Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pot Scrubber

There are certain things that, as a man, I feel required to do or be responsible for around the house. When the toilet gets clogged up, I get the call. When the yard has branches or fencing problems, it is mine. Most of the things my wife or kids could do, but they are left to me because they are outside. All that is fine because I like my time in the yard and I like accomplishing things then sitting back and looking at the results -- many times with a cigar in hand.

My wife has certain things she does that are hers. There are things that she does not want me to touch, and, honestly, I don’t want to touch them. She likes to clean the house. She likes dusting and spraying cleaners and organizing. She will tell you it is therapeutic with a smile on her face.
Before we got married I kept an impeccable house. I was ultra organized, had the laundry done nightly, cooked and cleaned with gusto. It seems not long after we were married those skill sets began to wane then continued a downward spiral to almost nothing. I never intentionally meant to turn over the cleaning and laundry to my wife, it just happened. Don’t misunderstand, I still get asked to help and those times I get asked, I better perform.

There was a period in my life when I spent a lot of time listening to motivational speakers. I had a handful whom I really enjoyed and got me fired up. Motivational speakers can be very positive influences in your life, and if you were to pick up on any one lesson chances are you would grow personally or in business. The two I really enjoyed the most were Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar.
Brian Tracy really taught me some skills when it comes to selling and professional relationships. I must have worn out two cassette tape series listening to them over and over in my truck. He also taught me how to be organized and efficient with your time -- that I am still working on 15 years later.

Zig Ziglar is my favorite because he uses wonderful personal stories and visual aids to get his point across. For years he carried around a big chrome hand water pump that he would get to cranking up and down to demonstrate a point that I can’t remember.

I do remember one thing in particular that Zig did say that in the last few months, 15 years later, I have begun to implement with conviction. It is not a sales tool or a marketing angle, not really. Zig said he never lets his wife wash the big pots and pans. If she used a big frying pan, stew pot or anything big like that, he hand washed it, dried it and put it away. He was adamant about this.

I started to do this at our house. It can really be a drag on some days. Recently when my wife very lovingly put something in the oven to warm up for dinner, she forgot there was a plastic tray under the foil. The house filled with smoke and the plastic dripped and covered all the racks and bottom of the oven. I rushed in as she worried about the fire and mess. I immediately began the clean-up process that took several hours but resulted in a sparkling clean oven. I guess the oven is a giant pot of sorts anyway.

I know I can always do a little more to help around the inside of the house. This one little gesture, cleaning the pots, has been unspoken to date but then I am not doing it for a pat on the back or a thank you. I need, I want, to be a good husband and the knight in shining armor for my biggest cheerleader. We have a joke around our house that the sock fairy always delivers clean socks right before our drawers are empty. Now I am not one who believes in fairy tales and the likes, but that one is one I am going to believe in as long as I can. If it takes getting to that mystical land of clean and wonderful smelling laundry by including a few inside chores to my side of the list, I’m in.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bacon, Coffee and a Memory

The six senses are amazing. They can bring you to a place of long ago or create a tab in your life book that you can go back to and savor, morn or reflect on.

Sounds or music can spur a memory that makes you sad or happy. Lots of people can hear a song and get nostalgic. I remember running away from home when I was in Junior High and I rode a bus all the way to Lake Jackson, Texas. At the time it seemed like a thousand miles, really it was maybe 60 or 70. There was a specific girl who I had a crush on that had left our neighborhood and moved there. When I got to her moms apartment I was met by her older sister who told me she was inside with her new boyfriend and I could not go in. I sat on the steps outside and listened as Elton John’s Mad Man Across the Water played through their windows. To this day when I hear music off that record I feel something, sad I guess, it almost always brings me back there.

Seeing something can create a Déjà vu effect that triggers emotions. It is not uncommon to be sensitive to certain things you see that move you to emotion because of your interpretation as a kid. Past experiences with people, places or things can spur you to happiness, sadness, fear. When I see a kid being ignored by an adult I get frustrated, even mad. I remember when I was growing up and it was “kids are made to be seen not heard.” I grew up longing for someone to talk to, not another kid but a grown up. Today I find myself drawn into ministry with boys who are hungry to talk to an adult. Something about seeing a kid being ignored gets me all worked up.

Feeling the soft flannel of a sheet or a shirt, the feeling of a fresh washed pair of favorite jeans can make you feel good. It feels like a Saturday morning with nothing ahead of you but the day. When I feel my wife’s hair after it has just been washed, soft, smooth and silky makes me feel good. I also love to get my back scratched. I remember as a kid begging mom to scratch my back every night and to never stop. Human contact is imperative to life. Touch.

Two of my favorite sensory alerts are from the nose and both of these can typically be found in the mornings. The smell of bacon and the smell of fresh brewing coffee. When I come into the kitchen in the morning and the coffee is already started and the aroma is all about it makes me happy. I don’t have any specific memory or occasion when it became such a feel good sensation but it is one I truly enjoy.

Bacon, yes that lovely pork product. You can wrap bacon around a rock and I will enjoy every bite. Bacon is one of those smells I can catch from miles across a mountain valley coming from a hunt camp in the timber. Once while hunting early one morning in the hill country it crept into my deer blind from the next ranch over, I had to leave the blind early to go eat at our camp.
I truly believe God gives us these extra special tools to use for his good. They can bring us to a special place we may not see but we feel. They can be hurtful sometimes but I do a lot of hard work on myself when I am hurting – a lot of big hit songs came from pain.

Thanks Lord for the sensations I am blessed with and the emotions that come with them. I pray I use the gifts you have given me to honor You. Lord help me slow down to “smell the coffee” each day and oh yea, thanks for bacon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Broken Cars and Chocolate

It is never good to find a pool of liquid under your vehicle. I know on hot days if you have been running the air conditioner it can be nothing, but most other days, grrrrrrr.

That is exactly what happened Monday morning. The night before I noticed a spot on the driveway, I am a guy, I see those things. I decided it was most likely from someone else’s vehicle because we had a lot of folks over that night. The next morning I pulled up in a different spot and when I got out there was a drip under my engine. I know very little about vehicles but I did know that it was not oil but most likely water from my water pump. Crud, that can be an expensive fix especially on a ¾ ton diesel pickup.

Life goes into a holding pattern for me when a vehicle goes down. I drive a lot and many times out in the middle of nowhere. That is not where you want to break down. Many of the roads have nothing but a ditch to either side. I can’t take that chance and I sure don’t want my wife calling me with car problems when I am out of town.

It took a few phone calls but I had an appointment to have it repaired that afternoon. On one hand it was a blessing, on the other I did not know how I was going to pay for it. I thought I would figure that out as I went along. Stuck at home I was not going to get anything done.
The shop I took it to was on one of the oldest streets in Austin, Texas, Congress. Luckily for me it was at the beginning of the newly revived eclectic parts. Vintage clothing stores, health food shops and coffee houses line the street on both sides. I left the car with the mechanic and strapped on my backpack with my laptop and took off to explore. It was urban exploration at its finest.

My first stop was the resale shop by the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul. I spent and hour looking a worn t-shirts and old records. I could not find a thing I needed but it was cool inside and I had nothing else to do, what the heck. I had a few shirts I thought I would buy until the very end when I put them back and left to continue my exploration.

I walked all the way to the end of the shops on one side then crossed and started back on the opposite side. The shop I was drawn into on that side was the candy & soda shop. I explored each shelf and admired the old candy boxes on display. I could taste the cherry sours, the Clark bars, the Necco’s and the licorice. Now the doctor told me to back off sugar but that just highlighted my cravings. You know what I mean?

I could not resist a handmade root beer and some apple, bacon, smoked chocolate. I made my purchase and found a metal chair along the sidewalk in front of a small city grocery and relaxed with my treasures. I drank every drop of the soda. I saved most of the chocolate for my daughter who just happened to be playing a softball game around the corner right when they finished the truck.

Yes, the day started out pretty crummy, but it turned out good. I realized that the time I had exploring was really a neat chance to think, and pray and be out of my normal element, it opened me up for a great conversation with God. We had a nice chat and maybe our relationship will be a little stronger, I will be a little more open. I sure do need it.