Thursday, March 1, 2012

Title: Cliff Jumping, Then and Now

I’ve never liked heights, and I’m not particularly fond of cold water. So, I can’t explain my first jump off a forty-foot cliff into the Green River Gorge. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it. In fact, as I was dropping toward the water, my only thought was, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”

But love sometimes makes you do bold, crazy things.

By that day, in 1973, I’d already spent a long time trying to convince this beautiful, petite blond that she could afford the time to go out on a date with me. It hadn’t been easy; she was studying for her board exams. An extraordinary woman, she was someone I could picture myself marrying. So, on our first date together, when a mutual friend challenged us to jump off the cliff, and she agreed, I couldn’t say no. 

When I hit the water, I hurt from the bottom of my feet all the way to the top of my head. I swam downstream and dragged myself onto the warm rocks by the side of the river, (giving enthusiastic, though silent, thanks for surviving the drop). I had no trouble saying no to a second jump. The only good thing to come of that day was my relationship with the cliff jumper; Raelene and I fell in love and married two years later.

Surprisingly, it was years before we discovered that neither of us wanted to make that first jump. We’d done it for one another!

Though I’ve never repeated that Green River adventure, Raelene and I have been jumping cliffs ever since. With wild faith we made wedding vows, moved to Chicago, went to graduate school, and started our family. With the same abandon, we moved back to Puyallup, opened Smiles by Sutherland and expanded our family.

Professionally, I’ve continued to jump off cliffs. I’ve pioneered new techniques, tried new office models and most recently, brought Dr. Ethan Larson in to meet the growing needs of my patients. Today, as you read this, I’m jumping off yet another cliff.

I’m refocusing our blog.

While Orthodontics is my passion, it may not be yours. But we have this in common: We love our kids. We want to be the best parents we can. After raising five children of my own, I know how hard parenting can be.

Parents struggle with finances, with marriage, with their own careers, and at the same time, they are expected to be this perfect model of great parenting. We hear it from the radio, the TV and the pulpit – a boatload of high expectations that don’t always translate to the real world of bills, and conflicts and time crunch. So, here’s a blog just for you.

We hope you enjoy the new focus. And, we hope that you’ll want to share it with those you love. We have a contest associated with the new blog. You can read more about it on our February 24th article entitled, “Cha-cha-cha-changes.”

On this blog, I won’t load you down with instructions or expectations. Rather, like Solomon, I hope to give you little bits of wisdom and encouragement, from one old dad to another. Occasionally, Dr. Ethan Larson will share some of his life experiences as well. We hope you get to know us better -- yes as orthodontists-- but also as men and fathers.

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. You need all the encouragement you can get.  Perhaps I can help. I’ll be posting weekly; but the real fun comes when you participate. Be sure to chime in with your own advice, frustration, or information. Even this ol’ grandpa could use some new tricks!


  1. I love this story! Never had heard it before! But I really love the picture of the two of you! Raelene really looks the same and your hair is just a little different now! :) Excited to read more!

  2. And I'll be commenting here because I like what I read, not for the contest. We live too far away now :(! But what an amazing contest it is!!!!

  3. Oh Angela, we're delighted that you like what you read. We WELCOME your comments. Distance doesn't matter, where hearts are connected!

  4. I agree- such a cute love story!

    All throughout our lives we have to continue to "jump off cliffs" to get to new places. We can't let fear hold us back from where we are supposed to go and what we are supposed to do. A true satisfacation comes from taking that jump and the doors that are opened up as a result :)