Soul Seeds

Soul Seeds

Soul Seeds

Somewhere, deep down inside all of us, is the little tiny seed of who we are at the very core…  the seed of our soul that can grow into many different things.  It’s a powerful thing.  I have, in fact, had to replant mine a couple of times.  Magic of the matter is that it will grow anywhere.  Danger of the matter is that you need to be cautious where you plant it.  Beauty of the matter is that you get to choose which parts of the soil and environment actually influence it, and which have no effect on it, as long as you’re actually raising it like a crop.  Without caution and grooming, it can grow like a weed…

I bought these dolls to use as props for a story (babbling lecture, by my kids’ description) that I wanted to tell my youngest.  She’s an amazing young lady, and my cautions these days are probably overkill.  Still, when I have something to say, I don’t hold back.  They’re Russian nesting dolls.  In the teeny tiny center lies a little wooden doll.  Akin to a human, this would be the seed of your soul, or at least for the purposes of this story, we’ll pretend that it is such.

The amazing thing about the seed of a soul is that it’s much like DNA…  it holds all the building blocks that you need in order to create life, or in the human case, to create a person.  If you’ll humor me and play along, we’ll pretend that this tiny thumbnail of a wooden doll is your soul’s seed.  We’re going to watch it grow up.

The first layer that grows around it is more or less a consequence of its surroundings.  You’re a baby and you were born wherever you were born, without much ability to influence this layer.

With the next layer comes toddlerhood, and still with little ability to control the layers, that seed of your soul is inside you impacting everything that’s happened since birth.

As you grow up, a time will come where you get to choose what your next layer will wear, regardless of your parents’ influence or wishes.

All too often during childhood, some of those layers get beat up and banged around pretty badly.  Some people wear those damaged layers long into adulthood, claiming that there’s nothing they can do about it because those layers were damaged as children.  While it’s true that children rarely damage their own shells, the truth about adults is that they have a choice.  They can go back and shed the damaged layers, celebrate the amazing skins, decide what their next layer will be, or any combination thereof.

Through it all, the key is that seed at the center.  From it, everything else sprouts, and as adults we have the ability to go back and reclaim old layers we mistakenly shed, create our next layers in any way we choose for them to be, or pick and choose bits and pieces of them all.  The seed of our soul will support our choices.  Never forget that they’re choices.

I have replanted the seed of my own soul a number of times throughout my own life.  I keep the one with the scar across my jugular, because some dents and dings are critically important to keep around as reminders.  Others might choose to shed that kind of layer because it’s ugly, or carries too many bad memories.  I choose to wear it as a medal, and celebrate my survival of a mortal injury.  You wouldn’t be wrong to choose differently than me, and I’m not wrong for choosing the keepsakes my soul is proud of.  Did I mention that it’s all about choice?

I wanted to write this story because I enjoyed telling it.  Sometimes, even an old soul like me needs a good reminder of what’s important and what isn’t, what we have to carry and what we can choose to shed.  I hope that my young’ns can see it this way as well.  They don’t just have some influence upon where their souls are headed in life…  they are at ages where it is entirely their choice what they get to become, what they choose to go back and reclaim from the years where they had no choice, and/or if they choose to completely replant and start anew.  I suppose that I am essentially a tractor at this point.  I’ll cultivate whatever choices they make, and I’m fortunate that they both have green thumbs.

At the end of this video, the nesting dolls become a beautiful woman.  In life, the end only comes once it’s all said and done, and there’s no way to plan for when that might be.  It is, however, entirely up to the person to decide what and who that person will be.  Circumstances and onlookers may throw rocks or apply shiny coatings…  but the soul inside decides what it will be.  No one else.

If I didn’t have that scar across my jugular, I wouldn’t be able to see this scenario as clearly as I do.  I suppose it’s a good thing I kept that layer, dings and dents and all.  I’m a very fortunate tractor in that my kids will undoubtedly choose wisely for their own souls as well, even if all I can do nowadays is skip the rows that shouldn’t be cultivated while also carefully tending to the lush greenery that grows bountifully.

Cheers from the Uncommonly Souls

The Cricket and the Starfish

The Cricket and the Starfish

The Cricket and the Starfish

When my kids were little, we did all sorts of silly things for fun.  Truth be told, I’m a kid at heart myself, so finding fun ways to see the world and make young children smile has always been very easy for me.

They’re only 11 and 14 now, but they’re also much older than you might expect kids their ages to be.  We’re still a goofy lot…  nonsense always has been and always will be our forte!  We’ve all had some extremely close brushes with adulthood this past year, myself included.  There’ll be none of that in this house!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m an adult exactly as much as I need to be, but not a minute more than I have to be.  My kids have structure and discipline, but structure and discipline are the roof and walls which make up the house;  they aren’t the home.  It’s the hearts and souls inside the house which make up the home.  We have a delicious blend of young hearts and old souls here, and I intend to keep it that way.

The Cricket and the Starfish
The Cricket and the Starfish

A few days ago, I was at a local discount store and I heard the sound of crickets.  At first, I thought it must be a recording because it was so out of place among the other sounds you hear in a discount store.  I followed the sound to find myself in the sporting goods section, looking at huge cups of live crickets.  Bait.  I have neither malice nor love for crickets, but it just seemed so unnatural for them to be trapped in foam cups.

My first thought was that the kids would enjoy a rescue caper!  My second thought was that they might find that silly because of their ages.  My immediate, and most important, third thought?  When did we grow up so much that I would even question such a thing as being too childish?  Young at heart and childish are two very different things.

You only stop being young at heart on the day that you choose to allow the possibility that someone might see you as childish to stop you from acting young at heart.  I am proud to report that that day will never come for me.  Hopefully it will never come for my children either, and if it does one day ‘come for them’, it will have to go through me to get to them.  I am not easily bypassed or pushed aside.

I talked all of this over with the boy, because it’s the type of thing we would have planned together in advance in the younger years so that his little sister could enjoy a fun adventure.  Immediately and overwhelmingly he agreed that this was something we had not done enough of recently, and that we must make it so.  Soon.

On our way home from other ‘keeping your heart young’ endeavors today, we stopped at said discount store to procure said crickets.  200 of them.  200 crickets.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of the fact that I purchased 200 crickets today simply to keep us young.  No matter how old you are, or how long you live, you’ve never before heard anyone else say that and you never will again.  That’s how old souls and young hearts do things in this home!

Little Lady is growing up way too fast, and it was worth the cost of 200,000 crickets to see her face light up with the delight of a child enjoying one of our ridiculous adventures.  The Boy enjoyed it just as much as we all always have, and we all played along with the ‘just act natural and pretend we’re buying crickets for bait’ charade until our casual demeanor become suspicious in and of itself.  The fools at the discount store never suspected a thing!  (Yes, we did consider freeing them within said discount store, and no we did not.  Not this time, anyway.)

Ok we have 200 crickets.  Phase I complete.  What could Phase II possibly be, you ask?  Well, just as we set the sun, we’re also responsible for planting spring crickets.  All of them.  Every one of you will at some point listen to crickets soothing the night outside your home or campsite sometime this summer.  You’re welcome!  Had we not released these 200 crickets into the wild (suburbia) on this day, you might have had to listen to…  nothing.  All summer long.

We let 100 go in the woods across the street from our home, and another 100 in our back yard.  Already this evening I could hear them singing their song of freedom, thanking us for our efforts, and pledging their service until the fall.  My kids are of course old enough now to know that I’m just painting a valiant picture of our evening’s nonsense, but they enjoyed it every bit as much as if they were young enough to believe that we planted crickets that created soothing summer sounds for all of North America.  Honestly?  You can’t prove that we didn’t!  I also have to say that watching 200 crickets scatter into the grass was well worth the $12 we spent on them!

The whole adventure reminded me of the old parable of the boy and the starfish.  The boy is walking along the beach as the tide retreats, throwing starfish back into the ocean before they die.  An old man passes by and tells the young boy that he can’t possibly make a difference because there are thousands of starfish and miles of beach.  The boy tosses another back, smiles, and says, “I made a difference to that one.”

The one cricket in the picture above?  Yeah we made a difference to him.  He went from being canned dinner for a fish to being free to roam for the rest of his days.  Good stuff.  I’m sure I’ll cuss him when he turns up in my basement!  The real difference this act makes?  It keeps hearts young.  It doesn’t matter how many starfish or how many crickets the youth saves.  What matters is that the youth remained young because of the act itself.  The trick is to simply keep doing the things which keep us young at heart, and let karma extend the blessings to whichever crickets and starfish she chooses.

The most beautiful part of all of it is that it all comes down to choice.  It seems that too many people choose to be the crotchety, nay-saying old man on the beach, even if they chose to become him by an accidental lack of diligence.  I choose to remain the boy tossing starfish back into the ocean and freeing crickets, and I write these stories as reminders for myself along the way.

Cheers from The Uncommonly Crickets

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane

Riding Shotgun Down Lover’s Lane

Riding Shotgun Down Lover’s Lane

In the 40-something short years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve lived a lot of different lives in lots of different places.  I’ve known people in, and had friends in, all walks of life.  In all of my travels, the finest man I’ve ever known lives right here under my own roof, and I call him Son.

Just like my daughter shows me things I never even knew existed, my son teaches me new ways of seeing things that I’d never have imagined I’d entertain.  It takes a great man to teach an old dog new tricks, and personally, I find it refreshing to be that dog who gets to learn something new now and then.  More accurately in this case, to relearn something so old that it seems new again to an old dog in his eighteenth lifetime.

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane
Riding Shotgun down Lover’s Lane

In recent months, I’ve had the privilege of riding shotgun with my son on his first drive down Lover’s Lane.  Honestly?  It’s been a rocky road for me, because I’ve had to share not only my time, but my son’s heart, with another human being who may or may not handle either of these things with care.  It’s harder than it sounds, and if not for my absolute faith in my young man’s judgment and character, I’d likely stroke out.  Any ruffian worthy of the position of ‘shotgun’ knows, though, that you gotta keep moving.  Keep the car running.  Eyes peeled, and all that.  As usual, he has proven more or less clairvoyant while I’ve done my best to not fire the shotgun wildly at everything in sight.  The days of actually using the shotgun from the shotgun seat in the car are waning…  it’s becoming more of a figurehead position given that the young man’s driving necessitates less and less shotgunning all of the time.  I am blessed.

Since my view from the shotgun position is more or less recreational now, let me share with you what I’ve had the good fortune of seeing from my perch.

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane
Riding Shotgun down Lover’s Lane

Have you ever had a rock chip in your windshield right in your line of vision?  Or even a crack that runs across your view, or a chip off to the side that is an irritation when you have to look in that direction?  If you grew up in the country like I did, with lots of gravel roads, you know that a windshield can be a normal wear item like brakes or tires.  Replace regularly for optimal performance.  After months (or years) of driving with said chips and cracks, you stop realizing how much they obscure your vision.  Then when you finally do get it replaced, you can’t believe how clear your view is!  How did I drive for so long with such poor visibility?  That’s what it’s been like riding shotgun down Lover’s Lane with the boy recently.  I’d forgotten how detailed, vibrant, and beautiful an unobscured view of love is.

Regardless of what road you’ve taken in life with respect to love, once you reach a certain age, your windshield is chipped and cracked and spider webbed, even if it’s been that way for so long that you don’t even notice anymore.  That redhead that broke your heart in high school ruined you for the reds.  You shy away from them now.  Losing your 401K might have soured you just a bit on the topic of marriage.  Husband ran off with the secretary?  Not likely to date another insurance agent.  Marriage riddled with discontent due to your significant other’s hobbies/habits/etc?  As much as I want to slap some people for the nonsense they allow to obscure their view of love through their windshield, those rock chips and cracks are there for everyone.

Everyone except teenagers in love.  Not a rock chip in sight.  I’m sitting here in the shotgun seat watching rock after rock after tin can after road debris after moose after boulder bounce right off this shiny new windshield.  It’s amazing?  Unbelievable?  No, it’s not magic.  It’s youth.  Unjaded, heart wide open to everything, drive like hell, never had a windshield replaced, beautiful day for a drive…  youth.  I just sit here in awe looking through glass so clean that it’s almost invisible, wondering how my own windshield became so unrepairably shattered.  Shotgun in this ride is far better than driving my own.  I got tired of replacing windshields oh about last April.  I’ll just drive it like this from here on out.  Hell, I’m blind in my left eye anyway, what difference does it make?  But the boy?  Hammer down.  We’ll fix it if it breaks.  Pit stop in 20, Dad, let’s not dally at the gas station.  Road to cover.  Ok Buddy, I’m buying the roadtrip chips and soda.  You drive.

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane
Riding Shotgun down Lover’s Lane

In all of my years, I’ve heard countless youths swear they would never become their parents, or grow up, or become as dead inside as the adults around them appeared to be.  At some point, many adults gave up their convertibles with their shiny new windshields and perfect visibility, and plopped themselves behind the wheel of more practical transportation.  Some of us bought bullet proof glass only to find that it too can be chipped even though it’s unbreakable.  I have largely succeeded at remaining young at heart on the grander scale, but this recent passenger seat view of Lover’s Lane has been a wakeup call regarding how much I’ve slipped in recent years when it comes to aging of the soul.  It’s a slippery slope, and right now I’m scrambling back up it…  and so help me if you get in my way I’ll use your head as a stepping stone to get my own footing!  You get your own shotgun seat!  Or, if you have good insurance, go out today and get yourself a nice new windshield.

Riding Shotgun down Lover's Lane
Riding Shotgun down Lover’s Lane

I know it’s not that simple…  as parents, we have to be at the ready to grab the wheel if things get too badly out of control.  Shotgun is never an entirely honorary position.  You shouldn’t grab that seat if you aren’t prepared to fulfill its obligations.  At the same time, like it or not, if you have a teenager in love, you’re in that seat anyway.  (Don’t kid yourself, you aren’t driving even if you really really think you are.  You’re the passenger.)  You may as well enjoy as much of the ride and the view as you possibly can.

You might even learn something you forgot so long ago that it’ll seem new again when you see it.

Cheers from the Uncommonly Shotgun Rider

The Dad of a Daughter

The Dad of a Daughter

The Dad of a Daughter  

Being a Father is an amazing privilege.  Fatherhood comes in all shapes and sizes;  some Dads have many boys, some many girls, some a few of each, and some have just a single boy or girl to call their own.  By chance, I happen to be blessed with one of each.  While I do raise them with essentially the same parenting plan, there are differences between being the Father of a son and the Daddy of a daughter.

I get to be lots of things with and for my son.  Today, I’m going to talk about the privileges that are afforded to the Daddy of a daughter, because it became evident to me recently that not everyone chooses to see the Daddy/Daughter relationship the way that I do.  We’re all entitled to our opinion.  I wanted mine to be crystal clear and out there for all the world to see.

First, I’d like to repeat an old saying that I have always thought to be absolutely true; “You can judge a man by how he treats a person who can do nothing for him.”  This quote can be traced as far back as the late 1800’s, to an English sermon:

I think you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart.”

The Dad of a Daughter
The Dad of a Daughter

Having a little girl is a monumental responsibility.  When she’s little, you must do everything for her.  Over the years, you become her provider, her protector, her teacher, her confidante, her comfort, and her very first love.  You are the standard by which she will judge all other men for the entirety of her lifetime.  If you set that standard too low, she’s going to have a rough go of figuring out who to trust and who not to.  If you set it too high, she’s going to be frustrated by the majority of the men she meets.  While those standards are stories for another time, I wanted to point out that it is certainly true that having a child, in this case a daughter, is a situation where as the parent, you’re responsible for doing pretty much everything.

Sadly, there are still elements of our society who believe that a man is only a paycheck, and should have no bearing on the moral or emotional upbringing of a child.  I met one of those elements recently.  It’s like bumping into a dinosaur at the grocery store.  It’s unexpected in this day and age, and hard to believe, yet there it is right in front of you.  Extinction isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Regardless of the occasional unsavory element, I believe that, for the most part, we all love to meet a man who takes all of those responsibilities seriously.  Yet, when I talk to people about Fatherhood, especially in the context of a Daddy/Daughter relationship, they seem to see it as a responsibility that is being fulfilled on the part of the adult.  It’s so much more than that.  So very much more.

It’s an absolutely amazing privilege.  I get to be her provider for her needs, but also the bringer of gifts when I know there is something that will warm her heart.  I get to be her protector, the hammer that comes down when she is in danger or has been wronged, and I get to be the teacher who shows her how to swing her own hammer, and simultaneously avoid those who will create the need to do so, so that she will not be helpless when the day comes that she needs or wants to fight off dinosaurs on her own.  I get to be her confidante when she has joys to share that she affords only her closest trustees.  Most of all?  I get to be her very first love, and I get to be possibly the only truly pure and unconditional love she’ll ever know.  I get to be all of these things in this context only with my daughter, because she is possibly the only truly pure and unconditional lady love I’ll ever have.  This relationship is not fraught with emotional complications, arguments about the mortgage, or concerns over whether or not this is a long-term relationship.  All of those roles, responsibilities, and privileges were carved in stone the day she took her first breath.  I don’t get to be these things with anyone else.

I may never be a fire fighter or a super hero.  I may never have the luxury of crossing off those last 3 seemingly impossible remaining lines on my bucket list.  There are lots of amazing things I may never accomplish.  I don’t need to.  I get to be a hero every single day for the rest of my life, I get to enjoy all of the luxuries listed above, because I see them as luxuries.

Now, with all of that said, didn’t I just spend several hundred words convincing you the exact opposite of what our good Pastor from England said in the 1800’s?  There is something that my daughter can do for me.  She can essentially make me a hero, right?  That’s a lot more than nothing.  Well, yes and no.  The thing is, in order to claim victory on that, I have to keep up the good work for oh, say…  about give or take the rest of my life.  If, on my last day, she feels that I taught her well, protected her, provided for her, and cherished my time with her more than she could have ever hoped?  That’s the day I can claim victory.  My very last day.  Not a moment sooner.  Checks and balances, and whatnot.  (The cosmos thinks she’s soooo smart.)

The rest of my life…  that’s a long time.  How on Earth will I be able to continue eating this delicious cookie for that long?  When I am blessed with kind words from people who are not dinosaurs, and appreciate the need in our society for a child’s bond with his or her Father, I feel a little guilty as if I just got complimented for eating a cookie.  “Great job eating that cookie, man!”  The cookie is the part we all see as the treat.  The only question is whether or not you think cookies are a cumbersome expense, or a joy to be celebrated.

I suppose it’s much the same way people appreciate fine art.  They appreciate the artist’s work.  They see the artwork for what it is; the product of love and devotion.  What most people don’t see is that the artwork shapes the artist as a person just as much as the artist shapes the artwork that he or she creates.  My daughter shapes me as a man every bit as much as I shape her as a woman.  The artist became an artist through artwork, and the Dad becomes a Daddy through his daughter.

Undoubtedly, Dad is a better man with her than he was before her, or would he be without her, because he wants more for her than he himself can give her.  Dad only needs to choose to see it that way.  The dinosaurs?  I believe that the cosmos has made her feelings about dinosaurs as crystal clear as I have made mine about being the Daddy of a daughter.

Cheers from the Uncommonly Daddy of a Daughter <3<3<3

P.S.  I asked said daughter to read this story before I posted it, and let me know if she understood and/or approved of the publishing of said story.  The 3 hearts above were her response, and addition…

Charlotte Speedway Christmas

Charlotte Speedway Christmas

Charlotte Speedway Christmas
Charlotte Speedway Christmas

Charlotte Speedway Christmas  

Just a quick note tonight to let my local friends know about another of our favorite Holiday outings, the Charlotte Speedway Christmas!

For the locals, think of it as Tanglewood, only zigzagged around a giant famous race track!  Tons and tons of lights of course, with some bonus stuff like a petting zoo, pictures with Santa, horse-and-carriage rides, marshmallows roasted over open fire pits outside, indoor craft and food vendors, and possibly my favorite part, a drive-in movie in the infield!

The cost doesn’t seem too harsh at first, $20 on the weekends for a car load when the movie is playing and the Christmas Village on the infield is open.  I believe it’s a bit cheaper on week nights when you’re really just seeing the lights.

Charlotte Speedway Christmas
Charlotte Speedway Christmas

It’s much like a day at the fair though…  you can get in and walk through everything for $20, which also includes the movie, but be prepared for $4 here and $10 there if you want a funnel cake or a picture with Santa.  The petting zoo is free but the feed costs $2.  The fire is free, but the marshmallows are a couple of bucks.  That sort of thing, you can do it cheap or you can end up spending some cash if you do everything while you’re there.

Charlotte Speedway Christmas
Charlotte Speedway Christmas

Their web site has rates, tickets available for purchase in advance, and movie schedules:

http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/schedule/speedway_christmas/

Word to the wise-  apparently, you’re not supposed to pet the animals in the Bethlehem Village scene at the entrance!  The townsfolk chucked me right outta there, politely, and while they weren’t too harsh on me at all, they did mention that word of my shenanigans may make it to Santa!  The petting zoo is farther into the infield.  True story.

We love to go for lots of reasons, even though it’s about an hour from us.  This year we took the boy’s car so that we could gloat that it has run up Turn 2 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway!

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Holiday Speedway

Waterfall Problems

Waterfall Problems

 

Waterfall Problems  

Waterfall Problems
Waterfall Problems

Not too long ago, my Little Lady said something really funny about my rough edges.  I was explaining to her friend that the little lady makes me a better man by rounding off my rough edges, to which my little lady added, “Yes.  I’m the waterfall to his rocks.  And it’s taking SO.  Freaking.  Longggg!!!”  She was just teasing me in good fun, although admittedly telling the absolute truth, but it got me to thinking about the comparison.

Ever heard someone say that some problems in life are ‘rock problems’?  I’ll summarize the concept for you;  they’re saying that when you face a problem in life that can’t be changed, you have to accept it and work around it or you’ll spend your entire life beating your head against it.  Or, at least, that’s how I interpret the saying.

To some extent, I think too many people see a rock where none exists, and use it as an excuse to remain indifferent to something that they could probably change if they were willing to put real effort into it.  At the same time, there are truly things in life that cannot be changed.  If you continue to run marathons after you lose a leg?  You’ve worked around a rock problem.  The problem still exists-  your leg is still gone.  You could have spent the rest of your life bitter about the fact that you lost your leg, but instead you continued to be who you are by finding a way to do what you love in spite of the rock.  Prosthetics aren’t available to all rock problems, but they are a great example of the choices some people make when faced with seemingly insurmountable issues.

Point being, regardless of which path you take, the rock remains.  The rock’s surroundings are all that change.

Rocks do change under extreme circumstances, though.  Wind and water erode them.  Occasionally, rocks change quickly during catastrophic events such as landslides or earthquakes.  In either case, it takes a lot to change a rock.  Either several lifetimes’ worth of slow erosion, or a catastrophe’s worth of energy.  Neither of which any mortal has at his or her disposal.

Waterfall Problems
Waterfall Problems

Waterfalls change rocks.  Over many many human lifetimes, they’ll make a rock smooth.  The rock will still be there, though.  The rock affects the waterfall too, just like the prosthesis changes the runner.  In fact, I’d submit that the rocks make the waterfall that much more beautiful.  The waterfall has to flow and swirl and dance around the rocks…  it makes the waterfall that much more elegant.  Do you suppose that waterfalls ever get frustrated with the rocks, and the amount of time it takes to affect them?  I am certain that they do.  Yet, I’d much rather be the waterfall than the rock.  The rock is a stagnant and stubborn reminder of how resistant change tends to be.  The waterfall is vibrant and alive and making the best of things.

The waterfall has its ups and downs while the rock remains seemingly unchanged.  During drought, the rocks soak up the sun and bask in their break from slow transition.  During floods, the waterfalls roar and shine and make up for lost time withering away those rocks.

The thing about rocks and waterfalls is that nature pairs them together just like it does all things it means to balance.  The waterfall flows because it has to, and the rocks sit because that’s what they’re meant to do in the grand scheme of things.  They’re examples that Mother Nature offers us, I suppose.

Waterfall Problems
Waterfall Problems

I love waterfall people.  Their souls have been shaped by an unchangeable problem, and they have chosen to embrace it and make it a thing of beauty, rather than beating their hearts up against a rock for an entire lifetime.  The rocks really shouldn’t try to take any pride in that-  the waterfall would have been beautiful with or without the rocks.

In life, we get to choose.  People tell me that the rocks don’t have a choice, and that they’re born in a way that they cannot change in this lifetime.  I disagree.  One thing I know for certain about all people is that they all have a choice.  Every day.  Not to mention, now and then Karma gets impatient and tosses an earthquake out there if the rocks have created too much tension.

I believe that inside every human rock, there is the potential to be a waterfall, and inside every human waterfall there is the potential to be a rock.  The only difference between them is what each person chose to be.

No matter which way they choose, there is always the potential for a waterfall, because sadly some people will always choose to be rock problems.  To all of those out there who face a rock problem, please know that you can still be the waterfall that flows elegantly in the face of that rock.  I prefer to see them as waterfall problems, because the elegance of your waterfall is the gift you get in return for facing something that cannot be changed.

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Waterfalls

Papa Goats Tree Farm

The Hunt for the Perfectly Imperfect Christmas Tree

The Hunt for the Perfectly Imperfect Christmas Tree 

In the spirit of writing a little ditty about each of our local Holiday jaunts this year, I wanted to freshen up an old story and add to it regarding our recent trip to Papa Goats Tree Farm in Sparta, NC!

Papa Goats Tree Farm
Papa Goats Tree Farm

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on my Grandparents’ farm.  One of my favorite places on the farm was the pasture, which had towering oak trees, rolling hills, and several small bubbling streams.  I ‘played down by the creek’ for those of you who speak ‘country’!  While I often ended up IN the creek, I also liked to simply watch it flow around the bends and rocks.  There are always small pockets of calm somewhere along the edges, no matter how quickly or slowly the stream is flowing.  They’re hard to see, because of course it’s crystal clear water, but you can spot them by the occasional leaf that gets sidetracked off of the main current, and becomes subdued quietly in one of those little pockets of peace.

Papa Goats Tree Farm
Papa Goats Tree Farm

There are pockets of peace like that hidden everywhere, right out in plain sight, if you know how to spot them.  Your favorite spot on the beach.  Our favorite sunset spot.  Your favorite booth at your favorite coffee shop or restaurant.  These spots are probably different for everyone.

There are, however, some universal places that are likely to be little pockets of positive energy.  I was sitting in front of the fire at our favorite tree farm last weekend, watching all the families coming and going, some new to the place and the experience, some like ourselves old hats on the coat rack, and I realized that the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree is an event that brings lots of good will to one single place.  For us, that place has always been Papa Goats.  I know there are lots of tree farms in NC, but we’ve been going here for years and have never had any reason to even consider going elsewhere.

Papa Goats Tree Farm
Papa Goats Tree Farm

We do always find just the perfect traditional Christmas tree, and we very much enjoy decorating it when we get it home.  Something else we love to do that’s a bit untraditional is, well, we also hunt a mutant tree!  The Little Lady likes to ‘save’ a tree that appears to be unable to grow into what others might consider the perfect tree.  This year’s Charlie Brown Christmas Tree was something we found growing wild in the brush, wildly misshapen, alone, and well, not likely to ever become anyone’s Christmas tree.  It is now living the dream in our living room!

That trip has now become a staple in our recipe for the Holidays.  Your ingredients and results may vary, but for what it’s worth, here’s our mix:

  • Plan a day when you can kill the whole day, and sleep in!  We live about an hour and a half from Sparta, so part of the fun is the mini-roadtrip!  Roadtrip junkfood is a must. Mix CD or playlist of your latest favorite Christmas songs is also a nice touch.  NO other electronics-  Sing.  Talk.  Play tacky roadtrip games.  Seriously.

 

  • Check the weather!  Sparta is up in the mountains, and the weather can be significantly different up there.  Colder for sure.  Bundle up!  You wouldn’t want your hunting to be cut short by cold feet!

 

  • Papa Goats Tree Farm
    Papa Goats Tree Farm

    Take the dog.  The family dog belongs on this roadrtip as much as he or she belongs in front of a crackling fire or at the foot of your child’s bed.  Willie Wonka and Pretty Lady can now check ‘Hay Rack Ride’ off their bucket lists.

 

  • If you’re approaching Sparta on 21 North, stop at the scenic turnout just before you get to town.  You can see Pilot Mountain which is about 60 miles away as the crow flies.  It’s an amazing view in all directions.  I’ve been getting a picture of the kids with the tree atop the van and the mountain in the background at this turnout each year for years, so I can do a little slideshow of them growing up once they’re older.  Both kids agreed this year that I can ride in the back and rile up the Grandkids when they’re piloting their own family trucksters in the future.  Win.

 

  • Go to Papa Goats!  I know there are many tree farms in and near Sparta, and I’m sure there are many good ones.  I can only speak of this one though, and we’ve never had any reason to go to another.  This is a family day and I do work hard to find family-friendly places to take my kids.  Big fire outside to roast marshmallows over?  Check.  Free hot chocolate?  Check.  Hot apple cider?  Check.  Little gift shop?  Check.  Photo op with Santa?  Check.  Hay rack rides to and from the tree fields?  Check.  Lots of friendly help to assist you in finding, wrapping, and securing atop your car just the right tree?  Check.

 

  • But here’s the big thing-  every single person we’ve come across in all the years we’ve been going to Papa Goats has always genuinely been happy to see us, and glad that we bring the family to visit every year.  We’re not just valued customers, we’re also welcome.  ‘Welcome’ is one of the top secret ingredients to all Holiday Fun that I’m happy to spill for anyone and everyone who might apply it to all their Holiday endeavors.

Even if you get home late because you stopped to clown around at various locations on your return trip home with your tree as we did, get that tree in the house right away!  Our house smelled of fresh pine at bedtime last night.  It’s another one of those things that opens up the bag of memories that welcome in the Holidays for us.  And it’s a magic bag-  when this kind of day trip story opens that bag of memories, that story also instantly becomes a memory that goes back in the bag when you tidy up from the Holidays in January.  Holidays Welcome the Magic, and the Magic Welcomes the Holidays.  And whatnot…

Papa Goats Tree Farm is located at 687 Three Creeks Lane, Sparta NC, 28675 and you can find them on facebook at the following link:

Papa Goats Tree Farm on Facebook

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Holidays

Christmas TeePee

Oh Christmas TeePee

Oh Christmas TeePee 

If all goes as planned, as of course it always does here, this year I’m going to write a little ditty about each of our Holiday jaunts and favorite places to visit here in the Triad!  The first is right in our own back yard.

(This is going to zigzag a lot.  Buckle your seatbelt.)

We have a very wise old dog here.  His name is Willie Wonka.  He’s a beagle mix mutt, approaching 90 doggy years old.  Still a puppy at heart.  I try to learn from his wisdom!  He’s not much on sweets, but he’ll do anything for a salty snack.  He loves table scraps.  He’s a Good Boy, and he knows that he’ll get evicted from the kitchen if he gets under foot, so he keeps his distance and waits patiently for a morsel or two to come his way.  He’s grateful for his regular dry dog food, and he appreciates the tasty morsels that life affords him now and then.  Willie is a rich dog, because he measures his wealth in morsels shared with family.

Christmas TeePee
Christmas TeePee

Several years ago, 2009ish as I recall, I looked out my back door to see Miss Katie, our neighbor next door, working feverishly to pull a tree off her newly planted garden.  A spring storm had blown down a sizeable tree, and it fell squarely across her new rows of veggies, crushing her bean poles, and really just essentially being a real jerk about all of her hard work.  I clocked out for a few minutes to go over with the chainsaw and cut the tree into big logs that I then tossed over my fence, with the intention of cutting them up later for firewood.  Katie was able to manage the remaining brush.  When the kids got home and saw the logs, they decided we needed to build something with them, and a TeePee was born!  It stood in our back yard for years, until another tree fell on it and required us to rebuild in a new location-  in steps TeePee 2.0.  The point of this particular zigzag?  The TeePee has a good story behind it!

At some point thereafter, I decorated the TeePee like a Christmas Tree to surprise the kids.  I used an old plain white Christmas tree that someone had given me for the ‘heart’, and I had several old strings of lights lying around.  The cheap dime store star on top is also recycled from one of many post-divorce lean years, before we had a nice angel for our tree. I did spend about $10 on some post-Christmas clearance sale lights another year.  All total, we easily have less than $20 in the Christmas TeePee.  A tasty morsel that life handed us, if you will.  All we had to do was accept it and enjoy it.

With the exception of last year, when I’m embarrassed to say that I slipped a bit on our Holiday jaunts, we have enjoyed lighting the TeePee as a starter pistol of sorts for our Holiday doings.  The kids are old enough now to not only help, but honestly do most of the work decorating it, and even old Willie Wonka enjoys us out and about in the yard this late in the year.

Let’s face it, folks, most of life is dry dogfood.  Morsels don’t have to be expensive.  They’re everywhere.  We enjoy that $20 TeePee as much as Willie enjoys salty snacks, and being storytellers here, the best thing about any morsel is the story that led you to it…

It’s easy to be rich when you know how to print your own currency.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero TeePee

Puppy Love

Puppy Love 14-November-2014

Puppy Love  13-November-2014

Puppy Love
Puppy Love

Puppies at play.  You can’t watch puppies at play without smiling.  Or, if you can, you’re even more dead inside than I am!

If you watch them closely, though, you’ll see that they’re actually fighting.  They’re slowly gaining skills in agility, strategy, and combat, in a harmless way that allows them to practice all they want without sustaining any injuries.  Survival skills they’ll need later in life.

When they’re puppies, they get all the fun with none of the risk.  Sure, now and then, one nips a little too hard, or tackles with a little too much speed, and someone gets a yelp and some hurt pride.  In essence, though, nobody gets hurt.  It’s all in good fun.  They really don’t yet even know what the risks or consequences might be if the play were for keeps.

When most people say ‘Puppy Love’, I think they’re referring to the way a puppy follows you around all starry-eyed at your awesomeness.  I didn’t realize until recently that this is what most people mean when they use the term.  I’ve always thought it meant the prior;  all the fun and love that a puppy is afforded during play due to its youth, without any of the potentially devastating consequences that rough play may bring later in life.

Both of my kids are middle school now, and puppy love is afoot in our home!  While I do worry about the potential for heartbreak, I also, every day, look forward to hearing the starry-eyed tails wagging.  When I ask, “How was your day?”, I know I’m more likely to get a romantic story than anything academic.  Honestly?  I look forward to that every single day.  It breathes some life back into my jaded old soul.  I get to hear about who said what while flirting with whom, who is officially dating now rather than just flirting, etc.  I get to hear the details of why this or that inside joke was funny, and to which group of friends it was funny.  These are blessings, folks!  I listen as intently to these tailes as many people would listen to good stock market tips.  The stock market can only get you money.  Puppy love tales are good for the soul.

All too often, it seems that when I hear the term ‘puppy love’ used, it’s sort of…  condescending in nature?  As if it’s nothing but foolish?  I see through you though…  you’re all just jealous!!!  I am.  I can tell you that.  Who wouldn’t give their left kidney to be able to go back and love absolutely purely without any thought to how that love might have consequences later in life due to career, mortgage, health, location, etc.?  I’m a gentleman of more than Double-20 years I can tell you with absolute certainty that adults don’t do things that way anymore.  Honestly I’m not sure why they don’t, but they don’t.

Teenagers in Love
Teenagers in Love

As adults, we have to factor in all sorts of things that slowly whittle away our prospects.  Our pups themselves are heavily weighted in this equation…  we don’t want to uproot them to move, we have to find the right person who will be the right influence on those pups.  My career is likely based on this geographical location, hers another, etc.  Adults always fight over money, which I’ll never understand, yet they do.  Puppies don’t, and neither do kids.

Adults are always looking for that death blow that may come as a mortgage-to-the-jugular, a secretary-to-the-windpipe, an old-high-school-sweetheart-to-the-feels, that next big clash that could be the final straw, etc.  I don’t know why it works that way, but that’s how it works with grown-ups.  Kids don’t have those complications.  They love who they love for the sole purpose of following their hearts, just like puppies at play are just following their instincts and enjoying every bit of the play between naps.

On top of all of that, the reality of the situation is that you really can’t explain to a puppy why it’s important to go for the throat, and to guard your own jugular, whilst wrestling about during play.  Puppies just don’t understand that complexity, and no amount of explaining it is going to make the puppy understand.  Same goes for our youth-  even the brightest and most mature of youngsters are going to have to learn at least some of those lessons themselves.

Now don’t look so glum!  It’s good news!  You’re off the hook.  Go ahead and get it out of your system, but just once, and say, “Hey Spot, you need to guard your jugular or a banker or secretary is going to get your 401K!”  After you’ve wasted that breath, take another deep one, and enjoy watching the puppies play.  Enjoy it a lot.  Drink it in like fine wine, or if you’re old and jaded like myself, like Stoli on the rocks.  In any case, stop worrying about it, don’t be condescending about it, and just…  enjoy it!  You know you’re just jealous anyway.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Old Dog

COTC-99cents

Clash of the Couples on Kindle for 99 Cents Today! 13-November-2014

Clash of the Couples Kindle Version TODAY ONLY for 99 cents!

Dear Friends!

COTC-99cents
COTC-99cents

By now you’re probably aware that one of my stories is in print!  I hope you’ll help me out today by going to Amazon.com and purchasing the Kindle version for only 99 cents!  Our goal today is to make the Amazon Best Seller’s List.

You don’t even need a Kindle-  we use the Kindle app on our phones here.  You can also purchase it and gift it to a friend!  Heck if nothing else just buy a copy to humor me even if you never read it!  It’s a fun book that I co-authored along with forty-five fellow bloggers, and you’ll get far more than 99 cents’ worth of laughs out of it!

So please, please, please, hit the following link and download your copy for 99 cents today only!

Take me to the Kindle Version of Clash of the Couples!

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Clash

Dadding Done Differently