…On Losing a Limb…

Back in the spring, as I began to plant my garden, I wanted to remove some tree limbs that hung above it. Late into the morning and early in the afternoon they would cast shade on the black dirt that held my tiny seedlings. I bought an extendable fiberglass pole that had a curved saw-tooth blade on the end. I whacked up a big old pile of backyard branches that day.

I found the trimming easy, with my new toy. The saw munched easily through the base of each bough. I could use the string to actuate a lever-jaw too, clipping off the smaller stuff cleanly.

I picked the lowest limbs and cut them all off. All around the yard I went, each tree got a trim.

When I made it around, back to the garden area, I looked at the two medium sized hackberrys that hung above it. I had to make tough choices about how much to remove. Many of their limbs were blocking the sun from my little patch. The veggies needed more light. I started slicing and carving on those two trees. I wondered even if I my cutting went too far.

There were heaps of smaller leaf covered branches all around me, piled on the ground, when I was done. Only a couple main stick-like stems reached skyward from those two trees afterward. I had made toothpicks out of them, it seemed.

“Oh, well. The garden is my baby, I had to do this. It will help my vegetables grow big and strong.”

Now, as the weather is cooled off, and garden season is over, I walk past those trees twice a day. I look over at them, I’m amazed. The trees have flourished over the summer. They now are taller and fuller and prettier than ever. They musn’t have been too bothered by the amputations.

I thought I was almost killing them, and really I was just pruning away the old low hanging branches. The trees know nothing but to grow. Grow they have.

I like having some shade on my garden. It seems to help in the hottest part of the summer. I still have some of that shade. The trees do just what they are supposed to do. The veggies too. Nature grows and lives and expands.

I am encouraged by the trees. They thrived, just when I thought I had hacked them up so badly. Maybe our lives work like the trees do. They need pruned sometimes, so that they can grow to new heights. 🙂

Until next week…

May God be with You.


Aaron Nichols

Kidding For Real

Just noticing this week how a kid comes back when they’re given a little attention. I have a funny pair that always harass and joke with me at the restaurant. One is a young and sassy girl, then big brother joins in too.

I could almost give you a word for word description of every time an adult took time to engage in a conversation with me, when I was a kid. When a big person, swings their attention away from the other big people, and lean down into the little person’s level, it creates an amazing bond.

I know that it meant a lot to me, when I was growing up. I probably connected better with some adults who wanted to really talk to me, than the kids my age who just wanted to goof around. Well, that’s just the way I was, and still can be now.

I hope I keep remembering, as my little girl grows, the importance of seeing eye to eye with the little ones.

These days I have my mini-friends visiting often at the Brand’N Iron, and they are some of my very favorite guests. A couple packages of crackers keep them happy. I know we are all doing a good job, when the smallest diners are smiling 🙂

Until next week, say hi to the kids for me.


Aaron Nichols

Letting the TV raise our Baby

If our baby tries to watch the TV, we stop that crap in it’s tracks! My wife and I joke that our 2 month old has a ‘technology minutes’ allowance, and that she usually has already used them all up. ‘Oops, lil’ JoJo, You’ve already used your technology minutes, no more TV for you!’


The bright colors and motion of the television do seem to grab her attention. She will sometimes try to crank her head and neck to watch it, if she catches a glimpse of it, after a feeding in the living room recliner. In general, we think it is too early for her to want to be a boob-tube baby, so we just move on to something else or click it off and play one-on-one.

Funny though. I would like to have her not watching the TV, while I am watching it. I would like to feed her, or burp her or have her contented in my lap, while I catch up on some PBS shows or maybe even Netflix. Why don’t I see the same problem with my own television addiction, as I seem to have with hers.

Well, just like most other things in life, I can be keenly aware of what someone else ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be doing. It is actually a very easy task to run down a list of actions or habits or reactions or plans that I think another person would benefit from in their life. I can even be impressed with my own intelligence and awareness of them. I am so smart, everyone should listen to me!!

Ha, not hardly.

Years ago, we didn’t even have a working TV in this house. I am pretty sure I got along just fine without it. Now we have a big one, and a crystal clear signal from an antennae high on a pole outside. Our Roku device grabs movies and documentaries and TV shows too from internet. I just watched one about Knuckleballers late into the night on Wednesday after the Royals’ big win.

See, I am the one with a TV problem. Not the baby.

She has only watched a couple minutes per day, because it is flashy and visually stimulating. I am watching it to let my free time be sucked away. I want to avoid something else more important or maybe harder, like helping my wife around the house with laundry or dishes or picking up the tornado of mess that has collected on my working desk and elsewhere…

So maybe I am the one who needs the technology minutes allowance schedule. I have probably already used them up today, and if I want to earn enough to watch Game 2 later today between the Royals and Blue Jays, I’d better do some extra credit.

But most likely, I’ll just doze off for awhile in this comfy recliner and watch some more Dog Whisperer… it’s only on every Saturday Morning you know…


Aaron Nichols

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? – Matthew 7:3




Finding fixes in a sturdy foundation


I can really struggle with the simplest of handyman jobs. My limited skills and tools selection can turn a little quick repair into a drawn out mini-catastrophe. I’m too cheap to buy brand new. I’m usually unwilling to pay somebody else to fix my stuff. I’m better in this digital computer, or artistic world, than the straightforward mechanics of nuts and bolts.

Tomorrow I want to be camping with my family in the ‘gently used’ popup that Lindsay and I purchased a few weeks ago, from a craigslist ad. I found out last Sunday that a threaded driveshaft assembly on the lift system was stripped out, and the top would not pop. Shux! It was a must-fix if any time would be spent in the camper with weekend.

After busting some knuckles and identifying the issue, I went about ordering parts. They were expensive, but available and I had them shipped 2nd day air. After arrival I began to disassemble the original pieces in order to replace certain parts with the new. One little roll-pin was being quite uncooperative!

I only had two pieces left that needed to be separated. The roll-in connected them. It was a short driveshaft and toothed gear. First thing was finding a hammer and a punch. Check. Then I needed to whack away at the little end of that pin. Well, just finding a way to set it in place was very hard.

I wanted to secure the part, so I could hit it. I needed it to sit solidly and not move around while I worked on it. I tried using a length of pipe and sticking the driveshaft into it. That worked for a little bit. Then it started to bounce around, the harder I smacked it with the hammer.

I didn’t own a vice, but that is exactly what I needed. Without a way to clamp down and hold it tight, I couldn’t get a good solid thump on the end of that roll-pin.

Throughout the afternoon, I tried many ways to work on the piece but eventually, I made a trip to town and bought some new tools and a vice too. I brought the stuff back home and set the vice on the workbench in my garage. Even at that point, there was more work to do. I didn’t buy big lag screws or bolts and nuts to secure the vice to the bench. I used some deck screws and tried to temporarily hold the vice tight to the countertop.

Then I could clamp down of on the gear. Then I could hit the pin with the punch. Then the roll-pin began to move further out the other side of the gear, closer to release!


If I have a problem in my life, I now see a couple truths about that situation. I might need to find some tools to work on the problem. I may already have some, or I may need to get new ones. Once I have my tools, I might find that pressure and tension and being clamped down upon, might help me focus and pinpoint the solutions. Even if the tools are present and I am locked down ready to pound, I have to be secured firmly to a strong foundation.

The little rolled metal pin stuck in the gears, had to come out, for me to fix the functionality of the camper as a whole. I had to find a strong structure to work from, in order to make any progress at all. Without the solid wooden tabletop, and the heavy-duty metal vice, the pieces just jumped around and became impossible to do anything with.

Eventually, I couldn’t get any further, and had to ask for the help of someone who was better with these things than me. Luckily, my step-dad Joe worked his magic on it. All is well, and the camper is now fixed and ready to take to the lake just a few hours from now.

My personal internal foundations have been tested at times. Do I always remember to lock down my issues and study them against those immovable and unchanging truths? Probably not often enough. Thank God, for steadfast love that endures forever. I pray that I may learn to lean into Him, always.

Reminds me of a song I’ve heard on Sunday mornings 🙂


Aaron Nichols

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.


OMG!!! You gotta hear what I think about this!

See, the thing is this: I am adept at noticing problems. I can string together clever sentences and point them out in a snarky sarcastic way. I could get lots of clicks and likes if I want to spend my time expressing the shortcomings of institutions, corporations, laws even or especially people.

I have a vast network of online connections in which to congregate and unite with others who are also noticers of problems too. It works best when I gather with others who feel the same way, who side with me, who are right, just like I am right…

In fact, one of the main things I accomplish on this blog itself is to notice and point out problems. Usually I am holding the magnifying glass over some unsightly defect in my own character. I find it therapeutic to wax poetic and ‘share’ my innermost insecurities or shortcomings. Somehow, I once decided that this act in and of itself defined a certain level of bravery. Currently-popular is the concept of personal authenticity. I must believe that defining my own problems publicly can separate and elevate me in a unique way.


Even as I am typing this tonight, I am feeling the drag, like I’m wading waist-deep in my own Bee Esss.

Something occurred to me this week, as I posted a screenshot, notifying the facebook world that I have now hit the 4 year mark on this journey of sobriety. I had a realization that the effort of refusing alcohol as a way of life, was the actual work and the actual progress made, after noticing it was causing problems in my life.

For years, I knew that the results of some interactions with alcohol were negative for me, and sometimes for others. For years, I was aware, cleverly and snarkily and sarcastically, that alcohol wasn’t the savior and salvation of life’s problems like it commonly referred to be. I knew about the problems, but that didn’t make any impact at the time. I still experienced all the ups and downs, good times and bad, all the while knowing dangers inherent.

My point is this: Lots of time is spent these days, talking about, typing about, reading about and discussing problems. These problems may be inner ones, like my love-hate relationship with beer, wine, scotch and whiskey. They may be problems with the world around us, like gun violence, presidential candidates, or the dramas recorded on Franklin County Swap and Talk. All these things grab our attention and beg us to comment upon them. We can build ourselves a whole personality, just focused on the style and type of problems we are experts at noticing…

Anyway… We are now able to ‘do’ commentating as a hobby in quite public and dynamic ways. We can share posts online or write our own words of wisdom. All of it however, is a waste of time. Maybe this blog itself, could be categorized like that too.

The actions of sobriety have very little to do with being able to call someone else out on their drunken mistakes. Self-loathing and hungover hours spent wallowing in an emotional pity party, aren’t solutions either. The physical moments of passing on the opportunity to drink, are the hardest parts of them all.

I am not sure that experiencing 4 years of sobriety has even improved my life that much. Honestly, it has brought me almost as much heartache as drunken debauchery did. It is too hard sometimes and God has to carry me through, when I don’t want to do it anymore on my own.

The point here is this: There is actually very little to talk about, when we are solving problems, instead of just discussing them. Solutions aren’t only based in words spoken, or text typed on screen, or definitely not present in a quickly forwarded article post online. Those moments are times when we are putting off and giving ourselves just a little more distance and time and procrastination before really creating a true solution.

When we are in the moments of solving our problems or problems in our community or world at large, the silence tells the story. It may come across more in the salty sweat of hard work, or the repeated heartfelt action of a kind gesture, or a solemn moment, moving away in self-control, from the draw of temptations.

In the still, small voice of God, lies the peace of Christ, and endless love. The clamor and clatter, thumping loud blasts of opinion and rhetoric are vapor and glittery mist. The substance doesn’t lie within those words, but in the physical brute motion of our intentions. Our feet will show us what is actually important, where we find them, we find our truth.

Thanks be to God that I was blessed enough to believe for a small moment that He would help me on my journey if I asked Him to. So far, God has not abandoned me, one tiny, silent, hard-fought sober moment at a time.


Until next week.

Aaron Nichols