Fuhggetaboudit Baby!

So I forgot for a few minutes that we had a baby here at the house. Big Deal. To be honest, I was totally oblivious. I truly didn’t have a clue, that a small infantile child had arrived and is now part of the world my wife and I share in this house.

I wasn’t asleep or dreaming. I was in fact quite wide awake, and with it… kinda.

See I had just come home from a double-header sand volleyball match. I was quite hungry too and when I blew through the back door, I saw my pretty wife, sitting at the bar area in our kitchen. I couldn’t wait to tell her the bump-by-bump-by-spike description of our games. I was already thinking food too. I started probably with the fridge, then slamming cabinet doors in search of an appetizer.

I clanked dishes and talked up a storm. I had a full plate of homemade enchilada and was settling into my meal, when I suddenly looked up, right into the eyes of my wife. “I forgot we had a baby… didn’t I??” I stammered,,, “Uh, yeah.” she hushedly agreed…

I was a little embarrassed momentarily. It wasn’t that our little sweet girl was at the back of my mind, behind the obviously more important volleyball and dinner issues… She just was ‘poof!’ erased for that bit of time! When I walked into the house, I saw a scene that is so familiar, my wife in the kitchen by herself. I was excited to talk to her. I wanted to get out, all these action scenes from the games we just played. The baby was nowhere in sight.

Little Joella was in our bedroom, asleep in the bassinet, and luckily, not awoken or otherwise amused my loud clamoring and carousing in the kitchen. My wife, so forgiving, let me vent and let me eat, and then walked back into reality with me, as the truth came back into my mind :) She’s a sweetie :)

So here we go. People can ask about the all the foundation-rocking, life-altering adjustments that happen with a newborn, and I completely forget about mine… for a minute anyway :)

Our minds are complex and crazy sometimes. At least mine is. I know you know that, if you’ve read very many of these posts over the last few years. Truthfully, the ideas, the pictures, and the essence of the emotions that follow the stream of stories running through my brain, almost completely consume my days… and my nights too…

In quick rare moments, like a game of volleyball, or a split second of this writing endeavor, my mind is blank and I am just ‘doing’ and not ‘thinking’. If there is average amount of thoughts-per-day that the normal 36 year old male homo sapien, experiences per day, then I’m pretty certain I can quadruple it… at least.

I mean to say, that ‘thinking’ overtakes my world, almost all the time. Thinking about what I’m doing, or not doing. Thinking about how I’m being or not being. Thinking about what you’re doing or not doing. Thinking about what you’re being or feeling or even thinking about what you’re thinking. When I get to thinking that I should quit thinking about what you are or aren’t thinking, then I have chased the tail of my own thought process into tight pretzel knot! (By ‘you’, I mean the seemingly ever-present, current issue of the they or them or he or she or it, that I’ve chosen to chew on like mentally regurgitated cud, over and over and over again)

And how helpful all this over-thinking seems to be!

Ha!

Riiiiiiiight.

Not.

Nope, I actually tend to agree that it isn’t a good way to engage my cerebral capacities, but like a runaway stagecoach, it is almost unstoppable sometimes!

And stopped it could be. Redirected at least. Slowed down a bit?

I like seeing that I forgot about our cute little darling daughter Joella Denise. I can laugh at the pointlessness of my pea-sized brain. I can notice that although my mind seems to be so brilliantly discerning and dissecting each trifling microsecond of my mundane life moments, it can also simultaneously lose track of the most important.

Ha! Maybe my brain isn’t as smart as I think it is. Maybe my thinking might not be as poignant and important, as I tend to let it become.

As has been quoted many times before “Don’t believe everything you think.”

If my mind can let slip, this little miracle, then what other things is it forgetting to account for? What possibilities is it overlooking? What broken-record patterns does it follow, without seeing the chances to shift all around?

Maybe I could just take a step back. I could let the mind unwind and not worry that it needs to be directing everything all the time. There are more important things to attend to right now, and I don’t want to forget that again :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Joella

Ugly Baby Pictures

When I said that “I wasn’t sure that our kiddo was as cute in person, as she is in the pictures.”, I was kidding! Ha! Of course I was. My mother looked at me in pure disgust when I said that little line to her the other night. She was setting me straight!

Actually, what I meant to say, is that; Yes, we were able to capture some very cute photos in little Joella’s first couple days with us. Yes, we got lots and lots of compliments on how beautiful of a baby she is. Yes, as a proud daddy, I was always glad to hear those words.

BUT!

On the other hand, our sweet little angel Joella, has also torqued up her cute face and let out some loud cries as well. Her milk-drunk rolled-back eyeball look, can be spooky for a split second. She has lots of different looks. Like an ever changing kaleidoscopic that converts constantly in front of you. I could just sit and stare at her all darn day…

And if I did, I would notice that some of her faces are cuter than others. It is true. Yes Linda, sometimes this little lady, isn’t soooo certainly cute. Wow, even typing those words is kinda hard for me :)

Ha! Anyway.

The point is this: I am a person with some beauty and some beast in me. I want to pretend sometimes that all is hunky and dory and perfect. Just like these brand-new baby pictures, we as people are enthralled with a pure expression of newborn health and joy. We see the best part of ourselves in these picturesque moments of unspoiled youth…

We want to forget that sometimes, we aren’t cute. We can deny while staring at a precious babe, that our blemishes exist too. The balance of dark and light, the yen and yang, fade and we just see the crystalline pearlescent glow of new life. A blinding light reflects through us, tiny droplets of pure love hang impossibly on gossamer of wonder and joy.

Each and every one of us, was that way once…

I suppose in moments, such fleeting flashes out of the periphery, we see ourselves there again right now…

Maybe you do. I hope you do. Someone you love, sees you that way right now.

I however tend to notice that darkness. The gummed and dirty corners of the windows of my own soul, I notice too much. A smear here, of a past mistake.  A cracked and broken relationship never really mended. Fears and angers snort and gurgle, their teeth gnaw at my insides, I bleed and tear. I know that my own self contains deep black darkness, along with some light. I notice the negative too often maybe, when it comes to looking in my own personal mirror.

Maybe that’s why I feel compelled to point out, that showing only the prettiest of pictures, isn’t showing all the truth.  I use this place here to show more than just the pretty side… of me.

So then, where do we define our own personal beauty? Do I add up all the best of myself, showing you my grand total, hoping it’s enough? Do I cut a clean cross-section and allow all the layers to expose their own truth? Do I really lean in, and leave every last judgement up to God, releasing myself of those duties… whooooo… terrifying…

But really. We love seeing beauty. I wonder what happens though, when it fades. When youth rusts and the oxidized pits of age, of experience, of intentional sins, paint us black?

Can we see ourselves again someday, as Jesus sees us. As a newborn babe in the first precious hour after birth? Can we be new, unblemished, full of possibility again and ever again? Seems almost impossible to me. But that leaves a tiny droplet of hope, of wonder.

I ask you today, to notice that speck, that hint of smile, that we are all still shining beautiful bouncing babies in the eyes of our Creator God Almighty.

Thanks be to God.

Have a great week my precious friend.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

No Lullaby Needed

Not much has changed in the last week, since I visited this blog. In fact a bunch is still the exact the exact same as one week ago tonight. It is late, I have worked a long day. I am ready for bed and yet, I want to write and keep up this little texty tradition here.

Okay, so my wife and I had a baby last weekend. So that part of life is new. But a lot of the good stuff is just as it was before. The extra or bad stuff seems to have drifted away for now, thank God. So that is new, and awesome.

A week ago about this time of night, I didn’t know it, but my very pregnant wife, was about to start the laboring process. Right now, little Joella is laying on my chest and just stirring a bit, while hearing me click these keys. :) Joella is the new baby, our little gift from God. She’s healthy and perfect in our eyes. And really I suppose I should say that she has completely changed my life :)

Isn’t that the obvious point though?

I have just noticed a few key things that surprised me about the process of having a new baby and I wanted to share them, as you probably assumed I would :)

  • The perfectness of God’s design of the delivery process is mindblowing.
  • I am not man enough, to do the ‘woman’s work’, that comes with a new baby.
  • A peacefulness arrived with our daughter. My mind hasn’t been this calm and clear in years, maybe ever. Purpose can bring peace.
  • A new baby is one thing that brings together people, no matter what. I have experienced more generosity and well wishing than any other time in life, including our marriage.
  • We got lucky, we have a healthy child and healthy mother. I know not everyone receives such a precious gift. I don’t want to take that for granted.

I don’t need to write a lot this week, because the inner angst and fiery point of view that brings so many emotions to this screen is serene and open, instead of stormy and dark. Also, there is not much that I can really do, to construct and decorate the story and truths evident, that I witnessed this week. My skills at writing seem to be about noticing divine in the mundane, or uncovering wisdoms and lessons in everyday life. None of that needs to be said, about the arrival of our little Joella Denise. God handled it all :)

Today is the birthday of little Joella’s namesake. My Dad, her grandpa, Joel Sterling. I have thought about him alot today, and I am sure he’s been watching over our new little family. Happy Birthday Dad, we all love ya :)

Most of all I want to the express that my love for my wife, is deeeeeper now, than I ever could have imagined. She, like all mothers, really earned this little baby. My job has been quite easy so far. Lindsay is impressing me more and more by the day, with how she is handling this daunting task of learning to care for our little girl.

This little preciousness is still sleeping away, she jolts when I breathe in deep. I think I will just sit and enjoy this awhile :)

Sincerely,

With Love,

Aaron Nichols

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Wearing my Grandma’s Shoes… Sorta’

I’m like 100% sure that my Grandma Dorothy Nichols wrote a column for our local paper, The Ottawa Herald. I’m not exactly certain though, what those columns were about. I don’t know how often they were published. I don’t know if it was a weekly thing, or once a month. I can sort of see a picture in my mind of one of her articles, but I can’t say anything about the subject or concerns it addressed…

Funny isn’t it. I don’t really know any details at all, about this part of her, that she shared with the readership of our local area. I think I was about 25 when she passed away. It’s not like I was so young that I couldn’t read. I don’t know how long she was writing her articles, maybe 5 years? Maybe 10 or 20?

If I want to find out more details, I can ask my family. I could research the archives probably, down at the library. I could actually go and read every one of them if I really made the effort to do so.

Interesting then, that even though I have almost zero information about her column, I will say that I know it has made a big impact on me.

Just the simple knowing, that she did this thing, creates in me, an awareness and fondness, respect and admiration, for the act of writing and publishing.

I have this same joy and warm-hearted-ness rushing through me, when I think about a FACS class at Central Heights. My lovely wife teaches them. Their projects span many skillsets, and cooking and baking is one of them. Those kids learn to make pancakes from scratch. They also learn to top them with their very own home-made maple syrup. Wow.

These lucky high-schoolers, are creating and enjoying a recipe that I grew up on, sitting at the round clear-glass table in my Grandma Carol Smell’s breakfast nook. I can tell you how those pancakes tasted. Warm, buttery, just-right thin and golden brown. A stack of four with butter in-between and homemade syrup… YUM! I’m wanting some right now :)

But! I can’t tell you how to make them. I don’t do it myself… like… ever… I can’t even remember the last time I ate them, but I should do it again soon.

The main thing I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that my Grandma Smell is an outstanding chef. She knows all the classics by heart, she experiments too. She can do it all, from an elaborate braided bread breakfast wreath, to holiday hams and turkeys, to her world famous dinner rolls.

I respect, admire and love, the act of home-making a meal for family. I just do. I grew up in her kitchen, I saw the love she poured into each and every big dinner, packed lunch or quick after-school snack. Each item, got special attention, right down to the crinkle cut carrot sticks, just cause the cool shapes made them taste better…

These two amazing women taught me so much, and really I don’t know a lot about exactly how they did it. I don’t know all the recipes. I don’t know the subjects and stories of the articles my Grandma published. I just know something, that was important enough to each of these ladies that they poured their essence and soul into something specific they were doing…

I do love seeing a great meal come together. I enjoy that as part of my work that I do, at the Brand’N Iron Bar and Grill. The food, the details, the generous attention to service is important to me. I just must truly believe something good comes from a meal well served. Grandma proves it so :)

Same thing about this blog post right here. I think one reason I wanted to continue my writing and sharing and posting some sort of inner dialogue to this screen, is that I know that writing is something my Grandma did. I think I should be honest, and open. I want to really share some detail with you, that wouldn’t normally otherwise be said. I somehow must believe that Grandma would approve of this. Maybe not every post, or every idea I express, but the concept, that we can share through words, our human experience.

I don’t need to know all the details. I will go forward and write and cook-up new details for myself. I do however need to notice and acknowledge the presence of the impact made by the important people in my life. I only need to know the most basic truth, about something they love. When I know what you love, so much, that you actually do it, then I know something that I cannot help but do it too. Some way, some how. When I Love You, I do as You do, in some little way, or some big way.

Thanks be to God, for putting wonderful people in my life. I am blessed with many more, than ‘just’ these two GRAND-MOTHERS… But wow, what a mighty pair indeed. :)

Sincerely,

Until next week

Aaron Nichols

My Hot and Miserable Wife…

In case you didn’t know already, my wife is very pregnant and the temps have been very summery around here…

It all started back in winter though, I can remember it clearly. I recall that when we had announced our upcoming child, and told people the due date, it began almost immediately. We would say something like, ‘We’re having a baby, we won’t find out it’s sex early, and sometime around August 10th, is our due date.” Right then, is when the sympathy started.

Almost everyone, maybe some people even who read my blog, would begin to tell ‘hot summer pregnancy’ stories. The few predictable lines and questions would center around being uncomfortable in the heat, and readiness to get that baby out as soon as possible. Also, the common word that ended up being mentioned would be ‘miserable!’

Because of the regularity and repetitive nature of these conversations, Lindsay almost became defiant of the inevitable-ness of this seemingly unavoidable reaction to the combination of summertime and pregnancy. Even early on in this journey, I remember her openness to the natural processes she was experiencing and willingness to enjoy it for the amazing gift it is…

Well, if you are wondering if the summer heat has melted away her buoyant and upbeat spirit… It hasn’t.

We are fortunate in several respects, that she has the summer off from her teaching job, and can mainly control her exposure to outside weather. We aren’t pioneers homesteading on the prairie. We do have air conditioning and she stays in it most of the time. She is reasonable with her physical exertion. Besides twisting an ankle while watering the flowers one day, her body has handled this process quite normally.

I am lucky, that my wife has such a positive attitude about the truly dynamic changes she is experiencing. It seems that some people do have a tougher time with pregnancy in the summer. The thing that intrigues me most though, is the almost inherent need to offer up the negative as a first resort. I do think that when we humans share our struggles with each other, we can come closer together, since we then can relate back a tough time of our own. When we show vulnerability, we can connect on deep levels.

In the case of our late summer baby, I think the vulnerable message we have kept to ourselves is that we are really excited and honored to be able to partake in this amazing gift of another life. We are really blessed, that things have gone so smoothly so far. We appreciate that God has allowed us to experience first-hand, His beautiful creation. Complaining about the easily escapable warm weather, has not been on my wife’s list of to-do’s at all. Her confidence in the natural process, makes her sexier by the day to this adoring husband. Yup, my pregnant wife is hot this summer, but it’s not about the temperature :)

I am writing boldly today, about a journey we have not yet completed. She has not been miserable yet, in the last 9 months, but it’s not over. Maybe in the next 10 days or less, or more, she will finally get there. Hot and miserable, may yet come. Then when she runs across another soon-to-be mommy, she can deliver that same foreboding message. ‘You’re feeling alright now, but just wait till summer! You’ll be hot and miserable, you’ll see!”

Or maybe she’ll just smile and say “Congratulations! You are about to experience a special gift, enjoy all of it that you can.”

Funny thing to me, is this. When people talk to me about my wife, they mention the same broken record. Hot and miserable. When they tell me about the moment of watching their child come into the world. Almost unanimously, both men and women, younger and older, they all make sure to tell me how special and wonderful and amazing it is. Everyone seems to agree on that part too.

I’m looking forward to the moments ahead, but they can come in their own natural rhythm and time. I hope it’s not tomorrow, but if so we’ll be excited just the same. Until then, Lindsay will be relaxing indoors, making sure to be on the lookout, for when the miserable-ness arrives.

Until next week, be well, stay cool my friends and loved ones.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

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Vandalization & Taggery, I’m Spraying Public Property, Again

I spray graffiti and vandalize the community property. Luckily, you have the free will choice to observe my graffiti or not. It is however, applied for graffiti’s purpose. I wasn’t really clear on the difference between graffiti and artwork, but I was shown that contrast recently. Noticing a distinction is the first step to change.

Another travel show was playing on my kitchen TV, while a made a mid-morning breakfast this week. I’m sure my antennae was tuned into the (crystal clear) KCPT channel Create. Someone was visiting a European country, they were diving deep into the local culture. At this point in the show, they were highlighting a local street artist.

The expansive murals decorated bland brick walls. The splashes of muted colors enhanced the public spaces. The figures of beautifully modern women, men and children acted out simple dramas and human moment stories in stylized brush strokes. The artist was using her skills to relate the real and raw emotions of human life.  Her style is so compelling and fresh, you felt the essence of each character and instantly understood their sadness, their bliss or their peaceful contentment.

In the interview process, the artist talked about how she preferred to paint and enhance the forgotten and dilapidated structures in a broken downtown area. When not working on large scales in public areas, she chose found objects and rusty old junk, to paint with her masterful civilian stories. She spent time explaining her disdain for choosing a new blank white canvas, as her medium. She wanted to take something that was perceived as trash, and turn it into treasure. Her artwork wanted to live in surprising places. It was finding it’s way onto oxidized old electrical panels or the inside of a drawer of an old desk. Her studio and gallery didn’t have easels or rectangles of painted sketches hung neatly on the wall.

The show host asked her about graffiti. They questioned her ‘street art’, in comparison with the local common graffiti art. She showed how, her canvas was a brick wall, just like the taggers and vandals. She showed how they both drew things in public places for the random passerby to see and experience. She showed how each artist had a unique style. She also showed exactly why hers was quite different.

Graffiti in the sense she was explaining is a simple thing. Although colorful and flashy, the design is one basic thing. It is a signature. She was comparing how her artwork may have been signed somewhere, but the content itself was a story. The pictures she creates are compelling and reflective. They are snippets of our human condition brushed artistically with her specifically compassionate and poignant point of view. A can of spray in the hands of a graffiti artist, merely writes their own name.

The video showed several versions of true graffiti. I had never looked at it that way before. Their spray-painted words had fluid spirit, distinct technique and panache. The signatures were brashly tagged in conspicuous spots. They emblazoned their own mark on the community and no one else could claim otherwise. Their name says it all!

So what is this blog? What is this weekly thing I sit down and bang out? Early and ahead of my day, or at the very tail end, spent and exhausted, just to slam something up on the screen? Using poor English and making up my own rules as I go. Sometimes making up words too.

For the most part, it’s Graffiti, through and through. I just want to tag the internet with my own signature. I want to see that picture of just my face, on my own facebook wall, attached to a story that I wrote about me. Ha! So sadly true. Sure, I’ve developed some style. I have constructed and completed tales of intricate nature, about the status of my own inner thoughts. I have made some kind of signature here, in almost 5 full years of writing.

True artwork is more than that. True artwork is a channel. The creator and greater consciousness than we can truly fathom, can work through an artist, the hands and fingers tell God’s story, not our own. A few tiny moments in this blogging journey have felt that way to me. The words just appear up on this endlessly expanding digital journal. I have noticed afterward, the complete blankness of my own mind and the fluid rush of energy, that actually did all the typing, almost without any of my intervention.

I am glad this artist pointed out the contrast. I am happy that she spoke a truth. Sometimes we forget to see the difference when God is behind our work, and when it is solely designed to enhance our own experience of the ego. We want that recognition for ourselves. We want to hear how great we are. We want our signature to be the focus, not God’s divine handiwork. We want to be noticed… At least I do.

So again this week, I tagg and spray. I swish and swoosh all over this screen and you get to read another signature story of me, that I have created to tell about me. Maybe though, someday, I can graduate and switch focus. Maybe the words will swing in their aim. Maybe they will open up and expand, being that channel and wide open high speed cable for transcendent truth… authentic art itself.

Until then, bear with me. I am still learning, still growing and practicing, still trying once again to let God know that I am here, and willing, if it be God’s will that I am used for God’s purposes…

With Sincere Love,

Aaron Nichols

Say My Name!

I don’t always blog about foul-mouthed rap artists, or sweet and kind teachers like Mrs. Chaney, or even infant babies, but when I do, I blog about them all, at the same time :)

It always struck me as interesting, that the breakout hit song (rap) by both Snoop Doggy Dogg and then later Eminem, had quite similar titles and themes. Both artists were being produced by Dr. Dre, and I don’t think it was a coincidence, and the themes of their first big hits were carefully calculated.

In 1993, Snoop Dogg’s hit song was ‘Who I am (What’s My Name). Later in 1999, Eminem made his mark with his version called “My Name Is.” Both of these too catchy tunes were designed to do one important thing: Imprint the name of the artist into your brain. They wanted to introduce themselves and paint a picture of their personality and style, but most of all, they wanted you to get their name stuck in your head.

Right about the time that Snoop was releasing that first hit single, I was in middle school. A class that I was signed up for in 7th or 8th grade was called Quest. It was a unique class taught by Mrs. Chaney. I think it was designed to exercise the emotions as well as the mind. We did personality test type activities and life lesson stuff too. I remember being uncomfortable often, but in a healthy way. One thing I will never forget from that class is that Mrs. Chaney taught us that our own Name, is everyone’s favorite word to hear.

She stressed that hearing our own name was a magical experience. We crave it as humans. We want to hear it spoken by those we love, and in almost all areas of life. When combined with a compliment, experiencing our actual name spoken, converts almost any mood to a good one. She wanted us to make it a point to try and remember people’s names. She wanted us to see how it could set us apart to be the type of person who would extend that important and valuable courtesy to those around us. Merely referring to someone as bud, or pal, or champ or friend, doesn’t make any impact, like knowing and saying someone’s actual name.

I think Dr. Dre and Mrs. Chaney both understood the power of a name. They both saw it as vital to personal success. The rappers wanted to express themselves in most powerful way possible. Mrs. Chaney wanted us to be able to connect with others in the most powerful way possible.

Speaking of possibilities, it seems like they are endless, when it comes to options for choosing a name for a soon-to-arrive infant child. My wife and I have spent lots of time bouncing around names for our baby incubato, but haven’t arrived at hardly any, we both agree sound good to our ears. I am not going to blog here about actual options we’ve toyed with, for boy or for girl. I will only say that we haven’t gotten anything exactly nailed down, and this kiddo is almost here.

For me, this naming process has been the toughest part of the pregnancy so far. I think Lindsay may not say the same thing :) This is a testament to her as well, she has handled the carrying of this child like a champ!

I did want to write tonight, about how the name we are given at birth, seems to be so important. I remember as a kid, at times, not liking my own name. I was told that it was a girls name. I remember thinking it didn’t sound very tough, when kids said things like that. Even then though, I did really like that it started with two of the letters ‘A’. I knew that at least alphabetically, I was always first in line :)

Later as an adult, I appreciated my name being a little bit unique. I appreciated it’s history and roots in the ancient world. I love that there is heritage and a story, that I can connect with, in the Bible. Lately though, through the power of the internet, a little clip has highlighted my name. Again I get to experience the schoolyard taunts when people call me Aye Aye Ron! (ha, superfunny for the 20hundreth time :) )

Last week we met a guy at our childbirth class. His name was Brayt. He probably has to tell a little clarification story every time he meets anyone new. He has to mention something about how he was named, and his parents. To us, he said they were high :)

Anyway, this naming thing is nothing that I take lightly. Many people have told me that the name of their child, just showed up in a flash. They were instantly given the name and it came through clear as a bell.

For us, that hasn’t seemed to happen yet. I do hope it does. Either way, if we choose a solid name, with sturdy provenance and flexibilty, I know that she or he won’t necessarily use it anyways. When they want to become a hardcore gangster rapper, they will just pick something else to go by, like Calvin Broadus and Marshall Mathers did :)

A parent can hope can’t he :)

Until next week, take care.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

To go without, may be to get it anyways…

I slid my seldom-used oversized xtreme 5-day cooler into the back of our SUV last weekend, as one of the final items to pack for our camping trip. I did use a red and a blue bungee cord to keep it from shifting around. I was super surprised. I could see clearly through the truck to the front seats, we had a large tote with food in the backseat and our ‘CoolStuff’ bag, but not much else. The car was not crammed top-to-bottom front-to-back with all our crap!

I was able to pack TONS of gear and clothes and bedding and chairs into the pop-up camper hooked to the truck. WOW! I kinda forgot how sweeeet it is to have so much capacity to store gear in the clamped-down pop-up.

For years I owned a pop-up camper. I used it all the time. At one point it was set-up at the lake at least once a month, for 24 straight months. Fun Times! Back then I would pull it with my big 3/4 ton crew cab heavy-duty pickup. I had a fiberglass shell on the truck’s bed too. I loaded stuff in the shell, in the camper, in the back seats. I had stuff everywhere! I used to haul lots of gear, for every trip to the lake!

In the last several years though, I have cut back, trimmed down and been enjoying my camping trips with my wife and dog, and a simple Columbia tent. After sleeping in that thing all over the western U.S. I became very fond of it. Lindsay and I have camped under the stars and on the air-mattress-covered ground in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Colorado too. After leaving the pop-up at home and using our tent, we eventually decided to sell it.

It has been maybe three years since I had a camper like that. Back when I owned my Coleman Pioneer Chesapeake edition tent-trailer I thought I did need more room in it. I regularly wished I had something bigger and better. I just had that gnawing knowing that my little pop-up wasn’t good enough and I wanted an upgrade.

Funny then, that I actually went the other way and began to appreciate the company of my (then) future-wife and our simple tenting lifestyle instead of needing to just increase the cool-factor of our camper. We have been quite content in various conditions with that orange and blue tent.

Since she is now in the last trimester of her pregnancy, she finally asked that we find another way to camp than sleeping on the air mattress on the ground. :) So when her brother and sister-in-law graciously allowed us to borrow their Palomino pop-up, we were super excited to have the extra room and air-conditioning for our long-weekend next a natural lake in Minnesota.

As we have been tent-camping for the last few years, I have gotten used to our system of cramming everything we need just into our car. One time we even fit all our gear, clothes, food, shelter, bedding and dog, into her 4-door pontiac car! Anyway, I loved finding room again in the pop-up to store our stuff. I was surprised and delighted that I had such a vast extra space on this latest trip. It was really really nice :)

Okay. I have done a lot of typing about camping gear and tents and trailers…. There is a point to all this.

I used to have something that I took for granted. I even was dissatisfied at times with it. Then I scaled back, pared down and lived more lightly for awhile. I began to appreciate that change. Then with this latest little vacation, I shifted again. I found new happiness in the things as they used to be.

Remember when I was saying that I used to want bigger and better and an upgrade from my old pop-up camper? Well now, I see that I would be quite happy again to have something just like I had before. I did need to let it go for awhile. I needed to distance myself from it. I needed to let go, and to try something stripped-down to the basics.

There is a parable that Wayne Dyer talks about it in his seminars. It is a tale about a man frustrated that his in-laws are living with him. He seeks out advice and a wise man advises him to bring his livestock into his house. Week after week, the exponentially increasing angry man visits the shaman. Again the shaman asks him to bring another outside animal into the home. Eventually, the man is completely outraged and distraught. His chaotic home is over-run with craziness! The wise-man then advises that he now, let all the animals back out of the house…

With the same exact situation the man had before, he is content. He can be happy now. He sees the circumstances in a brand-new context. He is relieved and refreshed, ready to move forward in love, knowing that things could really be much worse…

Where else in my life, can I use this lesson? I wonder where else I am tense and unhappy, wanting something to be different or better than it is right now. I wonder where else I can learn that just exactly what is, is exactly what I can be happy with, right here, right now.

I was thrilled to be camping last week. I would have liked our tent, but I did love using that borrowed pop-up camper. I enjoyed learning to master it’s little quirks. I had a great time with my wife and my dog, sleeping kinda under the stars. I didn’t need one thing to be better, it was just wholly good, just as it was. Good enough, that eventually we were ready to come home and enjoy own bed and shower with plenty of rushing hot water. It’s these little things that seem so good, when you’ve been away…

Returning… refreshed… thankful…

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

PS: We are in the market for a pop-up camper again. PM or Text me if you know one for sale :) Thanks!

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