The Art of Marriage – On Our 30th Anniversary

Today, Lailan and I are fortunate enough to celebrate thirty years of marriage. And I couldn’t be more blessed. I have the notes from the toast my maternal grandfather, Philip Schuyler Lyon (Papoe), gave at our rehearsal dinner. I thought it would be interesting to read back through his words, and I believe he summed up his five-page toast in one simple sentence when he concluded with “to meet her (Lailan) is to love her.” He simply and accurately captured everything you need to know. Continue reading

Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge

The Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge began earlier this year on a drive to St. Louis. We were with our son, Kai, and we were reminiscing about when the boys were young and how on every road trip they begged for an ice cream cone – especially when seeing a Dairy Queen sign. You don’t know how many DQ’s there are in the world until you travel with children!

Anyway, Lailan and I went on to tell Kai that some traditions never die! Even as empty nesters, we have found stopping for an ice cream cone while on a road trip makes for a pretty darn nice rest stop. It’s also our incentive to not pack the car full of junk food while we travel.


Back to the Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge. On our drive with Kai, we explained how we often stop at McDonald’s for their $1.00 ice cream cone. Hard to beat in our humble opinion. But then Lailan happened to mention her best friend in Hawaii adamantly argues that Burger King has the best cone by far! So, right then and there the Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge was born. Somewhere between Kansas City and St. Louis, on that fateful day, we decided to taste test the McDonald’s and Burger King cones.

We decided the test should be not who has the best ice cream cone, but who has the best overall value cone. It’s a simple value equation. Taste + Availability + Size + T-Bills Required + Yummy Factor = Maximum Ice Cream Cone Value or TASTY Rating as we like to call it.

We began the search by setting the bar surprisingly high at…drum roll please…McDonald’s. Yup. Here’s our TASTY Rating:


Taste: Smooth, solid vanilla structure, creamy and downright yummy.

Availability: Duh, everywhere. Unless you get the “uh, we’re so sorry. Our ice cream machine is currently broken.” What?  Say it isn’t so!

mcdonalds-vanilla-ice-creamSize: 3” extension beyond top of cone. Can be inconsistent based on ice cream machine operator. Expert tip: egg them on, cheer them on, ask them to break their cone swirling personal best. It works!

T-Bills: $1.00 in most locations. We’ve occasionally found cones for $.50 and that always blows the MICCV out of the water.

Yummy Factor:  Super dee duper yummy. Very subjective rating system we have here!

Overall TASTY Rating:           9.0 on a scale of 10


However, after sharing our McDonald’s success with our good friends in Hawaii (experts in all things shaved ice, ice cream, and ice in general), they vehemently argued that McDonald’s rival, Burger King, had the best ice cream cones. So, we excitedly took on the challenge, jumped in the car, and made our way to the nearest Burger King. Here’s our TASTY rating for the King:


Taste: Smooth, creamy, but our sample tasted a little funky. I hesitate to describe it as sour, as that would be super gross, but it didn’t seem to match the McDonald’s cone.

Availability: Also found on every corner in America. We did come across “we’re sorry, we’ve been waiting for a part for two weeks,” at one BK location. So much for “just in time” logistics!

bk cone1

Size: 2-3” extension beyond top of cone. Slight “cone lean” to the side and that tends to lessen the enjoyment just a bit!

T-Bills: $1.00 in most locations.

Yummy Factor: Refreshing, slight hint of vanilla bean extract with a bouquet of crispy cone wafer flavoring.

Overall TASTY Rating: 8.0 on a scale of 10

With Summer 2018 just beginning, we all have time to scream for ice cream, and to find the highest TASTY Rating! Think Beyond the Nest has McDonald’s in the lead so far, but we’d love to hear from all of you. Let’s hear from DQ fans. Does Wendy’s Frosty qualify as a cone? What other cones rank high on the TASTY Rating? Check out our Road Trip Ice Cream Challenge Poll on our Facebook page.

Enjoy your summer and an occasional sweet treat along the way! Say yes to the ice cream test!


When They Say, “I Do”

IMG_4248 (1)
Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Ricketts!

Spring is definitely in the air, and I don’t know about you, but it seems as though more and more of our nieces, nephews, and friends’ children are getting married. It’s a wonderful thing, and yet mind boggling all at the same time!  It’s crazy to think we have children old enough to now be getting married! Weren’t our kids just starting kindergarten? Time sure does march along, and our kids are now starting to make nests of their own.

I have always loved weddings – so full of love, joy, and excitement for the future. I started singing in weddings when I was in high school. It was a great source of income for me as a high schooler.  I loved experiencing different wedding ceremonies, music, and song selections. Over the years I have continued as the wedding singer for family and friends’ weddings. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had transitioned now to singing in weddings of kids our own kids’ ages! How can this be?

I have a binder full of wedding songs that I have sung and collected over the years, but I love asking brides and grooms to choose song(s) that really speak to them and will hopefully hold a special place in their hearts in the years ahead. To this day, I still look back on the song my sister sang at our wedding, “One Hand, One Heart” from Westside Story.

IMG_4510 (1)
“One Hand, One Heart” thirty years ago

I had always loved the song and knew that one day I wanted it sung at my wedding. Thankfully, Phil agreed! To this day, I would choose that song again to be sung at our wedding because it really spoke to me and still does to this day. Being “one” in a marriage, like a solid team, was really important to both Phil and me and so the song, “One Hand, One Heart” was perfect for us. I have thought of that song over the years as a sort of mission statement for our marriage.

I recently I sang for a friend’s daughter’s wedding. When the bride asked me to sing, I immediately encouraged her to take time to choose a song that had real meaning for her and her future husband. I always try to encourage those getting married to take time to think about their song choices. The piece this couple chose to be sung during the lighting of the Unity Candle was, “When I Say I Do” by Matthew West. While rehearsing the song in the weeks prior to the wedding, I found myself soaking up and so appreciating the lyrics of this song. I would actually tear up at times practicing the song as waves of emotion came over me as I saw this young couple in my mind up at the altar saying their wedding vows. The song also caused me to reflect back on the vows I took with Phil almost thirty years ago. And then, too, it struck me  that our boys could possibly be exchanging vows with their future brides someday soon! I found myself completely awed by this thought.  Wow!  Below are a few of the lyrics from this beautiful and powerful song, When I Say I Do.”

You see the these hands you hold,
Will always hold you up,
When the strength you have,
Just ain’t strong enough

And what tomorrow brings,
Only time will tell.
But I will stand by you, 
In sickness and in health.

Take my hand,
And take this ring
And know that I will always love you,
Through anything

And now for better or for worse,
Are so much more than only words,
And I pray every day will be the proof.
That I mean what I say when I say ‘I do.’

The lyrics of this song so reinforce the glory, sanctity, and profundity of marriage vows for me. I hope this couple will look back on their song choice and be reminded of the vows they made to each other, and that the lyrics will give them strength when times get tough.

IMG_4246 (1)
The bride and groom celebrating “I do.”

Again, it’s so hard to believe that one day our boys too could possibly be marrying. Nervously, I often wonder, have Phil and I prepared them enough for marriage? Should we be guiding them more, counseling them more? Do they know what marriage is all about? Will they be good, kind, loving, faithful spouses?  And, will they “mean what they say, when they say, ‘I do.” I can only pray they will.  Thank you, Katelyn and Matthew Ricketts for sharing this song with me and all those who attended your wedding.

And so, as many of us enter into the phase of our children saying, “I do,” I send blessings and best wishes for happy, strong, loving, faith-filled, and vibrant marriages for all our newlyweds and future newlyweds.


End-of-Life Planning for Aging Parents


In the past week alone, several of our friends have lost a parent. We even had one friend a few months ago lose both her parents in a tragic accident.  There have been some beautiful tributes and even social media posts sharing absolutely priceless photos and videos. As our friends faced the difficult task of planning memorial services, we learned that some of the parents communicated specific funeral wishes, while others did not. We realize this topic is highly personal and there’s certainly no judgement here, but it did get us thinking about how to have that conversation with parents. It’s hard enough thinking about end of life for ourselves, let alone broaching the subject with someone we love.   Continue reading

Trader Joe’s – A Quick Recap of Your Faves!

Wow! Thank you for all the awesome feedback on our Trader Joe’s post! We loved hearing your customer service stories, your favorite products, and your love of aloha shirts! Me too! Below are the items many of you shared with us. We are eager to try them, but to be honest, I am scared silly to try the Salted Caramel Gelato and the Gone Bananas! I’m a tad bit afraid I’ll like them a bit too much. Thank you for taking the time to connect with us, and happy shopping at Trader Joe’s!:)




Why We Love Trader Joe’s – And It’s Not Just About Food or Wine!


Like many of you, Phil and I have been long-time fans of Trader Joe’s, and more so recently since we have become empty nesters. It’s hard to believe our Leawood, Kansas store opened almost seven years ago! Yes, Phil and I have our favorite TJ items that we will share with you, but I first wanted to highlight something that has really endeared me to the store even more – the customer service.

About a month ago, while I was in the store, I picked up a sympathy card for a friend who had recently lost her parents in a terrible accident. As I was paying for my items, the checker commented on the sympathy card I had found. (By the way, does it seem the Trader Joe’s checkers always comment on what you are getting?:)) We started chatting about the reason I was purchasing the card, and before I knew it, the checker was telling me how sorry he was and handed me a beautiful bouquet of flowers! I was completely blown away by the kindness and thoughtfulness of that employee and awed that he had the freedom to easily do something like that without having to first consult a manager. The expression of thoughtfulness displayed by that TJ’s employee that day made a lasting impression on me and made me wish we had more companies with this kind of warm, friendly and “going above and beyond” type of customer service. Thank you for the inspiration, Trader Joe’s!:)  Continue reading

Pickleball Craze Hits the Empty Nest

IMG_3484The sport of pickleball has officially been in existence since 1965. But like many things that originated on the west coast, it took over fifty years for pickleball to find Phil and me. Now that we’ve given it a try, we have yet another activity to pursue in our empty nest years. 

Continue reading

Real Men Practice Yoga – My 2018 Resolution to Keep At It

yoga tin man

When I reluctantly gave yoga a try several years ago at Lailan’s insistence, I absolutely felt like the Tin Man. I’m pretty sure I muttered “This is bullshit” out loud more than once. I easily violated every written and unwritten rule of yoga ever published. My fellow practitioners had valid reasons for slapping a lifetime ban on my practice. Then a funny thing happened. As I found my shoes and packed up my stuff, I was swarmed with encouragement ranging from, “You did great!” to “Keep it up, you’ll love it.” On top of the positive feedback, I was surprised at how great I felt mentally and physically. I could tell I got a complete body workout. I didn’t expect that. Continue reading

Kendra’s Legacy – Why Flu Shots Matter


Kendra Mann-O’Brien was 35 years old when she contracted the flu on or about March 1, 2012. A month later, she was no longer alive, leaving behind a loving husband and two small children.  Continue reading

Be Creative and Have Fun! Yoga Mantra for Halloween!

Sue Park Halloween Yoga

Yes, everyone was smiling this morning as we walked into our yoga class and there greeting us at the door was no one other than a blonde Yoko Ono…. aka Sue Park!   As the class started, and in the spirit of Halloween, Sue encouraged us adults to listen more to our inner child and seek ways to add more creativity and fun to our lives. Yoga, she said, just as in life, does not have to be serious all the time and needs to be balanced with light-heartedness and laughter. And so our practice was filled with the sounds of Thriller, Spooky, Ghost Busters, Phantom of the Opera, and The Adams Family to name just a few. I’m still smiling as I think back on what Sue said and the fun we had as a creative, joy-filled class this morning.

Also, Phil and I are so excited to be sitting down with Sue over the next few weeks and having her share with us the many benefits of yoga particularly for our 50+ age group. We will then compile all that we learn and share it with you in a Think Beyond the Nest blog post. Sue is one of the leading yoga instructors here in KC and has truly inspired many of us, and I am looking forward to sharing more of her insight into the positive role yoga can play in each of our lives. Namaste and Happy Halloween!