The Color of Spring

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps the most powerful aspect of changing seasons from winter to spring is the burst of color.  Sure, warmer temperatures are nice.  Of course, singing birds add a song to the air.  Yes, growing plants are better than bare branches.  But with spring’s arrival, there is a celebration of color, a parade of pigment, a hoopla of hues.

Reds, blues and greens burst forth where just weeks before there was nothing more than dark browns and grays.

Violet, magenta and yellow expand and blossom with each passing day, replacing a blah background of winter’s sad colorless world.

Of course, with the color comes the work.  However, mowing a few times a week is a small price to pay to have a carpet of green grass return from the dead.  Trimming back expanding branches is no burden when I can spend the evenings lounging in the shade of the Maple’s verdant canopy.  Pulling some weeds in the garden beds is a price well-paid for the beauty of daffodils and tulips that spot the landscape with color.

The rainbow of color never ends in this season I love.  And I am so very grateful.

Word of the Week – Obfuscate

Obfuscate – render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

You’ve seen it before.  The facts and figures tell the story but the spin doctors tell another.  The officer’s radar gun reports one speed but the driver is convinced it was much lower than that and has several good reasons why it cannot be correct.  Some might call it a lie.  Others might say it’s nothing more than fudging the numbers.  What ever you call it in your day-to-day life, it is nothing more than obfuscation.

When the truth is hard to swallow, we can render it obscure by misdirecting the story.  When facts are hard to accept, we can change the details to make it a little more unclear.  When the question is hard to answer, we can mumble, stutter and stammer, making our response unintelligible.

Let’s be clear:  to obfuscate is rarely a good thing.  It is a form of manipulating the truth, clouding the facts for their own benefit.

Look for it this week.  You’ll see it in things your friends tell you.  You’ll find it in your co-workers’ responses.  In fact, you might find yourself obfuscating from time to time.  When you do, call it out, change your approach, and make your answer crystal clear.

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.

Ringing In My Ears

We never know, do we?  We can never be confident that the phone ringing in our hand brings good news or bad.  It might be a reassuring announcement or a call for help.  It could be a call of hope or a cry for help.  We answer with trepidation, listening carefully to the person on the other end.  Is their tone one of celebration or grief, joy or sorrow?

“The cancer spread.”

“It’s TWINS!”

“I’m leaving him next week and he has no idea.”

“Can you come?”

“There’s been a terrible accident.”

“Party.  My house.  Be there!”

Often our phone conversations are banal, routine.  But every so often, every once and a while, the call announces news that will change your life in ways you would never dream.

My advise?  Say a short prayer for wisdom every time you answer the phone.  You never know when you will need it.

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?

Getting Back To My Roots

694Every so often, a person must look back into their past and evaluate the source of their genetic material.  While I have no documentation to prove it, I believe I have a little Scot in my blood.  I base this on the fact that I love the move, Braveheart and look pretty good in a Kilt.

Where do you get your DNA?  What is the root of your personality?  Are you somber and stern or lovable and filled with laughter?  Are you tall and strong or short and frail?

It doesn’t make you less-than to know your history, no matter the outcome.  In fact, knowing from where you come gives you strength and purpose.

Be proud of your heritage.  Own your history.  It’s made you who you are today.

P.S.  And if you have the legs for it, slip on a Kilt…It’s most liberating!

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!

Slow It Down

Warp SpeedHere’s the plan:  Stop going so fast.

Stop thinking about your next move.  Stop looking forward without considering your current location.  Follow the speed limit.  Forget Instant Coffee.  Give up Instant Pudding.  Stop using Instagram.

Instead, Go Slow.

I get it.  It’s hard not to respond immediately to emails and telephone messages and texts.  It’s hard not to flow with traffic on the interstate when it’s flying along at 75 miles per hour.  It’s hard not to go fast.  It’s hard to go slow.

But I’m convinced that this is the answer to many of life’s most difficult questions.

What if we drove the speed limit instead of ensuring we are always in the fast lane?  What if we made supper in a stove instead of a microwave?  What if we plant seeds now for a summer garden?  What if we sit and watch a sunrise or sunset for the entire event?

I get it.  It’s hard to go slow.  But that’s my plan this week.  I’m going to take my time, drive slow, live slow.

I invite you to join me.

 

 

The 1,000 Foot View

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ve heard the phrase.  You’ve probably said it yourself:  “Can’t see the forest for the trees“.  And, if your life is anything like my own, it is often so very true.  We examine the situation, we study the problem, we analyze the issue but the closer we look, the less we see a solution.  We can’t think about the bigger picture because we’re so worried about the details of the problem.

You know the solution.  You know the answer:  It is often helpful to take a step back.  In fact, it often helps to take about 1,000 steps back.  Get the bigger picture.  Take in a wider view.  Climb the mountain and look down, removed from the situation and free from the entanglements of the problem.  Look at the slopes, experience the wind on your face, celebrate the light brightly shining above the canopy of the forest that often shades the decaying detritus and duff.

The next time you find you are without an answer, the next time you struggle for a solution take a walk above the tree line.  Hike the heights.  Mount the mountains and see if it doesn’t help.

Day 329 – Keeping Quiet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome things are open for discussion; what you had for lunch, what your dog did yesterday, the movie you watched last night.

Some things should never be discussed in an open forum; your arrest record, what you secretly hope will happen to your mortal enemy, the inner workings of a troubled mind.

I have some things I would like to share, some things I’d like to get straight, a few matters I’d like to process.  But this just isn’t the place to say it.  It is one of those times when I’m struggling to find the right words and seeking to make the right choices.  It isn’t appropriate to bring them forward in a blog.  You won’t find my dilemma outlined on Facebook.  I won’t leak my frustration on Twitter.

I’ll deal with it by taking my concerns to friends and family the old fashion way; we’ll text and snapchat, of course!

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.

Day 313 – Making Bread

20140103_174611Today was quite a hodgepodge of activity: Church, Lowe’s, Menard’s, Kroger, and Dry Cleaners followed by some writing and a surprise visit from my son and his girlfriend.  In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the day, I made baguettes for dinner, suet for the birds and pumpkin butter for friends and family.  It was quite a day.

However, I am rather discouraged.  Somehow, over the holidays, I managed to gain more weight and injure my knee and/or hamstring.  Any activity now results in quite a bit of pain.  It is nothing more than a dull, constant ache on the interior of my knee…until I try to go upstairs when it feels like my hamstring is popping off the joint of my leg.  I’ve taken to the motrin and ice and rest which, combined with the homemade bread and pumpkin butter, isn’t helping my diet plan.

I don’t think it will be too much of a problem unless I start gnawing on the suet out of boredom!

Day 2 – Resolutions Blown

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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

If you are like me (and I pray you are not), you have already blown any New Years’ Resolutions you made yesterday.  You ate too much.  You were nothing but a sloth.  You didn’t read your Bible or exercise or pray or any of the other 27 items on your list to make you a better you.  You blew it.  Day 2 and you’ve already failed.

Or have you?

There is a plan that is bigger than your resolutions.  There is an agenda that includes more than calorie counting and exercise bikes.

God has a plan for you that offers a future.  It offers hope.

So get back up, brush yourself off, thank God for his faithfulness, eat a carrot and drink some water and meditate on this passage from Jeremiah once again.  God has just gotten started making your life different and boy is it gonna be good.

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?

Day 1 – A New Year, A New Start

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“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43: 18-19

The New Year always brings out the best in us.  It provides a clean slate, a new opportunity, a fresh start.  The old is washed away.  The new is, well, new.  We have high hopes for the next 365 days.  This is a starting point of a different life.

We vow to smoke less, gossip less, eat less, worry less.  We pledge to exercise more, sleep more, go to church more, call our mother more.  He intend to change our ways and become the man or woman we have always known we could be.  We have high hopes but in fact, history has proven that our intentions are good but our follow through has always been lacking.

History is a good teacher.  It reveals many patterns.  It tells of many attempts.  It reports many failures.

But God asks us to forget the past.  Don’t look back.  There is a new thing that will happen.  There is a new way being prepared.  Our past can inform, but more often it haunts.  Our history does not have to be our future.  Our former failures do not have to be the manual for tomorrow’s agenda.

Don’t look back.  Look forward.  Don’t relive the past.  Make a new future.  Don’t allow yesterday to blind you to the possibility of today.  This year can be different.  There’s something new happening and you will want to witness every amazing moment.

Day 310 – What is That?

20131228_114221The other day we went for a walk and I found this beautiful item on the top of a log.  I’m sure it is a lichen of some sort but who, other than some brainiac fungologist, would know what it is?

And as I stopped to take this still-life photograph (which was extremely easy because this life was very still), I started to wonder about the millions of items in my world that are nothing more than an odd curiosity to me.  A myriad of life forms, technologies, and creations surround me.  How many things do I look over because they are strange to me?  How many times have I turned a blind eye to things both strange and wonderful?

I hope that this new year will be different than the last.  I want to see clearly those magical elements of the universe; both the microscopic and cosmic.  I want to stop and smell roses, or daisies, or petunias…whatever is handy.

This world is filled with beauty, if only we stop and take a closer look.

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!

Day 306 – Moving Day

20131227_123446Making friends takes effort.  Getting to know them requires energy, focus, a little time and space.  I think that’s probably why parting is so hard.  You’ve given a part of yourself to these people and when they leave they take it with them.

That happened to me today as John and Pam pulled out of their Carmel home.  These two people entered my life 18 months ago and quickly captured a piece of my heart.  Their parting was painful but not final: Wherever they go, they will carry with them a portion of my soul.

It is a pieces of my heart that I’m happy to share.