Traveling Happiness

I am a person who enjoys traveling. One reason that I enjoy traveling so much is that I love to experience and discover new places. Whenever I am in a new community, I am looking for the cultural aspects of the community. The museums, the parks, the festivals, and the unique neighborhoods are a draw for me. Sometimes it might be an amusement park, a zoo, or a city square that I will explore. Each community has its own flair and character that sets it apart from any other place to which I have been. The more time I have in a new location to discover these elements, the happier I become. Many of these opportunities are free which is also a great benefit.

Another exciting part of traveling for me is the actual process of getting to wherever I am going. Whether it be by car or plane (I have only traveled by train and bus once each), there is something about that experience that energizes me. If it is by plane, I find energy when I am in the terminal awaiting my departure. Seeing the different individuals throughout the terminal and creating in my mind scenarios about where they are traveling, why they are traveling, and who they may be traveling with provides me a creative way to pass the time. Boarding the plane and awaiting take off gives me a feeling of setting off on a great adventure with unknowns which generate energy within the suspense.

If I am traveling by car, the possibilities of seeing new sights launches me on moments of discovery. Making those stops along the way allow me to interact with the people and differences of each location for even a brief amount of time. On a recent trip, I learned that cotton is grown in Kansas when I thought sunflowers was that state’s unique crop. I also became aware of the magnitude of the oil wells which exist in the state of Oklahoma. New information which would have been unlikely for me to know if I had not traveled through those states in my car.

The ability to travel also gives me a sense of accomplishment. When I have been to a place and am able to check it off of my list of “famous places I would like to visit,” I feel accomplished. I also enjoy when I encounter a statue, monument, building, or street which I have heard about in a movie or on television. Again, I have a positive feeling of completion in my life.

With traveling there are also some negative aspects. Times when delays or unexpected hurdles occur. Long periods of just sitting on a plane or in a car. Missing an exit while you are driving. Having your luggage not arrive at your final destination when you do. All these negative aspects are small to me in comparison to the great feeling of euphoria which I experience when given the opportunity to travel.

A Week Away At Home

You may have noticed that I have not blogged in about a week. There was a good reason for this. I had the pleasure of having my youngest son come to visit during his spring break. Of course one of the reasons he chose to come visit is that temperatures here averaged twenty to thirty degrees warmer than back in Iowa where he attends college. I hope the other major reason is that we have not seen each other since our move at the end of December. Whatever his true reason may be, I was more than excited to have him visiting.

Last week was filled with opportunities for me to show him a little about our new city. This was not his first visit to the area. He had been here while he was in high school for a national convention of an organization in which he was a member. They had been able during that visit to tour AT&T Stadium but saw little of the rest of the area. I tried to give him a flavor of the area. Each day we explored something different.

Here is a general breakdown of our week:

  • Friday – arrival and introduction to our new home
  • Saturday – Attended the “World’s Only St Paddy’s Day Pickle Parade”, had a birthday celebration dinner, and went to Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar
  • Sunday – Hiked the trail at Eagle Mountain Lake
  • Monday – Visited the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards and watched the longhorn cattle drive and toured downtown Fort Worth including Sundance Square
  • Tuesday – Visited TCU, walked through the stadium, and then went to the Star which is the headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys and adjacent entertainment area
  • Wednesday – Went to the Fort Worth Zoo
  • Thursday – Spent the day at Six Flags Over Texas
  • Friday – Visited the Fort Worth Science and History Museum, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum, and walked around the campus of the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center

We were on the go pretty much all week, not including little stops along the way and a lot of eating out.  

Self

Last week I wrote a blog post, Who Am I, which explored the concept of defining one’s self and what components we used to do such an activity. In my opinion, being able to do such a task requires a level of self awareness. I think that self awareness has impact upon much of our life. By knowing who we are, we are able to understand a great deal about how we interact with others and how we live our lives.

Self awareness begins by examining our attitudes and responses to encounters in our lives. There are many programs which will guide a person through a process of examination. An individual may choose to use online tools, enlist the aid of a spiritual guide or psychiatrist, or identify an appropriate self-help book. A program that most individuals who receive a Masters of Divinity must take part in is called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). This program not only gives the student an opportunity to practice pastoral care in a hospital setting but also through the group sharing verbatim reports of conversations allow the student to examine how they respond to the various situations which arise in the setting.

There are people who seem to have an innate sense of self awareness. This type of person can analyze their behaviors and name the source of their responses. The individual clearly knows who they are and how they operate in their world. I view this as a gift. Usually the person is not aware of this gift until they have been exposed to the language and interpretation through an experience, whether it be a class or discussion with a professional.

No matter where you might fall in the midst of all this, I think that attaining some level of self awareness is a great benefit to you. This awareness can enhance your professional and personal life. Realizing what leads you to respond in certain ways will help you to manage your negative responses better. Being aware of your strengths and challenges allow you to take a proactive approach to life instead of a reactive approach. Having self awareness will allow you to strengthen relationships and create new relationships which are healthier.

Continuous Education

I have been fortunate to receive an unquestionably strong education. The small school which I attended from Kindergarten through graduation (all in the same building) afforded me a wonderful opportunity to learn and explore. While my school did not have much outside of the basics in educational course offerings, I was provided with a solid base from which I could continue to grow. There were also more than enough opportunities to become involved in extracurricular activities due to the smaller number of students and plenty of slots to fill in clubs, organizations, sports, and fine arts. I think that I learned almost as much from my involvement in these extra-curricular offerings as I did in my classroom experiences. At least in regard to application of what I was learning.

Following my elementary, junior high school, and high school education pursuits, I was fortunate to attend small liberal arts college. The first one I attended for a year and then I transferred to a second college where I spent four years completing my undergraduate studies. Before you jump to any conclusions, I was not kicked out of my first college, I transferred so that I was closer to home. My undergraduate experiences mirrored my secondary education. The size of the institution gave to me easy access to classes, professors, and extra-curricular activity involvement. I even extended my final year over two years to take advantage of a unique learning opportunity. I was hired for a new student position at the college. This position was to be the student manager of all the student employees in the college’s multipurpose facility. I was asked to create a management structure, write job descriptions for all student positions (including my own), create policies, create schedules, and any necessary documents. For the first year, I hired, trained, and supervised all the student staff. The following year I spent the first semester supervising staff and making revisions to the structure, policies, and documents. I then hired my replacement and trained the individual during my final semester.

After graduating from college, I began a career in retail management followed by short work experiences at a data management firm and a nonprofit health organization. I then made the decision to return to formal education by going to a university to receive my Master’s degree. Again, I was offered the opportunity to become involved in campus life this time as a residence hall director.

These formal forms of education have been a tremendous asset to me. However, I believe that just because a person is not in a classroom, this does not mean that education no longer continues or can even happen. I think it is vital for each one of us to continuously learn. As I alluded to earlier, I think learning occurs not solely in classroom settings but equally in out-of-classroom situations. Every time I was actively enrolled in an institution, I had experiences which enhanced, broadened, and added to my classroom education.

I also think that for some individuals classroom education has limitations. Every person is not designed to leave a secondary education setting and attend a traditional four-year liberal arts institution. Some of us are better equipped to attend a trade school. Some are better equipped to become students of experiences. No matter how we are created, we all have the ability to learn even if it is through different methods.

The other important item concerning education is that it should be never ending. In my own experience, I continue to read, listen, and explore. Through each of these tools, I discover and learn all types of new pieces of knowledge. There is not an age limit on learning and expanding what a person knows. In fact, I would argue that like a muscle in the body, if you stop working your mind, you will see a deterioration. My observation in life is that as you learn new and different bits of information, your viewpoint in life changes and you discover new opportunities.

I challenge you to continue to learn each day. Consider it a successful day of life if you end the day knowing something which you did not know as you started the day. Life has a lot of lessons to teach us and each of us are equipped to discover a new lesson each day.

Different Viewpoints

I have come to the conclusion that I view the world different from the experts. Whether looking at food, movies, or music, I tend to have a much different way of judging than the experts who are known as critics. When I hear something touted as critically acclaimed, this translates to me that I am probably not going to like it nearly as much. Maybe the reason is that I experience life in a much different way than the critics experience it in their specialty area. Why is that?

One of the significant differences between these experts and myself is education. My college major was social science, the study of history, politics, economics, sociology and psychology. When I graduated with my bachelors of arts degree, I was qualified to teach any of these subjects at the secondary education level. The experts either have degrees in their specialty area and/or experience. So when they encounter whatever they are reviewing, they encounter it from an academic and/or experience viewpoint. When I encounter those same areas, I have the vantage point of an average person with much less background.

Another difference between them and myself is that when they eat a meal, watch a movie, or listen to some music, they are being paid to do so by someone. They take their knowledge and dissect whatever they are reviewing. A critic will take each part and rate those parts individually then give an overall view based on their experience with the parts. When I approach the same item, I come to view it on one basic question: Does it bring me pleasure?

This leads me to explain what creates pleasure for me in these three categories. When speaking of food, I want the taste to be enjoyable; the texture to be right; and the ability of the food to satisfy my hunger and/or craving. With regard to movies, I seek entertainment. Does the movie keep me engaged? Does it create some sort of emotion(s) within me? Will I walk out of the theater wondering how the time passed so quickly or did I feel like it went on forever? Music is a lot like the other two items. I want music to be understandable to me. Can I make sense of the lyrics or melody? Do I feel some emotion when I hear the song? Is a memory or image created in my mind by what I hear?

I think the different approaches which I take to these aspects of life from what a critic might is why I come to a much different conclusion. My approach centers on aesthetics and emotions while a critic looks at the mechanics and details. I want the food, movie, or music to enhance my life in some way. A critic wants these to meet technical criteria. Different viewpoints which lead to different conclusions.

What is your criteria for judging if something is excellent, good, or bad?

Who Am I

Defining one’s self can be an interesting prospect. Quite a few individuals define themselves based on their occupation or career. When someone first meets another person, often the first question which is asked is what the other person does for a living. I think this is why most people begin their definition of self with in light of their job or career. The problem with this starting point for a definition is that if the person retires or becomes unemployed for some reason, their definition of self crumbles a bit.

Another key component of defining who we are is found in relationships. A person may continue his/her definition by stating they are a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, the son, or the daughter of, a wife or a husband. Again, a problem presents itself here if the significant relationship ends due to death or divorce. This does not mean that the role has definitely disappeared but it has at minimum lessened.

For those who do not rely on their employment or familial relationships to be key components of their self defining, a person may choose to use their hometown or where they are now living as a definer. Like the other two components, the issue is that locations in a person’s life change. While not as dramatic as the other two instances, it still can cause a ripple in the definition of self.

There are a great variety other aspects of life which may be used in the definition of self:

  • Sexuality
  • Religious beliefs
  • Political affiliations
  • Ethnicity
  • Favorite teams
  • Hobbies

The list can continue indefinitely. Take a moment to look at some social media profiles and you will be amazed at the different components which are found in the profile descriptions people use. I do not want to state that any of these are trivial. Some would even argue that by combining all these varied components that we are able to create a self-definition.

I contend that such an approach is lacking. I understand why that seems to be the default approach of most people. This requires far less effort and time than the approach which I will advocate in a bit. Generally, it also seems to be the safest approach. True, unless some dramatic life event alters these components and the person is left realizing they cannot actually define who they are anymore.

For me, the defining of who I am requires me to take time to do some introspection. I need to look at what are the core elements of my life and my spirit. This causes me to examine what is important to me and why. I have to spend some time determining what I believe to be true and upon what I base those beliefs. I am forced to see how I have been influenced by other people, my context, and my experiences; both the good and the challenging. My dreams, my hopes, and my aspirations must be taken into account.

I would state that this is not a one-time for all time activity. Our definition of self changes over time. I view this as a good reality since it provides an opportunity to redefine ourselves. This requires us to do some self-examination and evaluation at different points in our lives. I think it also takes some pressures off of us since we know that who we define ourselves as today is not permanent. This opens the door to learning, growing and changing which is the definition of life.

I challenge you to take some time to create your self-definition. Creating this definition will require more than an hour or two. You will need to answer some questions which you may never have asked yourself. You may need to struggle with some aspects that you have ignored or have not had an awareness. Although, if you truly put in the effort, I am confident that the reward will be lasting and significant.

A Tribute to Betty Lou

It was my second year of volunteering for the Blue Ribbon Foundation at the Iowa State Fair. For one of my shifts, I was assigned to work in the merchandise trailer located on Grand Avenue. I was nervous but excited at the same time. After I checked in with the volunteer coordinator, I went inside the trailer and met two women who I would be working with for the next four hours. They seemed to know each other and I definitely felt like a newcomer. One of these ladies would become one of my closest friends at the fair, Betty Lou.

Betty Lou had volunteered at the fair with the Blue Ribbon Foundation since the Foundation came into existence. She was raised on a farm in south central Iowa and had been a regular attendee of the fair for most of her life. The Foundation came into existence in 1993 to help raise funds for improvements to the physical structures of the fairgrounds. The state legislature and income from the yearly event were not able to give enough funding for much-needed repairs and upgrades. Because of Betty Lou’s love of the Iowa State Fair, she wanted to help improve it and makeit one of the nation’s greatest state fairs. So she volunteered every day of the state fair and the fair merchandise trailer had become one of her main areas of work. She also would do a few shifts at one of the water booths.

I soon came to realize that Betty Lou was the person who I would need to learn from if I was going to be a successful volunteer. She knew all about the items which we were selling from t-shirts to prints to toy John Deere tractors. She was informed about the various ways that people could leave legacies at the fair and provide financial support through bricks, lamp posts, memberships, and benches. Betty Lou could give directions to fair goers about the booth which had the newest fair food or where to find the infamous Butter Cow. She could tell them the history of the checkers tournament or the sheep barn. If you needed to know something about the Iowa State Fair, Betty Lou was the person to go to and many would send fair goers to her directly. So I spent the next few years learning from this extremely knowledgeable lady.

In just a few short years, I was mimicking my new friend and volunteering every night at the fair. This meant that I was limited in my shifts with Betty Lou but I stopped in to see her every day we were not working together. We even started coordinating together which volunteer shirt we were wearing for the day. Soon she would shift from doing only daytime shifts to working nights with me. When we were not busy, we would spend the time-sharing about our lives, our families, what we had seen that day at the fair, and the amazing characters who we encountered. Before long, we were also volunteering together for other Blue Ribbon Foundation fundraisers such as the annual Iowa Cattle Show and the Corndog Kickoff.

Between the fair and other volunteer events, we would call each other occasionally. Then Betty Lou upgraded her cell phone (she had a flip phone for years) and before long she was texting me. We spent many hours laughing and sharing stories together. Christmas cards and birthday cards became a regular thing between us. She would hassle me if I was not able to volunteer with her.

Then about two weeks ago, I received a text from a mutual friend. She asked me to call her when I had the opportunity. Something inside me knew this was not a phone call which I was going to like. Within an hour, I called her, and she gave me the news that Betty Lou had been found laying on the floor of her home unresponsive. Her sister had stopped by the house because she had not heard from her in a few days and Betty Lou lived alone. Later we would find out from the medical staff that her blood sugar had bottomed out which caused her to lose consciousness. The problem was that she probably had laid on the floor for a couple of days. She was taken to the hospital and placed on life support. Through our friend and Betty Lou’s sister, I was receiving updates on Betty Lou’s condition. Last Thursday, her sister made the difficult decision of removing life support. Since Betty Lou was always a bit of a fighter, she actually continued to breath on her own and seemed to be stabilizing but there was no sign of regaining consciousness. On Friday, they made the decision to move Betty Lou from the hospital to a hospice center in her town. The move went well and the medical staff indicated that she was stable so recommended her sister go home. Within a short amount of time, the call came that Betty Lou had died.

I knew the call would be coming, but I was not eager. When her sister called to tell me the news the next day, I saw Betty Lou’s cell phone number come up on my phone and was certain the purpose of the call. Her sister used Betty Lou’s phone because it had all of her contacts in it already. They were trying to decide what to do for a service and while she had indicated that she wanted me to be a part of that service, her sister knew that weather and distance was not going to make that very possible.

All that took place three days ago. Each day since then I have had times when I think about Betty Lou. She was a lady who gave of herself more than most people would ever know. She cared deeply about people but would seldom let them be aware. She loved Iowa, her hometown, and the Iowa State Fair. She was always a farm girl even though she would eventually work at one of the hospitals in Des Moines. She was someone who I had grown to admire, respect, and love. I will always think of her, especially when I see one of my Iowa State Fair t-shirts or hear anything about the fair.

Thank you, Betty Lou from all who get to enjoy the Iowa State Fair which you worked so hard to improve. Thank you, Betty Lou for all who benefited from your kindness and generosity. Thank you, Betty Lou from an Iowa boy who learned so much from you and will always love you. You will never be forgotten!

A Summer Day for a Small Town Boy

I shared a little about growing up in a small Iowa town last week in my post, “Small Town Life.” At the end of that post, I indicated that I would be sharing more around that theme in the future. Today, I decided that my post would give you a glimpse into an average summer day in my childhood.

Not every day was the same but each of them carried some typical elements. Each of them was filled with a lot of time outside, exploration, and adventure. My mother would encourage me to go outside. I always thought it was because she wanted me to explore and enjoy the world around me but as I have grown a bit older, I think often she wanted me out of her hair. Either way, I was more than happy to oblige her.

After I had awakened and dressed, I headed outside for a day of adventure. One of the nice aspects of living in a small town is that you never seemed to worry about where you were headed or who you would meet. There were certain signals which told you that you needed to check in at home but other than that you were able to explore the  whole time. Only your age and energy put boundaries on the exploration.

After departing from the house, time consisted of checking out the yard. Maybe a little time on the swing which hung from the branch of the tall pine tree in our front yard. Then out to the back corner where the weeping willow tree could become a hideaway as the long branches concealed a small boy when he got close to the trunk. There was always some type of insect to discover on the ground and you could spend a large amount of time sitting in the shade of that tree without anyone being able to easily find you. Of course the yard exploration could not be complete without inspecting the apple tree which actually was in the yard of the next door neighbors but right along your yard. Then head over to other side of the yard where the small abandoned shed with the discarded appliances was located. During the right time of the summer, you could pick mulberries from the volunteer tree on the side of the shed. Then create a whole story line of adventure in the shed playing with the unwanted stove.

Soon the fire whistle in town would sound. This sound at this time of the day meant it was noon. When this whistle blew, I knew it was time for me to stop my adventures from the morning and head into the house. It would not be long before I would hear the engine of my dad’s work van. He was a self-employed electrician but knew that mother always expected him to arrive at noon for lunch. I would go inside, wash my hands, and as soon as dad was in the house and settled in at the kitchen table, mom would set out whatever she had planned for that day. Lunch was always a lighter meal and sometimes consisted of left-overs. After eating lunch, dad would go lay down for his midday nap which lasted from the point he was finished eating until 1:00 pm. Mom would clean up from lunch and I would head outside to begin my adventures for the afternoon unless I was planning on going to the town’s swimming pool.

If I did not head to the swimming pool, I might get on my bike and go visit a friend whose dad was the Lutheran pastor. We spent hours riding our bikes on the sidewalks of the church and the block surrounding it while we played cops and robbers. Or the afternoon might consist of joining my friend who lived behind me as we headed across the large outfield of the school’s ball diamond to a clump of trees and overgrown plants. In the center of this area we had built a fort which included space for us to sit on pieces of wood and dream up adventures. After sitting there a while, we might climb up on to the railroad tracks that ran alongside the area. We would walk down the tracks to the train trestle bridge. If I was feeling brave, I would walk from railroad tie to railroad tie of the bridge to get to the other side. Always looking down through the space between the ties and shaking a little because of how high we were above the creek. Once on the other side we might decide to crawl down the hillside on the side opposite of the junk yard where a big and ferocious dog who no one had ever seen but had heard lived. This would take us to the small creek where we would spend time exploring, digging for crawfish and enjoying the cold water.

The afternoon adventures would continue until once again the town’s fire whistle would blow to indicate it was now 6:00 pm. The whistle had the same effect that the noon whistle did for every kid in the town. Now was the time to go home because supper (I did not call the evening meal dinner until I went to college) was on the table. There was a little grace period from when the whistle sounded until you were expected to be coming through the front door of the house. If you went too long, then you probably were confined to the house the rest of the evening. If you made it inside by the reasonable amount of time after the whistle then you could return to the outside until the appointed time.

Evening adventures depended a little upon what part of the summer we were in and when the sun went down. These adventures might include time on the swing in the front yard again and seeing how high I could get the swing. It also could mean heading to school to play with others on the playground equipment. As we came closer to fall, it usually always included time spent in one of the makeshift football fields we created either in the back part of the ball diamond’s outfield or the open lots that were near the school building. My responsibility was to be the referee of such intense scrimmages. When the sun went down, it was expected that I head home. If it was an extremely warm night, I may be allowed to run across the street to the ball diamond and see how many fireflies I could catch in the mayonnaise jar which Mom had put holes in the lid of with a nail. If not, then often I was off to the bathroom to take a bath and get cleaned up for bed.

Every day was a little different and had a variety of combinations of activities and adventures. Although the consistent aspect of a day in the life of this small town boy was activity and adventure outside. By the end of the summer, I would be bronze from time spent in the sun. Staying inside was not a choice. Besides, it was hotter inside since we did not have any form of air conditioning in the house until I was in junior high school and then only a window air conditioner in the living room.

I would not have traded this type of life for the world. My memories bring a smile to my face.

I shared a little about growing up in a small Iowa town last week in my post, “Small Town Life.”  At the end of that post, I indicated that I would be sharing more around that theme in the future.  So today, I decided that my post would give you a glimpse into an average summer day in my childhood.

Not every day was exactly the same but each of them carried some typical elements.  Each of them was filled with a lot of time outside, exploration, and adventure. My mother would encourage me to go outside.  I always thought it was because she wanted me to explore and enjoy the world around me but as I have grown a bit older, I think it was often because she wanted me out of her hair.  Either way, I was more than happy to oblige her.

So after I had awakened and dressed, I headed outside for a day of adventure.  One of the nice aspects of living in a small town is that you never seemed to worry about where you were headed or who you would encounter. There were certain signals which told you that you needed to check in at home but other than that you were given the whole town to explore. Only your age and energy put boundaries on the exploration.

After departing from the house, time was usually spent checking out the yard.  Maybe a little time on the swing which hung from the branch of the tall pine tree in our front yard.  Then out to the back corner where the weeping willow tree could become a hideaway as the long branches concealed a small boy when he got close to the trunk.  There was always some type of insect to discover on the ground and you could spend a large amount of time sitting in the shade of that tree without anyone being able to easily find you.  Of course the yard exploration could not be complete without inspecting the apple tree which actually was in the yard of the next door neighbors but right along your yard. Then head over to other side of the yard where the small abandoned shed with the discarded appliances was found.  During the right time of the summer, you could pick mulberries from the volunteer tree on the side of the shed. Then create a whole storyline of adventure in the shed playing with the unwanted stove.

Soon the fire whistle in town would sound.  This sound at this time of the day meant it was noon.  When this whistle blew, I knew it was time for me to stop my adventures from the morning and head into the house.  It would not be long before I would hear the engine of my dad’s work van. He was a self-employed electrician but knew that mother always expected him to arrive at noon for lunch.  I would go inside, wash my hands, and as soon as dad was in the house and settled in the kitchen table, mom would set out whatever she had planned for that day. Lunch was always a lighter meal and sometimes consisted of left-overs.  After eating lunch, dad would go lay down for his midday nap which lasted from the point he was done eating until 1:00 pm. Mom would clean up from lunch and I would head outside to begin my adventures for the afternoon unless I was planning on going to the town’s swimming pool.

If I did not head to the swimming pool, I might get on my bike and go visit a friend whose dad was the Lutheran pastor.  We spent many hours riding our bikes on the sidewalks of the church and the block surrounding it while we played cops and robbers.  Or the afternoon might consist of joining my friend who lived behind me as we headed across the large outfield of the school’s ball diamond to a clump of trees and overgrown plants.  In the center of this area we had built a fort which included space for us to sit on pieces of wood and dream up adventures. After sitting there a while, we might climb up on to the railroad tracks that ran alongside the area.  We would walk down the tracks to the train trestle bridge. If I was feeling extremely brave, I would walk from railroad tie to railroad tie of the bridge to get to the other side. Always looking down through the space between the ties and shaking a little because of how high we were above the creek.  Once on the other side we might decide to crawl down the hillside on the side opposite of the junk yard where a big and ferocious dog who no one had ever seen but had heard lived. This would take us to the small creek where we would spend time exploring, digging for craw fish and enjoying the cold water.

The afternoon adventures would continue until once again the town’s fire whistle would blow to indicate it was no 6:00 pm. The whistle had the same effect that the noon whistle did for every kid in the town.  It was time to go home because supper (I did not call the evening meal dinner until I went to college) was on the table. You were given a little grace period from when the whistle sounded until you were expected to be coming through the front door of the house.  If you went too long, then you probably were confined to the house the rest of the evening. If you made it inside by the reasonable amount of time after the whistle then you could return to the outside until the appointed time.

Evening adventures depended a little upon what portion of the summer we were in and when the sun went down.  These adventures might include time on the swing in the front yard again and seeing how high I could get the swing.  It also could mean heading to school to play with others on the playground equipment. As we came closer to fall, it usually always included time spent in one of the makeshift football fields we created either in the back part of the ball diamond’s outfield or the open lots that were near the school building.  My responsibility was usually to be the referee of such intense scrimmages. When the sun went down, it was expected that I headed home. If it was an extremely warm night, I may be given some time to run across the street to the ball diamond and see how many fireflies I could catch in the mayonnaise jar which Mom had put holes in the lid of with a nail.  If not, then often I was sent to the bathroom to take a bath and get cleaned up for bed.

Every day was a little different and had a variety of combinations of activities and adventures.  Although the consistent aspect of a day in the life of this small town boy was activity and adventure outside.  By the end of the summer, I would be bronze from time spent in the sun. Staying inside was not really an option.  Besides, it was hotter inside since we did not have any form of air conditioning until I was in junior high school and then it was just a window air conditioner in the living room.

I would not have traded this type of life for the world.  My memories bring a smile to my face.

Relationships Needed

In my last post, I wrote about realizing what matters in life. I have decided to expand on that theme in today’s post. If you remember, I pointed out that what matters are the lives which intersect with our own. Each of these intersections have a different level of depth to them. Some are more superficial and may become solely acquaintances or one-time encounters. Others become actual relationships.

As I consider the assorted places I have lived, the jobs which I have had, and organizations I have joined, I can name at least one relationship from each of these which I still maintain today. In each of these different groups, I actually have more than one continuing relationship. Relationships have always been important to me. I need to be connected to others and I spend a lot of time developing a variety of relationships. Each relationship carries with it memories, lessons, and lasting impacts.

Three basic factors for developing and maintaining a relationship exist. The first and probably most important, is communication. A person needs to be in regular communication with another if they are going to create and grow a relationship. When communication ends, then the relationship will be weakened and sooner or later will end as well. This communication needs to be more than superficial after the first weeks of the relationship. Going deeper in the communication highlights the second factor.

The second basic factor of a healthy relationship is being vulnerable. How vulnerable depends on the nature of the relationship and the length of time. Trust must be established for a vulnerability to exist. This trust builds over time but also builds when a person shares something meaningful and experiences a positive reaction by the other individual. As trust increases and the openness of sharing increases then the relationship will be stronger.

The third basic factor is making an effort. The first two components are connected to this third. Relationships do not magically happen. They require taking the time and work to establish and maintain them. I view relationships as being alive. As a plant or animal requires effort to grow and maintain, a relationship requires the same. If a plant or animal is neglected, it will die. The same is true with a relationship.

Having relationships can be exceedingly rewarding in a person’s life. We were created with the innate desire to be in relationship. I encourage all of you to develop and maintain healthy relationships in your lives so that you can be healthy and complete.