It’s Spring Again

20140423_182444-PANOLet’s be honest:  It was a really long winter.

Record-breaking snowfall.  Teeth-chatterinly cold.  An unending deep-freeze.  A ever-lasting blast of ice.

It was beginning to feel as if the season of would never end.  Even as the spring daffodils poked their delicate flowers out of the ground and the tulips began to bud, another dose of snow hit Central Indiana with one-last attempt to make its presence known.

Yet, spring eventually poked through: The trees push out new leaves.  The grass turns brilliant green and thick.  The birds collect nesting materials and proclaim the arrival of warmth from high atop spruce perches.  It is glorious.

It is finally spring.  The long winter is over.  We should celebrate.

Ups and Downs

20140105_151935Here’s what I’ve seen in the past weeks:

  • One friend lost her job.
  • One friend received a promotion.
  • One marriage is falling apart.
  • One unborn child died.
  • One friend has rectal cancer.
  • One friend had surgery for prostate cancer.
  • One friend lost his father.
  • Sunny and warm days can turn into winter wonderlands overnight.
  • Dark times are always, always followed by sunny days.

And here’s what I’ve learned as a result of all this:

  • Life and health are frail.
  • Marriages are hard.
  • Winter wonderlands are beautiful…if only for a few days.
  • Life always ends in death.
  • In between birth and death, we make the most of every moment or we don’t…it’s our choice.

What will I learn next week?

A Preferred View

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow is it possible that just two weeks ago I was standing on white beaches at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.  How is it possible that just fourteen days ago I watched dolphins play alongside our tour boat?

An even more relevant question:  How is it possible that we are back in Indiana and under a winter storm warning today?

Something isn’t right about this picture!  It’s true, we escaped the winter to find the warmth.  I needed a break.  I mean, I love Indiana in the spring, summer and fall.  I actually enjoy Indiana in the winter.  I have fun in the cold and the snow…and it is nice to experience a change of seasons.

But any time you come close to breaking the historical record for the most snow in a season, a person’s heart and mind longs for the warm Gulf waters.

While I’m watching snow fall gently from the sky and cover my Indiana back yard, in my mind’s eye I’m seeing sleek aquatic mammals slide through the warm, shimmering light reflecting off emerald green waters.

I like that view much better!

Taking Out The Trash

cropped-austins-acre-sunrise-barn1.jpgLet’s be honest.  This was a week of crazy.  This was a work week of stupid.

In just three short days in the office I dealt with a liar and a thief and a couple very smart people without an ounce of ethics in their bones.  I was trapped in my office as people went on 30-minute rants about their drives to work, the conditions of the roads and the stupid people who drive them.  I suffered a man who seems to desire nothing more than making his girlfriend uncomfortable with his choices, his humor and his selfish desires.  I tolerated a woman who finds joy in making her coworkers’ lives miserable by assigning meaningless tasks.  I endured another woman who needed action on a project immediately, resulting in hours of work on my part only to find that she meant her 32 emails to go to someone else and their project.

It was a banner week.  One for the books.  And I can guarantee you’ve had one just like in the past…And will have one just like it in the future.  People can get under our skin.  Their constant droning can ring in our ears like the 7-year locust on a hot summer day.

However, I’ve discovered a new trick to avoid the annoying buzz they bring:  I let them carry out whatever they’ve carried in; not literally, of course, but in my own mind’s eye I see them hauling out the hubris.  What I do is this:  As they talk, blab, drone, blather and complain, I grab a notepad and I scribble down their story.  I record their rant.  I compose their confession.  I draft their droning.  I write their rant.

It’s like taking notes in a meeting…only a lot more fun.  I don’t write entire sentences but only jot key words, central themes and great quotes.  And when they leave, I throw it away. I simply toss it in the trash. I crumple the complaints. I destroy the diatribe.  I shred the sound off.  I trash their tirade.  When they leave the room, they take their garbage with them and I eliminate the evidence.

I don’t allow them to leave their emotional litter.  I pick up their piles of poisoned passion and I sweep away the sour sentiments.

Imagine a day in your life when you are not side-tracked by crazy.  Imagine a time when another person’s philippic doesn’t become your own internal struggle.  Imagine living life free from other peoples’ problems. This is one way to clear your desk and your mind and get back to the things that matter most.

Try it next week.  It just might work as well for you as it does for me!

 

Winter Wonder

I stood in our bedroom and bemoaned the fact that the extreme cold has created a layer of frost on our window, preventing me from looking out upon the freshly fallen snow in our back yard.  As I squinted through the frost on the window, the beauty of winter’s wonder became evident at a distance of a mere two inches.

What appears to be landscapes painted by an impressionists brush are, in truth, the ice formations on our bedroom window.  The colors are formed from the beautiful sunlight reflecting off the neighbor’s house and our own landscape.

These are unexpected winter gems and I look forward to capturing a few more ice still life’s before the deep freeze is over.

Resolving to Revolutionize My Life

WWLHappy New Year!  This is it.  This is the one.  This is the year when everything changes:  You will make and save more money than ever before.  You will loose those last (or first) ten pounds.  You will find a meaningful hobby.  You will volunteer in a way that changes lives.  You will fix up the house, get a new wardrobe and read War & Peace.

This is the year that you climb the mountain of apathy, plant the flag of determination and take the stance of self-assurance.

This is your year and nothing will change your mind.  You will set your sail, stay the course and find new adventures over every horizon.

Or…you won’t.  You might just stay the same…or worse.

You might make less money and spend it foolishly.  You might blow up like a human balloon because you can’t control your eating and your emotions.  You might live a year of sloth; no hobby, no meaningful service, or no home repairs.  You just might sit around in Cheetos-stained t-shirts watching reruns of Happy Days wishing you were as cool as the Fonz.

Instead of blazing new trails, you are afraid to mow your own yard.  Instead of leading the charge into a life of adventure, you cuddle under your Harry Potter Snuggie in the dark of night.

This is it.  This is your year.  And it could go either way.  Which one will you select?

Icing On The Cake

Happy BirthdayMy mother-in-law celebrated a big milestone a couple of weeks ago and we joined her this week to make it official.  We lit the candles, sang the required song and clapped loudly when she blew them out all with one breath.

In the weeks leading up to the big party, Joan said something that I think warrants a place in the Words of Wisdom Hall of Fame.  As she discussed her 80th birthday she made the comment, “Every day after 80 years is just icing on the cake.”

This is truth, especially if you are turning 80.  But I would also say that the icing is good every day after your 30th birthday, 40th birthday or your 362nd day after your 49th birthday.  The icing is spread thickest when we celebrate each and every day, no matter the number of years that precede it.

Life is best when lived to its fullest without any regrets.  Happy Birthday, Joan and many, many more days of icing to you!

It’s Not Really Saying Goodbye…

20131227_124950 If you’ve ever met them, you know that John and Pam are two people who exude talent and live gentle lives of passion and grace.  They are creative people who are fully committed to one another, God and their cats (but not in that order).

John and Pam have a calling to make movies that change lives.  They’ve worked hard to accomplish this monumental vision in Indiana and in the process, they’ve proven their skill and have been most successful in their en devour.

20131227_124935However, after 17 years in Indiana, they’ve decided to pull up stakes and take their talent on the road.  By next month they will begin a new adventure in their lives.  Before they could begin, they had to accomplish an even harder task of packing and moving.  They are special people and I was happy to help them but sad to say goodbye.

20131227_105218And so, the packing started early this morning, and in the span of three short hours a team of dedicated friends packed every one of their worldly belongings into a very large trailer.  It wasn’t an easy task: It required a little pushing, a little prodding and a little gymnastics.  However, shortly after noon we closed the door on the trailer and started saying our goodbyes.

As I drove away from their former home, it occurred to me that saying goodbye didn’t feel quite right.  It really isn’t saying goodbye; it’s more like see you later.  This realization gave me comfort.  After all, they are leaving Indiana but not my life.  They are not out of my life, only relocated.  They are not out of touch, only out of state.

And so, I drove home with a lightened heart, knowing my friends are pursuing their calling and it will only be a matter of days before they are settled into their new home and changing the world, one movie at a time.  We’ll talk again, I have no doubt;  and when we do, I can’t wait to hear how they got that couch out of the truck without a group of circus acrobats and an industrial crowbar.

Twas the Night Before the Night Before the Night Before Christmas

My family enjoys getting together.  Brothers, Sisters, Aunts, Uncles, Parents and Children all gather to celebrate Christmas.  The ever-growing clutch expanded enough over the years to warrant the rental of a Hall.  Tables, chairs, a mini-kitchen and no clean up required:  A deal we couldn’t refuse.

From the Austin Family; Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Decades Past, Christmas Present

20131214_080155Created in 1973, Shrinky Dinks were a marvel of science and crafts.  For our family, a year later, they were the makings of some very cool Christmas ornaments.  We were always on the cutting edge of Craftiness.

At the time I made this plastic ornament, it seemed wrong to shove Santa into a scalding hot oven, but the results were as magical as the Old Man himself.  And now I cannot imagine Christmas without it!  I’ve carried this little faceless Santa Claus with me for nearly four decades.  It is the only ornament I have from my childhood and it means so very much to me.  At 10-years of age, it was one of my greatest works of art and the fact that it has survived half-a-dozen moves, 39 different Christmas Trees, and my family’s mockery proves its resilience.

I have that same feeling about Christmas:  Commercialism, antagonism and skepticism will not alter the joy I get from this time of year.  It is not just a holiday for children; Christmas is a time off celebration.  It is, in the words of Kevin’s mother as she tries to get back to Chicago, “The Season of Perpetual Hope!”

I hope, on this day, you will remember a season in your life when things were more simple, the sights and sounds more vibrant, and the peace in your heart was pure and bubbling over.  I hope you can rediscover this same beautiful truth in your heart and life on this day, and all the days of this Christmas Season.

On the 14th Day of Christmas…

20131214_065644As I prepared to write this little story, I did so thinking that I would scribble something about the first day of a new Christmas Season; the first of the 12 Days of Christmas. But research (Wikipedia) indicates that my knowledge of all things Christmas is off by 12 whole days!  In fact, I’m nearly two weeks early for this seasonal favorite.

The Festival actually starts on December 25th and ends with Christmastide on the evening of January 5.  While I thought I was celebrating the Christmas Season, what I discovered is that I’m actually hanging out in Advent:  Day 14, to be exact.

But here’s the beauty of my miscalculation:  We now have an additional 12 days of the Christmas season.  So, leave up the fake Christmas tree!  Don’t tear down those stockings hung by the chimney with care!  Cut another piece of Aunt Ruth’s Fruitcake!  The celebration continues!

However, until I’m told differently, I’m going to make the most of the days we have leading up to the 25th.  I will enjoy the snow.  It isn’t the lovely seven inches promised/predicted by panicky weather forecasters, but heavy wet blanket of a couple inches.  It covers the ground and drips from the tree branches.  It makes every light sparkle with new beauty.

I will celebrate the innocence of Buddy the Elf.

I will crank the tunes on my Spotify Christmas Play List (now up to 1,147 songs).  Feel free to follow the play list:  Austin’s Acre Christmas List.  It will put your heart into a festive mood!

I will drink eggnog till I burst!

I will take advantage of Mistletoe every chance I can get!

Why?  Because I just discovered that the Christmas Season just extended another 12 days…That’s why!

A Call to Action

Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth,

Last night was cold.  While I slept warm and snug in my bed, there were people sleeping on the streets, under bridges and in doorways:  People in this very town slept under the stars and exposed to the winter chill.  They are unknown to me.  They are a problem for some government agency to fix.  They are people who would benefit from a program of some sort.

I’m praying today because I realize that these people are not unknown to you.  You know them by name.  If they matter to you, they should matter to me.  If they are precious in your sight, they should be precious in my own.

And so I pray that you will lead me to action.  Guide me to caring.  May I know how to act on your behalf before another blanket of bone chilling cold settles this night.

I pray.

AMEN.

A Few of My Favorite People

Occasionally I take pictures.  But every so often, I am able to capture true portraits.  Here are some pretty nice shots of my family from Thursday’s gathering.