We Love Lake Life

There are worse places to write my blog from. Sitting in my lawnchair, just outside a pop-up camper, with the crackling of several fires, the crazy buzz of this camping resort has died down. All around me are people, and kids, and dogs. They are packed in here, tight as sardines, each with a tent or trailer, coolers and kids toys. This is not our usual state park style campground, but the spectacle of it all, has been actually fun to watch.

Just moments ago there was a screaming kid, their raspy voice slicing through darkness. It was a good wail. The sniffles followed and then more screams. In the adjacent campsite, just 20 feet away, another annoyed kiddo was yelling back, “Quiet down over there! We’re trying to sleep!” Funny I but true, everyone did want the little guy or girl to shut up :)

We have been enjoying Kamp Dels Resort, here in Waterville, Minnesota for the last several days. Roxy and Lindsay and I, like our roadtrips and campouts, and this is one more good one together. Since I sort of refuse to plan ahead, we found this place just last Saturday, and booked it last Sunday. A last minute decision, for an almost week long vacation.

Luckily my wife is game, and allowed my procrastinational sense of adventure to prevail again. She bailed us out, by finding this open campground and did all the navigation to get us here. I almost couldn’t even tell you on a map where we are. She did all that :)

This resort is 60 years old. It is very well operated, a family affair. The grounds are tidy, and everything is up to date. I am using the parks excellent strength wifi right now to type live online. There is a mini-golf here and basketball courts, a fishing pond and lots of playgrounds. They have planned activities several times a day. To top it all off, they have a fancy waterpark/pool combo and a petting zoo too.

This place provides tons of services, and appears to be a thriving profit-making business.

On our first whole day in Minnesota, we took a drive, around to the other side of Lake Sakatah, from where our camp is. The State Park is over there. We pulled in to the driveway, and as we moved forward, nature closed in behind us. The thick trees envelope the little drives down to the picnic area and boat un-loading ramp. We saw a couple narrow hiking and biking and snowmobile trails cutting across the road, and quickly disappearing into the brush. We turned around at one dead end and traveled back to visit the State Park campsites.

Several one-way loops were dotted with the most basic of campsites. There was a marker post and little clearing in the trees. Some spots had a couple large boulders to block a car from driving in too far. All of them had a fire ring, but little else. Lindsay and I have used these kind of primitive areas before. In Colorado, we stayed in Difficult Campground, outside of Aspen. It too was bare-bones, but with a breathtaking mountain view. I saw the thick forest of native trees, the spartan accommodations and was glad we chose the over-commercialized campground across the lake.

Two ways to camp. Two philosophies. Each on it’s own side of the lake. I have now enjoyed my experiences in both types of places. I wouldn’t want to always have to choose one or the other.

Here at Kamp Dels, the nature has been cleared away. A large tract of land has been opened up. It is mowed and has paved roads galore. There is power and water available every 25 feet it seems, for another RV to pull in, right up against our own.

Across the way, the trees are still king. Lots of underbrush and wildlife I assume. No alpacas or shetland ponies, but all the animals over there, don’t live in cages.

On the eve of our nation’s Independence Day, I am reminded that sometimes people have to make a stand for what they believe. I see that there are times to choose your philosophy and create your own future from those ideals. There is a family, who lives on this property, and the entrepreneurial spirit has unfolded into decades of service and improvement and family fun. Across the pond, someone, or some organization, has held dear to the preservation of their property, almost forcing visitors into forgetting the outside world and becoming part of the natural landscape itself.

I am glad today, that I don’t have to choose just one place to drag in a trailer and setup camp. I want to choose both, at different times, for different reasons.

I do know though, that each day I get the opportunity to curate and to cultivate my own personal landscape of philosophies and beliefs. I must believe today, for certain, that I want to spend my time with my wife. Just with her, and I guess, Roxy too. I must have made that my mission, to invest my energy into making time for our relationship to be enriched through visiting downtown Minneapolis together.

I must each day, decide what I want my own experience to look like. Do I want to clear cut and start fresh, do I want business, and service to others and maybe even profit, to be on my own agenda? Would I rather, let the natural world overgrow my day. Would I want to let the flowers and the trees and even the weeds too, be where I spend my time? Just letting nature take it’s course, trying not to tread to heavily upon it?

Today, I wanted to explore. I almost always want to explore. I love that my wife, is willing to do that with me. My navigatress on this beautiful journey, is so special in my heart :)

I just hope that this time next year, we can be camping again, with our new little person along for the ride. Hopefully we can still adventure and explore and pioneer, in the next stages to come. Maybe we can be the ones, wishing it wasn’t our baby, screaming with an alarmingly loud raspy little voice, cutting through the almost black darkness of the campground night.

Sounds fun to me :) Like I said, there are much worse places to write my Independence Day blog from :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Ain’t got grease enough, for this squeaky wheel

The repetitive ear piercing screech was driving me crazy… as I was, well… driving. I had crossed the Rockies and found my way to the most northwest corner of Colorado, when the squeaking really set in.

I had cruised through some canyons on the east side of the mountains, my car ran smooth. I crested the Trail Ridge Road and motored across the high plains, all was good. By the time I found myself waay out by Crag and Maybell, I began a loong drive on dusty gravel ‘highways’ toward Utah.

I followed the directions that some locals and my big paper atlas were suggesting I take. No one else seemed to be using this same route. I was bouncing along on red clay and potholes, all through open range grazing areas and desert bluffs. The scenery was awesome. The constant whining squeak from the front wheels of my truck, was not.

I clearly remember wanting to drive with all my windows down and the stereo off. I wanted to soak up the views and just enjoy as much of this outdoors as possible. I wanted so badly to love the first real steps away from my known universe on my cross-country roadtrip. I was dying to be in perfect harmony with the moment.

BUT I was not.

This darn squeak had me annoyed, and worried. I was in a rugged area, far from any town or other motorists. The screeching sound did break into the brief silence, over and over and over again. I wished it away, but that did not work. I truly wondered if there was something wrong with the my car and something was about to break off. It sounded really bad.

I remember driving for hours, wanting the journey to be perfect, and hating the noise simultaneously. Eventually, I made my way through the corner of Utah. The sounds continued. I drove fast across I-80 in Wyoming, and all seemed okay. As soon as I slowed down though, the creaking squawk was back.

A nice guy at a mechanic shop lifted up the front of my truck. We shook the wheels real hard, there was very little or no play. I wasn’t hearing the shredding of the metal from there, Thank God. I was hearing a classic brake dust squeak, that just wouldn’t quit.

I tried the carwash, over and over. I may have tried a can of stop squeak too. Anyway this annoying noise was messing me up, and diverting my attention away from enjoying the roadtrip of my lifetime, waay back in 2010.

I drove that car from Princeton, Kansas, waaay out west. I drove to the Oregon coast, down the 1 highway in California almost all the way south, then back home. The squeaking wheels did not break off the car, and leave me stranded, or send me careening off of some remote cliff in the desert or volcanic mountain.

The vehicle, my 2001 Isuzu Trooper, performed like a champ.

In the moment though, I did not know the whole story. I couldn’t see the entire trip from beginning to end. I only could experience one moment at a time. That was quite nerve-racking for me. This annoying sound, sailing into my ears, second after second, minute after minute and hour after hour, began to send me into insanity.

I worried alot about it then. I kept driving and eventually it was all okay. Those scary feelings in my gut, did not leave nearly the impression on my memory, that the beautiful vista views did though. I can smell that ocean breeze. I can clearly remember the salty fog and grey-orange sunset of northern California… The squeaky wheel now, is just an anecdote from an awesome adventure.

I wonder what I worry about today? I wonder what twists up my guts in silent panic, that is really no big deal, in the really big picture? I wonder what squeaky wheels grab my attention, and divert my eyes from the magical moments right in front of my face today?

I remember that quote, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”

Well, I have sweated it, and yet we seem to be allowed to carry on anyway. I know my enjoyment of the evening I rumbled into Utah on a dusty red-rock backroad, was hindered by my worry over the squeaky wheel.

What a fantastic trip. Squeaky wheel and all. I would do it all over again right now, given half a chance. I wonder though, if I would be able to let all the small stuff float through my consciousness and truly enjoy the ride?

Probably sorta kinda :)

And It again would be totally worth it.

:)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Taking my shots

Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Ahh Ahh! Ouch!!

Hey, that doesn’t really hurt at all!

I clearly remember a gang of cousins hanging around a little construction project in the driveway at my Uncle Stan’s farm in Rantoul Kansas, when I was about third-grade age. He was building something, maybe a rabbit hutch or a chicken coop. I remember it was a box-shaped thing, made of wood and wire netting.

He had a pneumatic staple gun. He was tacking the wire cloth to the wooden frames. While we were watching, he pointed the gun right at me and let ‘er rip!

Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Pppshhhhhttttt-tink!

I probably screamed, or almost cried. I was terrified I remember in that moment. “Ahh Ahh! Ouch!!” I might have exclaimed. I remember thinking I would look down and see blood, or we would have to go to the hospital to have the staples removed. I probably was even mad and shocked that my beloved uncle would do something as sinister as shooting his little nephew with that loud and dangerous staple gun!

Actually there was no pain at all when the staples hit me. I don’t think they even stuck to my naked chest. (His three step-sons and I had probably spent that day playing the pond) The staples did hit me, but literally almost nothing happened…

All my emotional reaction and shock, was for naught. Actually it was probably worth a good laugh to see my face reel back in horror, for that one split second :)

I thought about that moment, probably 25 years after it happened, this week. I remember mainly being disturbed, and confused with wonder…

See, before the moment that my uncle shot his little air-stapler at me, I was quite sure that his handheld tool was capable of blasting deadly force if aimed at a human… I was sure that pointing it in any direction but into the project’s wooden frame, was just plain dangerous and wrong. I was probably scared to even get near that air-gun, since it was an ‘adult’ tool and not for kids to be touching in any way shape or form. The moment that the jokester Uncle Stan, shot it at me, a whole world of preconceived ideas shattered as the little tinny staple bounced off of me and landed without a sound in the gravel below.

I expected a shot of lead from a .357 Mag, and instead it was a loosely tossed paperclip.

Huh?

Throughout my life, I can recall times when paradigms have shifted for me. This little story is just one of many. It does however describe the same event occurring over and over. I have a concrete reinforced box in my brain about how a certain thing, or person or event, ‘should’ be. Then something comes along and completely obliterates that rock-solid mental construct instantly.

Interesting isn’t it. Something that can seem so absolutely true in one moment, can become absolutely false in the next. Maybe sometimes it doesn’t happen in a one-hundred-eighty-degree fashion. Sometimes the black or the white of our mind, can instantly transform to grey.

I guess it is a good thing, that I don’t still today, hold each and every idea dearly that my third-grade self did. I am sure that the evolution and the growth of each of our lives, requires us to step from one lily pad of knowledge and understanding to the next, leaving the old one behind.

I do however wonder, if the next new shift in my own consciousness is a lasting extended foundational concept for me to build on, or if it is fleeting as well?

I can get lost, experiencing one new epiphany after another. I can shed and release old idea after old idea, until eventually I have lost track of my bearings. I seem to swim in unchartered waters. Are there sharks there? Am I finally reaching shore again? Is the ‘forward’ progress even a projection at all? Maybe a backslide feels like momentum in the mental tide of the day.

We have a new little life coming to us soon. I know that we will want to impart ideas on the new fresh mind. We will probably want to instill caution and tease the baby’s curiosity. We will want this mini little person to think like we think. But is that a good thing?

I don’t know. I have forever been unfolding new versions of understanding since I entered this space we call Earth. I suppose our little one will too. Sometimes I decide that journey is treacherous and exhausting. I cringe and reel back, or lash out in anger, when confronted with these moments. I have heard though, that some individuals are energized and excited with the adventure of taking on challenges in life. Whether mental or spiritual or physical, there are those who love the thrill of pushing their own limits, finding new freedoms within the movement of transition itself.

Often I live the worm’s existence. Wanting to inch along, wanting to hide from sunshine, I want to creep unchanged through the same dirt today, as I did the day before.

Wish me luck, as I am continually shot at, and I continually cry out. I want to learn to love those moments. Finding the love and truth and fun of life, outside the ideas of what I have believed so far to be absolutely true. I want to know those thrills from the driver’s seat, and not the rumble seat. I hope too that by sharing these words, that someone out there can relate, and learn again, that our human experiences are more alike than they are different.

Maybe you too, thought that danger and death was at hand, and really it is not. Maybe there is a lighthearted joy behind it all. Maybe you will find a love that always wants to keep you and hold you and never let anything harm you, even when it seems to be happening all around. The love of Jesus Christ is like that. At least for now, that seems to be what I know.

With Love,

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The Masters

I love to watch a master. Don’t you? When you see someone perform and you just completely get the harmony between their person and their craft, it is amazing.

I watched my favorite band play live last night. Play they did! I have been watching The Band of Heathens play live since 2010. They sound better and better every time I see them. They are true musicians. They have written their songs. They each play multiple instruments with excellence. Their extended jams, harmonies, teamwork and energy are pure joy to hear and to see.

These guys have been honing their craft and right now it is RAZOR sharp!

And so is yours. And so is mine. And so is my neighbor’s down the street.

Sorta.

I so appreciated the effort and practice that the Ed and Gordy and Trevor and Richard and Scott have cultivated in their lives together. It is true art, to behold. I have a feeling though, that these same guys wouldn’t rock as hard or as smooth on their guitar or drums or harmonica or piano, if they did it as a hobby. If any of these same amazing musicians had decided to live a ‘balanced’ life, or more normal life, they just wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Thank goodness that they have chosen to ride around the country for months at a time, together in a van pulling a little trailer. I’m so appreciative that they spend time away from their families and bounce from city to city, just playing gig after gig after gig. Year after year, every time they come around they seem to be even better than before.

I’m sure that I am also getting better at my chosen paths in life. I am repeating cycles over and over and over. Surely, I am learning as I go, making corrections, and become more instinctively in tune with my practices… Hmmm….

I probably am doing this same daily reinforcement of activity, but I know that I have not completely and fully committed myself to one specific profession. The boys in the band, play a few different instruments, but they don’t seem to be trying to do anything but music. They don’t seem to share time between a 9-5 job, or every weekend at the lake. They don’t seem to attend every family event that a young Dad could do. They are giving up certain things to stay focused on the music. Sacrifice is part of their commitment.

I am sure I sacrifice too. In an opposite way, I sacrifice all my musical talents and them dwindle and die, while I choose to not play a guitar every day. I sacrifice landscapes and portraits and scenes of brilliant color, every day that I don’t pick up a paintbrush and oils. I sacrifice too, and so do you. I choose, what I choose, and that leaves certain things out.

Yes, I do think we are mastering our craft. In ways it is amazing to watch all of us perform our daily tasks. The musicians of the BoH, give me particular joy to watch, but so does a performance on sunday morning at church. The energy that is stirred in me, is almost perfectly mirrored by the mastery of the musician.

I have become the most adept and amazing artist of my own version of life, that is unique to the whole of the universe. You are too. You are the only one, who is doing the exact version of YOU right now. You are rocking it, hardcore! You have your 10,000 hours of practical experience and it shows. Whatever you are being and doing and committed to, you have made this all manifest from a constant stream of choices.

Wow, I wonder what would happen, if I someday decided to drop certain activities and lead a less ‘balanced’ lifestyle. What if I just chose one of my ‘things’ instead of the array of ‘things’ that I now give my precious attention to.

One of our team members at the restaurant the other day told me that her boss has an eight to ten dollar per minute value on his time in their dental office. Nice, I would bet that some other folks out there are creating on an even higher level than that. What if I thought that the value of my time could be represented in these kind of numbers? Where would I spend it? Where would I drop certain time wasting and sucking activities. Where would I decide to hone and practice and re-work the work over again, until I had mastered it?

I love watching Masters perform their passion, their true love and the thing that they have devoted their lives to… I’m betting that it feels even better to be that Master, to dance momentarily an the exact natural rhythm, bordering on perfection, and knowing all you want to do is keep playing that same tune.

I do scatter and squander and spray my attention. I am master of that it seems :) I again sit here, late at night and also sacrifice sleep, to do this writing thing. Someday it may seem like I planned it that way. All part of the process of mastery :)

Sincerly,

Until Next Week, God Bless You :)

Aaron Nichols

Don’t just do

I was cutting up a chunk of partially frozen meat a few weeks ago. I had to push really hard to force my knife blade all the way down through it. I remember choking up on the handle really far. In fact my index finger was curled across the back ridge of the stainless steel. It had scooted up past the fat round white plastic handle. I carved and sawed my way through, until the meat was diced. And inside my latex glove, I had worn a hole in my hand.

When I took off the glove, it looked real red and raw. I had been so vigorously slicing that I didn’t care about the little pointed pain in my fingy. That index finger was just scraping back and forth across the square edge of the back of my knife. I got the job done, but I injured myself in the process.

That little wound became a nagging and painful problem for the next week and half. The soreness hung around. The location was constantly being hit and beat up. I was in no real kind of dangerous pain, but It was annoying for sure.

The following week, again I was cutting a similar chunk of meat. Maybe this one wasn’t as firm, but I wanted to be sure and not hurt myself like I had the week before. I paid more attention to my grip on the knife. I was attentive to little hotspots that I could feel working on certain little pressure points in my hand. I did better that time, but still managed to cut a new blister in the gripping area of my right hand.

Finally this week, I really backed off of vigorous knifing techniques. I slowed down. I was deliberate and methodical. I moved my hand to many different positions and didn’t hardly stick with one for more than a stroke or two. I am pretty sure, this week, I won’t have even one blister to monitor, or work around in my hand. It has been a month since it was healed all over…

My hand is an easy place to notice excessive wear. It tells me quickly when I have hurt it. It remains in a state of painfulness and tenderness, that only fades slightly each day. The restoration is not immediate. It takes awhile to recover from a simple little surface level skin abrasion….

I wonder what other parts of my life are just like this. I wonder what other areas are wounded and need to be worked around for awhile till they heal. I am thinking that I still repeated my mistakes, even when I intended not to.

Today, it took as much conscious effort to protect the health of my hand, as it did, to complete the job, the task on the board in front of me.

Self preservation and accomplishing my goal, needed equal amounts of my attention and focus.

I just noticed this fact today. I noticed lots of them. I want to remind myself sometimes of the truths being shown to me in every little detail of life.

“How some things work, is how all things work.” I remember coach Steve Chandler saying. When I wonder if that statement is true, I find that yes, it seems to be.

Until next week, stay weird my friends.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The Eyes Have It

After last week’s post on this page, I’m not sure what gas is left in the writing tank. I wondered to myself all week, and aloud to my wife if that post was maybe the whole reason for weirdforgood.com. I considered that I have possibly been slowly circling, rounding and swirling, week after week, cruising ever closer to that big ole blog about my Dad… Maybe so.

I do know that a massive mountain of weight and angst has seemed to lift up from my shoulders and release since then. I have walked lighter and looked brighter at almost all the little moments in my day, since I got my latest download from God the creator.

I laugh at myself too. I know that I can talk big, here in this space, about things I ‘know’ or what seems to be true for me today. It all can change again tomorrow, I do feel changes, swinging forth and back. This latest moment of fresh sublime joy will fade and pass.

A deep and bitter wound is seeming to heal up.

I think Jesus is on my side. I think there just has to be something significant and real, about this unseen force in my life. I cannot explain it any other way. I know that I have been no perfect christian (not that they exist)… And I know I have so far to go, in my spiritual walk. I am an infant, totally dependent, being loved in so many ways and yet crying about everything.

I guess I wanted to post a short and simple message tonight. It has taken until 2:41 am to really decide to make it this clear.

If you haven’t checked out this man called Jesus, I ask you to do it now. Just let that inner curiosity find some answers somewhere, some how. You could look up something about Jesus on the web. You could stop clickig through that church tv channel. You could tune into a christian radio station. You can start almost anywhere really. You probably would find that Jesus can connect with you, wherever you are right this instant. I find that church doesn’t have to be involved at all… if you’re not into that idea at this point.

Something good happened to my life, when I began to feed the myself some gospel. A lot of tough things have happened too. I probably would have backed down from the challenges Jesus has set me up for, if I would have seen them all together at once before starting the journey. I know though, somehow I have been able to stretch and walk step after step through it all. Actually, I was probably carried.

What a completely personal thing to mention to you, my reader today. I don’t have any idea where you are in your life. I don’t know the struggles you’re facing, or the breezy joys that you smile about often. Maybe it has never crossed your mind, that Jesus has a plan for your life, and how it gives purpose to your days.

I just wanted to stop and say these words tonight. I cannot explain to you why this important. I cannot tell you good reasons to give a crap, about what I’ve just written. All those things are invisible to me, from my point of view. Your world is yours. I have no way to really know it.

I do know that something urges me, to urge you. Maybe Jesus needs your help, your hands, your heart and eyes and real muscle to do some good work. Sometimes I feel Him working through my eyes. It is strange but wonderful. I think He’s looking through me, seeing you, wanting you to embrace the Savior of the World.

I want to sleep and dream of that now.

Next week, I will be weird again, maybe about the Lamb, the Son of God, maybe not. Come back then and see what’s new.

Peace be with You.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

Washing away the river of tears, thanks for the message Dad!

The river’s been up for last week or so, that same muddy Marais that swallowed my big strong Dad. I knew that I would be writing on a somber anniversary today. Been wondering all week, what emotions would float up, 32 years, after he’d drowned.

Truthfully, it has been a jam-packed day, no alone time, or down time to ponder at all. I’ve awoke to my beautiful and pregnant bride on her first morning of summer. We talked and talked. Setting off for work, the pile of projects overflowed. Late to get back to the restaurant for a big evening rush, we served several large groups and performed well.

All day, my mind wanted to dive deep into the darknesses and be sad for myself on May 21st. It wanted to relish and lather up in the sadness of a young boy, who’d lost his Daddy… Too bad, I didn’t have time for that :)

Nope, I just worked along, with action following action until the day is finally ending here at 1:40 am. My fingers are finally flexing enough to click these keys…

Flashes did spark as flew through this day. I’ve thought of my sister, just 2 years old, when our Dad was taken away. I’ve thought of how differently and separately we’ve coped with our common loss. I’ve thought of my Mother, such a beautiful young woman who’s world must’ve been ripped apart today… 32 years ago. I thought of my aunts and uncles and my grandparents too. I was delighted to serve dinner to my only living grandparents this very evening. Wow, how they’ve cradled our little lives ever since I can remember…

I think of my step-dad Joe and all the troubles we’ve tangled together. I know this man is full of so much real love. Yet I also know, our combination of personalities has been toxic at times to us both. I think of my sister Amanda. She’s grew up with these two other kids, brother and sister, us the Nichols’s and her the Tucker… still we all shared all of our families together, with so many good times and some bad.

I thought of my Dad’s friends. His best friend Jim. A man I love so deeply. A man who pains as I pain too, today. I will see him this weekend. I’ve been riding his case hard lately :) I’m sure my Dad would’ve been too, he may be the one providing the inspirational ideas for the constant stream of jokes lately :)

I think about this loss and hold the facts of it in the palm of my hand. If I squeeze it and roll it around and around. I look at it from lots of angles now, not just one or two.

I see the rippled effects of this ‘accident’ and I study it up close. I look with a magnifying lens and see thousands of chips and flaws and cracks were left in the wake. As long as I stay zoomed in tight, I can notice each hairline fracture and tiny divot left from this almost lifelong void of growing up without my Dad. That is, as long as I stay zoomed in.

If I step back, and I give myself some room, it becomes harder to remember and to catalog the thousands of tiny emotional cuts I’ve felt over these 32 years. If I step back even a little further, I can relate my own issues and life experiences to things I see so clearly with the next generation.

I love to watch my nephews play and romp. I see the vigor of youth and rambunction incarnated in them. I watch them too switch from fits of laughter to wailing tears almost instantaneously at times. I notice the truth in their cries. They sincerely are upset. They express quick angers and sad pouts. They want what they want sometimes and cry if they don’t get it. As their uncle, I understand their immediate issues, but I don’t worry they will never recover. These are small potatoes in the big big picture. They will recover and move on. They will snap back, maybe in the next minute or two even.

And yes, tonight, I saw myself through similar eyes. Maybe even the eyes of our Almighty Creator. I saw myself being upset and crying. I saw pain and tears and selfish emotional fits. I saw my own wounds being rehashed over and over, ever since that day in 1983. I wonder if God watches me cry, and that same deeper understanding that even yet, all will be okay.

I think about being a child and losing a parent, and think about the kids in Ohio. My cousin Megan left behind two beautiful little ones. Just 6 and 4 when she died. I think about how I have barely talked to them in years. I am guilt-ridden. I wonder if someone out there was like I am now, as I grew up as a child. I wonder if someone was loving and well-meaning, but just didn’t know what to do or to say. I wonder if they too lived on, and hoped the kids were doing alright. I know I hope that every day.

I figured tonight, that over this lifetime of mine, I have carried an elaborate sack of despair and hurt and anger, embroidered with emotions concerning the death of my father. To me, the sack can seem like the world itself sometimes. It is all-encompassing even, to the point where I don’t know the difference between the world of sadness of death, and the opportunity for life.

Tonight though, a tiny voice spoke again. It mentioned something to me, through the onslaught of activity while I worked at the restaurant. It served up an idea while I let the night wind down here at home… I recognize this wise whisper. I’ve heard it before.

Tonight it was friendly. Not a bubbly blabber-mouth buddy, but a smart and confidence-inspiring companion. The tone was so encouraging. It was matter-of-fact too. I wasn’t shaking a finger at me. It was helping me to recognize something. It showed me an obvious truth. It did not pass judgement, it didn’t illicit remorse in any way. This was the voice of God, but I still hardly noticed as the sentence crossed my internal radar screen…

“I think you’ve grieved enough”… it suggested…

I felt better, hearing those words in my own head. I believed them instantly. I wondered about the origins of my sadnesses and depressions over losing my Dad at a young age. I wondered about where I got the big idea that my life would be kinda ruined by this event? I could see this question curiously and lightly. Nothing could feel condemning or condescending in the flash of that almighty reassurance.

I could so quickly run through new scenarios for myself and for my outlook toward others. What if I really decided that I had grieved enough? What would that mean for me? How could I now operate and articulate and go about agitating up some ferver and vigor and excitement for life! I could have experiences, just like a ‘normal’ person! One who didn’t lose their Dad when they were 4 years old. I could do a lot of new things, if I didn’t have more grieving to accomplish from now till the end of my days!

I could maybe laugh and sing and dance and smile real real big. I could maybe walk lightly and upright in posture. I could bounce through my days, instead of dragging along heavy-footed and heavy-hearted.  Funny thing is this. I know that lots of people have told me about the live-loving attitude my Dad seemed to always carry with him. Maybe if I wasn’t so stuck in grief, I might even resemble him more and more. Maybe he sent a gift my way today with this little mental message.

I’ve written here, a simple and powerful idea. I’ve told you it’s not mine, but I did receive it. I may not be strong enough to really live into it today. I may still curl up in a ball in and cry to myself sometimes. I may still visit the cemetery and talk to the rocks instead of a real person. I may never really fix myself up, all the way, and be that spark of life, like my Dad was…

But, I can move forward. I can live today. I can take this tiny little message and curiously discover what happens when I attempt to believe it. Maybe I have grieved enough. I’ve lost more that just my Dad. I have plenty of people to keep on grievin’ on, if I wish. I wonder though, if those same people are on the other side, wishing I would enjoy my today’s and the good memories of them together. Maybe they want to show me how too, I will take that help :)

I will take this little tiny seed of an idea and plant it. I can water it and watch to see how it grows. I wonder what wild bushy tree of life can sprout from it :)

I will leave you all tonight with this. If I have been grieving, then maybe I have grieved enough. Maybe I can move forward in love. I can remember in love. I can laugh again without guilt that I shouldn’t do so, because of the all the sadness that I ‘should’ carry around…

Thanks Dad. I Love You. I Do Miss You. I think I may be ready to laugh again and introduce your new grandbaby to fun and happy new world. I want to do that for You, and for the Little One, but especially for Me :) It’s time to be okay again :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

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Hunks of Metal in my Brain

Took some extra keys off my key ring today… Actually, ‘extra’ couldn’t be accurate because I had obviously not carried multiple matching keys at any time I can remember. So if they aren’t extra, I could at least say they are unused keys. These little metal shapes had served a purpose at one time, but now I can’t seem to recall for what?

Now only three keys remain on a ring that carry every day. I have my house key, my garage key and a key to the restaurant. That’s it. I do have a car key also, but it has it’s own ring, with an electronic-door-unlocker-doohickey on it. So in total, I have 4 keys with me at all times…

Real freakin’ interesting, right?

Nope, not really. I am intrigued however at those ‘unused’ keys. I don’t remember when I officially stopped needing them for my normal activities. I look at them and beg my brain to recall something useful they could do for me now. I then pop open a junk drawer in the kitchen and find another older set of unused keys that I had saved years ago. I guess the ‘new’ unused keys can now live with the ‘old’ unused keys.

It does amaze me that this day in age, with all the technology that we possess in our portable super-computer communication devices, that these hunks of bumpy metal are so integral to our standard living operations.

To have the right key is a wonderful thing. To not have the right key, can mess up almost any plans. These objects hold great power, and yet they are dead simple, rudimentary devices. A key is just Data, and it is almost useless without the Information to operate it.

At one time I worked for a college professor. He shared some of his teachings with me almost every time we talked together. He showed me some differences between Data and Information. I thought about that today, when I dropped the extra pieces of metallic data off my key ring, since now the information about them is gone.

He explained that Data was like a compilation of numbers and letters. Tons of them maybe, all held together. This list could possibly be accessed and utilized, but not completely on it’s own. Their grouping of black and white shapes on paper, or zeros and ones in a binary format, couldn’t exactly accomplish anything just by existing.

Like a drawer full of keys, the raw Data, is almost completely useless without the ‘information’ that matches certain keys to certain locks. See the information is the thing that recognizes context. Information can make connections. Information is able to make a big wad of letters and numbers into an old-school phonebook. Information is the way in which we process the data of the phonebook, we read the letters in order, we understand language, we translate the numbers to another device and make a call to someone we love. That’s not just data, it takes the information to partner with it, to be useful at all.

My teacher explained that he wanted to use his brain for informational purposes. He wanted it to help him to understand context, see options, weigh out decisions and connect with people. He did NOT want to use his brain to store and retrieve Data. The data could be held elsewhere. A piece of paper can hold data, or a computer or a cell phone or a bar napkin. Technology is wonderful for storing data, waay better than our brains are.

Technology however, cannot to our informational processing like we can. I wouldn’t trust a computer to auto fill our restaurant schedule. It may try to anticipate a pattern of spreadsheet entries, but it takes my own noggin to process the multitude of factors that go into this important and delicate restaurant managing task.

The keys I pulled off my key ring today, have fallen outside of my information processing abilities. I don’t know what they are for. I don’t use them anymore at all. I may someday want to open the lock they match up with, but at this point, I don’t know what lock that would be. So there. They are rubbish.

A piece of data is trash, without the information that connects it to usefullness.

I wonder what else in my life, I carry around with me, that has lost all connection with usefullness? I probably have loads of facts and memories and impressions of experiences that I carry, for no good reason. I am past the point of remembering how they are serving me. I am talking about negative memories, self defeating re-run mental records and the like. I hope you don’t have heavy jangling janitor-sized keyring of this kind of metal crap swinging and banging around off your hip everyday. I’m sure I pick that heavy thing up and haul it around often.

Today though, in my real life, I cut it down to four total keys. That’s all I needed today. Probably all I will need for awhile.

I wonder how I could pare down my mental keyring the same way. I wonder about the professor’s advice to leave the data storing jobs to something besides my own brain. I think he was saying to have a place for the data, but don’t carry it everywhere. Use the mind to navigate and operate and decide and to powerfully move forward. Instead of mulling through files full of junk.

Good advice that I will remember for awhile, as I notice my keyring with it’s few useful keys, and nothing more… Except a flashlight, and a dogtag with my name and phone number… :) Ha! Yes, other stuff that I have almost never used!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Easy to sleep with…

I’ve been training my brain lately. I’ve been training it to let me sleep. Someone mentioned to me, that I might want to get some sleep now, in the months before our bundle of joy arrives :)

No matter how late I get to bed, no matter how tired or exhausted I might be, I read. Well first I start by strapping on my camper’s headlamp, and killing all the other lights. I grab my book and get comfy. Sometimes it takes a couple pages, sometimes only a paragraph or two. I find that I have been crashing directly into a very deep sleep when I do this little routine. Another interesting thing, is that I do not wake up during the night at all.

On just a couple occasions in the last month, I figured I was too tired to need to do my reading, and I tried to skip it. Basically, I toss and turn, and become restless. For some reason I now am only able to achieve a nourishing restful sleep, after reading. I do enjoy the knowing that I have a method to employ, to help me with this important human activity.

Speaking of which…

If “I” can stumble upon this trick that elicits a specific response and desired outcome, then I have proved to myself that I am not a mere slave to my own brain.

See my mind/brain/noggin’ wants to continue the spin cycle as soon as the room goes dark and it has nothing to do but to think… So I simultaneously possess thoughts that I want to get real sleep, and thoughts of the kaleidescope of the craziness of the day. I experience the peculiar separation of two opposite concepts living side by side. I find it a little worrisome that in this particular instance I have found a solution by which the greater good is serviced by tricking myself into deep slumber.

There are other human experiences that I most certainly wish I could trick myself into. Even though the value of good sleep ranks high on anyone’s list, there are things I need even more.

I would like to have a method to trick myself into almost instantaneous cheerfulness. Self-motivation and maybe no-calorie intake hunger satisfaction would be cool. I would like to trick my brain into wanting to exercise or to wake up ready to tackle the day instead of dreading it. There are lots of things that ‘I’ wish, I could hogtie my mind into creating for itself, instead of the bad habits it currently seems to want to hold onto.

What a strange thing. I see the clear separation between me, myself and I. I rely upon the grey matter inside my egg-shaped skull, but it is yet my enemy at the same time. Straddling and struggling between the loosely leashed angry wild bobcat, and my spiritual soul that yearns for peaceful purposeful progress, I know which one wins more of my mental battles. I have the scars to prove it.

Anyways… there are lots of people who can give advice on this topic. Plenty of books are already written. I can probably sign up for a weekend intensive seminar series right now, that will ‘fix’ all these issues and more. Except, that I have already done tons of that stuff, and yes I still fight it, day-in and day-out.

The book trick is working for sleeping better. I wonder if the Good Lord will show me some more ways to train this feisty fleshy-ness that He sewed me up into, when he stitched my life together at that most fundamentally finite of moments.

Simple, predictable and true happiness is all everybody wants, right? It’s not too much to ask for? Is it? Maybe I should just appreciate the good sleep right now, and the other things will take care of themselves in due time :)

I’ll send out prayers for God’s will to be done, and not mine. For you, for me, Amen.

:)

Until next week, take care.

With Love,

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

You say tow may tow, I say I’m scared

Better can hurt sometimes. My little tomato buddies told me that this week. I’d been tending to them for about a month. I had been watering them regularly. I would bring them from inside the house on a cool night, to outside during a sunny day. I moved them around in their crinkle-sounding plastic 4-packs. I’d been ‘hardening’ them off, but it turns out, they may not have become ‘hard’ enough, for the transplantation moment…

I had decided to plant my tomatoes this week. Yes it is early, I know… But I felt like I wanted to try to get them in. I am on my second year of the heavy-mulch style garden bed, and the potatoes, peas, onions and garlic are growing along nicely.

The method I used to plant, I learned from a neighbor, who used to come over and help. She showed me how to put my trigger nozzle on the end of the hose, and shoot a stream of water directly into the soil. The water pressure ‘digs’  a perfect little cylindrical scoop into the soft ground. I then took my granular fertilizer and dropped it in. I even added the epsom salt this year, that I bought last year and forgot to use.

The new little home for each of my 20 tomato plants was a dandy spot. Water, food, a thick mulch to lock in the moisture and protect the base in a breeze. I was sure it would serve them well. Or so I thought…

One morning this week I spent a couple hours settling my peppers and tomatoes into the dirt. I mounded hills for squash and zucchini too. The cucumber seeds went in, and some green and yellow beans found spots. By the time I was done, I noticed that my vibrant tomato teenagers had already fallen limp onto the hay…

What?

Shock set in quick with them this year. They didn’t take the transition too well. I was hopeful they would spring back quick, but honestly, only a few are looking real good even three days later. The rest of them? I don’t know. Maybe they aren’t strong enough. Maybe they will lay limp until they dry up and die.

One thing about my thick hay mulch garden is that the soil underneath it, is in amazing condition. It is wet and crumbly, full of worms and rotting compost. But, since the sun cannot sit down on the ground, it is quite cold as of yet. I wonder if the temperature has caused the embarrassing shrinkage and shock, in my formerly happy little plants?

As I saw them in their sad condition, I was disturbed of course. I had spent time and energy and fixed up their spots with all the nutritious goodness I thought they needed. I gave them new homes to sprawl out in. A place to really grow and develop. I freed them from their little plastic prison cells. They have quite a sturdy trellis that they will get to climb… if they can recover from the shock of the transplant, that is.

I know the feeling that these little seedlings are suffering through. I think the lesson sent to me that day is from God. I think that our Almighty Creator sometimes replants us. I think we can be dropped into a new location, a new paradigm, and we can be shocked by it. I think sometimes, this upgrade actually feels like torture at first.

My little plants were happy and lively and standing tall, in their baby plastic ice cube trays. They could never really develop into their full potential living in that one little cup of dirt. They could not grow thick trunk-like stems and produce succulent red fruit without being planted for real. Maybe I planted them early. I did it when I could though. I did it when I thought it was best to do it. Some of them are standing tall again. Even though I buried them up to their necks. :)

God does this to us lucky kids. I think our spiritual journey mimics this tomato-moment exactly. When we step out in faith and ask Jesus Christ to come into our hearts, we get uprooted out of our little, old, plastic lives. We get planted into the deeeeeeper soil. We are nourished with a new, living water, that quenches in amazing new ways… We are given the opportunity and privilege to grow waaay beyond the scope that our old little container-life could have allowed.

You should have seen all the white wiggling stringy roots fighting for space in their bundled bases. I know that those same roots will now be able to extend and reach and dig deep into the real earth, instead of just the two inch cube of potting moss. The old life of these plants probably would have seemed better to them, after I had stuck them into the cool wet soil and shrank back in a survival reflex motion.

Just like Jesus getting ahold of my life, I want to shrink back. I want the old ways again, please, oh please! I want to reverse the action and climb back into my little protected plastic shell…

I know that the sun is coming. I know that the plants will thrive. I know that I have given them all the opportunity now, to produce wonderful fruit. I will continue to nurture them too. All through their lives. I will take care of them at the end too. I hope that they will be strong through these tough initial days.

God wants me to be strong too. The gift of a new shot at everlasting life is worth the struggle. I can’t imagine the possibility of the new garden I’ve been given to live in. I mainly just want to curl up and shut my eyes and pray for the olden days.

I am sad, that my little plants are taking the transition so hard. I bet God is sad for me too sometimes. Not sad that the effort and gifts and blessings are wasted on me, but that I have failed to breathe deep and relax and enjoy the comforts of my new home enough.

I am missing out on my own new life with God’s abundant love and mercy and grace, because I want to, and that is all. I hope I am one of the few, who are still hanging on, when the sun really starts to shine on me. I hope I haven’t begun the irreversible giving up process when that moment arrives.

God has faith in his plan for me. His designs are flawless, only always. My own fear constrains and pains me. I struggle against myself, usually almost always too. Thanks be to God, for the lessons provided me. I hope I will decide that I am okay enough to survive till spring and summer. And with prayers of expectation for His gentle guidance, I will.

Thanks be to God.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols :)