Stress, not only is it bad for your health, extreme stress can change how you think, feel and act. Unfortunately for me, I know this all too well. Years ago I owned a small sound and light production company. After I would spend 60+ hours a week in my high stress, 100% commission, role as an account executive in the industry of mortgage banking, I spent my weekends working with local bands. While this was supposed to be the fun, for the most part I allowed it to fill me with the very thing I was trying to escape, stress.
I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Rumors Nightclub at the Brookfield, Marriott. I had recently turned 21 and decided to join a couple friends for a night of live music. Though I can’t remember much about that night, like who I was with or why we decided to go there in the first place, I do remember the band. Their name was This is This, a local cover band. They were a young, talented, fun, high energy rock band that covered a fairly eclectic range of music from the Chili Pepper’s, “suck my kiss”, to Toto’s “Africa”. The thing about This is This, is that they didn’t just play the songs, they WERE the songs. I was in awe. I loved them, their vibe and the atmosphere they created. I enjoyed it so much that from that night on, I became obsessed with live music. I grew my hair out, bought a bass guitar and began fostering my own inner “rock star”.
Because Milwaukee was fairly small, I quickly discovered that the live music scene was alive and well. Each weekend I would travel the local circuit discovering new bands and clubs. Mirage, Rhythm Method, and This is This, quickly became my favorites. Not only were the bands incredible, so were the girls that followed them. It was a single, young man’s dream. I loved it so much that I am certain the bands felt as though I was a stalker, I wasn’t, I was just obsessed!
Over the years my obsession quickly grew and before long I started a band of my own. Though we were no were near as good, it was still a blast. My parents, God bless them, allowed us to take over their basement. We went big! A full PA system, drums, keyboards, guitar rigs and of course the most essential ingredient, a massive bass guitar rig. Unfortunately for my parents, we practiced often. To this day I don’t know how they handled the noise or the shaking of the house. While we shredded down stairs, they sat directly above us and attempted to watch Hill Street Blues. I can’t imagine that they ever heard a word. The crazy part is that no matter how long we rocked out, they never complained, not once. Honestly, I’m not sure how they did it, but I am very grateful they did, it was so much fun.
Those early days, were magical. I can remember how fun it was to play “Plush” by The Stone Temple Pilots. I’m pretty sure that it was the first song I learned on my new, bright green bass. I was a long hair flowing, work boots wearing, rock star want a be caught between prep and grunge. There was no stress, only fun. Unfortunately, that didn’t last for long. Not long after we had just played our first gig, the drama associated with being in a band, started to unfold. My best friend, our drummer, had an opportunity to join a more established and quit honestly, much more talented band. Our singer moved away and just like that, my fantasies came to a screeching halt. Not to be discouraged, I called several friends and before you knew it, one thing lead to another and we were back to the grind, running down our dream.
Why I couldn’t just enjoy it and have fun, I’ll never know. Being in a band seemed to be a constant clash of egos, personalities, schedules and ideas. It was an on going search for places to play and gear to buy. Nothing was ever good enough. I became so addicted to the idea of replicating the bands I admired, that I stopped having fun.I even stopped listening to music! While my rock star fantasies would continued for many years, it would never again be as pure or as fun as playing “Plush”, for the first time, in my parent’s basement.
Though it wasn’t always fun, it did change my life. It was through playing a couple songs one night in Whitewater, WI with my friend Craig’s band, Live Bait, that I met my now ex wife and mother of my child. As fate would have it, not only was she out of my league in every way, she was also a very talented singer. Before you knew it, we were in a band together, married and living the dream.
Behind the scenes, bands aren’t always a good time. There is a lot of stress that comes with managing all the moving parts. You have to juggle schedules, handle personalities, replace members, buy equipment, fix equipment, find places to play that are willing to pay you enough to make all the band members happy, market so that the places that are playing you also make money, make posters, deliver posters, create mailing lists, choose songs, buy clothes and oh yeah, after that, when you have time, practice.
When you’re in a band it seems like you are always looking over your shoulder trying to stay ahead of the new band that is trying to “take your gig”. Though it shouldn’t be, it is a very competitive industry. At least that’s how I saw it.
After many years, bars, festivals, musicians, bands and songs, it was finally time to hang up my bass for good. As one of the leaders of the band, I was simply tired of trying to keep everyone happy and all the parts in motion. It was at this point that I decided to “reduce” my stress, leave playing behind and move to the other side, production.
Interestingly, I repeated the exact same pattern. What started off as one of the most fun, fulfilling and rewarding things I had ever done, turned into, “If I ever hear “Jessie’s Girl” again, I am going to stick a knife in my eye!
Dealing with bands, the club or festival’s schedule for load in and load out, gear maintenance, booking, personalities, deadlines, opinions, a failing marriage, and time away from my son, became too much for me to take and I quit. Cold turkey. To this day, may years later, I haven’t looked back. Although there have been opportunities, the scars and stress of those days run too deep.
Today’s verse is Proverbs 29:11 “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end”. What I learned about myself, over the many years I spent chasing down my rock and roll fantasies, was that I am no good under stress. When I am stressed or feel overwhelmed, my alter ego comes out and that guy is a dumb, overly perfectionistic,opinionated,scary, big mean bully. The crazy part is that when I allow him out of the box, I know the damage he is going to create, yet I struggle to put him away. It’s like watching a car accident from the distance. You know it’s going to happen but you’re helpless to stop it. Though some people have the ability to calmly manage difficult situations, I’m a work in progress.
If you are anything like me and stress turns you into somebody that even you don’t like, I invite you to join me in the wisdom of this verse. Next time you feel as though you’re ready to explode, stop, breathe, step outside of yourself and seek the perspective of the other people involved. Instead of reacting to the situation (like a nuclear explosion) calmly and maturely, respond or walk away until “cooler heads prevail”.
Lastly, I just want to add that when you love something, like I did live music, sometimes that’s enough. Try to resist the temptation to make it bigger than it has to be. And if you want to push yourself and go for that dream, do yourself a favor and enjoy the ride.
Thanks for taking this journey with me down memory lane and thanks for accepting me as I am with all my flaws exposed.
Have a great day!
PS- If you are a musician in the Menomonee Falls area, give me a call, I may be open to a few bars of “Plush”.
Last night I picked my son up from lacrosse practice. It was his second practice and until recently, neither him or I had given much thought to the sport. Everything from the equipment required to the basic stuff like rules of the game or how to catch and throw the ball, was new to us. Because many of Ethan’s friends were joining the team, he decided that he wanted to as well. However, picking him up last night proved to be one of those moments where as a parent you feel a bit helpless.
To provide a bit of background, Ethan is a very athletic 15 year, old in great shape, who is rapidly becoming a man. Unlike his dad, his body is comprised of lean, ripped muscles and a set of six pack abs. Although Ethan is not a big kid, he is in great shape! Ethan grew up and still is, extremely active. In the winter you will find him snowboarding, while in the summer he will be outside doing tricks on his mountain bike, riding BMX at the skate park or in the woods riding his motocross bike or ATV. When it comes to sports that have wheels, Ethan is VERY proficient. Give him a bike and in no time he will be riding wheelies for miles (no exaggeration). Because of his intense love for X-sports, we rarely played catch, basketball, soccer or any of the other common sports that many kids and parents played growing up.
Last night when he got in the car, I could tell something was wrong. Ethan, normally a carefree happy kid was feeling pretty down. When I probed into the issue, it turned out that he was struggling with lacrosse. He was feeling left behind and a bit isolated. Instead of performing drills with his teammates, the coach had him off to the side learning how to catch and throw, lacrosse style. In lacrosse, catching and throwing is a necessity of the game. You simply have no choice but to learn how to do it well. In addition, though I think he is perfect, he feels as though he is too small and wants to “get bigger”. In other words, he wants to add muscle mass.
As a father who deeply loves his kid, it’s hard to see him so down on himself. My first instincts were to protect and shield him from his pain, tell him it’s alright to quit and allow him to go back to the things that he is good at. Although that’s what I wanted to do, I knew that doing so would not be serving him in the long run. I knew immediately that this was going to be one of those times where God was going to test him and help him grow. The best I could do would be to offer him my wisdom, guidance, love and support.
After a brief conversation on our drive home, Ethan immediately went to bed. Feeling a bit helpless, I said a prayer, closed my eyes and fell asleep myself. When I awoke this morning to write my blog (at 4:30 AM-it’s becoming a habit now) I heard the question God had placed in my head while I slept. “What does it mean to be a man?” Immediately, I knew that the answer to this question was going to be the subject of today’s blog. I can’t wait to hear the answer.
What does it mean to be a man?
It’s hard to believe that you’re almost 16. Time has gone by so quickly. From the first time our eyes connected I knew that my life would never be the same. I remember waking up early that morning to discover that your mother was having contractions. Because you were our first, the birthing classes that we attended prior to your arrival, informed us that once contractions start it may take a long time for you to come out. With that in mind, your mother made the decision to take her time. She showered, packed, then finally decided that it was time for us to make our way to the hospital. When we arrived, we were shocked to discover that she was already too far along to receive an epidural (oops). The best they could do was offer her basic pain medication. I don’t think it really worked too well, which brings me to my first point.
Sometimes being a man means knowing when to be quiet, this includes chewing gum in your wife’s ear during labor, even if you are simply trying to be supportive. Also, under no circumstances should you ever try to compare the pain that they are going through to the time that you, __________________. Because no matter what you fill that blank with, it simply doesn’t compare to the pain she is experiencing in that moment and she WILL let you know as much.
Back to the story. As it turns out, although we’ll never know for sure, it’s very possible that not having an epidural that morning saved your life. I’ll never forget how quickly the scene changed in the delivery room the day of your arrival. Throughout the morning, there were only a few of us in the room. Your Mother, myself and a nurse. Once it was time for your mom to push, the doctor came in to assist in the delivery. I knew something was wrong when, with little notice, the room was suddenly full of medical professionals working frantically to get you out. You had stopped breathing and though they weren’t sure how long it had been since your last breath, they knew the situation was getting critical. It was then that the doctor took out a scalpel and without warning or time for anesthesia, performed an episiotomy. (Which brings me to my next point. Being a man means admitting that women are absolutely the tougher sex!)
Moving on… At that point your Mom was instructed to push, she had to get you out quickly so that the team of doctors and nurses could get you breathing again. I want you to know that your Mother, with nothing to dull the pain, was brave and fearless as she pushed you out. If she had been sedated, the doctors said that she may have not been able to push so hard and get you out in time to save your life. It’s true that everything happens for a reason.
The second you arrived, the nurse cut your umbilical cord, put you in a cart and placed an identification band on your leg. After doing so, she grabbed my arm and did the same. (well, not my umbilical cord, that had already been cut years ago) Next, she rushed us both into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) so that the doctors could connect you to all sorts of machines that would monitor your very existence.
Confused, I was told that since you hadn’t been breathing for such a long period of time, there was a very good chance that you may have suffered brain or other organ damage. The next 24 hours would be critical. If you peed, it would serve as a sign that your kidneys were functioning properly. If the kidneys worked, it was likely that everything else would work too. I don’t think it’s possible to have been more excited than we were that day to see a tiny little diaper full of yellow pee. Which brings me to my third point. Being a man means to have faith. Faith means to have complete trust in the unknown. To believe that everything that happens to us is part of God’s plan. Having faith means believing that even when things seem to be at their worst, when everything seems to be falling apart, its not, it’s just part of a grander plan that God hasn’t revealed to you yet.
In life, bad and scary things are going to happen. There will be moments that don’t seem fair and moments where you feel like you’ve lost all control. It is in these moments where you get to decide what kind of man you want to be. You can either play victim by focusing all your attention on what is “happening” to you and ask, “why me?” or you can choose to immediately shift your attention and focus to the lessons you can take away from that experience. If you remember to identify, learn from and offer gratitude to your negative experiences, you WILL become a stronger person. Remember that the quality of your life will not be determined by “what” happens to you but rather by “how” you perceive what happens to you.
I learned so much that week. I learned about functions of the human body, hospital protocol, the kindness of strangers, and unconditional love. I learned that your Mom is a bad ass and that you are a fighter. I learned that life is a gift and while it is easy to forget, the fact that any of us are here at all, is a miracle. Part of being a man is recognizing this fact and identifying your individual gifts, given to you by God. It is important that you identify them early so that you can spend your life using YOUR unique talents, in the service of others. When searching for your gifts, it’s important that you don’t compare yourself to others. Your talents are as unique to you as theirs are to them. Remember, there will always be someone that is bigger, faster or stronger. Someone with a nicer house, a faster car or more money. There will always be someone smarter, better in school or better looking. Rather than comparing yourself and creating feelings of anxiety, jealousy, anger and overwhelm, celebrate your friend’s unique talents as much as you do your own. While you do so, search for the gratitude in who you are as well. For while it is true that there will always be someone that is better or has more than you, it is also true that there is always someone who would do just about anything, to trade places with you!
Though we had a rough start, I am extremely grateful for the lessons that I learned that week. In many ways, God used your birth as a wake up call for me to become a better man. Notice that I said “better” and not “perfect”? Life isn’t about being perfect, its about continually learning from your mistakes and trying to improve. As a man, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. In fact, the last several years of my life have been devoted to learning from my mistakes in an effort to improve myself and the life we share. As a result, here are some of the things that I learned, through the mistakes I’ve made, in my pursuit of becoming a man. Since we are not given an instructional manual at birth, I hope that you can avoid the need to experience my mistakes for yourself and rather accept this advice to be true.
A Real Man:
- A Real Man: Admits when they are wrong, then apologizes and makes things right. If you find yourself in this position, don’t wait to make amends, as my first mentor John Lindsey (RJ’s Dad and owner of Midwest Action Cycle) once told me, DO IT NOW!
- A Real Man: Never gives up. No matter how hard it gets, don’t walk away, don’t quit, there is always a lesson to be learned. And while it is true that sometimes you have no choice but to move on, make sure you do it in a way that leaves you with no regrets over “what could have been”.
- A Real Man: Knows it’s okay to be the first to say, “I’m sorry”. Not only will it make the other person feel better, you will as well.
- A Real Man: Loves fiercely. If you choose to love, do it with so much passion that she can’t help but know that you have chosen her and that you are going no where. Along the way you may hear that girls like men that are “bad boys” or that they want a guy that challenges them. While this may be true, the girl that deserves your heart won’t need to play games, she will be as into you as you are to her. When you find her, hold onto her and give her what she needs, love, attention, truth, presence and for goodness sake, make sure that you lift the toilet seat!
- A Real Man: Seeks perspective. He understands that his way of “seeing” the world is only his point of view. When conflict arises, remind yourself of this and instead of immediately flying off the handle, a mistake I’ve made plenty of times, pause, stay calm and attempt to see things from the other person’s point of view BEFORE you respond. Doing so will help keep the peace and clear up many misunderstandings BEFORE they escalate.
- A Real Man: Takes calculated risks. There are no sure things but nothing great ever happened by playing it safe.
- A Real Man: Goes all in. When you make a decision, your answer either has to be HELL YES! or HELL NO! There is no such thing as HELL Maybe. Indecisiveness will drive you and the people that you surround yourself with crazy! All you have to do is make decisions based on what is best for you and those you love, then stick to it and go all out in its pursuit. Remember, “God didn’t give you the ability to always make the right decision but he did give you the ability to make the wrong decision right!” – Andy Andrews
- A Real Man: Stands up for what he knows is right. It may not always be the popular thing to do but if you know in your heart that something isn’t fair, right or just or if you see someone being bullied or picked on, it is your obligation to speak up, step in or find someone who can help.
- A Real Man: Dreams BIG! It’s your duty to believe in the power of your dreams. If God didn’t believe you are capable, he wouldn’t have planted the idea in your head in the first place. Believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. The world is waiting for someone like you to step up. Be bold and take action. Don’t just think about it, do it!
- A Real Man: Laughs. Don’t take yourself or for that matter, life so seriously. This may be one of my greatest regrets. Laugh more, play more, enjoy more.
- A Real Man: Works hard AND plays hard. Play and Work are NOT the enemies of each other, they are companions, it’s important that you strike a balance and live a life filled with both.
- A Real Man: Eats Ice Cream. Honestly, I’m not sure if this one is true or not but the fact is, that you are never to old to act like a kid or enjoy a cold treat.
- A Real Man: Dances. Nothing will make your wife happier than to share a dance with her man. While the other guys may be too cool for school or worried about what other people think, you make her laugh, feel loved and proud to be with you. If you ever find yourself forgetting how to dance, refer to the movie “Hitch” and let Will Smith teach you how!
- A Real Man: Respects others. You don’t always have to agree but you do have to always respect someone else’s choice, opinions and decisions. (Even when you KNOW they are wrong 😉 )
- A Real Man: Is spiritual. Seek a relationship with God. Read, understand and “live” the Bible. If you don’t know where to start, ask someone who does.
- A Real Man: Has a mentor. You are not expected to know everything. The fastest way to learn is by modeling the behavior of those that have already accomplished what it is that you want to do. By nature, most people are good and they will be more than willing to help or at minimum point you to a resource that can get you started.
- A Real Man: Reads. There are so many incredible books in this world that are filled with centuries and centuries of wisdom. Do yourself a favor and develop a love and passion for reading. Audio books count too!
- A Real Man: Surrounds himself with people he loves and respects. You will become the sum of the five people who you spend the most time with in life. Make sure that the people you surround yourself with are taking you closer to where you want to go and the man you want to become.
- A Real Man: Asks for help. Don’t have so much pride or be so stubborn that you are afraid to ask for help. Most people are more than willing to lend a hand, providing you would be willing to do the same for them.
- A Real Man: Expresses his feelings and communicates his thoughts clearly. Excuse my French but whoever said that real men don’t cry, is full of S–T! Expressing your feelings doesn’t make you less of a man it makes you human. Speak your truth and if it hurts, a good cry never killed anyone. Expressing your feelings won’t only make you feel better, it will help those you love understand, respect, connect and love you more.
While this is certainly not a comprehensive list, it is a good start. As you continue your journey to becoming a man, I want you to know that I am always here for you, no matter what.
Proverbs 28:26- “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”
Today I am going to keep it short and simple. When I read Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. It reminded me of many things, but non more than something that I read in a book several years ago. Unfortunately, the book and it’s author currently are escaping my mind. However, the lesson taught in one of the chapters has stuck with me since the moment it entered my head.
In the book the author was discussing the power and life cycle of an idea. Specifically, the author stated that so often when we have a thought, such as wanting to write a book, lose weight, start a new business, play guitar in a band etc., we create the idea then immediately begin sharing our thoughts and plans with the people in our lives that we love and respect most. He continued to state that when you do this, one of two things usually happens and unfortunately neither will assist you in getting to where you want to go.
The first thing that happens is that out of “love”, those closest to us will listen to our idea then follow it with advice regarding all the reasons why it won’t work or why you’re not skilled enough to take the project on. It’s out of “love” because most of the time when this happens, it is because they are trying to “protect” us. They don’t want to see us get “hurt” in the process of going for it! Other times their negativity isn’t out of love at all but rather from a place of self pity, protection and unworthiness. Instead of supporting you they tell you all the reasons why your idea isn’t going to work, not because YOU can’t do it but because when they look in the mirror, they believe THEY can’t. This is know as mirror or shadow work.
The other possibility feels better but is possibly even more detrimental to the ultimate success of your project or idea. What happens in this situation is that that the person you share your plan with gets sooooo excited that they celebrate you and your idea like you just discovered the cure for cancer or won a Nobel Prize. While their confidence in you and positive affirmations will feel incredible in the moment, as the aforementioned unknown author stated, because you already received the rewards and celebrated the victory, the chances that you never take action at all increases exponentially!
I like to think of it like this. Imagine that your idea is a balloon. Every time you add to your idea it breathes new life and energy into the balloon making it bigger and bigger. Because the balloon (your idea) is not ready to fly yet, when you share your thoughts with someone else, regardless if they respond in a positive or negative manner, sharing before you’ve tied the balloon up and released it into the atmosphere, takes the air and energy out of it. Without this “life force”, your idea may never get off the ground.
So then, what’s the solution? It’s simple. Keep it to yourself. Instead of talking about it, listen to your gut, take immediate and massive action and do it now! Proverbs 27:1 “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
Have a great day!
PS- Remember that sharing your idea with loved ones before it’s ready to launch and seeking counsel from “wise men” are two completely different things. If the scope of your idea is large enough, seeking counsel may be a necessary part of the process. If this is the case, look for a teacher, mentor or a coach that will help you examine all perspectives and work with you to create a plan that will lead to your ultimate success.
How freely do you give your energy away to others? It’s a question that we should all be asking ourselves daily. Let me clarify, the energy I speak of is not in terms of serving another through acts of service or good deeds. They energy I’m referring to is the energy that each of us has that propels us throughout the day. Again let me be clear, this energy is not the same energy that we would speak of if we were to say, “boy, I’m tired today” or “Wow, I have so much energy, I could run a marathon!” The energy I want to discuss today is that which belongs to you and only you. It is the energy that creates the thoughts you think in your head. The energy that tears you down or builds you up. The energy that makes you feel good or bad. The energy that allows you to accomplish great things in your life or keeps you holding space.
Several years ago, I had a rather interesting conversation with someone I had attended school with many years prior. I wouldn’t call this person a friend but I certainly didn’t think that we were enemies either. On this particular evening, I reached out to share some cutting edge health products and research with him. To be honest, I was sharing this information with him in the hopes that he would be interested in it enough to purchase it for himself and his family. To his credit, he didn’t hesitate to listen. While I don’t think the details of our conversation are necessary to this story, what is necessary to understand is that prior to our conversation that day I was “feeling” good! I was happy, excited, confident, hopeful, relaxed and eager to help. I had already spent my whole day serving others and sharing this potentially life changing information with people that were grateful, that I took the time to do so. Unfortunately, our conversation did not go so well. To say this person rejected me and the information I was sharing, would be a gross understatement. Not only did he reject the validity of the information I offered him, which by the way, had already been scrutinized and affirmed by some of the top scientific minds in the world, he did so without taking the time to inform himself as to why he was rejecting it in the first place. In doing so, our exchange became rather heated and by the end of it, I felt personally attacked.
Has something similar ever happened to you? Maybe you had a great day at work only to arrive home and before you can even walk in the door, your spouse meets you in the garage and “dumps” on you. Or maybe you left home in the morning feeling great! On the way to the office you listened to your favorite songs or motivational book and you felt unstoppable, until you got cornered by a coworker having a bad day or a boss on a rampage. When this happens, what happened to all those “great” feelings you have just moments before? They’re gone right? It’s like someone pulled the plug on your hot bubble bath and left you naked, sitting in a cold, damp, porcelain bathtub. THIS is the kind of “energy” that I am talking about!
Looking back on my conversation that day, by the time we hung up the phone, I was no longer happy, excited, confident, hopeful, relaxed and eager to help him, myself or anyone for that matter. Instead of “feeling” good, I felt down right awful! I was frustrated, angry, bitter, offended and I am certain that my blood pressure had gone through the roof! You see, even though he didn’t take the time to do his own research on the subject, he flat out rejected the information that I was sharing with him. Instead of accepting his choice to remain judgmental and uninformed and simply move on, I took it on myself to convince him that he was wrong, what a mistake! His mind had already been made up. There was absolutely nothing I could’ve said or provided him that would have changed his mind. Nothing! Rather than recognizing this fact and walking away, which would have allowed me to retain most of MY energy, getting into an argument with him had the opposite result. Not only did I allow our conversation to affect my energy that evening, I allowed his words and actions to affect me for many years to follow.
It was like our conversation that day sparked some deep seeded wound or resentment that he had towards me, someone else in his life or possibly himself. For several years this person would appear out of nowhere on the pages of my social media and each time he did the positive energy, that up to that point had been propelling my day forward at wrap speed, was suddenly gone. The worst part of it all??? I allowed it to happen. It wasn’t his fault. It was mine!
How we feel or react to any situation comes down to one word. Choice. We have a choice. Like the favorite books of my childhood, you know the ones that allowed you to choose your own ending, we have a choice. God made sure of it by giving us the power of FREE WILL. Everything we do, every little decision is our choice. It doesn’t matter what someone says to you. It doesn’t matter how they act towards you. It doesn’t matter how they treat you or even why. The ONLY thing that matters is how YOU CHOOSE to react to it.
PROVERBS 26:4 says “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” If I could do it all over again, I would have recognized where our conversation that day was going and walked away. Because I didn’t, because I chose to stay and fight it out, I freely and knowingly gave my precious energy away.
The next time you’re in one of these situations, I encourage you to make a choice. (Remember it is YOUR choice) You can either allow yourself to be consumed by the energy that will rob you of your hidden power or you can choose to protect yourself by deflecting, walking away or by allowing your light to shine so bright that those around you can’t help but to become blinded by your awesomeness!
Have a great day and protect your energy!
I have always had an issue when it comes to saying when, especially when it comes to sweets, matchbox cars, bass guitars, motorcycles, ATV’s and scooters. In other words, when it comes to gluttony, my struggle is real!
The first time I remember over doing it when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I had just discovered “Little Debbie” swill cake rolls and boy were they delicious! I’m not sure what it was about them. Maybe it was the soft chocolate coating that you could peel off and eat in chunks. Maybe it was the soft chocolate cake that was exposed after you did so. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the white cream filling inside. Whatever it was, I loved them. I loved them so much that I even experimented on how to eat them. Since Gram liked hers cold, I did too, so sometimes I would place them in the fridge like she did. Other times I would resist dissecting it piece by piece and simply eat it the normal way, end to end. One of my favorite ways to eat a Swiss Cake Roll, however, was to find the end and unroll it until I got to the creamy middle. It didn’t matter how I ate a Swiss Cake Roll because even when the first roll was gone, there was always another to eat a different way. Thank goodness for two in a pack! Even the cardboard that the twin rolls called home wasn’t off limits. Since they had been sitting on the waxed cardboard for, well only God knows how long, peeling them off always left behind a residual amount of chocolate goodness that I simply couldn’t let go to waste, it had to be licked off. Ah yes, Swiss Cake Rolls, I wish I could say they were a childhood memory, but that would be a lie. Little Debbie became one of my best friends through grade school, high school and even into college.
Back in the days when gas was .89 cents, (oh geez I sound like my father) I drove weekly from home to my college campus in Platteville, Wisconsin. Platteville was just over a two hour drive. Along the way there was this little town named, Gratiot (pronounced grasshit). Gratiot was as little town of 233 but to me it was an oasis in what felt like days behind the wheel. By the time I would reach Gratiot, my early 1980’s Chevy Monte Carlo would be thirsty for gas and since Gratiot was famous for its low priced petroleum, it was the stop of choice for a college kid with little money. Back then gas fluctuated from .89 to .99 cents a gallon. So for $12 dollars I could top off my tank and buy a box of 12, Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. I remember that I would open the box before leaving the parking lot and by the time I had left that sleepy little town, I would have already eaten a quarter of the box.(6 rolls in total) As thought that wasn’t bad enough, by the time I reached my final destination, about 45 minutes away, I would have experimented with all the fun and creative ways I could think of to eat them. With nothing but an empty box full of wrappers and cleaned off waxed cardboard squares, I would pull into the parking lot of my dormitory hungry and ready for food.
By now I think you “get” the picture. I loved Swiss Cake Rolls, or did I??? The truth is that while I did enjoy the first bite, the many subsequent bites that followed left much to be desired. The chocolate exterior tasted more like wax then chocolate, the cake was basically flavorless and the cream filling was like eating liquid sugar. Though I would eat a whole box, heck I still would, it wasn’t because I loved how they tasted or the quenched my appetite, it was because I simply didn’t know when to say when.
While it was fortunate that a broke college kid could find such an amazing treat at a price of .99 cents a box (you still can by the way) it was rather unfortunate for someone like me who had little self control. Today’s verse Proverbs 25:16 says “If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit.” While the meaning of this proverb seems pretty obvious, it’s meaning goes much deeper. It’s not just about eating too much honey, or in my case Swiss cake Rolls, it’s about the dangers of gluttony in all areas of our life.
Gluttony is defined as habitual greed or excess and while that’s the “what”, I think the more important question is “why”? Why did I continually choose to eat a whole box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls? Why did I think that I needed a suitcase FULL of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars? Why did I build a 2000 square foot pole barn and fill it with motorcycles, ATV’s, dirt bikes, scooters, guitars, drums and recording gear? It is the “why” that fascinates me to this day. Though the object(s) of my attention has changed, being gluttonous, is still something that I wrestle with.
So far, the best that I have come up with is that my gluttonous tendencies come from two places, filling of a void or a fear of lack. Little Debbie provided “sweetness” in my life, my suitcase full of toy cars provided me with “significance” and my obsessive “toy” buying as an adult was a way for me to feel “alive”, if only for a moment. Fear of lack, be it money, love or things has never really made sense to me. Growing up, my parents made sure, even if they had to work two or three jobs, that my sister and I had all of our needs met and then some! On top of it there has never been a doubt about how much they love me. Therefore, lacking, has never been my reality but it absolutely scares me anyway. Whether it be a box of Little Debbies, an extra large pizza, a plate full of spaghetti, a box of my favorite cookies, or a left over birthday cake, I eat them like it is the last time I will ever get to eat.
I wish I had a happy ending to this story. I wish I could say, “that was then but now…”, but I can’t. The struggle for me is still real and it’s an ongoing battle. Hopefully, one day I will be able to write about “how” I over came being a glutton but for now the best I can do is to be aware of when I am acting gluttonous, then recall Proverbs 25:16, remind myself that there is more where that came from and ask myself, “what void(s) are you trying to fill right now?” and “why are you afraid there isn’t enough?” Hopefully, the answers to these questions will one day lead me to my solution.
Have a great Day!
PS-In just in case you are in line at the store and see a pack of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, don’t go for the single pack, they will charge you the same price for one at the check out as they will for a box of 12 in the aisle. (Of course, only I would pay attention to that!)
Each morning when I begin to write, I have no idea as to what is going to come from my mind and ultimately appear on the pages of my blog. It’s not until after it’s written that I get the message I was trying to convey to myself. To begin the process, I sit down at my keyboard, open the day’s Proverbs and search for the message God wants me to see. Most mornings I feel a bit of resistance and struggle to “hear” the message. But sometimes, the message is clear, and calls out, “this one Kevin!” On those mornings, even though the message is clear, often times I am still left to consider what it is that I am going to be writing about. This is one of those mornings.
Today’s verse is Proverbs 24:32 “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw” How many times have you made a mistake? Seriously, could you even begin to guess? I’m not sure I could guess the amount of mistakes that I make in a day or week, more less over my lifetime! In fact, as I am typing this, I have already made numerous mistakes. Some that have caused me to backspace, others that have required me to choose new words or phrases and some (well, many) that have caused me to consider my punctuation. (I’m still considering it by the way) The truth is that mistakes are a part of life. If you are living, you are constantly going to make mistakes. There is just no way around it. So then, why is it that when we make some mistakes we are simply able to hit the backspace and “delete” key with no further consideration to our error but other mistakes that we make cripple us and leave us laying in a pile of mush for days, weeks, years and even decades of our life?
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could recover just as quickly to the mistakes we make in life as we do when typing a quick text to a friend? Go back and look at some of your messages, I would be willing to guess that they are FULL of mistakes! “To” where it should read “too”, “there” where it should read “their” or one of my favorites, a question with no question mark. Although we all make these mistakes, especially my male readers, we do so with little worry, consideration or impact on our day. In fact, most of us don’t even care, as long as we send the message, “how” the content is delivered, matters little. Now, get divorced, lose a job, get in a car accident or put on a few unwanted pounds eating Grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies and that little mistake can turn into a relentless boxing match with ourselves that leaves us black, blue and wounded. Even worse is when our past mistakes cause us to no longer trust our decisions in the present moment.
For years, I have been struggling with two major themes in my life, my career and my relationships. Both of these struggles are the result of a mistake or a series of mistakes that I made long ago. Though I was wildly successful in my career as an account executive, I focus on that time of my life in a very negative way. The long hours worked, resulted in a great deal of stress. The time away from home, resulted in a lost connection with my spouse. Chasing money versus passion, left my soul aching for more. “Holding on”, when I knew it was time to “let go”, resulted in a lack of trust for myself and the decisions that I make. The list could go on and on but that’s not the point. The point is that while making mistakes is an inevitable part of life, the meaning we attach to those mistakes and the speed to which we recover isn’t. It’s the meaning we attach to those mistakes that creates our attitude. If you were to look up “perspective” in the dictionary, one of the definitions states that “perspective” is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. That’s why when it comes to little things like spelling and punctuation mistakes in a text to a friend, the mistakes we make are no big deal. In fact, they don’t even phase us in the slightest amount. However, if you were to write a book that you wanted to become a “best seller”, punctuation and spelling would matter a great deal! It’s all about our attitude and perspective!
So then, how can we use this information to recover from the “big” mistakes we make just as quickly as we do from all the “little” stuff? The answer is simple, change our attitude and gain a new perspective of the situation.
When we are told in Proverbs 24:32 “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw” we are being told that if we use our “heart”, which in this case refers to our Center of Hidden Emotional-Intellectual-Moral Activity, we can use our intellect to find a new perspective, change our attitude and learn a lesson from the “big” mistakes we make.
They key here is that while we are brought up with the belief that “time heals all wounds”, it is this belief that can also leave some of us in a pile of mush wasting away the best years of our lives. After giving much consideration to the “big” mistakes I’ve made, it wasn’t time that healed my wounds, it was creating a new attitude towards my mistakes, that made all the difference. The only “mistake” I made was thinking that a certain amount of “time” was required in order for me to do so. They truth is, it wasn’t. I didn’t need time to heal my wounds, I just needed to learn the lessons my mistakes taught me and then move the __________ on. Just like I have done over and over again with the small stuff.
The saying says, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. However, after a lot of consideration, today I am going to change my perspective and attitude towards this age old saying and make a new decision to live the rest of my life “not sweating the ‘big’ stuff.” I invite you to join me and do the same!
Have a great day!
I woke up this morning and had absolutely no idea of what to write about. Therefore I read my morning verse, the news, watched a few movie trailers, surfed FaceBook, then opened my Bible app to read Proverbs once again. Still struggling, I began to focus in on several of the verses within Proverbs that speak about the consumption of wine. Oddly enough, since I choose not to drink, I didn’t understand WHY my mind was focusing on verses that spoke about the over consumption of alcohol. As with all of my posts, I didn’t question it I just got my butt out of bed, at 4:28 A.M on a Saturday I might add, and got to work writing this post. Honestly, I can’t wait to see what comes out!
If you read Proverbs there are quite a few verses about over indulging on wine or beer. As I sit in my office, a room full of things that remind me of my Grandparents, I can’t help but think back to a moment in my life when I unknowingly made a decision that would forever shape my life. It was October of 1985 and Gram had just passed away. I remember it was a cool but sunny autumn day. As my aunt, uncle, Mom, Dad and other family members gathered in her old farm house to discuss funeral arrangements, grieve and share stories about her life, I remember eating the last of the stale chocolate chip cookies that sat untouched in her refrigerator. As I circled the yard on the old Craftsman garden tractor, I watched the grass fly as I recalled all the wonderful and not so wonderful moments (like the time my cousin Gary ran me over on my cousin Craig’s go kart) spent with Gram on her farm.
As the youngest Messerschmidt, the farm was a magical place for me. There was always something to do. Haymows to explore, creeks to wade through and trees to climb. There were also buildings full of old junk, antiques and hidden treasures. The farm hadn’t been in operation for many years, so instead of cows standing in stalls, you would find everything from my uncle’s old Harley Davidson “popper” to a worn out set of wooden skis. The milk house no longer produced anything to drink, rather it produced creations of metal directly from my cousin Craig’s creative and sometimes diabolical mind. Behind the barn where cows used to graze, now rested modified cars with the roofs cut off, and axels welded together. Welding the rear axel allowed both wheels to turn at once. This allowed my cousin to leave epic “burnouts” on the road in front of Gram’s house that lasted years after her passing. It also allowed for these old abandoned cars to be used off road. Some of my favorite memories were hanging out with my cousin, riding on the back of the car (he cut the roofs off and replaced back seats with a truck style flatbed) and ripping up the lane as we made our way to the creek.
Gram was a very good sport. I have to believe that my cousins and I drove her crazy but regardless, I think she enjoyed having us around. I was lucky to have Gram. She lived just down the road from the house my parents built on what used to be part of the family farm, my cousins lived across the road. Because we all had dirt bikes, bicycles and numerous other fun creations that allowed us to go faster than a kid should, much of our summer was spent riding up and down the sleepy country road with one of the four dogs of my childhood chasing behind. We all had so much freedom, even the dogs!
When night would come, often times my cousin (when I was younger) and I would stay overnight at Gram’s house. It was during these sleepovers that Gram’s patience would be tested. I remember one night, Craig decided that it would be a good idea to place old Sears and JcPenny catalogues on a chair, tape a paper target to them and practice our sharp shooting skills. As you can imagine, this idea didn’t go over very well with Gram. After several heated exchanges between my older cousin and Gram, Craig and I stood in the living room with his BB gun, firing away. I laugh at this now but looking back I can only imagine what was going through Gram’s mind that night.
One of my favorite parts about the sleep over was when Gram tucked me into bed. In the corner of the dining room where we would spend time together playing “kings on the corner”, bingo, eating her incredible homemade molasses cookies and lemon meringue pies, sat an old daybed. Around 9:30 when the house got quiet, Gram and I would convert the old daybed into a bed made for a king. We would remove all the cushions and replace them with several down filled pillows. Next we would steal the old oak chairs that surrounded her massive round oak table and place them next to the daybed. Once in place, she would ensure my safety by placing the massive cushions from the daybed onto the chairs. It was awesome, absolutely awesome! Since the daybed’s mattress was down filled, I was literally laying on a bed of feathers! Because the old farm house cooled down significantly at night, it was common that Gram would place multiple quilts over me to keep me warm. There would be so many of them that I could feel the weight of them as the surrounded me. It was very comforting and made me feel safe and secure. By 10:30, right after the evening news, it was lights out. Like clockwork, at 7:15 the next morning we would wake up and eat Frosted Flakes and toast covered with butter. (just make sure you take the butter from the end of the stick though because Gram would “loose it” if you scrapped it off the top. Just ask my cousin Gary!)
Daytime at Gram’s consisted of walks down the road, swatting mosquitos, baking pies, picking raspberries, pulling weeds from the garden, playing games and looking for 4 leaf clovers in her back yard behind the outhouse under a huge tree.
It was during our walks that I learned the way to a woman’s heart is through flowers, or in Gram’s case, cow slips” and Johnny Jump Ups.
Though the ditches of the marsh between our house and hers were full of cow slips, she would act so excited each time I would arrive to her house with a handful of them to place on the old oak table where she would spend many hours writing in her diary and playing solitaire.
I share these memories with you because I wanted to paint you a picture of the love, respect and gratitude that I have towards her. Without this background, I’m not sure that the decision I made that day, as a 14 year old on a garden tractor, would make much sense.
To be honest, I’m not sure where I heard it. In fact, I’m not even sure why I thought that it mattered in the first place. But on that autumn day in October 1985, I decide to honor Gram’s memory by doing something that, as rumor had it, she had requested of the older grandkids as they became old enough to drive. To my knowledge, no one in my family had a drinking problem but for whatever reason, Gram did not drink. Since I knew that sobriety was important to her, I made a decision that day to honor her memory by not drinking alcohol.
What’s strange to me is that looking back, I don’t even know why I made this decision. If she had lived until my 16th birthday, I’m not even sure that she would have made this request of me in the first place. Looking back today, over 30 years later, my decision not to drink has impacted my life in many ways. Some good and some, well, not so good.
I honestly believe that most people accept someone who drinks to excess more than they can accept someone who chooses not to drink at all. I have no issues with drinking, You be you and I’ll be me. But for whatever reason, not drinking has caused issues in friendships, my career, and even my failed marriage. There have been people that have rumored me to be a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. There have been friend’s that don’t invite me to parties and women that didn’t “swipe right”, simply because I don’t drink.
What is most interesting to me about my decision that day is that, though I’ll never know for sure, choosing not to drink as a 14 year old, may have saved me from a life of alcohol abuse and drugs. Proverbs 23:20 says, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat.” Though this verse mentions wine, what it is really referring to is gluttony. Gluttony, in simple terms, is the act over doing it, having too much of a good thing. And while I am not an alcoholic, there are certainly areas of my life where I am gluttonous, especially when it comes to baked goods. Cookies, cakes, brownies, pie and ice cream, you name it, I love it! Other than tiramisu, (or as I call it, “terriblesu”) that stuff is awful! Coffee in a cake? Seriously, who thought up such a stupid idea!?! Anyway, I love sweets so much that if there were a local support group for sugar anonymous, I would be the president.
Many days I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t made the decision to avoid alcohol. Since I’ve never had more than a taste, I don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything. But when I compare it to my addiction to sweets, something I have tried to kick for years, there is no doubt in my mind that had I began enjoying a drink now and then, today I would be fighting as hard to change that habit as I am today trying to remove my addiction to sugar. Since I’m not even sure where I heard the story in the first place, it’s entirely possible that my decision that day was the result of a new angel’s whisper as she was looking out for her grandson.
When reading Proverbs, it is so easy to skip past the parts that seem not to apply to you or are difficult to understand. That’s why it is so important to not just read Proverbs but also seek their hidden meaning and as my wisdom coach told me, LIVE THEM!
I hope that you have a great day!
PS- As I reflect on this post, I am really grateful that I didn’t decide to honor her memory by not cursing. (Something else she greatly disliked) If I had, some of my best adjectives, nouns and verbs would be off limits! (I really dodged a bullet there!)