STOPPING TO SMELL THE ROSES

Repost and edited from September 2010

A cup of coffee, my favorite pen and a fresh tablet… Stopping to smell the roses.. I guess it doesn’t get much better than that.

Understanding it is truly the little things in life that bring joy, is a gift from God. It’s easy to get sidetracked by the bigger things in life. We get consumed with the tasks of life and let them choke out the more important things in life. That’s what happened to me today.

I’ve often heard it referred to as “stopping to smell the roses.”

I’ve also bought my share of roses but rarely take a whiff in the process. I’m reminded of my bad habit of missing the important things… Again.

Today was my youngest daughters first cross country meet. Not of the year, but of her life. It’s not completely my fault due to an error by the hosting school to not send a follow-up schedule change yesterday.

I dropped the little one off at school two hours before the meet was to start. She was a bit nervous so I said, “I don’t care how you finish, I’m just proud of you for doing something in spite of being nervous.” She quickly answered with a grin, “You mean like driving the go-carts?” I smiled and answered, “Yeah, like driving the go-carts.” That was last weekends, “Face Your Fears” lesson. Her smile indicated her appreciation for my persistence.

Instead of driving leisurely to the meet, my calculations gave me about an hour and a half to multi-task and knock down a lot of birds with a few stones.

When I got the word the meet was to start an hour earlier, it was too late. I drove like an idiot trying desperately to make up time, but to no avail. I missed my daughters first cross country race.

I know those “important items” needing to be crossed off my list could have waited. I could have done those later and if pushed, I could have postponed them until Monday.

The only thing I couldn’t change is my little girl’s first race, whenever it was going to be.

As I was speeding down the freeway, glancing between the speedometer and the clock, regret settled in my stomach. Another rose I let slip away without a sniff.

My daughter has a great heart and is always forgiving. She knows I’m proud of her, not just for placing with a good time, but mostly for facing her fears and giving absolutely all she had. When I finally got there, I could see her sense of accomplishment, in her smile and demeanor. She wore her sweat like a medal of honor.

I can’t get that time back. I’ll never have the image in my mind of my little girl finishing her first race.

stopping to smell the roses

I really enjoyed the cartoon “The Flinstones” when I was a kid. Well, except for the part at the beginning of the show when the saber tooth house cat kicked Fred out of his own house and locked the door.

Often in that cartoon Fred would do something stupid or selfish, usually to his wife Wilma or his daughter Pebbles. When Fred realized how foolish he’d been, he would start to physically shrink in his chair. He would shrink to the point where he was one-eighth the size of the seat itself.

I didn’t understand what the cartoonist was trying to communicate at that time in my life. I understand now that Fred was feeling regret, he was feeling smaller as a man.

That’s how I feel today…

THE MAIN CHARACTER

The words were the most profound I’d ever read. They were brilliant, genius… Perfect.

I instinctively raised my right arm above my head. Although I couldn’t see it, I wrapped my hand around it. It pulled me off the floor. Even though my hand and arm were supporting me it was effortless.

The Grand Room had soaring 20′ tall ceilings. I slowly, magically, raised in the air of the room, floating effortlessly in it. In shock, awe, and joy I motioned for my wife to see the miracle. She caught a glimpse, but wasn’t overly surprised? After about 30 seconds, I willed myself back to the floor of the plush room.

I ran into the kitchen that wasn’t completely visible from the Grand Room due to the lower ceiling structure to share the miracle with my wife who was cooking and talking to some of my family.

“Was that amazing?! Can you believe that really just happened?” I asked in an overwhelming yell.

“What?” my wife asked.

“You didn’t see me in there?”

“In where?” she asked again.

“I thought you saw me?” I was disappointed.

“I heard you in there, but I didn’t see anything. What happened”? My wife asked in confusion.

“I was flying! I swear – it’s a miracle – I was flying around the Grand Room!” She looked at me like I was nuts.

image courtesy of Pinterest.com

Without hesitation I turned and headed back to the room that looked more like a hotel lobby at a grand resort than it did a living room. I stepped briskly into the room. I didn’t reach my right arm to grab on again. I knew I didn’t have to.

I didn’t speak any magic words. In fact, I didn’t think or feel anything except the power available from my first lift around the Grand Room. By the time I reached the middle of the room I was about three feet off the floor.

I began rising magically higher as I turned around to show my wife and brother the miracle of defying gravity. They looked like they’d seen a ghost… I went all the way up to the ceiling, barely missing the grand chandelier by willing myself around it.

I pushed off the wall on the opposite side of the room up by the ceiling as I willed myself back to the ground in front of them.

“You believe this?” I asked. They stood speechless. “It was the words in that book,” I exclaimed and continued, “I’ve never read or felt anything so powerful. I have to write those words down!” I said, or thought, to myself as the powerful words woke me from my deep sleep.

“The Main Character,” I mumbled to myself in my mind. I was still half asleep and the words hit me with such force I wanted to remind myself  to write them down come morning.

While the dream was vivid the words didn’t have the supernatural effect of the night before as I set pondering them over coffee. The Main Character? Was it a book? Who was the main character? As I pondered that thought many things shot through my mind.

Everyone likes to be the main character, most of us want the lead role in the play of life. In my flesh, I was just too dull to grasp it. I finally closed my eyes and asked God, “Father, who or what is The Main Character?” Before the mental words could be finished, He laid it on me.

“I AM the Main Character”…..

“Of course”…. I said, “It was your arm I was hanging onto – I should have known.”

We all have stories, but there is only one “Main Character” in the story of this world.

It is His hand that we all rest in. It is His arm I long to hold onto…

Only the Main Character can deliver us to where we need to be…

And the landing is perfect…

GET THE LEAD OUT

A small chapter from one of my manuscripts.

We didn’t hear our dad talk about the twenty two caliber rifle incident often, and after we were older we learned not to bring it up at all.

My dad bought a used twenty two that didn’t shoot straight. Of course he didn’t know it didn’t shoot straight or he’d never have surrendered cold hard cash to get it… those are the ingredients for stories that stand the test of time through generations.

 

Now a rifle that won’t shoot right is just an expensive club, and not even a very good one at that. Not to mention the fact that it’s mighty hard to kill varmints with a club, least wise until they’ve been shot or trapped.

image courtesy of arms list.com

Turns out that the rifle barrel’s machining was full of lead from the scads of bullets that had been skedaddled down the pipe; where the old adage, “Get the lead out,” comes from.

 

When my dad took the worthless gun back to the man who sold it to him, dead set on getting his money back one way or the other, the man was in a less than agreeable mood. I don’t know who the man was, but I gotta give him some credit, he was tough. Or maybe he was dumb, but he was willing to go fist-uh-cuffs to back up his less than honorable ways, or he was betting that the young man wouldn’t resort to less than civilized ways.

 

That flick of his wrist at the end of my dad’s vicious left jab was powerful and effective, even more effective than he’d meant it… no wonder we got all the speeches about using it for the just cause.

 

It was just something that my dad would have to live with; the regret of tearing the man’s eye out of his skull at the end of a punch. He permanently blinded the man in that eye for his remaining days stumbling around this earth.

 

It takes time to figure out the cards we’ve been dealt in life, which ones to keep, which ones to throw away. There are some that will bluff, but know when to fold, and sometimes winning isn’t worth the price it costs. The man that sold a useless rifle was gambling. My dad was just figuring out the hand he was dealt.

 

Just because violence becomes a way of life, and even if a person gets good at it, doesn’t mean they love it. Some of them did, but my dad didn’t. The world sees a man who can get what he wants as a tough man, a strong man. My dad looked at this life and those types of matters with a different perspective. Although he’d been molded and taught how to survive in an unforgiving world, he didn’t see it as strength. He never uttered the words to me, but I knew in most cases he saw it as weakness. The strength the world saw was really his weakness. He was like the nail that couldn’t be driven straight into the heart of the wood. It looked strong, but it bent at its weakest point. Only God can use a bent nail…

THE DREADED “F”

REPOST from March 2011.

If you’ve read my “ABOUT” section then you already know of my getting kicked out of journalism class my junior year in high school. If you had any doubt about my youthful ignorance from that year I’ll share another story that should remove any lingering doubt… The dreaded F.

Right across the hall from my journalism class was my art class. I’d taken art as an elective my freshman and sophomore years which qualified me to take commercial art my junior year.

We had an amazing teacher named Mr. Parker. The class was advanced and other advanced kids from within the school district were allowed to attend Mr. Parker’s classes and receive credits at their school.

There was an event called the World Of Wheels held at the Civic Center downtown, it was a pretty big deal in those days. The schools had a contest at the event in which a local car dealership brought new white vans to the event and the schools art classes would paint murals on the vans.

A house I designed a while back. He was a better teacher than I was a student

I wasn’t close to being the most talented kid participating from our class. In truth there were wildly talented kids who became even better under the tutelage of Mr. Parker.

There was about six of us including my friend Beth representing supposedly the best of the district since we were fortunate enough to be under the supervision of Mr. Parker. I guess we were considered the heavy favorites to walk off with 1st place.

We collaborated  in class as to what our mural would be. Although not the most talented artist I must have been the pushiest. My concept and sketch was a dark cowboy pulling his two pistols as if drawing to shoot the person gazing at the mural.

The smooth canvas of a metal finish and the time limit had us struggling to finish the mural. Due to the talented classmates I was working with it was looking pretty good. The only thing we had to finish was the face. In retrospect, the most detailed part of the mural should have been started earlier.

As the clock was ticking down to zero, prankster Scott painted a cartoon face with a goofy smile and one big tooth accenting it. We were having fun and laughed to exhaustion over our failure.

Mr. Parker was humiliated and embarrassed… I don’t think any of us considered his perspective at that time. In my opinion, the problem with art class is the subjective grading system. That system cost me yet another credit… I was the only mural painting participant who Mr. Parker failed that semester.

It took me a while to get over being gotten even with. I was hurt, I didn’t share my feelings at the time, but everything else I’d done was dismissed as failing. Not a good feeling… Especially when it was my favorite class and I’d given genuine effort.

The gift God blessed me with, I used to convince my classmates to paint my mural. The responsibility that went along with that gift I shirked. Instead of showing regret for coming up short, I showed indifference to hide some insecurity. Although the face Scott painted was pretty funny, I suppose a good leader would not have allowed it.

There have been many times in my life when I used the gifts from God for my advantage then dismissed the responsibility that accompanied those gifts. God’s word says, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

If God were passing out grades on this lesson, I’d have failed more times than I care to admit.

I wonder how many more times I’m gonna have to learn this lesson?

A DREADED DROUGHT

I think about a dreaded drought like an irrigation-less farmer. He studies and ponders The Farmer’s Almanac along with the cloudless sky. Farmer John’s is a physical reality, especially in the Southwest. Mine is real too, but it’s not physical – mine is mental.

I’ve seen those kind of farmer’s eyes. Root beer brown Cherokee eyes. The ones with the worn out skin surrounding them that was as jagged and dry as the Southwest desert surrounding them. They looked hopeless, especially as they searched the hopeless sky, then the endless rows of pathetic crops.

image courtesy of Bharat.com

My grandpa always had a fifth of whiskey stashed in his pocket to help him make it through the day. Those work days would last longer than the vicious sunshine. More whiskey and his harmonica would get him through the night. Now and then he’d find inspiration to scratch down lyrics to a new song.

I’m not a lot like Troy, but we do have some similarities. Music and writing is in my blood, along with some of the bad tendencies my grandpa’s had. I still struggle with a short fuse and have a memory like an elephant. Genetics are a peculiar thing.

A dreaded drought is inevitable for all of us regardless of what we do. Nothing earth shattering or profound or productive happens in the midst of a drought. But just like rust, our minds never rest.

I’ll keep pushing my rope up the hill of words that seems as steep as Everest right now, but I know the day will come when I do reach the top… then the downhill side will put an end to this dreaded drought.

As vast and endless as the empty Arizona sky is, it’s full of promise, just like the mind we’ve been given by God almighty. I know I’m not the only soul stumbling through a dreaded drought. Hang on. The rain will come.