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ALPS In Brief – Episode 62: When Life Winks

14 min read

ALPS In Brief – Episode 62: When Life Winks

Hello, I’m Mark Bassingthwaighte, the risk manager with Alps and welcome to another episode of ALPS In Brief, the podcast that comes to you from the historic Florence building in beautiful downtown Missoula, Montana. Though, as some of you may know that listen to some of my podcasts or hear some of my, or read some of my writing, I no longer live in Montana, let alone Missoula. This past year, well officially it hadn’t even been a year. So in short, I live now in St. Cloud Florida, and obviously still with Alps and hope to be for a number of years yet, but it’s been an interesting experience. This whole move down, oh boy, from when we sold our house to, when we finally moved into the home that we were building. It had three different addresses and just crazy, crazy stuff.

Well, I’m going to do something a little different with this podcast, and this kind of Florida story is relevant in an odd way. I have done two other podcasts called listening to your life and they sort of dealt with a lot of writing that I do or was doing in Montana. Hope to get back into that in a more significant way here. The location of our home is such that there’s not easy access to trails, although I’m doing a lot of indoor riding and getting the bike legs back.

But, I want to talk a little bit about listening to your life and experiencing life and just, it’s a different topic. I’m not going to tie much of this into law. I’m not going to go into a lot of risk management and ethics and all that. I just want to share some stories, some things that have happened. Maybe, there’s something to learn from it for you. Maybe, I don’t know where this goes. But, I want to share. As I was saying, the move to Florida was the right decision and a good decision, but boy, it was not without its headaches.

Multiple addresses, a period of time just staying in a VRBO sort of at the last minute because of construction delays in this development here. And, oh, it just got crazy and it was not, based on that experience, I would never do an Airbnb or VRBO again, ever in my life. I, just was one of the worst experiences my wife and I’ve ever had. Just, ugh, I won’t even bore you with all of that. But, it’s busy. It’s stressful to sell a house during a pandemic, to buy a house or to build a house during a pandemic, to make a move during a pandemic. You know, all of this is just very, very stressful. And then trying to get set up, and just moving in and unpacking and packing. It’s been a high stress year. Some stress was very, very good, but, just because it’s good stress doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a toll.

Another stress is kind of, kind of crazy. Well, one of the things, as we were sort of moving through this year, my wife and I are Disney Vacation Club members that have been Disney people for many, many years. Our kids have grown up Disney and had wonderful time and they have very, very good memories of it. All of us have with Disney. We’ve literally been over much of the world with Disney, but we decided to, just a few weeks ago, take a Disney cruise.

Particularly since we’re down here, I don’t have to fly all day to get on a cruise ship. It literally is like a 45 minute drive, which we’re still getting used to. But, we wanted to take a cruise and just kind of relax. And this was to be with our best friends that we’ve traveled with for many years and just really, really good folk and enjoy their company immensely.

As we were getting closer to cruise time. So, it’s, maybe two, two and a half months out, one of our best friends developed a health problem that at the time was concerning and really just unsure where this would go. But, you just, prayers and there’s not a lot you can do to make, heart issues, you know, you can’t, that’s got to be dealt with. To make a longer story short, the issues that she was dealing with got progressively worse and really got to the point that our friends were unable to join us on the cruise for obviously very, very legitimate reasons.

And needed some medical attention that was supposed to be several months down the road. But due to some just happenstance kinds of things, and also just calling the surgeon, the doctors, the main doc here every day, just to see if there’s cancellation things she managed to get in quite sooner. Which turned out to be a very, very real blessing to her. And in fact, here in just a few short days is going to have open heart surgery to have a valve repaired and to take care of some other issues. It’s a scary time. It’s you do all that you can to be supportive. Although we don’t live near each other we, again, we vacation together, but they’re more than a few states away. But you just do what you can to be supportive.

You also struggle a bit because we’re all similar ages. You know, none of us are in our twenties anymore. We’re all in our sixties and of the four I’m the youngest at 62. So, you start to worry about us, my wife and what’s going to lie ahead for us. You try to take care of yourself and all this. Well, so that’s sort of a background now to this cruise and you know, where there’s this debate, do we go, do we not go?

And we struggled with that a little bit. And I honestly felt we need to go. And our friends were very concerned that we wouldn’t, really wanted us to go. Just please enjoy it, enjoy it for all of us, that kind of a thing. And so we ended up going and you can’t get on, I understand right now, we’re seeing, oh, a cruise? You know, this was just two weeks. Well, in fact, no, we just got off the cruise last weekend. So it’s not all that far back, and never seeing the CDC, you shouldn’t be on cruises right now and all, okay. It’s just so much stuff, but we really felt we needed to go and wanted to go. But you have to, the day that you get on you have to pass a test that can show you don’t have COVID, you have to mask up on the ship unless you’re in your room or up on deck and that kind of thing.

And you’re just very nervous because all the time and money and it just, oh, do you pass these tests? And it turned out, quite a number of people, either to weather related events or positive tests, ended up not getting on the ship. I mean, it was pretty significant and Disney doesn’t fill these ships up. Some of the other carriers have canceled ships, they were really filling them up, Disney just thankfully hasn’t done that. So, they were able to sail and we ended up having a very interesting experience, which is what I want to share a little bit about what happened. So we managed to get on, felt great about that. You kind of settle in and right out of the bat, the very first day, so we haven’t even left port yet, you kind of hang out in the ship till everybody boards, you have a nice evening, but a lot of the tech didn’t work and there were all kinds of problems.

So on the onboard tech, just getting all the information you need, because it’s all, there’s no more paper anymore. Here’s your tickets for your meals or here’s, it’s all on the mobile app and for some crazy reason that wasn’t working. So all of us are trying to figure out what’s up and it just, you’re off to this start this like, okay, okay. And we sail out, beautiful evening, sailing out. And captain comes on and says, well, overnight the wind’s going to pick up, next day we’re going to get into some high seas and we’re going to sail for two days. Well, we did sail for two days out, we were going out to the British Virgin islands.

And so, two days at sea and boy, some really high seas, a lot of wind, a lot of rocking. Even the staff, and these people are always on the ocean, are stumbling around trying to serve dinner, or just walk down, taking care of whatever they were doing, cleaning rooms and on and on. And everybody started talking about, the captain had a little too much tequila maybe, and just kind of trying to make light of it, but it was a rough sail. You know, now both my wife and I we’ve sailed a number of times over the years and I wouldn’t say we have our sea legs, but neither of us were seasick or anything like that. But I would be lying, we didn’t see it’s not a little uncomfortable. You just don’t feel quite right.

So that was kind of, wow, but it’s an experience. And a lot of people were responding that experience like, oh, geez, this is no fun, this isn’t going to… Complain, complain, complain. And you know, if you’ve heard some of my other podcasts, I’m not a complainer. It doesn’t get you anywhere. You know, it’s not like Disney controls mother nature and can just wave a little magic wand or throw some pixie dust and calm those seas. It is what it is. If you sail in the Caribbean in the middle of winter, this is not unexpected.

So, some other things that happened, after we got to Tortola, and there was some time to enjoy. We actually went over to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. That’s just a very interesting, unique rock formation. Just awesome. Then we were to sail to St. Thomas. Well, on the way to St. Thomas, getting crazy seas, couldn’t go into St. Thomas, partly because the COVID numbers in St. Thomas were too high and the Disney organization said we don’t want to risk that with all of you, so, we’re going to skip St Thomas and go straight to the Disney, private island, a place called Castaway. And again, some strong winds, but we get there and heck, got there overnight. We stay on the ship, but it was an interesting experience just to have this night on a private island, out in the middle of nowhere.

Well, that was actually in the Bahamas, but, it’s a very, just an interesting experience. Again, lot of wind, lot of wind, they said actually had we gotten to Castaway Key, which is Disney’s private island when we were supposed to, we wouldn’t have been able to dock the wind was just too strong. So again, temperatures are cool, all of the, if you will, excursions that were to occur for everybody, us included on, guess we had to be canceled due to high winds and high seas. And course you’re not out there lying on an 80 degree beach and enjoying the sun, having a Mai Tai or something, that’s not what this experience was.

So again, kind of crazy. Now making matters worse, our first night we got into Castaway about a half a day before we were supposed to and so that evening, you could get out and spend a little time on the island, we went to dinner. And my wife had a gift that our best friend who was dealing with these heart issues had given her a number of years ago, and she thought she left it at the restaurant for dinner. And, we walked out we thought, get it the next night. Go back to dinner the next night, as an aside, and the sweater wasn’t there. They’d never seen, so this sweater’s gone. We are also on the island the next day, trying to enjoy it a little bit, the Disney private island. And, you go out with your ship and I take my cell phone, you have your driver’s license, both of our driver’s license in it, and, what they call these little cards, key cards, that they sort of get you on and off the ship. It’s sort of the ship ID. And I lost my phone and both our driver’s license and my documentation to get back on the ship and my glasses and all this stuff.

So I will share, are you getting the gist of what this trip was like? Lots of winds, strongs, this is not what you expect, you lose your driver’s license, you lose a very expensive smartphone, some very good pair of glasses, a special sweater, on and on and on. And it’s very tempting to sit here and say, man, this was a crazy bad trip. We shouldn’t have gone, and all of that. Now I intentionally told you sort of the crazy stuff. Now I want to back up and tell you another side to this story.

When we got to Tortola earlier in this trip, you pull in, was beautiful, beautiful morning. Finally, we’re in a little bit of calm sea, because partly you’re just in the islands and you pull in a little, port area and immediately we’re ready.

You get off, we’re going to go on this excursion, get on another little boat and go over to the Virgin Gorda and see the Baths. And that really was a cool experience. But as soon as we step off the ship, it starts raining and it’s just like, you got to be kidding me. And we were talking to a younger couple behind us who had a few children and they’re very, very fun, pleasant family. And I looked up and there’s a, right over the heart of downtown, you could not have done this more perfectly, there’s a beautiful double rainbow. And the guy behind us, we’re kind of putting this like, your kids can look at this, and truly an extraordinary moment. My wife would say, we should take a picture. I said, Nope, this is one there’s not even enough time. You’re never going to catch it, enjoy the moment. The guy behind says, how does Disney do it? It just was an incredible, incredible moment.

So then we went on and, stopped raining, by the time we got over to Virgin Gorda and we had, I had a nice time come back and get back on the ship and get back out in the heavy seas. And so, but there was that. So, the next day we’re to go to, again, St. Thomas and they said, not going in, so we’re just going to keep sailing and we’re going to stay in some rough seas, but we’ll have this day and hopefully we’ll be able to get into Castaway, the Disney island. Rain, blowing wind, and I mean, some serious wind, all us throughout most of the trip, really crazy wind. My wife and I get up and we’re up, sort of the front of the ship. And there’s not a lot of people up there because it’s cold, it’s windy and people are trying to enjoy themselves at quieter parts of the ship.

Incredible rainbows, doubles and you could actually see the light coming toward us, almost touching the ship. I mean, it just looked, and you could see through and see the water and then it would go way back out and you could see through and see the horizon. I’ve never had an experience like that before, just seeing these rainbows. And it just, again, we’ve actually tried, you can’t, to even try to take a photo of that would destroy it. You’re never going to capture it. And this is a moment you just appreciate what’s there.

So let me tell you, about the phone and the driver’s license. I got to tell you, I tried to handle that pretty well. You know, I’m not one that just gets crazy and angry and frustrated. You do what you can do to try to find it, we couldn’t find it. And thankfully in spite of not having my pass, if you will, to get back on the ship, we did have Cathy’s and they can pull us up and basically we had to pull up some photos and verify it’s us and all that. And we explained what happened and yeah.

So, I’m back on the ship anyway, I’m thinking, okay, so you go up and you just report this and maybe somebody will find it. Maybe, they won’t. So, we report it and you go to dinner and we’re also hoping to find Cathy’s sweater that we thought we had left at dinner the night before, wasn’t there, never saw it. So we’re both, not feeling too happy about all this. And it’s just, you enjoy your meal as much as you can. And afterwards we go down to guest services and it turns out somebody had turned in my phone, glasses, driver’s license, everything’s there.

And you know, I tell you that feels good. And we decided, well, let’s just walk around. Now this entire day it had been raining off and on, lot of wind, et cetera. And we’re up on the top of the ship, it’s still drizzling, some good wind, but you know, this is the crazy things my wife and I do, get out and walk around and just try to get a little fresh air. And I walk by a nice sort of wooden thing on this ship, it’s where they collect the garbage and things, and it has a top to it and there’s this… And the light was very funky, just yellow lights and things. And there’s just what appears to be white, something hanging over this thing. And I looked at that and I said, ah, what is this?

And I’m just, I truly was just curious about it. And my wife, and I sort of pick it up and I’m like, what is this? And she just goes, oh my God, that’s my sweater. And it was dry, but it was sitting outside. You know, whether somebody just put it there, or we think, probably she sat it down the night before because we were watching some fireworks on the ship. And, but again, it couldn’t have sat out all day, first off, the wind, it never would, night and day, it wouldn’t have stayed there, and it rained heavily most of the night and off and on throughout the day. So, what happened to this sweater? And there it is in perfect condition, ever so slightly damp. Because it was just sitting, I don’t know how long, and you sit and say, this is just crazy. This is just crazy.

So what is my point to all of this? Well, we could choose to focus on all that was going wrong. All that wasn’t picture perfect. Or we could choose to roll with the sea, roll with the punches and just make the best of it. I can replace a sweater, I don’t like the hassle, but I could replace our driver’s license and a phone’s just a phone.

I’m not going in to have my heart valve repaired, in a couple of days. Life’s pretty good. So, we came back from this cruise and shared some of the stories, the good, the bad, and some other things I haven’t even shared, it just was a wild time. And our friend that is going into surgery just got such a kick out of hearing about this. It brought her such joy and such pleasure. And she says, you know what happened to you two? And I said, well, I don’t know what? She says, you experienced several God winks. And I love that language, that struck a chord with me. It kind of helped put all this in perspective, you know, and this isn’t about, being deeply religious or anything you could just as easily say life has winked. And it’s just a way to focus, to draw the focus of the experience, to the right thing.

My wife and I will forever remember what it felt like to see these two extraordinary rainbow events. And I’ve seen rainbows off and on my whole life, I’ll tell you, I’ve seen some really awesome things. These two, nothing like it. It was just, you just have to stop and catch your breath for a minute. It’s a God wink. It’s a life wink. So, that’s kind of my story, the takeaway and I think the reason I wanted to share all this is things happen in life. Some things are small, like losing a phone with some driver’s license, and some things are big, life changing, like having to go in and have your heart, your chest opened up and a valve, hopefully repaired. And you know, this is, wow.

So, I try to keep perspective. And I think when things happen, we need to think about how significant is this and what does it really mean? And, life’s too short, life’s too precious. So I want to say to all of you, first off when bad things or stressful things and crazy things and unexpected things happen, try to keep it in perspective and understand life’s short, but also look for the God winks. I truly believe more and more, and just the older I get that they’re there. We just got to look for them. We need to listen to our life. And maybe that’s a way to keep having the energy to move forward, to keep taking the next step. Maybe it’s also a way to appreciate what we have, what we’re blessed with, but also, I encourage you to say, even though, hey it’s been a long, crazy year and all sorts of things, and there’s all kinds of reasons not to take a trip, not to prioritize yourself, not to have a little time with a support system that is so important in your life.

So, I’m referring obviously to my wife in my situation, even in the middle of winter, when it can be crazy, it’s really worth, wow, prioritizing yourself and taking a little time to seek nourishment, to do something to take this break from work and all these other routines. Yeah. It may be crazy. Yeah. I don’t know what happens, but I’m open to the experience. And again, just, I can’t tell you how important this is to me.

This was such a major event in terms of, and I just loved her language, it’s a God wink. Looking for those, and recognizing the real value. So, that’s my story. It’s a different situation you’re in and there’s nothing risk management here other than, you, again, prioritizing taking care of yourself. That’s always an issue and a topic for me, but I hope you found something of value with this tale of mine. And I hope maybe it might enable you at times to be more open, to looking for those winks now and again, and that that may be meaningful for you as well. So, that’s it. Thanks for listening. Have a good one all.


ALPS In Brief Podcast Intro/Outro Music: Walk In The Park by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.





Since 1998, Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, an attorney’s professional liability insurance carrier. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1200 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented over 600 continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States, and written extensively on risk management, ethics, and technology. Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the State Bar of Montana as well as the American Bar Association where he currently sits on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Conference Planning Committee. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School.

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