Cottage Filled with Dreams

 

“I’m not here by accident.”

My wife and I are sitting in small cottage-converted-to-restaurant along the Gulf Coast. Muted pastels and white window shutters warmly wrap around us. Wooden floors echo footsteps; the effects of salt air help the front screen door announce the arrival of new guests.

A woman with large smile, and even larger energy, is telling us about why what brought her to open a restaurant.

“I live for the feel of salt air in my lungs,” she said.

“I turned fifty and decided to buy this house and move to town,” she said. “Didn’t really know what I was going to do with it.”

The small fishing town she chose does not yet feature a stoplight.

“I decided to go to culinary school and open up a restaurant,” she said. “Eight years later, and here I am.”

Some people are dreamers. Others are doers. Once in a great while you run across someone who can do both while shaking off the expectations of others. This woman is one such person.

The restaurant is filled with happy people. Moods are warm as if they’ve arrived for a family reunion – an atmosphere the staff creates naturally. At a nearby table both guests and staff whisper to a newborn with a pink bow on her head. Others repeatedly stand up offering hugs to those announced by the scratching of the screen door.

Her business, and I hate to label it as such, is successful. With a stream of visitors from hundreds of miles away, she’s also finding her name popping up in travel magazines as a place to discover. The simple use of these metrics makes her a success. But these very same measurement tools also miss what make this possible: the spark in her soul.

With the kitchen energetically humming behind a swinging wooden door, she tells us of her next step in life.

“I’d like to open a food truck,” she said. Her eyes brighten as she describes the location – one I struggle to identify. Noticing my confusion, she offers to help.

“Near Aruba,” she said of the tropical island.

Suddenly I understand not even geography can erect a barrier to her dreams.

I’ve met a few of these people in my life. Filled with a vision of the world in which they wish to live, they also posses a rare energy and commitment to see them through. Obstacles are not deterrent but rather an anticipated feature of the landscape. Life, to these people, is a self-defining journey.

Our dinner arrives and is as wonderful as the atmosphere we are sharing with the other guests. Obviously the kitchen is in on the fun.

Experiences like these rarely happen by accident. But through a unique blend of optimism, acceptance of risk, and the commitment to do whatever it takes to realize these dreams, the rest of us get benefit.

I fully expect a very special food truck to one day be located near the island paradise of Aruba. And inside will be a woman with a powerful spark in her eyes who understands the formula for success comes from within.

And once again, the success will not be an accident.

– 30 –

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Rest in Peace, Monday through Friday

Our current generation is witnessing the death of ‘Monday through Friday’.

The other day a friend asked if it was appropriate for him to make a business reply on a weekend. Late on Friday an email arrived about an opportunity asking him to reply when convenient.

“Should I wait until Monday or send an email today?”

I thought for a moment, realizing how much the world is changing from the one where I grew up. The basic framework, the clear lines of understanding of where our work lives end and our personal lives begin are increasingly blurring before our eyes.

“I’d reply now,” I said.

Years ago, when my brother and I were kids, our family was walking out the door to start a thousand-mile car vacation when the phone rang. With the car loaded with overstuffed suitcases, my mother said something to my dad that to this day continues to resonate in my head.

“You don’t think that is the office, do you?”

I remember thinking, “He’s on vacation. Why would the office call him?”

My dad answered the phone. All was good and a short while later our behemoth Plymouth Fury III pointed north towards Canada. But the experience changed me. For the first time I began to understand there were designated – or protected – windows of time in the adult world.

Fast forward to today’s world where these same windows of time reside only in memories. Our environment is literally a 24/7/365 world – one where we’ve voluntarily surrendered the valuable and protective pockets of time enjoyed by our parent’s generation.

The world is different now. Today we are connected with everyone and everything. Rare is someone who does not sleep with his or her cell phone within arm’s reach. Our shared connectivity, which we enthusiastically embrace, is also reshaping our personal concept of time. The fact we are instantly and intimately connected to our chosen world also alters the way we perceive or boundaries. As we habitually scroll through our email and social media feeds, Thursday suddenly doesn’t feel all that different from Saturday. And therein lies the root of change.

The window of time, once referred to as ‘Monday through Friday’, is evaporating before our very eyes. I say this not to complain, but more as an observation of a significant change in society’s behavior. Collectively, we’ve allowed our interconnectivity to erase time-honored breathing spaces. Easy access now trumps the established protective windows – or what is left of them. Additionally, our eager embracement suggests we really don’t mind the intrusions.

The email in question was sent. And not surprisingly, responded to within hours. For the receiver, ‘Monday through Friday’ – like a great many people – represented only a loosely defined designation of when they expected to appear in an office.

May ‘Monday through Friday’ rest in peace – you’ll be missed.

– 30 –

Miles Evaporate with Single Gesture

Last week the world became a bit smaller for one man.

Finding myself  on the dialing end of a call to a towing service, I needed help. The voice on the other end assured me a driver would arrive shortly.

Packing our mountain bikes back into our wounded truck, my son and I climbed into the cab and waited.

With the sunlight giving way to darkness  a large rollback arrived as promised. A young man jumped from the cab, quickly apologizing for being a few minutes late and immediately went to work.

Dressed in neat, dark blue uniform and clean-shaven, he politely gathered information about the broken down truck.

“I’ll have us on the road in a few minutes, sir,” he said.

Crawling beneath our disabled truck with only his cell phone’s light the darkness, he worked quickly.

And here is where life began to unveil the wonder of chance meetings.

As the three of us – the driver, my son, and myself – traveled along the 17-mile trip, a cell phone began ringing inside the cab of the truck.

“Excuse me,” said the driver. “I apologize but I need to take this call.”

Answering, his language seamlessly shifted from English to another. In the small cab his words easily drifted across to where my son and I rode. The words, however, were unusual to my ear.

Moments later, ending his call, he again apologized.

“So,” I said, “Do you live nearby?”

The driver explained he and his wife and daughter lived a few minutes up the road.

“I moved here three years ago,” he said. “From Cairo,” he said. “Egypt, that is.”

“Really?” I said. “Welcome.”

Turning to face me, he offered a smile.

He explained after the revolution in his homeland – with bombs going off every other day – Cairo was no longer a place to live and raise a family. His moving to the US, however, meant leaving his father and mother 7,000 miles behind

“I miss them greatly,” he said.

But like anyone in the world, we began talking about what we love the most: our families. He shared how he and wife bring their daughter down to Gulf waters to splash and play – his pride suddenly washing across any sadness existing from before. His life – and his future of opportunities to support his family – was here, he said.

Minutes later we pulled to a stop in front of where my family and dreams reside. Although born half the globe apart, if not for the originating information on our passports or language, we could be brothers.

Carefully unloading the broken down truck alongside the curb, the driver walked over and thanked us for our business. It was then the world drew unexpectedly smaller.

Extending his hand, the driver and I exchanged thanks in English. Turning to my son, the driver said the same. My son, however, replied in Arabic – the home language of the driver.

In the absence of light, the driver’s face lit up with warmth, surprise, and thankfulness. Here, in his adopted homeland, someone took the time to go beyond the simple rote processes – and speak to him in his native language. The emotion of the moment was powerful to both he and my son.

Unbeknownst and imperceptible to my neighbors, something changed in the world that night. With a simple act of kindness – a simple offering of thanks in a different language – the world became a little bit smaller.

And a man and his family, he suddenly felt a little closer to home.

 – 30 –

Mother’s Day Meaning Evolves With Time

I’m not sure when, but one day, Mother’s Day changed for me.

Like most of us, I love my mother with all my heart and will always consider her to be the driver of all things good instilled in my character. I will always be indebted to her. To this day I still thank her in prayers for her heart and guidance.

That said, today I see Mother’s Day from a different point of view – one that arrived quietly and somewhat unannounced.  Today Mother’s Day is all about my wife.

This year my wife and I are experiencing a new chapter in life. Both our kids are adults and exploring the world on their terms and their timelines. Where this leads for them, we as parents don’t really know.

The realization of all of this is finally setting in: my wife and I are pretty much at the end of our parenting window. Yes, there will be moments when they might need something – advice, a place to stay for a few days or even just a shoulder to lean on – but for all practical purposes, we’re done.

This only makes more in awe of what a mother really does and the front-row seat I’ve shared with her over the past couple decades. And if I believe our children are the outcome of her hard work and ever-giving heart (which I do), then she is the greatest mom I’ve ever known.

I see the world differently as an adult than I did as child. When I was a child I probably considered my mother just another part of the landscape – a constant that would always be there for me. I didn’t see or appreciate the singular dedication she gave to my brother and me. I didn’t see or appreciate how she always was there for us. I didn’t – that is until she was unexpectedly taken before her time.

But God gave me a do-over and connected me with someone who I’ve watched do the very same for our two children. In the years my wife has been a mother, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed her make a selfish decision when it came to her role as a mother. That said, I now see the side of the coin of parenting I didn’t as a child – the side of truly understanding what sacrifice really means.

I’m sure that the experiences I’ve witnessed as a husband and partner are not too unlike those repeated in homes as close as next door or as far as around the world. The Maternal Instinct is probably the single most amazing force woven into our DNA. There is simply no stronger force of love and dedication than from a mother to her children.

I’ve seen my wife give – without any reservation of ever complaining – the past couple decades of her life to rarely being beyond arm’s length of our children. No matter how she felt or what was going on in her world, she was there for them. She could have a fever and struggling to get through the day, but if a thunderstorm shook the house and little feet came racing down the hallway, she’d willingly invite the children underneath the safety of the covers.

In some ways I feel like a bystander who just watched the most amazing documentary of a mother’s love and sacrifice. But the good news is, I didn’t – I married her.

– 30 –

Some Handymen Not So Handy

There was once a time the mere sight of me pulling my toolbox out from under the cabinet was enough to send our dog into hiding. Dogs, we all know, have a special instinct of when danger is arriving.

My wife jokes that she’s happy I figured out how to use a keyboard because if I were in my grandfather’s world where I’d have to fix the family tractor on the fly in the middle of a wheat field, we’d surly starve.

I guess that is why me putting together a grill the other day was such a big deal around our home.

My record with mechanics is spotty to say the least. One time, while still newlyweds, my wife’s car pulled into the driveway with a flat. Assuming my traditional duties of husband, I offered to change the tire for her. Oddly though for the next couple days she complained about an odd ‘thumping’ as she when driving back and forth to the work. The mystery sound remained unsolved until a few days later when a friend stopped by and he offered to check it out.

“Hey,” he said. “Is there a reason you only put one lug nut on the wheel?”

So know you get the picture. My life is filled with finishing a project and discovering extra parts left over or forcing a piece to fit, Somethings I even find myself taking something back apart after realizing maybe I should’ve read the instructions. My wife even enforced what she called the “six dang-it” rule. Upon reaching the thresholds tools were packed away for the day. This, she said, for the family’s safety.

But I guess this is what makes this modest grill a beacon of success around our home. Some people have the knack to work with tools. Others of us struggle with them like some people struggle learning Latin. And when it comes to tools, my Latin is terrible.

This should give you a bit of insight to what was going on inside my head when opening the box. Most people see a collection of parts along with a set of instructions. For people like me, we see a swarm of angry bees preparing to puncture our self-confidence.

Moving slowly and methodically, I laid the parts of the floor of the garage, studied them, and even glanced at the instructions. In the sprit of full disclosure, I cheated and looked at the picture on the box a few times along the way.

Much like the lore of “Casey Swung the Bat”, there was quiet around the Woolsey homestead for an hour. Even our dog stayed safely in retreat.

Maybe I’m getting older or wiser. Maybe I’m losing my so-called bark in life. But somehow, after a few missteps and retreats, a grill was standing in our garage. The box was empty, all parts were accounted for, and there was no need shimmy a piece of wood beneath one of the legs in order to level the cooking surface.

Life is filled with small steps along the road to success. And like anything else, we’re never too old to expand our personal toolset. That is, so long as we keep it under six dang-its.

 

– 30 –