Snapchatting my 107 Year Old, Great-Grandma

I am sending snapchats to a co-worker. I send pictures. I send videos. I probably will get tired of it soon and forget about it. If you don’t know what snapchats are, they are either photos or quick videos that you can easily shoot and send through your phone. You can write text onto the photos, or draw pictures with your finger, but that takes too much time and patience for me. I hate typing on my phone, I miss the buttons that the original cell phones had. You could type without even looking the thing.

Anyway!!! I just click a photo and send, or better yet, I hold down the ‘button’ (that doesn’t exist) and take a short video. I can talk into the camera, and make a quick message to get my point across. Like an instant video-version voicemail. It is a very convenient way to communicate. (As if we needed more of that!)

So what is different and blog-worthy about this ‘snapchat’ thing? Well, when you send a picture or video, it is only visible for a short time period. It disappears fairly quickly. Yes, I know that somehow you can take screenshots, or even retrieve these images or videos from a hidden folder, if you want to take the time to do so. Most people never will. And I am not sending inappropriate materials anyway…

Or am I?

See, the fun thing about knowing that your photo or video is only visible for a tiny fininte amount of time, is that the impermanence is freeing. I have found myself sending stupid, random thoughts and quirky moments in time through this platform. I send videos of myself eating a salad, or speaking in squeaky voices, or singing along with the car radio.

Anyway, it’s kind of like when you play with a puppet. You can add extra personality or say outrageous things, because it is a little moment apart from your ‘real self’…

Or is it??

Maybe my being goofy on snapchat is a new outlet, another way to express myself, in my own ‘weird’ ways. Maybe I really want to be that crazy all the time, and I’m usually too scared to. I do really get a kick out of the reaction when Alyssa (a waitress and goofy Mom herself) tells me that my snaps make her and her husband laugh.

Maybe I want to be a performer, a comedian or something, and this is my tiny way to pretend to do that. Just like this blog, I like these little outlets to release the ‘stuff’ that I usually don’t, in my everyday interactions with the normal world.

I am disappointed in myself sometimes, that when you meet me on the street, or in the restaurant or even at church on Sundays, that I am not as expressive and passionate and driven, as I may seem to be with these typed out words on screen. A double-life, in a way that isn’t productive, I can tell myself, I am living.

Yes, these writing moments, or my silly snappy-chats are me, being me. Yes, my ho-hum, hows-the-weather-ness of everyday life do all come from the same place. One seems to brighten and ignite my flame, the other seems to cover and sometimes extinguish it, to a tiny ember.

I am hardly ever as evangelical in real life, as I am on this blog. I am hardly ever as vocal about the deeper questions, person to person, as I am fingers to keyboard. Just like a puppeteer or actor or newpaper comic illustrator, colorful parts of me can be released on ‘stage’ and then I go back to boring afterward.

Maybe the balance is good. Maybe I could just be contented that at least I have gone this far, said this much, here on this digital ‘page’. Maybe this is practice, for another Act, to play out later on. Maybe it’s a time-capsule that will last 35 years into the future, or longer, for someone to come across and appreciate.

This week, I was given a DVD disc. Just like millions of other pieces of silvery round plastic, it has video on it. Unlike any other I have ever obtained before, it had moving pictures of a man I never really knew. It was lovingly made by our extended family. The old Herrod home movies, from the late 70’s and early 80’s, have made it all the way to 2014. They contain fuzzy and silent, but brilliant footage. My Dad is on there. My Mom too. My grandparents and great grandparents, aunts and uncles, babies, my cousins all smile and laugh. They go fishing, they open presents, they eat wonderful dinners you can almost taste.

My mom tries on a dress, while I am incubating along in her belly. My Dad, holds me up at the dinner table. I am spun upside down, and at the very last second end of the clip, he pretends to drop me onto the floor. Wow.

Thanks to Everyone involved in recording, storing and now converting, these ancient video moments. I have never seen a video of my Dad until this week. As it’s been 31 years since he’s passed-on, I couldn’t still remember his walk, his widening smile. The way his eyes carry and contain the moment, entrancing they were, even on this grainy old dead-quiet film.

I used my snapchat video camera to grab a few of these little clips. I am bummed that they show up sideways here. I really wanted to fill this blog page with great scenes for you to see too.

Funny idn’t it. The old technology was wonderful, yet it’s the new, that helps us see the old. I just can’t help but wonder though, about the kind of ‘snaps’ that would have come from my Dad, from my great grandparents Letha and Marshall Churchbaugh, or even my very young and pretty Momma, as she was about to give birth for the first time. I wonder what their inner worlds were like. I wonder what thoughts crossed their minds and what shape they saw this thing called ‘Life’.

As wonderful as these images and video are, I still know that they are only part of the story. They show us smiles and serene family moments. Life is made up, of so much more that just that. I am so grateful for every instant of this old film. I someday hopefully will re-meet these characters, knowing them in the deepest ways. Understanding the place where I come from, where we all come from. I want to know the humanity through which I came to this place called Earth.

Today, I know so much more than I did, even a week ago. Thanks again to the Herrod family, for putting together these videos. Thanks to Alyssa for being my friend on Snapchat and watching my silly silly silllllleeeeyyyyyy-nesss on there each day :)

Take care and until next week, let yourself be the real you. Let it out for the world to see. Record it even. By word, or image, do something that makes your mark, in way that someone else may appreciate you, even from afar. Sharing is important. I need to remind myself of that every day :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Banging in the Canoe, Slapping the Water, Grimacing or Grinning the Whole Way

A day on the river, for me, used be wild, “boobs and beer, that’s why I’m here!” Umm… not so much anymore. I still like to get into a canoe and load up some supplies (water, tea, sierra mist, and snacks now). I enjoy lashing them down with bungee cords and telling the dog, Roxy, to jump in. I especially love, to see my wife, smile and shiver as she wades into the cold water to take her place in the front. A sunny morning, hearing the wet splashing, the chunky gravel scraping and watching the glitter of diamonds atop the water, as we launch for a day of floating in a canoe, is pure heaven to me.

Our anniversary weekend included a nice 14 mile float last Sunday at the Niangua River, fed by Bennet Springs, near Lebanon, Missouri. It was a perfect day, with perfect company, and I was glad to be there. As we set adrift on the slow current,  in our ‘cargo-style” limo-sized canoe, I watched several groups around us taking off in their big yellow rubber duck rafty things. I never was a fan of that type of floating. I have tried it a couple times. If you just need a platform that won’t tip, so you can be entirely punch-drunk, I guess it works, but, you lose so much of the art of maneuvering your craft.

By choosing the canoe to float in, I get to feel that I control the ship with every touch of the paddle to the water. From the rear I can propel us straight forward with a few strong strokes on each side. I can look ahead and see still waters, a deeper channel, and drive the vessel toward it. When obstacles are fast approaching, I can drive my oar deep beside me, holding it fast, ‘putting on the brakes’ and turning the canoe on a dime to avoid a crash. Sometimes I like to stand and captain the thing, gondola style. I balance on the back seat, or edges of the boat. I reach down and scoot us forward with a couple pulls, and then rest my hands on the end of the paddle. I love feeling the full breeze as I stand and survey the ripples ahead.

Anyway, I really like being in a canoe. It feels natural and right and connected to the flow of the river and to the flow of life, in those fleeting moments you catch in between the mental-everything, and notice the simplicity of nature.

Something not fun about the canoeing experience, is feeling the bottom drag on shallow rocks. There are parts of the river where only a couple inches of water move over vast gravelbars. I want to avoid these parts as much as possible. Usually when you have to jump out and let the canoe float on it’s own through these spots, you stub a toe, or slice a leg on some unseen sharp-edged rock. Nowadays, being sober while canoeing, does help this problem out. Less falling in the river, or onto other boats or people, and generally bruising up my whole body.

Also there are places where a bend in the stream will make a strong current, a deep and rushing shoot, that can also gather deadwood and brush piles. These places are not to be toyed with. Yes, maneuvering around them is fun, but it is risky. Smashing into some fallen trees while the river pushes against you can be dangerous. The suck while stopped can momentarily dip the edge in to the water, then a boat on it’s side will fill instantly. If you can get your body away fast enough, you will be alright, but the canoe will be hard to recover without help. Your snacks and drinks will bob along downstream without you :(

Luckily, with Lindsay and I (no help from Roxy) we communicate well in the canoe. We talk about how to navigate around these obstacles. We decide ahead, which way we want to enter the bends. We look downstream for the best places point the boat. When we arrive at a problem point, we are already ready for it. We brake or paddle hard to smooth through, and maybe a gentle bang or chunking sound will come from the stern as the tail end touches a submerged tree trunk. It is a beautiful thing, dancing with the river.

Funny though, lots of times, right after we sailed through a real trouble point, a deep bend with brush built up, there would immediately following, be a gently eddy in the flow. Just as we smiled and enjoyed the accomplishment of steering cleanly through the problems, this little circulating wash of current, would just slightly pull the bow. An almost undetectable shift would happen as the stern end would keep it’s speed and slide away with the still strong current.

Soon, Lindsay would be pointed right at the bank, maybe into a shallow spot. The gravel bits would grab the underside of the aluminum. I would be waay back in the deep and swift water. We would be side ways in the river.

At that exact moment there are two ways to handle the situation. If I want to keep our course, as it was, I need to paddle hard. I need to back up the boat. I need to ask Lindsay to push off, or to join in frantic splashings to avoid the inevitable. I most likely can get us pointed straight again, but it is a LOT of work. I am fighting the flow the river. I am nervous, being sideways for any amount of time is spooky. The more I try to keep us pointed in the ‘normal’ direction, the longer I will stay sideways. At the front, the water is still and shallow, at the back it rushes and pushes. I will be exhausted by the time, we get things ‘righted’ again, and can continue on downriver…

Another way to handle this moment is to realize that the river is doing all of the work here. Yes, there is a strong movement within the stream. It wants to help us continue on. The thing is, with the front-end lodged against the bank, the back end wants to continue. I can just let this ‘spin moment’ happen. I can do almost nothing, and the river itself will happily pull us along, but backwards. See the canoe is designed to work well, either front-ways or back-ways (to use the technical terminology :)) I can simply let this action happen, and all will be okay. Yes we are now facing upriver, we don’t want to carry on this way for the rest of the trip, but within a short distance we will again use the current to spin us proper.

This motion of pre-planning for the troubled bend, then spinning away from the ensuing eddy can be a delightful dance. It can feel smooth and flowy. It can be peaceful even, through the work and through the slight adjusting tensions, it can be soo gratifying. On the other hand, when I fear the danger, when I try too hard, things get worse. When I frantically slap the water with my oar, and beg the boat to stay pointed in the ‘right’ way, I exhaust myself. When I think there actually is a ‘right way’ or a ‘wrong way’ to be, I am fighting a force bigger than myself. It’s a battle I will never, ever win.

I did notice on Sunday’s float trip, that just being on the water, pointed in either direction, is the key. Being pulled by the current, but floating along with it, is enjoyment. Just noticing the beauty of nature, the forces at play and the opportunity to drift with it, is an amazing thing.

Ironically, back in the olden days, my float trips were much different. I actually preferred back then to hang out on the banks. I didn’t want to be ‘on the water’ all day. I wanted to lounge and drink and chill beside it. I didn’t want to paddle at all, if possible. Back then, a 4 mile stretch of the river could entertain me from morning till sundown.

Lots of life changes have happened since then. New choices, different ones. 14 miles of the river went by rather quickly on Sunday. We were done before many other vessels. We were in the water and moving along. We experienced much more of what that place had to offer. We saw it all. We worked hard at times, but never to catch up. We together adventured beyond, where most folks get off. I am proud of that.

At the end of the day, a drunk guy asked me for beer. I offered water, tea and sierra mist. He took one of those little green cans. Sorry dude, I used be out of beer too, at the end of the float. I wanted more then too, like you. Now, I found more fun, without it. Different fun, but deeper. An understanding that we missed the real beauty in search of the beers and even the bouncing river boobies.

God’s delivering more than that. The current and flow is ours to harness, we can go far and beyond with Him. Unless we continue to try and fight it, doing things our own ways. It’s very tiring, wanting to be pointed in the ‘right’ direction. A little backwards motion would be much easier, if we can just accept it for the small passing moment. So He showed me, on the river that day :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

the Title is the most important word here

I fret over them. I worry about them. I construct and crochet them. On the good days, that is. Usually, I toss them around. I let them fly. I notice halfway through that I maybe could have used them better. I feel their power, and notice their absolute weakness too. I gamble a relationship on them, sometimes I lose. I can also use them to dip someone in gold, to polish and admire. I am using them right now, to explain themselves… ironically.

This week I have experienced the power of words. I am sure you have too. This is nothing new, no fresh discovery. I noticed them though uniquely in the last few days.

I had conversations, that I wished I didn’t have to have. I am using the adage I learned from Dave Ramsey, that ‘Conflict is best served fresh.’ I guess if I erred, I did so with quickly opening up dialogue that I usually would put off, maybe to stew over, to let boil. No, this week, a couple times, I have chosen to sew together words that question, that reiterate, that make a stand. A stand not popular with the other party.

Also this week, I wrote words on screen. No, not just these, but words of encouragement and words that recommend. I did something that I remember asking my employer to do, while I was in High School. I wrote a letter of recommendation. Yes, I am getting old, when someone asks this of me. I am not the kid anymore… darn. Anyway, I wanted to do it well, for this person. I was glad I have practice typing out these words here. I remember an exact sentence from a letter written by Bill Allegre, when I was a teen. He said I had ‘business knowledge beyond my years.’ Wow, I that stuck with me. True or not, I thought it was sooo cool, that he said that about me.

What words we use to describe a person to themselves can be absolutely foundation rocking. I could get into the truths that maybe words have no power unless we let them, but in the larger experience of life, I know they do. I’m no theologian, maybe we could talk about the true source of them. We could accurately explain that inflection and context can change the entire conversation. Truly though, the word, is something so mysterious and amazing, right on the tip of our tongues, yet forever out of reach.

I misuse them alot. I waste them often. I miss opportunities to share them. I need them too. I needed them last night when I got home late, and my wife was fast asleep. I just had to interrupt her, to exchange words, and spill my guts and connect about my day. Crazy isn’t it. Nothing, not one action or physical object was adjusted in the slightest, because of talking with my wife. Everything about my world felt better though. My anxiety was calmed. My stomach untied it’s knots. I could breathe again freely. I slept sound. Before the conversation, I was abuzz with mind-garbage. Probably would’ve been mulling things over all night long…

This week, the kids are back to school and the FUNdraising has started. I say this sarcastically. I see no fun in overpaying for things I don’t need, all in the name of raising ‘money’ for a local school group. I do however LOVE the idea of actually donating right to the cause. I want all of my money to go to the kids. I don’t want Mr. Popcorn Company CEO, or Mrs. Cookie Dough CEO to get my dollars. If I want popcorn or cookie dough, I’ll just buy that stuff at regular fair pricing, thank you. I want to GIVE to these kids. I want them to take the money my family has made and use for things they need. I want them to have all of my $16 or $20 (or more), not just the small leftovers after the ‘junk’ was paid for.

I always offer to support the group. I always refuse the product. I want to make a point. (I know, I’m no fun and should just go along… Ha!) Anyways, as I did my normal routine this week of gladly accepting their invitation to donate to the group, I once again, refused the items. The severe misuse of words is apparent during these conversations, as I am usually asked to please pick an item to buy, so that they can ‘win’ their ‘contest’ to get a ‘free’ whatever…

Riiiiight! I am really disgusted with the coaches and parent leaders of these groups, who have not explained to the kiddos that a donation, in lieu of buying an item, is Better for their group. They get more money. Winning the contest, and selling the most cookie dough to get something ‘free’ is hilarious! The ‘free’ item costs that fundraising company real money. (it’s probably a cheapo version anyway) They buy it with your dollars, that you used to pay them for the overpriced dough.

Why is does this sound like such a foreign concept???? Yes, I’m ranting on this. :)

I detest, that the words have been misused enough that the kids believe them. I detest hearing words that advertisers have so surgically and purposely manipulated as to lull us into consumer zombie-ism! Hearing a car dealer ad on the radio is case in point. “Buy Now with No Money Down, and $500 Cash Back! Just Sign and Drive!” COME ON!!!

Pssssst…. that’s not buying…. (Buying is when you trade money for an item, before you have traded the full price, you didn’t buy it yet, if you have a loan on it, only the loan is yours… not the item!)

Come on guys and gals. Let’s notice for ourselves how powerful words can be. It overwhelms me that I am such a poor vocabulatic tactician. In fact I even make up my own words like ‘vocabulatic’, because I’m too lazy to actually expand the scope and range of words I know.

I do type out words here. Who knows what impact they have if any. I do know that my hard work and my actions to accomplish things outside of this space, are valuable right now. This may be wasted time, that I am frittering away, when I could be actually doing something else… Funny thing about this universe that God designed, my words will last on, even after I’m gone. Maybe no one will ever read them. That part isn’t up to me. These words themselves however, have only been linked together in this exact way, just this one time. Never again will this happen forever for the rest of eternity. That is quite amazing, even if my story isn’t.

I do know that John 1:1 says “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I do believe that. 

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Inhabiting a chamber in the revolver

When people have asked lately, ‘how’s it goin’?’ I have answered that I have been doing my favorite things and been having fun doing it. I need to remind myself sometimes, of what those favorite things are.

At the restaurant we have an upcoming remodel project. We are installing a new floor in the kitchen. Along with snazzy new ceramic tile, we have a chance to re-look at the setup of the whole thing. I have focused a lot of attention on the dish washing corner. It’s a highly important piece of our food service puzzle. I did some drawing and had discussions. We talked about options and better ways to do things. Easier ways to operate and a more efficient flow have showed up in concept. Now I get to facilitate their physical creation.

Buying equipment, and actually installing some, looking over and over at the simple wire shelving and seeing how much a small change can improve things, is my favorite thing. We have more new cool features to construct. Our guests won’t see them first hand, but everything about the experience we offer, will be enhanced, when we put time, money, focus and energy into enhancing these ‘background’ fixtures…

Also at my other job this week, (as a graphic artist) I had a mountain of designs to create. With school just beginning and the coaches and teachers hitting the classrooms, it seems they all pressed ‘send’ at once, on the tee shirt requests for their teams, clubs and organizations. I saw an email over the weekend that previewed the workload ahead. Wow, a biiiiig pile of them. I took it as a personal challenge, and plowed through them, tens at a time. With so many jobs on deck, there is little time to fret and fuss with the intricate problems inherent in the ideas and artistic opinions of the customers.

Throw together some options. Use artwork I already have on hand. Grab a popular layout and redesign it for this application. Sometimes my work is better, when I don’t have time to ponder it. Funny how that ironically and predictably becomes true.

Another favorite thing this week, was arriving at the hospital to meet my new nephew for the first time. Only the third baby in our growing family, it is such a special moment to see this little person I will eventually know so well. Being there to see his first day out, is mesmerizing and magic.

Also this week, I have experienced splashes and waves of frustration. Quick anger, and eye-rolling boredom over oft-repeated problems occurring again. Along with all the cool stuff going on, I still notice plenty of darkness and shadows between the bright white spots of light. All through the week, and weeks and months, it seems this way. More darkness than light at times.

I thought about these extremes as I walked through the revolving glass door of Olathe Medical Center yesterday. I was going in, to meet a brand-spanking-new baby boy. Maybe the person behind me, wasn’t. He seemed hurried, he was a little too close as we waited for the massive turbine to slowly spit us out on the inside of the hospital. He seemed to want to pass me, and push his way in quick. As we transitioned into the hallway, he went close to my side and then, poof, gone!

I have walked through the hospital doors the same way before. I think about that entrance. It must be washed in every shade of human emotion as people exude their feelings as they pass through. It must have noticed the tears of both joy and anguish. I have passed through with wide eyed wonder about both the good and the bad.

Just like life, those doors are a gateway to all of our experience. The same doors both foreboding and wide open to freshness. My life has seemed that way this week. Both ends of the spectrum, simultaneously, congruently, consistently…

Maybe that is just normal. Maybe it’s not weird at all. Somewhere I picked up the idea that we were ‘supposed’ to experience a greater measure of the good stuff and just some little bad stuff here and there. Nah… It feels like a big load of both lately… And maybe that is just a big load of blessings and blessings in disguise. It’s a ride I get to be on. It is exactly where I am supposed to be and what is part of the bigger picture.

I hope your walk through the doors of this life, bring you the full gamut of what it means to be a human, being in this place, a spirit, among the thin veil of this ‘real’ world.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

I put a cherry bomb in my mouth…

The mild morning air and fresh sun on the garden plants, had a calm but purposeful energy. I stood in the relative quiet. The dry hay mulch crackled just slightly underfoot. I wanted to move slow, stay tired and just relax. Overall, this time outside, noticing the browning of leaves, the many little bugs, and the curled up, shriveled bumpy cucumbers feels like an ending of things. Late Summer in the garden, a peaceful death.

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My body had aches from a short night’s sleep. and general lack of fitness. My mind was still junked up, with a tough ending to the Friday night shift. I had to let go, part of team. Hard to do, wish it could’ve been different. A very full day ahead, felt daunting. I was just in my shorts and a comfy tee, almost pajamas, walking among the plants…

I just felt sort of blah, and I hadn’t even brushed my teeth yet, to start the day. I noticed a small fruit. It was orang-ey yellow. Really round, and small. A bite sized tomato.

2014-08-16 08.11.48Without thinking much, I grabbed it, rubbed it around in my hand, and popped it into my mouth.

WHOA!!! POP!! GUSH! Brightness and Acidity, a little sweet, VERY TART! Boom! Flavor! That’ll wake ya’ up! Wow, I know how vibrant a fresh garden tomato can taste. I’m no stranger to it, after the last few years of growing these things. I shouldn’t be the surprised in the least! But I was. Happily Surprised…

My dull and brown morning, was so opposite of the flash of blaze from this baby flavor grenade. It almost jerked me out of the foggy mindstate I was in. I appreciated the message, that even among this dying jungle of leaves, there is still a lot of potency left. Nothing has gone bland or tasteless yet. In fact, there is still lots of ripening left to do, before the winter comes.

My days and weeks sometimes feel like this melancholy morning moment. I can get bogged down, staring at the holes eaten by parasites to my life. I can show you the browning edges and half-broken roots, from the harshness of a Kansas summer. When thinking about my jobs or my relationships or my material ‘things’ I see that the harvest is looking slim. The varieties I’ve chosen, are low producers. They are slow producers, and I could’ve cared for them better.  I left them to fend for themselves, I didn’t nurture enough this year…

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I can show you a garden full of failure, and life full of it too, if I want to. I can show you that the spring is long gone. The midsummer was very dry. The fall is approaching fast. I wish for those more optimistic May days. Back then, the whole of possibility lie ahead. The black crumbly canvas seemed more blank and fresh. Now, it’s light brown and cracked. Bugs crawl openly, they hang underleaf. Little deep green poops are evidence of their destructive chewings…

Back in May, there was not much to eat in the garden. Maybe a snow pea pod, but nothing more, not in mine. Now there are tomatoes, a couple peppers maybe, ugly cucumbers that are probably bitter as heck. But fruit has arrived. The plants have produced. The process is further along, I could enjoy this, if I wanted to.

Rarely does my mind, want to be, where it is. It usually wants to remember back to days golden and passed. Maybe it wants to shoot ahead, to some imaginary moment, where everything is perfect, and there is no more yearning, no more hoping for difference. I want everything I have, I have everything I want. Not the material, not just the material, but everything. The spiritual, the physical, the mental and shiny toys too, with travel to anywhere and everywhere simultaneously…

I remember Wayne Dyer talking about the morning, afternoon and evening of life. How we experience the whole of our trip upon the earth in stages. I see them in the garden too. I see the early spring. The youngness, the fragility and freshness of youth. I see the weeds come in and want to infest our garden. I see the plants develop, mature, begin to flower. Now these days there is fruit on the vine. It ripens, but not just as I would like it to. I know there is a timeframe, the end is out there. These are not immortal tomatoes.

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The brightness of the flavor hit me like a blast. I woke up to the power of that tiny red ball. A cherry bomb, exploding. Do we produce like that too? Do we develop and ripen creatively in a way that explodes with our own unique flavor? I hope we do. I think of Jesus saying 
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33) And I wonder about mine.

I guess the tomato I ate this morning, didn’t grow, to dine on itself. It probably will never know how good, or how bad or dull or vibrant, it’s own flavor is, to the one who eats it. It just grows and becomes. It doesn’t try or not try. It just tomato’s. I was the one who decided it was good. I wonder if God will decide I am?

A big question, comes from this little moment this morning. Am I producing good fruit? I hope so. Although I’d better not sit around and wonder about it too long. The seasons are progressing, time does move forward. I’d better get on with my Aaron-ing :)

I pray that you keep moving on with yours :)

Live beautifully my friends :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

 

A beat up bum and rubber legs

When every stroke of the pedals created another raw burning abrasion to my bum, I was sure wishing for a softer place to perch my patoot! Mile after hot sweaty mile, I got closer and closer to home, but I couldn’t get there fast enough! Muscles were aching and I felt beat, what had I gotten myself into!

I decided to take a bike ride on Tuesday. I had a rare day off mid-week, and I wanted to do something fun outdoors. Recently Lindsay and I had ridden our bikes to Ottawa and back, and after a flat tire ruined the end of that fun, I was wanting to get back on the steel (pedal) horse again soon.

Several years ago, in my later twenties I took up cycling as a way to get more fit. Back then I rode a lot. I bought some sweet gear and spun many miles on my bikes. Now, I rarely ride, but when I do, I have nice equipment to play with.

Tuesday I wanted to ride the Flint Hills Trail, East from Ottawa to Rantoul. So I set out northbound from Princeton around 10:45 in the morning. I made it Ottawa with a steady pace, and proceeded down 7th street to embark on a new, but very local adventure. I was thinking to myself about my early days of riding bikes. I was noticing the clean shifting and smooth ride of my Jamis Nova, Cyclocross bike. It is just perfect for these chip-gravel trails. I was commenting to myself about learning to appreciate these human-powered machines.

2014-07-29 10.50.42I have never ridden a very high-end expensive bike. I have an older Schwinn road bike, that is classic and cool. I have a scratched-up, but trusty Trek mountain bike too. I remembered how I had started out on a Wal-Mart-Special mountain bike. It was heavy, it had psuedo-sloppy-suspension and I wore out the crank assembly after only 500 miles… It was a gift to help me get in better shape, and it did :) It also was a great way to start my adult bicycling hobby.

These bikes I have now, are a step up. The components are higher quality, they perform much better, they will last a long time. For as much as I ride now, they may last forever :)

I remember getting that first bike, and something I wanted was a ‘nicer’ cushion-y seat. I probably bought one and installed it. Along with any other gadgets I could find on those back shelves in the corner of the Wal-Mart store. It seems that being a beginner biker, a lot of people want to have a more comfortable seat on the bike.

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Funny thing about my current bikes, even though they are more advanced bikes, meant for real riding, and lots of time in the saddle, the seats are not very well cushioned. In fact, they are slender and smallish. The seats on my ‘nice’ bikes, just aren’t really that… well… nice.

Years ago, I began to see that most of the ‘real’ bike riders didn’t have big cushion-y seats on their bikes either. The more ‘serious’ the cyclist,  it seemed, the more slight the seat. Along with a smaller frame, the lighter wheels, the condensed gearing components, and a much bigger price tag too. The more you pay, the less you get, weight wise that is.

Once a person has more experience with riding a bicycle longer distances, you start to learn the more proper ways to mount the thing. You learn about the ‘sit-bones’. You learn that there are these two very tough, very hard bone ends that you use, instead your flabby butt, to sit on. With regular and enthusiastic time in the saddle, you learn that a small seat is actually comfortable, and it doesn’t need a bunch of padding to be so.

So, toward the end of my 36ish mile round-trip ride on Tuesday, I was whining and wishing again for that big padded couch sized pillow, that I had bought long ago. I was wanting the comfort instead of the performance version. I was hurting, and so I took breaks.

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See, as an amateur pedal biker, and as a now, out-of-shape rider, I look to the seat to solve my problems. I look to the options I could go and buy to make my experience more comfortable. I want to think of ways to instantly transform a painful situation into a soothing one. I think the problem is the seat itself. My butt hurts, it is on the seat; must be a bad seat…

Ummmm WRONG!!

Actually the problem isn’t out there, on some object or situation to do with the bike. The problem is in here, it is with me, myself and I. The problem is that my ass, is out of practice. It has gotten tender from lack of use. If I don’t exercise on my bicycle regularly, I lose the stamina, the strength and toughness of tush, it takes to ride comfortably 36ish miles through Franklin County.

As much as I wish I could blame something outside of myself for causing my discomfort, the spikes of pain originate within my being, not within the seat of the bike. My discomfort is coming from within, and the ability to extinguish the pain is within me too. When I decide that I want to improve myself, and I want to master this thing, I will again spend several days a week, astride the bike. I will invest more energy, doing the thing that creates the pain, and through that process will toughen up and enjoy it more again.

I have never been a big fan of exercise, or routine, or being some fitness freak. My personal relationship with my body’s health is one of complacent avoidance until a streakish stretch of focus gets me closer to where I want to be. Then I let it go again.

I have the answers to making this all easier. I have the equipment to do it. Within myself is the only place worth investing my energy pointing fingers of blame. That is a painful notion in and of itself. Calling the seat the problem, is soo much easier. Then I get to rest on my excuses about the cost of the seat, or not having extra money, or why didn’t they install a more comfortable seat in the first place. I could talk all day about the reasons I am experiencing a pain in my butt. I could expend all those words and never speak the truth that the problem is me.

Something else I considered on my dusty Tuesday ride, is about other bikers. (Mistakenly, I do compare myself others too often.) I wondered about those guys out there, who are in wonderful health. Like two studs we met on the Rail Trail last week. They were riding from Garnett to Topeka, wow. Also there are some local guys who pedal every day from Ottawa to Garnett and back. More than I can easily do. To me, they are masters of this cycling thing… I am not.

I wonder about Happiness. I tend to connect Mastery with Happiness. If only I could be in optimal health, then I could be Happy. Or if I could create a super abundant income, that would do it. Or even, if my spiritual connection to God, was crystal clear, surely I would then, finally, be as Happy as possible…

I’m back again to the ‘ol seat analogy… If something I’m connected to would change, then I could be more comfortable…

Nope. I think that between the steel-legged stud cyclist, or the flabby amateur, the one who is Happy, is truly: The one who decides to be…

And I am the only one who can make that decision for me.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

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Although I found it hard to smile after my Tuesday ride, I do recommend our local Prairie Spirt Trail (north-south) and also the Flint Hills Trail (east-west), we are really lucky to have such quick access to safe and scenic pedaling.

Also, just FYI, I do own some padded shorts, and am aware of the benefits of Monkey Butt creme. There are ways to ease some comfort of bike riding, I chose to leave them out of this analogy, to keep it more concise :)

 

When the rear is cracked, the smells roll in…

By opening up my pseudo-convertible, the sun warmed my head, I could glance all around at the tops of the collegiate peaks, and cool mountain air could flow completely through the vehicle. Beautiful driving, a couple weeks ago, on our Colorado roadtrip, it was. I have already told you some about our exciting rockcrawling adventures…

I didn’t tell you one of my favorite features of my beat-up 1997 mid-sized SUV: It has a sun roof. I’ve never had a sun roof before, in a car of mine. Also there is a button on the console that rolls down the window in the rear. The back of the car can open up on command. By dropping the four windows, sliding back the sun roof, and letting the back glass sink all the way down, you have an ‘almost’ convertible.

Out in the mountains of Colorado, I really appreciated letting the sun the sights and sounds come in from every direction. Something else came in too. The Smells.

At the beginning of our mountain driving, I was so excited and anxious. I was begging my wife to let me open up the car, and cruise. On I-70 the wind was wonderful but loud, at 60mph through the inclines and much, much faster on the way down. The sun too began to bake us. On our first day of mountain driving, we had almost reached Aspen by the time Lindsay mentioned the nasty smells that were spoiling our beautiful views.

With the car completely opened up, you get a new perspective on the road and traffic. Although you can’t see it with your eyes, your nose begins to tell you, that all the pretty Jeeps and Subarus and Mercedes SUV’s cruising along with you, are kinda farting their way down the interstate. Yeah, you really find out that our cars are relieving themselves mile after mile. The heavy, putrid corridor of polluted exhaust gas creates an invisible river of stench, and we just drive along through it.

I have been around enough to remember plenty of times that I noticed a nasty smell, coming from a vehicle up ahead. I usually hope the problematic smoke isn’t my own, and I notice when it clears up as I pass them. Most of the time it does :)

This was something different though. I had been waiting to get alone on the byway, and really enjoy the mountain air, instead of everyone else’s fumes. Then finally, just after cresting the peak of Independence Pass, and we were the only car on the road, the yuck, was still with us. When Lindsay said again, that the gassy odors were bothering her, it occurred to me, that we might be smelling our own exhaust. :(

As we twisted our way down the mountain at 25mph or so, that open back window was creating a draft, and it must’ve been sucking the air right from our tailpipe, into the car. Darn. My convertible and wide-open ride, was actually part of the problem. As soon as we rolled up the rear glass, and the fun swirling air ceased, we didn’t have to breath the nasty smog smells anymore. Problem, pretty muchly solved.

Since then, as I drive around, I have tested the theory again. If I’m not driving very fast, or the wind is just right, there it is, an almost headache inducing cocktail of exhaust smells, all of my own.

Okay, big deal. Who cares. Your old car smells yuck, probably needs a tune up, and you are pretending to have a convertible, when you don’t. Is this really a blog worthy topic???

Maybe not. True. BUT! The metaphor hit me just yesterday while cruising downtown Ottawa.

In the last few years, I do feel that I have opened up my mind, more than ever before. Whether it is new ideas about debt and money, living in sobriety, relationships and marriage, or even the real biggie, a spiritual walk with the Christ Jesus himself. I have found certain buttons that dropped open some of the windows in my mind. Maybe I didn’t do it at all. Maybe it was the divine hand of almighty God redirecting my life path. Who knows! I don’t.

Anyway, now that I feel more open, more aware, more awake to levels of consciousness that I didn’t know before, I seem to notice more of everything. My mind has more exposure to the beauty and divine artistic creation of our universe, the physical and spiritual. My soul is touched in most warm and heartfelt ways by little things. An a cappella version of Sanctuary, by the kids of Westminster on a Tuesday night at the end of a long day of VBS Day Camp, can melt my heart. Watching several strained steps taken by a fellow church member, heading into the local Wal-Mart yesterday, almost dropped me to my knees. Her spine was crushed in a car wreck last year, and now I saw her taking steps. Wow.

Just like opening the windows of the car, up in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, my life now is more rich with magical scenery than ever before. I am grateful for that. Just like that driving experience though, around others, sometimes I notice the fumes seem to spout continuously, spoiling the air for those nearby. I do hear things differently now. My ears can pick up the excuses, the hopelessness or cyclical self-fulfilling, self-defeating language. It is a yucky sound in my ear. I am bummed out, and let myself be bothered by it now. I never used to before. It just seemed normal, and even endearing, to hear about someone’s problems, gripes and maybe some gossip too.

Not so much anymore. I hear these thing differently now. It is hard not to think that when someone says they have no options, or are stuck, that there are plenty of things they haven’t tried. The victimhood seems so deeply ingrained, that it is woven into the fabric of our beings. And that stinks.

Yet! I am not finished.

Just like the analogy of the car, with it’s windows rolled down, I am experiencing lots of fumes that don’t come from someone else. My enjoyment of this ride of life, is just as polluted, or maybe made more toxic by my own byproducts than those around me. I see that clearly too. Opening up my mind, experiencing new ideas firsthand, I am quick to notice my own bullshit, and be bothered by it. I hear it in my own voice. I see it in my own actions, the re-actions, the non-actions and the too-little-too-late ones.

I am more aware than ever of my own faults these days. I ‘know’ that I can grab my own bootstraps at any time and get to work, and yet I don’t do it. I ‘feel’ that if I get on my knees give myself fully to the Lord God Almighty, that good will come of this pea-sized life of mine. Every day that I put that off, leaves me smelling the stink of my fear, my weakness and pride. I see more now than ever, my own smallness, my lack and yes my excuses too.

So, what is the solution? So many times I wish I could find the button again. I want to roll the windows back up. I want to see the world again through a greasy glass lens, that separates and distorts me from the truth. I want to hide behind the faux protection of this thin clear sheet. If only I could get back to that place where the problems all belonged to everyone else, and not to me. I could go back to living in the moment, feeding my flesh each of its desires. I could laugh again and talk trash, and tear down others, in order to prop myself up higher. I want it again like that, so many times, I embarrass myself.

But, I don’t think it works that way. These windows seem to have one-way motors. I still have more opening to do, to fully realize the expanse of the world seen and unseen that we’ve been give to occupy. I probably have them only barely cracked. I am grateful for these little clues I get, through everyday moments, like driving this budget 4×4 truck. I am bothered most, by my own smelly crap. If you see me, or talk with me, or have ever thought I may be depressed that day, it is probably because I am wallowing and sucking in too many of my own fumes.

I do thank you, for taking the time today to read the words on this page. This place is an outlet for some of my exhaust. I release little black characters of BS line by line, and most of it is worth just what you paid for it. Nothin’.

:)

I hope you have a blessed day :)

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The last twist of the deodorant stick, Plop! Onto the floor

There is a guy who has designed the plastic parts that make up the container and dispenser that holds and applies my sport stick deodorant. WHY didn’t he design some sort of catch or lock, so that the last little bit could be used, instead of just falling out onto the floor every time it is almost all used up? Sure, I have tried to pick it back up, reinsert it into the ovalish tube and swipe again, but it usually doesn’t work.

I have even tried just using the ejected end piece on it’s own. And that is less effective yet! I guess I am frugal, and want to apply every ounce of deodorant that I bought, instead of throwing it away. In these moments, I usually think of some guy like me, who uses 3-D CAD or something to design the packaging materials, and who maybe had an idea for a locking system, but was told by the higher ups, to skip it, let people trash that last 1/16th ounce, and just buy another overpriced deodorant stick…

Do you spend a lot of time ‘thinking’ about the origins and decisions behind these little insignificant pieces of our lives? Remember a few months ago, I wrote a blog about how the spout on my coffee pot was designed so small, that you had to barely tip the thing, to not spill coffee everywhere? This is typical for me, to notice a slight error or problem in the design of something, and wonder how it wasn’t already addressed before I noticed it.

I do this alot. It happens at home, with household products. It happens at work too. I notice flaws in design, and especially in the systems which we use to operate and interact with our physical world. At one point, I thought this blog project may become a string of stories about the little things I notice, and how maybe there is a bigger meaning behind it all. I really like when I pick out some life lesson, from the patience it takes to pour a cup of coffee from my tiny-spout pot…

Today though, the motivation is different. Yes, I notice that I am aggravated by the poorly constructed deodorant container, and probably a bunch of other things too. BUT, I wonder if this little pattern and habit of noticing is helping me or not. In the workplace, many times my insight to a better system, or noticing a speed bump in production is highly valuable. We can increase efficiency, and maybe cut costs, by smoothing out the workflow. Yet, sometimes well enough, is better left alone, and we can just focus on the work itself, instead of changing the way we do it.

Sometimes I can turn off the ‘problem solver’ part of my brain, sometimes I struggle to. See what I’m saying is that using this skill may in fact be creating the problem, so that then I have a solution to work on. My mind may be powerful enough to invent a problem, where none exists, just so that it has a ‘job’ to do, and an answer to craft.

Hmm….

Reminds me of an email I got this week from the wise Mr. Steve Chandler. I wouldn’t say that I ‘worry’ about the deodorant stick, or even the tiny lip of the coffee pot. But let’s do replace ‘worry’ with scrutinize or over-examine.

 ” A foolproof piece of advice for the chronic worrier: and I promise you this will work.  For the next two weeks, take immediate notice of every time you worry.   

      When you catch yourself worrying — take an action.  Any action, but make sure you take one. Do something. Anything. And remember, you must do something every time you worry.  This is a great way to train yourself not to worry. Especially if you hate being in action. 
 

     The truth is not that I worry because I care.  The truth is, I worry because I am in the habit of worrying. If I really cared that much, I would stop worrying and take some action.

      I worry in order to do nothing.  Doing nothing about a problem soon becomes the problem.  I’m not taking any shots at this thing, and, like Wayne Gretsky said, you miss one hundred per cent of the shots you don’t take.”

- Steve Chandler

Wow, Steve has some real gems in there. Short and to the point. I don’t scrutinize my world because I care, and that I want to improve it always. I do that because I’m in the habit of doing in. Sometimes I take action, sometimes it is positive and helpful, sometimes not. Sometimes I just notice the problems and do nothing. That then, becomes the problem, like Steve says. Then the problem grows, the issue becomes embedded. I could scrutinize and over-examine and then worry that the fix will never come. I could become entranced with the idea that I am stuck forever with no solution. I could lose hope. Eventually I may take action, bold action, the ‘wrong’ action, based on an over-inflated mental image of a distorted reality….

Oh, that could maybe happen….

Oh yeah, that HAS Happened!

Just something to notice to myself today. Just an idea I want to bank and refer to from time to time. I may be ‘worrying’ in order to do nothing, and planting myself a fertile garden plot full of future problems, to be dealt with at harvest time.

One of my favorite things that our Pastor Tim Soule says usually at the closing prayer for Bible Study, has to do with thoughts. He usually says something like ‘Lord, take these ideas we’ve discussed, that are of You, and let them take hold and grow within us. And, Lord, for those ideas not of You, let them blow away and be gone.’

Just because a thought crosses the window pane of my mind, doesn’t mean that I must believe it. It is a projection that is apart, adjacent, and although hard to let go of sometimes, will always be replaced with another in some amount of time.

Helpful thoughts Lord, I ask today that I will notice. And I also ask that all others be blown away in the summer breeze. Thank You, Amen.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

The way is rocky, the risk is death, all in good fun

On the edge, cold crosswind blasting and we’re barely moving at all. Bouncing up and dropping down, one set of tracks against the steep slope, the other set on the edge of a thousand-foot drop. Last week I got to spend lots and lots of time, doing something I love. Yes, I love to be perched up on some high altitude 4×4 trail, exploring and enjoying the “summit’ing”  experience.

I love that stuff so much, that the transition back to the ‘real world’ this week has been quite tough.

I did learn a lot last week, while on vacation in the Rocky Mountains. I finally got to spend a good amount of time driving the upper pass roads and rocky trails. I again thank my wife for letting me have my fun :)

I keep talking about how much fun it is to be up there. I have told lots of people how I enjoy the thrill of piloting my beater ‘Yota up and over the mountain. I also hear feedback that not everyone thinks this would be a ‘fun’ activity.

Some say it would be scary, or crazy, or risky. Some ask, what would happen if you broke down up there? Others, remind me that you can still see perfectly beautiful views from the bottom, with no need to drive to the top :)

Well those things are true. It is risky. I could break down up there. I also see the beauty in the streamside winding paved roads at the bottom. Much smoother to drive too, than those no-maintenance rock trails above.

We all have different tastes don’t we :)

I do need to notice and share a couple insights though, about my drive on Mosquito Pass, or Richmond Hill Road, or especially Express Creek. These roads are ROUGH, my friends. These aren’t roads in the sense that the ground itself is a smoothed out cleared stretch of land that is covered in pavement, or even little gravely-sized pebbles. Nope.

These roads we played on, are well worn, but all the soil, in between the rocks that ever was there, is now gone. The rocks range in sizes. Sometimes they are gravel yes, but many times bigger too. Baseball Size, grapefruit size, sometimes a basketball or two. Usually you are driving around the bigger stuff, like chest-freezer size or car-size. Anyway, this kind of driving is much different than our normal cruise.

Even though it’s not muddy, I use 4 wheel drive. The steepness is easier to climb with two wheels pulling and two wheels pushing. I use low range in the transfer case. This reduces the output speed of the driveshafts and lets the motor torque it’s way up the mountain. It helps going down too. Using the lower gears reduces the wear on everything. The truck is happier, and so is the driver. I try not to use my brakes, so I shift a lot too. Even though it is an automatic transmission, many times I want to use only the lowest gear. Also, I could want to prevent too high a gear from kicking in, so I shift constantly back and forth throuh L, 2 and D.

Advice I got way back in 2012, out in Ouray, on my first ever 4×4 mountain drive, was simple. Go Slow. Slow is the key. Slow feels better on you, and the machine. Slow is the only way, to take a stock suv, up these trails and return in one piece.

I’m not talking about the slow in the driveway on Sunday stuff here. I am talking, barely moving. Sometimes, you want the vehicle to just simply inch forward, and you don’t care how long it takes. You just care that you stay slow, steady, in control. Gravity can be pulling you severely, either forward or backward, or sideways too. You just sometimes want to stay upright, and let the movement happen at the slowest (and safest) possible rate.

Yes, I really enjoy those moments too. Sometimes after climbing a spooky little incline, or skating some off-camber dipty-doo, or dropping ever so slowly down a cliff’s face, I would cackle and rejoice and laugh out loud, a hyena crying into the mountain air. I would amaze myself at the obstacle we just conquered and joy was coursing through my veins!

Funny huh! Funny how back in the ‘real world’ I don’t treat my life in the same way as these mountain roads. Funny how, I detest and scour every time I hit a little bump. Funny how I hate the razors edge, climbing toward an obstacle or dropping down into a valley. I seem to despise every and any pebble in my way.

Nope, in my ‘real life’ I want things to be smooth. I want them paved with glass. I don’t want turns or hills or have to stop. I seem to want a perfectly-paced highway all to myself, wide and clear. I don’t want to stop to refuel, I don’t want to maintenance my ride, and I don’t want anyone or anything in my way…

Ha.

Yeah, we know different don’t we. Traffic is busy, others are all around. In my ‘real life’ I rarely feel that I am on some thrilling adventure. Instead I’m bored with the mundane-ness, yet rarely steer away from my normal route. Road-rage happens all the time in my ‘normal-life’. I loose my temper, in fact, right now I’m boiling-over, and seething.

I see the irony here. On one hand, I want the challenge and thrill of a difficult road to travel. On the other hand, I want it easy, without stress, I don’t enjoy this version of it, I say to myself, I would rather be on some other road.

That is another thing about the real mountains. Up high you can see so far. Up on Mosquito Pass, outside of Leadville, Colorado, I could see many other roads to travel. We spied them from afar and then made our way down and over and up to them. From far away those tracks looked so smooth. The pitch looked gradual and shallow. The rocky obstacles just blended into the trail from far away. A simple and fun dust covered byway to the sky. That is what we see from a distance…

Not true, once you finally made your way there. Just as many bumps, just as steep up, just as slanted down. The roads were pretty much the same all over those mountains. They are ROUGH. That is the advice we always got, when asking about a new trail. “It is ROUGH”, they would say. “Go Slow! You’ll enjoy it if you take is easy. The views are spectacular.”

They weren’t just talking about Hagerman Pass, or trail to our lunch spot above Leadville to the East. Life is rough. My normal everyday travels are rough. There are many obstacles big and small. There are lots of ups, and lots of downs. This moment includes all same characteristics as those bumpy tracks…

Except. Except, I don’t usually slow down, in my real life. I don’t usually drop to the lowest possible gear. I don’t usually inch my way through anything. I go too fast. I am bouncing and crashing and smacking into the debris. I am tense and stressed and worried about never making it to the top. I am looking all around at the other roads, other people’s roads, and thinking they are all so smooth and attractive. Not like mine. Not rutted and rocky, like mine.

I am abusing myself, abusing the vehicle that got me this far. I bang it up and bruise it. Dents are all over, from the reckless ways I drive myself in my ‘normal life.’ I am mashing the gas, and stomping the brakes, all at the same time. I want to get to the end, and I’m terrified of moving foward too. It’s a discombobulation. The transmission grinds, the tires squeal and the motor races. Meanwhile, the mountain abides.

The mountain and it’s road is rocky, yes. But it is not going anywhere. It is stable. It is solid. It provides a foundation to view spectacular grandeur. The weather can be harsh up there. It will turn on a dime. I must be prepared for it, but If I go slow, and don’t panic, it will all be okay. I forget that too often.

Steve Chandler is a world-class life coach and author. I have talked with him many times. Not recently though, it’s been over a year. His words were fresh in my mind, up on those granite ridges last week. ‘Slow Down,’ he would say. If things are not going well, you are going too fast. ‘Slow Down’. I get it now, more than ever.

At the slowest pace, these bumps are little thrills. In the right gear, with the right speed, any of these roads are doable, in even the most modest of 4-wheel drive cars. A jacked-up Jeep is not necessary. The view are stupendous, from 13,000 ft above sea level. Of course, you can only see them, if you are going slow enough, to look up from the road. Otherwise, you just stare at the rocks ahead in fear.

Speed is one of my biggest problems. I want it all now. I don’t want to go slow. I am ‘over’ the bumps of life…

Except, they will keep coming. They will always be there. Even in the flat lands of Kansas, our inner worlds, can be continental ranges of peaks and valleys. Right now, in this very moment, I need to ask myself if I can slow down. I need to define the way I want to travel the road I’m on, or if I want to detour, and find another. I wonder, If I will take the advice that I got from the camphost at the Ouray KOA, or from Steve Chandler, or from the guys at the Aspen forestry office. I wonder if I will even take my own advice, and Slow Down??

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

 

Overdrive Off… At least this week!

Wham! Skidddd…. The heavy metal picnic table went grinding backwards. Moments ago as my wife was gone, I decided to move our truck real close to the table so the unloading-reloading process would easier. I got it there, and a new dent too. Oh well, just below the taillight, and the truck is already beat up. Could have been worse.

This camping, hiking, 4×4 trip to Colorado (that we are on right now) has been full of little moments just like this. My best intentions and pre-planning have produced baby disappointment while the happy accidents and favorable blessings are really what is making all the difference.

Even in the midst of this vacation I want to take the time out here to record some of my experiences and share with you.

As you read last week, I recently bought a beat up old truck to drive out on this trip. Before we left, I had only taken it for a twenty minute test drive. Needless to say, I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t make it across western Kansas. Luckily it did.

Then I was hoping it could handle the mountains okay. Luckily it did. And even yesterday we banged across, tumbled straight down, and crawled straight up, some seriously gnarly backcountry trails. All good right???

Well almost all good, almost all bad…

See, as we slowed down and entered our campground on the first day of this trip, I heard a reoccurring squeak. I jumped out and went to the driver’s side rear wheel. Sure enough, all the lug nuts were finger loose. Did I mention that this campground sits near the bottom side of the high altitude switchbacks of Independence Pass, that we had just drove over? This was after our trip through Leadville, and the I-70 mountain runs before that.

These are deadly places to lose a wheel.

Not by my power or prowess did we escape serious trouble. Some Angel held that thing on.

After I checked things out and we headed out for more fun, I just kept thinking about how lucky we got. Amazing.

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Yesterday’s adventures included driving to the top of Aspen mountain, we took a guided hike tour with other folks, all of whom rode the gondola up there. We were told at the forestry station that Richmond Hill Road was impassable due to large snow drifts in the shady spots. We wanted a nice mountain top lunch spot so we figured we would drive till we couldn’t anymore, then stop and eat and turn around.

We did find a great spot for lunch with 360 degree panoramic views. Then we found mud holes where the snow drifts used to be. We found thousands upon thousands of baby boulders to bounce across. We even found some super steep loose rock washes that we had to climb.

One particular spot was a short steep switchback with almost no room to pass next to a big pile of icy snow, it was melting and the ground was slippery wet rocks and mud. On my second straightened-up-start the wheels spun then finally grabbed. I could hardly watch as I was driving the razors edge of a slimy cliff, with a several hundred feet drop off to the side. I really didn’t even think of praying to make it up. Just as we motored beside the snow pile and crested this little obstacle amongst many, I said out loud, “Stay calm, take it easy, don’t panic, don’t do anything stupid right now.”

And that is one of my big takeaways so far on this trip. It could help me in lots of moments of my life, to just remind myself of that…

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Earlier I mentioned an angel. Well, during every one of these exhilaratingly terrifying moments, an angel has been sitting right beside me. My wife has been the number one best part of this trip. Better than the durable Toyota, better than the mountain top views, better than watching the sunrise from my hammock, better than the campfire burger at the end of the day. None of these things would have any of the rich value to me, without her.

It amazes me, that she is willing to let me take her to the top of the Rockies and back. Her trust is all my strength, period. As I am puckered up and wonderin’ if we will get out of these mountain roads in one piece, she is there too. When I ask if she is scared, she says she just closes her eyes. Even these times are important, she lets me work, she is hopeful, she stays calm, so I can too. She is the best partner I could ever have hoped for. She shows me, beyond love.

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I am so good whenever she is with me, and when she is not, well… I run into picnic tables!

This beautiful Colorado day lies ahead of us. I can’t wait any longer to get out there and do it again with Her :) oh, and Roxy too :)

From the Nichols family to you, I hope you have a wonderful week, wherever you are.

With Love

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols