Month: October 2018

Good Ol’ Days

Who remembers the good ol’ days?

You know way back when teenagers could ride in the back of a pickup truck, jump off the bridge into the river for an afternoon of swimming, or you could spend the Image result for The good ol daysday doing whatever you wanted.

Remember the good ol’ days when you didn’t have social media? You did not have to read everybody’s slightest gripe posted in your face on your facebook page. If you had a problem in your life, nobody needed to know. Nobody wanted to hear. And, by God, if an eight-year-old wanted to ride his bike around the town, he could do it.

I remember very few days in my adulthood where I could do “whatever” I wanted.  Responsibilities and bills to be paid controlled a lot of what I was able to do.

Like I said, the good ol’ days!

And, sure, these might not be the golden days you have in mind, or what most people think about while sipping lemonade on the front porch. But, the fact is, it’s easy to cherry-pick our memories and then let selective recall convince us that life was so much rosier in another time.

I know I am guilty of this. I definitely refine my memories by what “good” was going on in my life. It’s the curse of getting older. At least it can be.

But, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a hard curse to fight, especially when today’s world is so complicated and challenging to navigate.

It’s easy to get lost in nostalgic moments—open the photo album and rewind to simpler days.

And it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, we all want to spend a little Image result for The town of Mayberrymore time in our own Mayberry—Floyd’s for a haircut and Aunt Bee’s for a piece of pie.

Most of us have our own version of simpler days—a bubble-like period of time when life was easy-going and untroubled. We had no responsibilities, mortgages or debt, along with healthy bodies and sharp minds. Sunscreen was optional. Good hearing was a given. You could do flips off the diving board at Teagarten’s pool whenever you felt like it.

Pick your own rose field. We all have one, even if it’s buried somewhere deep in the confines of our memories.

I might choose to reflect when I was in college, or perhaps that time when I drove down to Florida from Ohio on a whim when my girlfriend (now my wife) broke up with me.… I was alone in my 1976 Pinto with just an AM Radio to keep me company. It was what I needed at the time and it was wonderful way to heal from heartbreak. I might choose to remember the times when I traveled to Brazil and Africa. Swam in the Amazon River and the Indian Ocean all before I was 21.

Truth be told… there are many sweet spots I could reflect upon.

But, if I’m being completely honest, and had to choose just one particular time where my mind travels back most often, it would be when I was nine-years old.

It would be the time before my brother was killed. Long before I would face the awkward phase of my teenage years. Before the loss of my hearing. Before the time when I would lose three of my best friends all in the span of one year. Life before my body became compromised, and suddenly everything became more complicated. Long before I would discover my weaknesses and failures.

I know I’m not alone. Most people who have had struggles in their lives. (and isn’t that all of us?)  We can’t help but let our minds occasionally play the “life before” game. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize how exhausting and useless a game that is.

Cliché aside, time does indeed march on. And I have learned that I either march with it or I don’t. Don’t get me wrong; memory lane is a beautiful place to visit. It warms the heart and helps us appreciate all the blessings that have come our way. But, stay there too long, and that sweet nostalgia turns into a dissatisfaction that comes when you don’t want to be where you are, or believe that being where you are is a consolation prize—good, but not quite the real thing.

Image result for Runner UpUnfortunately, this is what age has become for so many—the “runner up” life, a less relevant and not quite as meaningful existence as the one you had. Life before and life after. And go ahead and compound this with physical difficulties and diminishing energy, and it is no wonder we spend so much of our “dream time” back in another day.

But, I’ll say it again, not being where you are takes so much more energy than being where you are. Living in the past (or the future) sucks the life force right out of you. It takes away all the energy you need to live and enjoy today.

In our 24-7, always-on, lightning fast society, we have access to the world at our fingertips. Unfortunately, this comes at the high cost of actually having the world at our fingertips, and with it, every possible bit of bad news imaginable. We don’t just have our own problems and heartaches to deal with, we have 7 billion other people to think about. It’s an impossible load to handle.

And while the world may feel close and connected, it still takes an hour to get to the closest mall. And for all the social connections we may think we’re having online, people are more isolated and lonely than ever before. Get yourself a bowl of ice cream and do a Google search on how many people are dying alone.

And, of course, we all know how dangerous the world has become. Who wouldn’t wish for a life in which we didn’t have to lock the doors, shut the windows, or tell the kids not to talk to strangers? Or if we didn’t have to be suspicious of packages left on the street. Or have to worry if a porch pirate was going to steal the one off your porch. We wouldn’t have to Image result for andy griffith aunt bea show mayberryworry about the growing divisions in the country and the world. Hostility. Paranoia. Anxiety. It’s a crazy time to be alive. It’s definitely not Mayberry. But, guess what? Mayberry wasn’t Mayberry. Fun fact: In real life… Aunt Bee wasn’t warm and cuddly. She didn’t even like Andy in real life. And who doesn’t like Andy?

Life might have been simpler in another time, but only if you kept your eyes shut and stayed in your small bubble. It’s a lot easier to find bliss when you’re living on an island in the South Pacific. It’s not so easy when the guy on TV is shouting at you and telling you that YOU are the problem, or when someone gets ten-foot tall and bulletproof on your Facebook page blaming you for all the country’s problems because you support a political candidate that they don’t.

Name calling and threats.

Throw in wildfires, hurricanes, flooded coastlines, and senseless shootings, and you’d be crazy not to want to escape to another time.

But, before you purchaseImage result for island in the philippines that island in the Pacific, you should probably know there’s a storm heading that way. And, even more important, you should know there is a huge silver lining to the world we live in. And, no, this is not a “look at the bright side of life and keep a stiff upper chin” silver lining. You can’t just put a bumper sticker on the back of your car and will yourself to happier days. You have to get your hands dirty and do the work.

This silver lining is simple, although it’s a hard pill to swallow.

It is this:

The crazier, screwed up and more challenging the world you live in, the more opportunity there is to discover who you are and what you’re made of.

But you have to be willing.  You have to step outside your comfort zone. Step away from the past and embrace the future.

In a world filled with such heartache, anxiety, and pain, you have three choices: You can sink, tread water and stay afloat, or swim to higher ground.

Most of us are strong enough (or have enough support systems) to stay afloat, to find a way to keep going and get by. It’s called survival. But, for those who aim to live beyond survival, the alternative is higher ground, where the view is spectacular and life-altering. Of course, this takes conscious effort.

Again… we have to be willing to swim to higher ground.

It calls for us to be stronger than we thought possible—kinder, gentler, more compassionate, forgiving, and loving. In other words, it calls for us to live at the top of our game—balanced, mindful, and awake. Always searching.

Quit being so offended at the drop of a hat.

It is a life that requires us to become fierce warriors committed to a better world.

To live in today’s world, we must be part Mother Theresa, part Gandhi, part Terminator, and part Monty Python.

Wise and humble, fearless and bold, and with eyes to see the humor and absurdity of it all.

To live in today’s world, we have to be immune to the toxic poisons that surround us. We have to choose to live above the noise—to turn off what doesn’t matter and tune into what does.

To live in today’s world, we must honor our past with gratitude, plan for our future with purpose, but live for today.

In the Now.0000056_happiness-is-here-and-now-woman

Visit the past… but don’t stay there.

Live your remining life with…

No judgment. No resistance. Not better or worse. Perfect, just as it is.

To live in today’s world, we have to transcend the madness and illogical world of mind and matter, so that we may pursue who we really are.

And who we really are is wise beyond space and years, and always aware that the good ol’ days are right where they always have been…

Here and Now.

 

Where Home Is

As October gives way to November this year, my life’s odometer flips another month.

Why?

My birthday is in June, so it’s not that.  My odometer turns because both of my sons, Nathan (Oct 25) and Adam (Nov.6) have birthdays in the coming weeks.

For me, the milestones of life have never really felt important. I only “feel” older when I recognize that my boys are going to be 32 and 28 respectively.

Image result for odometer of lifeThe odometer flips for me because how is it possible to have children that old?

Because of this… I find myself especially pensive about some things. I am thinking about the fact that I am on the backside of life. I am just a few years away from retirement and I wonder if all of the effort at my place of employment was worth it.  What did I miss in life because of being too commited to my job? 

I also look back with thoughts of how often have I failed to live up to my faith. Have I walked a path that brought honor to Jesus Christ? Thoughts of failure and the times I walked far short of God’s plan for my life clearly overwhelm any memories of when I was doing what was right.

It’s more of a feeling in my soul than a sequence of clear, discrete thoughts.

I find myself more and more overcome with thoughts of “home.” Not so much about being home but rather my thoughts are more about the journey to get home. Like after a long vacation and you start to head home. For me, there has always been thehome-is-where-our-story-begins relief of getting home after those long trips. The same enthusiasm that I had on the day we pulled out of the driveway to get “there, I often feel that same enthusiasm to get home when it was time.

Life is about returning.

Returning home.

I think that was one of the main reason I wrote my book, “Footprints in a Small Town.” I was on the journey to reconnect to my childhood home and hometown. 

Now I find myself on a journey to find my way to another aspect of “home” and looking to find closure on other aspects of life.

In other words, trying to find another place that represents home. I am not talking about heaven. Heaven is the final destination. I am not ready for that. I have more things I want to accomplish before I find my way to that home. 

At this point in my life, I believe that God is asking me how I am going to live my remaining days. It is clear to me that my success is not found in my paycheck, nor is it found in a title I have at work.

My success is now more or less found in being a good man. A good husband. A good father. A good grandfather and a good servant of God.

This is where home is for me now.

How different this is from the drive to achieve that defined so much of my life as a younger man. I knew where I wanted to go and believed that I could get there only through toil and competition. Without effort and without impressive results, I would go nowhere.

Image result for successOther people would be more or less, higher or lower than me. I would look up in envy or down in condescension. And I could not rest until I had arrived. It was all on me.

The drive to be successful.

The older I get I realize that none of these things that I have accomplished are real evidence that I did it on my own.

As I reflect I see the evidence of God doing the heavy lifting. He was there preparing a way and giving me the opportunity.

God brought me here. Right where I am today.

I have no idea where life is going to lead me in the coming years. Things are changing and I need to continue to trust that God will lead me to where I need to go.

And I will only arrive there by admitting that I cannot get there on my own.

Together, we walk and, at times, stumble together back to the home we yearn for.

We are all returning to where home is.

We’re all just walking each other there.

Our path homeward is long and uneven.

We will endure detours and setbacks.

But the One who brought us here will lead us.

Home.

Where There Is

I entered my first-grade class with my head held high.

After a summer that seemed to last an eternity, I could finally say I was officially out of kindergarten and moving into grade school!

Image result for first last day of first gradeI would have my very own desk to sit at this year. No more nap time, I would have real recess outside on the playground and with the big kids!

Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

My mom helped me locate my very own desk. It wasn’t that hard. I recognized my name taped to the top of it. David L.

I wondered why my name always had the letter “L” attached to it at school. I was the only David in my kindergarten class, I also was the only David in my first-grade classroom too. Image result for H

Other kids got cool letters, like the girl sitting beside me, Jackie H.

H was a great letter, it was fun to write. Always reminded me of goal posts. 

“L” was so boring, I’d had been stuck with it for 6 years in a row now.

“Bye David!” My mom said kissing me on the top of my head. I was too busy digging into my paper bag to get my pencil-case so I could put my three brand new pencils in the pencil spot on my desk. I barely looked up to say goodbye. My mom talked to the teacher at her desk for a few minutes before leaving to go home.

It was the last, first day of school that I would ever experience my mom taking me to school.

After my pencils were in place, I sat in awe, taking in the entire classroom. It was so amazing! The walls were covered in pictures and words and charts! I loved charts. I wondered what they were for. I recognized a calendar Traditional Manuscript Alphabet Line By North Star Teacher Resourcewith birthday cakes all over it in random spots. On top of the blackboard was an alphabet. I already knew that A was for apple. There was a corner filled with colorful books. I couldn’t wait to look at them. Beside the books were at least three board games I’d never played before, and one I had. I loved board games!

At the door, I spotted my friend from kindergarten, with his mom. His eyes were red and puffy. I wondered what he could possibly be crying about on the first day of first grade. His mom said something to him, then gave him a kiss goodbye. As she turned to leave, he latched onto her left leg and yelled, “mama, nooo!!!”

My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe he was doing this in front of everyone! Crying might have been okay in kindergarten, but now we were in first grade! We couldn’t be crying and causing a scene. That was unacceptable.

Now truth be told… I was on the verge of jumping up from my desk screaming and running over, crying to my mom. Fear, embarrassment and the unknown kept me Image result for Old elementary schoolroomglued to my seat. At that time in my life, I would not do a thing that would draw attention to myself. That would change as I grew older, but for now, I was trying my best to become a wallflower and not say a word to anyone. I learned real early in life that it would always be better to blend in and not make a scene.

The teacher had heard his outburst and was headed across the room right toward him! Uh oh. He was in trouble now.

But to my complete surprise, the teacher nor his mother seemed upset with him. Nobody was yelling at him to get off the floor, or to stop making a spectacle of himself. Nobody seemed mad at all. That confused me. The teacher knelt, whispered something in his ear, and suddenly he looked reassured. He stopped sobbing, stood up and nodded. She flashed him her perfect smile and took him by the hand to his seat. I figured she must be the nicest person in the whole entire world.

“Good morning boys and girls,” she finally greeted us, standing in the middle of the room.

“Good morning Mrs. Provonsha,” we chorused.

She started explaining all the wonderful things that would happen. This year, we would learn how to read! I needed to learn how to read so badly. My brother and Image result for Dick and Janesister knew how to read, and they would always tease me about it.

Dick and Jane would soon become part of my everyday life. I would learn to read about them and their dog, Spot.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize that they were the BIG things.

She then walked over to a corner of the room and picked up a bowl and held it up Image result for Look back and see the were BIg thingsfor us to see. There was a real fish in there!! A goldfish! He would be our class goldfish for the whole year! Every week, one student would have the responsibility to feed the goldfish! I couldn’t wait until it was my turn. It would be like having a pet. (I don’t remember if it lived the whole year…lol)

I decided pretty quickly that Mrs. Provonsha had the best job ever.

She got to be in charge of creating and organizing all these amazing activities and systems. She got to decide everything. She got to listen to all of our stories. She had access to all the books and games, and she could probably take them home whenever she wanted! She could do whatever she wanted.

Although I was already pretty impressed, it wasn’t until later that day that I realized she probably had unlimited access to endless amounts of school supplies; pencils, markers, crayons, maybe even pens! Upon that realization was when I started to think that I wanted to be a teacher too when I grew up.

Reminiscing now, well over 50 years ago, I would have made a scene so that my mom knew then how much she was my world. I will forever be an unapologetic momma’s boy. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to tell her that over the years. She is 87 now and I still talk about the past with her and how much she means to me.

I did not know it at the time, but this would be the last time my mom ever took me to school on the first day.

These things took place right there in my small hometown.

When people ask me where I am from… I proudly say from “there”.

I know where “there” is.

I am forever grateful for growing up “there”.

It’s important to know that “there” made up who I was, who I would become and who I am today.

Do you know where your “there” is?

 

The Easy Silence

I’m going to fall on the sword here.

I’ll be honest and say that I am NOT good at recognizing this.

It’s not that I don’t have massive amounts of respect for all that my lovely wife does Pam and Davidand who she is, it’s that I don’t often express it.

Shame on me.

It’s hard to put into words but because of WHO she is and ALL that she does, I am able to be who I am and do all that I do. She is the CEO, CFO, Accounting and Human Resource Manager for the Lee household. One small example is I don’t have the first clue how much we pay for groceries each month. I don’t know how much our gas, electric or water bill is.

If you ask me to do something this weekend, I’d have to check with her. I don’t know our schedule.

Without her…I am LOST! Literally.

Far more important, she was the shepherd of our children’s hearts.  Any credit we get for great kids goes straight to her. THAT much I am sure of.

Last, and certainly not least, I am thankful for the “Easy Silence” she creates for me. I got that phrase from the great philosophers “The Dixie Chicks”.

In the easy silence that you make for me
It’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me
In the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Her ability to “keep the world at bay for me” is remarkable. A recent increased role with her employer created the need for some long weeks. For the last few months, she has worked three jobs every day.

We are in the midst of change in our life.

Things never stay the same and we are doing our best to adapt.

It takes someone special to deal with me and I am married to that someone.

There is no coincidence I’m popping Nexium and blood pressure medicine every morning. Outside of our home, we run a pretty crazy pace and this is just a part of it. It’s chaotic and makes all that she does even more important.

Inside our home, she keeps the world at bay. She allows me to be a husband to her because details have all been taken care of.

She creates an “Easy Silence” for me.

And… I am forever grateful.