Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Climbing Mountains

Voices echoed as we started up the trail. Challenges were issued to each other, as words and friendly taunts quickened our pace. In a few hours we would be at the top of the mountain, standing on the peak. Spirits were high as we anticipated the view from that lofty perch. As we pressed on, the horizon, formed by the rise and fall of lesser peaks, seemed impossibly far away. Below us, stands of evergreens followed streams and river valleys like a green ribbon. Above us, the edges of plump, white clouds, framed by the clear blue sky, appeared distinct, like they too could be climbed.

As we ascended our conversation dwindled, as our hiking team drew hard on the thinning mountain air. Footsteps became labored and pack straps started to dig deeper, as the trail gave way to rocks that now had to be negotiated and scaled. Pausing for rest gave us a chance to drink deeply from our thermoses, the cool water soothing our throats and providing relief.

As we pushed harder, our muscles began to balk at the unusual exertion we placed upon them. They rebelled, but they would succumb to our demands, as the top was in sight. It was a matter of sheer willpower now. Fatigued, cramped muscles had to be reined in. With lungs straining for life-giving oxygen, we bowed our heads in our final approach to the summit. Step by stubborn step we pressed on.

Then ... it was there. We made it! We crested the mountain. With the summit beneath our feet, we inhaled the rarified atmosphere, and took in the vista. There was a picture each of us imagined of what the world would look like from this vantage point, but this was something else altogether ... more beautiful, more amazing, more magnificent than we imagined.

Standing on the summit, the hurt, the pain, even our shaky resolve all gave way to the thrill of accomplishment.

Men, we all climb mountains in our lifetimes. For some these mountains are literal: the Rockies, the Cascades, the Sierra Nevada. For others these mountains -- these obstacles to overcome -- are figurative (but loom no less large): financial stress, tragic loss, health issues, broken relationships and more. Each time we start the climb we will be tested, tempted to give up, determined to find a way to return to the security of base camp.

Men, I suggest you continue your climb. Find the resources to get you up and over the top. Reach out to your brothers; ask them for a helping hand. Talk to those who have been where you are now; let them point out the obstacles and encourage you to keep pushing on.

The view from the top is worth it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

National Cheeseburger Day

Today is the day the American food industry hails cheeseburgers. It's National Cheeseburger Day! On this day you are encouraged to fire up the grill, drop on some tasty burgers and top them with your choice of cheese. Some guys throw on a variety of cheeses in order to blend and enhance the flavors. Pepper jack and cheddar gracing a juicy half-pounder is a favorite for a friend of mine. Another buddy will fire up a few one-third pounders. When they are just about done, he wraps aluminum foil around the edges to form a border, laying in some shallots, a little garlic and lots of blue-cheese crumbles in the middle. Serve this with a chilly brew, and you could call it a holiday anytime. We sure do.

There is a small Michigan town that dedicates an entire weekend to the joyous celebration of the cheeseburger. Since cheeseburgers are great for lunch, dinner, or both, this holiday is a perfect time to tell the family you'll be doing the cooking today.

A quick Internet search indicates there is a special day for just about everything. Case in point: tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day -- Arghh! September 20 is National Punch Day; you can decide which type of punch you want to celebrate. September 21 is World Alzheimer's Day, and the list goes on.

We all like to celebrate and have fun. Holidays offer great opportunities to observe traditions, gather friends and family together, eat and drink special concoctions, make lots of memories, and just have a good time. After all, who can be sad while talking like a pirate?

Men, this might just be the year to declare a special "holiday" for your family. It could be "Garage Cleaning Day, "Eat Dessert First Day" or, better yet, "Forget The Chores And Go Golfing Day." No matter what the special day, you are guaranteed to make memories and enjoy smiles all around.

As for me and my house, we will be serving cheeseburgers today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Are You Listening to Me?"

Like an unexpected wake-up call, you've probably heard these words before. They're usually uttered when you're engrossed in an important task like watching baseball, football or hockey, or are concentrating on a demanding task like driving the car, washing the car, or thinking about driving or washing the car. No matter what you're doing, when you hear them you have to stop and take notice. If you don't, trouble surely waits.

It typically plays out something like this:

She: "What are you watching?"

He: "Football."

She: (She shakes her head at how guys can find interest in a game where men spend the afternoon running into each other.) "That's nice. What do you suggest we do for my mother's birthday?"

He: "Whatever." (This is followed by shouts directed at the TV concerning the replacement officials.)

She: "I was thinking we could fly her into town to stay with us for a week or two."

He: "Whatever. Sounds good." (This is followed by comments about the coach's sanity, especially for calling a draw play on third down and 15.)

She: "Good, I'll call her now."

Perhaps, you can see where this is heading.

It's a good thing to build conversation skills with your spouse. Here are a few tips on improving your communication:

1. Take a few minutes in the morning and evening to speak with your loved one. Those few minutes can lead to unexpected and important results.

2. Engage in an after-work debrief. Spend some time reconnecting with the home front.

3. Silence the TV at dinner time. Eliminating this distraction can empower communication around the dinner table. It may be deathly quiet for a while, but this is where your considerable powers of communication take over.

4. Kiss and Hug. A daily kiss and hug creates a great connection and makes for a friendly wife.

5. Pray together. This can be jump started with some Bible reading first. Tapping into a written or audio devotion you both enjoy works well too; plus it gives you and the missus something to center your attention on.

Wives can be tremendous conversationalists, possessing vital knowledge on occasion. Rather than reluctantly hearing her out, embrace the idea -- and her. You just might find out something you didn't know -- like when you can expect to see your mother-in-law next.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day - 2012 "Here's To The Men!"

Here's to the men, who build bridges, roads, buildings and houses; here's to the welders, carpenters, operators and the craftsmen in the trades. Thank you for building our nation strong!

Here's to the men, who defend -- the police, fire, service members all, men who run to danger, heeding the call. Thank you for defending our strong nation!

Here's to the men, who teach and train -- teachers, professors, pastors, and all who impart their skill and understanding to another generation. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

Here's to the men, who keep the stories -- authors, singers, actors and more, who tell their tales and are remembered forevermore. Thank you for your inspiration!

Here's to the men of action -- inventors, salesmen, entrepreneurs and other movers. Thank you for your inspiration!

Here's to the men, who value the rules -- lawyers, politicians, judges and jurors, and to all those parents who set firm boundaries. Thank you for keeping us honest!

Here's to the men of adventure -- hunters, fishermen, scuba divers, spelunkers, explorers and all those who get up close and personal with nature. Thank you for pushing us forward!

Here's to the men on the line -- men who do the jobs that manufacture the goods that bear the stamp, "Made in the U.S.A." Thank you for a job well done!

Here's to the men in the field -- farmers and ranchers, who raise the crops and animals of our nation's abundant harvest. Thank you for your stewardship of nature!

Here's to the men, who oversee employees -- bosses, middle-managers and supervisors, who lead by example and value those they manage. Thank you for your able direction!

Here's to all you who labor!

May God continue to watch over you and keep you safe.