All the places I’ve lived, and a favorite memory from each

coast-guardMy dad was in the Coast Guard, so that meant a lot of moving around. Before I was born, my family had already been up and down the east coast, and spent some time on the west coast, too. My oldest sister was born in Key West, next oldest sister was born in Monterey, CA and then my brother in Virginia. When it was my time, the family was back in Key West. I was there for a short time before we moved out west. Here’s the list!

born: Key west, FL (December 26, 1978)

Hawaii – I was just a little guy here, about a year old, so I have three memories: attending a luau, going into a building, and going under a bridge (or tunnel?) on the way to a beach. I guess the luau is my favorite because I remember looking across and seeing my baby sitter.

Hollywood, FL – Started my academic career here at Sheridan Hills Christian School. Favorite memory: Our family took a lot of boat trips. We went down to the keys, spent nights on the water, I got sea sick for the first time, and still, these trips are easily my favorite memory!

me as 4th grader 2St. Petersburg, FL –  Attended Maximo Elementary School for 2nd and 3rd grade. Favorite memory: At school I met a friend that made me laugh so hard all the time. To this day, I measure everyone else against him. He was so funny. One of my least favorite memories: My funny friend was not at school one day, then not there the next day or the next. A few days later, his mom came in and picked up his things. I never saw him again!

Newport, RI – This is where I attended 4th grade at Underwood Elementary. Favorite memory: touring all the mansions, like these.


The Breakers. 62,000 square feet! 


Rough Point. 39,000 square feet and 105 rooms!

A tie for favorite: all the lamborginis. Not sure why there were so many, but it was somewhat common to see one driving around the city. And Saabs. Lots of Saabs.


5th grade at Widewater.

Stafford, VA – I was a 5th grader at Widewater Elementary School then moved to Stafford Middle School for 6th and 7th grade. These are my favorite years from growing up. I made great friends that I still have today. One favorite memory: trick or treating on Halloween one of the years. Somehow a friend and I got separated from our group of friends, but he and I still went around to so many houses. That was a fun night! Also, our house was situated on a golf course so we’d go out there to play football, capture the flag, flashlight tag, and hmmm, maybe hit some golf balls. I also came up with a list of things that happened in middle school that absolutely would not happen in today’s world. Here’s a link to that:

[11 Things You Can’t Do In School Anymore]

Miami, FL – Westminster Christian School for 8th – 10th grade. Favorite memory: being on the JV basketball team. And it was in 10th grade I had my first kiss. I know, I was late to the party! 🙂

New York, NY – Curtis High School for half of 11th grade. Favorite memory: I got to see a taping of David Letterman. It was really fun. We lived on Governors Island, so it was nice to have a place with grass, and trees, unlike most of New York City back then! Also, riding a ferry past the Statue of Liberty every day on the way to school was pretty neat.

Tallahassee, FL – Finished 11th and 12th grade at Leon High School. My dad retired from the Coast Guard in 1996 so we moved back towards family in Florida. Favorite memory: this is getting difficult because with each place, I have more than one favorite! But to name a few, I’d say my aunt’s lemon squares, my grandfather driving 120mph in his Isuzu Trooper to get me to school, pb and j lunches at The Brown Bag Express, basketball with friends, and graduating from the same high school my mom graduated from.

Note: I stayed in Tallahassee for college, as well. I have so many great memories in those 4.5 years. Too many to pick one!

Nashville, TN – This is where I’ve lived since the mid-2000s. Also too many great memories to pick one at the moment. So I’ll go with the lame answer: My favorite memory of Nashville is all of them. 😉

-Out of the Wilderness


When death knocks at a neighbor’s door

It’s been over 10 years since I left Tallahassee, Florida to pursue a burning in my heart that brought me to Tennessee. My delight in video production started way back when I was a little kid but it really grabbed ahold of me in college. Soon after graduating, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a local church youth group and a lot of what I did with them was make videos. Each week I got to know the kids better and realized they were a pretty special group.

Well, in this group was a young girl, I think she was in middle school at the time. She had short, curly, blonde hair. I remember how much she smiled and was friends with a lot of other kids there. She had a spark and you could just see it, that she would be a spark in a lot of people’s lives. I didn’t know how, and I guess no one did at the time. At that age, and even the age of me and my friends who were also volunteering there, it’s hard to know exactly what mark we’ll leave on the world. We were all so young.

A few days ago this girl, now an adult, was killed. The moment I found out moved in slow motion. It’s not like I knew her anymore, but still, it was a total shock. No one ever wants to hear of someone dying way too young. She was 24, the reports say. Her death continues to weigh heavy on me. I can still barely believe it, and don’t want to.

The sad news has reminded me how precious life is. I sit in the back yard, letting the heaviness pin me to my camping chair. I think about all the little concerns I have that, if I knew I was about to die, those concerns would not even be the very last things I’d worry about. They’d be so far off the list. One of my dogs lays about 10 feet in front of me, next to her frisbee. My other dog’s inside, under the sheets napping. My family in Florida is probably at the soccer field, baseball field, or eating lunch, or a few of them jumping on the trampoline, or swimming in a pool. I blink my eyes as my mind goes deeper and deeper into thought about what really matters. My faith. My family. My friends. My neighbors.

Then more thoughts about what I’m doing that’s a waste of time. What I’m doing that I need to keep doing. What’s important? When it’s my time to go, what I’ll be most proud of. Least proud of. What I’ll regret. Will I have been a spark in the lives of those around me; my friends, my family, anyone I work with?

I’ve tried to express the current state of mind I’m in, but maybe this quote I’ve heard before is more appropriate, “When you don’t know what to say, sing.” This song by Greg Holden is what I’m singing along to…

A few days have passed since her death. Clicking over to her Facebook page I’m reading comments on her wall, all confirming the spark she was to so many people. Because of Shannan, I’m not taking today for granted. I’m soaking in the sun and sights of kayaking downtown Nashville, and thinking of Shannan.

Hope you’re still a bright shining spark in Heaven.


The year 1997: putting the O in pOpular

The year was 1997. I was a pale, skinny, timid high schooler walking the halls as a senior at Leon High School in Tallahassee, Florida. This city was different than what I was used to. Students drove big trucks with big Mickey Thompson tires.mickeythompson
In Miami, where I spent most of high school, the smaller the tires, the better.
Hooptie1Both were absurdly extreme. And possibly extremely absurd. But as a teen in Tallahassee, a must-have car accessory whether you rolled on mud tires or more efficient, less noisy stock tires was the O.
oakley sticker

It was practically your parking permit at Leon. Having mud tires and this sticker earned you triple bonus points and a spot on the football team.

20 years later I don’t see any Mickey Thompson tires, maybe because Nashville isn’t as “southern” as Tallahassee. I will see the O every once in a while, and it takes me right back to my days at Leon High School and that pair of Oakley’s I lost in Georgia when I left them on a rented van after me and my family went to Callaway Gardens for a holiday weekend full of lights and laughter… and tears.

-Out of the Wilderness


The Reawakening: Part 7

There seems to be a possible twist in this exciting adventure.

Cincinnati, Ohio. A family of 6 preparing for another school year. 4 young daughters have only known life in Ohio but have a Mom that urgently prays for God to open up doors for them in Tallahassee, Florida. It’s been years since my sister, their mom, has felt her heart longing for life near the rest of our family, in the Florida panhandle. I absolutely adore my family and when my sis told me about her prayers, I proclaimed if she and her family move to Tallahassee, I would to. If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t think it all the way through, and made the promise before I rationally thought about what it actually means for me to leave the city I love. Years have gone by without any developments for my sister’s family… until now. You see, it’s pretty much all rested on whether my brother-in-law can get work in North Florida as an engineer. Tallahassee being a relatively small town (not including the college population), I guess finding work he’s qualified for isn’t as easy as you might think. But later this week, he’s making a trip there for a face-to-face interview with a potential employer. This is their second or third interview and from what I’ve heard, it looks very promising. Now I’m hearing chatter about the promise I made a long time ago. I joke that it expired. But if I’m being totally honest, the idea doesn’t sound totally absurd and it’s something I’ll be thinking about over the coming weeks.

Could this be a twist I never saw coming? Could my time in Nashville be coming to an end? Frankly, I’m shocked those words are even on the table because I love it here.

A Weekend I Won’t Soon Forget

Pop soldier edited smallerI had an unfortunate reason for driving down to Tallahassee, Florida last weekend. My grandfather passed away but you know, it wasn’t really a dose of bad luck like the word ‘unfortunate’ would lead you to believe. He was 91. He lived a long time and got to see the next 3 generations of Wilders. He was married for over 60 years and was a romantic even till the last moments. My dad told us how, the day before he died, Pop kept saying “I love you more than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.” That’s what he always told Mom Mom. He loved her. And not like the love that we often hear about today in the news and stuff. Here today and gone tomorrow. It was love, the kind that lasts through wars. Through distance. Through time. What an amazing privilege to not only see that, but be a result of that. He might be right in line with God on this one because in Psalms it says that God’s love endures forever. Seems like Pop’s love for Mom Mom was that kind of forever love.

So the whole weekend was more like a celebration of a long life, well lived. A lot of tears, but a celebration still. And if there is such a thing as luck, then I feel lucky, and always have, that Pop was my granddad. I remember in junior high feeling sorry for my friends because I had the best grandparents. It seemed unfair. It was a feeling of compassion for my friends, and excitement of being in the Wilder family. We are proud. And with Pop’s passing, I think our pride grew stronger, actually. I can speak for my brother and sisters, we are so proud to be Wilders.

Pop with familyWhile I was driving the 8-hour trip from Nashville, I thought about Pop, memories of Monticello, and growing up. Sometimes I couldn’t help but cry it out. I pretty much went straight to the hospital and had a chance to see and talk to Pop the day before he died. Sitting there with him and Mom Mom. Talking. Reading Isaiah 40. Crying (I thought I got all of that out in the car!). But these are memories I won’t soon forget.

Like the gigantic rainbow the morning after Pop died. The funny breakfast conversation with Mom Mom about relationships and breakups and her saying “Well, you know all about that.” Soccer in the park. A jungle gym pull-up contest with my brother and brother-in-law. Working on Pop’s memorial tribute video (and that’s Pop singing in the video!). Driving his truck. Seeing my oldest friends. Helping with the funeral program. Talking about our favorite Monticello memories, like getting our first beagle. My dad letting me have his warm Coast Guard jacket, which I already love. Peeing in the backyard at the same time as my brother-in-law and dogs, like the exact same time.  The circus.

The kindness of friends and neighbors bringing over so much food. Regret of not spending the night with Mom Mom the night Pop died. My sister Shannon playing a verse of “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus” on the piano at the funeral. And the way she always sits up straight on the last note.

true loveRealizing I’m not as good as Pop was. How proud Pop was of my dad, and my dad’s career in the Coast Guard. Pop’s awesome picture with Mom Mom on the beach (on the right). People commenting that I walk just like my dad. My new “2013 National Championship” hat. Taking Pop’s Epiphone guitar back to Nashville.

All of these things will be remembered. But even today, a week later, it doesn’t seem real.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40: 28-31

-Out of the Wilderness

The Case of the Missing Retainer

I was a junior in high school living in New York City. We had just moved there from Miami, Florida, where we had been for 3 years. Our stay in New York wasn’t for long, only 6 months because my dad retired from the Coast Guard. We couldn’t continue living on the military base (Governor’s Island) so we packed up and moved to Tallahassee, Florida. I wasn’t sad about the move because during the 6 months I was able to do make some memories: snow skiing, sitting in the audience for a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman, playing flag football, learning how to type fast, trying out for the school basketball team, and whitewater rafting with my dad. But one thing I wasn’t able to do was get my braces taken off. I was in 9th grade when I got them. Why? Well, let’s just say the theme song for my teeth was Fleetwood Mac’s…

Some people had buck teeth. I had a buck tooth. And none of my other teeth pointed the right way either. I got braces in Miami, kept them in New York, and it was my senior year at Leon High School (go Lions) in Tallahassee when they were finally removed. “Phew! Just in time for my senior pictures!” But it was in New York that the unsolved case of the missing retainer happened.

One night, a lot like any other, I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. I dutifully inserted the retainer which I was supposed to wear while I slept. However, when I woke up the next morning, it was gone. Ruh roh Raggy. I checked everywhere. The bathroom trash. My bed sheets. Under the bed. Beside the bed. Under the pillow? Nope. Days went by and the retainer was still missing in action. When it came time to move, I thought, “OK, now that retainer will turn up!” It didn’t. To this very day, I can’t explain what happened that night. The only chance of reopening this cold case is to find the retainer in the box of my stuff in my parent’s attic. And honestly, I hope it’s not there. That would be gross. Can you imagine the smell? Of course, I’m curious how much a vintage 1996 retainer would go for on eBay.

The moral of the story is that sometimes things just go away and you have to be alright with that. It could be a retainer or it could be a person you love. In the end your teeth might still be a little crooked and so might be the path you take, but you should still smile, and smell the roses along the way.

-Out of the Wilderness