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?

Happy Father’s Day To Me

042This is one of those days when the person in the chair doesn’t really know what to do with themselves.  Being a dad isn’t about getting pats on the back and high-fives for a job well done.

In fact, Father’s Day smacks against what it really means to be a father.

Men take hills and conquer armies, they don’t sit back a soak up the sun in the quiet of their back yards.

We keep our heads down and power on rather than look for congratulations and “job well done”.

There isn’t time for a day to honor.  There are yards to be mowed, trim to be painted, bushes to trim.

We can’t wait for breakfast to be made at 9:30 when we are use to being up at the crack of dawn.  We’re hungry at 6:45 and ready to get out the door before the traffic gets heavy.

On the other hand…It is awful nice to hear what a great dad you are.  And the little ankle biters did buy me an awfully nice grill. And I have been wanting to try roasting a chicken on that grill.  And it is suppose to be a beautiful day.  And I do have live Reds baseball streaming on my phone.  And it wouldn’t hurt me to take a day and rest.

By golly, I’m doing it!  I’m taking full advantage of this Hallmark-driven holiday.  I’m cooking my chicken and listening to my game and I deserve it.  I’m getting hugs from my kids and soaking up the glory because I’m a Father…and I deserve it.

But for my own piece of mind, hide the mower.

Life Lesson #32 – Use the Baguette

IMG_4154[1]Whenever making a chicken sandwich, it is best to roast your own chicken and then slice it into nice, thick pieces.  Refrigerate the remaining chicken for later use.  Gather an onion and some fresh lettuce and a perfectly ripe tomato from your garden.  Slice them into thick pieces.  Whip up a little mayonnaise using fresh egg yolks from your barn-yard chickens and a little light olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice with a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper.  Gingerly slice some 3-year-old Gouda and prepare to toast the meat and cheese to a bubbly perfection.  Combine all the ingredients and enjoy.

Please understand, all of this is negotiable.  The sandwich is good with these ingredients but the truth of the matter is that the meal will live and die based on the bread you use.    It is possible to buy sliced chicken, lettuce and onion.  You can skip the tomato and use Miracle Whip if you want.  Throw on a slice of processed American cheese if that is all you have.  But you must never, and I mean NEVER use anything but a whole wheat baguette for this sandwich.

Slice the crispy, crunchy, wonderful bread along the body of the loaf.  Use six inches for a nice sized sandwich.  Put on the meat and cheese and place it in a toaster oven.  When done, bring it out and finish with the remaining toppings.

Enjoy with a nice white or red wine.  It will change your life.  I promise and you’re welcome.

My Morning on the Patio

IMG_4016I’m sitting here on my patio, listening to the trickle of water from my fountain and feeling the cool morning breeze on my face.  This is where I want to be.  There’s nothing else I want to do.  I want to stay here all day.  I want to pretend that I have no responsibilities at all.

But that just isn’t how I function.  Instead, I’ve already made a to-do list of at least nine different actions that must take place today to prepare me for the rest of the week.  I’ve mentally shifted from restful Sunday morning to task-oriented Monday-through-Friday.  I have to make calls.  I have to prep equipment.  I must clean parts of the house.  I should wash clothes and clean my garage.

There is so much to do, so many tasks, so few hours in a day to get it all done…

But then, it will never all get done.  Will it?  Isn’t there ALWAYS something else on the list of Life’s To-Do’s?  Sure, I’ll do some things to make my next week a little easier.  But I don’t have to do it all in one day.  And after reviewing the list, I see that half of the items can be done another day.  One third of the remaining list will take little or no effort.

And in their place I scratch a new list:  Go to church, read a book, walk with my wife, play chess with my son, and meditate 15 minutes.  If I accomplish these items, I will have really done something great.  In fact, I would argue that this is a much better list and one I can easily live with on a beautiful Sunday morning.

She Likes Out, She Likes In

Knocking At The DoorIf you have followed Austin’s Acre for very long, you know my affection for my Yellow Lab, Sidney.  She burst into our lives in August 2009 and we’ve never been the same since.

Among her many interesting quirks, and she has many, Sidney has decided that she really likes to go outside.  She will pace, circle, whine and stretch until someone allows her to escape the confines of our spacious home.

However, once outside, she might get a drink of water or tinkle in the grass…Or she might not.  Either way, she is quickly back to the patio door watching for any and all movement inside.  At this point in the game, she had decided that she really likes to come inside.  She will pace, circle, whine and stretch until someone lets her escape from the expanse of our back yard.

Within 20-30 minutes, this cycle repeats itself.  The dog cannot make up her mind.  Inside?  Outside?  Inside?  Outside? There are so many wonderful things that a dog would love just outside the door but all her important people are still inside!  The decision is too difficult.  Her little dog brain is in constant conflict so with her big dog heart.  She lives a life of distraction, unable to decide where she wants to be and what she wants to do.

It’s pathetic, really.  But, in truth, it is not too dissimilar from our own journeys through life.

We want the next great gadget but we also want serenity and peace.

We want the bigger, better house but we also want to rest on weekends.

We want the fatter paycheck but we also want to work less and relax more.

Are we in or are we out?  Do we want the adventure or do we want the comfort?

Perhaps today we can try to escape this neurotic pattern.  Perhaps today we can enjoy life where we live.  Make the most of the quiet without seeking the noise.  Take advantage of the day, the hour, the minute by doing nothing.

Listen to the birds and feel the sunshine on your face.

Put a great piece of music on the stereo and let it move your soul.

Turn off the TV and play cards with your family and friends.

Turn on the radio and listen to the baseball game the old fashioned way.

Enjoy a long walk and never once look at your watch.

Be present.  Live life without distraction.  Enjoy your location, wherever it might be.

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?

Just A Little Off The Top

This year we raised a bunch of money for charity.  As part of my role in the experience, I agreed to allow Mike, the director of the HSR&D to shave my head if we met our goal.  Well, we surpassed the goal by nearly $4,000!

This is the second year in a row that we’ve blown past our original fund-raising goal.  Last year, one lucky winner was able to throw a pie in the director’s face…but they needed a little help from me to make it a really big splash.  This year, Mike gets his revenge!

Flying

My youngest and one of his greatest moments of flight.

Too often we allow gravity to hold us down.

Too often we fail to take the risk.  We can fly, if only we take the chance.

Perhaps its been the experience of failure that prevents us from trying.  But, like a great chef creating works of art with food, the risk of getting burned by the stove doesn’t keep him from moving forward.

Sure, we might fall to the earth, scrape our flesh, jolt our joints.

But we have to try.

Swing higher.

Jump further.

Stretch out.

Reach.

Perhaps this time you might soar!

Run, Forest, Run

I’ve been working my fingers to the bone!

For those of you who are wondering, “Where has Austin’s Acre been?“, here is your answer:

EVERYWHERE.

We’ve been working hard and running fast.  We’ve driven across the state, from north to south and east to west.  We’ve stayed up late and gotten up early.  We’ve worked in the yard and at the job site.  We’ve given blood and gotten flu shots.  We’ve taken pets to the vet.  We’ve gotten hair cuts and car-loads of groceries.  We’ve  payed bills and played Frisbee golf.  We’ve made quarts of apple sauce and tomato jam.  We’ve spent time with friends until late in the evening.

In short, we’ve been very, very busy.

But all that stops today.  As of today, I’m turning over a new leaf.  My days will be different.  My life will no longer control me.

As of today,  I will pause in the morning before I run out the door for my day.  I will take a lunch and spend quality time with co-workers.  I will be home in the evenings to enjoy supper with my family.

I will.  How about you?

The Change Challenge: Checking In

So?  How ya’ been?

Several months ago we started the Change Challenge.  We started looking at our decision making, our choices, our direction in life and realized we could alter the course of our world if we took calculated, determined steps.  Some of you took this to heart and tried it.

Some of you tried reading books.  Some of you tried having a different attitude.  Talking to family.  Eating better.  Moving more.

Some of you even gave up TV or tried to quit smoking.

I don’t know one person who has all of life figured out.  No matter how “together” we might appear, we still have areas in our life that need a little attention, that need a little focus, that need a little help.

And so, now that summer vacation is over and we’re back to the routine of life, what is the area that you will work on?  What is the struggle that needs some resolve?  What is the one thing that you can do this week to make you a better You?

The Life of Gary

“Gary” lives in frog-like bliss under the new waterfall.

Last September I bemoaned the poor frog who decided that residence in my plastic water feature was the perfect home.  I wrote about it in “A Very Shallow Gene Pool”.  In my mind, the frog, affectionately named Gary, wasn’t long for this world.

I don’t know if it is because the weather was so mild this winter or if Gary is just more hardy than I realized, but I saw him earlier this spring bouncing from one plant to another as if he hadn’t a care in the world.  We caught him once and marveled at his survival powers.  He slipped from our hands and jumped away.  I haven’t seen him for weeks and just assumed he’d found better lodging along a REAL waters’ edge.

Earlier this week I tore out the plastic water feature and replaced it with a bubbling water and rock ensemble.  Can you believe it?  Gary is still hanging out, enjoying the splash of the water in the cool of the morning!  Gary is now the size of a small goat and seems to be very content hanging out near our back door.

And Gary reminds me of life’s simple truth:  No matter the conditions, the hardship, the situation, we ALL have an incredible ability to survive.  And in some cases, we are even able to thrive.

I don’t know what you are facing today, but if my friend Gary can make the most of disruption in his life, I know you can make it, too!  Now get out there and hop like you mean it!

A Sunday of Rest….Truly.

Yesterday was a much needed day of rest.  Anita woke up early with me and we drove up to Strawtown to do a little walking and a little birding at the Koteewi Park.  If you haven’t been and you live in the area, it is well worth the time.

On one of the most beautiful days of the year, we strolled along wide paths along the river and across Indiana meadows with sounds of song birds ringing in our ears.

Anita spies another Song Sparrow along the path!

Let’s be clear:  Birding is not walking.  Birding requires a short walk and a lot of standing.  Anita is a walker, she isn’t a birder.  But she journeyed with me into the park and quickly fell into the rhythm of looking, listening and spying the winged wonders.  In only a short hour of walking we were able to hear or see the following:

Robin, Blue Jay, Song Sparrow, Lincoln Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Indigo Bunting, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downey Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Blue-gray Gnat Catcher, White Crowned Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole and several birds we were unable to accurately identify.

Courtesy allaboutbirds.org.

But the highlight of the journey was the new life-bird I identified.  It was first time I’d ever seen a Yellow Throat Warbler.  We were standing in a clearing, watching a half-dozen Indigo Buntings chase one another when this beautiful warbler alighted on a low branch.  The sun was shining over our shoulder and lit up the breast of this fantastic bird.

It sat completely still, allowing us to view it in an unhurried fashion and even seemed to give us a wink when we’d made the correct identification.

The morning could not have been more pleasant.  The birding could not have been better. The company and the walk back to the car (yes, we did finally walk) was ideal.  The perfect way to spend my Sunday morning.

This is HARD Work

Never let the sun go down on a difficult situation.

Have you ever struggled with a sticky situation?

Have you ever danced with a difficult dilemma?

Have you ever wrestled with responsibility?

Have you ever grappled with a growing grief?

It’s hard work. AND, it’s work that should never be faced alone.  Facing life’s challenges by yourself is foolish.  Some burdens just can’t be carried by one.  So, surround yourself with wise people.  Develop a team of experts.  Pull in people who have faced the same tough task and came out on the other side.  Choose people you trust.  Select people you respect.  Find people who care for you and who are willing to help you through.

And when you do find this team, they will come along side, pick up the burden and walk with you.  They will make the situation simple.  They will help diminish the dilemma.  They will reduce the responsibility.  They will ground the grief.

In the end, the hard work is made easier by the strength of many.

Painting The Picture of Your Life

Years ago I drew a picture.  It is not my favorite.  In fact, it is one of my least favorite drawings.

Oh sure, there are parts of the artwork that are rather nice but as a whole, it has too many weak areas to ever be considered anything more than a fancy doodle.

But here’s the thing:  My wife really likes the drawing.  There’s something about it that resonates with her artistic senses. I don’t know why.  I can’t explain it. It’s a mystery to me. I’ve tried reason with her.  I’ve tried explain the error of her ways.  I’ve tried to talk her out of it.  But she’s committed to this piece of art.  She won’t part with it.

She finally allowed me to make some changes and attack the work again with more pastels, scratching, pen and ink.  She is willing to give me another shot at making it perfect and I can’t wait to go at it.  I didn’t get it right the first time and am going to “rework” the art.

When was the last time you reworked the art of your life?  When is the last time you made an honest assessment of your work, family, friends, and hobbies?  Are they exactly what you want them to be?  Is your life the masterpiece that you always hoped it would be?  Is it time to rework the picture you’ve painted?

Being Driven

The Saturn Shadow as I make my way along the highways of Indiana.

There are some days when I feel like I do nothing but drive.  I start early and end late.

Earlier this week I started with an 8:00 a.m. appointment in a patient home.  After a few hours in the office I made my way to southern Indiana for a second patient visit.  From that location I drove another hour-and-a-half north for my third visit of the day.  When it was all over I pulled into my house around 8:00 p.m.  It was a long, beautiful day and I wouldn’t need to do it again.

How are your days?  Do you start early and end late?  Are you waking up early and going to bed late?  Are you running from one end of the state to the other?

OR, are you taking time to smell the roses?  Are you making sure you are rested and at peace?  Are you able to sit quietly for an hour every day?

What do your days look like?  Do they look like mine?  Do your days need to change or are you perfectly content with the journey?

Filtering the Spam

You can't trust everyone. Sometimes they are as fake as a plastic Santa.

My web site offers free Spam protection.  According to the software, in the last four months alone over 500 spam comments have been blocked from posting on my site.  I’m good with this.  Keep up the great work.

But, in the midst of the software safeguard, the program has kept some pretty important comments from coming through.  For instance, on March 2 of this year, there were seven people who complimented me on my work.  The amazing thing is that they all had exactly the same thing to say.  I’ve copied the posts:

“Curt Austin Hi there, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this blog post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!”

Now, I’ve gone back and read my post from that day (A Branch from the Holy Family Tree) and I must admit, it WAS helpful.  I can understand why Barbara, David, Marge, Wendy (twice!), Manno and the rest of their friends from various singles/mingles web sites would like the blog for that particular day.  What I don’t understand is why my software would block these special people who could be my newest and bestest friends.

And THAT, children, is why we need filters in our lives.  Because, if it was up to us, we would go along with whoever stroked our ego, complimented our hair, gave us $5, made us fried chicken, passed us a note in class, or bought us dinner.  We have to know who is real and who is not.  And, let’s be honest, sometimes we are fooled.

Do you have a filter?  Are you able to distinguish the people in your life who love you in truth?  Are you able to filter out those who have an agenda and only love you for what you can give to them and what they can take from you?

Take a look around.  Take a GOOD look around.  You might have to filter a few people in your world when it is all said and done.  And that’s not a bad thing.

Laundry Day

We all do it. There are no exceptions. Our clothes get soiled through careless action, accidental spills and daily wear. And, unless we have an unlimited clothing budget that allows us to throw out the dirty and replace with new, we have to wash our clothes.  We have to get the dirt out.  We have to load the quarters, fill up the soap dispenser, and turn on the tap.

Whether you visit the laundromat, use a wash tub in your back yard, beat your shirts on rocks in the stream, or venture into your own well-equipped laundry room, you’ve got to do the dirty work to remove the stains.

Life is the same way.  We get dirty, either through carelessness, accidents, or daily life. We say things that soil our souls.  We see things that dirty our heart.  We do things that tarnish our reputation.

Isn’t it time to take out the laundry in your own life?  Clean up your act.  Wash out your mouth.  Scrub your soul. Spring clean your spirit.  It will do your mental health a lot of good.