Protesting, The Wall, Being a Dirty Baby

So my daughter is a protestor. It’s so trendy now, even for the littlest of kids. I guess it’s bound to happen, with the cultural climate, as it is. Luckily, her objections that I’m writing about here, aren’t as militant as some can be.

Every morning lately, during her bath time, I announce that ‘It’s Time to Wash UP!’ As I am preparing her pink scrubby with watermelon soap, she is mounting the protest. It’s a peaceful one, almost without any noise at all.

On my ‘wash-up’ cue, she has begun a pattern of grabbing the shower curtain, and ducking underneath it. Then she is sheltered between the inner and outer curtain. She just sits still in quiet defiance of the wad of soapy suds I’m wielding at her. It’s a pretty cute actually, and it made me realize something today.

JoJo is exercising and expressing her individual preference in relation to the washing portion of bath time. She has no problem with the beginning of the process. She is usually happy to be stripped down and plopped into the tub. She plays and carries on for awhile without issues. After the scrubbing and rinsing, she is back to blowing bubbles and splashswimming in place.

It’s easy to understand she won’t participate completely willingly in the cleaning. She also doesn’t completely melt down, but a few wimpers and squeaks will be her only cries. At least for this last few day period, she submits to it, but is clearly showing me her feelings on the matter with her, insta-hiding tricks.

For our entire lives, we curate and develop an intricate web of personal boundaries. The beginnings of which probably look something like this example with our kiddo. We are the ones who ultimately choose the flexibility or rigidity of our boundary lines, when it comes to actions we engage in. We have tons of control and therefore responsibility to make split-second or long-term decisions on what we will participate in, endorse, allow, require or fight for and against.

Maybe one definition of our personality would be a long list of these boundaries and choices that we have created a unique pattern with, and that others know us by. It is fun to watch this little human grow in front of my eyes and show me truths about the larger concepts of consciousness and existence.

We obviously start young with the development of expressing our opinions to world. I wonder about my own life and inner stances. Do I hold myself highly accountable to examine my boundaries? Where and why, do I tend to protect and stand fast? Where do I let blow free in the breeze, my own involvements and interactions?

I think Joella is probably just doing now what feels good. It feels fun to play and splash. It’s less pleasant to be swabbed all over and then soaked down with a shower wand, like the family dog. I get that. It’s not the most enjoyable part of bathing.

However, it’s also necessary and healthy to be cleaned up once in a while. It’s probably more fun in the big picture to be a sweet smelling clean-faced little tyke, than a stinky tot covered in sticky breakfast goo from head to toe.

Right now, I help her make those decisions. I do what I think is best, even if she’s showing me it’s not her thing…

For myself though? I might not always look close enough at the consequences. I might fall into a trap, and act like my little girl. I might choose to do what feels good, instead of what is good for me. In fact, I know I do it. Probably more than I care to admit.

As far the things I protest against? Hmm… how about giving up my selfishness, being the most helpful husband I can be, or letting another peanut M&M remain in the bright yellow heavy plastic sack. Although I’d like to tell you that I hold tight to my disciplines of goal setting and life-mapping and spiritual development, I’d be lying to claim it.

These are just a few examples of boundaries that I need to re-evaluate. Some walls need built and reinforced at all costs. Some need torn down and removed altogether. But that’s just me, just the choices I’ve made up to this point, and it can and will change soon, it always does.

Just as our darling daughter shows us, the change is rapid and unpredictable. Maybe this time next week, her protesting will be overpowering. If you see her hair matted in oatmeal and the remnants of toast crumbs and jelly on her cheeks late in the day, you’ll know what is going on. 🙂

Until next week my friends, invest energy in the examination of your own boundaries. Reestablish your personal sovereignty. Remind yourself, that you have lots of choice in this life. Not as master of circumstances, but of your responses to them.


Aaron Nichols

A teacher breaking the rules, thankfully

In a middle school math class, the teacher broke some rules. I was confused at first. It was like she wasn’t following her own instructions to us. She acted like certain mathematical details in the problem didn’t matter… What? How can that be?

The lesson she showed us in this casual yet powerful moment of class, I still use almost every day. It was about more than just basic math. It’s an important thing to know that we don’t HAVE to always stick to the rules… I liked that!

This example happened a long time ago, so I may not have it all perfectly recollected, but it went something like this:

Mrs. Mackie issued the class a handful of multiplication problems.

What’s 49 times 61?

How about 24 times 11?

Or 93 times 5?

I can recall trying to write down my numbers and start to work the problems as we’d been shown before. (I always had instant anxiety at these moments, not wanting to be slow to figure it out.)

She stopped us in the middle of scribbling and said something like: “Don’t make these harder than they are. Just get close. C’mon, somebody give me an answer.”

Huh? Just get close?? What? I thought this was MATHEMATICS and specific answers with numbers were like IMPORTANT! In fact, that’s the only way I’d experienced math. I was given a problem and had to report my work as an exactly correct numerical expression. In math, it’s either exactly right, or exactly WRONG… right?

Well on this occasion, my mind was stretched and opened up. I clearly remember the specific feeling of that. Mrs. Mackie said it was okay to just get close by rounding things off. You know, make it a quick and simple thing in your mind to just get in the ballpark.  She was rattling off some answers within seconds.

But the solutions weren’t like we were used to hearing in math class. Instead of the number itself, she spoke in sentences and stories.

“Well 49 is close enough to 50, so lets’ just use that. 61 is close to 60. Break that down to 5 times 6 and then add the zeros back in. So 5 times 6 is 30, with a couple zeros more it’s 3000.  And that is a ballpark answer to what is 49 x 61.”

“Same thing for the other two problems.  24 x 11 would be close to 24 x 10 which is really easy, then add another 24 to it. So 240 plus 24 is 264. She said that 93 x 5 is going to be between 450 and 500 because 90 x 5 is an easy calculation of 9 x 5 (45) plus a zero and 100 x 5 is 500.”

What?? Umm… Wow. These were not the kinds of answers I was used to hearing when it came to this anxiety-inducing specifically detail-oriented subject!

Teaching Estimation and Rounding isn’t the cutting edge of complex mathematics. It’s probably common for lots of middle-schoolers.  The impact came from the way she presented the material. It really crystallized the concept for me. I could see the bigger picture utility, and it was about more than just math. It was a method to deal with life itself.

Her point was that it’s okay to generalize sometimes. She showed me that problems can be tackled from different perspectives. We can deconstruct things, round off and choose easier more familiar methods to work on them. In fact, there isn’t just one exactly correct way to handle an obstacle before you. There are several options and it depends how exact the answer needs to be.

This is real education. It’s something I’ve used almost every day since I learned it. It’s a mental tool passed down from a mentor. She taught me a way to use my own mind that I didn’t know existed before. I received transformation, not just information.

Thanks Mrs. Mackie. I appreciate to this day, the mind-stretching moments you delivered many years ago.

Until later this week my friends, go back to middle school if you have to. Don’t get stuck too deep into exact details. It’s okay to round it off and call it good. Estimate a generality of your goals, at least that’s better than skipping them altogether. Get yourself in the ballpark. It’s probably easier than you think.


Aaron Nichols

Gimme Some Lovin!

I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see my glowing pregnant bride mothering our child. I get almost teary when I when I consider how blessed I am to be with Lindsay. My wife is truly the most astoundingly amazing thing I’ve ever gotten in life and that in a nutshell explains my Love for her…

Except that definition of Love is a problem… I’ve got it wrong, if that’s all I think

One of my spiritual mentors (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) explained in a podcast that there is an important origin in the Hebrew definition of love. He showed how our current culture ‘loves’ to use that word to describe our ecstatic jubilant emotional responses to experiences in our lives. He said we misuse the word all the time.

This is of course another example where I was convicted as soon as I heard his wisdom. He said that as people, we aren’t always correctly choosing our words when we tell our spouses we LOVE them. We might say this with the same enthusiasm that we would use to describe a most succulent and delicious steak dinner that completely satisfies a hungry appetite. When we feel contented, affectionate and happy within a moment, we might say ‘Honey I LOVE YOU!’ but that’s not the correct usage… hmmm

The word Love in Hebrew has nothing to do with our own personal fulfillment. This deeply layered ancient language actually matches the root for ‘Love’ with the word ‘Give’. In the Hebrew sense of the word, to tell my wife I Love Her, would actually mean I Give to Her…


How often do I Hebrew-Love my wife vs how often I want to use the modern day version that means I’m GETTING something from her? It’s probably much too often; if I’m honest.

So Valentine’s Day is almost here and I want to practice the art of loving her in the Hebrew way, God’s way, the Giving way, as much I can. Wish me luck. All I have to change is just about everything.

She’s truly Loved and Given me so much… Not as repayment, but as a most worthy use of my energy, time, commitment and service, I want to Give to her, My Love.

Until next week… to all you love birds out there, get some givin’ goin on!


Aaron Nichols


Almost a Hammer Blow to the Face

My only self defense weapon was a hammer; I kept it under the driver’s seat. On one occasion, I felt myself reaching for it, on another; I’d wished it fired bullets. Both were in Oregon, both times I ended up not needing it… Thank God.

Back in twenty-ten, I drove across the country and back on an epic personal journey. Little moments from that trip pop out from the dark cobwebbed-corners of my memory as I’m falling asleep sometimes. Last night, a vivid image flashed onto my inner eyelids. Just like the first time I’d seen it, warm tingly fear washed all over my body… Here is the story as best as I remember…

After a too-quick tour of Yellowstone, I’d spent a long day droning across Idaho, looking at nothing but grey and brown rock.  Another 12 or so hour day behind the wheel and I was glad to see the green irrigated fields near Vale, Oregon, it was just across the state line. My big road atlas showed the tiny green triangle of a campground just adjacent to town.

It was mid-evening when I talked to the elderly couple who had been caretakers at Bully Creek Reservior for over 25 years. They asked about me and where I was from. They proudly gave a short history of the lake. They probably offered a cup of coffee in the morning, but overall it was the trees they went on and on about. They told me how the desolate area had been dammed up by the city. The rocks of the high desert gave way to a vibrant lawnscape with shrubs and over 200 trees. They had done all that work themselves and they were outwardly proud of their accomplishments.

After meeting them, I picked the site and began to setup. My campout routine in-progress, I walked the dog and made the bed. This night I chose to drive back to town for dinner. I pulled into the dated Star-Lite diner, where they were packing up the buffet and getting ready to close. A decent plate of homecooking later, I was headed back to camp, feeling quite content with the small-town hospitality overall.

The campground had quieted down and I plugged in my computer next to the tent. I uploaded pictures and wrote a little blog about my day and all was well. It was just after that, when I decided on a hot shower before bed…

I entered the concrete blocked cube of the shower house with my bag of soaps and a rumbly tummy. It was probably dark outside and there might have been one of those yellow sodium lights drenching the room in a weirdish glow. I was the only person in there, and I felt just a little awkard for some reason.

I dropped my clothes bag on a shower bench and then headed for the metal-partitioned toilet stall. I entered, turned around, began to sit down, and swung the door closed right in front of me. I would normally have been reaching for the lock, but I was caught staring in shock at what I saw.

In very large, very black and VERY deliberate handwritten letters was the phrase:


“Umm… okay… ha, I mean… huh, that’s a different form of bathroom vandalism…” My mind was trying to rationalize, while my body had instantly expressed a layer of cold sweat all over. “Umm, yeah, so that’s funny and strange, and some punk kid would laugh if he saw me right now… right?”

I was so set on not being bothered by this message, that I determined to continue with my bathing and dressing in fresh clothes. I did my best to efficiently make quick work of it all with my ears tuned to every click of a cricket, and my back to the cinder-block walls.

Yeah, I was a little bit bugged by those words…

Striding cleanly across the lawn to my tent and my tied-up dog, I contemplated tossing the whole campsite into my truck and peeling out in a cloud of dust…

Nothing seemed to be out place when I got there. Roxy was calm and the neighbors were too. I was parked in an open clearing with good visibility. I was trying to ease my racing thoughts and laugh off this little prank.

I wondered though, as I tucked into my sleeping bag, if I was being foolish for staying around here.

It was tough to sleep that night. I thought back to my conversation with the almost-too-nice older couple. I noticed the quaintness of the little lake next to the Norman Rockwell town. I started to make up crazy stories in my head, and I might have started to believe them.

The caretakers’ stories about those trees seemed to be central to something. They kept mentioning the numbers of those things. Was it 224, or 218, or maybe 256? Anyway, the exact number was their point…

What did that number mean? What could I possibly NOT ESCAPE from? Don’t tell me there is something sinister buried at the base of these lush green trees dotted around this mini oasis in the desert??

I had the hammer next to my pillow, but I was wishing that damned thing was a gun!

I don’t even remember packing up that morning, I just know I did it really early. I might have grabbed a few minutes sleep at most. I did wake up alive though. I’d made it till morning at least!

My heart sunk again as I motored out of camp but realized that my gas tank was dry. I would have to go back into Vale and stop there to fill up. Was it not the lake that I couldn’t escape? Was it maybe this little picture postcard community itself?

I drove up next to the pumps at the mid-town station under a faded Sinclair dinosaur sign. Even before I’d stopped, I noticed a stoutly built man eyeing me and my truck. I didn’t want to let my nervousness show, and those words YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE, kept circling my consciousness.

Sitting in the driver’s seat I’d pulled out my log book to write down the mileage. I also watched the man moving among the cars around me, and I was remembering where I’d stashed the hammer. Sure enough, he was almost instantly inside my open driver’s window with his large face close to mine. I wrapped my fingers around the worn wooden handle. I began the yank from under my seat, pulling-up the heavy-ended tool when I realized what he was saying.

His barking words were about gasoline and what kind I wanted. I was shocked and stirred-up from the night before, and it took me a second to comprehend. He was there to pump the fuel. I didn’t expect that. I almost had just attempted to swing a hammer at close range, into this stranger’s face. Thank God, it wasn’t a gun!

I was probably shaking as I paid the bill and grabbed a bag of ice to deal with later. I was ready to get the hell out of Vale, Oregon. I just wanted it to be a tiny speck in my rear view mirror! About 5 or six miles west of town, I started to realize that things were probably ok. I was a couple hundred miles into the barren rock landscape of eastern Oregon, before I truly calmed down…

Maybe it was a prank. Very likely somebody had a good laugh thinking about freaking people out, just like me. I’m sure everything was fine the whole time… right? I mean, I did leave that place in one piece. I did make my ESCAPE. There isn’t any new tree to add to the orchard next to the shores of Bully Creek Reservoir with my name on it… right?

The mind is powerful my friends. It is our best friend, or worst enemy. Maybe even worse than the dangers of the ‘real’ world… and I’m not sure if we can truly ever Escape from it, can we?


Aaron Nichols