Life Can Be a Ferris Wheel

As a child, one of the things we would look forward at the end of every summer was the county fair.  Having the second largest fair in the state of Michigan brought many great rides, games, entertainment, and food.

There was one ride that stood out among the rest; the double Ferris wheel.  It stood far and above all the other rides and, when both wheels were turning at the same time, it was a site to behold.  I didn’t find the courage to take a ride on it until I was nearly ten or twelve years-old.  When I did, I saw the whole fair from high above and it was spectacular!  It could also be a bit frightening when the wheel would stop turning at the top and you were left two hundred feet in the air being held down to a slippery seat by only a metal bar.  Those were the days…

Today, most of those double Ferris wheels are gone for safety reasons.  They’ve been replaced by more modern ones with glass enclosed seats.  The principle is still the same as it was then; getting high above everything and enjoying the view.  Coming down, there was always a sense of sadness that we couldn’t stay up there longer (well, for those who were afraid of heights, they were glad to be back on the ground).

In some ways, life can be like a Ferris wheel at times.  We long for the high moments while waiting for what seems to be years for them to happen again.  Then, when they do, the momentary euphoria ends quickly bringing us back down to earth only to start the process all over again.

For some, every day can be like that Ferris Wheel ride going from lows to highs back down to lows again in just a matter of a few hours.  The emotional ups and downs seem more like a roller coaster than a Ferris wheel.

The reality is that we can’t be at the top all the time.  Life is full of challenges, hardships, and monotony.  But, when those high moments do come, it’s worth taking the time to slow down and enjoy the moment.  It’s one of the reasons I love photography.  Because it can capture those high moments and allow us to relive them again.   

You may still be waiting in line after what seems to be an eternity for the ride back to the top.  It may seem like Disneyland; every time you feel closer in line, you get turned around and go back the way you came.  

Be encouraged tonight.  Even if you’re not riding at the top of life’s Ferris wheel, remember that those times may come again when we least expect them.  It may be a random acquaintance that turns into a lifelong friendship.  It may be a stranger who helps us through a difficulty that lifts our spirits and hopes back to where they need to be.  And, not to mention that our time at the bottom will only make us stronger and help us to appreciate the high moments even more.

I’ll sign-off tonight with something one of my family members recently stated so well, ‘The bad news is nothing in life lasts forever.  The good news is, nothing in life lasts forever’… 

Love Always

Tailgating


Just what is it about people who feel they need to pull right up to the back bumper of your car while you’re both traveling down the highway at over 70 mph?  Do they think they’re going to push you off the road?  More likely than not, it’s just the intimidation factor. Or maybe they’re just in such a hurry that the millisecond of time they may save by getting a few feet closer to their destination will save them from being late to work.

Whatever the reason, mark my words, there are very few things that annoy me more while driving than when the dreaded pick-up truck gets right on my tail trying to ‘encourage’ me to get out of their lane so they can move past.  A part of me just wants to tap the breaks (and I have a few times) but that could cause an accident that I don’t want to be responsible for.  The other part of me wants to roll down the window and wave them the universal peace sign (two fingers of course). 

This week has been a travel week for me, and part of that travel was the drive to and from the airport (not to mention all the driving visiting customers).  While driving to the airport at five in the morning, I was amazed by the number of people who like to practice tailgating to get a step ahead on the highway before rush hour hits.  Their lack of concern for others was almost breathtaking to observe.  Nothing else mattered to them than their own agenda to get where they wanted to be.  Speed limits and turn signals were nowhere to be seen. It truly was also a good lesson in life.

In life, we all know someone who pushes so hard to get ahead that they figuratively tailgate others hoping to drive them out of their way on their road to success.  Their self-absorbed lifestyle is consumed with narcissistic thoughts of how life owes them a favor while they remain blind to the damage they may be causing to those around them.  Throwing safety and caution to the wind, they are ‘Pedal to the Medal’ not looking back to even say they’re sorry.

There’s a reason we’re supposed to keep several car lengths between us on the highway; it’s pure physics around what’s called ‘Stopping distance’.  Trust me, there are many websites dedicated to the mathematics around stopping distance that would bore you, but suffice to say, they speak to life itself as well.  Just how do we apply it then?

Throughout our life, if we’re always in a hurry to get to the next point or goal, we’ll miss out on many things.  We may push others away missing out on valuable relationships and memories. We may hurt others causing them to feel taken advantage of, or used, just to help us get ahead.  Whether it’s someone close or a stranger we may never even know about, rushing through life can cause collateral damage to others because we’re too busy focusing on our own path. 

The key to keep from tailgating is to slow down and leave some distance between ourselves and the next stop ahead.  If someone seems to be slowing us down, there may be a reason we’re not even aware of.  That person may just be the person who helps us get around some other obstacle we can’t yet see ahead.  They may be there to prevent us from being hurt by dangers in the road or from hurting others by our own recklessness. Or, maybe God put them there just to teach us a little patience and trust.

Rest assured, the future will take care of itself.  Whether we get to the next stop sooner than later is nowhere near as important as how we get there in the first place.  Breaking every rule to get there only a few moments sooner could cause regret we don’t want to live with.  Being a little late and getting there safely is much better than not getting there at all.  If that’s you and the thought of slowing down may be a tough pill to swallow, if you can see the benefit in following the path you’re on with patience, it will make the journey much less stressful. And, you may just find you don’t want to get to the next point as soon as you once thought you did…

Love Always

Getting out of the Weeds


This week has proven to be a great week, and a busy one.  The first half was spent in Tampa, FL for business training where I was able to connect with my teammates from around the country.  The training was mostly technical and around the future of what we’ll be selling. 

During our training, a common phrase used was, ‘Not to get too far down in the weeds’.   Meaning, not to get too detailed and specific about a technical point that would take away from the larger picture we were discussing. 

For whatever reason, it rang out in my head every time the expression was used by one of the presenters who was chasing a rabbit after one of our team asked them too many questions about a small point.  It was as though there was a lesson there for me.  Often in my line of work, the importance of paying attention to detail could make a million-dollar difference either in favor of or against the company.  So, you can imagine that I tend to pay more attention to detail these days.

Although paying attention to detail is crucial in my job, in life it can cause one to be myopic (single-minded and focused) and miss out on the bigger picture by being distracted with the insignificant details instead of seeing the broader picture.

I know, we’re all created (‘Wired’) differently and that certainly plays a role in what we do in life.  Some people will never be a visionary automaker because they’ll get caught up in how a stereo knob turns.  Others will never become engineers because they’re too concerned about what color the product is supposed to be.  But, even though we’re all different, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from each other.

The visionary would do well to listen to the engineers who tell them the product needs to be corrected before selling to the general public (i.e. Tesla).   The engineer would do well to listen to the visionary who can guide them in the correct route to take through the development stages helping to create a product that beats out the competition. 

For me, not getting too caught in the weeds helps me to see beyond myself.  It helps me to look past the problems I may think are big to see that I’m not alone in this world; others have problems even bigger than mine.   In fact, getting past the monocular focus helps me to find peace, hope, and a little less stress by not focusing on the negative.  It helps me to see the positive in a situation too. 

If you’re struggling to get out of the weeds in your life at times, I want to encourage you to step back and take a look beyond the small issues that tend to consume us all.  Sure, those weeds are important and could be hiding something dangerous, but if we miss the larger picture, we may be missing out on a lot.  The key is finding a balance.  Finding that balance, with God’s help, will make you more aware of the details in the weeds and allow you to enjoy the view more than you could ever have imagined. 

Love Always

My How Times Have Changed


The Mrs worked downtown at the antique store today which gave me time to get a few things done around the house like taking a nap, eating lunch, shopping for that next cell phone, and so on.  Despite all those physically exhausting activities, I ended the day feeling tired and, before I knew it, 5:00 came around and it was time to pick her up from her work.

I usually take the side roads downtown on the weekends because McKinney has become quite the getaway location for the weekend shopping trips and people, sadly, forget how to drive when they’re looking for parking places.  McKinney has also become a haven for photographers to take outdoor senior pictures, wedding shots, or just portrait shots using the alleys, which are all lined with old bricks and stone, so one needs to watch where they’re going. 

As I was driving down a well-traveled alley around the corner from the Mrs store, I was forced to wait for a group of students to finish taking their iPhone photos of themselves against one of those popular brick walls.  These were no ordinarily dressed students either.  They were dressed like they were heading to a high-class dinner party or prom.

At first, I was surprised that the students were already having Prom (something I later found wasn’t the case) but then was taken totally back by the way the girls were dressed, or to be more precise, not dressed.  The father nature in me reared its head and my mind was flooded with thoughts of giving their dad’s a good talking too for letting their girls go out on a date dressed like that. 

Over dinner, the Mrs and I discussed the students and how they were dressed remembering how our prom dresses looked in the… well, a long time ago.  The first thought that came to both of us was how people would have reacted if a girl had dressed that way back then; they would have been quickly covered up and escorted home.  Of course, if a girl dressed the way they used to now, with the poofy shoulders and gowns, they would probably be laughed out of the prom today.

Time changes things; that’s a certainty.  The realization that it’s changing so quickly around us is sometimes difficult to deal with.  I understand more than ever how my grandparents must have felt and how easy it could have been to stay stuck in a time that has passed long ago.

We must fight the urge to give up and disengage from the world around us.  Or, to become critical of the world around us always comparing it to the past.  We must continue to look forward no matter how old we are.  But, looking forward doesn’t mean that we lose our moral values or hide from them because they seem old-fashioned.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Every generation will be challenged to keep moral standards and will need to know where ‘the line’ is to be drawn. 

In what seems to be an age of ‘anything goes’, now more than ever, young people need the wisdom gained from the mistakes we’ve made in the past and our guidance to help them from making the same mistakes again.  Looking forward, while having a clear view of what’s behind, will help us all stay the course.  It’s ok to be a little old-fashioned too.  Someday, those young people will be right where we are and will probably be thinking the same thing I thought today when they run across a group of young people all dressed up for a date…

Love always,

Brad

Not the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer


There used to be a saying long ago to describe someone who may not be the most intelligent or perceptive.  People would say ‘They’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer are they?’.  Being the blonde that I am, I’ve been perceived to be one of those dull knives more than once in my life.  Probably, it was because I wasn’t paying attention, was preoccupied with something and not listening, or just not interested.   Still, the label stuck with me. 

Labels are that way, aren’t they?  Once that label is glued onto you it’s hard to get off.  I’ve tried to remove labels from cans before and, trust me, it’s a lot of work.  Once that glue hardens, it stays there even if you rip the paper off.  It’s like super glue!

Name calling can be the same way.  Every day we hear labels being thrown around in the toxic political environment we live in. So much so, it’s like we’re all living as adult children back in the 2nd grade playground. 

Now, it’s true, there are those who may not necessarily be as quick to perceive, understand, or ‘Get it’.  They may not even be aware of it either.  I often run into them while waiting at stop lights for them to realize the light turned green; 30 seconds ago.  Moments like that do make it difficult not to label that person in front of us (among other things). 

We all label ourselves in many ways too.  We go by the label of our job description, family role, marriage status, sexuality, income level, skin color, hair color, musical preference, and so on.  It’s as though everything in life has a label! 

The Mrs recently purchased labels to stick to our airtight plastic containers in the cabinet so I won’t get the sugar and the flour confused.   Granted, those labels are a good thing.  Not to mention the labels that direct us where to go, what to eat and not to eat, warn us of danger, and even encourage us with positive feedback.  So, all labels are not inherently bad.

The key is knowing when we are using labels to either limit, look down upon, degrade, demean, negatively influence, falsely accuse, and even destroy another person.  Those labels need to go.  Imagine taking a label we may want to put onto our political opponent like ‘…Blank…tard’ and replacing it with something we can find about them that’s positive?   It may just change our perspective about a lot of things.

Tonight, here’s to re-labeling those people in our lives who we’ve kept under a negative label by finding something good about them and focusing on that.   Here’s also to re-labeling ourselves by stopping the negative internal talk (i.e. ‘I’m such a dummy, etc.’) and replacing it with positive talk; maybe even reinforcing ourselves with words of what God says about us.  If we can begin to re-label others, and ourselves, with something positive, I guarantee that it will change our lives forever and for the better…

Love always,

Brad

Born to be Wild


The movie that changed the landscape of cycling in America was truly Easy Rider and Born to be Wild was the iconic song they used in the movie.  I would dare say that everyone my age can remember the song and most will remember the movie (although I didn’t see it until I was older since it was rated R and, back then, you weren’t allowed to watch movies with that rating until you were eighteen with no exceptions (well, at least until HBO came along in the mid-70s). 

The movie was about a group of guys who set out to find America on their bikes and wound up running into a ‘backward’ world full of people who didn’t see America the way they did.  It was a counter-culture movie deliberately making a statement to the older generation from a younger generation at rebellion against societies rules at the time.

Whether we’re born wild, or to be wild, is another question altogether.  But the song’s lyric does raise a good question.   What if we were born to be wild by nature?  What does that mean?  Does it mean that those who choose a life of recklessness and random choices that buck the system are naturally born to be that way?  I doubt it.

‘Wildness’ is something I’ve never been accused of personally (I’ve been accused of many other things…).  In high school, my idea of being wild was driving with the windows of my Mustang down while playing (AC/DC) louder than my ears could handle (a time before I met the Lord).  I was really a rebel…  Although, I did have a motorcycle in college for a while that rode around with my Navy fighter pilot’s jacket on (not a chopper, but who’s counting). 

It’s been my experience that those who choose a wild lifestyle are doing so because they’re trying to either compensate for something they feel is missing in their life or rebelling against an authority of some kind.  Both are paths that will only lead to choices which bring with them pain and hardship. Unfortunately, when we’re in pain or angry, we’re often at a point in our life when we have the least visibility to the consequences of our choices until it’s too late.

SO, tonight, for all those out there who enjoy getting ‘wild’ like me by getting that extra side of fries once in a while or having one more cookie when you know you shouldn’t, here’s to you.  For those who are truly running from pain and rebelling from an authority in your life, you will always be welcome home no matter where your choices may lead you because you are loved…

Love always

Indecisiveness – Breaking Free from Fear


Decisions are a normal part of life.  From the moment we’re born we begin to make them and never stop.  Throughout our life we make good ones and bad ones not always knowing the difference until later.  Some decisions take more time and others are spontaneous; subconscious if you will.

Depending on the person, it may be a burden overshadowed by fear just to decide whether they want to have Chinese food or a Burger for dinner.  Not to make light of indecisive people because it really can be a challenge for some to make the smallest of everyday decisions like when to eat, what to wear, what television show to watch, or simply whether to call a friend when they need to talk.

What drives our inability to be decisive?  Without any doubt, fear of the unknown is one of the primary influences on a person when they are making a choice.  But, is that a bad thing?  I would contend it can be both good and not so good. 

All too often when we’re young the lack of fear allows us to make irrational and impulsive choices often leading us to a destructive end.  As we age and have the scars to show for those impulsive decisions, we tend to be overly cautious and may miss opportunities because of it.

So, yes, fear of not touching the hot stove or walking out into the middle of a busy street will keep us safe.  But when fear begins to bind us in knots leaving us crippled by it, is when we need to break free.  Every decision becomes a burden.  When making the smallest of decisions we hear that, ‘What if?’ ringing through our minds.  The larger decisions may even lead us into a panic attack rendering us helpless.

As parents the fear factor is something we must contend with every day.  On one hand we want to protect our children from every kind of harm and on the other we want them to learn from their mistakes like we did.  I cringe when I think about the things I did as a child while playing outside.  Parents today would NEVER allow their kids to do most of what we considered normal.  Kids today are in car seats until they’re in elementary school.  I don’t remember ever using a seat belt.  The back seat was our territory to fight over and use as a trampoline if we wanted (well, maybe not quite that bad, but you get the point). 

How do we know when fear is keeping us from making decisions or binding us so badly that we are ineffective?  For most of us it’s not whether we know it’s there because we live with it constantly. It’s knowing what to do about it.  So, how do we overcome fear so we can be free to take chances again and let go of the constant worry?

There really isn’t a quick solution, unfortunately.  Most of our fears are built from years of hurt, failure, mistakes, or being told by others to be afraid of one thing or another.  The first step is to recognize where fear has us bound in our life (easy one).  The second step is to realize that fear is not always reality because, if we can see it for what it is (usually a lie) then it will be easier to overcome.  The third, most important step, is to ask God to help us by giving us courage, wisdom, and faith. 

Having the wisdom to know truth from a lie also comes from experience and open-minded research.  Not believing everything we read on the Internet is a great start.  Then, having the courage and faith in God knowing that He is with us, to step out on what we know to be true, even if we fail, will begin to break the chains of fear in our life.  Every time we do that, whether we fail or succeed, we take one more step to freedom, and one day, we’ll look back and see how far the chains of fear have fallen behind us on our way to a brave new way of living our life…

Love always

The Old Fan Reminding Me of The Simple Things


By the desk in my office I have an old red fan with one of those metal ‘covers’ made specifically to be a hazard to anyone who accidentally (or not so accidentally) sticks their finger in there while it’s running.  And, I will admit, I have done that before, and it did not feel good.

What’s cool about those old fans is that they have an art deco style and bring to mind memories of the old private detective movies I used to enjoy watching as a kid.  You won’t find them around stores these days, however; there are too many injury lawyers out there ready to sue after the first scratch of the blade. 

I occasionally use my fan in the summer when the heat is too much even for the air conditioner, but most of the time, it sits on the shelf along with other memorabilia from times past.  I like it because it reminds of the ‘Good ‘ole days’ and helps to give my office that ‘Look’.

As I sit at my desk tonight looking over at that old red fan and listening to Glenn Miller playing in the background, the Mrs is in the kitchen baking cupcakes for our grandson’s birthday party tomorrow and I’m reminded of God’s blessings over the years that have led me to where I am today.   Even though the road has been full of potholes, sharp curves, roadblocks, and frightening moments when it seemed as though there was no way forward, the road today seems much different; It’s more like a wide-open West Texas road with plenty of sunshine ahead. To look back at the challenges past only brings thankfulness as the pain that came with them grows further and further away.

So, tonight here’s to the simple things in life that remind us how blessed we truly are.  It may not be an old red fan sitting on the shelf next to your desk, but if it takes you back to a simpler time and helps you appreciate what you have today, then it’s a good thing and something to hold onto.  Because, we won’t be around forever and the longer we live, the more we’ll learn to appreciate the simpler things of life as it’s they which help us to hold onto the good memories and to let go of the past pains until they’re just a distant memory in the rearview mirror…

Love always

There’s No Place Like Home


One of our favorite movies to watch growing up was, ‘The Wizard of Oz’.   Back then there were no pay-per-view services, Blockbuster video stores, or DVDs.  Nope, our favorite movies came on national TV once a year (Poseidon Adventure, The Ten Commandments, Planet of the Apes, etc.) and, if we missed it, we would have to wait a full year to watch it again.  No VCRs then either.

In many ways, I miss those days when the whole family came together to watch our favorite movie.  It brought us all together.  When watching the ‘Wizard of Oz’, Grandma would usually use Dorothy’s journey to the land of Oz as an opportunity to teach us a few life lessons (something I learned from her and drove our kids crazy with) about how the family is most important. 

We learned many other lessons from the movie of course.  Lessons like the importance of friends, overcoming evil with good, that having a heart is more than physical, fear isn’t a sign of a lack of courage, and that the glitter of the city can’t replace the love of a home in the middle of Kansas.

With today’s commercial video world, kids can watch the yellow brick road scene until their parents break the disk and grab a bottle of wine just to calm down.  There’s a constant need for more visual sensation and many of the life lessons are buried under a pile of DVDs.

With our families so divided by distance it becomes very difficult to enjoy those times when we can all come together just to watch a classic movie or simply play games.  Our family is no different with relatives in South Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Alaska, Washington, and California, the time that we are able to have together is limited to an annual plane trip (if we can afford it) instead of the annual movie on the television.

Some families seem miles apart even though they live down the road from each other.  It’s not the distance in miles that keeps them apart, but the walls built up by bitterness, misunderstandings, anger, selfishness, and pride.  Dorothy learned that, more than anything else, her family was what she cherished the most.  Sure, it’s just a movie and maybe a little bit cheesy, but it makes a good point; that, at the end of the day, there truly is no place like home.

There may not be a way for us to click our heels together and take us back to a time when we were all together (whether physically or emotionally), but we do have the ability to pick up the phone and make a call, post a note on Facebook, or send a ‘Just because’ card to let our loved ones know we’re thinking of them.  Whatever we do to help keep the family bond together, after everything is said-and-done and we look back on our life, it will be those things we remember.  So tonight here’s to the family because there truly is no place like home…

Love always

Up in Flames


I sometimes think about driving home one day and finding out that our home had burned down.  All our life’s savings, memories, clothes, and furniture had gone up in flames.  It’s not a pleasant thought that’s for sure.   But, it’s one that many men may have as they comb through their minds trying to think of all the possible ways a fire could start in their home.  Even after all of the forethought and taking care, nature may still win out.

Several years ago, some friends of ours had a bolt of lightning hit their home and send electricity through the house shorting out all the wall units and starting a fire.  The fire quickly took hold.  They were fortunate enough to get of the burning house, along with their pet dog, only to watch their life’s work go up in flames.  Because the fire department arrived quickly, they were at least able to preserve the structure of their home, but the water and smoke still had done tremendous damage.  Since then, they have rebuilt their home into something even better than it was before.  The journey has been a long one and the cost has been very high.  Not everyone can say the same, however.  Many will lose their home and not have anything left but ashes and smoke.

Sometimes, relationships can end a lot like those homes burned down by ‘natural’ disasters.  We may be in what we think is a solid relationship only to see it go up in flames from an unexpected random event that brings destruction when we least expect it.  We may not lose the entire relationship, but what’s left, we may not feel is worth saving.

On the other hand, we may have very little left when a relationship falls apart but with hard work, lots of effort, sacrifice, and persistence, over time we may be able to rebuild it into something even better than it was before.  It may look the same on the outside to those who didn’t know what we had to do to repair it, but inside, we will know.

I know I’m speaking in what some may consider hyperbole, but the truth is that every relationship will come under fire.  That fire may wreak havoc on us.  It may even seem like there’s no way to repair it and that it’s better to just walk away.  Yet, with enough love, care, and time, nearly any broken relationship can be rebuilt.  

Tonight, I’m praying for one specific relationship in my own life that had burned up in flames long ago by a random flaming arrow that was shot into my life.  What’s left is but a shell of what it could have been.  I’m still holding out for it to be rebuilt into something better than ever.  I have the vision and desire for it to be rebuilt.  I also know that, with God’s help, it can be done.  It won’t be easy and there will be lots of painful moments in the process, but in the end, it will be worth it.

If you’re facing the loss of a relationship that went up in flames, be encouraged.  What seems to be lost can be rebuilt.  You may not even want it to be rebuilt, but over time as wounds heal and forgiveness is granted, you may find that openness to try again.  This time, it could work out into something even better than it was before.  With God’s help, all things are possible…

Love always