Tuesday, September 24, 2013

No Worries

Sitting at the Outback Steakhouse with a good friend the other night we heard the waiter comment, "No worries," when asked if a customer could have her salad dressing on the side. Now I know what the phrase "on the side" refers to but, "no worries"?

A quick Internet search yielded the factoid that "no worries" is an Australian-English expression. It means "do not worry about that," "that's all right," or "sure thing." The phrase is widely used in Australian speech and represents a feeling of friendliness, good humor, optimism and "mateship" in Australian culture. The phrase has been referred to as the national motto of Australia.

But I do worry.

In fact I spent most of the previous night worrying about how I would get a file I needed. I was out of town and left it at the office. I spent quality, sleeping time, lying awake as I worried about how to get the file.

At the table my friend suggested I simply call the office and have someone e-mail the file to me. That sure sounded reasonable. I did, they did, and three minutes later the problem was solved. I had the file.

So why do I worry?

Psychologists have written books on the topic, and ministers have preached sermons addressing it. About it, mothers have consoled, fathers have rationalized, and friends have commiserated. It's a worldwide phenomenon crossing all cultures and races. It plagues the young and the old, male and female, and shows no discrimination. For me, I think it boils down to the fact that I don't want to not be in control.

Sound familiar?

Guys, maybe we can learn a lesson from my sleepless night. Sometimes we just need to recognize we aren't always the ones in control. (In fact, truth be told most times we aren't the ones in control.) I would have done much better to shelve the problem and tackle it in the morning, when I could do something about it. Lesson learned: maybe it's okay to just accept the things we can't control.

It takes practice, but it can be done. It might even take adopting a sign from our surfer buddies out west. The next time you feel uptight about something, consider our Hawaiian friends, especially if your problem feels like you're facing a wall of water four stories high.

The sign's called the "shaka." It means "hang loose!"

Try it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Things to Know

One of my favorite shows on television is Storage Wars. What I like best are the bidding battles. Having bid at more than a few auctions myself, I feel my adrenaline spike as my favorite bidder barks out his bids, hits his limit, and then -- a moment later -- is out of the bid altogether.

I have felt his angst. I know the feeling of being outbid when I've hit my limit. It was then I faced a split-second decision: do I go one more in the hope the other person drops out, or do I fold?

On one occasion my split-second decision to bid once more was rewarded with the purchase of a 1960's model Coca Cola bottle vending machine. On the other hand, there was the time I lost a chance for a 1920's era Coke cooler for want of a $5 bid.

It's important we know when to fold -- whether in auctions or in card games.

While I'm on the subject of things worth knowing, something else I've found useful to know is how to start a campfire. Now here I'm not referring to the knife on the belt buckle technique. Rather, I'm talking about the simple method of laying in the kindling, when to add the sticks, and how to stack the logs for a decent fire that will last throughout the evening.

I have found too that knowing how to iron a shirt has been extremely helpful, especially when applying for a job or impressing a date. It's also good to know how to finish off the ensemble by understanding how to polish dress shoes, tie a tie, and select a nice set of suitable cufflinks for the shirt.

When I was single it was important to know how to give a thoughtful gift to the girl I was wooing. To do this, I would take her to the mall and see what interested her -- what her likes and dislikes were. Once she commented or otherwise indicated how a certain piece of jewelry would look good with one of her favorite outfits, I was good to go. That Christmas she got the aforementioned item, and I impressed her.

My mom didn't raise no dummy.

In like manner, there are bits of wisdom and a few skills that have been imparted to me by other guys. These gems include knowing how to change the oil in my car, when to apply lawn fertilizer, how to create a beef brisket rub, and when to keep quiet.

But perhaps the best advice I received has been this: "Know a little about many subjects." This has come in handy many times over the years, especially when beginning a conversation with someone I've just met. And what's more, some of these conversations have led to friendships that have lasted years.

Well, what do you know?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cherish the Day

Awhile back I received news that two of my very best friends were involved in a fatal car accident. They were travelling to a doctor's appointment and were struck by a truck. At that moment they were called home to heaven, leaving behind a family who had to face life without their parents. The shock from the news still echoes in my mind.

As I was standing next to the grave I recalled the conversation we had the night before the accident. My wife and I were planning a "double date" to the Caribbean with our friends, and together we had started discussing which islands we would like to visit. We had also begun making arrangements for the following year.

As I was standing there, numb at the loss of these two dear people, I thought how each of them lived every day to the fullest. They would find creative ways to celebrate life's many events, making the most of their time together, cherishing each other's company. They were a couple that showed me the best side of a marriage.

As we were playing cards one evening we hit upon a question that resonated with each of us: "What if you were called home tonight?" One thing led to another, and my friends shared how they had their wills prepared, insurance policies paid and up to date, and provisions made for their property.

To their pre-planning and foresight, I added, "But we should also cherish each day for we do not know when we will be called home."

At this they smiled and replied, "We do."

Guys, I would encourage you to cherish your loved ones, your co-workers, your deeds, and your words. Cherish those who share life with you. Set aside a few minutes -- and do it frequently -- to dwell on those people -- spouses, kids, siblings, friends -- who make up your world. There's no guarantee they will be here tomorrow ... or even this afternoon, for that matter.

I would also add to be prepared with your final arrangements.

My friends had a strong faith in Jesus as their Savor. They knew they were saved by grace through faith, and they lived in this world confident of the next, trusting in the Father's gift of heaven. What's more, my friends passed on that knowledge to their family and friends, who now, though their loved ones are gone, take great comfort in the lives of faith they lived.

Cherish the day.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dads and Daughters: a Few Guidelines

I have a daughter. She captured my heart the day she was born, and I'm sure she's got it for good. The other day she started a sentence with, "Daddy, I love you." (Only she said it dragging out the "dy" in daddy and really drawing out the "love" part.) I sensed there would be a request after that and was not disappointed. I really wanted to say "no," but in the end she negotiated a "yes" out of me.

There is a special bond between a dad and his daughter, just as there is something special between a mom and her son. Most of the time the daughter doesn't trade on this bond, but once in awhile we dads get the whole "But daaaaddddyyy, I really looooooove you" pitch. Then and there we know this could be trouble.

I recently came across "50 Rules for Dads of Daughters" by Michael Mitchell. I pass along a few here that are especially helpful to me:

1. "Love her mom. Treat her mother with respect, honor, and a big heaping spoonful of public displays of affection. When she grows up, the odds are good she'll fall in love with and marry someone who treats her much like you treated her mother. Good or bad, that's just the way it is. I'd prefer good."

2. "Always be there. ... She needs her dad to be involved in her life at every stage." In other words, don't just watch from the sidelines while her life goes rushing by; help add life to her years.

3. "Pray for her. Regularly. Passionately. Continually."

4. "It's never too early to start teaching her about money. She will still probably suck you dry as a teenager ... and on her wedding day."

5. "Dance with her. Start when she's a little girl or even when she's a baby. Don't wait until her wedding day."

6. "Teach her to change a flat. A tire without air need not be a major panic-inducing event in her life. She'll still call you crying the first time it happens."

And then there's my personal favorite: "Learn to say no. She may pitch a fit today, but someday you'll both be glad you stuck to your guns."

Now if I could only figure out how to say "no" without the tears, I would be a happy man.

You can read more of Mitchell's rules on the web.