You can call me Jerry, Jerry-Rigg

Every day, actually, every night when I go to the end of my driveway and open the faded black mailbox I notice it. I see the green metal T-Post with the silver top that I drove into the ground one Saturday afternoon. I even sometimes see the round gold deck screw heads that I ‘socked’ through post and into the cedar 4×4. I laugh at my redneck ingenuity.

My mailbox post, used to be a constant problem. Waay back, when I first bought my house, when I was 23 years old, we threw a lot of parties. A lot of people would come to these parties. A lot of people, meant a lot of cars. And trucks too. Often, at the end of the night, we would find the mailbox, or the post, has been ‘bumped’ as someone was trying to snake their way of the tiny packed ‘parking lot’, AKA my driveway. Once, the entire setup was smashed completely flat, post, mailbox and all, with bills and letters still in it. To this day, that mailbox is mounted to the garage wall as a memorial to the casualty of one fun night.

Anyway, I remember the day that I needed to work on my mailbox post… again… and I decided to sink a T-Post next to it. I had recently bought a ‘better’ version of the whole setup, instead of the super cheap flimsy black metal, this one was a big chunk of wood. Well, it was leaning over too. The design used a spike in the ground that the heavy wood post mounted to, and it was a poor arrangement as well.

Looking around the back yard, I noticed a few T-Posts. I set to work by dropping the end of the tee as close to the wooden corner as possible. I started to hammer down with my sledge. While driving them too close together, I wondered how I would connect them. At some point, after thinking about a strap-wrapping, I settled on trying to drill a hole and use screws. It went much better than I expected. The green metal was soft, my gold screws held tight, everything was pretty solid and perpendicular to the ground. Sweet.

Except, that I thought it looked trashy. I didn’t like it. After I had installed the brace, I thought I ‘should’ have put it on the other side, less noticeable from the corner of John Brown. I just knew that I wanted this to be a temporary fix, and not a permanent mailbox holding solution. I thought that I wanted to live in a house, and be the kind of person, who didn’t have such a redneck way of doing things all the time. I would fix it soon, and make it look better…

That was several years ago. I notice that post every day. Probably no one else does. Not only does my mailbox post have a slapped-together, jerry-rigged appearance, but lots of things in my little world are like that. Inside the house, I have too many things like this to count. Ways that I have done things, on the cheap, with what I had on hand, that I always ‘intend’ to do ‘the right way’ later, but really never do…

Lots of things. My desk I am typing on, is a wooden top set on a plastic table underneath. My ‘bookshelves’ are grey rubbermaid modular shelves that I have cut and fit to make into a baby library case. I reuse or reclaim stuff, and none of it matches. I just don’t like buying new, or spending a lot, when I can make something work for me, on the cheap.

So what is the big deal about this T-Post at my mailbox. Well, it is a reminder, a hallmark of how I tend to do things. I want to ‘make do’ and always think ‘someday’ I’ll fix it. Someday will come and all of my household and my life will be magazine quality showhome, exquisite…


My mentor, and world-class coach,  Steve Chandler, says ‘How you do some things, is how you do everything.” I believe him. I see that in my little world.

I guess the question is: what is more useful for me? To see that mailbox post and regret that I haven’t done better? Or to notice that I have my own way of doing things, accepting myself, and then moving into the next best action, instead of dwelling on my faults…

The sooner I can relax, breathe and say, all is well, I am good, the way that I am, then I can decide from peaceful neutrality, the next forward motion I would want to take. Maybe it will be to finally fix my mailbox up real nice. But probably it won’t.

I will most likely jump into a new project, another more interesting endeavor, and leave the jerry-rigged stuff, just like it is.

Just like I am.

Just like it is okay to be.


Aaron Nichols

Origin of Jury-Rig, a Nautical Term from Wikipedia

The Downtowner, according to 3-year-old me.

Where I ‘come from’, is a friendly place, that the people are glad to see me. They smile and think I’m cute. I am sitting with my family. My Dad, to be specific. He’s larger than life, SuperSize, I’m tiny. It’s early morning time. I’m hungry and thirsty. I want Milk… No, I want Chocolate Milk. That too sweet, over-chocolated milk, you can’t get at home. I want chocolate milk, in a red plastic-pebbly surfaced cup. And I want ice in it.

I get my chocolate milk on ice, exactly how I want it.

I am happy. Someone paid attention and spoiled me. That is the place where I come from: In the way that I remember the Lee’s Downtowner. That is the restaurant that my Grandparents ran. My aunts and uncles worked there. I went on Saturday mornings with my Dad… I think? This chocolate milk memory had to have been from when I was just three or barely four years old.

Anyway, when I think of what a restaurant ‘should’ be in my mind. That is it. A special place, filled with family. A place where kids are paid attention to, talked to, served something extra special. Even chocolate milk, on ice, if they want it. Not to just spoil them, for the sake of spoiling. I don’t think kids always deserve to get anything and everything they want. I do think, that in this place, a restaurant, or our restaurant, these things are so simple, and so doable, and so rewarding to those kids, that we should do what we can do.

Maybe, if it’s God’s Will, and one of these same kids we serve, only has a few memories to hold on to, about a time with their family, in our place, let’s make it a good one. Just like drinking my chocolate milk on ice 🙂

So that is my ‘Come From’ – in regards to the restaurant biz.

I have lots of ‘Come Froms’ – they in fact, color and construct, and even command, how I go about my biz of life, in every different aspect and facet of it.

Straight-Line coach and author Dusan Djukich calls it our Inner Stance. This place or this idea or the shape of the lens through which we ‘see’ our life. Lucky for me, I have a clear-cut ‘Come From’ on my idea of the restaurant business, because I happen to now work within it. I am glad I have this, and it is a positive memory, therefore I have a goal, something to aim for, something by which I can measure progress, wins and losses.

I can see on the face of a four-year old whether we are doing a good job or not. For me, it is not their approval I am seeking, I am looking at the value of the experience as a whole. When they are justly and truly served well, the parents know it. The parents, our paying customers, and guests, see the investments we make in their kids and they come back, time and again. They become family, yes, in this place called a business.

So what if I didn’t have a ‘Come From’ that was solid in my mind? What if I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted a certain experience to look like? Well, then I have problems. And I DO HAVE plenty of problems. See just this one part of the restaurant world is clear to me. Many other parts aren’t.

Just like in my life as a whole, I need that ‘Come From’ to be crystalline. If it is pure, and clear, defined like it’s got a professional lens-like focus, then I find happiness. Because I can see where I want to make adjustments. I know exactly which paths to take, to get me closer to my own version of ‘perfection’.

Where I don’t have clear focus. Where I am without a solid ‘Come From’ I am straddling. I drift and wander. When I haven’t rooted myself in a choice and stuck to one principal above all others, I fight and fail. There are tons of places in my life, where I am unclear, and haven’t made a conscious effort to CHOOSE a ‘Come From’ or Inner Stance. They say it can be done: that we can just pick a foundation and use it to operate.

Like most people, I am more comfortable with the ones that were embedded early in life. The ones that have been with me the longest. I know some are healthy and good, others are not.

Actually, I wrote a note to myself in preparation for writing today. I do that a lot. Little stickys, with scribbles. They are all over this desk. I wrote that my ‘Come From’ is Fear, Anger and Rage. I wrote that when I perceive wrongness, and when I judge something to be against my values, I immediately jump into quick Anger, which I know is Fear.

My fuse is short, escalation is quick, Rage and I are old bad friends that torment each other. Actually I probably torment others with it.

So there. A ‘Come From’ that I don’t like. One that has probably been around as long as my favorite-ever cup of iced chocolate milk.

Could Love replace the fear that seems so deeply embedded? Could Grace and Mercy, Forgiveness and Fun, with Laughter come, and sweep away the Yelling?

I pray so.

When I go every week, and sit among the Men of our Wednesday morning Bible Study, I feel their power. All of them are older than me. The fire in them is still burning bright, yet it doesn’t seem to scorch and destroy, like mine wants to. I sense a deepness of the glow and whiter, hotter core of their beings. I hope mine develops someday too.

The jumpy-ness, the flickering and dancing of my fear-based angers, seem more mosh-pit, than samba. I pray that with God’s help, if it is His Will, that I may calm and direct my passions in more productive manners.

Folks, I care and love and want so much, for things to be good and right and prosperous. I want that in my work, in my relationships, in my spiritual life too. I must be caught in between commitments. I must be straddling two opposing ideas. I must be lost, and not wanting to decide which road signs to follow, when I blow up, and lose my cool. If I was more clear on my direction, I could maybe be calm as I put on the brakes, turn the wheel, pick a new road. Instead I usually hit the ditch, revvvv the motor, cuss the map itself, and every other driver on the road.

God has a plan. I am pretty sure that it is all laid out. He’s put things into black and white. His love abides and exists just now as it always has. I can have it, when I decide I want it. Really though, I have to decide. If I don’t know where I ‘Come From’ in my relationships and my spiritual life, I guess I can turn to him and ask him to guide me.

What a wonderful guide God would be.


Aaron Nichols

Snapchatting my 107 Year Old, Great-Grandma

I am sending snapchats to a co-worker. I send pictures. I send videos. I probably will get tired of it soon and forget about it. If you don’t know what snapchats are, they are either photos or quick videos that you can easily shoot and send through your phone. You can write text onto the photos, or draw pictures with your finger, but that takes too much time and patience for me. I hate typing on my phone, I miss the buttons that the original cell phones had. You could type without even looking the thing.

Anyway!!! I just click a photo and send, or better yet, I hold down the ‘button’ (that doesn’t exist) and take a short video. I can talk into the camera, and make a quick message to get my point across. Like an instant video-version voicemail. It is a very convenient way to communicate. (As if we needed more of that!)

So what is different and blog-worthy about this ‘snapchat’ thing? Well, when you send a picture or video, it is only visible for a short time period. It disappears fairly quickly. Yes, I know that somehow you can take screenshots, or even retrieve these images or videos from a hidden folder, if you want to take the time to do so. Most people never will. And I am not sending inappropriate materials anyway…

Or am I?

See, the fun thing about knowing that your photo or video is only visible for a tiny fininte amount of time, is that the impermanence is freeing. I have found myself sending stupid, random thoughts and quirky moments in time through this platform. I send videos of myself eating a salad, or speaking in squeaky voices, or singing along with the car radio.

Anyway, it’s kind of like when you play with a puppet. You can add extra personality or say outrageous things, because it is a little moment apart from your ‘real self’…

Or is it??

Maybe my being goofy on snapchat is a new outlet, another way to express myself, in my own ‘weird’ ways. Maybe I really want to be that crazy all the time, and I’m usually too scared to. I do really get a kick out of the reaction when Alyssa (a waitress and goofy Mom herself) tells me that my snaps make her and her husband laugh.

Maybe I want to be a performer, a comedian or something, and this is my tiny way to pretend to do that. Just like this blog, I like these little outlets to release the ‘stuff’ that I usually don’t, in my everyday interactions with the normal world.

I am disappointed in myself sometimes, that when you meet me on the street, or in the restaurant or even at church on Sundays, that I am not as expressive and passionate and driven, as I may seem to be with these typed out words on screen. A double-life, in a way that isn’t productive, I can tell myself, I am living.

Yes, these writing moments, or my silly snappy-chats are me, being me. Yes, my ho-hum, hows-the-weather-ness of everyday life do all come from the same place. One seems to brighten and ignite my flame, the other seems to cover and sometimes extinguish it, to a tiny ember.

I am hardly ever as evangelical in real life, as I am on this blog. I am hardly ever as vocal about the deeper questions, person to person, as I am fingers to keyboard. Just like a puppeteer or actor or newpaper comic illustrator, colorful parts of me can be released on ‘stage’ and then I go back to boring afterward.

Maybe the balance is good. Maybe I could just be contented that at least I have gone this far, said this much, here on this digital ‘page’. Maybe this is practice, for another Act, to play out later on. Maybe it’s a time-capsule that will last 35 years into the future, or longer, for someone to come across and appreciate.

This week, I was given a DVD disc. Just like millions of other pieces of silvery round plastic, it has video on it. Unlike any other I have ever obtained before, it had moving pictures of a man I never really knew. It was lovingly made by our extended family. The old Herrod home movies, from the late 70’s and early 80’s, have made it all the way to 2014. They contain fuzzy and silent, but brilliant footage. My Dad is on there. My Mom too. My grandparents and great grandparents, aunts and uncles, babies, my cousins all smile and laugh. They go fishing, they open presents, they eat wonderful dinners you can almost taste.

My mom tries on a dress, while I am incubating along in her belly. My Dad, holds me up at the dinner table. I am spun upside down, and at the very last second end of the clip, he pretends to drop me onto the floor. Wow.

Thanks to Everyone involved in recording, storing and now converting, these ancient video moments. I have never seen a video of my Dad until this week. As it’s been 31 years since he’s passed-on, I couldn’t still remember his walk, his widening smile. The way his eyes carry and contain the moment, entrancing they were, even on this grainy old dead-quiet film.

I used my snapchat video camera to grab a few of these little clips. I am bummed that they show up sideways here. I really wanted to fill this blog page with great scenes for you to see too.

Funny idn’t it. The old technology was wonderful, yet it’s the new, that helps us see the old. I just can’t help but wonder though, about the kind of ‘snaps’ that would have come from my Dad, from my great grandparents Letha and Marshall Churchbaugh, or even my very young and pretty Momma, as she was about to give birth for the first time. I wonder what their inner worlds were like. I wonder what thoughts crossed their minds and what shape they saw this thing called ‘Life’.

As wonderful as these images and video are, I still know that they are only part of the story. They show us smiles and serene family moments. Life is made up, of so much more that just that. I am so grateful for every instant of this old film. I someday hopefully will re-meet these characters, knowing them in the deepest ways. Understanding the place where I come from, where we all come from. I want to know the humanity through which I came to this place called Earth.

Today, I know so much more than I did, even a week ago. Thanks again to the Herrod family, for putting together these videos. Thanks to Alyssa for being my friend on Snapchat and watching my silly silly silllllleeeeyyyyyy-nesss on there each day 🙂

Take care and until next week, let yourself be the real you. Let it out for the world to see. Record it even. By word, or image, do something that makes your mark, in way that someone else may appreciate you, even from afar. Sharing is important. I need to remind myself of that every day 🙂


Aaron Nichols

Banging in the Canoe, Slapping the Water, Grimacing or Grinning the Whole Way

A day on the river, for me, used be wild, “boobs and beer, that’s why I’m here!” Umm… not so much anymore. I still like to get into a canoe and load up some supplies (water, tea, sierra mist, and snacks now). I enjoy lashing them down with bungee cords and telling the dog, Roxy, to jump in. I especially love, to see my wife, smile and shiver as she wades into the cold water to take her place in the front. A sunny morning, hearing the wet splashing, the chunky gravel scraping and watching the glitter of diamonds atop the water, as we launch for a day of floating in a canoe, is pure heaven to me.

Our anniversary weekend included a nice 14 mile float last Sunday at the Niangua River, fed by Bennet Springs, near Lebanon, Missouri. It was a perfect day, with perfect company, and I was glad to be there. As we set adrift on the slow current,  in our ‘cargo-style” limo-sized canoe, I watched several groups around us taking off in their big yellow rubber duck rafty things. I never was a fan of that type of floating. I have tried it a couple times. If you just need a platform that won’t tip, so you can be entirely punch-drunk, I guess it works, but, you lose so much of the art of maneuvering your craft.

By choosing the canoe to float in, I get to feel that I control the ship with every touch of the paddle to the water. From the rear I can propel us straight forward with a few strong strokes on each side. I can look ahead and see still waters, a deeper channel, and drive the vessel toward it. When obstacles are fast approaching, I can drive my oar deep beside me, holding it fast, ‘putting on the brakes’ and turning the canoe on a dime to avoid a crash. Sometimes I like to stand and captain the thing, gondola style. I balance on the back seat, or edges of the boat. I reach down and scoot us forward with a couple pulls, and then rest my hands on the end of the paddle. I love feeling the full breeze as I stand and survey the ripples ahead.

Anyway, I really like being in a canoe. It feels natural and right and connected to the flow of the river and to the flow of life, in those fleeting moments you catch in between the mental-everything, and notice the simplicity of nature.

Something not fun about the canoeing experience, is feeling the bottom drag on shallow rocks. There are parts of the river where only a couple inches of water move over vast gravelbars. I want to avoid these parts as much as possible. Usually when you have to jump out and let the canoe float on it’s own through these spots, you stub a toe, or slice a leg on some unseen sharp-edged rock. Nowadays, being sober while canoeing, does help this problem out. Less falling in the river, or onto other boats or people, and generally bruising up my whole body.

Also there are places where a bend in the stream will make a strong current, a deep and rushing shoot, that can also gather deadwood and brush piles. These places are not to be toyed with. Yes, maneuvering around them is fun, but it is risky. Smashing into some fallen trees while the river pushes against you can be dangerous. The suck while stopped can momentarily dip the edge in to the water, then a boat on it’s side will fill instantly. If you can get your body away fast enough, you will be alright, but the canoe will be hard to recover without help. Your snacks and drinks will bob along downstream without you 🙁

Luckily, with Lindsay and I (no help from Roxy) we communicate well in the canoe. We talk about how to navigate around these obstacles. We decide ahead, which way we want to enter the bends. We look downstream for the best places point the boat. When we arrive at a problem point, we are already ready for it. We brake or paddle hard to smooth through, and maybe a gentle bang or chunking sound will come from the stern as the tail end touches a submerged tree trunk. It is a beautiful thing, dancing with the river.

Funny though, lots of times, right after we sailed through a real trouble point, a deep bend with brush built up, there would immediately following, be a gently eddy in the flow. Just as we smiled and enjoyed the accomplishment of steering cleanly through the problems, this little circulating wash of current, would just slightly pull the bow. An almost undetectable shift would happen as the stern end would keep it’s speed and slide away with the still strong current.

Soon, Lindsay would be pointed right at the bank, maybe into a shallow spot. The gravel bits would grab the underside of the aluminum. I would be waay back in the deep and swift water. We would be side ways in the river.

At that exact moment there are two ways to handle the situation. If I want to keep our course, as it was, I need to paddle hard. I need to back up the boat. I need to ask Lindsay to push off, or to join in frantic splashings to avoid the inevitable. I most likely can get us pointed straight again, but it is a LOT of work. I am fighting the flow the river. I am nervous, being sideways for any amount of time is spooky. The more I try to keep us pointed in the ‘normal’ direction, the longer I will stay sideways. At the front, the water is still and shallow, at the back it rushes and pushes. I will be exhausted by the time, we get things ‘righted’ again, and can continue on downriver…

Another way to handle this moment is to realize that the river is doing all of the work here. Yes, there is a strong movement within the stream. It wants to help us continue on. The thing is, with the front-end lodged against the bank, the back end wants to continue. I can just let this ‘spin moment’ happen. I can do almost nothing, and the river itself will happily pull us along, but backwards. See the canoe is designed to work well, either front-ways or back-ways (to use the technical terminology :)) I can simply let this action happen, and all will be okay. Yes we are now facing upriver, we don’t want to carry on this way for the rest of the trip, but within a short distance we will again use the current to spin us proper.

This motion of pre-planning for the troubled bend, then spinning away from the ensuing eddy can be a delightful dance. It can feel smooth and flowy. It can be peaceful even, through the work and through the slight adjusting tensions, it can be soo gratifying. On the other hand, when I fear the danger, when I try too hard, things get worse. When I frantically slap the water with my oar, and beg the boat to stay pointed in the ‘right’ way, I exhaust myself. When I think there actually is a ‘right way’ or a ‘wrong way’ to be, I am fighting a force bigger than myself. It’s a battle I will never, ever win.

I did notice on Sunday’s float trip, that just being on the water, pointed in either direction, is the key. Being pulled by the current, but floating along with it, is enjoyment. Just noticing the beauty of nature, the forces at play and the opportunity to drift with it, is an amazing thing.

Ironically, back in the olden days, my float trips were much different. I actually preferred back then to hang out on the banks. I didn’t want to be ‘on the water’ all day. I wanted to lounge and drink and chill beside it. I didn’t want to paddle at all, if possible. Back then, a 4 mile stretch of the river could entertain me from morning till sundown.

Lots of life changes have happened since then. New choices, different ones. 14 miles of the river went by rather quickly on Sunday. We were done before many other vessels. We were in the water and moving along. We experienced much more of what that place had to offer. We saw it all. We worked hard at times, but never to catch up. We together adventured beyond, where most folks get off. I am proud of that.

At the end of the day, a drunk guy asked me for beer. I offered water, tea and sierra mist. He took one of those little green cans. Sorry dude, I used be out of beer too, at the end of the float. I wanted more then too, like you. Now, I found more fun, without it. Different fun, but deeper. An understanding that we missed the real beauty in search of the beers and even the bouncing river boobies.

God’s delivering more than that. The current and flow is ours to harness, we can go far and beyond with Him. Unless we continue to try and fight it, doing things our own ways. It’s very tiring, wanting to be pointed in the ‘right’ direction. A little backwards motion would be much easier, if we can just accept it for the small passing moment. So He showed me, on the river that day 🙂


Aaron Nichols