Heaven’s Gift of the Riding Lawnmower?

 “Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best”

Theodore Isaac Rubin

Do I stop and pick up that piece of trash? Do I drive around that small branch in front of me? Do I go in a counter-clockwise or clockwise circle? Do I use a square as my template? Do I go from the inside out or the outside in? These are all major questions of strategy and work product when we climb onto our riding lawnmower.

(My mother-in-law…we call her Grambo which is a combination of Rambo and Grandma)

Sometimes before we climb on to that mower we actually check to see if there is gas and on rare occasions we check to see if the oil level is ok. Three year old dented and scarred blades must perform despite their tired condition. Our mission is to get the yard mowed before the televised football game and our riding mower is expected to perform and to give us this sense of work accomplishment before we sit ourselves down to a well-earned chips and drink sports extravaganza…oh, and by the way, when we arrive to our TV room we are once more going to sit down and do nothing for several hours yet still get the adrenalin rush as if we were actually suiting up and playing in the game..but that’s another story.

I have been amazed at the thinking that goes into mowing the yard on a mower that does all the work for you. There is a never-ending thought process that the operator goes through to try to do it better each week. Not just better than last week when you mowed but better than the way your neighbor mows who has also been doing it for over thirty years.

 A riding lawnmower is an amazing invention. A mower can deliver a piece of grass art to a baseball field. It can make a putting surface on a golf course look and feel like carpet. Never has anything been built that delivers such a massive work product that is visible to all, creates such a good feeling for the worker because the work product is admirable, gives the impression that the operator has been working hard because he/she is dusty and maybe sweating from the sun, and does all of this in such a way that the driver has expended very few calories in the process except to steer. In most cases, the effort that it would have taken to get off the lawnmower to move that piece of paper or branch is lost in the chopping sounds of the blades as you run right over it!

Unlike weed eating or raking or planting a garden, a riding lawnmower allows you to feel great about yourself and yard without having to actually work. It eases the conscious. If the family activity today is going to be “let’s work in the yard”, the instant debate is who gets to mow. Everyone in my family knows that the grandmothers get the mower. We all try get in a turn but are careful not to cross the line.

So is it a gift from heaven to be able to show a lot of work product without much effort…is that a tender mercy…or just a sign that somehow our internal need to be productive has been met while still satisfying our natural desire to be lazy?

(My mother and daughter Allie)

Many modern-day conveniences save us from tremendous amounts of work. Indoor plumbing and central heat mean we can flush, shower and stay warm without having to go outside to haul water or chop wood…and we can do it in seconds with very little effort.  The trouble is that it is not only easy but it also looks easy. With the press of a button or handle we accomplish what used to take a lot of work to do. It just does not deliver the impression that we have done a lot of hard work.

That is where the magic of the riding lawnmower becomes apparent. When we mow the yard, it takes little effort but because it takes time and looks like a lot of work has been done, we feel differently. We get the feeling like we just chopped two cords of wood and carried buckets of water from the river so that Ma could cook dinner.

The HighFive Your Life principle that I would like to share is simple. Let’s give ourselves a break. Maybe mowing the lawn on a riding lawnmower is not the same as chopping wood or hauling water but we work so hard in so many other ways that maybe this is one break from heaven that is just a nice gift. We ought to take it and say thank you! What do you think?

HighFive Your Life principle: Say thank you for the invention of the riding lawnmower!

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers. 

The Close Call with the Tractor

Farm living was the life for me! I was really in love with our 20 plus acre property we moved to when our four children were two months to five years old. We eventually bought cows and horses and chickens and guineas and peacocks and geese and emus and planted gardens and had our own pond filled with fish. We even had a big pig named Otis that lived under the elevated farm-house and would come out to eat table scraps whenever you called him.

One of my pride and joys was the old 1955 blue tractor I bought. I plowed and mowed the fields and somehow felt like I connected with my long deceased grandpa who farmed in Plant City many decades earlier.

 Author with sons Cal and Taylor

One day I decided to take the three small boys on a tractor ride. Normally I am very cautious, border lining on afraid, when it comes to risky behavior with the kids. For some reason that day, I decided that it would be safe enough to let two of them straddle the hood of the tractor up front as long as I went slowly enough and kept a good eye on them. We traveled around the pastures and they loved it. I did too.

What happened next is best described by the account that I wrote in my diary later in the evening.

Saturday March 19, 1994

Things were going along pretty well. The boys all wanted to ride on the tractor so I agreed to give them another ride. Robbie and Cal rode up front on the hood while I held Taylor on my knee. As I circled up by the lake, I thought about how many tractor accidents there are each year and wondered about that. I putted along in slow gear and decided to take them through the trees. I saw a branch hanging down and I am not sure if I was avoiding it or trying to give the boys some excitement, but the result could have changed our lives forever.

It happened so fast. Robbie tried to move the branch out of Cal’s way and it just took him and threw him off the tractor towards the left rear wheel. I couldn’t stop in time. His leg was right in the path and he pulled it out of the way just in time. [I actually pushed in the clutch for a split second which slowed the tractor a little but my foot slipped off. That split second was critical]

I would have hurt my boy because I was not fast enough. I’m still dazed and it is 8 hours later. One second we were riding having a good time and a split second later he could have been killed. My sweet boy… I thanked my Heavenly Father. Robbie asked if I was mad at him and I told him, no, that I was mad at me. He wanted to know if he should go off by himself and think about it. He was just so sweet worrying about me still being mad at myself. I am just so happy to be going to bed with my boys, girl and wife all safe. I need to be more careful. I would gladly give my life in trade for one of theirs. I’m just so glad. I am still shaking. One second we’re fine and the next a disaster. That quick.

There are several principles you can glean from this story. The one that I would like to share is with regards to the “goodness” of people. In this story, Robbie tried to keep the branch from hitting his younger brother and the result was that he ended up almost getting run over. We constantly hear about the bravery of somebody jumping into the water to save somebody else from drowning, going into a burning building to save a life, letting someone be rescued in the icy cold before they are rescued. Sometimes these stories result in everybody being saved. Sometimes they result in the rescuer dying also.

We all understand to what ends a loving parent will go to protect their child. What, however, makes a stranger help a stranger? There is something inherently good in all of us. Our humanity runs deep. It is clouded by the politics, greed and the selfish ambition of man, but our humanity is still there. We do well, when the thunderstorms of trouble and despair are on the horizon, to remember that by in large, we are all basically good people. Perhaps that perspective will foster solutions to issues in our family, neighborhood, and country that seem impossible to resolve  when we forget that at the very basic fundamental level…people are good.

HighFive Your Life Principle: People are as a rule good. To discover that “goodness” sometimes requires getting to the core of the person but it is there. Accepting the goodness of each other more completely may tend to help all of us arrive at solutions to problems more quickly and with less pain.

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers. Gary

No Beer for Me??!!

“When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I was recruited to play football for the University of Tampa a year before their program closed back in the mid 1970s. On the recruiting trip, they took me to a football game and later to the locker room where I met the player who would be my host for the evening. He was a big burly  linebacker which didn’t help calm the nerves of this already very nervous high school senior.

After he got showered and dressed, we drove to a place where there was a party going on and the refreshments were not donuts and orange juice. I was invited to participate in the “party” but declined and found a soda machine instead. I so badly wanted to fit in with this college crowd and felt a lot of pressure to join in. Soon I dismissed myself with the excuse that I had a lot on my mind to consider and wanted to get back to the hotel room.

The issue was simple; I didn’t drink. I did not belong to any church at that time. My parents were casual drinkers and we even had a bar in our home. Most of my friends by this time drank. I went to parties and dances with them and had fun and laughed with them and sometimes drove for them; I just didn’t drink.

This was a personal choice that was inscribed in my heart for some reason. I think athletics might have had something to do with my not drinking because I was pretty serious about working out and playing college football. However, I think it went much deeper. I believe that, though I did not go to church or say prayers or have any relationship to speak of with Deity, I just felt in my heart that it was wrong and He expected better of me.

I was also recruited to Princeton to play football and once again the opportunity to party was placed before me as a recruit. I politely declined. I was eventually accepted into Princeton University where I created life long friends, worked in the on-campus pub (making pizzas), and generally had a great time. I just didn’t drink.

It was interesting that at one point when I was a freshman in college and had my friends from Florida visiting and partying, I called Dad and told him that I was getting ready to have my first drink and I wanted a recommendation on what kind of drink I should have. He surprised me and simply said “ Aw son, you have come this far. ..don’t start now.” This advice came from the man who had also at one point invited me to share a drink with him. I am quite sure that I would not have gone through with it anyway but to hear him say that made me even stronger.

A HighFive Your Life principle is that in order to follow your convictions when the challenges are tough, they must be written in your heart. Doing things out of obedience or duty is okay. When it is written in your heart, however, nothing will make you change your mind. You will have the courage to stand by your convictions regardless of the storms of opinion that surround you.

As a parent, I have tried to make sure that I did what I could to help my children get the same heartfelt convictions so that when they are on their own they have the strength to make their own way. There are many things that I do out of duty and obedience and just plain decency and those are important. What strength I have, however, is found in my convictions. Find what you believe in and let your heart own it. If and when it does, you will possess strength that nobody can ever take from you.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Your strength of conviction comes when your belief is written in your heart. Fear, insecurity and weakness are overcome; they are in fact dispelled when you own your belief.

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers. Gary

A Wish or A Desire?

A Wish or A Desire?

The power of a wish is strong enough to make you blow out some candles or throw a coin in a well. The power of desire changes the world. When we catch fire regarding a plan or a job or a relationship, we will move mountains to make something happen.

How are you feeling today about the projects on your “to do” list. Is the fire there to get things accomplished or are you just checking them off? Surely we all have to do things that we just have to do whether we want to or not. However, the more that we can work and play in the areas where we have a passion, the more we will see the impact that desire can have on our productivity and enjoyment.

If you find that you constantly spend your energy in areas about which you do not have passion, it would seem that you have several choices.

1. Endure.

2. Try to understand the area that is consuming your energy to see if by understanding it better and more completely, you might be able to develop a passion for it.

3. Endure and do your best until you are able to make a change that better lines up with your passions.

Often this is not a cut and dried decision but is complicated by the many variables and factors that we must confront and contend with in our everyday lives. Change may come slow or not at all. Change may be hard. Change may require resources that we do not have. However, generally speaking, after taking all of that into account, if we continue to look for ways to work and play in areas about which we are passionate, we will wake up in the morning with a zeal to engage life more fully. We may not get all that we want but at least we are exerting all the control that we do have on the situtation.

 A “wish” to make these changes happen may simply not  have enough power to change your paradigm. It may take true desire to make the  necessary changes. In that instance, desire plays a role both to take your from your present day circumstances where you are not living with passion to a point where your efforts and energy line up more directly with your passions and desire plays out daily throughout your day.

I would like to introduce you to my dog Niner. Do you think that he has a “wish” to go for a walk or a “desire” to go for a walk?

Take a moment to play the video below.

Or click here if the video does not load: http://youtu.be/7jRZiCaksgI

 

HighFive Your Life Principle: When possible, work and play in the areas where you have a passion and watch the impact that desire can have on your productivity and enjoyment. 

Please share your comments regarding this HighFive Your Life principle or any others you may have discovered in the video. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers.  HighFive Your Life…Gary

Pray for Rain…Pray for a Drought

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

     We owned and operated a water park in Central Florida for twenty years. Water Mania generally was open eight months out of the year with the colder months of Nov-Feb closed for routine maintenance. During the eight months it was open, the most productive times were the two weeks surrounding Easter and then Memorial Day through Labor Day. These were the days when you had to make enough money to sustain you through the slower and closed times. There was a lot riding on these days and we did everything within our control to make the most of them.

One thing that was not in our control was the weather. A hot, humid, and sunny day would produce tens of thousands of dollars more than an overcast and rainy one. For this reason, we all became very interested in the daily weather report. My wife and I would look forward to the news each night with great anticipation because we knew that the tourists in the area and also the local crowds were planning their activities for the next day  and were surely taking into account the weather as they made those plans. It was so discouraging when massive storms came into town. It was equally discouraging when they were forecast but somehow never materialized because the damage had already been done when the families planned their activities the night before.

It became natural to start praying that there would be no rain. It doesn’t take long before one realizes that this is a very selfish prayer. I began to think of the farmers in the area that needed rain for their crops. Why would the Good Lord listen to my prayers when the farmer is praying for rain. So I compromised and said I would be ok if it would just rain at night instead of during the day!

I found this same problematic prayer occurring when my children were competing in athletic events. My temptation would be to pray for my child to win but then I realized that other parents were praying for their child to win and so I once again felt selfish in my prayers. The very process of approaching Deity in prayer made me temper my prayers to instead pray that all participating might play to the best of their ability. I might add a few special requests for my child that were particular to him/her but that would not come at the sacrifice of the opponent.

Whether you pray or not, the HighFive Your Life principle is to keep in mind that the journey through this life is not being taken by just your family or those in whom you have interest. We all are on the road trying to take our loved ones with us. There will be some pushing and shoving on this road that will happen just because we are on a crowded road together. One of us may trip. Someone may bump into you or a family member along the way. Toes will be stepped on. Feelings bruised.

It is a compliment to our society and ability to live one with another when somebody helps or makes room for another journeying on that road. It can happen in simple unselfish prayers. It happens when you sacrifice a little of your own glory so another may make some progress along the road. It is also contagious. When one person sees another acting in an altruistic manner, it touches a nerve in such a way that the desire to spread it forward occurs. Of course, the opposite occurs too. When somebody begins to protect their turf in such a way that they begin to become the center of the universe, others will fall right into place and begin to protect their own turf. That seems to be human nature.

But it is also human nature to love something more than yourself. In the pushing and shoving that occurs as we move along the road of life together, every now and then a courageous person arises who makes room for his fellow traveler and helps him along the way. He realizes that the way he makes it to the end of the road with a fulfilled and joyful life is to make sure that others make it there before him.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Keep in mind that the journey through this life is not being taken by just your family or those in whom you have interest. Make room for, and in fact, help along those others traveling the road of life.

Please share your comments regarding this principle or add any other principle that you discovered in the stories I shared. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers.  HighFive Your Life…Gary

 

The Lady that Hit Our Windshield

The Lady that Hit Our Windshield

When one bases his life on principle, 99 percent of his decisions are already made.”

  Author Unknown

The rush to get home was normal for us. My dad’s foreman was driving the truck and we were returning from a long work day out in the sun and dirt. I was about 17 years old and we had a long drive ahead of us.

There was a motorcycle ahead of us on this back country two lane road so the foreman eased into the passing lane and sped up to pass her. As we approached the motorcycle to pass, it slowed, and without a blinker or hand signal, turned left immediately in front of us. The lady on the motorcycle saw us as she turned and instead of accelerating across the road, tried unsuccessfully to turn back into the lane from whence she came. The foreman slammed on the brakes and when we hit her, she was pointing directly away from us. The rear fender of the motorcycle hit the grill on the front of the truck and luckily froze the bike upright. The driver was flung from the bike and landed on the hood of the truck, rolling all the way against our windshield. The truck continued to brake and as it came to a stop the lady then rolled off the windshield and on to the road. We were in shock.

I could not believe it when the lady got back up. She was a sturdy lady and apparently ok. When the trooper arrived, it was discovered that the lady was underage and not approved to operate the motorcycle. She had been turning into her driveway and was apparently in some pretty big trouble. We left with our blood still racing from what had just happened.

There are several HighFive Your Life principles that could be gleaned from this story but the one that I would like to develop is regarding the wrecks that are sometimes caused by our indecision. I am not sure what would have happened if the lady had just continued across into her driveway instead of trying to turn back around. She may have got by just in time, but it all happened so fast it is just too hard to say. In emergency situations our quick decisions and reactions may save or hurt a life. Those are tough calls for sure but not the ones that I would like to focus on now.

I am more interested in what we do with the choices that are before us when we have more time to contemplate and evaluate. Let me add one more story to this discussion.

I remember as a child going on an airplane flight with my family. It was on a major carrier and we were allowed priority seating because we were a family with kids. At that time there were no assigned seats so when we got on the plane we could choose from any seat available. We were the first ones on and the plane was wide open! I ran and sat down next to a window and then began to wonder if that really was the best seat. So up I jumped up and found another one. I do not remember how many seats I tried but I do remember how hard it was to make a decision because I basically had too many options.

Every day we are faced with decisions. How do you make decisions? Do you jump to quick decisions without all the information? Are you indecisive because you do not have enough information? Are you indecisive because it appears that you have too many options? Do you make a lot of good decisions or are you often wishing you had done something else? A decision to not make a decision because you need more information is not indecision. Indecision results when you have the best information possible and you either lack clarity of focus or the guts to choose.

Decision making is a skill that is developed over time. It is a skill that is honed by countless wrong decisions and having to live with the consequences. It is developed by watching those around you who have, through their experience, developed a reliable decision making skill. A HighFive Your Life principle is to make the art of decision making a daily concern. In your quiet moments, evaluate the decisions you have made and consequent results. Ponder your seemingly small decisions and also the tough ones. What did you learn about your style; the process you used to render a decision? How can it be improved?

I have made decisions only to see someone wiser than me make a different and better decision given the same circumstances. I am convinced that a person who goes through this process of true and sincere evaluation of their decision making ability will begin to ask in prayer or in silent meditation: “help me have wisdom beyond my years”.

This world would be a lot better off if we all became better decision makers. It is worth our very best effort.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Make the art of decision making a daily concern. Personally evaluate this skill and seek wisdom to improve it.

Please share your comments regarding this principle, add any other principle that you discovered in the stories I shared or offer any advice you think might be helpful to others that may read this blog. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers.  HighFive Your Life…Gary

My First HighFive Your Life Blog!

Giving a high five is a universal and well understood symbol of congratulations and celebration. There is no language barrier or cultural interpretation that gets in the way. It just feels good to all those involved. I’m sure that most people have given or seen given multiple high fives. What is less certain is whether people ever give themselves a high five. When was the last time you actually said to yourself that you did a nice job at something? Are we so self-critical that we do not notice the incredible things that surround us every day?

Is a high five to be reserved for only those making amazing plays in sports or is watching your kid catch his or her first fish or getting to hug grandma or finding a nugget of wisdom in your life’s experiences also deserving of a high five?

A high five is normally a two person exchange. Combine the words “high five” into one word – HighFive – and let that represent a high five given by you to you. HighFive Your Life is a message for all to look for the good in your life.

This blog, like the soon to be published book, is not an exhaustive attempt to “teach” you about happiness or to reveal some previously unknown scientific research concerning happiness. Instead, I hope it provides a catalyst for a thought provoking and inspired search for peace and happiness, the possibilities of which are already woven into the fabric of your life. I will share some of my life’s stories. I will use them to share several concepts or principles that have helped me find peace and happiness in this life. I will invite you to comment on the principles that I have shared but also ask you to share other principles that you may discover in the same story.

I hope that throughout this blog you can relate to these stories in a way that makes your own life’s stories begin to glitter with gold as you find the treasures in the principles of life that are there and that you own. I hope that you feel a desire to share some of your stories and the principles that you discovered in them. Your life is truly deserving of a high five.

                                                            HighFive Your Life

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