What’s the Difference!!

Being able to identify the difference, the contrast, the uniqueness is important to finding the email you want, among thousands. If your inbox is like mine at home or at work, there are legions of messages and they seem to multiply by the millisecond. It’s important to know the fastest way to retrieve the ones you want, unless you want to spend your day scrolling. I think of this fact often while working at my graphic design desk.

Throughout my day I need to refer to the artwork requests that my customers have made in their emails. I need to pull up specific notes among thousands. I greatly helps to find unique search terms. An email consists of three basic parts; the subject, the body and the return address. Say my customer’s name is John Smith and the subject is Tee Shirt Order and the body says something about Shirt, these generic words don’t help me much. I will pull up everything with a John or all the Smiths or every message with Tee and Shirt in it, which is like all of them!

I have to find something singularly particular and exclusive to this one message or person. I need a school name and sport or I need their actual email address spelled correctly. Basically, I want to focus on only on the things that are different about this one message. That’s the helpful clue to finding a needle in a haystack.

I can remember a time in my teenage life, when sameness is all I desired. I wanted to blend in and be just like (a mythical) ‘everyone else’. I had the idea that I should not stand out, but be indistinguishable. A carbon copy of the in-crowd, sounded like heaven to me.

Oh, back then all I could see of myself was the ugly differences in my body, in my abilities, accomplishments and pretty much everything else. I did go through a time when I was sick and couldn’t participate in sports and middle school stuff. I’m not real sure I would have anyway. I would have been too self conscious to really try… You know, because of my differences and all…

So here we are, many years later, many experiences accrued since then. Life evolves in front of the windshield screen of our eyes. I see differently now in some ways. It is our differences themselves that are the most important and special and valuable to us. Being like everyone else is deplorable actually. A grey world, a boring medium brown-grey and without a speck of bright color, sounds ugly to me.

In my position as a manger of a business I can see now more than ever, that it’s the differences that make our restaurant special. Our people are not just like everyone else, when it comes to our Team and our Guests. They are wonderfully uncommon and unique and awesome. I can see better now, that investing time to slow down and find out about individualities is our number one job.

As big or as small as our projects are, it all comes down to identifying the spark of color, among the dimly lit mass of mundanity. This blog space is a place, not to write, but to revisit and give opportunity to my own unique inner voice. These sentences would have terrified the teenage me.

Sometimes I still see people or things around me and want to copycat or emulate. It’s wasted energy though. I can though open up to my own spiritual wisdom, allowing guidance by God not the world. I can’t forget that I was made unique, purposefully not to be just like the rest of His children. Why else would He have bothered?

Enjoy today, the things that make YOU, only YOU, and Me only Me and even (a-hem) those tough to love, those tough to love.

Until next week my friends, be well and be YOU!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Devastating news about my Daughter

My daughter is a crappy walker. I guess she’s trying to learn how to do it right, but c’mon. She can take several wobbly steps in a row, but she crashes all the time! Geez! Little things in the way, CRASH. Quick change of direction, CRASH. Trying to walk while carrying her pink blankie, step on the blankie, CRASH. I don’t know if she’s better at walking or piling herself up on the floor in a heap!

She started stepping independently almost two weeks ago. Now, she’s moving quick enough that she’s colliding into household objects out of my reach. Her cutie face has new red marks all the time, from the bashing it takes. Yesterday it was the vacuum and its attachments that caught her fall. Today already, the rough edge of a cardboard box scraped a new geometric design on her cheek. Who knows what she will fall into while I’m sitting here typing on the computer!

Have I made it clear that my kid has failed a lot, at this new skill she’s learning called walking?

It appears to me that if she was measuring her progress, at how much she’s failing, she might as well give up already!! Why wouldn’t she do that, I mean falling hurts. She could cause real damage to herself or to our floor full of pots and pans. This crashing thing may be too big to overcome and if she gave up now she could save herself a lot of bumps and bruises!

Crawling is just so much safer. Crawling is a sturdy and secure way to get around. Crawling is almost as good as walking, but without all the danger. I’m wondering why she can’t see all the benefits of the Conservative Crawlers Movement, becoming popular among children her age.

“Why Walk!” Is a great slogan!

I see the onesies printed with ‘Why Walk’ all around and being posted online by intellectual babies who have put real thought into their own well-being. When we crawl we’re cute and someone will pick us up if needed. It’s nice to be picked up and held. Those wobbly walkers don’t get nearly as much cuddling as a cute crawler. Their independence is arrogant and a rude way to treat those who’ve raised you this far, just running away, like a game of chase all the time.

There is so much wrong with walking, yet my daughter seems determined to do it anyway! Ugh!

I’m glad I’m not like her. When I fall down and fail, I really study it. I stew and ponder each moment of the whole event. I sometimes spend days or weeks mulling over a single failure that I’ve committed. Yup, I’m not like her at all. She seems to not even care that she crashed hard to the floor! She just gets right back up tries to walk again. Duh! You’re going to fall again I think to myself, and sure enough, down she goes for the hundredth time today.

I’m so much more mature and prudent than her, since I’m 36 years older. She should ask me how to deal with her failures, I could set her straight. I could tell her, that she needs to start mentally collecting them, and adding them together. If she could just inventory and categorize these crashes she could see patterns so that she could be sure to know that it will only happen again if she keeps trying. This would make her so much more educated than the other babies like her, who just keep trying and keep falling down, over and over and over again.

Yeah, someday hopefully when she can start to talk, I can converse with her about all the ways that she can avoid falling in life. I could tell her how to never feel any impact at all. She could stay away from banging against anything whatsoever. If I could just teach her, to never try, then she would see that she could never fail! How wonderful that would be!

Until I can really get that implanted into her personality, I guess she will probably continue on like this. Poor girl. I can’t believe it, but she seems to not even be fazed by the constant slip ups and smack downs. She does it at home, and in front of people in public. She has little falls and big wipeouts and everything in between, but she doesn’t seem to have the capacity for embarrassment. I hope that virtue grows soon, so it teaches her how wrong it is to look silly in front of others. Honestly, it almost looks like she doesn’t give a CRAP what other people think! OMG! LOL!

Well, it’s obvious that I have a lot to teach this little toddler about life. I’d better get to it. She is playing in the background and been racing 100 miles an hour. It’s like she never stops. She just goes and goes, almost relentlessly at pure play! It’s weird I know, but it appears that with her playing all the time, she’s improving by little tiny increments at everything she does. She’s not taking it seriously though, she’s all sillyness and squeals of laughter with her constantly experimenting behavior. It’s so childish!

Also, she tries to make everything a toy! It doesn’t matter what it is. She’s ‘reading’ books that she doesn’t know the word to. She ‘cooks’ with plastic blocks in a mixing bowl. She even makes a jungle gym out of the legs of our barstools. This girl has it all wrong. It’s like she’s having FUN all the time, no matter what!

I’m sorry to have to tell you this devastating news about my JoJo. Hopefully someday she will ‘grow up’ and be more like us adults with our safe and calculated cyclical repetitions. That’s the kind of life we can be proud of, day after day after day after day after day after day.

Please pray for me and my family. We will need that kind of help to get through this. Sometimes, when I watch her, being so rambunctious and carefree I’m tempted to act the same way! I hope to hold my ground, continuing to mull over all my past mistakes and not forgetting a one of them. It’s hard though. Joella’s spirit of adventure is really contagious. Please, please do what you can to learn from her frivolous follies today.

With all the (wink-wink) sincerity I can muster today 🙂 Crash yourself into a fantastic weekend!

Sincerely (really though)

-Daddy and JoJo

I want “I can’t.”

A strong feeling overwhelms me every time I speak with the phone system of a mega-corporation. I am filled with emotion listening to detailed instructions from a computer voice that finally maybe leads to a real person’s voice which hardly helps my situation at all! It takes a lot of effort not to exclaim aloud into the microphone this intensity!

JEALOUSY is coursing through my being when I deal with situations like this!

Is that what you thought I was going to say?

Yes! I am admitting that I sometimes feel envious of a Pepsi Co or Budweiser or Verizon when I am dealing with them in my work or personal life. Usually the only time I need to talk with them on a phone is when there is a problem. I am dumbfounded and flabbergasted at the minuscule amount of help that a gigantic operation like theirs can provide. I only have to call when I have an unusual situation that may require a little flexibility on their part. I find that I am more often than not, stuck without a way to accomplish what I would like, when they tell me that magic word.

“No” seems to be the way in which my requests are responded to. Or maybe “We Can’t”, or “That isn’t an option” or even my favorite “We could have an hour ago, but now it will be another week.” WHAT?!?

This is the thing that I find my green jealousy centered around. This uncanny knack for saying NO to a ‘valued customer.’

See, I have never been a corporate guy. I have worked in some decently sized companies, but in each case, I was personally working for the original owners… in person, in the same building. I have never worked on a campus or been part of a team that was in a division of a region within a larger incorporated structure. The rigidness of the big boys is totally foreign to me.

It almost seems, that the bigger the company, the better they are at telling me (their customer) No. Interesting isn’t it?

I’m probably not really jealous, but at least bothered by the fact that we aren’t getting the full truth when we run into the words No or I can’t. We aren’t being honored as a customer or even as a human being with the courtesy of the actual answer to the question.

In my small business background, working in small town America, when someone asks me a question or makes a request, I am rarely going to give a Pepsi Co style response. Looking a person in the eye, and asking them for something, can be intimate in a way. They want something from you, and you have to Decide whether or not you will make their request happen.

I can spend time unpacking my reasons. I can express a verbal essay about why I would or wouldn’t attempt to help in this specific situation. Truly though, if I simply say “I can’t”, I am telling a fib.

Being on both sides of this coin, I know that there is another response we all are aware of, and it goes something like this:

If I wanted to badly enough, If I gave it my 100% focus and attention, If I committed myself completely to this task making any sacrifice necessary, I could accomplish dang-near ANYTHING!

We know this to be true about ourselves. We know this to be true about others. We know that if Pepsi Co really wanted to deliver me a single 3 gallon box of Tropicana Pink Lemonade by tomorrow, they could ABSOLUTELY do it! They have the lemonade, they have the trucks and they have my address… So really, the truth is that they don’t want to do it. Or the computer program that shows them how to be profitable says it isn’t, and they’re following that. Yes, it is my fault that I forgot to order it, I made a mistake. However, if they really wanted to help me out they could…

So go ahead, call my number, text or send a facebook message or email to me. Ask me anything. Force my hand and make a request, simple or complex, you pick. I will see if I can be like the corporate giants and save time by saying a simple NO. Someday though, I hope to hone those response skills.  I might calmly and rationally express without guilt or shame or fear of your opinions, that I am choosing to decline. In fact, I have decided to commit my time, energy or money to other things instead.

A few years ago, one wise person showed me the truth that I was lying to myself and to them, when I said ‘I can’t’. It was sort of devastating in the moment to realize that I had the power of yes, but wasn’t willing to step out of my comfort zone. I had the capacity, but not the gumption. I didn’t want to try as hard as I really could. And my way around those embarrassing choices was to say ‘I can’t.’

I don’t know if there are people who listen in to the phone conversations that I have had with the representatives from those big companies. If there are, I wonder if they feel that same twinge of regret when the answer comes down to ‘We can’t do that.’

I guess it’s sarcasm or me just going for the corny surprise-factor, to say I’m jealous of those entities who say ‘I can’t.’ I am glad that I don’t hide behind it day in and day out. I do know that it is an art form to construct and maintain your own personal boundaries. I have a lot to learn about that. I can’t always be out to please everyone, with a YES! smiling while over-promising and then sad-facedly under-delivering.

Knowing our own commitments so deeply that we choose, act and produce instantaneously is surely a high form of self-love and respect. You can see plainly that I am still working on this concept for myself, even with typing out these words, at 1:23am early on Friday morning. My commitments vary and flex and fall off and falter. So there, I am just as small and human and broken as anyone, and I guess it would be a lie to myself to say that ‘I can’t’ do anything about that.

Until next week, fortify your boundaries my friend. Defend them with your life. In short, just Choose, and don’t use those two cuss words… “I Can’t”

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

‘Hold WHAT!’ says my tongue

At the ripe old age of 37, I’m probably better now at holding my tongue, than ever. I can stay quiet while those precious few seconds pass by, instead of spouting off the first thing that comes to my mind… Sometimes…

The problem though, lies in the fact that a thought or reaction or concern has occurred to me, and I need to quickly decide that I will not immediately express it verbally. I can be in a conversation, or see something happen, or maybe get a text message, that I want to instantly respond to… negatively.

As the saying goes, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.’ Right?

If I am happy with what I see and hear, it’s perfectly appropriate to congratulate or encourage or celebrate with someone at good news… but that’s not what I’m blogging about here.

That little saying is designed to remind us that our brain is going to serve up our fears or insecurities or especially judgments and we aren’t helping ourselves or others by barking them out at every opportunity.

There is another issue however, in that the holding back of those thoughts, rarely goes unnoticed. Emotional fakery is easily detectible. I seem to radiate tension into the space between people, when I am thinking something negative, but choosing to keep it verbally canned up. The air gets thicker and time ticks slowly with loud heartbeat thumps for those awkward moments between sentences. At least in my own mind it does. I don’t think any one of us is oblivious to the true inner dialogue and feelings of another person, even if they aren’t talking about them.

So we have a dilemma.

Even if I get really good at holding my tounge, I need to do more than that. I need to stuff down and hide my feelings far away from the detectors of my family or staff or customers or guy at the gas station… right??

Impossible and shady and on some level I’ll become a professional politician, always blurring the boundaries between truth and bullshit. I don’t think that is our answer.

This week, I was given a little hint at how to deal with these situations, that seem to be bursting like popcorn all around me.

‘If I don’t have anything nice to THINK, I could choose to not THINK anything at all.’

Instead of being aware of the words about to leave my lips and halting them, I could notice the thoughts themselves that constructed those mental words. My mind constantly fires off a barrage of observations and predictions and YES negative judgments about the world and people around me. Sometimes that helps me to survive and avoid bodily harm. Most of the time however, it leaves me in a general dismay about things I see and hear in my day-to-day life.

If I begin to decide that not all of those mental pictures and negativity are helpful, then I can make a new plan. Like changing the channel of the TV away from the evening news, to something, ANYTHING else, I can break the momentum of that hostility between my ears.

Just taking a microsecond to redirect my inner attention can stop that dark snowball effect. I am not assisted positively by every darn thing that I ‘think’. I don’t have to believe everything I think. I can step back momentarily and return later with a fresh perspective and then decide whether further processing is necessary.

A quick judgement is rarely the best one. I am not being chased by a wild jungle cat. I don’t need to kill or be killed. These primitive warrior instincts can overtake my overly pampered and plush lifestyle in the modern day Midwest.

All this is easier to say (or rather to type) in the silence of my living room, than to live out, for the rest of my today. I will give it a try though. I will let go when I can, and just ponder quietly another mental photograph, any other one, as long as it clips the thought chains that are dragging into darkness.

Until next week my friends, I wish you well being. Even more important though, I wish for you, the ability to create your own well being, in all circumstances.

God Bless.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Just Killin’ It!

The sweetest little moment of my one-year old falling to sleep for her morning nap nestled in her pink blanky and my arms was rudely interrupted this morning. As we gently rocked in our cushy recliner one tiny-winged black-bodied housefly kept landing on us!

The dang thing would jump-fly from my arm to my hand and even to my face! I would swat it away, and almost immediately, it was back and bugging my barely sleeping baby! She would snort and shift and dislodge it momentarily, just to have it switch back to landing on me.

After a fun morning was slipping away with an increasingly cracky-tired little girl, I was so enjoying my moment of peacefulness and rest with her. EXCEPT FOR THE STUPID FLY!!!

Anyway, I tried to just ignore it. Then I tried to swing quickly and quietly with my hand to snatch it. These precious few seconds of constantly interrupted cuddling had to end. It was time for the fly to DIE!

I put the baby down and picked up a proper swatter. Right away, I spied the annoying insect and BAM!

Ahhh… all better… at least until another comes along 🙂

So there, your key to life for the day. Something to take with you and use as you see fit. Got it? Good.

Okay… Okay…

How often in our worlds are we just trying to enjoy the bigger picture, to appreciate our blessings and to be contented among the overall goodness of the day… Only to have a small but exquisitely irritating problem distracting us completely! That happens to me all the time! I am so fortunate in my life and blessed beyond words! Yet often I find my mind focused on a tiny issue that consumes all my attention!

Maybe it’s a problem at work. Maybe it’s a list of undone tasks. Maybe it’s money or a relationship or car trouble. Maybe it’s a broken cell-phone or that tiny voice in the back of my brain nagging negatively about almost EVERYTHING!!

Well, the other day that voice got the SWAT! Walking through the store in the afternoon, my mind was buzzing with mental gar-bage and just like that tiny housefly, I had to stop what I was doing and KILL IT!

SHUTUP! I yelled quietly into my own mind! I don’t think anyone around me heard it 🙂 but that little voice sure did. Immediately, it stopped. The train of troubles steaming along between my ears was vaporized instantly!

Sometimes we are not going to be able to just ignore these small but powerful annoyances. Sometimes we can’t just co-exist with our issues. We shouldn’t have to learn to enjoy the feeling of the flies in our lives crawling all over our skin. At some point, we have to just decide to stop what we’re doing and deal with the thing itself! Just kill it and rejoice in our action.

No, it’s not a permanent solution. There will always be another problem ahead, but we can’t continue to ignore these things until we are covered head to toe and pretend that we’re fine all the time.

Luckily this week, I was annoyed enough to just tell my own brain to SHUTUP! Luckily I was irritated enough to just set my sleepy girl in the chair and kill that dang housefly. Doing something about the problem always beats trying to just live with it, like it doesn’t really exist…

Until next week my friends, kill all your flies and relish it!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Digging Deep into the Nightly News

So, do you want the good news, or the bad news? Do you want to hear the positive or the negative? Do you possess the restraint to handle awesome excitingness with humility? Or can you muster up the fortitude to endure the exposure to the details of a tragic tale?

I know there are times in my life, when news arrived or clarity manifested and it seemed that it could only be taken as either good or bad. It was easily black or white, no smudges of gray variations.

However, upon review, some of the bad news that arrived on my mental doorstop, was later proven to have been good, and a disguised blessing. And I’m sure the opposite was true. A story or experience that I took to as fortunate and even lucky, turned out to be not that at all…

I have met people who seem to receive all information with a smile and they can lightly brush away any hint of calamity in the air, instantly. I have met those that can notice the tiniest of harmless details and magnify them to mountainous monstrosities.

I’m usually somewhere in between. And as I’ve examined it lately, it all has to do with my attitude. In a way, it’s my own attitude that I’m usually reacting to, more than the situation at hand. Recently in fact, I’ve watched myself (weird) handle tough moments with a smile. I’ve also been aware that through overall peaceful well-being, I have burrowed myself deep into pocket of darkness.

So then a question arises about situations themselves. Do they truly exist as concrete force-fields that corral us into absolute certain reactions? Upon review, it seems that the observer has a quantum-level orchestrative power to control the momentum of almost any piece of data. You hear all the time, that some folks see God’s blessings in everything, everywhere. Some don’t seem to ever come across them.

I can be aware of this suggestion within my mind, inside of the present moment in time itself. I find though, that my skill or practice or strength at steering my own reaction is weak. Instead, a lot of times, the tidal wave of my instinctual judgment washes away any tiny squirt of detached neutrality.

Saying ‘That’s just me, just how I am,’ is a cop-out though. And I know that too. Darn.

I guess the tiniest glimpse of self-awareness disallows a truckload of victimhood. Although it would be so much easier that way… wouldn’t it? To have an enemy that we can point at ‘out-there’, takes away all our responsibility to be the change, instead of just wanting to benefit from others changing.

I found a freezer tonight, on my way out the restaurant door, that showed twenty degrees instead of zero. That was bad news. I unplugged, emptied it out, cleaned the coils and turned it back on. This was bad news, but it would have been much worse to find in the morning. I may even return to the bar tonight, to check on it.

The news cannot be identified as absolutely good or bad. It can show me however, the truth about the direction my countenance is facing. And that can be exhausting news, because the work is all mine to dig into…

Until next week, my friends take care, and God Bless.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Make it till Morning

Sometimes I’m asked questions about living sober. It’s usually like “How long’s it been since you last had a drink?” I always answer with a smart-aleck comment about drinking all day, every day. I mean, everybody has to drink to live, right?? I drink H20 and tea and sprite and coffee and lots of other things like La Croix sparkling water!

Anyway, there is too much about this sobriety thing to type out in one short blog, and a lot of it would be predictable and sappy. Jesus himself MUST have something to do with it, I mean really, I have no ‘will-power’ of my own.

I just spent the last week consumed night and day, with the ins-n-outs of either replacing my recently broken cell phone with the same ol’ model or upgrading to something swanky and new. My personal will-power to stay on-task with my normal stuff has disappeared! Just phone searching 24-7, HA! What a joke!

Anyways…

Living sober sometimes sucks, especially in the evenings and after a long day of work. It’s no fun when planning a weekend away and wanting to really relax and let it all go. When in the presence of friends and family who are enjoying a stiff drink, I usually always want one too… Don’t ‘need’ it, but sure, I want it.

One thing though, that has been super-duper easy with sobriety… Absolutely amazingly simple and clear… positively powerfully and remarkable is the waking up in the morning.

Not one time in well over four years of it, have I ever, and I mean EVAR, wished that I had been drinking alcohol the night before. The tension completely lives in the anticipation, or in the present moment. While remembering the recent past, I never once have harbored a single regret about a missed opportunity for a dark blood-red thick-stemmed glass of Malbec, or a frosty mug of draft beer.

A man recently told me, that he thinks I am blessed and lucky and I should be thankful for all I have in my world. He’s certainly right. Sometimes that is easier said than done. The uphill battles we all face, can be daunting day by day.

This sobriety thing, has always been that way for me. Just today, just right now, no promises, nothing guaranteeeed. In the morning I’ll probably be satisfied, if I pass on the booze. My hindsight will tell me the absolute truth about my choices.

And you know what they say about hindsight…

Until next week, be well my friends. I love ya!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The real dirt on me…

Did you know that a bleach spot on a black polo shirt can be easily fixed with a large Sharpie marker? Oh you might think it only works with a couple small little splotches of orangey light brown that accidentally showed up in an inconspicuous spot, but you’d be wrong…

On Wednesday afternoon this week, I was prepping our restaurant kitchen and putting away supplies. I looked down at my chest for some reason and saw a large area of strangely shaped bleach stain. It could have been transferred in any multitude of ways, but it didn’t matter. I grabbed a fat-tipped Sharpie, and filled ‘er in. I walked around for the rest of the evening with three or four square inches of marker scribbles on my shirt and I doubt anyone noticed.

If you only ever wear black, this little tip may help you out someday. 🙂

But anyway, this little moment connects up with another that has to do with clothes, or stuff or specifically shoes. I was on that long road trip a couple weeks ago, and the first night out in western Colorado, I ended up setting up my tent in a storm. I was high on the Colorado National Monument near Fruita and the conditions were yucky.

I have a woven plastic-threaded mat that I was using to protect the tent from the ground. After a night of crazy wind and rain, that mat was covered in sticky red sand-mud when I rolled it back up and loaded it into the car. Since I spent the next several days in a hotel, it was just as crusty when I unfurled it along the banks of the Colorado River just south of Lake Havasu. That moment of laying down my mat to camp again, dropped lots of Colorado mud, into the sand of Arizona.

That night was hot and dry and by morning, most of my camping gear was aired out and baked well in the desert air. I awoke very early after just a few hours of restless sweaty sleep and repacked my gear. It was just damp enough that some of those fine grains of ground went with me again.

The next night was spent in the grass along a mountain road near Telluride. My tent mat dropped junk there again, and picked up more, just like every other night under the stars. By the end of my trip, I had transferred material all around the country and broad home some too. I still need to visit the car wash and spray off the rest of that stubborn sand so it can wash down a Kansas carwash drain.

My silly stain solution that ‘fixed’ my bleachy blotted shirt told a story. Same thing is true with that tent and the mat that dragged dirt from the Midwest to the coast and back. This stuff in our lives tells our tales. I don’t mean to propose that we need material objects to have a great life. I think it’s more that these objects can record our travels, they interface with the natural world. These garments and fabrics are not spiritual like we are. They simply react to the laws of physics they encounter.

We can be reminded though, about the places we’ve been and the moments we’ve experienced by examining the dirt on our shoes…

In the bigger picture, my shoes don’t speak of an international adventure or far flung footsteps. Truthfully, I haven’t really been too many places, or seen very many things. I have a lot of Franklin County Kansas soil on my soles.

It’s always good though, to get out there and track through new mud. It’s even rewarding to work hard enough that I earn a few more stains on my shirt that I can fix with a marker. These things remind me that I am blessed to be able to keep exploring and keep adventuring in some little way, every day.

Between now and next week my friends, get some new dirt on your shoes…

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The most exciting thing I’ve done all summer!

With only 25% left to upload, it won’t be long until you can watch a 4 minute video about my roadtrip to San Diego and back, a couple weeks ago. Yes, I think it will be interesting to some, but probably not to most.

Even though I have great camera gear, and saw awesome scenery, the video came out a little dark. I rode over 3700 miles in the drivers’ seat on that trip, and veiwed first-hand everything from prairie to mountains to desert to ocean, there isn’t much landscape in the movie I made. Actually, the continuous walkaround ‘film’ I created just shows how I packed my car for the trip…

Big Whoop!

Actually, YouTube is full of videos that 99% of viewers would consider a complete waste of time to watch. There seems to be enough people clicking around on the interweb though, that somebody may find it useful or amusing to them.

Along with my stepdad Joe, we built an organizer system for the rear cargo area of my SUV. It gave me a short but deep space to slide an under-bed Tupperware box for my tools. On the other side of the divider was a place for my tent and tent-mat, a chair and my folded up sleeping cot too.  I screwed metal anchors to the top of the plywood ‘floor’ to tie down various tubs. I made a special spot for the Dog Roxy too, complete with her own rubber floor protector that she seemed to like to lay on any chance she got.

I thought back to my previous long roadtrip to make some improvements on my in-car storage solutions. I spent a lot of time before my trip deciding just how I wanted to arrange all my essentials and non-essentials and hope-I-don’t-have-to-use-at-all items inside the car. It may seem silly to You, but I just love designing things, and this overland voyage to the coast and back gave me a nice opportunity to do that with my camping gear.

In fact, finding tiny ways to improve the efficiency and organization of critical items is something I seemed to be obsessed with.

This car camping setup, is just one of many projects that I have spent a bunch of time planning out and fussing over. At our restaurant, this same drive has prompted me to reconfigure and re-imagine almost every area of our kitchen, bar, dining room, back room and office too. Tiny changes here, big changes there, I love to look at a setup and play with ideas on how we can make it better. I’ve certainly been made fun of, for trying to save our staff just a couple steps, or to reduce one set of actions down to its most important core.

Over time and over now thousands of plates of food later, I know that tiny adjustments to our equipment or procedures or even a change in the direction of the swing of a door, has made a huge difference. At least I’d like to believe it has anyway.

I am delighted when I can work or in this case, drive and easily have with reach, the tools and items I need most. When our staff can concentrate on cooking your meal, instead of fiddling around looking for utensils or an ingredient, I smile. You may laugh when I tell when I tell you that I spent several minutes looking for a cinder-block to hold open a door, rather than just go in and out of it three or four times. I’d say that next time I want to unload a bunch of stuff out of the car, that cinder-block will be right there, where I can use it.

If I were leaving tomorrow for another 3700 mile highway romp with my always-ready pooch Rox, I would again make adjustments to my vehicle setup. Overall though, I love the project itself and then working with the designs and ideas to see how they perform.

If you have four minutes that you don’t care about, and are somebody who watches the mundane on YouTube, click here, I’m glad to show off the most exciting thing I’ve done all summer… Pack for a Roadtrip!

Until next week, have fun my friends designing and improving your own world, as best you can.

God Bless

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Don’t be fooled by the Glory

Don’t be fooled by the majesty of the snow-capped-in-summer Rocky Mountains. Don’t be tricked by the pastel beauty of the Arizona desert at sunset. Don’t even get deceived by the blazing blue Pacific slapping powerfully again and again, against the sandy and sunny Southern California coast.

I was looking at these wonders of creation last week, on a cross-country roadtrip, where I met my wife and daughter in San Diego. As part of my trip, I wanted to capture various thoughts and realizations that appeared along the way. I spoke words into a small battery-powered voice recorder, and one of the segments included these words. “Don’t be fooled by the colored layers of the rocks and the heights those mountains and even these eye-popping views.”

Driving almost solo, for days on end, with only Roxy along for the ride, is one of my favorite ways to unwind from the world. Seeing the American West, in its vast and untamed glory, is thrilling every time I experience it. I love to look at jagged ranges of rock and shallow valleys that provide 100 mile views all around. It was interesting to me, that I was reminded during this amazing trip, to not be fooled by these awesome spectacles of God’s handiwork.

It reminds me of one experience I had on a bus down in the Ozarks. My wife and I were loading up with a crowd of canoers to head back to camp after a day on the river. One guy in particular wanted to talk to me, he was pretty drunk, and wanted to philoso-phize about life. I was sober that day, and offered him a water or a diet sprite, I think he took it.

He was talking about how his ‘church’ was a day out in nature. He respected the mighty Oak tree and saw it as a beautiful creation. I’m not sure he meant that he worshiped the tree itself. He was adamant though, that the tree was just as worthy of his attention as anything else. He was satisfied spiritually to sit in the presence of that tree and enjoy its profound elegance.

Blasting along the highways out West, I was feeling the same way. I was sucked into the grandeur of the scenery. One divine moment happened when I was slicing through the narrow plains by Rifle, Colorado on I-70. Mountains soared to the South and the rose slightly less to the North. It was late evening, but the sun was still out. A deep purple mass of storm lay ahead. I hammered the gas pedal toward it, taking on rain and pebbly hail as the light around me faded away.

The pitch black visibility was snapped and flashed intermittently by bolts of lightning. The loud rain smacking the windshield was only quieted by the deafening crackling thunder. The rain increased until I was driving through a shallow river on the road. Obviously, I had to slow way down and ride carefully through this downpour.

In my CD player, I had inserted a disk that was a recording from one of our Westminster Presbyterian Church services. It happened to be from the July 4th weekend from the year before. The evening I’m talking about was also on July 2nd, coincidentally. Just as the storm was at it’s worst, I heard a single booming voice through my speakers… “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”… It went on, almost a capella… I cranked the volume… “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on!”

Our pastor Ron’s voice emboldened my weakening and tired spirit! I was instantly enthused and invigorated! The Battle Hymn of the Republic restored my confidence with instant rejuvenation!

Perfect timing, perfect song, perfect moment in a tempest squall in a tight mountain canyon! There was a raging river to my right and a vertical wall to my left. It was all chaos in the darkness and hail.  With Ron’s golden voice singing God’s power though, nothing could penetrate the breastplate of my faith.

Even all this though, the perfectness of it, the power of it, could be a moment of deception. Later on, as I watched the mountains touched by the colors of a clear sunset, and all the noise had calmed down. I wanted to tell myself not to be fooled by the awesomeness of it all…

See, as amazing as all this is, and was, these are the outward, worldly and even tangible proofs of God’s mighty hand of creation. The rocks and rain and even Ron’s powerful vocal chords are just things. All things have a short life in the grand scheme. As incomprehensible as it is, to gaze upon the Grand Canyon from the Southern Rim and drive along it’s vast openness, it won’t last forever. These objects we see with our eyes and touch with our feet are not the limit of God’s creative force. These are just reminders of God’s power.

The same exact Almighty, that crafted these world wonders, can duplicate these creations within the human heart. Our inner spirit is made of the same clay and can be molded by the same divine Potter. The mountains and the valleys and the vast deserted open plains within us, can be shifted by God. Where there was desert, God can make fertile soil. Where walls of solid granite stood, God can turn them to dust. Where the ground underneath is all quicksand, unsteady and loose, God can transform it to polished marble.

All the possibility we can see with our own two eyes, gazing upon these astonishing landscapes, or the intricate lodgepole pines, or the tiny mountaintop wildflowers, are nothing, compared to the changes God can make in our own hearts. If we open the invitation to Jesus Christ, the mountains move instantly, the murky seas dry up, blooms pop where there was desert before.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that all God’s beautiful work, is expended upon the world. There is immeasurable creativity left, for You and for Me. The Lord knows how much I still need it, and this small reminder encourages my Soul. My being is forever changed with God’ transformative power at work on me. The rest will be dust in the wind, and yet the beauty of new life with God, lives on perpetually…

Until next week my friends, Be Well, and may God Bless all your travels, as He has mine.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols