A Big Little Boy Lives Here

That sweet little angel of ours threw something this morning. She threw it right in my face! It was big and loud, it was a three-alarm Hissy Fit! My precious daughter let loose, with a red-faced screecher!

Yeah, yeah, it was warranted. She had every right to be upset. I had obviously been waaay in the wrong, when I didn’t let her take her breakfast to eat in front of the television. She had a perfect spot picked out on her pink kiddy couch. It was obviously going to be an awesome way to enjoy her oatmeal until I ruined her great idea. How dare I!

Something occurred inside my mind while it was trying to batten down the hatches and shut out the volume roaring from her mad little face. I noticed a familiarity to her tone. I didn’t like hearing her sounds at that time, but yet I had to look inward and realize a truth…

She sounded just like me!

Ha! I know you’re probably thinking that it would be a little strange to watch me throwing myself around on the floor, crying and gasping and pausing in between wails of frustration. I will admit that not getting to eat in front of the TV probably wouldn’t set off a major temper tantrum for me, but there are other seemingly silly things that can.

The reason her outrageous crying seemed to resemble dear ol’ dad, is that sometimes I fear that I haven’t really found better ways of dealing with problems than throwing a fit about them. Sad I know, but true. Now my 38 year-old fits are a little different from a toddlers’. I have a deeper voice and I use actual words instead of shrieking and bawling… usually.

Truly though, I find that when tensions are rising and irritations are mounting, I can snap. I’ll sink knee deep into an emotional outburst in a flash. There are some people reading these lines right now probably shaking their heads like, ‘Uh Huh, That’s For Sure!”

Anyway, I did laugh at myself today watching her go off. She has already found a mechanism by which she can try to force her way. It’s a VERY persuasive tactic! I didn’t give in though, and eventually we had a nice breakfast up at the bar-top, where we always do, with only the radio on, like we always do. It turned out fine.

The moral to me, is that when you really break it down, there isn’t a lot of difference between how I tend toward outbursts and how she did today. I’d like to think that I have higher levels of maturity, I can navigate treacherous situations with sound compassionate reason and detachment from outcome. Ha, really that’s a load of gar-bage!

Actually, I think the truth is that I’ve been quite blessed. I have been fortunate that people around me, must’ve seen that same infancy and ridiculousness in my tantrums that I saw in hers. I felt sorry that she was so upset, but I didn’t take on her outrage over the situation. For all my chest beating and primate howling, the people around me probably saw a little boy, a brat, in a big ol’ body, throwing a fit.

I have been the antagonist in a bunch of conflicts. Even in the last few years. I’ve seen though, that the best versions of those conversations happened without any yelling, without high heart-rates, they have been fewer than I’m proud of, but usually they end with a hug. So it must be possible, even with me.

I hug my little girl a lot. She’s teaching me so much every day. I found out this morning, that I’m too much like her sometimes, and I’d like her to be less like me in certain ways too.

Until next week, count your blessings for they outnumber the curses by far.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

A flaw in the practice of Easter Worship

It’s the practice of this thing, this writing thing, that matters. It’s the returning to, and the stepping again forward on this continued path, that seems worthy. I doubt it’s the concepts or the drilled-down specific points that I’ve typed out over the years that hold real weight. I want to keep open a channel for expression, in case something important or profound arrives through me.

It’s these moments, late at night, of simple contemplation, that nourish me. It’s the resting steady focus for a few fleeting minutes per week that I must enjoy. On this Good Friday, at this Easter moment, I ponder in these early morning hours, the act of Worship.

See, I am really really REALLY good at worship!

It’s true. I can pretty much worship in the morning, or while I’m at work and before bed too. I probably worship in my sleep sometimes.

On a weekend like Easter, worshiping revolves around the crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus. For all dedicated worshipers this is the Big One!

The only slight problem for me, is that my skillz at worship, don’t always have to do with the Father, the Son or the Holy Ghost… Oops.

I know, I know, somebody in the last few years, probably said something behind my back, like I’ve become some kind of a Jesus-Freak! Just because I’m not a raging party animal every weekend, I’m probably stuck nose deep in the Bible from dawn to dusk, or as much as possible… right?

Well, TBH (to be honest) I’m probably so much less freaky about Jesus, that it’s embarrassing. My behavior and vocabulary can be so not church appropriate, yet I maintain my previous statement.

I’m awesome at worshiping!!!

The only little issue, is that my worship is too often pointed in the wrong direction. I am so quick to idolize and be fascinated by the shiny trinkets of the world around me. A new thread of YouTube videos can suck me in for weeks on end. I become almost instantly devoted and throw myself completely into new distractions all the time.

This truth relates to my relationship with a simple practice like a glass of inky-dark room-temp Malbec blooming in my hand at the end of a long work day. I could become entranced and dedicated to the vino itself. I would want to identify myself with it. I’d find it at the center of my discussions. I might throw myself, mind, body and soul into an idolatry of alcohol. I could sincerely mean words like LOVE in relation to a rotten grape…

In that worldly kind of worship, I’m masterful!

To this day, even through a few years of sobriety, focusing on creating a church life for myself and my family, I struggle to love Jesus, like I do the tangible things of the world.

So broken spiritually, I sit here in the middle of the night. Playing again the keys of this mental piano, sounding thoughts onto the lcd screen. I maintain that somewhere on the journey, the meaning of this act will be revealed.

I will attempt this weekend for split seconds, longer moments, then maybe minutes on end, to worship the one true God. I remind myself right now, that in the Resurrection, my many sins have been redeemed. The detestable idolatry I commit daily, in worship of almost everything but God, has miraculously been wiped away. In this event, things that cannot be done, were done, through love.

Until next week my friends, in small ways practice a contemplative worship . If you dare, ask yourself what it is that really deserves your worship and what doesn’t.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The mouth to mind ratio

Surely you’ve heard this quote. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

I find it convicting and confounding within this certain context. (Basically, what I think it means)

  1. The discussion of ideas to me refers to universal truths, the nature of spirituality, principals of philosophy and consciousness or existence itself. THE eternal questions humans have always wrestled with.
  2. The discussion of events would be like the evening news, or the local news. It’s the actions of individuals or nations or the weather. The range could also include physical things, and materialism.
  3. The discussion of people would be gossip; judgmental conversations about third parties…

Well, maybe these are the meanings behind this quote, or maybe they’re not. I can’t be sure, not my quote. In fact, the quote itself is attributed to a couple different people including Eleanor Roosevelt and Hyman Rickover.

Whoever said it, they might agree with my breakdown. If they did, and if they followed me around in my day to day life, they would probably describe my mind as small with flashes of average. It’s strange though because I fancy myself, not as a great mind, but as someone deeply fascinated by ideas, and uninterested, even detested by so much else.

It’s my personal time, spent on Youtube or podcasts, where I consume my philosophy. My headphones are never tuned to popular music or radio, but often to the voice of a wise Rabbi. I love learning about the spiritual fabric of this thing we call the world around us. A debate on consciousness or ethics can captivate me for hours without any boredom. Yet I talk to almost no one about these things.

It’s just the stuff, it’s a ballgame on, and it’s an easy stab at someone’s obvious shortcomings… That’s what I choose to talk to others about. How small minded that is… how true this quote looks through my own eyes.

I wonder if or when it will be that I might mature? I wonder if growth and mental expansion will transfer this secret love of mine, from my inner world, or these few words online, to an actual conversation with a real human being?

Talking about wider concepts, questioning the reality of existence or where our thoughts come from, is so intriguing. But I hardly ever say that aloud.

I must thank my wife though, for entertaining me and my haywire ideas. She will go there, she will listen, she hears me out and challenges me too. One best friend, the best kind of best friend, my spouse, is open to my meandering mind. For that, I’m greatly appreciative.

For everyone else, I’m sorry. I’m not really giving you my whole self when we talk. I’ll keep it simple, and shallow and small-minded, but not because I like it that way. I’m just too afraid to try and go deeper. I apologize for that.

Until next week, let your great mindedness blossom, step away from the average, drop the small stuff like a bad habit, and thank God, for the breath within you speak from your heart.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

How dare they! Those church people!

It was almost exactly 20 years ago tonight when I remember anguish and gut-ache over a seemingly simple task. I was reminded of it recently, as I was asked to write letters of recommendation for some of my high-school seniors that staff our restaurant.

Right now a few of them are scrambling to fill out forms and apply for local scholarships that are due tomorrow. I have emphasized to them that they would be smart to sign those forms. I told them somebody’s going to get the money, it might as well be them! It’s easy to say for me now. I know the benefits of saving on school tuition from my ‘old-man’ point of view.

It wasn’t quite the same though back when I was their age. I had a hesitant approach to the whole idea of writing down my merits in a letter and submitting it to a group of unknown people. I’m sure I was a self-defeatist, claiming within that there were tons of other more qualified candidates than me. Why waste my time filling out forms and including references when everybody else was more involved, more active and more scholarly than me!

There was one application for scholarship that I remember above all others. It actually bothered me to the core. I know that my mother asked over and over, for me to check into it. She was urging me to do it, and I didn’t want to. She probably even told me that almost anything I turned in would be accepted and I would receive some money for my freshman college year.

She wanted me to apply for the Westminster Presbyterian Church Scholarship opportunity. The premise of the application was simple. I think I had to fill out my name, and maybe some basics about school, but not much more than that. It wasn’t a competition for the highest GPA or the most enthusiastically extra-curricularly engaged.

I only really remember that the form required a response to a simple question. “What does God mean to You.”….

WHAT!!! WHOA!! HOW DARE YOU!!! HOW SCARY!! HOW PERSONAL!! How could I possibly answer a question like THAT!! And write it down for other people to read??? AND THOSE JUDGEMENTAL CHURCH PEOPLE!?!?! NO Way!

That about sums up my recollection of the response to that essay question. Really!

Back then, and for so many years of my teenage and young adult life, any conversation or thought experiment that circled close to the idea of God, and especially to church, was jarring emotionally to me. I immediately would exhume loads of past hurts and mental wounds. I was insecure and held onto regrets and inadequacies that I had experienced in relation to church. As a teenager,  I thought that I didn’t understand God at all and didn’t really want to. God was a tough subject for me altogether.

Because of all this inner turmoil, I felt guilty and wrong about my relationship with this ‘God’ character. At that moment in life, honestly answering that scholarship form question was terrifying.

Even now, to write my current answer for ‘What does God mean to You?’ could occupy this blog for weeks, for months, probably years of weekly posts. And in fact I’m sure it has. My stories in response to this question have been typed out over and over in many different ways, right onto these digital pages. Beyond typing, I would have to say that my personal actions and also inactions reveal my true soulful answer to this question. The shape and substance of my being itself is a literal and figurative response, as I go about my life, day-by-day.

I really cannot remember if I did write out an essay of application for that scholarship. I probably didn’t. I likely shirked it and avoided it until the deadline had passed, thus eliminating the chance of this terrible pain I imagined it would cause me.

I know now, as a member of the session of that very same church, that anything written with sincerity would have been accepted with Christian love. Even if the letter I crafted was nothing more than a rant on the injustices I’d felt toward God, as a typical awkward teenager, going thru a critical growing-up moment of life, they would have understood. If I did nothing more than list my questions and confusions about God, they would have understood. If I only had the guts to say that I wasn’t sure I actually believed in God, they would have understood. And they would have loved me for it anyway.

The people of my church would have been happy that I shared. They would have been willing to pray for me. They would have been part of the process of supporting a young person struggling with his beliefs.

This is what I know now, because I eventually did reach out and ask Jesus Christ to come into my life. These truths are now obvious to me, where they were confusing and unnerving before. This is part of what happens when God’s grace begins to work on you from within.

All that said, I have such a looooooong way to go, on this journey. Instead of a high school senior, it’s like I’m an infant newborn, when it comes to my relationship with Almighty God. I am crying in the darkness so often, so unsure that I’m being nurtured always. I wail whenever I’m slightly uncomfortable. I forget to calmly rely on God. I don’t tend and nuture even the tiniest ember of faith that could warm me through a cold winter’s night. I know though, that if I did, it would be so worth it.

Until next week my friends, reflect on these words that I learned from our Pastor Ron. “The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”

Sincerely,

Mr. Sinner Extraordinaire

Aaron Nichols

Plugged in, or Plugged Up?

 

I’m becoming more and more dependent on electronic gadgetry all the time. It seems that a constant part of my day now, is concerned with the battery levels of my various devices. I am usually trying to recharge my android phone, or my Bluetooth headphones or the portable battery that I use to restore either one of them. Now I have a Smart watch too, that will need juiced every couple days.

I will admit that I’m addicted to these gadgets!

The content though, is what I’m really after. I inform and entertain myself with several podcasts and YouTube Channels. I am a paid subscriber for a Motorsports website and a Political one. I am all the time catching up on their latest video installments.

I don’t watch TV, or do much socializing outside of work and family. My wife and kiddo are asleep when I get home late, so I unwind with some Flat Earth Theory before bed. Without the internet, I would have a major shift in the places I give my attention every day.

I saw a friend this week that is using a flip-phone instead of a smart one. He is possibly the only freshman on the Kansas State University campus with one. He is realizing the simplicity that comes with the lack of connection to the online world in his pocket.

I can remember when those phones were the new thing and yes, we probably didn’t imagine in those days of the flip phone, what was yet to come with the internet in the palm of our hands.

So now is the point of the blog where I’m supposed to condemn this technology and talk about the good ole days. I should preach on the values we’ve lost, and the upcoming generation’s lack of interpersonal connective skills… Well I won’t.

What good does that do? Again we miss the point when we blame the smartphone or the internet or even guns or democrats for everything. All these things exist and can be used inappropriately or for extreme harm, and that is a truth about the world. It won’t change with legislation or attempts to revive our past.

I remember being a kid when computers were new, and some said they were a waste of time, or the ruin of everything. Even if partially true, the wave has come, and it’s here to stay for awhile. No ‘thing’ it seems is permanent. Change is relentlessly cyclical.

Spiritual truths though, are rooted too deeply in the construct, to be moved by the winds of change. This is the realm where we have room to improve, always. As a culture our material fetish and pointing fingers of blame could pass someday, hopefully. Seeing beyond the stuff and tearing each down, we could introspect deeply into the calm embrace of God’s Love. That would bring the heaven we want to experience.

Sure we need action. We need to know where we stand and when to fight. I won’t though apologize for being both in this world, but not completely of this world. I think God has us positioned to benefit from both and be a benefit to both, the material and the spiritual.

I have to admit that internet is an amazing connector. Just this week I had a couple hundred people wish me Happy Birthday through Facebook, Snapchat and Text. Wow that felt really nice, and loving! Thanks everyone for taking the time to say hi!

Until next week, take a minute here and there to reflect. Ask those deeper questions, and make sure your batteries are charged, in case you need to post something profound!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

My Danged Double Life

It’s the hoo-rah and the ya-hoo of St. Patrick’s Day that proved to me, the value of Gridlock.

Working hour after hour at our bar, on the day when everyone seemed to be letting loose, I was tightening up. All the party people were dressed in green with big smiles and if I had one, it was most likely fake.

A Friday of St. Patty’s is surely the most annoying day ever, to be Sober.

I’ve heard it said that the Framers of our nation’s Constitution, designed Gridlock into the structure of the Republic. They wanted to make it difficult and arduous to make big changes. They saw value in standoffs between ideas. Immobility allows for security even. I felt the pain of that truth while sipping Sierra Mist instead of Scotch yesterday afternoon.

If Gridlock isn’t the default position of our nation’s leadership, then what would be the alternative? I guess it would mean that whatever idea had currently taken hold, could enact vast sweeping change. Any current administration could radically alter and reinvent our country however they saw fit. Without checks and balances, the core construct of the system couldn’t survive.

How could a peaceful transfer of power occur, say from Republican to Democrat, if the probability was that it would never be returned again. We have to hold hope, as a divided nation, that our ideas will have a chance again to be heard, no matter who holds the office today. Otherwise we’d have civil wars, instead of elections.

In my early thirties, I experienced an internal shift of power within my own being. My priorities changed, I wanted to try a new way of living. As part of the new internal personal regime, I began to attempt sobriety from alcohol.

That was 5 and a half years ago, but it seems like just yesterday. Before that moment, I was a much different person. I whole heartedly belonged to the Party of Parties! I was committed and engaged and a die-hard. I loved to drink and socialize and laugh too loud.

The changes I’ve made have been strong enough to keep me dry up until today. However, there is still a democracy battling for power within. The proverbial angel on one shoulder and devil on the other, are at war in the space between. They are both tough. They both fight hard. Their blows and punches at each other can wear me out.

St. Patrick’s Day left them both bloodied and bruised, neither seeming to gain ground on the other.

This Gridlock must then somehow be healthy. Without the vote and voice of my better self and my baser self, I surely wouldn’t be here today. I couldn’t have tried out sobriety, as a life sentence. The way I approach it is that I just skip drinking for today. And that method invites temptation to bark at the door, to scratch and paw, to break in, and attack in beastly ways.

Work is involved. Daaaaaaaammit.

The battle isn’t on my shoulders and out of my control. It’s all within my own jurisdiction. It’s up to me, to feel disdain for this jolly holiday, or to join it, and let go of my personal achievement.

I have to thank God for the help, but God isn’t pardoning me from any responsibility. That’s not real help. He didn’t give me this fish. I have to get my freakin’ pole out every day and cast a line.

So there. I truly hope you had a great St. Patty’s day. Whether you imbibed or abstained, I hope it was fun. Luckily for me, even though it didn’t feel fun, I was supported by my loving wife. She could tell I fought hard to stay straight. I appreciate her so much.

So, the Gridlock paid off again. Any amendments to my personal constitution are going to take more of a challenge than green beer.

Until next week my friends; be well. I wish You the very best.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

These moments remind me of this poem I learned from my Uncle Steve.

The Double Life

How very simple life would be
If only there were two of me
A Restless Me to drift and roam
A Quiet Me to stay at home.
A Searching One to find his fill
Of varied skies and newfound thrills
While sane and homely things are done

By the domestic Other One.
And that’s just where the trouble lies;
There is a Restless Me that cries
For chancy risks and changing scene,
For arctic blue and tropic green,
For deserts with their mystic spell,
For lusty fun and raising Hell
But shackled to that Restless Me
My Other Self rebelliously
Resists the frantic urge to move.

~ by Don Blanding

 

Too free of speech

“Damn, dilution is a powerful force.” I thought that as I watched pages of neon paper curl out of the laser printer in our office, one by one, this evening. These kids’ menus will be important sheets that show off chicken strips, hot dogs and cheeseburgers along with crayon artwork. It took about 5 minutes for 150 of them to pile up…

Back in the late 90’s I went to school to learn about graphic design. In those classes we were taught some now extinct skills. We used stock pages of photo-ready lettering and artwork to literally cut (with scissors or knife) and paste (with the hot wax roller) together a newsletter layout. The result of our paper surgery was laid on a vacuum plate in front of a process camera. We shot and developed the large-format film. Then the negatives were exposed onto metal plates covered in light blue emulsion that we rinsed away in a solvent bath…

Then we were able to mount the plates onto a basic sheet-fed one-color offset printing press. When powered on, the metal plate would spin and clunk and click in rhythym while beginning to cover the rubber drum with a sticky wet inked image. Pull a lever and the suction cups would lift and deliver the top sheet to the spinning cylinders. A quick ride around and out the other side, the 8 ½” x 14” page would arrive with our newsletter on one side.

If you wanted to have a back side to it, you could start the whole thing over again from the beginning.

A very complicated process like this actually changed the world in the 1400’s… That was when Gutenberg printed the Bible. It was the beginning of a massive shift and it happened because words could be reliably ‘painted’ onto thin leafy vellum.

Today, I’m guessing that almost every single person reading this blog has a ‘printing press’ in their own homes. Our inkjet or laser printers are so incredibly more advanced, simple and accessible than their great-great grandparents, the screw press with movable type.

Is everyone with a ‘printing press’ in their home changing the future of humanity with it? Do the machine’s capabilities automatically translate into transformation for our culture?? It seems almost the opposite doesn’t it? Printing presses are one of the most common office or home items and yet huge breakthroughs don’t spit out of them all.

When there was very few machines like this and it took a lot of work, The Bible, the word of God, made history. It’s the content on the page, not the page itself or even the breakthrough process that did.

The whole of Earth is now flooded with printing presses. With this kind of dilution and overloading of the ability to embed words onto paper, we seem to be doing less importance with it. The normality of the astonishing technology at our fingertips renders it weaker than ever.

The deluge of information coming across our screens and therefore eyes, washes away the value of the headlines, the posts and the sentiments we are consuming. Doesn’t it?

Maybe if it took hard manual labor for weeks on end to record and publish an idea, we would invest more effort into it. Here, in this example, I just plopped down for an hour and fifteen minutes in the middle of the night to string together some words for you and for me.

It’s probably too easy, to really make a difference, and that may be the problem itself.

Until next week, be amazed my friends, and be vigilant in case the next big shift wants to arrive through You.

God Bless 🙂

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

I tri, a scalene blog post

Another thing that happens in the daily bath with my daughter is this:

She plays in the stream from the faucet. A plastic cup, or the pudgy blue Nettie Pot catches the water. She pours it on herself and laughs. Crammed up at the end of the tub, she’s piled around with toys and having fun.

Then I decide to twist the knobs and shutoff the flow.

Whaaaaaaa! Daddy! She cries. She’s mad. I messed up her good time…

It takes a second, but I remind her to turn around and see the tub full of water. She has a literal swimming pool to splash in. She likes that too. Wiggling on her belly, blowing bubbles with a straw. Bath time continues.

How often, do I get focused in on the little stream of new blessings in my day. I stare at it and play. I might think it’s the only thing that is nourishing my life. This trickle is keeping my spirits up… If it happens to stutter or slow down to a drip, I panic… If my message to JoJo were to myself, I’d say, ‘Turn Around. Take a Look Back, There are PLENTY of Blessings to sustain to you, for now, and for a long time to come, even if they aren’t gushing in 24-7.’

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I didn’t do what my wife asked me to do. She’d bought an organizer to hang on the bathroom wall. I noticed it sitting in the box for a couple weeks, and then she finally installed it herself.

The picture on the package, showed a hairdryer, maybe a brush too. Ours now sit in the cradles of curly metal, but it doesn’t look quite like the box. Any real hairdryer has a long cord. It dangles in big loops along the wall. The picture didn’t show that.

My favorite band posted a new music video online. It’s a clean black and white theme. In solo shots they each rock out with their instruments to the song… I’ve seen them play a bunch of times in person, and the guys never look like in this video. The guitars are missing their wire leading to a vintage amp. There are no effects pedals on the floor. The drums aren’t mic’d and the electric piano appears to work without electricity also. None of their instruments are plugged in…

Why aren’t they there? How are they left out? How can the music play without the power?

The photoshopped product packaging looks better without dangling cords, right? The band too, it’s presented sans wires, it’s more ‘elegant’.

Someone must’ve thought the Heathens’ image would be cluttered with wires running all over the stark white movie set. In their concerts, the cables and amps and extra guitars hanging on racks are almost another member of the band. These guys are musicians, and their gear covers the stage like thick black spaghetti.

Real life has wires. It’s crowded with them. They are necessary and vital and yeah, kinda ugly to look at. When we let ourselves forget that real life is messy and not pretty from every angle, we can get discouraged by that truth. At least I can.

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I heard on the radio the other day that a log cabin on the homestead of Little House on the Prairie is needing repair. In this article, you can find out that the cabin was built in the 1970’s. It’s not the original one. Anyway, it’s a tourist attraction for fans of the books, and a Gofundme campain is underway.

This log cabin and an outbuilding is estimated to cost around $48,000 to build.

I think I can remember reading all of those Little House Books. I was in awe at the simplicity and the suffering of pioneer life. It was a long time ago when I read it, but didn’t she mention her current day prices of goods. I think they were extremely different than now. She was even excited about simple Christmas gifts like an orange or a penny.

I think they were buying bolts of cloth, mules and land for what we spend on a nice dinner out. $48,000 now will only buy the cabin and a shed. I wonder what Laura Ingalls Wilder would think of that?

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Until next week my friends, be mindful of the bounty of blessings in your life. You are probably swimming in them.

But don’t forget, that real life is messy, when someone is trying to sell you a sanitized version instead.

Overall, wherever we are in this crazy world, there is no way to imagine how it will all be valued out into the future. So today do something that you’ll glad you did tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

 

Protesting, The Wall, Being a Dirty Baby

So my daughter is a protestor. It’s so trendy now, even for the littlest of kids. I guess it’s bound to happen, with the cultural climate, as it is. Luckily, her objections that I’m writing about here, aren’t as militant as some can be.

Every morning lately, during her bath time, I announce that ‘It’s Time to Wash UP!’ As I am preparing her pink scrubby with watermelon soap, she is mounting the protest. It’s a peaceful one, almost without any noise at all.

On my ‘wash-up’ cue, she has begun a pattern of grabbing the shower curtain, and ducking underneath it. Then she is sheltered between the inner and outer curtain. She just sits still in quiet defiance of the wad of soapy suds I’m wielding at her. It’s a pretty cute actually, and it made me realize something today.

JoJo is exercising and expressing her individual preference in relation to the washing portion of bath time. She has no problem with the beginning of the process. She is usually happy to be stripped down and plopped into the tub. She plays and carries on for awhile without issues. After the scrubbing and rinsing, she is back to blowing bubbles and splashswimming in place.

It’s easy to understand she won’t participate completely willingly in the cleaning. She also doesn’t completely melt down, but a few wimpers and squeaks will be her only cries. At least for this last few day period, she submits to it, but is clearly showing me her feelings on the matter with her, insta-hiding tricks.

For our entire lives, we curate and develop an intricate web of personal boundaries. The beginnings of which probably look something like this example with our kiddo. We are the ones who ultimately choose the flexibility or rigidity of our boundary lines, when it comes to actions we engage in. We have tons of control and therefore responsibility to make split-second or long-term decisions on what we will participate in, endorse, allow, require or fight for and against.

Maybe one definition of our personality would be a long list of these boundaries and choices that we have created a unique pattern with, and that others know us by. It is fun to watch this little human grow in front of my eyes and show me truths about the larger concepts of consciousness and existence.

We obviously start young with the development of expressing our opinions to world. I wonder about my own life and inner stances. Do I hold myself highly accountable to examine my boundaries? Where and why, do I tend to protect and stand fast? Where do I let blow free in the breeze, my own involvements and interactions?

I think Joella is probably just doing now what feels good. It feels fun to play and splash. It’s less pleasant to be swabbed all over and then soaked down with a shower wand, like the family dog. I get that. It’s not the most enjoyable part of bathing.

However, it’s also necessary and healthy to be cleaned up once in a while. It’s probably more fun in the big picture to be a sweet smelling clean-faced little tyke, than a stinky tot covered in sticky breakfast goo from head to toe.

Right now, I help her make those decisions. I do what I think is best, even if she’s showing me it’s not her thing…

For myself though? I might not always look close enough at the consequences. I might fall into a trap, and act like my little girl. I might choose to do what feels good, instead of what is good for me. In fact, I know I do it. Probably more than I care to admit.

As far the things I protest against? Hmm… how about giving up my selfishness, being the most helpful husband I can be, or letting another peanut M&M remain in the bright yellow heavy plastic sack. Although I’d like to tell you that I hold tight to my disciplines of goal setting and life-mapping and spiritual development, I’d be lying to claim it.

These are just a few examples of boundaries that I need to re-evaluate. Some walls need built and reinforced at all costs. Some need torn down and removed altogether. But that’s just me, just the choices I’ve made up to this point, and it can and will change soon, it always does.

Just as our darling daughter shows us, the change is rapid and unpredictable. Maybe this time next week, her protesting will be overpowering. If you see her hair matted in oatmeal and the remnants of toast crumbs and jelly on her cheeks late in the day, you’ll know what is going on. 🙂

Until next week my friends, invest energy in the examination of your own boundaries. Reestablish your personal sovereignty. Remind yourself, that you have lots of choice in this life. Not as master of circumstances, but of your responses to them.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

A teacher breaking the rules, thankfully

In a middle school math class, the teacher broke some rules. I was confused at first. It was like she wasn’t following her own instructions to us. She acted like certain mathematical details in the problem didn’t matter… What? How can that be?

The lesson she showed us in this casual yet powerful moment of class, I still use almost every day. It was about more than just basic math. It’s an important thing to know that we don’t HAVE to always stick to the rules… I liked that!

This example happened a long time ago, so I may not have it all perfectly recollected, but it went something like this:

Mrs. Mackie issued the class a handful of multiplication problems.

What’s 49 times 61?

How about 24 times 11?

Or 93 times 5?

I can recall trying to write down my numbers and start to work the problems as we’d been shown before. (I always had instant anxiety at these moments, not wanting to be slow to figure it out.)

She stopped us in the middle of scribbling and said something like: “Don’t make these harder than they are. Just get close. C’mon, somebody give me an answer.”

Huh? Just get close?? What? I thought this was MATHEMATICS and specific answers with numbers were like IMPORTANT! In fact, that’s the only way I’d experienced math. I was given a problem and had to report my work as an exactly correct numerical expression. In math, it’s either exactly right, or exactly WRONG… right?

Well on this occasion, my mind was stretched and opened up. I clearly remember the specific feeling of that. Mrs. Mackie said it was okay to just get close by rounding things off. You know, make it a quick and simple thing in your mind to just get in the ballpark.  She was rattling off some answers within seconds.

But the solutions weren’t like we were used to hearing in math class. Instead of the number itself, she spoke in sentences and stories.

“Well 49 is close enough to 50, so lets’ just use that. 61 is close to 60. Break that down to 5 times 6 and then add the zeros back in. So 5 times 6 is 30, with a couple zeros more it’s 3000.  And that is a ballpark answer to what is 49 x 61.”

“Same thing for the other two problems.  24 x 11 would be close to 24 x 10 which is really easy, then add another 24 to it. So 240 plus 24 is 264. She said that 93 x 5 is going to be between 450 and 500 because 90 x 5 is an easy calculation of 9 x 5 (45) plus a zero and 100 x 5 is 500.”

What?? Umm… Wow. These were not the kinds of answers I was used to hearing when it came to this anxiety-inducing specifically detail-oriented subject!

Teaching Estimation and Rounding isn’t the cutting edge of complex mathematics. It’s probably common for lots of middle-schoolers.  The impact came from the way she presented the material. It really crystallized the concept for me. I could see the bigger picture utility, and it was about more than just math. It was a method to deal with life itself.

Her point was that it’s okay to generalize sometimes. She showed me that problems can be tackled from different perspectives. We can deconstruct things, round off and choose easier more familiar methods to work on them. In fact, there isn’t just one exactly correct way to handle an obstacle before you. There are several options and it depends how exact the answer needs to be.

This is real education. It’s something I’ve used almost every day since I learned it. It’s a mental tool passed down from a mentor. She taught me a way to use my own mind that I didn’t know existed before. I received transformation, not just information.

Thanks Mrs. Mackie. I appreciate to this day, the mind-stretching moments you delivered many years ago.

Until later this week my friends, go back to middle school if you have to. Don’t get stuck too deep into exact details. It’s okay to round it off and call it good. Estimate a generality of your goals, at least that’s better than skipping them altogether. Get yourself in the ballpark. It’s probably easier than you think.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols