Faking Success (for now)

One of my favorite authors is Lois McMaster Bujold. She created the Miles Vorkosigan saga beginning with The Warrior’s Apprentice in 1986. In the sci-fi series, Miles is the physically challenged, yet brilliant son of major political and military figures on his home planet. Despite his body’s limitations, he possesses an unwavering aggressiveness towards life which propels him into many adventures. His “forward momentum” attitude keeps him on the edge of failure as his schemes grow ever more complex.

Not that I haven’t leaped up into the blinding light of competence now and then. It’s sustaining the altitude that defeats me. (Miles Vorkosigan, A Civil Campaign, by Lois McMaster Bujold)

The thread by which Miles hangs on to the slimmest advantage is one I feel many people share. Most are unaware just how fragile their margin for error remains or how little it would take for life to come crashing down around them.

A single confrontation, poorly handled, could set in motion a sequence of events that could alter their family’s future for generations. The point of change may go past unnoticed, except in hindsight, with few options available for damage control.

Conversely, if one is hyper-aware of life’s dangers, the knowledge could immobilize you. Too much thinking, too little action, and the events overtake you while you stand still.

My advice? Take action. Move ahead or move aside. “Damned if you do or damned if you don’t” offers limited options. I would prefer dealing with the consequences of my actions instead of my inaction.

What is the one thing at which you are the most afraid of failing?

Blessed Through Service

The young married couple volunteered at church every week. Any given Sunday, they went in prepared to help wherever needed. They might walk in and be asked to teach a fourth grade class, work with the youth group, change diapers in the nursery, or sweep floors and empty trash cans. The assignments varied based upon the normal ebb and flow of church member attendance, family illnesses, and general life events that always cropped up. Each week, they checked in with the church leadership to get their tasking and smiled as they served.

This particular Sunday was no different. They arrived and were informed of a need for nursery workers. There were extra little ones to care for this morning and one of the scheduled families was at home with an illness. The young couple cheerfully went in and got to work. The other couple working with them chatted as they cycled diapers and checked toys while the children’s worship music played softly in the background.

It turned out that the other couple was moving across town this week and asked, “Do you know anyone in the church that could use a refrigerator? The one we have is only one year old, but the new house already has one and we can’t leave it behind. We want to be sure to give it to someone who really needs it. No charge.”

The young couple paused for a moment before responding, “Yes. WE do. We are moving into our first home later this month and don’t have a refrigerator at all. Money is tight as we are having to install all new carpet, curtains, and repaint the whole house before we move in.”

“Great!” the other couple said, “We had prayed about what to do with our fridge and God told us to be a blessing to someone at church. We can deliver it tomorrow.”

The young couple was stunned. They served without expectation of payback. They served from their desire to be a help and blessing to others. They had not expected to be on the receiving end of such a tangible gift that met their exact needs at the right time. They realized how limited their view of God’s blessings had been.

Tell us about a time when you responded to an act of kindness with one of your own.

Share the Ice Cream?

“Let’s get ice cream!” she suggested.

“Sounds good,” he agreed.

They drove to a local shop known for its homemade gourmet goodness. The sweet confection at this place had an exceptionally high fat content and the rich treat coated one’s mouth with the specialty flavors.

“How about we share a banana split?” she said.

“Sure, whatever you want.” he readily assented. She was beautiful and he was in love. He would do whatever she suggested.

They ordered a traditional banana split with all the usual flavors. One scoop of vanilla, one chocolate, one strawberry, three toppings, a fully split banana, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry on top. They took a seat at one of the outdoor tables facing the tree line and began to eat.

Her hair glowed in late afternoon sunlight. The sunbeam intensified one part of her shiny locks in a way that made him pause his breathing. After a moment, he looked away from her head and extended his spoon. He stopped when he saw the contents of the bowl. They were almost half gone and rapidly disappearing.

She ate like a machine. Spoon, bite, spoon, bite. Most of the toppings were gone along with two of the three scoops. Chocolate had been at her end. Strawberry used to be in the middle. Now, only part of the vanilla ball remained. That, and most of the banana.

He grabbed the bowl and pulled it close to himself. She stopped her spoon mid-stroke and held it poised in the air.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I thought we were going to share.” he replied.

“We are!” she objected.

“Not really.” he answered.

She put her spoon down and used a paper napkin to wipe her mouth. He watched as her lips twisted and reformed into their normal curved appearance. He instantly forgave her for the ice cream and his desire rose in an urge to kiss her.

“What are you doing?” she asked again as she pulled back from him, extending the distance between them.

“I want to kiss you.” he stated.

“Not now. We’re here for ice cream.” she said in a serious tone.

“You are right,” he responded, “Ice cream comes first.”

Days later, she suggested they go out for ice cream again. He readily agreed and they drove to the special shop. At the counter, she looked to him and asked, “Another banana split to share?”

“No. Order what you want. I’ll have mine in a separate bowl.” he answered.

Have you ever had an experience that was amazing the first time, but terrible the second time around? Or vice versa? What made it different the second time?

Back to You Bob

The farmer down the road named his cows alphabetically. The first one born started with the letter “A”, the next one with “B”, and so on. He refused to skip awkward letters and members of his herd occasionally received and obscure or odd name. One of these was Ubob.

Ubob did not seem to care that her name was less popular than Barbara, Sally, or Janet. She was a cow. Not much upset her at all. She placidly chewed her cud and did the normal things that all cows do without complaint. She gave her milk without kicking. When she stepped on your toes with all her weight, it was not out of anger or spite, simply clumsiness. No malice intended.

The farmer’s son gave special attention to Ubob. As if to compensate her for the odd name, he doted on her. When the farmer’s son came into the barn, he would call out for “Ubob!” and she mooed in response. He gave her extra scoops of sweet grain. He fed her apples by hand. He even let her drink Coca-Cola from a can. She would take the whole can in her mouth and raise her head back to drink it all in a long gulp. All the while, the farmer’s son would pet her neck and talk to her, repeating her name over and over.

The farmer believed cows enjoyed music and gave more milk when listening. He had a stereo system in the barn tuned to the local radio station at all times. The morning personality was named Bob. After a traffic report or another person completed their on-air task, they would give control back to him. The standard phrase used was, “And now back to you, Bob.”

The cow would moo every time…and all was well with the world.

Write a post about the topic of your choice, in whatever style you want, but make sure to end it with “…and all was well with the world.”


Rested and Ready

My workload has been busy of late. A large project consumes my days and nights. PowerPoint is the tool of the enemy and it takes no prisoners. The only break from the onslaught of information overload came from a medical appointment I refused to reschedule – a colonoscopy.

Yes, I am of the age where a man should spend a day preparing for the invasive camera tube inspecting regions normally better left alone. If you know anything about the preparation phase, you are aware one’s diet changes inputs from solids to liquids and so does the output. What amazes me is the volume and frequency of the output.

If you are curious, feel free to purchase a bottle of anti-constipating liquid formula and drink it all within a 30-minute span. Be prepared to remain within five feet of a functional toilet for the next several hours as every bit of residue from age 2 is expelled from your body. Continue drinking clear liquids throughout the process to prevent dehydration and ensure a constant resupply of liquid to eject at regular intervals.

The next day is where the rest and relaxation comes to the forefront. Arrive at the appointment with an adult driver. Preferably one with a sense of humor and tolerance for bodily functions. Go into the medical area with its high, cold gurneys, thin sheets, and little privacy. Meet the attractive young nurse who asks you to undress and put on the famous backless hospital gown.

Get poked with needles until they succeed in starting an intravenous drip to hydrate and medicate you. Meet other nurses and staff hired from the local modeling agency and regret the vulnerable position you are in as you listen to other patients expel large amount of gas during their “recovery” phase. It gets worse as you realize that will soon be you behind a curtain releasing the air they inflate your innards with to allow smooth passage of the camera. Try to control your thoughts as you consider other attachments that may be on the camera tube. Cutters, lasers, air nozzles, and wonder how that will all fit up inside you.

Finally, after only brief moments have passed since you were stuck with needles, they wheel your gurney into the “Procedure Room” where the real fun will happen. Fortunately, this is where the next beautiful person comes in view. She is the anesthesiologist and has a special syringe ready just for you. She greets you warmly, and pushes the plunger to release the clear fluid into your veins through the IV port. Within mere seconds, sleep arrives.

I awaken in the curtained area where I began. The attractive young nurse is at my side, tapping my hand warmly. She greets me as I am certain she does to all the patients.

“Welcome back. Feel free to release the excess air. Don’t be shy. It is perfectly natural.” She moves away.

I hold it long enough to allow her to close the curtain once again before joining the cacophony of other body trumpet players in the chorus of recovery. It is then I realize my adult driver is sitting in the chair behind me. Sorry.

When was the last time you felt truly rejuvenated and energized? What made you feel that way?


The Smell Intoxicated Him

He pushed the jacket sleeve into his face and inhaled deeply through his nose. The scent still lingered there. It was almost a week since she had rested her head on his arm on the drive home that day. A hint of strawberries tinged the floral aroma. He closed his eyes and replayed the memory.

She had been tired and chose to lean her head back to nap. He offered his arm as support and she accepted. For the next half hour, he dared not move. He purposely relaxed his arm muscles as much as he could to provide a soft pillow for her head. Her long, dark hair flowed over his arm and swung behind the seat as the car moved.

The driver said nothing and made no facial expressions to either encourage or disapprove his actions. It was not her daughter after all and he was not the driver’s relative either. Simply a family friend going our way who offered to drive us home. The three shared the front bench seat of the car without seat belts and the windows opened a few inches to allow the warm summer night air flow past without being a harsh nuisance.

He had always wanted to do this. Cradle the girl’s head in his arms. Provide comfort and shelter to her. Care for her. Always. He knew it would never be. She loved sports and art. He was a boy of thoughtful words who dabbled with occasional poetry. Maybe if they started their own greeting card company, she would design and draw, he would compose the words and phrases for others. But it would never work.

She was a gazelle and would run free. He would never catch her. Which is why he stood here in the doorway of the open hall closet and sniffed his jacket sleeve in the dark. Alone.

Who was your first childhood crush? What would you say to that person if you saw him/her again?


Motivation to Go

During a difficult time in my career, going to work required an extra measure of effort. The details don’t matter now. Allow me to summarize by saying the prospect of interaction with certain customers and coworkers acted as an anchor dragging my motivation to a dark and murky depth.

As a man with family responsibilities, I continued to push myself out the door each workday morning, drive to the scene of the potential negative interactions, and perform my work as best I could.

I kept two photos on my desk back then. A family one, and a vacation picture I had taken on a particularly enjoyable trip. Both could bring a smile to my face each time I saw them.

The vacation photo represented where I would rather be.

The family photo reminded me why I was still at the office.

What is the one thing that drives you to wake up in the morning and do whatever it is you do? Is it writing, family, friends, or something else entirely?