Coloring Outside the Lines…

I don’t really remember at what point in my life I began to properly color a picture and stay inside the lines.  I know that as a child I must have colored all over whatever picture I was working on.  We all have.  In watching my own children, I have noticed that, as they mature and get a little older, their pictures have become more precise.  They have gotten better at coloring inside the lines.  I do remember in school that some of the children were better artists than others.  Even though we all began the same and all improved our ability to stay inside the lines, some became masters of their artistic ability.  While some were creating what seemed like a masterpiece for the parents refrigerator door, others were doing their best to just keep their crayon inside the lines on the page.

As an adult I feel like i still suffer with this battle.  I have never learned to create a masterpiece.  My whole life has been a struggle to keep it between the lines.  From the time I was young I have wanted to paint a beautiful picture of what I felt like life should be.  Unfortunately I am not a very good artist, at least not in creating the portrait of my life.  I struggle every day to stay inside the lines and not destroy the good that I do have.  In the same way that a little child wants to present the picture he colored in class to his parents when he gets home from school, I also want to present the most beautiful picture for the people I love.  I want to give my children, my family and my friends a masterpiece.  I want them to be proud, but I cannot paint.  Even as a journalist, I want to create a masterpiece for those who read my stories.  I want to present a beautiful piece of artwork. Still, I struggle.

One day my kids will grow up.  They will have a life of their own.  Have I colored the picture of them the best way I possibly can to provide a promising future?  Have I stayed between the line enough to build on my relationship and create a masterpiece that will forever be cherished?  We can’t all be great artists, but is what little I can do enough?

I am going to try my best to simply keep it between the lines in this life.  I hope no one expects a masterpiece.  Maybe in the future I will be able to create stand-out work.  Right now, It is more than a full-time job to keep everything between the lines.  Maybe you have struggled with this as well.  We all want a masterpiece.  Many of us fall short.  I feel like I couldn’t ask for better people to be in my life.  I can only hope I live up to offering back to them what they have given to me.  I want to give you all a masterpiece you will never forget.  I’m going to keep it between the lines.

Reading the wrong book…

I recently made the decision to take some college courses and try to open up more opportunities for my life.  I made it through a good bit of my work feeling pretty good about myself and the small accomplishments I had made toward completing my coursework.  Suddenly though, I was working on one of my assignments and found myself totally lost.  I had no idea why the material had shifted so heavily in another direction.  The work I was doing on my computer didn’t seem to match what I had read and taken notes on in the book.  In my research to find the problem, I found out that the book I had read for my classwork was the book I will be using in my next term.  All of my reading was in vain.  I had to start over and begin again.

In a world where every second counts, I felt like I had taken myself far off course.  I still am not certain of the ramifications of reading from the wrong book.  Will it leave me behind for the entire term or will i catch up and stay on top of each assignment?  Perhaps everything will be fine, and I can also look forward to having a jump on my course work in my next term.  I am not sure of where this will lead me, but I am sure of one thing.  I will get a better understanding from the book I am reading now, than from the one I was studying before.

I think many of us find ourselves “reading from the wrong book.”  I’m pretty sure we have all finished chapters upon chapters of different aspects of our lives, only to find that we were reading the pages of something that does not apply to us.

We all want our actions to make sense.  All of us have ambitions and hopes for great things in our lives.  To apply ourselves and bring ourselves to a point where we feel we can reach these dreams, we have to make sure we are lined up in the area of our learning.  We can’t be successful in any test life puts us through if the course we studied was not intended for us.  The chapters I had already read were beyond my level.  I will reach that level at a later time.  Right now I need to focus on where I am at.  Similarly, we all are on separate levels in life.  I cannot expect the lessons of your life to serve as a guide to my own.  I can learn from you, but my course work is much different than yours.  If I read the wrong book, I won’t succeed when I am tested.

As you continue through life’s journey, reach for the book that describes your life where it is now.  Don’t try to reach above or beneath the level of understanding of your current standing in life.  You have the necessary tools to excel.  Don’t read the wrong book.  Take up every opportunity to create hope for your life and apply it whenever you can.  You can pass this test you are going through.  You can ace your next quiz.  All you have to do is keep on track.  Aim for that promising destiny you believe in, but never seem to be able to grasp.  First, you need to check out your book.  Is it the right one?  Are your actions in life based on a clean heart and a pure intention or from something you learned on a television show or a magazine?  Study at your level.  Pass your test.

Beating the Storm…

I spent some time with my girlfriend in Charleston this weekend and had an amazing time helping her do some shopping and just spending one-on-one time together.  I must say it was probably one of the best weekends ever.  While in Charleston, I received some reports of bad weather that was going to be heading in and was informed it may be in my best interest to head back home early.  Obviously, no one wants a perfect weekend to end for any reason, but I decided it may be best to pack it up and come home soon.  After carefully considering weather reports, I decided I would stay, but come home early this morning to beat the weather that looked like it would hit around noon. This morning I headed home trying to beat a storm that to this moment, 11:30 p.m., hasn’t really hit hard yet.  I wonder where is this storm?

It is kind of funny how a report can change the course of a weekend.  I mean, I guess I was going to be coming home soon anyway, but I left extra early to beat a storm that I didn’t have to really try to outrun.  It didn’t come at that time.  I wonder how many other courses in our lives we alter due to a circumstance we can see in the future that may not have ever happened in the first place.

Some people fight because they believe something is true that has not or will not happen.  Some people end relationships based on a rumor.  Some may marry thinking another means it when they say, “I do take you now and forever.”  We never know what the future holds, but sometimes we act according to what we feel may happen.  Is this the smartest thing?  I tend to move a little slower.  I want to believe that I do not know the answers and I need the time to step back and see what is true and what is not.  We should all be careful not to race to a place based on reports of a storm.  We need to prepare for the storm, but not alter our course because of it.

I have dealt with many storms in my life.  Sometimes it seems I have faced enough to last a lifetime, and the rest of my days should play out with peace and joy filling my every moment.  This will not be the case.  All of our lives are filled with turmoil.  We all face struggles in our every day lives that we need to be careful not to run from, but to face them head on. We need to allow them to shape us in to who we are.  We should not fear the storm, but prepare for it.  By doing so, we have beaten the storm.  We may not have out raced it, but we beat it.  Beat the storm.  Don’t let it alter your course in life.

In the Ashes of the fire…

I spent some time at Moonville Friday with the Zaleski Fire Department.  A fire had ignited in the woods near the area and while some departments put together efforts to contain the fire, others stood by and kept watch for other dangers.  It was already near dark when I arrived at the scene, and containment efforts were winding down.  I stood with some of the firefighters who were keeping watch on the road near the Moonville Tunnel, as we all waited for the latest updates on the conditions in the woods.

As we waited, I noticed something falling from the sky.  Further observation of the falling material revealed to me that I was standing in a shower of falling ash.  I could not see the fire from where I was standing, but the smoke, the burning smell and the ash that was falling caused me to realize I was probably closer to the fire than I had thought.  Suddenly I knew that if containment efforts fail, I could be in a dangerous place.

I didn’t doubt at any moment that the situation was being properly handled by the firefighters.  I didn’t fear that at any point I would need to scramble to quickly remove myself from the area.  I felt secure.  I was safe, and I didn’t feel the need to panic.  I wonder though, if the fire department hadn’t been on the scene if I would have felt the same way.  Would I have jumped into my car and get out of the woods as quickly as possible if I had been alone?  I am not sure what type of alternative outcome would have came if I wouldn’t have been near members of the fire department.  I am thankful for the people who sacrifice their time and effort to protect people like me and keep me safe.

I think about the way I felt in the woods Friday.  I wonder about my own life and the lives of those around me.  How do the people who depend on me feel when they are near me.  Do my kids watch the ashes fall and know they are safe because I am their father?  Does the burning smell cause my loved ones to fear where they stand or do they feel comforted because I am near?  When the smoke is thick and the only thing left to do is count on someone else for protection, am I the one people feel they can turn to?

My life feels like a fire sometimes.  It seems that there is always a fight to protect what little I have.  I think the people who are close to me can see the smoke.  They can smell the fire.  They watch the ashes fall when they are near me.  Though some run away for fear that the fire will grow, there are those who stand in a safe place.  They feel safe in spite of the proof of dangerous territory that surrounds them.  I want to end the fire that burns in my life.  I want to rise above the smoke clouds that roll off of my existence.  I’m not going down in flames, I’m emerging from the fire.  I am climbing out of a death trap that has held me bound for years.  If you watch the ashes fall, don’t fear the fire, just know I have taken another step into the clear.

In the future, I hope that my children feel safe because I show no signs of destruction, rather than because I carry them through it.  I want the best for my kids.  Even though we have marks to prove we have been through the fire, I hope they’ll carry on without fear of that fire.  If my success marks the success of my children, then I must succeed.  There are no other options.  The ash still falls, but the fire is behind me.

Navigator down…

Yesterday I decided to travel to West Virginia to visit with my girlfriend who is moving there for a job that she just started working recently.  Unfamiliar with the territory, I decided to use the gps on my phone to navigate the course to the hotel she is staying in.  I was probably about half way into my trip before I realized there is something wrong with my gps.  It refused to work for me.  I was without direction.  Luckily, i remembered the route in my head from when I looked it up earlier in the day.  I arrived at the hotel with no problems, but I did show up with an understanding that I need to figure out why the gps on my phone isn’t working.  I could have easily gotten lost if I had not remembered the directions.

It is always nice to have a voice to tell you which turn is the right one.  It helps to know which road we are on and which one is coming next.  It is comforting to know there is a turn coming up that we previously were not aware of.  These are the kind of things gps will point out to us, but without them, we must navigate on our own.

I feel like this is the lesson we need to learn in life.  All of us can appreciate that voice telling us where to go and how to get there, but many of us are finding our own way.  Most of us do not have the course mapped out for us.  The best chance we have is to take the turns that seem to be the right ones, and hope we end up where we set out to go.  The answer is coming to us in spoken form, but it comes with a good educated guess and hopes of heading in the right direction.

The promising thing for me was that I did have a map to look at before I left.  Although I relied heavily on my memory to get me to my destination, I was able to get there without a navigation system.  I think the reason why most people don’t get to the place they were wanting to go is they didn’t take a moment to look over the map before they got on the road.  Without the map, finding direction is an impossible task.   You will get lost, and you most likely live that way.

Take a moment to map out your course before you make a move on the road of life.  Your gps system may fail you, but with the proper direction locked into your mind, you can get there.  You can and will succeed in finding your destination in life if you take the time to seek for proper direction.

I realize that sometimes I am late or have tried to drive the course alone.  Maybe I went with no gps, no map and no voice to tell me where I am or where I’m going.  I went alone.  Still, I never think it’s too late to look at a map and get on course.  This way, every step I take from here on I will know where I am, and know exactly how to get to where I’m going.  I might feel a little uncertain without my gps, but with the directions in my head, I can and will get there.  You can too.  Map it out.

Writing the story before it happens..

Yesterday was election day.  In the past, election day has been a day where I go vote then head home to turn on the television and watch results.  This year was much different for me.  Now that I am a reporter, it was my job to make sure people received information about the election.  I was the one who was responsible for writing the stories that would be in the newspaper the next day.  Let me say, the task is not an easy one when you are up against a deadline.

I was fully aware the day would be hectic.  I knew ahead of time that I would need to prepare my stories, laying the ground work for news that would be coming, so I began writing election stories prior to the vote count being taken.  This was new for me.  It was the first time I had written a story before it actually happened.  I felt though that the job would be much easier If I would anticipate outcomes based on my knowledge of what was happening and write the stories as closely to that as possible.  Of course, I was able to later change some of the information depending on what happened.  I left blank spaces for all of the numbers and additional spaces for any quotes I might receive after the election.  I found this to be very helpful in assisting me at getting the stories out in time last night.

I realized after the long day had ended, that life should also be the same way.  I have always struggled at planning ahead.  I think if something happened today that I was not ready for, I wouldn’t know what to do.  I would be lost.  There are some people who are really good at anticipating the future, I am not one of them.  I know now that preparation takes more time in the beginning, but saves a great deal of time in the end.  I really hope that in the future, in all of life’s moves, I will begin writing my stories before they happen.  I want to leave blanks for the spaces that can be filled in later, but for the most part, I want to be prepared for what happens next.  Obviously I cannot predict love.  I cannot predict tragedy.  I cannot predict the moments that change the course, but I can prepare for anything.  I can look at my life and consider the course I would like to take.  Sure, there may be changes or alterations, but If I write the story before it happens, I won’t have to start fresh each time something changes.  I will only have to fill in the blanks.

Look at your life as well.  Where do you want to be in the future?  Where do you expect to be in the future?  Where do you WANT to be in the future?  You have the ability to write the course for yourself.  This is your story.  Life is only a co-author.  Don’t let all of life’s situations tell the story for you.  You need to author this.  In the end, you will find it easier to make the best of your time if you have a pre-written life.  Don’t be the person who waits to see what happens before you decide what to write about your life.  Write it now.  It is time to start writing your story…Before it happens.

Behind the Mask…

I spent the day with my children yesterday walking the streets in search of Halloween treats.  It seems to me, with every new year, there are more and more children dressed up and wandering around, door to door, to fill up their baskets of candy.  My kids went as the Mario Brothers.  They seemed to get a pretty good response from passers-by as they passed other trick-or-treaters on the streets.  You should have seen them with the big mustache that covered a large part of their face.  I couldn’t help but smile when I caught some of the responses of people as they walked by.

While my kids had a simple costume, you could tell who they were by looking at them.  Some children were completely covered in a body suit.  Whether they were going as a gorilla, a race car driver (complete with helmet), or any other costume requiring a mask, I couldn’t tell who these kids were.   Some of the kids who passed by waved at us, but I couldn’t recognize them.  The only thing I knew about these kids was what outfit they had on.  I could recognize the mask, but beneath it, the mystery loomed.

I think we all wear a mask from time to time.  Obviously, I am not speaking of a literal mask.  I am talking about something that covers us, and makes outsiders recognize us in an entirely different light than the people we reveal ourselves to.  Many of us wear masks to hide our imperfections when we are around other people.  By wearing a mask we can become unrecognizable.  We can hide the part of us we don’t want people to see.  We can become another person.

Why do we all have to do this to seek another’s approval?  Shouldn’t we find comfort in ourselves and walk boldly in front of the crowd?  I think the world would find itself in a better place if some people would take off their masks.  While my mask may suggest I am a young, happy father of two kids who lives a comfortable life as a reporter in the county I live in, I struggle.  My life is not easy.  When I think about it, I don’t know if any single aspect of my life has been easy.  Although some people may look at me and see failure, if they had walked in my shoes and been in places I have been in life, they might begin to believe I am a great story of success.  What makes success?  To be honest, I must say the answer to that question is still up for debate, at least in my head.  What I can tell you is that the prettiest mask you can wear will not change your level of success.  Your mask will not make you better.  It is solely dependent upon the drive of the person under the mask where you will go in this life. 

Take off your mask.  Nobody wants to see a lie.  People want to know the real you.  They will only respect the real you.  Your mask can’t earn respect, and while people may respect your lie, it is a matter of time before the mask proves its inability to carry your load.  You are better without the mask.  Your progress will come when you lay it down and move forward without it.  Regardless of your position in this life, wherever you may be, your mask will never go further than you carry it.  It is your footsteps that get you where you going in life.  Throw down the mask, and walk on as who you really are.