My son Cooper has Down syndrome. We received the diagnosis prenatally. We made the decision that he was our son and we wanted to give him a chance at life. The pregnancy went from being a time of joy to one of the most difficult periods of my life. The tests were unending… The potential health concerns stacked up.

I was in denial and held out hope that maybe all of the tests and ultrasounds were wrong. Maybe he’d come into the world just like any other kid. That didn’t happen. It was difficult to accept our new reality, but all of those feelings and scary thoughts dripped away over time. He’s now four years old, and he’s progressing.We try every day to give him what he needs. He is saying more words now but still doesn’t speak. He is not potty trained, but he’s doing better (most days). He knows his letters. He counts. He loves to sing.

In our eyes, he’s more ‘normal’ than not. But it really sucks that the minute someone looks at him and sees that he has Down syndrome, they put him in a certain box. Most people, and other kids, are kind to Cooper. Little girls love him. They are drawn to him and want to help him and play with him. But every now and then I see a person’s reaction to Cooper that hurts my feelings. A look of disgust on their face, and it makes me sad.

To me, raising awareness about Down syndrome is all about showing others that kids like Cooper will surprise you. They are more like you than you may think. Here’s an example of how Cooper has changed people’s perceptions…

My older, typical son was invited to a birthday party by a boy he attends karate with. The boy was turning nine, four years older than my son and the invitation said they were going to have a Game Truck and the pool would be open. I RSVP’d to the mom and asked if it would be okay if I also brought my younger son, Cooper, because my wife was out of town and I was flying solo. She asked how old Cooper was and I told her that he’s four. I didn’t mention that he had special needs or anything like that. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t really think about it.

Cooper does not look four. He’s small, and he doesn’t speak legibly, but he communicates in his own way. When we arrived, and the mom saw Cooper, her face looked annoyed, or scared or upset. I couldn’t tell, but she wasn’t happy. She didn’t say anything but she looked a bit shocked that I had shown up with a kid who has Down syndrome. The other kids, of course, could care less. I tried to make small talk with her and it wasn’t exactly easy. She was stand-offish or worried about making sure everything was set up and what not, I couldn’t really tell. So I took the boys inside the Game Truck and it was like entering Nirvana. Four big flat screens on one side of the truck and a row plush black couches on the other. The man operating the truck hooked us up with Nintendo Switch systems and we started playing Mario Kart. Cooper loved it. Max loved it. I have to admit, I loved it, too.

Cooper started to lose interest and wanted to get out of the truck after about an hour. So we stepped outside and there was the mom, nervous smile across her face.

“How old is he again?” she asked me.

“He just turned four,” I said. She nodded, a bit surprised, and invited us into the house for snacks. We abided by the sign at the door and removed our shoes. Her house was immaculate. I was a bit nervous because the house was filled with little, fragile nick-knacks, glass ornaments and candles. It kind of looked like Hobby Lobby in there. Cooper was excited by the food, arranged neatly on a table with a Mine Craft theme. He took a Mine Craft horse off the table and started playing with it roughly on the floor.

I tried to take it from him, fearing he might break it, but she said it was okay. Then their dog came over, a sweet, 14-year-old golden retriever. Cooper was in heaven. He LOVES dogs, and I could see the mom did too. The dog, Cooper and the mom, had a joint petting session, dog on its back to give full access to the belly. Cooper started warming her over. She made Cooper a plate of chicken nuggets and carrots. They fed the carrots to the dog. Cooper laughed each time the dog delicately took a carrot from his little hand. She laughed, too.

When the Game Truck took off, the big kids moved the party to the pool out back. I couldn’t really watch my older son and Cooper at the same time and the mom asked if she could take Cooper to the spa and put his feet in the water. I said sure. The two of them had a big splash and Cooper was soaked from head to toe. They were both laughing again. She then took Cooper inside and they played together for a while. When I went in a few minutes later, Cooper was entertaining all of the adults, making his funny faces, singing and just being his silly self.

Cooper had changed the dynamic just by being his true self. And I hope that after we left, the adults had a different perception of Down syndrome. I’m pretty sure they did. In fact, I think they were in love with Cooper, almost as much as the dog was.

One thing Cooper continually reminds me of is that you cannot put people in a box just by their appearance or disability. In that way, he has made me, and many others, a much better person.

On another note, we are attending the Down Syndrome Assoc of Central Florida’s Step Up for Down Syndrome walk. If you’d like to donate to our team, Cooper’s Troopers, that would be great! Be kind today…

Some of the best memories I have of being a kid took place on a boat.

We always had boats growing up. Big boats, small boats, dinghies, inflatables… at one point I even remember a little Sunfish sailboat in my life. As a kid, you don’t realize you are making memories when you’re making them. It’s only now that I have kids of my own that I truly realize the quality time we spent on the water.

Truthfully, it wasn’t always quality, my dad yelled at us if we dropped things or jumped around like kids like to do. God forbid if you put a ding in the gelcoat… but those moments were less frequent than the smiles and laughter. However, we sometimes remember the bad more than we remember the good. But I’ve turned that script, and I often think back on the family trips we took on the boat. The entire family tucked into a 40-foot convertible. My sister and I sharing a stateroom, giggling into the night and creating games that we could play as she dangled her hand from the top bunk. The sound of water lapping the hull as we drifted off to sleep, often waking up to a new spot and a new adventure. Clamming, fishing, rowing the dinghy around… These things give you incredible freedom as a 10-year-old. I would walk a tidal flat for hours with nothing more than a bucket and a rake. Sometimes I’d come home with a full load of cherry stones. Sometimes I’d get stuck and have to figure a way out of the silty mud. Problem solving at its best.

My father has a very strong love of boats. He can just stare at a vessel for long periods of time, admiring the curves, the metalwork, the bright finish. But he doesn’t get out as much as he used to, and I had been giving him crap about not using his skiff. It sat next to his house for longer than a year. He’d wax it. He’d start the engine, but it was a lot of effort for him to get it to the ramp and launch it on his own. Something that he used to do effortlessly had become work. He tried to sell the boat at one point, but didn’t find a buyer. It continued to sit. I continued to bug him about it.

“Let’s take the kids out on the boat,” I’d say.

“We’ll see. I have some things I need to do to the trailer first.”


There was always something to do. A reason we couldn’t use it. This was broken, or that needed to be checked. That’s how it is with boats, if you leave things unchecked for too long, they’ll fail on you and potentially leave you stranded. After a while, I stopped asking. I could see it was making him a bit angry if I pried too hard. Then he offered me the boat all together. Told me to take it. I thought about it, but declined at first. I was afraid it would become a sore spot between us. I figured he wouldn’t be happy with how I took care of the boat. I knew I would never wax it as much as he would. (I have seen this man wax the windshield of his car.)

But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. It’s an 18-foot flats boat, and perfect for me and my family. I told him I’d take the boat, but again, he had a list of things to do to it first. This needs cleaning, that needs fixing… I thought he’d back out. And then a phone call (which I don’t often get from Dad)… “I bought a new boat. It’s smaller. Much easier to handle. I need you to come get the flats boat.”

All the worries I had about potential arguments or disagreements came flooding back, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. We talk more now than we have in a while. I had to have a bunch of engine work done to the boat and I think he’s very happy to know that it’s running strong and still has a lot of life left in the tank. This past weekend, we took our first family outing on the boat and it was fun. My wife liked it and Cooper, our youngest, went from being scared and holding his ears to having fun over the course of the day. We’ll have many more adventures on this rig and hopefully, some day down the road, my boys will hitch it up to their truck and put a few more hours on her.

The signs that our country is plundering through uncertain times is plastered all over the media (whether you call it “fake” or not). You can’t walk through a store, restaurant or train station without overhearing thick threads of heated political banter. There’s no escaping it. And now, the gods are raining down their fury and doing their best to send us a message…

Jimmy Kimmel said the lightening was probably the work of John McCain, which I hope is true. The old Maverick is slinging arrows from the heavens.

The latest weather event at the White House is not a new, nearly Biblical act of nature to occur at the White House this year. Back in May, scientists discovered the beginnings of sink hole on the lawn.

What’s next? Locusts? A healthy flood of raining frogs? How many signs do we need? These are very uncertain times, and frightful.

The chapter entitled “The Toilet Paper King’s Mighty Sword,” is probably the one I receive the most comments about. It is the longest chapter of the book. In this chapter, Parker finds himself locked to the largest fish of his career, an estimated 800-pound swordfish. As he fights the fish, the seas pick up. The drama builds. Parker’s hands turn to claws after cranking on the reel handle for four hours, five hours… Another angler on the boat named Marvin adds some comic relief to the situation, but nothing will deter Parker’s determination.

New Zealand is a special place in the annals of angling history. Zane Grey, the famous writer and one of the first men to embark on long fishing expeditions to the far corners of the world, spent time in these waters. Grey also caught giant swordfish, and sharks and other creatures. The far north area and Bay of Islands in particular is a place every traveling angler should put on his or her wish list. You may find yourself far offshore, drifting a squid bait at night. If you do, hold on for the fight of your life.

I’d like to thank an old friend, Sam Mossman from New Zealand Fishing News for reaching out and publishing our latest book review. It’s very cool to have a few readers on the other side of the planet.

Here is Sam’s review…

Thank You, Alaska

June 26, 2018

I caught the first halibut of the trip on a jig bounced on the bottom. If you think grouper bite hard, try hanging on to a fat ‘but!

The man, the legend… Andy Mezirow. Even when the fish are not biting, Andy’s stories will keep you entertained.

Travis Mauer (left) and Capt. Jeff Seward with our biggest halibut of the trip, caught in the final quarter of fishing on the last day.

My happy place.

Trolling for salmon requires a lot of gear and a lot of knowledge. That’s part of the reason why Andy loves it so much.

My biggest fish weighed 74 pounds.

Andy and his wife Nicky now offer lodging is this updated three-bedroom house on the edge of a salmon stream.

Weather can change in a millisecond on the Gulf of Alaska.

Probably my favorite photo from the trip. I can picture this as a two-page spread in a fishing magazine.

Jeff and Travis with another nice fish.

It was a bit early for the kings, but we did manage to find one.

I love mountains. I love ocean. Therefore, I love Alaska.

Alaska is one of those special places that makes you want to be outside, all the time, well in the summer months at least. I have not explored much of the great state, but thanks to a friendship with Andy Mezirow, I have now been to Seward three times. This quaint seaside town offers easy access to the Gulf of Alaska and the incredibly fertile waters surrounding Montague Island.

Andy began fishing around Montague a couple of decades ago and he was one of the first to explore the many pockets and rockpiles all around the island. He and the team at Crackerjack Sportfishing pioneered the idea of overnight fishing trips to fill the fish hold with halibut and oftentimes king salmon. The fishing has changed drastically over the last few years. Fishery managers keep close tabs on the catches and you can now only keep four halibut each year. The salmon fishery is also very regulated, and thankfully so.

We arrived a bit early for salmon, but we got to spend one day on Andy’s new boat, the Gray Light. Andy legendary California custom boat builder, Don Radon, build the 32-foot vessel to meet Andy’s exacting standards. This is a very dialed in charter boat with no expense spared. From the electronics to the tackle to the cabin appointments, I have to say she is one bad-ass vessel. She feels and rides like a much larger boat. And, she’s set up exactly how Andy wants her to catch king salmon, which are kind of like the blue marlin of salmon.

We also spent two days fishing with Jeff Seward, who was Andy’s mate. Jeff lived through 14 years of deckhand duties and practical jokes courtesy of Andy. Jeff still doesn’t leave an open water bottle on the boat for fear of what may have been placed inside it, in all good fun, of course. Jeff is a very accomplished skipper in his own regard and I really appreciate how dedicated he is to the sport and conservation. These men understand the effects of over fishing all too well, and they do their part to educate anglers and conserve the fish stocks.

The trip was arranged by Travis Mauer, a past client of Andy’s whom I met and fished with last November in Australia. Travis is one of the hardest working guys I know. He punches in everyday, for more hours than most of us. And the reason he does it? So he can save up and go on several cool fishing trips a year. I really commend Travis for his love of fishing. He says that he always needs a trip on the horizon to look forward to. It’s what keeps him going.

Our trip to Seward this past June was a bit different than the last ones. I was there to fish, relax and send home some meat for my family. It was very needed and once again, Alaska did not disappoint. If you ever want to try fishing for halibut or salmon, head to Seward and give Andy and the Crackerjack crew a call. They’ll take good care of you.