Digging for Cables

In most situations, I’m a quiet guy. Somehow my dad nicknamed me “chatterbox” as child. The safety of my own home is probably the only time I lived up to such a name.

To this day I still hear people around me say, “watch out for the quiet ones, once they snap they’ll kill you.” Can’t say I’ve ever lived up to that.

In part however, I think there is some truth to the idea that the quiet folks tend to have a little more “clack” to their thunder, a little more “cold calculation” as words erupt like lava from a once stagnant volcano.

But it’s not just the quiet ones we need to be wary of. I think we ALL have an underground cable that if split will electrocute whomever dared to grasp the shovel.

I’m saddened with how quickly people go digging for cables. They long for contention and discord as if severed relationships were the rule and not the exception. They speak truth with no restrain, intent to hurt, intent to cause damage.

THE CHALLENGE: Brutal honesty (even if a skewed opinion) is often the shovel that will get you zapped. Brutal honesty has merit, but lacks sustainability. In dealing with those around you, look for the signs posted “warning, underground cable.” Stay away, dig somewhere else. Every personality has some territory that can be explored freely. Use tact. Use love.

As for your own cables, keep your signs posted. Avoid rust and decay. Sometimes we victimize ourselves when boundaries aren’t declared early and firmly.

Photo by: Ira

Ignore That Too!

My mother-in-law has many gifts and talents, among which is a passion for quilting.  Browsing through the used bookstore recently, I picked up a title that I thought would help me better understand what makes a quilt worthy of regard.

“Plain and Simple” is a true story of an urban California woman, Sue Bender, who developed an obsession for the Amish and eventually lived among their people to discover their unique culture for herself.  The curiosity was initiated in the 1960s over a spectacular Amish quilt hanging in a department store.  Years later, in the fall of 1981, Sue found three strange looking dolls in a folk art gallery store.  She learned these dolls originated from the Amish and over a six month period received twelve of these dolls from seven different women.

Sue observed that the dolls had no face.  They were silent and serene.  There was no pecking order.  None was better or worse than the others.  They didn’t have to perform or prove anything.  No voice said, “Be happy, cute, or pretty.”  No voice said, “Be a star.”

She continues… “In my world, everyone has a face, and many of us try to stand out.  In their simplicity, these faceless dolls said more with less.  They left more to the imagination.  Maybe accepting who they are, they don’t waste their strength trying to change or compete.”

I’m reading this book to my daughters.  My twelve year old has developed a talent for crocheting.  She has made dozens of her own stuffed animals and other clever creations.  Yesterday, she presented me with a surprise gift, a faceless doll.

Adding to the depth of her message, and a lesson for all, was a message born of pure childlike innocence best explained in her handwritten letter.

“P.S. I know the bag says, ‘Happy Birthday’ on it, just ignore it!”

“P.P.S. I also know it says, ‘To Skyla, Love Grammy and Grampy on it, ignore that too!”

“P.P.P.S. I LOVE YOU!”

What a great way to magnify the message of a faceless doll.  We just need to learn what to ignore.  Truth be told, I didn’t even notice the elements of the bag she was asking me to overlook.  Fancy bows and glittery gifts stopped catching my eye many years ago, but there is a lot more work to do in the art of “overlooking.”  Even though I know we are all crafted from crooked timber, I still spend too much time marveling over the incompetence of humanity at large.

THE CHALLENGE: Noah’s ark couldn’t have smelled very appealing, but it was much safer inside than out in the storm.  Maybe your workplace stinks.  Maybe your family stinks.  Maybe your school stinks. When a patch or stitch in your quilt stinks, approach it like an ark.  Approach it like a faceless doll.  Approach it like the wise innocence of a twelve-year-old child who knows what to look beyond in order to get to the real gift and message!  A “faceless” approach will allow you to “FACE LESS” of the unnecessary noise, drama, and distractions of a turbulent world.

Survive the Ground

Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season contained a solid lesson.  Steelers hosted the Patriots and it came down to the wire.  Great games are always decided by a key play or two and this one was no different.  With less than a minute remaining in regulation, the Steelers’ tight end (Jesse James) caught what appeared to be a touchdown to secure the win.  Instead…they lost.

The NFL rulebook states that if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass he “must maintain control of the ball until afterhis initial contact with the ground.”  During the lengthy official review, it was deemed evident that James did not “survive the ground” and the touchdown was overturned.  Game over.

Survive the Ground

The sequence of these events reminded me of our goals and resolutions.  I started 2017 with some clear goals that would demand a lot of attention.  While some goals were achieved, others were virtually stillborn.

The first obstacle struck early in the year and I dropped the ball.  I didn’t anticipate variables like the Grim Reaper, traveling, moving, or new goals to surface along the way.  Of course, these are all excuses.  Excuses make the ball pop out.

“Good resolutions are a pleasant crop to sow. The seed springs up so readily, and the blossoms open so soon with such a brave show, especially at first. But when the time of flowers has passed, what as to the fruit?”

THE CHALLENGE:  A new year is upon us.  What do you intend to achieve?  Be a season ticket holder to the game of life.  This game is measured in years with no offseason and the stakes are much higher than a measly sporting event.  Remember, opposition will be knocking at your door.  Like it or not, you will make contact with the turf.  It is not enough to simply dream a goal, hope a goal, or even write down a goal.  You must internalize it.  It must excite you, you must dream about it, you must long for it… that is of course if you want to survive the ground.


Illustration by Ashley Goodall


Fix Your Cheese

This headline is alarming in so many ways.  Prosperity can turn us into real meatheads!  (excuse the pun)

burger

So here’s the deal, Google’s cheese is on the bottom of the cheeseburger.  (C’mon Google…even Microsoft got this right, duh!)

For some things in life order matters – very much so.  There are times to build a proper foundation.  There are times to get out a yardstick and level.  On occasion, your project is so important that you will scrap the entire thing several times along the way before getting it right.  Other times, the order is worthless.  For example, it doesn’t matter if I put my left sneaker on before my right.

VERY LOW on the totem pole of consequence is the order in which I place my cheese.  The burger is no less edible and it all ends up in the same place.  As you strive to achieve your goals, be careful to pick your battles.  Don’t confuse motion with productivity.  Get away from the “cheese dilemmas” and worry about making tasty burgers.

THE CHALLENGE:  It helps to view excellence as a subtraction exercise more than an addition exercise.  Identify the “not so important” things standing in the way of your real burger.  Subtract this from your process and move closer to realizing what you truly intend to accomplish.

 

The Meaning of Rain

Overhead clouds just teased the parched earth with a rare southern California sun shower. It was a refreshing sight, short lived…but refreshing nonetheless.

What is the primary purpose of rain? Is it to clean the air? Give life and vigor to the plant kingdom? Provide a water source for adult recreation? If you ask my son, he might give you a different answer…

“Wow, it’s raining – that means there is going to be a rainbow!”

Bow

On many occasions, rain can be a burden. Rain can crash weddings, sporting events, or a day at the beach. Rain can cause flooding, damage property, promote injury, or increase populations of unwanted pests – such as mosquitoes. Each of these items acts as stimuli for an emotional response. Maybe you feel mad at God, the insurance company, the meteorologist, or yourself for picking the wrong day for a celebration.

The rainbow isn’t something you “take”. You don’t put it in your pocket. You don’t put it in your piggy bank. But there is gold involved. Rainbows are something you look at, you pause, you appreciate, you smile, you snap a photo and you share it. Trials will give you a new way to look at life. That my friend…is…the rainbow.  Sharing it…is…the gold.

THE CHALLENGE:  When you encounter life’s struggles, it “means there’s going to be a rainbow.”  Look for it, then look at it, then share it.

Photo by Gail

 

 

Humps For Days

“Hey dad, what should I draw next?”

“Draw a camel.”

“Okay, how many humps do you want it to have?”

“Just one”

camel

Camel humps store fat (not water). These humps provide nourishment to the camel when food sources are low. When the fat reserves are utilized, the humps sag like deflated balloons. It takes two things to “re-inflate” the hump:

(1) Food

(2) Rest

Your dreams, your vision for what you REALLY WANT TO DO OR BECOME is like a camel hump. There are times when it is full and robust. There are times when it is drooping and appears like a wilted flower. A vision must be fed, then affirmed through appropriate action. A vision must be protected (like rhino horns). Achieving a vision doesn’t occur overnight, so take some rest. Allow time for your thoughts and efforts to digest. Dream, act, rest.  Dream, act, rest.  Dream, act, rest. It’s a constant cycle. If you are not where you want to be it is because one or more elements of this cycle have been neglected.

THE CHALLENGE:  Too many “humps” equates to mediocrity. Pick a single hump to focus on. After tending to all of life’s responsibilities, that’s about all we really have time for anyway. Now, go re-inflate your hump! Here are three way to do this…

(1) Go dream

(2) Go act

(3) Go rest

 

Photo by compassrose_04

Let’s Play Again

I overheard the following words from my first grader.  “Mom, if I don’t win let’s play again!

This is the secret to getting good at ANYTHING. The secret is to understand that losing is temporary.  If you want to ride a bike, you crash.  You lose some skin.  You cry.  You get a bandaid and get back on.  If you want to draw good you fill up a wastebasket with crumpled paper.  And….you’ll sharpen your pencil – a lot!

pencil

If you want to play an instrument you play a lot of really bad sounds.  You cause those within earshot to cringe.  But…only…at…first.

The problem is that most people fail to progress beyond the “only at first” portion.

THE CHALLENGE:  Identify something new you would like to try.  (Maybe it’s that thing that keeps you up at night.)  Now go do it.  Tell yourself you are going to lose.  Tell yourself you will be real, real bad.  Accept it. Then, move on.  Get past the part where you stink.  Approach it like a first grader and play until you win!

Photo by Jason Eppink