it’s just a shovel

Sometimes, when you talk to people about really mundane things, like refurbishing a shovel or why some tool has merit over another tool, you can see their eyes glaze over and you can feel any interest or enthusiasm leave their bodies while you’re talking to them.

That’s kind of fun in a really perverse way.

Kind of like a really mild form of waterboarding…tortuous.

And then sometimes, you find someone who shares your enthusiasm for tools and quality construction.

This guy is good…lots of practical videos on YouTube.

His thoughts about tools and keeping things running right…refurbishing good tools instead of replacing them with something substandard…are true and good.

“…keeping things squared away…”

I could learn a thing or two from this guy.

buy the lemonade


I bought some lemonade from some little kids who had set up a lemonade stand at the end of a dead-end street yesterday.

They had two signs…one at the stand, the other about 20 feet up the road.

They’d set up by a row of mailboxes…so I was a sitting duck for a sale.

The first time they asked me, I told them I didn’t think I wanted any lemonade.

When I turned around at the end of the road and came back , I reconsidered and gave them the four quarters and bought a glass.

Lemonade is a dollar now.

When I told them I was going to buy a glass of their lemonade…when I’d pulled the trigger and made the commitment…I noticed that there weren’t any glasses on the little table they’d set up by the road.

There wasn’t any lemonade container on the table, either.

The kid with the broken arm who was sitting behind the table reached under the table and pulled out the smallest plastic cup I’d ever seen…and then he filled it from a plastic container he also had underneath the table.

When the little girl who brought me my lemonade came to the car, she reached out for the money before she handed me the little glass.

They were pretty excited to sell me a glass of lemonade.

I don’t think they were getting much drive-by traffic at the end of their country road.

It wasn’t a major thoroughfare.

The lemonade was pretty bad. It made me question my decision to buy a glass.  Then I started wondering just where this lemonade came from.  Was the kitchen clean?  Did they make it in the woods? What’s that weird aftertaste coming from?

In a Stephen King novel, the kids wouldn’t even be kids.  They’d be aliens or some demonic force waiting to implant a strain of alien DNA through the purchase of a mysterious cup of “lemonade”.

The lemonade would be swimming with evil.

I don’t think that was the case here.

These little guys were pretty sweet.

They just didn’t know how to make good lemonade yet.

There are a lot of things that I pass up because it might be a little more expensive than I’m willing to spend…or I’m nervous about where it came from…or it might look a little different than what I’m used to.

I pass up a lot.

But sometimes, it’s the right thing to just buy some lemonade from some little kids who don’t have a strong understanding of demographics and market positioning and how geography sets up a business for potential success.

All they know about the lemonade business is that you should put a lot of sugar in it…but don’t stir it too much.

That’s all they know about the business end of it.

Although…they did get my money before they gave me the product.  Maybe they’re more business savvy than I thought?

I’ll talk about the “bigness of life” until the cows come home…but then I’ll go out and buy the same crappy Little Caesars pizza because it’s cheap and it’s a brainless choice.

No conflict between my philosophy and my actions there, huh?

the smaller i feel, the bigger it gets


I love running at night.

Actually, I run in the very early morning.  It’s the tail end of night.

I love it when it’s dark and the sky is perfectly clear and every star that I can see is shining brightly.

It makes me feel so small.

It gives me a glimpse of how big everything is.

When I run in the morning, except for the passing cars, I am the biggest thing on the road, though.

At least I tell myself that as I move slowly past unseen deer and bear off in the shadowy fields and woods.

It is a comfort to try and make myself feel as powerful and big as I can when I’m plodding along.

I know that’s not the truth…but it comforts me to think that.

Seeing all the stars this morning made me also think about perspective and my place in the world.

I am small.

That’s always interesting to remember that.  What quiet ego I have would attempt to make me feel otherwise…but I know how small I really am.

I am one amongst many…another body moving through air…just another.

Just another.

At the same time, I am huge.

My spirit is boundless…untapped and untried..and willing.

Maybe not able yet….but willing.

I’ve heard people talk about “simplifying your life”.

Usually, they talk about getting rid of clutter.  That’s pretty simple…and I guess pretty hard, too.

My wife would say that it’s pretty hard to get rid of my clutter.

Really simplifying your life is hard.

I know guys who if I said that we’re really pretty small in the big picture would argue with me.


I don’t know about any clutter back at the trailer…but these dudes have simplified their lives as much as anybody collecting books about how to get rid of stuff has simplified their life.

It’s a pretty simple existence…truck, cigarettes, job, satellite dish, and that complete collection of the works of Charles Dickens that they keep above the gun rack.

Just kidding about the last part.

I think that when you make your life small and closed in, you don’t have to worry about blowing your mind with thoughts of the cosmos and our place in it.

You just have to worry about nobody bumping into you on your way into the country store….or getting caught poaching bear so that you can send the liver to some black market in China.

I guess misperception is still a rock solid world view…even if it’s not really the truth, it’s the truth for whoever lives it.

We’re all pretty small in the big picture.

That should take the heat off…we should enjoy each other, help each other…but it just seems to make us scurry in the ant hill a little bit harder, desperate to get another little piece of our little place in the world.

Our triumphs matter…but they’re small given the scale of place and history.

So one runner in the dark…underneath the clear sky and the bright stars in it…gets to feel the gift of smallness along with everyone else looking up and wondering the same thing at the same time.

Maybe that’s the only thing that really makes us big?

Maybe it’s only when we all recognize how small we really are as a group…maybe it’s only the “togetherness” that ever lets us live large?


falling stars


I didn’t run this morning.

My hip was bothering me….so I didn’t run.

It’s good to feel like I’m not on a treadmill.  I can get off when I want to.  I don’t have to run everyday.

Yesterday, I did run.

It’s starting to get cooler here at night. I can tell that Fall has arrived. It just feels kind of transient…like something even more different will be coming soon.

One thing that I noticed on my runs is that the road is sporadically littered with luminescence.

There are a lot of dead or dying fireflies on the road in the cool, early morning.

There’s not enough of them to completely light my way…just enough to make me notice them.

How hopeful they must be to light up in the warm early evening…and then, as it cools off later in the night, to die.

That’s what they do, though.  They live… right up till the last-minute.

And I doubt they’re conscious of what’s coming for them.  I don’t give fireflies that much credit for cognizant ability.  They just fly around, light up for a while, and then die.  That’s the way it goes for a firefly.

They don’t get their ducks in a row.

Fireflies don’t worry about 401k’s or getting ready for the time that will allow them to really enjoy their lives.

They don’t worry about paying their dues.

They just shine while they can…as brightly as they’re able.

You go there, firefly!  Good job!

It’s a different kind of beautiful to see them littering the road…a testament to blind persistence.  They’re just doing what they know.  They’re just “staying the course”.  They light up as long as they’re able…and a little bit beyond.  Sometimes they light up for a while even after they’re gone.

I hide my light behind worry and misplaced preparation.  I hide my light, convinced that it’s not my time to shine.  I hide my light because I don’t want to accept the responsibility of potential.

Not knowing is a whole lot easier than trying. Deciding that “I can’t know” is a lot easier than trying.

To jump into the river without worrying about the rocks on the bottom, just willing to be swept along by the cool, blue water…to be so obsessed with a creative activity that it was impossible not to shine out in the anonymous night…to do just out of an unconscious need to do…I guess that’s what I’d shoot for if I could…or would.

Just a firefly lighting up because that’s what fireflies do…they can’t help themselves, that’s what they do.

If you talk to enough creative people, sooner or later you’re going to hear that it’s really just about the work.

If you paint or write..if you press down the keys on the piano or play the guitar, if you just keep doing, then sooner or later inspiration is going to come back to visit you.  If you just sustain…if you just maintain…sooner or later it’s going to feel right again.

Ever-present longing is a hard thing to live with, though.

I think it would be nice to figure out how to just shine while I was here.



My youngest son went to preschool for his first day yesterday.

Jenny said that they split the day up into 15 minute activities, so I think he covered a lot of ground in the 3 hours he was there.

From what I understand, he had a great time at school.

After Jenny picked him up, they went shopping for some groceries.

Apparently, they have the pharmacy area right next to the self-check line.

Apparently, at the pharmacy they have a rack of reading glasses that spins.

Whether it spins fast or slow is up to the operator.

It’s possible for the rack to spin very fast.

I’m not sure if Nate was acting out a little after getting “left behind” for the first time or what was going on…but he found that if he spinned the eyeglass rack very fast, the glasses would all fall victim to centrifugal force and exit the rack at terminal velocity.

There were glasses everywhere.

It was kind of like a non-threatening gatling gun…the only pain it really caused was the pain in the a** Jenny must have felt Nate was being.

She’d describe the situation more tactfully…something like, “Nate was a real handful after preschool today.”  That’s nicer than “pain in the a**”.

Anyway, there she was, trying to finish checking out with her groceries, and the entire area around her is littered with cheap reading glasses, like manna from heaven for all the myopic old people surrounding her.

She said that she’d never seen more old people needing to try on reading glasses at that exact moment.

(I’ve seen them flock like crows around a thrown handful of corn…it must have been quite the scene.)

One old biddy…um, one older woman of advanced age and maturity who probably commanded respect because of her advanced age and maturity….nah….one old biddy…told her, “YOU NEED TO PICK THOSE UP!  HE’S GOING TO STEP ON THEM!”

Jenny looked at her and told her that she’d get them when she finished checking out.

( I imagine her using her best Clint Eastwood voice when she did it…like the “you feeling lucky, punk?  Well…are you?” voice.  That would have been cool…”I’ll pick them up when I’m ready, old punk…”.  Actually, she doesn’t have a Clint voice…but it would have been neat to shut down the old biddy like that.)

Things get more exciting than they should sometimes.

But what power does Nate have other than spinning racks of eyeglasses and yelling at the top of his lungs?

Probably not much power other than that.

I guess that’s what they call “paying your dues”.

You just have weird experiences that you have to work your way through.

That goes for the parents, too.

Children cure you of shyness.  It’s a self-preservation, knee-jerk kind of thing…you just react in the animal logic moment, scrambling to do some damage control while your world goes spinning out of whack around you…glasses flying everywhere and the geriatric audience looking on disapprovingly.

It’s horrible…but you don’t have time to be too self-conscious.

I guess you just have to enjoy the times in-between the spinning.

You have to enjoy the “even keel”… if it ever comes.

soul at a discount


I got the idea somewhere along the line that humility was one of the most pleasing traits you could have in the eyes of God.

I think that I thought that if a gentle sense of humility was pleasing to God, then a really well-developed and positive sense of self was something to be avoided.

I guess that humility might be the flip side of pride, though….like I could say, “I’M THE MOST HUMBLE MAN IN THE WORLD!!  DON’T LOOK AT MY DOWN TURNED HEAD…BUT LOOK AT ME!!! I’M AS HUMBLE AS CAN BE!!!“.

I don’t really know that I was hitting it from the right angle.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that one of the best things we can do in our relationship with God is celebrate the little piece of greatness He gave us when we were born.

“Little piece” is the best way I could describe what I think is going on…no real need to get a big head…but no need to get a droopy, sad head either.

He allows a small taste of what goodness is really all about.

We take that taste and in our self-flagellating way, tear it down and discount it all…living only for the future and harvesting sadness from our involvement with the “evil world”.

We sell ourselves short…and in the process discount what God has given us.

It’s kind of like there’s two well-defined planes of existence…the spiritual one that is separate from us and that we can never reach (while we’re alive)…and the physical one we’re “trapped in” right now.

Of course, the physical plane is so evil that the best thing we can do is transcend it…and because we can’t really fully transcend it, and because we’re trapped in it as long as we exist on earth, then that must make us pretty evil, too.


Now, I’m not as tortured by all this as writing it down would make it appear.  I think about it…but I’m not tortured.  I’m just thinking about it.

But when you discount a gift, it takes away from both the gift and the giver.

A party is only a celebration when it’s really appreciated.

There’s nothing wrong with really enjoying what we’ve been given in this life.

There is no crime in really enjoying and appreciating God, either.

It would ruin the field of Psychology if we could break things down in such a simple way.

We are given this life and all of its possibilities.

It’s a gift to be explored and celebrated.

That’s more than just a homily on a Hallmark greeting card…it’s something I really do believe.

Even if I don’t always express it well, I believe it.

Misplaced humility is a sad and confused thing.

The “confused” part comes when we suppose that there’s a big separation between the physical and the spiritual…that God is separate from us and unreachable.

And we need to keep our humble and contrite heads down, or somehow we’re going to find that God is just waiting to knock us back into the frame of mind we were supposed to sustain on our own.

Don’t get too “uppity” or you’ll get smashed by the hand of God….better to just lay low and wait for the end and the victory that waits for those who never reach…or appreciate.

I don’t think He set things up like that.  He gives us every opportunity for communion with Him.  I don’t think it’s God who celebrates and accentuates any kind of disconnect.

We’re just walking sausage casings…carrying an ever-present spirit that deserves to be appreciated… and celebrated. We are spirit with a wrapper…a silly and fragile casing that we slough off like a chrysalis when we die.

This world is not my home.

There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a gift.  There’s nothing wrong with celebrating a miracle.

There’s nothing wrong with loving what deserves to be loved.

where did all these words come from?

shark baby

Last night, my wife and I heard a noise outside.

“Is it something getting the rooster?” she asked at 2:30 in the morning.

“No…” I answered. “I think it was something behind the house…it was coming from a different direction than the porch.”

We have a rooster that …well, roosts on our porch at night.

He crows at 5:30.  I’m usually up so I throw him off the porch when I hear him start crowing so that our 4-year-old can sleep a little later.

We listened for the noise for a while…and then Jenny had another question for me.

“Do sharks have live births?  Or do they lay a bunch of eggs?”

I told her we’d have to look it up in the morning…along with whales and dolphins.  I didn’t know what sharks did about babies.

(It turns out that most of them lay eggs…but sometimes they hatch inside the female so it’s a live birth…but sometimes it’s eggs, so…..but I guess sometimes it’s a live birth, too.  It sounds like sharks are kind of confusing.  I guess that whales and dolphins have live births because they’re mammals….)

When things got quiet and we were going back to sleep, I started thinking about where all these words came from.

Not where all the questions we had at 2:45 came from…where all the words we use came from.  And not some professorial “well, of course you understand that this or that word was derived from the French word ‘terre’ ‘le pom de terre’ means quite literally ‘apple of the earth’ ”  ( I don’t know if that’s really correct…from what I remember, French was the only class I ever failed in school).

I don’t need the explanation for the origins of specific words or phrases.

What I wondered about last night was how did we get to the point where we have so many ways of describing things?

That’s pretty darn amazing.

They say that the Eskimo has a lot of different words for snow.

A whole bunch of words for “snow”.

Imagine that.

What is it about our makeup that demands we work that hard at describing things?

Is it that our spirits are so expansive and BIG that we struggle to express the wonder of everything around us?  And a kazillion words is the best we can do.

And a kazillion words…in spite of all our efforts…always fall short of expressing the wonder of the opportunity we’ve been given?  The opportunity to be alive and to be aware of the wonder of it all?

There are precise ways of using words…and punctuation…and some of them are cultural and set by geography, some seem kind of haphazard and random.

Words are easy to misuse.

But I do wonder this morning if all our words aren’t just a mask for our inability to really express how amazed we should be at the gifts we’re given.

Maybe if we say enough…and say it all fast enough…no one will notice that we really can’t express the thing we need to express the most.

We will always fall short of expressing that we have begun to understand the blessings.

We will always fall short with our words…but we try.

Maybe that’s almost enough.

when you get to asheville

Here’s a song from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s album  “Love Has Come for You”.

Asheville is a great place.

It would be nice if no one else noticed.

It’s getting kind of popular and crowded.

People seem to chase the “better place”…but when they all get there, they complain that it’s the same as the place they came from.

I wonder what the consistent element is?

I don’t know how long you have to live in a place to be considered a “native”, either.

4 or 5 generations later, are you a part of the “native” population?  Or does it take even longer than that?  Or is it just a matter of getting there a little faster than the next guy coming around to find a new paradise?

We live a little ways out of Asheville now….just far enough that it’s still kind of “home”… but we can go for a visit now instead of living downtown. It’s a good thing to be able to escape an environment that’s gotten too “hip” for comfort.

That being said…I still love Asheville.

If you can stand to drop down into the creative environments to be found up in Asheville, you really can get a good and quick fix of all the things that are hard to find in our little community…all the things good and bad that are hard to find in the conservative mountains.

And when you’re done visiting, you can go back home and check on the chickens.

It’s a good life.


Here’s another song…one with Edie’s husband.  He’s a songwriter, too.



I know people whose biggest regret in life is something along the lines of dropping the final pass in the high school championship or not getting the promotion that they’d hoped for.

It’s some shortcoming or mistake that they can’t shake…some opportunity where they just couldn’t rise to the challenge.

It’s a benchmark that wasn’t reached that they use to measure everything that comes after it.

This morning, the thing that was swirling around in my head was that I wish that I’d been kinder.

The guy that dropped the pass can’t back up.  There aren’t any do overs…you can’t repeat events and fix mistakes.

I can’t back up and fix things, either.

Mostly, I was thinking about my mother.

My mother used a wheelchair the last 15 or so years of her life.  Sometimes I hear people say that someone they know is “in a wheelchair” like that’s all the definition you’d ever need to understand them.  My mother ( and everyone else who uses a wheelchair…for whatever reason) wasn’t defined by that chair.

Anyway, she had a hard time getting around without assistance.

I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for her.

She worked really hard to try and make our lives as easy as she could in a hard situation.

I remember what a pleasure it was for us to take a warm washcloth and gently wash her face…(I just realized that I typed “us” in that sentence when I probably meant that it was a pleasure for “her”…but I suppose it was a pleasure for us, too…).

That was such a simple thing to do.  It didn’t take a lot of time or special preparations, the “tools” we needed were minimal, we didn’t make it into a big deal.  It wasn’t a hard thing to do.

I wish I’d done more of that kind of thing for her.

Of course, you can spend a lifetime beating yourself up for the things that you didn’t do.  In hindsight, it “doesn’t cost a dime” to make conjecture about how you could have been kinder.

That’s not a hard thing to do, either.

The hard part is probably exercising kindness in the moment.  It’s harder to see each opportunity and take advantage of it as the moment arises.

We are a self-absorbed species.  What species isn’t?

The fact that I’m writing this blog supports my self-absorption. Sometimes I can’t get enough of me…and I spend a lot of time with myself.  You would think that I’d be over it by now….but I really am pretty fascinating.

The thing that really does keep me awake at night sometimes is that I really wish that I’d been kinder in so many situations.

I wish I’d been better at getting the washrag ready…or brushing her hair…or just really paying attention every single minute that I had a chance to pay attention to her.

Maybe resilience isn’t learning how to forget past mistakes…maybe it’s learning how to really remember them so completely and so strongly that you gain enough knowledge and sensitivity from the remembering to change in the future?

I don’t really know.

My sister and I love our parents. We helped take care of our mother as well as we could in the moments we had with her…and she returned the favor. Sometimes, I helped her wash her face. Sometimes, I helped to try and make her life better.

I just wish I could have been kinder.


mcdonalds happymeal transformer…the monkey has tools

transformer toy collector

Our four-year knows how to work a computer.

Of course, he doesn’t know how to spell or type yet…so when he needs to look up something, he yells for me to type it in.

I guess I’m the monkey’s stick.

The monkey knows how to use tools.  I supose that I’m a tool.

Lately, what he’s been obsessing over has been some toys that McDonalds included in their HappyMeals over the years.

“mcdonalds transformer toys” are the keywords that open up the vault of videos on YouTube.

When you type that in for your child, you get about a million videos of adult men talking about the merits of these various giveaway toys.

Of course, all you see are the toys and the grown men’s hands…so it’s not as creepy as it sounds…but it’s still kind of creepy for these dudes to be so obsessed over these little figures.

Oh, well.

Anyway, Nate’s obsessed, too.

He watches these videos like there is going to be an exam at the end.

The funny thing about it is that he doesn’t understand that these are videos about toys that have already had their day in the sun. These are toys that aren’t available anymore. These are toys that are really hard to find.

These are toys that you can’t just go to McDonalds and get in one of their overpriced, under nutritious HappyMeals.

Of course, what really screws us up is that he’s been able to find some of them in thrift stores so he’s pretty sure that they’re still available if we just look hard enough.

There’s no divide between thrift stores and Walmart, either.  I think he thinks that thrift stores are just an oddly merchandised and marketed version of the regular discount stores.

That lack of discernment in a four-year old will mess you up…he really doesn’t get why we are so free with our purchases when the toy costs a quarter instead of thirty dollars.

It’s easier to find things at Walmart…the toy aisle is a big tease, the expensive robots at little boy’s eye level, enticing with “press me” come ons and the light up siren song.

It’s easier to find things…so the cry of “I FOUND IT!! LOOK….THE (SO AND SO OR WHATEVER)…I FOUND IT!!!” is too common.

There’s not a whole lot of difference between inexpensive or expensive in his eyes.

My son is no Ben Bernanke.  He doesn’t understand money yet.

But he really understands Transformer toys.

He has a strong handle on understanding the history of Transformer toys….but somewhere in there, he kind of got confused about history.  I think that time gets kind of compressed when it comes to the availability of all the toys in the known world.

So Nate will sit clicking the mouse…watching these videos about some cool transformer toy from 2003…visions of sugar plums and Optimus Prime swirling around in his head.

And I’m his tool…ready to come in and type something else that lets him go deeper into the Transformer HappyMeal rabbit hole.  I’m his facilitator.

Come on, Lucky Seven!!!  Baby needs a new BumbleBee convertible robot Transformer HappyMeal toy!!!