Am I smarter than a 2nd grader???

I’m sure it was a sunny spring afternoon in my second grade class. I was sitting near the windows that looked out to the big blacktop pad and some kids running around at recess. A couple rowdy 5th grade guys were playing outside our room. They were yelling at each other and carrying on. Mr. Peterson went over to the window and barked something smart to them in his signature style. They jumped in surprise then walked away, in cooperation, so we wouldn’t be further disturbed.

I remember Mr. Peterson telling us right then, that we didn’t want to turn into big ol’ rotten 5th graders someday.

Wow. They were SO BIG. Those guys with their shaggy non-parent-combed hair and torn up jeans seemed enormous to me. Being only in second grade, I couldn’t really fathom three whole more years ahead of me. It seemed then, like I may never be as grown-up and as cool as those guys in the 5th grade…

When my sixth grade year started, and I got to the Middle School, I’m sure I thought the same thing about the 8th graders then. As a High School freshman, I could never imagine being a senior. When I made it down to Emporia to go to college, the ‘older’ experienced kids seemed so nonchalant and casual about almost everything. They didn’t give off any airs of excited buzz and giddiness about having the chance to play like adults and party whenever they wanted… That’s exactly how I felt then.

I think about these moments in the morning when I’m spending time with my 6 month old daughter. Nestled in my lap, she reaches straight out with one arm and turns her hand. She rotates it, and then flaps all four fingers. She studies the way it looks, and must be learning to pair her intuitive instructions with the hand itself. It’s so cute to watch her amazement.

I stick my big paw out there too, for her to see. I turn it and flap, matching her moves. I wonder if she thinks about the scale difference like I do. Hers so small and pink with new life. Mine large, bent and scarred. If she is playing on the ground and is ready to be picked up, I must look huge standing above her. I notice the baby-ness of her size. Funny, she really doesn’t seem too amazed by me.

No, my little daughter is still preciously living exactly in the immediate instance of the current moment. It’s easy to see that every quantum flash of her existence is expressed as it happens. She is always right now and then right now and then right now. Whether it is a smile in response to the rattle of a toy, or a cry of hunger with the bottle or breast inches from her lips, she is living the immediate moment.

At some point in my life, and yours too, we all lived absolutely presently. Later though, we became more aware and maybe sadly so, of the future, and of the past. These thieves crept into our minds and began to nibble away at our attention. They grabbed bites of our  awareness and we felt regret about things already done and over with, or worry about possible events to come. Little Joella, doesn’t seem bothered by any of this…

I know it was second grade when my mind was clearly wandering into the future and wondering about how I would ever arrive waay out there on the playground as a fifth grader… I probably then spent precious energy in self judgment over wrongs committed in the past, to my Sister or Mommy. I probably thought about some time I didn’t clean my room when I was supposed to, and thought I ‘should’ be a better kid.

I hope not everyone spends their God-given day reaching mentally backwards or leaning forward into the foggy mist. These are places we cannot control or change or exactly predict. We can work in the now though to be light. We can laugh and play and smile no matter what happened in our past. We can cry and scream too, if something is hurting us right now. We don’t need to look for the boogey-man and worry if he’ll come, if we are doing things today that build and strengthen our character for tomorrow.

Babies are wonderful to watch. We love to just stare at them and watch them be. Joella is never complacent. She is constantly on-mission. She may be reaching or wiggling or taste-testing some toy. She is always doing something to the fullest she can. Sometimes that means to crash fast asleep immediately after a playful game of peekaboo. All babies do this I imagine. They are just always exercising into the games of life. Curious and learning, ever expressing themselves completely.

Actually anyone who is living so presently and so comprehensively is enchanting to behold. You know who these folks are. You want to be around them, you feel better in their presence. Their elixir of life is invigorating, while soothing and reassuring. They remind us that everything is truly okay, right now, and even good, exactly as it is.

Until next week, be well my friends. God Bless.


Aaron Nichols

Leaning time is cleaning time…

Man! We made a helluva mess tonight at the restaurant! We had specks and flakes and chunks of junk all over the place. We worked long and hard to get things that dirty too.

It all started early in the evening when the blowing snow kept our customers tucked tight at home. Eventually we had a nice crowd arrive and gave us a chance to make ourselves useful doing our food service tasks. Before they showed up, we had a full crew standing around and tapping their toes.

That didn’t last too long though. Our kitchen manager extraordinaire, Adam, made a decision to get down to some deep deep cleaning. He started with the fryers. We clean them every night, in a rigorous process that keeps our frying oil nice and fresh. However the outside of the units get splashed on and covered in spills. He tackled them with a vengeance! After a short time, he had them glistening like brand new again. It was amazing.

He had started a process of cleaning that took off like a brushfire! By the end of the night, our kitchen team with me included were scraping and scratching and wiping and bricking every inch of surface of stainless steel we could find! The back wall, the griddle surrounds, and eventually the char-broiler got the deepest cleanings of their lives! We always maintain a tidy and well scrubbed kitchen, but over time there are areas that need extra attention. Well tonight, that happened.

With lots of elbow grease and using every tool at our disposal, we ended making a heckuva mess, while chipping away at that baked-on goodness. The grill bricks themselves grind down to a pebbly dust, while they scratch the surfaces back to shiny bare metal. We noticed that while doing this intensive cleaning job, we had created chaos and clutter.

During the process we were finding that the cleaning job was growing as we went. The mess got messier the more we cleaned. How counter-intuitive to see that the goal we were looking to reach was getting further away the more we worked at it. Actually it’s not that crazy of an idea. I mean we were just doing some basic scrubbing in a kitchen, it wasn’t rocket surgery!

Really though, I need a reminder like this every once in a while. When the project was almost near completion we saw the biggest jumble of disarray. It looked the worst, right before it looked its best. Once we were ready to do the final wipe-downs and toss the trash, it didn’t take long at all. The hard work was behind us.

The kitchen equipment looks less like we cleaned it, and more like we replaced it! Wow, it all has been restored to showroom shine. It’s a job that our crew can be proud of. They can more easily keep up on it too. We always work hard on our cleaning, but this was one of those super detail jobs that revivify…

Anyway, the next time I’m bummed out and bogged down just noticing the messes around me in life, I should take heart. If I’m working hard and making improvements, sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. I might not like the looks of things now, but with just a little more effort, the shining glow will return and soon be blinding!

Keep scrubbing my friends 🙂

Until next week, take care and God Bless.


Aaron Nichols

Going downhill, the hard way

I rocked my first ever ski trip waay back in my early twenties. At least I rocked hard against the ground over and over and over again! I probably rolled too; sometimes barrel style, or flop-flipping or even end-over-endo!

In fact, my first attempt ever to board the ski lift, was also my first crash! I wasn’t the only one upset when I fell down and they had to emergency stop everything.

My ol’ roommate Ruskin was next to me in line and we were talking. All of a sudden he yelled ‘C’mon!’ and I waddled forward waay too late. I charged to get ahead of the swinging metal bench seat but I was too slow. Instead of being in front of it ready to sit down, I was behind it. That big cold chunk of aluminum swung right in front of me, and I grabbed onto it. It kept moving, and yanked me off balance. That’s when I then landed in a heap almost off the edge of the icy pad while my buddies were laughing at the mess.

I saw my friends turning back to smirk and laugh through their goggles and facemasks while the staff had to help me back to my feet. I am sure the hundred or so people behind me, were not happy that the lift had to be shut down for a few minutes and delay their first tracks of the morning, just a little longer.

Most of the other people in line would have been rolling their eyes and frustrated that such a novice skier was in their way. You see, this lift wasn’t for beginners. It was a high speed six person chair headed up to a peak full of advanced ski runs; only blues and blacks!

It was a lift that I should have never been on in the first place!

Anyway, I did make it up to the tippy top of that windswept peak, with a couple old-timers who sped away from me as soon the chair slowed down at the landing pad. I am sure that I crashed again just dismounting the lift, then I met with my friends who were going to ‘teach’ me to ski.

I had been invited out to the mountains by ‘The Twins’ who I roomed with in college, and then moved out to Denver. These two brothers, Ruskin and Ryan, had already spent several seasons honing their skills on the snow. I had brought with me a few other guys and at least one, who like me, had never skied before.

Those Twins attempted to give some advice for only a few short minutes. Then they yelled ‘Good Luck!’ as they sped away down the slope. One other novice skier friend, Kevin, hung with me and together we tried to just stand up on our skis on the steepness under the chair lift.

We fell and stood up again over and over. We may have started to slide, gained speed, immediately freaked out, and fell to the ground. An icy morning, blue run is the absolutely wrong place to learn the art of skiing for the first time. Maybe some natural athletes could pick it up from a literal crash course instruction, but I didn’t.

After only a few minutes with the ski lift mechanisms still in sight, we were approached by a tan-faced cute blond ski patrol guide. She asked us how it was going, and we probably mumbled some un-truth that things were fine. She mentioned that she had ridden the lift up behind us and could see that we were in the wrong place on the mountain for our ability level. Of course she was absolutely correct but I felt really embarrassed.

I remember clearly that she strongly suggested we remove our skis, and hike back up the mountain to the lift. She claimed we could ride the chair back down and then make our way to a more appropriate place to learn to slide with big fiberglass sticks stuck to our feet on the slippery white surface of the mountain.

My memory was really fresh regarding the difficulty of the chair lift operation. I didn’t want to have to face it again so quickly, and take the ride of shame, back down the hill. Somehow Kevin and I agreed that we would do the best we could and just slowly work our way in the direction that gravity was already taking us.

What a looong morning we spent walking down that mountain. We may have tried a couple more times to actually ski, then decided to just unclick our boots and start walking. We descended along the edge of the run, along the trees, carrying our skis over our shoulders. We were well stocked with snacks and drinks, and we didn’t think it would take too much time. We were wrong! In fact the schnapps that was supposed to last all day was probably gone by the time we had made it to a shallower part of the slope.

Basically we wasted the whole morning walking down, when we could have ridden the chair in just a few minutes. Truly, we were given sound guidance by the cute ski patrol lady. She was trying to help us out. She could clearly see that we would be in a struggle, possibly a dangerous one, to simply move ourselves down the slope ahead of us. She knew there were less risky and more manageable places for us to take our first few turns on the skis. She tried to help, and we failed to listen.

I know that I was caught in a morning full of embarrassment. I had gotten myself into a situation I couldn’t handle. I knew that I wanted to save face, more than I wanted to really learn something about skiing. I was surely thinking more about my impression upon the minds of other people, than I was about doing the smart thing for myself. I was letting my ego and my feelings override any logic in the situation.

I am not sure that I am always as lucky as I was that day. I don’t often have people come up to me, and assess my situation from a knowing and experienced viewpoint. I don’t always get advice, about what an expert can clearly see about a specific moment in my life. I am not used to being ‘helped’ in ways, like the ski patrol gal, tried to do that day.

Even if I was to hear a sound voice of reason, talk to me about ways to avoid exhaustion and over-exhortation in futile efforts, would I really listen anyway? It’s really doubtful, that I would be open and willing to allow myself to change direction and hike back up the hill, from where I just came. I don’t think I am that smart still today.

Most likely, right now, I could be walking, step after step in a terrain that would be better for skiing. I know many days, it can feel like exhausting work, rather than exhilaration and excitement. I probably never really practiced the basics of life, and learned to naturally flow and fearlessly glide side to side, in a constant but graceful dancing motion.

Thanks to the ‘compassionately helpful advice’ (a’hem!) of my experienced skier friends, I endured all the tricks that could be played on an unsuspecting noob. We went out to the mountains as friends and we had a blast together, but there were lots of moments that I wouldn’t want to relive today.

I do hope that next time I’m on a mountain, facing difficulty beyond my ability, I can discern the best course of action for the long-haul, even if it means backtracking a bit 🙂

Until next week, keep your tips up my friends 🙂


Aaron Nichols


It’s all a waste anyway… right!

Piles of broken sheetrock, nails, and chunks of trim too, what used to be the walls of the kitchen were now demolished and scattered all over the floor. We had been swinging away with big freakin hammers. We used flatbars to pry boards loose.  We would worry about our cleanup later, the first order of business was to rip apart and tear down…

I had closed on my home, and had possession of the keys for not even 24 hours, when the kitchen was completely gutted. I had planned to take this little house and update it. Overall it was in decent shape, but certain things had to be changed. We started with the most important room in the house. Friends and family came over, we had a demo party and made a mess of it all.

That’s the point at which the previous owners decided to stop by.

Larry and Juanita must’ve seen our dump truck backed up to their former front porch. They probably were curious at what this crazy 23-year old kid was up to.

They walked in through the open door and stepped around knee-high mounds of busted up sheetrock. The look on sweet Juanita’s face was a bit of shock. She stammered and said hello. They were both just kind of staring around the place.

After an awkward second or two, she pointed down, almost through the stacks of scrap. She said something like, “I just mopped and scrubbed that floor yesterday!”

Ooops… for just a moment I was embarrassed at our speedy and enthusiastic demolition skills. I felt bad for her, that she had worked hard to leave the house in as clean a condition as she could. I’m not sure that there wasn’t fresh shelf paper lining the old cabinets that we yanked off the wall in big broken sections.

I was sorry that my idea of the house was so different and that I didn’t communicate it to them. I had planned all along to change it up, before moving in. We knocked out walls, we tore up the floor, we remodeled almost the whole thing…

And yes, 13 years later, I am still here, living in a little house on the corner of town in Princeton, Kay Ess.

I thought of that story today, as I drove through Ottawa. I frequent the Wal-Mart store at the south end of town. Lately a demolition has been underway at the site where Kentucky Fried Chicken used to be. Nearby, a new grocery store is being built also. That site used to be a row of houses, among other things.

Both of these new construction projects are happening directly on the grounds where something else used to exist. There was a floor in someone’s house, that they recently mopped, or vacuumed or wiped up a spill on, right before some bulldozers came and pushed them down. The KFC building had been unoccupied for awhile but right before that, a crew was working there. Someone probably spent time on one of their last days open, wiping down all the tables, and yes dragging a long-handled mop around the tile floor.

Now that same floor has been crushed up and hauled off. It doesn’t matter how clean it is now, it’s gone forever. Big scoops of earth are being moved around, right where that small scale work was done.

The futility of our impermanence can be daunting sometimes. I get caught in curiosity wondering if there is even a point to our earnest attempting to produce, build and accomplish. Just give it time, everything will change, the old will be washed away, the new will soon be old, the cycle spins on and on.

I think it may be wise to temper our excitement over the acquisition of the latest shiny object of our desire. Sure, even if it does come and have what we longed after, the high will soon fade. We notice it again, and yet seem to still get caught in the heat of the exhilarating anticipatory moment.

Our work cannot be completely frivolous… right? If our work all for not, then so may be our artistry, or our passions or love or even our lives. Of course, we would like to really understand a truth that our worry or sadness or frustrations may be good for absolutely nothing, could we then let them go forever, and really ‘Fear not’?

I bought the house I did, because it had been cared for. I could tell that it wasn’t a neglected rotten dump. I’m sure that the former owners did a nice job of caretaking, right up until the last day. That was just how they chose to be and how to live.

I’ve been reading every night from a book called Abba’s Child. I catch little glimpses right before I nod off to sleep. Lately the subject has been about being absolutely ingrained and saturated with your personal faith walk. It contrasted a weekend warrior approach to a spiritual journey.

Basically, it showed how everything you do, tells the story of where our heart lies, with focus on Jesus or not. The author shows how we are not required to perform works of our faith, but that everything we do, will reflect the love of the Lord or not. Our works, our actions, our expression of interaction with this world we live in, will demonstrate with precise accuracy our faith commitment.

Among a fallen, broken world, constantly being recycled and reinvented, it can be hard to decide where to expend our limited allowance of efforts time and money. Why should we mop the floor, when tomorrow it may be crushed under the bucket of a bulldozer.

There is only one reason that we would even try. We could decide that a personal discipline of stewardship and service to the places we inhabit, reward us with detached contentment. We could just be happy, that we tried to do what we could, at the present time, we used our gifts and resources, we made a personal effort. We could leave all the expectation of a certain outcome to be blow in the wind…

I wonder what that would really feel like, to fully live today, right now in true service without presumption. What would our future look like, if we let go of the need to have it a certain way?

I’ll spend some time wondering about that. If I come up with anything good, I’ll be sure to write it down. Here. For You…

Until next week, be well my friends!


Aaron Nichols

My Old Yeller

There are blog topics that I’m not ready to write about. So therefore, I guess I should continue this thing for awhile. Sometimes I wonder if it is time to hang it up. I could walk it out to the edge of the meadow at sunset. I could pet it one last time, and BANG! Put it down, lovingly and swiftly. This week, with lots of other happenings going on, I let the blog again be one of the last things on my list…

2016 is here. Wow – The passage of this thing called Time again gets a little extra awareness. Worship even, for a night. We all watch the clock and cheer the coming New Year.

Tons of stuff has recently changed, my 2016 is already shaping up to be quite different from last year in so many ways. Yet, it does seem to repeat and recycle and reload similar concepts to every year that I can ever remember. Strange idn’t it?

I find that I have arrived at new destinations I once longed for. I have the things or the situations or the moments happening that I have steered and strived to arrive upon.  The irony is the scope of this hamster wheel itself. It moves slow enough, I think I’m standing still. Yet, it always seems to unfold before me another expanse of possibility and problems too.

The more things change, the more they stay the same… or is it just me?

Ahh, my old demons clamor and clatter around. They feast and dine well, when I let them overtake my better judgement. The night is darkest right before dawn, and I want to see that dawn again and ever again. I can lose track of its cyclical spin bringing brilliant colors before us all.

This early morning, I leave some words on this page. Not many, and certainly nonsensical. This isn’t the right time to pull the trigger and irreversibly release my commitment to these weirdforgood writings.

There are more subjects and concerns and joys too that need a home. They want a place to be recorded.

Somethings though, are still roughstock, they are wild and untamed. They won’t be caught without a fight, and tonight, after another long niiiiight, I do not have that fight… in me.

Until next week, my friends, I love you.


Aaron Nichols