A Big Night for Ben

I’m so very proud of my son.

This was a great way to end his high school band career.  He was given the opportunity to spend time along side amazing and talented teachers and I am so thankful all those who made it possible.  It will be an experience that he will never forget.

Location, Location, Location

IMG_3959
The Dogwood is now one of the most beautiful ornamental trees in our yard each spring.

Several years ago I purchased a Dogwood tree for my wife’s Mother’s Day present.  She was thrilled as it is one of her favorites.  We planted the little sprout in the front corner of our yard, hoping that one day it would be the show piece of our yard.

Despite following the instructions for planting and care, the little tree failed to grow.  It never looked like it was going to die but after its second year without flowers and any sign of growth, I went to our local garden center.

I explained the situation and the wise gardener behind the counter asked one, simple question.

“Is it planted on the south-east corner of your house in full sun?” he asked with a slight squint of his eyes.

Now, I’m a pretty smart guy but I had to stop and think of where the sun set and the direction I drove to work before I could answer his question.  When I confirmed that this, in fact, was the location of the tree, he answered with confidence.

“They hate to be exposed.  They like to be tucked back in the protection of your house or other trees.  You need to move it to the north-east corner of your lot.”

And so I took his advice and moved the little shrub, hoping that I didn’t wait too long.  I tucked it back behind the house, near our pine tree.  It now lives in

And here is the thing:  The very next year we saw flowers for the first time.  The year after that, we had new growth sprouting from its branches.  Each year brought more exciting changes to the little tree.  This year is it’s best ever.  The limbs are filled with full, bright flowers.  There are many new shoots poking out in all directions just waiting for the day that leaves will provide a fantastic canopy of shade.

As I took in the amazing blooms yesterday, I realized that we are a lot like this old Dogwood.  Some of us thrive when we are in the spot light.  There are those of us who prefer to stand out, bold and loud.  But there are some of us who do best when we can be out of the public view, most beautiful when we are left to our own devices.  Growing best when we are tucked into a safe place, rarely noticed until we are in full bloom.

What location do you prefer?  Where should you be planted?  Where do you produce your most beautiful flowers?

Up Close and Personal

Museums, aquariums, and arboretums allow us the wonderful opportunity to get closer to things we usually view from a distance.  But we enjoy the experience only if we will open our eyes to what surrounds us.

Rare BirdWhen you pay attention to the detail, you see things differently.  Typically, we view a sky full of black dots and see nothing more than a few black birds flying high overhead.  But when one lands next to you, perches on the branch close to your bench, you are suddenly face-to-face with one, lone bird and it changes your perspective for ever.  Bird SongIf you look closely, you will witness the gloss and shine of individual feathers.  When you lean closer, you make eye contact.  The eyes watch you warily.  The head cocks, the beak opens and a song erupts, bright and loud.  You are privileged to hear the amazing sound of of an individual song, sung at a pitch and volume that awakens the soul and enlivens the heart.

Yellow TangWhen you are intentional in your viewing, you no longer see a pond as just another body of water.  Instead, it is teaming with life that longs to be examined.  If you pay attention, you see new colors and fantastic brilliance.  You witness life interacting with life.  clown fishYou celebrate the vibrancy of the patterns and the magical movement that is as fluid as the medium containing this fantastic show.

I so enjoy the close-up view.  The experience is a gentle reminder of the need to take this same approach with the people in our lives.  We would benefit from looking at our brothers and sisters in the same way we examine a magpie or a clown fish.  Those co-workers who share our 40-hour work week rarely receive a closer look.  We’re continent to see them from the 10,000 foot level, keeping their unique lives as distant from our own as possible.

102_3782We rarely listen to the songs they sing, view the colors of their lives that make them unique, or understand the stories that make them one-of-a-kind.

It’s an unfortunate reality of our life together.  There are so many wonders in this world and some of them, our neighbors, our coworkers and friends, are closer than we can imagine.  We would see them all in a whole new way…if only we would open our eyes.

Never Enough Space Food

Hundreds of space ice cream packets line the shelves of Space Center, Houston.
Hundreds of space ice cream packets line the shelves of Space Center, Houston.

As a young boy, I had a strong desire to be an astronaut.  There were two very important parts of the space program that had an impact on my desire:  Tang and Space Ice Cream.

A visit to Space Center, Houston didn’t do anything to reduce that desire.

Standing in the gift shop, looking at cheesy t-shirts and coffee mugs, I came upon my muse and stood there, mouth agape.  Row upon row of space ice cream stood there, taunting me; calling me to don a space helmet and do the moon walk.

I have a good life.  My dog loves me.  My family understands me.  My job is challenging.  My coworkers are entertaining.  But, as I stood there, gazing at the sweets, I realized I would give it all up for the opportunity to drink the orangery, sugary Tang and eat that powdery, sugary ice cream and bounce along the lunar surface.  And in that moment, I determined that I would look for the nearest astronaut recruiting station.  There HAD to be one in this fun-house/museum.

But before I walked out of the gift shop, I realized I could just buy a pouch of the astronomic confection.

It’s that level of critical thinking of which NASA would have benefited.  Thankfully for my dog and family, $6 kept me on the ground for now.

The Start of Something Good

Houston Sunrise 2013.03.31Every so often you need a break.

This week will be one of those breaks as my son and his best friend and I travel to Houston, Texas for six days of fun.

We’ll see the Space Center (Thanks Katie).  We’ll experience the Aquarium.  We’ll be terrified by the traffic and thankful for green grass and flowers already blooming in March.

Most of all, my son and his friend will be thankful for their time with on-line friends seen face-to-face for the first time.  That’s really the reason we are here in the deep south.

My joy is found in getting to spend time with two great young men for six warm, sunny days.

We all need a break from time to time.  But the break doesn’t always require travel to distant places.  In fact, there are times when the break can be as simple as finding a respite during the hectic day, discovering a quiet evening during our busy week, experiencing time with dear friends that renews and rejuvenates our souls, rekindles our spirits, refreshes our souls.

What will you do this week to enjoy a break?  Will you attend a yoga class?  Will you enjoy a cup of tea in a quiet corner of your house?  Will you go for a short walk away from your desk?  Pet a dog?  Listen to a child laugh?  Marvel at a sunrise or sunset?

What will you do for a break?

 

Why Church? Oh, Yeah! That’s Why!

IMG_3541[1]A few days ago I asked the question, “Why church?”  The question was specifically asked in an effort to think about the purpose of our weekly gatherings.

Several folks gave their opinions on this question and I really appreciate the insights.  Interestingly, there was a common theme among those responses:  The worst part of church is the people who sit in the pews.  But one of the best parts of church can actually be the people who sit in the pews.

When we are at our worst, we repel those who seek acceptance and love.

When we are at our best, we can love one another into the presence of God.

Earlier this week I attended a service at my church that truly challenged my tainted view of the church.  On a cold Monday night, more than 1000 people came together to do two important things:  They sang and they prayed.

There was no other agenda.  There was no sermon.  There was no offering.  There was no drama, video or skit.  In the 90 minutes of this service, people of every shape, size, religious background and spiritual flavor huddled around the auditorium to pray for others.  They prayed for healing.  They prayed for family.  They prayed for strength.

But most of all, they did did church right.

And when I left that service, I was reminded that church is about communion with others in the presence of God.  Church is about serving those in need.  Church is about finding direction and following the path.

Sure, people can ruin the dream.  But that can be said for anything; whether the office, the playground or the sanctuary.

But church doesn’t have to be about people.  In fact, it should never be about the people.

And that’s the real answer to my original question, isn’t it?

Monday, Again?

IMG_3477I receive regular updates for my computer.  I don’t ask, they simply show up.  Which is nice, because if it were up to me, I wouldn’t remember to check and install these needed additions to my system.

They require that I close down my system and await the software.  Sometimes it takes a matter of seconds to receive the newest version.  Other times, it takes many, many minutes.

The updates are an effort to fix bugs, plug holes and protect my equipment and information.  They are designed to increase performance and decrease problems.

My computer is similar to my own heart and mind.  In truth, we all need to update our internal software from time to time.  Too often, we ignore the need to check our mental programs that run from day to day.  We don’t question our words, our thoughts, our actions.  We simply turn on at the beginning of the day and run the same programs we’ve been using for many years.

Some of us run the same mental operating system that we had in place when we left high school.  We aren’t any different from the 18 year old who walked across the high school stage to receive a diploma.  We still party hard, live hard, and look hard.

Others ran an upgrade when our first child was born. Suddenly, a small life needed us to step up our game and our prior way of operating wasn’t going to work.

A few of us made the change to a newer version during a major life event like the death of a parent or spouse.

Even with these occasional upgrades, our mental security still has gaps, bugs, flaws and we need to run a scan from time to time to ensure optimum performance.

For instance, how are you responding to your coworkers and friends?  Are you receiving their input with grace and charm?  Or are you failing to listen, quickly reacting without understanding all the situation?

What about your children?  When they enter the room, are you turning off the TV, the radio, the mental processes that run constantly in your mind?  Do you talk to them when they are present or is the background noise of your life drowning out the more important conversations that need to occur?

Does your spouse need your attention?

Does your dog need a walk?

Do you think more negative thoughts than positive?

What is the condition of your mind and heart?  Is it time for an upgrade?

Perhaps it is time for a internal check, a system scan, a review of your operating system.  Perhaps it is time to upgrade to a new and better you.

For some, it will take only a quick check.  For others, it might demand an entire re-boot.

Either way, I bet it’s time to upgrade to a new you.

 

A Little Fixer-Upper

IMG00066My wife and I play a little game.  We look for houses that might be interesting to buy.  We’re never serious, we just point out homes that have “For Sale” signs in their front yard.  As we note their sign, we also determine whether or not we would be interested in moving into the home.  These decisions are based on several important factors, including location, style of home, the materials used in construction, and the effort needed to make them livable.

Some homes require a touch of paint or some concrete work to make them habitable.  Several are beyond repair.  Occasionally we view a home that might work as-is, but this is a rare occurrence.

Sometimes we drive through very nice neighborhoods; perfect neighborhoods, with beautiful tree-lined streets, boasting  million-dollar homes.  Its on these drives that my funny, funny wife will point out the window and say, “There’s a little fixer-upper.”  And we just Laaaaaugh!

Last night a friend of ours mentioned buying into one of the newest ideas in home ownership:  No or Low Maintenance Homes.  In case you’ve never heard of these, allow me to explain.  If you are smart enough to move your worldly belongings into one of these fashionable dwellings, you benefit from the fact that you will never have to mow the yard, weed the flowerbeds, shovel the walks or paint the walls.  You don’t have to repair the roof, replace the siding or point-tuck the bricks.  This is the kind of living every home owner dreams of, right?

But here’s the rub:  There is no such thing as a no maintenance home.  Every home, every single one, requires maintenance.  The marketing department for these abodes has done a great job in convincing you that it is the perfect home when, in reality, these residences are just like every other.  The difference is that someone else does the maintenance.  Someone else mows the yard, pulls the weeds, paints the walls.  The work is still required.  The difference is that the effort is someone else’s.

Maintenance is reality, whether you or someone else is doing the work.  It’s true of homes and its true of the reset of life.

Plants need watered, tended and trimmed.

Dogs need walked, groomed and loved.

Cars need gassed up, oil changed, and tuned.

Kids need food, clothes, shelter, money, more food and more clothes, more money…Actually, the kids’ list is endless.

There’s no way around it.  Everyone and everything needs maintenance.

If you wake up tomorrow (and I hope you do), you will need maintenance.  If you are like me, the first thing you do in the morning is to shuffle to the bathroom.  Maintenance.  Fix your morning coffee and eat a quick breakfast.  Maintenance.  Shower and shave.  Maintenance.  Everything we do is designed to maintain the bodies we inhabit, the homes in which we live, and the families we love.

Stop the maintenance and you won’t last long.  Ignore the maintenance and the domicile declines.  Increase the attention to the maintenance and the quality of the residence improves.

It’s true with your body, your family or that little fixer-upper you call home.

Living Life Large

Bath Time AdventureHere’s the deal:  Life is what you make it.  The Adventure is where you find it.

As a child, every bath is an under water adventure.  Every pine tree is a potential fort.  Every mud puddle a new discovery.  We find excitement in the every day.  We relish in the little things.  Why?

268I think part of the reason is that all things are new to us.  When you reach the age of 50, you’ve taken over 18,000 baths or showers (assuming you are fastidious about your hygiene).  At some point, there are no more grand discoveries below the bubbles.  But, is that really true?  Aren’t there always sea monsters lurking below the deep?  I propose there are just as many undiscovered treasures today as there were when we were three.  We simply stopped looking.

Our lives become regular acts of function.  Our activities, if they don’t serve a purpose are assigned to the column of “wasted time” or “foolish endeavors”.

Look at a 4-year-old as she walk down the sidewalk. Do they simply put one foot in front of the other?  Do they see this mode of transportation as nothing more than a means to take them from Point A to Point B?  NO!  They hop.  They skip.  They wander from one side of the pavement.  They intentionally splash the mud puddle.  They walk on the grass instead of the path laid out by grown ups.  It isn’t just a walk…It is a grand adventure.

When is the last time you watched your neighbor get their paper from the mailbox?  Did they hop to the curb, twirl around twice and reach into the box with a flourish?  Of course not.  They are too old for that kind of foolishness.

174Some of the happiest people I know are children because they see life as an adventure.  They go through each day with energy and pizazz.  And we could learn something from them.  Where we see yards that need mowed, they see a jungle that holds dangerous lions and exciting discoveries.  Where we see walks that need shoveled, they see a winter wonderland of fun and magic.  They look beyond the mundane and see the new and exciting.

I propose that we live this day to its fullest.  Today we strut with our heads held high, instead of walking with the weight of the world on our shoulders.  Today we sing our favorite song loudly and slightly off key when we are in the bath, instead of mindlessly performing our routine of wash, rinse, repeat.  Today we wear clothes that are garish and bright and do not match because we like them and for no other reason.

500If this is too much for you, start small.  Wear miss-matched socks.  Swing by GoodWill and find the ugliest tie you can buy for $1.99.  Wear your tennis shoes with your suit.  Sprint to the car and then hop up and down until your are out of breath.  Eat your toast…up-side-down!  (I know, whacky, right?)

Life is an Adventure.  Unfortunately, too many of us have stopped living it that way.  Instead of a great mountain climber, we’ve become an old retired Sherpa.  Instead of a deep see explorer, we’ve hung up our fins and snorkel.  It’s time to come out of retirement, if for no more than one day.  It’s time to get the gear down from the closet.  It’s time to make life grand again:  One hop, skip and jump at a time.

Can We Talk?

198709092168Did you hear?  Just between the two of us…  You won’t believe what I just heard…

These and many like them are phrases that kill:  They kill relationships.  They kill trust.  They kill integrity.  If you’ve said one of these before, or you’ve heard them coming from someone else, you know what I mean.

These words come from big mouths that have no filters.  They come from hearts that have no conscience.  They come from minds that have no intelligence.

These words are always about others and hardly ever about something good.  They burrow into the soul.  They leave a dark mark.  They have a foul odor.

These words represent gossip in its worst form.  They may be true or they may not.  They represent nothing more than slander.  They whisper shame.  They detail destruction.

These words are evil.  They come from bad intent.  They destroy careers.  They devastate families.

A person who begins a conversation with these words has a small mind and a cold heart.

The next time you hear those words, take action.

Did you hear?  – No, and I don’t want to.

Just between the two of us… – Just keep it to yourself.

You won’t believe what I just heard… – You are right.  I won’t so don’t even tell me.

 

 

 

 

Turning…Older

Close the box is a dice game in which you must roll the perfect combination to "close" all the numbers on your side.
Close the Box is a dice game in which you must roll the perfect combination to “close” all the numbers on your side.  It hardly ever happens.

I’m starting to come to a realization about life:  It’s one big Crap Shoot.

I don’t mean this in a negative way.  I mean that, in truth, life is nothing more than a roll of the dice.  You can be happy and healthy one minute and in the toss of the cubes, your life changes dramatically.  You can be working hard, paying your bills, involved in your community and then you get fired, laid off, injured, or sick.

You can plant seeds in the garden and the odds are that something will grow, but it isn’t a 100% guarantee.

You can teach your children to be responsible but their actions, ultimately are their own and you have no control.

You can keep your yard perfectly groomed but it doesn’t prevent the city from digging a ditch through your fescue.

Life is a Crap Shoot.  You roll the dice every morning that you wake up.  The outcome is out of your hands…But how you respond to the fall of the dice is another story entirely!

Four years ago, after standing in the sandwich line for 20 minutes, I blew up at the woman behind the counter when she informed me that they don’t sell half wrap sandwiches.  I ranted and raved.  I stormed away.  I made a scene.  In short, I was an ass.  Don’t ask why.  I have no idea why I acted that way.  I can venture a guess:  Stress, Frustration, Fatigue.  Any number of reasons come to mind:  Stupidity, Immaturity, Evil.

In what was the least important part of my day, I threw a temper tantrum.  I pouted like a four-year-old because they only sold WHOLE wraps and not HALF wraps.  The dice fell wrong.  Big deal.  But I reacted in a manner that was beyond inappropriate.  I hate to think how I would have acted if it had been something important!

But here’s the rub.  I knew I was wrong.  I knew that my actions were out of line.  And so the next day, I stood in line for another 20 minutes.  Not to order a sandwich, whole or otherwise, but to apologize.  It was an awkward moment for me but there was no way I would ever be able to face that woman, and all my co-workers, if I didn’t take responsibility for my actions and my reactions.

And here’s the best part of the story.  To this day, Caroline (the sandwich maker) and I greet one another with a smile and a hug whenever we see one another.  She calls me Darlin’ and Hon.  I just call her Caroline.  But occasionally will break out into my own version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” from across the lunch room.  We talk about her vacations and she asks about my day.  I am interested in her sore back and her love of NASCAR and she is happy to see me when I enter her line.  The other day I wandered through the cafeteria just to wish her a happy weekend.

My initial reaction on the horrible day four years ago?  Ridiculous.

My second-thought reaction four years ago and every day since?  Redemptive.

The dice are going to fall.  Someday, it’s going to be something that matters and the roll will not favor you.  A bad diagnosis, a pink slip, a burst water pipe, hurtful revelations, whispered secrets.  How you react is much more important that the final count on the dice.

Perhaps I’ve learned that much in 49 years.  Perhaps.

Art and More

I finally found them!  I’ve been looking for a series of pictures I took 18 months ago but it wasn’t until yesterday that I found them.

My daughter was asked to paint some wooden letters for a child’s room.  When she told me about the project, I thought she would paint on letter blue and another red.  She might add a stenciled daisy to a letter or two.

Several months later, I was shocked to see the end product.  For a small finder’s fee paid to her father, you too can have a brilliant and beautiful wall decoration.  The phone lines are open and operators are standing by to take your orders right now!

Deep Cleaning

Nothing feels better than a clean house and a room in perfect order.
Nothing feels better than a clean house and a room in perfect order.

My wife made it clear yesterday that we were going to clean.

“The place is filthy!” she announced with conviction.

I agreed.  That’s my job.  My job is to agree.  I learned this years ago and life has been better ever since.  And so, without questioning the course of our Saturday, we cleaned.  She tackled the living room and kitchen and hall.  I tackled the dining room and family room.  Together, we made a big dent in the dirt situation.  I emptied the china cabinet and dusted each piece.  I Windexed the top and bottom of the glass dining room table.  I swept the floor.  I dusted the woodwork.  I rearranged the side board.  I was very proud.

Anita did her thing and if I’m to be honest, was a LOT more detailed than my own cleaning effort.  She destroyed the room.  I mean carpets-rolled-up, furniture-shoved-into-corners, couches-over-turned destroyed.  And yet, somehow by the end of the day, it was all put back together and beautifully clean and sparkling.

In the end we made a huge dent in the dust bunnies that had started to bread under the furniture.  In the end we could say with confidence that we were not longer filthy.  Tired…but not filthy.

Words and Their Source

Calm MorningThree people expressed their view of my project. They all shared a similar view but their varied approach and the responses they received were much different.

One person is nothing more than an bitter irritant to nearly everyone she meets.  Her words were like rough sandpaper being used to remove a boil on the back of my neck:  They were painful, too rough, too close and definitely the wrong tool for the job.  They caused me to withdrawal violently to avoid more pain.

One person is a lost, lonely and sad fool who covers the pain with laughter that is too loud and too often.  His words are sarcastic and biting.  His snide comments were like my neighbor’s dog barking at the fence:  Teeth flash but are harmless as long as I never try to get close to the unpredictable animal.

One person is quiet and often speaks wisdom beyond her years.  Her words were carefully chosen and represented many  hours of thought.  Like a surgeon’s blade, they cut right to the heart of the issue, making plain the action that must be taken without excess damage.  She did not attack the person, but the problem.

Three voices.  One similar opinion.  Three means of expression.

How do you speak?  What response to you produce?

Happy Groundhog Day

My District Superintendent and friend, Doug holds my daughter just after her birth.
My District Superintendent and friend, Doug holds my daughter just after her birth.

Many years ago, my District Superintendent told us something that has stuck with me ever since.  He reported to a group of fellow ministers that one of his favorite holidays (and movies) is Groundhog Day.

I love Bill Murray and along side the cult favorite “What About Bob?”, his role in “Groundhog Day” is classic.  I own both movies and watch them whenever Anita isn’t in the house.  (She doesn’t have the same appreciation that I do.)

If you aren’t familiar with the premise of the movie, Murray’s character is stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Every day is Groundhog day and he can choose to make self-destructive, self-absorbed decisions or make the lives of others richer and more meaningful and in the process, enrich his own life along the way.

My son and I were watching the movie a few months ago and as Murray’s character is learning to play the piano, Ben said, without even thinking, “If I had every day to live over and over, I would learn to play the piano, too.”  I looked at him and laughed.  “You DO have every day to live over and over.  You have the rest of your life!

This is the point, isn’t it?  Why don’t we take advantage of every minute of every day?  We don’t have to be stuck in some Twilight Zone Rodent Holiday to grow, develop and expand our lives and horizons.  We can be different.  We can be better.  We simply have to choose this option.

And so, as we celebrate the strangest holiday on our calendar, I know that Doug and I are both watching this film, laughing at Murray, thinking about our own lives and ways we can make them better.  Now if I could just bet my wife to join me…

Dance Fever

Jonathan was a great dancer but I suspect he was in it for the outfits.
Jonathan was a great dancer but I suspect he was in it for the outfits.

When our son was about five years old we signed him up for tap dance classes at the Cole Dance Academy.  He was really into Savion Glover who was big on Sesame Street and it was good for his coordination, or so we were told.  But somewhere along the line, the instructor lost sight of the kids and their program and roped in the dads.  They had this great idea: What if the boys and the dads dance together in the final show?

That idea sounded perfect to everyone but the dads.  They forgot that we didn’t sign up as a team.  This is for the kids.  They are the ones who needed the activity, help with their coordination and rhythm.  I grew up in the age of Disco.  I didn’t need help with my rhythm.  Besides, you weren’t going to strap a pair of tap shoes on this guy and shove him out onto the stage!

Unfortunately, we were over-ruled by the mothers.  The song, “Everything Old is New Again” was selected.  The instructor choreographed a cute little number that involved the dads and the boys dancing beside, behind and in front of one another.  And there was no getting out of it.

The only surviving picture of our dancing debut at Emens Auditorium, Ball State University. circa 1995

Please understand that I’ve been on stage many, many times.  I’ve spoken to crowds in the thousands without any problem.  But TAP DANCING?  Are you serious?  I was terrified.

So, in preparation for the big night, we practiced for hours and then practiced some more.  We bought special taps to nail into the bottoms of my shoes.  I rented the outfit and practiced some more.  And on the night of the performance, I straightened my bow tie, laced up my shoes and stood next to my son who was much more confident that I.

I gave Jonathan a reassuring smile and then the music started.  Together, we entered, swinging our arms and tapping our toes to the beat of the music.

And I don’t remember anything after that.  It all goes black.  I’m told that it was a great hit with the audience.  I really don’t know.  I just know that even typing with the tapping sound of the keys ringing in my ear, I’m experiencing a horrid nausea to the pit of my stomach.  The memory has caused me to become light-headed.  The thought of that night has caused my lips to go numb and my arms to ache.

My son dropped dance class shortly after this performance.  And I can’t say that I blame him.  But don’t worry…We worked on his rhythm using my 8-track tape of the Village People in the comfort and safety (and solitude) of our living room.  Now THAT’S music to dance to!

2013 – A Year to Learn

The ideal way to start the new year is with good olives, good wine, and fantastic cheeses.
The ideal way to start the new year is with good olives, good wine, crusty bread and fantastic cheeses.

We’ve talked in the past about our need to grow, to change, to become happier people, to have broader minds, to be deeper thinkers:  In short, to be a better person.

While I don’t have a lot of goals for 2013 (Never, EVER call them resolutions), I do have three.  First, I want to write every day.  Someday, I want to sit in an Italian coffee shop and write my fourth book, like my friend Gina.  But to get there, unlike Gina, I will need practice, practice and more practice.  I will probably need an editor and a ghost writer but that’s another year’s goal.  In the mean time, I will write for this blog, my study blog, my prayer blog, and competitions.  I’m burning up the morning hours with fingers flying!

Second, I want to read.  I want to read a lot.  See Curt read?  Reading is fun.  Last year I knocked off a couple dozen books and that was after starting in earnest in June.  This year, I believe I can finish nearly 50.  Between audio books and reading actual pages, I have a real shot at this.  I’ll consume books about history and art, biographies and novels.  I will learn about diseases of the body and the healing of the soul.  That’s not a bad way to spend a year.

Finally, I want to experience Cheese.  I want to eat 100 kinds of cheese in the coming year.  I want to get the best options in my mouth and compare them, savor them and learn about them.  I want to know where they are made, their ingredients, their strengths and weaknesses.  I want to know what wine goes with which cheese.  I want to experience the wonder that is milk turned into solid form.

So, that’s it.  Those are my big three.  Write, Read, and Eat.

Hey, I guy can dream.  Can’t he?

Resolution Revolution

Jan 1, 2013. Early morning.  Ready to take on a great New Year!
Jan 1, 2013. Early morning. Ready to take on a great New Year!

Every year.  Every, stinking, single, year.  I do it every January 1st:  I make resolutions.  And then, somewhere around the fourth day of the year, I start breaking those resolutions.

And I’m not alone.  Millions of fat, lazy American make many of the same declarations for change: Eat Less, Move More, Spend More Time With Family, Get A Better Job, Drink More Water, Take Vitamins, Run A Marathon, Write A Novel, Build A Log Cabin, Stockpile Weapons…The list is endless.

But this year is different.  I am not just going to hope to loose weight.  I will loose weight.  I will move more.  I will drink more water.  I will.  I know it.   Here is why:  In the past, all my hopes and dreams for the new year have been based on nothing more than hopes and dreams.  But THIS year, I have a spreadsheet: Fitness 2013.

That’s right.  With my new Fitness 2013 Spreadsheet, I can track my weight, my activity, my sit-ups and jumping jacks and water to caffeine ratio. I can even track my movement and the resulting benefit I receive!  After careful research, I developed a formula that considers the amount of time I do an activity based on the amount of energy expended.  On a scale from one-to-five, I can calculate just how much energy I’ve burned in a day.

Let’s say I shovel my drive.  It takes me half an hour.  The snow is heavy and after I pop my third Nitro, I mark in my spreadsheet a difficulty level of 5.   My spreadsheet automatically divides the product of these two numbers by my average weight over the past week and then multiplies this by the amount of water I’ve consumed, with a slight alteration made to account for the exact level of caffeine in my system at that exact moment.  Divide by Pi and the square root of my thigh’s circumference and there you have it.

This is going to be a great year!  I just know it.

P.S.  Feel free to use my spreadsheet for your own successful 2013!

2012 in review

2012 was a great year for Austin’s Acre.  Writing more than 300 posts, posting more than 600 original photographs, and starting two new blogs (StudyAlongWithMe.com and PrayersofaFool.com) has kept me pretty busy.

A special thanks goes out to all who stopped by, made a comment or liked the posts and pictures.  You’ve made it a lot of fun!

Here’s to 2013!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 12,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 20 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas Time Is Here, Happiness and Cheer

IMG_3192“And this will be a sign unto you…”

One of my favorite shows each season is “A Charlie Brown Christmas“.  Despite being nearly 50 years old, it still captures our nation’s fixation on stuff.  Though repeated every year, the clear message is seldom heard.  Linus and the gang invite us to recall the true purpose of Christmas and forsake Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Spending Saturday, etc.  The true meaning of Christmas isn’t the aluminum tree, or the show, or the money, or the gifts.  The true meaning is found in the simple story of love and life, given to us in a form of a baby.

But we do it over and over again.  I did it this weekend.  I became angry with the manager during a call to customer service.  He informed me that, despite my opinion and the fact that they could not service the customer, they provide excellent customer service.  He said it was in the definition.  I lost it.

I did it when I called around to find that one special gift and then jumped in my car to race to the store and snatch my prize, the last one in the store.

I did it when I ordered frantically on-line to ensure that my items would be here in time for Christmas day.

Linus told me.  Charlie begged me.  Lucy scolded me.  But I never listen.