As a hobbyist and small-time collector of modest-sized antiques and items of character, I have realized that some of my most cherished things were popular during either the generation before mine, or, quite often, my own youth. From where I sit as I write this, some items in view include my second Slinky (each of us who had a metal one knows what happened to the first), a handmade wooden truck, and some tiny license plates from travels with my grandparents. So yes, the AARP and I have concluded that I'm over 50 and, thus, an antique.
Spring is right around the corner, and many of us are starting to wonder how to spend our warm sunny days. Though a change in season doesn't mean we will have more hours in the day to enjoy the company of family and friends, the warmer weather and longer periods of daylight and sunshine make it easier to connect with loved ones and spend quality time.
In the blur of today's cultures, it may become necessary to reflect on the thoughts of forward thinkers from simpler times whose words were intended to better future generations. The following poem, "Desiderata," is one of my personal favorites. It is written by Max Ehrmann and displayed prominently in my office and in my home. I reflect on it often because its purity and direction still ring true.
This past year certainly was interesting. "Interesting" in the way that you might politely respond to a question from an inexperienced chef about your opinion of a meal he/she prepared or in the way a book falls short of its mark due to the writer's vague plot. For the most part, my year was pretty good. It managed to hit the incredible level a few times, and it was downright amazing on occasion. I was blessed to become engaged to a wonderful lady and marry into a family with two active, polite, intelligent kids. We also managed to do a little traveling while staying safe, healthy, and happy.
Much goes into building our character, and I daresay, not much of it is pleasant. True character and integrity arent usually made of sunshine, smiles, and tea bubbles. Most of the time, tears, blood, and gristle are what forge a successful young adult from his/her humble beginnings as a child.
Despite all the challenges presented to us these past many months, let's start by being thankful that we've made it to this point. Just being here — being who we are with what we have is a blessing indeed. In no uncertain terms, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to take a break from the stress and sinew of all that is swirling about and just read a little bit. That in itself is something to be thankful for, so let's take a breath together. Here's a little read.
BOO! It is October now, and along with the cooler weather, colorful fall foliage, and pumpkin spice, there does seem to be a lot of fear in the air. Many of my friends know that not much really bothers me, and I'm fairly laid back — but dang. It is unsettling to see so many affected by so much in such a small span of our time here on this rock.
When we perceive an obstacle standing between us and our goals, we often fear that our overall plan is in jeopardy. That is usually not the case with most of the glitches to which we twitch. What may be the issue is that the way we choose to tackle a wrinkle in our plan can end up being a different and often bigger problem than the initial goal we set out to accomplish. More than likely, we should try to focus on the end game rather than the obstacle.
Relax. You’re doing just fine. Pursuing perfection in almost anything is, for the most part, an exhaustive waste of time and effort. There’s little sense in beating ourselves up every day, trying to make a perfect score on all of life’s tests — both great and small. Ironically, our pursuit of perfection often becomes a stumbling block to progress. Of course, I’m not suggesting we settle for being content with mediocrity. There’s always room for improvement. However, perfection, in most any circumstance, is subjective.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to take a brief break from the home zone. The little cabin where I stayed was down in a valley, and the only rush to be had was the soothing, rumbling water of a wide mountain creek. The only chatter was the rustling of leaves. There was no cellular service, so no fussing over devices, and no television, so no drama over the airwaves.
On Sunday, feathered friends welcomed me with bird songs on the cool early morning breezes. The first church I came to was off a little gravel road near the cabin. It looked like a child’s drawing, simple and to the point. Greeted by a couple dozen folks, I quickly felt comfortable in the genuinely welcoming environment. The service began, and after the first person stood and spoke, I knew there were going to be some strong opinions. There was plenty to be said about the confusion of being “politically correct” when it comes to taking a stance.
Many of us now look at our life differently than we did several months ago. Our place in the social soup, our position in our career, or how we maintain friendships and other relationships may have been restructured, rearranged, or reevaluated. When our ideal slips away, when we make it to the boat, get settled in, set sail, and the ship returns to port — that’ll catch anyone off guard. Ready yourself for your new normal.
So, the plans you had did not work out like you thought they might? Yes, plans fail, happens all the time. Let us not forget that failure has benefits. When we fail, we learn what didn’t work, which gives us a chance to try something new.
Several weeks ago, while enjoying a nighttime walk in the yard amongst the scurry of rabbits and the night frogs singing, I looked skyward. Eventually, my motion-sensing floodlight went back to sleep, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, the stars seemed to change. The bright ones got brighter and seemingly larger while others that had been barely visible before became more prominent. What had once been a large, black space became a rich, deep blue arena of twinkling celestial bodies.
Of course, being a product of decades of nerdiness (to which many of my childhood friends may attest), I understood that those stars did not suddenly grow or emerge in the blankness of space, beckoned into existence by my renewed sense of wonder. Those luminous objects were there long before the beginning of man’s time on Earth.
As I write this, my prayer is that COVID-19 is under control by the time you read these words. The outbreak of the coronavirus stopped each of us in our tracks. It changed everyone’s perspective on what is truly important to us — as individuals, as families, and as members of our community. We survived. This past month, on several occasions, I was reminded of what makes our community my home.
Recently, a dear friend laid his father to rest, and a few short weeks later, that same friend, Butch Brown, also died. Unfortunately, Butch’s work was not done, as he was working to prepare a home for his 91-year-old grandfather. In the shadow of a pandemic, his friends and others in the Hickory Flat community rallied. This team of volunteers completed weeks of work in a matter of days, in honor of the Browns and the love of a family, to make certain that “Papa” Brown had a safe place to call home.
As the first spring of the decade approaches, there’s much to do to prepare for a new season of growth. One way to make it happen is simply to have enough faith in ourselves to do what we need to do to get it done. Getting started is a happy feeling, and getting it done makes one successful. Happiness is a state of mind, success a point of view; bliss is what happens when they coexist.