post-traumatic pain, disorders, and darkness are so very real.

But Scarlett’s story shows me that there can be something else post-traumatic, too.

Hope. Beauty. Service. Change.

We all have ashes.

Let’s see your wildflowers.