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.

Christmas Present

Kindergarten Curt
A school picture from Kindergarten.

My memory of Christmas in 1968 is a mixture of fantastic sights and sounds reproduced from my five-year-old mind and old 8 mm film shot that year.  It is grainy and jumpy at best.  But I remember two things very clearly:  The toys and the love.

I remember lights twinkling in the tree as we rounded the corner to see all the loot. I remember a train track set up under the tree.  I remember football helmets and cowboy guns.   And I remember the bikes:  Two red bikes, one for me and one for my brother, with our names painted on the crossbars in perfect lettering.  Santa did a good job that year.

But all those presents have long since been outgrown, lost or broken and thrown away.  What remains is the memory and excitement of that morning, the love of our family, and the joy in spending time together.  It was our first Christmas after mom and dad married.  We were living in a little (and I cannot stress enough how LITTLE) house on the edge of Selma, Indiana.  This was the first Christmas in this home, living with one another and celebrating the season.  I believe it is one of my most cherished memories of our family.

Memories are like that.  To this day, I have only one childhood present that has survived the years and I guard it carefully.  But my childhood memories, both good and bad, will never be broken by time and rust.

Second Grade Curt
My second-grade school picture.

To this day, if I close my eyes, I can remember the table in Farmland when I was eight years old.  It was spread out with a dozen plates and platters full of food.  Around the table are my grandparents, Freda, Ray and Jo, and our adopted grandparents, Ralph and Frona.  Beside them are my brother and sisters, and mom and dad.  The smell of fresh grapefruit and salty bacon fills my nose.  The steaming scrambled eggs and the cinnamon rolls still make my mouth water.

To this day, the glow of the tree in my living room returns me to the farm, when I would spend countless nights on the floor by the bay window, all the lights in the room turned off.  I would lay under the branches to look up through the pine branches and the lights; blue, green, red and white.  My mind would marvel at the star-like beauty.

To this day, the laughter of friends and family sitting around the room places me back in my grandmother’s basement where we opened presents open on Christmas eve by the light of the fire burning brightly in the fireplace, each of us marveling at the newest gadget, art set of paper and pencils, or every piece of clothing.  It still warms my heart and soul.

The Austin "Children" opening last year's stockings on Christmas Eve.
The Austin “Children” opening last year’s stockings on Christmas Eve.

But these memories are from the past.  These images are from years gone by.  Though my heart grows fond at the thought of them, my true joy is in the present.  Knowing that I will soon be with my extended family again, excited that my own children will open their own presents on Christmas eve, anticipating the spread on Christmas morning:  These things bring me as much joy as the images of Christmas past.

The joy that comes from celebrating with family and friends is just around the corner and there is nothing that enlivens the season more than that!

Fantastic Memories: 1985

From Left to Right: Valarie, Anita, Beth and Christy. The Austin Wedding Shower, 1985.

Anita and I were married August of 1985.  It was 86 degrees that day and we packed a church with no air conditioning.  There wasn’t even a hint of a breeze and people’s backs were sticking to the pews.  But we were young and happy and ready to get it over with.

We were surrounded with good friends and lots of family.  It was a beautiful service.  The candles, lit and glowing around the entire sanctuary added to the warm summer night but also to the beauty of the event.

Our good friends stood with us as we exchanged our vows and our rings.  My brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law sang a beautiful song and people applauded with we finally were introduced as man and wife.

It was quite a show.

Even after 27 years, I have to stop and marvel at that day.  So much planning.  So many hard decisions.  So many emotions…all tied up into a ceremony that lasted 60 short minutes.

My best men, Mark Beeson and Todd Austin, wish me well.

In the end, we were all exhausted.  We shook every person’s hand and hugged every aunt, cousin, friend and stranger as they walked through the receiving line (the biggest mistake of the night).  It took much longer than we expected and by the time we made it down to the basement to cut the cake, my own grandparents had left.

Over the past 20+ years I’ve conducted many weddings and have been invited to many more.  I’ve seen big soirees and simple gatherings.  I’ve seen liquor flow and chaste events.  I’ve heard beautiful harps and brass bands.

But nothing compares to the beauty of that night.  It was the most beautiful night of our lives.