My Preciousssssss!!

Protecting the pennies is a good way to ruin a business. True?

I do know that this week, I had run across some conversations about situations that seemed so petty. I was telling my stories, they were relaying ones they’d heard. Overall we were basically bitching about protecting our pennies.

In one sense, money is tender we trade as proof of a business transaction. In another sense, there is so much more exchanged, than just the loose change.

I was telling someone a story. Actually it was a rare little incident, that didn’t go well. He was telling me one similar that he’d heard of. We swapped stories of worries and ‘well it’s always sumpthin’s’. It wasn’t a constructive conversation, but it was friendly and cordial and we bonded over our small-business woes…

Small business?? Yes. Pennies are small. Smallest coin we got. I was looking at my pennies and pouting. So was he. Is it responsibility that contains our focus on these details? Are we being good stewards and noticing wastefulness where it lives? Should we be proud that we could maybe save a few copper-colored circles in the future, by complaining today?

Nah, I don’t think so.

I think we are both small business guys because we’re looking at the smallness of it. I think we’re fighting any growth of a fortune by dwelling on the piddly-diddles. I am king of seeing tiny minute mistakes. They infest the sphere of my vision. Swarming and mating even, they multiply and cloud the clear blue sky.

The pennies can poison.

Business is like life, life like business. ‘How some things work, is how all things work’, according the wise Mr. Steve Chandler.

There was a book called ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff” – I didn’t read it. Probably too busy, noticing my lack of motivation, or interest or (laughably) time to read, and complaining to myself about that. Instead of just opening the cover and starting.

I know some guys and some gals who dream big. They seem to speak into existence wide swaths of projects and grand illustrations of service. These life artists seem to endeavor to create beyond the microscopic. They do, and they keep doing. They don’t seem to salivate over succulent little stories of small delicious complaints.

I wonder when I will see that it’s the protecting of my pennies, that is slowing me down? I want to cherish all of the tiniest of troubles. I want to count and admire each one. I want to collect and preserve them, from the beginning of life till today. I couldn’t let my pets out of their cages. Where would they go? Who would care for them like I do?

What would I spend my attention on, if I didn’t have these little pests in my life? Oops! Did I just say that? I couldn’t have meant it. Oh no…

When we play a game of coed rec league volleyball, lots of little moments happen. The points go quick sometimes. The frantic juggle of a long volley can just continue on and on and on too… Lots of little mistakes are made. The point ends. We get one, or we lose one. Then we move on to the next.

I sometimes grip the tiny microsecond of time in which I get to decide whether to hold onto my failings of the last few moments, or let them go, start fresh, as the new serve sails my way. Usually, almost always, I let a twitch happen and a release. My brain blanks out. I play the next new point, from a loose and lively space, wanting to win the one point we are on, right then…

I do it in volleyball I said…

In our business, in my jobs, in my marriage and my spiritual life, I may protect my pennies too often. I want to worry and tend to them. I ache to see every one, shined up and sparkling. I ignore the blessings that bunches of them bring.

If a penny is a tiny fraction of the greater whole, then we have illustrated the duality of life. It takes tons of little pennies or little atoms or little moments or even mistakes, piled together to show us the bigger picture.

I can zoom out sometimes. I can choose to do it. I could see the greater possibility, the pictures yet unpainted on the massive blank canvas of the life in front of me. I could choose that.

I pray that today, I try it. I pray that today, I let the penny be tarnished and bent even too. I pray that instead of painstakingly processing the microscopic, I take a step back to observe the enormity of the blessings enveloping my soul.

I won’t ever forget the pretty petty problems, but I can get loose, shake them off, and proceed toward one next step, without totally slowing down… At least I want to give it a shot, today :)

With love and spiritual wealth in my prayers for you, I will speak to you again next week. I will then again share something that tugs at the inner-me, hopefully it touches the inner you. So that, we all know we don’t exist alone, as it can feel so often, when we pet and ponder our precious little pennies…

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

This is a Jesus Post, on Easter, Don’t bother to Click Here

I took a picture every mile for a 5000 mile walk, and you can watch it all in two minutes! I shot a selfie at 1000 world landmarks, the journey lasted 3 years, and you can see it all in the next 90 seconds! I had a baby back in the eighties, and every month I took her picture, wearing the same dress. She is in her thirties now,  I put all the images together and you can watch her grow from an infant to a grown woman with children of her own, in just the next minute! WOW! You… Must… See… Thissssss………!!!!

C’mon, you know what I’m talking about, right? Just this morning Lindsay found a link online, where a man hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and shot a picture each mile. It is an amazing video, his journey was epic, and he took the time to make a quick easy presentation that I can watch in a flash. I experience a glimpse of hundreds of gorgeous vistas. I can see his face transform with exercise. I imagine briefly, the countless steps he took, the wear and tear on his feet and the smiles from the friends he made. All this action, and I don’t even have to hardly shift my comfy position within the fluffy folds of blanketry, nestled on our king-sized bed.

This week has been the first Easter in the last 5 years, that I have experienced without the spiritual shepherding of Tim Soule. Our former church pastor, always invested time to develop and flesh-out and reiterate the importance of Holy Week. We’ve been in transition mode at Church, and although there is work and activity and worship, I miss his guidance at this time.

I have felt my heart tugging my attention away from trivial matters at little moments though. Thursday night, I thought of the Last Supper. Early early in the morning on Friday, I was considering the Garden. I know that there is something so earth-shattering and cosmic-shifting about this week, that I just wanted to contemplate at times a sliver of a glimpse of the gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice for me, for you.

Truly however, I was tucked comfy in my bed. I walked my familiar paths of laziness and procrastinations. I laughed at the shortcomings of other people. I complained and gossiped. I let my eyes and my mind wander to darkness and lust and anger, probably greed too. I was just as base and rooted in my flesh as ever. Stone-cold broken. A sinner through and ever through.

I wanted to watch from afar, an amazing feat. I wanted to witness the profound, the unimaginable, and holiest moments to come, all in just a 30 second flash of thought.

I want to experience the breadth and depth of the the crucifixion and the resurrection, with the smallest possible investment of my time and my true engagement.

Back to my ‘regular life’ please! As quickly as possible please! Very very busy today! Lots to get done! I’ll catch up with ya later Jesus! Thanks for dyin’ for me, I do appreciate it! Redemption and salvation are awesome! Rock on, man! TTYL!

Well, funny thing is, even if I really wanted it to work that way, Jesus does not let me off the hook that easy. See, I have found that his impact on my life is grindingly difficult. The changes are complex and soul-shatteringly exhausting. Only everything transforms when you ask for his embrace.  He gave more than I ever will, but he’s asked that I give too.

I want nothing more than to return to my old ways. I want the false freedom and immediate peace that comes from living in this material world with it’s elementary rules. It seems easy now, looking back, to find a moment’s happiness in a bottle of wine. I could laugh and carry-on, scratching the itches of jealousy or insecurity, all while pointing fingers at other people. I can find camaraderie, friendship aplenty, speaking of imaginary limitations, and locking myself into repetitious cycles.  The hunger of our flesh is quick to satisfy.

If the finest feat we could accomplish would be to experience the greatest earthly gratifications, he would have shown us how. He could have had every earthly desire. All within easy reach, for the Son of God.

He asks us to consider a greater endeavor, by committing himself to the ultimate humiliations, betrayals and real pain. The one who can touch our lives today, is not just the king of the world, he’s the King of Kings.

His ways are plain and profound. He walks the countryside and talks to people. He asks men to leave their lives and follow him. He sits by himself and prays. He makes sure that people eat. He wants those that are sick to be healed and then go and sin no more. His truth is being beaten and laughed at. His life is given away in a terribly bloody black-comedy. They make him a crown of thorns to belittle him, and attempt to stomp out any possible dignity to his lonely Friday afternoon death.

A man like this has changed me. Both man and God. I am lost now. Caught in-between this world and His world. I want back into my old life so often. I hope tomorrow morning I want to want the resurrection, and the new covenant. Straddling and struggling, this week of Easter reminds me that I will always be a human. I am watching it happen and laughing too. I am not stepping in to help. I am adding to the pain. I act like one of the Roman soldiers slinging a whip. I embody one of the Jews who shout “Give us Barabbas!”.  I am a disciple hiding in fear of my own life, nowhere near him, not coming to help.

And he died in Love for me, and for you, and for the Roman and the Jew and the Disciple too. He did all this for us. I hope I remember to thank him today in some small simple Jesus-like actual action :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  – John 18:37

Don’t hate the player, Don’t even hate the game

Last weekend, in the deep Ozark woods of Missouri, my wife and I were unplugged. For a deeply relaxing day and a half, our technology devices became paperweights. The internet couldn’t penetrate into that holler. Not even a single bar of cell reception showed up onscreen. That may have been the very best part of the place we picked to camp and hike.

That spot allowed us to unlatch from the leash of the streaming information that we habitually tether ourselves to, in any given downtime moment.

I read a book. Almost a whole book. Between Friday night and Sunday morning. Since then I have read some more, but not too much more, back in the ‘real world’ of home and facebook and youtube too.

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, has been sitting on my shelf for many months. I bought it after seeing Michael on Charlie Rose one night. He also has authored books that became famous movies, like Moneyball and The Blindside. Really interesting guy, who digs deeply into amazing true stories.

Flash Boys is a book about people using the stock market and technology to make untold millions and yes, billions of dollars. High frequency traders employ the fastest computer technology available. They exchange stocks in tiniest of fractions of time and currency. The risk is essentially low, and the reward is outstanding. They make money in down markets and up markets. They exploit new government regulations, and the result is a massive skim of the American investor since the mid 2000’s.

Actually, the skim and the loophole and the ‘gaming’ of the stock market system, is nothing new at all. One researcher in the book, has found evidence of these issues since the very beginning. This newest version, happens to be exponentially quick and extraordinary lucrative.

Really, the author’s research and the people he writes about, detail a complex picture of fantastically intricate moving parts, BUT, it all boils down to morality. The book paints a picture of Brad Katsuyama, he notices a problem. He cannot let the problem go un-investigated. He is troubled as he finds wrongdoing, he fights against it. He is one man, against an army. He builds a team. He searches out others who see the injustice. He eventually takes it upon himself to reinvent a stock-market exchange. They try to build an ‘un-gamable’ system. A place where fairness is simply the goal, instead of making money for the insiders.

‘The system’ is something that crosses my mind all the time. I have always seemed to want to question the structures and rules and reasonings that ‘the world’ around me seems to live by. I often find myself interested by conspiracy theories or radical reinterpretations of seemingly concrete truths. I love it when science, or the Bible, can re-frame a sturdy and unquestioned idea, and show me another view behind the curtain.

Hardly ever though, do I remember myself intentionally working and striving and trying really hard, to ‘game the system.’  I see the deceit and exploitation and card tricks maneuvering pointed out in this book, as something that other people do, and I don’t.

I’m probably giving myself too much credit here. I am sure there are times that I have tried to work the least amount, and to get the most money. I didn’t find myself with billions of dollars… darn. But, I’m sure I have done it on some level.

I find my management moments at work, concerned about these very issues however. What is the nature the systems we’ve created? Do they create a balanced and fair environment for the guests who dine with us, for our team, for the business itself? Are the systems in place, fortuitous in a healthy way for everyone involved? Is someone ‘gaming our systems’?

I certainly can see the distrust in some customer’s eyes, as they may think we are attempting to ‘game’ them. Some may believe that our small family run business is an actual gold mine. They may feel ‘took’ and that we have overcharged them, given an cheap product, and we happily haul our rewards to the bank. Actually, these moments are quite few indeed. But the idea exists, that businesses are inherently bad or crooked or somehow stealing people’s money right out of their pockets.

I actually laugh at myself sometimes, for noticing the hilarity in that thought, as it relates to our little restaurant. So much effort, tons of time and money investment is required to maintain quality and excellence. The rewards are easier to count in smiles and appreciation than dollars at the end of the day. Satisfaction of a job well done, is the best reward, when we sometimes, get almost all of it, almost all right.

I am now re-awakened to the idea that ‘gaming a system’ is part of our humanity. Trying to squeeze out the most reward for the smallest risk, is just something that seems to reside somewhere in our consciousness. How much of that ‘gaming’ we partake in, or allow to exist in our own world, shows our personal boundary set-points.

The hero of the book, Flash Boys, is Brad, and he is little David, standing against Goliath’s bigger, uglier and wealthier brother. But stand and fight he does. He is trying against amazing odds, to do the right thing. We all have a Brad inside us. He isn’t gaming a system for personal gains, he’s rebuilding the system to level the field. His purpose is noble and whatever the eventual outcome, he can rest at night, knowing he used is energy to try and serve his fellow man in a profoundly fair way.

May I be richer for knowing that courage does exist; David’s rock-and-sling courage, in the modern world. May it well up in you too, from the deepest springs. We all have a Goliath in our life, the battle is before us every day. Godspeed my friends.

See you here next week :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Running A-Way for Life

Of course, packing up for a weekend away makes me think of the upcoming birth we are expecting in August. I will probably pack bags, when it’s delivery time. I will probably pack bags and load them for a long time after that too.

We’re leaving in the morning to go to Johnson Shut-Ins State Park in Missouri.  I cram totes and duffels and snacks and a cooler into our truck and I am excited to be camping soon. I remember being a young kid and loving these kind of trips. I examine my choices of gear and of supplies, I remember my best friend as child, James Barkley.

We had great conversations together, walking home after school. Just a few blocks, literally over a (tiny) river and through the woods, to my Grandmother’s House we’d go. I remember talking about school, or testing out dirty cuss words, or planning out how we’d manage to get to stay that night at one or the other’s houses.

Also, I recall the exact feeling of our discussions about running away. At the time, we planned our escape riding a small four-wheeler. I remember wanting a little cargo trailer to hitch onto mine. I also spent lots and lots of time thinking about all the things I would pack into the trailer, and strap on the racks of the quad. I wanted camping stuff and food. Drinks and clothes and snacks. Probably a knife and an axe too. I wanted everything I might need for my journey, all lashed onto my go-anywhere vehicular rig.

Well, that is just about what I have, right now, sitting in my driveway. It’s not a quad-runner, but it is a 4Runner. I don’t have the trailer, but I do have plenty of room for my stuff. Speaking of stuff, I have a bunch of it; camping gear galore. I don’t have James with me, but my best friend in the world, Lindsay will be by my side. I can rest happy tonight, knowing we will ‘Run Away’, bright and early tomorrow morning.

We’ll even have our 20 week old baby on board :)

Packing up for a journey, makes me wonder about that little one. I wonder about the origins of life. I wonder about our souls. I question the biggest ‘hows’ that my mind can imagine. I have come across lots of different schools of thought, concerning how our lives work. Some seem sure that we pop out fresh; we have this one life and that’s it. Others seem confident that our essence has had many incarnations and repetitious spins around the carousel of life.

I know that Dr. Wayne Dyer’s words connected with me, years ago, when he marveled at the fact that we all started out as an impossibly small dot of existence. We then grow and double in size until eventually we become something amazing; a complete human being.

He illustrates that from an infinitesimally microscopic spec, the wholeness of our lives is produced. That tiny dot contains all the information needed to construct our entire being. Something thousands of times smaller than the period on this sentence was the source I came from, and you came from, and James and Lindsay and even this little new baby comes from too. Amazing. The journey, the adventure we embark upon, in this place we call the world, is compacted so simply, efficiently and elegantly.

I guess that the art of taking a trip is inherent, down to our core. Acknowledging our needs and our wants, making a plan, and setting out to see something new. It’s the kind of fun, that I habitually require. It may help explain the blueprint for our very existence: A self reliant but well-equipped adventure, forever created, ultimately and supremely by God.

Here’s to playing 12 years old again. Here’s to running away for a bit, and to coming back home, to begin again and again with the family I love.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

2015-03-17 20.30.05

 

Beware the Haze of Grey

The difference is the one thing that grabs our attention. We need contrast in the mass of vibrating static fuzz that seems to be everywhere we look. The more contrast the better. We need a stark difference, represented in pitch black and brilliant white. Without a scalpel sharp edge between the two, everything quickly bleeds together in a gray mass of mess.

A few weeks ago, a reporter from the Ottawa Herald called our restaurant on a Thursday as we opened up. He asked if I had time to talk. He was putting together some stories of local businesses…

Luckily for me, I have already settled into the Contrast of our place. I have already practiced and rehearsed sentence after sentence about it. The contrast, the difference, the un-grayness is all that I wanted to tell him about. I think he may have begun to ask me some standard restaurant questions. The history, our most popular meals, how we got our name, were the things I remember him requesting information on.

The ONLY thing I really wanted to tell him, was about the Contrast.

I knew that I must relay that information above all.

Last weekend, we got the front page. I have heard a lot of feedback from the public. Everyone so far, has said, “Real nice write up in the paper last week”, then they smile :)

Honestly, I thought I sounded like a goober. My vocabulary was super casual. I was just talking out my points off the cuff. I wasn’t planning on being directly quoted in this impromptu phone conversation. Anyway, I believe it was the CONTRAST, the difference, that I spoke about, that made any impact at all.

We use locally raised beef and pork. Most places don’t.

There. White and Black.

I wanted to MAKE SURE, that this point was printed, if anything was. And it was…

I want to keep this in mind, as I move forward in my world. The grey is so forgettable. The grey has no authority. It can hold apart nothing. It encompasses almost everything. It’s so blah and bluh and blaaaaaaand.

We need these clear definitions. We are so comfortable and calm, knowing the true darkness from the true light. We are nervous and anxious amidst the fog and confusion of the in-between. When we are everything to everybody, we are nothing to nobody.

Luckily, when the reporter called, I had my answer ready, about our restaurant.

If he had called and asked about me. The core of MY being. I would probably have rambled and stuttered and sputtered shades of grey into the receiver’s microphone. If I was claiming my own truth of blacks and whites, I probably would be claiming charcoal and eggshell at best. At worst, it would be pewter vs. dove grey.

No story to print there.

Not much of one here either.

Just a reminder to myself. Be aware of what I can say, for sure, that shows the contrast. Be aware of it, share it, exercise and paint life with it.

Play in the grey, and watch it all melt into the background. The deluge of the refuse awaits my mediocrity.

Until next week, be well my friends. I could not write this post, until I promised myself not to sleep without saying something. The commitment moment, made this week’s ‘something’ happen.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

I’m a Jerk. Want to Work for Me?

If I have recently spent a few minutes telling you all the worst things about being a ‘team member’ at our restaurant/The Brand’N Iron Bar & Grill… then you may have thought it was a very strange way for me to do a job interview with you.

After a couple recent false-starts with new employees, I have decided to adjust the way I approach the interviewing for new hires. I have recently begun to just give them negative and disappointing truths that are inherent with the work we do. The pay is not great, the work is very hard at times, it is dirty and greasy, our facilities are small and basic, we don’t do a great job at managing, or scheduling, or being consistent. I tell them that I can be a jerk, and I will be managing them. I mention all the things that have been said by complaining staff members, that I can think of… all in the first few minutes of our talks together.

Why not!

I would love to have this be the one time that these things are brought up. I would love to cover these problems before we ever start to work together. Wishful thinking :)

Maybe it’s a build up of recent stressful weeks of scheduling. Maybe it is me becoming more cynical and jaded, the longer I work at The Iron. I may however, be on to a much more freeing and fun way to start the conversation with a prospective employee. I do sort of enjoy watching their slightly anxious smile fall and that quizzical countenance take over, when I tell them I only want to give them reasons not to work for us.

I love the idea that I have already laid bare the downsides of this business and I don’t have to hide in fear that they may uncover these problems and threaten me with them once on staff. I have only tested this theory on three people so far, but I have enjoyed those three interviews enough, that maybe if one works out okay, it will be worth it overall.

Yesterday, I was recording a couple radio ads.Along with my cute cousin Tera, and our friendly KOFO queen Tiffany, we awkwardly recorded some promos ‘off-the-cuff.’ We just talked out a couple ideas and started recording. My favorite moments were the instances where I sounded ‘bad’ and the girls ‘messed-up’ the recording. I don’t want to broadcast completely un-professional spots, but the ‘real-ness’ of hearing a little mistake could be more memorable than a perfectly pronounced and polished piece.

We talked about the best ways to tell our little promotional stories. Instead of inventing a moment that never really happened, I much preferred to use the most truthful version that I could. I wanted Tera to really tell us her favorite meal, and how she really does like to order it. I wanted to say that we were in the KOFO studio recording an ad, instead of formulating a flowery verbal description of an imaginary restaurant conversation.

Why not just get at the tiny kernel at the core of the truth. In even these silly little examples: A job interview that I could handle a multitude of ways. A radio ad, that lasts only half a minute.

I may be doing these things as practice.

I know there are tons of examples in my life, where I dance and prance and skip and hop all around the central trunk of the truth of an issue. I know that I fail to really stab into and dig underneath, at the root. I need to practice this open-hearted honesty as much as possible. There are many things I still hide from.

I know that my courage, needs the encourage-ment of repetitive and deliberate exercise. I know that exposing my faults and failing to even dress up my shortcomings can cost me dearly. I could look and even feel like a fool, if someone wanted to use them against me.

On the other hand, if I keep in practice that I am willing to be quite open, quite honest and sincere, then maybe I have done us all a favor. I am not anywhere near as agile emotionally as I would like to be. I still tense up. The fear can gather like a storm cloud and envelope me completely.

I will continue to chip away though. I will try to remember in little ways, to show my hand. I will lay bare my failed attempts to win, then let the chips fall where they may.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Once Upon A Mid Night Mind Clear

Holding this moment of silence, just feeling the brushed and shallow breath grow a little deeper each time, the dark stillness of night is pure. Some say that this super mid night hour is a great time to awaken. The earliest of morning is a moment that the world slumbers and God will converse through the depth of the blackness.

It’s 3:11 am. And I do need to head soon to bed.

The compounding and contorting kaleidoscope of the day has slowed down. A click clock tock competes only with the hum-rush of our heater, struggling keep the winter outside. Both are loud tonight.

Across the room is painting on the wall. I found it a couple weeks ago. It was tucked into a big cardboard box. There were several boxes that Mom had saved. Stuff from my childhood. Memories among the stuff.

The painting is signed by me. I crafted it, and it’s pretty terrible. The landscape scene is of a bridge, over a river. The vegitation is confused. Some tufted tree thingies live along the water. A huge tree limb angles across the sky. I attempted reflections in the stream, but they don’t match up with anything, really. The colors are muddled. A pale yellow and light blue sky somehow lend a vibrance to the water. It’s surface is quite vibrant.

I don’t remember each moment of painting this thing. I do however think I was attempting to channel Bob Ross. But Bob, I aint’.

Anyway, I have hung this painting up in our house. Near our ‘office’ area, I can see it every day. I’ve been wondering about it lately. It seems to grab my attention often. I notice it, I’m aware of it’s faults. I laugh when I realize how poorly it was designed and executed.

I’m sure I painted it for a class. I wonder what the grade would have been?

Hmmm.

I do know this though, as bad as the painting looks to me today, I am proud of it. I think it is quite remarkable that maybe twenty years after I put that acrylic onto the canvas, I pulled it out of a box and hung it on the wall in my home. It somehow stuck around.

More than that though, I am proud because I made it. I chose the parts, I used my two hands and my two eyes to set each brushstroke on the media. It is caked on and too thick of application. This is the work of a beginner. I don’t remember painting much at all when I was young. This is almost a first-timer effort.

I did not choose to stick with this type of artwork. I didn’t pursue the mastery of it. I’m not sure I ever painted again, after this image.

But I did make this one. I did try and put effort into it. I see the results of my work, and I am not wanting to compare it to a Michelangelo, but compared to me, it is just great; as is. I tried, and I made something. I was given the materials and I produced a result.

I could learn to love my life, in the same weird way, of loving this ugly painting. I could give myself a break. Realize that I have tried and have given my efforts toward creating something on the canvas of this world. Someday, at the end of it all, I can sign my name to it. I was the artist who brushed on the strokes of my own composition.

I don’t have to constantly compare it to the old world masters. I could look at my own life, as a stand-alone work of art. My art. I could try that sometime. Ugly is a term that carries negativity. It speaks of disproportion and disfigurement. Sometimes I look at my life with that same distaste for my own creation.

I could though, instead, decide to see something I made. I created it with the tools and the experience that I had to work with. I crafted it with love and with care. I wanted to make it pretty. I added in the things I wanted to be there. I left out the things I considered unnecessary.

I could decide that my painting the best thing I ever painted. I could see that I made the best life I could make; as is.

Hmmm….

I was thinking all week about problems. I saw them almost everywhere. My brain hurt, considering the options, juggling possible outcomes. I sunk into black negativity, when the sheer size and breadth and depth of them loomed overhead.

In one brief second, after days of mental exhaustion. I saw that maybe, ‘seeing the problems’… was the problem.

I could have seen just stuff. Just neutral-ness and perfection in the chaos. I could have seen this calm moment at the center of it all. With God’s true heart inviting me always to abide in Him.

My painting, is just that. It’s mine. It full of problems, yes, but all of it, is a creation that I know, no one else could have made. It’s uniquely me. Another will never duplicate it.

Until next week. I invite you into the middle of the calm of the night. All things in this tiny flash of a moment slow down. They all become perfectly ugly. The beautiful transfigured life. In a couple more hours the day will awaken. The motion returns. Another cycle can throw us around. Not for right now though. Not in this one deeply calmly breathed epoch of a split second.

Hello Life, I Love You :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

(3:52 am)

I believe I’ll peer into the weirdness…

As a grade school philosopher, I clearly remember a crowning moment of achievement. One day I came up with a question, a sentence, that twisted my tiny mind. I was stumped without an answer to it, and yet, I had ‘created’ it. Just like making up a joke, or crafting an adventurous story, my childhood imagination, marveled at my wordplay invention…

“What does ‘mean’ mean, if ‘mean’, means ‘mean’?

umm… well… I still don’t know, or much care to answer this silly question tonight.

I do think though, that I want to tell you all, every reader here, that I always felt ‘weird’ about using my mind to think up these little questions. I did a lot of pondering as a kid. I wondered about the how’s and the why’s of life, and the world around us, as long as I can remember.

When hanging out with friends, or in a class, I would sometimes mention some of my deeper questions. Maybe I would express a mystery that befuddled me. I seem to remember that others were quick to dismiss it or laugh or maybe just let a blank stare lead to silence. Even to this day, I can only recall a few people who I could really conversate with, who were willing to discuss my rudimentary questions and views on science, the arts, the nature of reality, or spirituality.

I do know that this little blog is place where I feel free-er and free-er to write out my quirky inner conversations. Instead of just having this discussion between my own ears, one big reason I wanted to talk to other people about these deep issues, is that I wondered about how other people observe and understand this curiosity called ‘Life.’

What do you believe? What leads you to believe what you do? What do you notice and understand and expect out of best and worst moments of your known existence?  Did you get your beliefs from somewhere else? From a person, an experience or just from a gut-level certainty that you were born with? Do your deepest beliefs change? Have you watched them transform over as your life unfolds? Do you think that core truth has always been the same, but shows itself in different ways?

….

Okay, now I am beginning to lead things on, and shape some answers…

Back to my youth. Back to being embarrassed about wanting to care and become concerned with philosophy, with meaning and cause and effect. I felt that I was the only person in the whole world maybe who wondered about this stuff. Untrue, but still a very vivid insecurity.

Us human beings do lots of talking. We do it all the time. We get together, one mouth starts and then the other responds. Words, ideas, emotions and information is all shared between us with our language. We are constantly giving, receiving and processing the words from others…

I wonder tonight, if there is possibly more than one real question? I wonder if every word uttered relates to just a single core inquiry? I could just quit blogging right now, if I could properly ask the question and receive the fullness of your answer. If I could even put my own articulate and concise thesis together, to share with you, I could save you from ever having to read another of these silly online bloggy posties.

‘What do you really believe?’

and to answer with my own

‘Here’s what I really believe.’

Simple, right?

Nah.

Not only, does every one of my conversations, have this question at it’s core, It also breeds actions. All of my actions, are a result of my deepest committed beliefs, and yours are that way too. All of my observations and yes, judgments, of actions I see, bounce against this question as well. We know, our own deepest beliefs, by the steps we take each day. The place where I find my feet, tells me the truth of my heart.

Ha!

Well, I must believe in beliefs.

What if they are illusion as well? What if there is no you, or there is no me. What if the ‘I’ that is referred to, doesn’t even exist? God, the creator, has planted mysteries and puzzles among the intricate simplicity of the grand design.

I am only glad today, that I can type these words in the blackness of night, and not still feel the same shame, I once did…

It’s good be weird…

I hope you feel empowered to share your weirdness, and yes your beliefs, with someone today :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Just that one dang thang

It’s easy actually, to quit writing a blog like this. Every Friday I post it. Been going on four years now, I guess. But it is easy to just drop it.

At least this morning it was.

At 12:55 a.m. on Saturday, the 14th of February, I am finally getting around to putting some words up on this screen. I did have intentions to complete a post earlier, but something else happened.

I freely and happily left that task undone. I didn’t follow through. I almost began, at one point, but then, nah, switched gears.

There is a really simple reason for this. I had a focus. I had decided what my number one priority was. I knew, without any doubt, that preparing our restaurant for our big Valentines’ weekend was THE thing that I really needed to do most. So this morning, that is what I did, it is all I did, instead of my normal routine of writing a blog post.

Ahhh…. the relief of that ‘knowing’ was delicious. Just for once, having the ONE thing in my mind, on my radar and in the crosshairs of my scope of conciousness, was such a tasty change. Usually, I do NOT have just ONE thing on my mind. In fact, it almost never, ever happens that way. Lately even, the reserve spot on top of my ToDo list is empty. Really, it is. I spend many days, going through some motions, but without any solid idea of what I am aiming at.

I halfheartedly complete some tasks and do the minimum required actions to inchworm my way along, till the next night’s rest finally drapes over me. I do hope that this part of my world changes, when a new life enters our little family. I expect, I won’t have a shortage of new tasks and jobs that need my energy and attention.

This weekend though, at our restaurant, has ignited that inner fire again. I have made lots and lots and lots of plans for it, over the last several weeks. Together, Chad and I have talked and talked and talked about ways we can serve our customers best. I have bought new equipment to make the flow in the kitchen, just right. I have put together advertisements and made up special recipes too. All these things are extras and stuff that I don’t really Have to do, I just want to. It excites me to spend some energy and make this the best Valentine’s weekend that I have been a part of. I hope it is :)

Either way though, the journey and the hard work, is where my delight has come, in this process. The end result could just be a cherry on top. These are the types of words you hear from people who are describing a great career in sports or business successes.

RARELY, and I mean RARELY, do I have this much focused enthusiasm for just one event, anymore… I used to put together parties and trips and celebrations, quite often. I used to love to do that. To host people, and to provide a great experience is thrilling to me :)

Tonight, I think we did a real good job. Our people worked the systems very smooothly. I reviled in it’s precision and in their abilities. Lots of compliments came from all around.

……………. Too bad, I don’t really focus my energy like this more often.

Too bad, I don’t get this excited, just by waking up each day. I probably function on some level of habitual depression and negative attitudes, pretty much most of the time. Really, this upbeat commitment to this one project weekend has been good for me. I can leave distraction by the wayside and just keep driving to the one direct and clear goal, when I have decided what that goal is…

Cheers, then. Cheers to the Choosing. Cheers to making a more full decision. When 100% of me is focused on just one thing, then there is nothing left to dilute or disperse my energy.

I hope that this new year, and this new life, coming to ours, can help me remember that it is so much easier and more fun, to know just one thing. To commit to one idea, whatever it is, saves me, from wasting time on all the piddly other possibilities.

Now, another day awaits. Another chance to play and to serve well. I hope I am ready and I hope we have prepared enough, I’m looking forward to the challenge :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Restless tonight

Cause I wasted the light
Between both these times
I drew a really thin line
Its nothing I planned
And not that I can
But you should be mine
Across that line

If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldnt that be something

I promise I might
Not walk on by
Maybe next time
But not this time

Even though I know
I dont want to know
Yeah I guess I know
I just hate how it sounds

If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldnt that be something

If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldnt that be something

Even though I know
I dont want to know
Yeah I guess I know
I just hate how it sounds

Even though I know
I dont want to know
Yeah I guess I know
I just hate how it sounds

If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldnt that be something

If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldnt that be something

If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldnt that be something

If I traded it all
If I gave it all away for one thing
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldnt that be something

Keeping crazy commitments, vs. commitments driving you crazy???

While shopping a few weeks ago, I made a silly promise to a silly girl.

Little Gracie was cruising by, sitting in the cart. She probably made a funny face, or said something goofy to me. I reached out to the nearest thing I could grab, and tossed it at her. The deep blue pack of Halls cough drops landed in her basket. Lindsay and I talked with her and her Mom. We all said the normal, Hello’s and See-You-Soon type things. Then Gracie threw the bag of mentho-lyptus back at me.

She said she didn’t want them. I told her that, the next time I saw her at our restaurant, they would be waiting for her. ‘You probably will, You crazy guy!’ She said. Before leaving the store, Lindsay asked if I wanted to put the cough drops back on the rack. I said ‘Nope, I told Gracie, I would have them for her, so now I’ve got to do it.’

So fast forward, from a few weeks ago, to last night. I walked up behind Gracie and her family at our table #15, I told her that I was sorry, I was all out of animal crackers, but I did have ‘these’ for her. It was the blue pack of cough drops. She rolled her eyes and her Mom laughed. It was a fun little moment, Gracie and I are buds :)

I told a kid, that I was going to do something. It was simple, it was easy. Most of all, it was silly. The thing is, that I had to complete that little promise I had made. Actually, I shouldn’t be throwing around promises, unless I am willing to keep them. I call it a promise, and even though I didn’t say that word specifically, I know that little kids listen and retain and I might as well, be saying ‘promise’ anytime I commit verbally. Especially, to this little girl :)

Throughout this week, I have been amazed at a few moments, when people have let me down on their promises. Just yesterday, I had my jaw on the floor of my car, reading a text, in which, a new team member at our restaurant, was backing out of the three day week, she had agreed to work with us, and I had four hours notice (this was after I had offered free gas money to get her started, since the first paycheck had not arrived yet) :( Just like little Gracie, I am still choosing some level of belief that when a person makes and agreement with me, then they will follow through, as best they can.

Once I got over my initial GRRRRRRR, at being let down with such short notice, I proceeded to draft messages and try to the get the shifts covered. Luckily, another kiddo, stepped up, and came in to save the day… again. Overall, everything worked out, like it always does. Yet, once again, I was questioning the limits of my sanity as I attempt to staff our restaurant.

The bigger issue, with falling short of fulfilling our commitments, isn’t even the person we are letting down. If I had chosen not to buy those cough drops, and not to put them in my car, where I could go get them, next time I saw Gracie, it would have been no big deal. If it was even mentioned at all, I’m sure her Mom or Dad, would have said something like: ‘Aaron has other things to worry about, than bringing you a bag of cough drops!’ And it would have all been fine…

Even this new team member, who is leaving me to prep and cook by myself this morning, instead of coming out to make some money and bring her assistance, is probably better off, the employee of someone else, rather than us. Overall, this is just one of many instances, that I have dealt with before, and will again, I’m sure. The restaurant still finds a way to function, or at very least dys-function, while with the people who staff it, come and go.

The bigger problem, is within ourselves, when we don’t follow through on a commitment or a promise. The real issue, is the bruise and the dent left behind, in our own being, when our words and actions do not make solid repetitive connections. I am no freaking saint when it comes to follow-through. Believe me, I am not throwing stones in my glass house here. I do want to bring some attention though, to this simplest of ideas. When our words and our actions match up, we are building integrity. That is a big thing. It stays within us, it can be seen by others too. It is intangible, but soo powerful.

Other than honesty, and strong moral soundness, the definition of integrity includes ‘undivided’ and ‘the state of being whole’.

In order to be undivided, we cannot make too many commitments. We have to say no, we have to strongly, confidently and with compassion, be able to say no. This act itself is so merciful. When we say no, and keep our commitments within our means to accomplish, we are building our integrity, bit by tiny bit. I need to say no, more often. I need to practice this and play with it. I can edit and cultivate my commitments, caging them and supporting, so they don’t grow wild and out of hand.

Years ago, I learned from Dave Ramsey, that the number one trait of the successful people he admired, was Integrity. This human characteristic is free to us all. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we have, we can always keep our promises, or refuse to make them, if we can’t keep them.

I know there are places where I need to improve and polish up my own integrity. I know that one little bag of cough drops isn’t going to redeem all my failures. That one pack of Halls though, is practice. It is a tiny reminder that even a silly little promise kept, can put a big smile on the cute face of a little girl :P And the best part was, that Gracie told me, they were her favorite kind of cough drops :)

Until next week, be blessed :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols