My beloved OU Sooner football team has experienced a season of challenge that we hope morphs into major growth and improvement. Coach Brent Venables is such a terrific personality and he seems like a good human. He’s a man who has experienced serious adversity from his childhood through his adult years. We can focus on a multi-million dollar college football coach, but he’s not defined by his income any more than I am. He’s worth the money as a football coach at a major university. As a man, how he lives determines his value and worth. Same for us.
Yesterday, I saw this article about the team entitled, With destiny out of Oklahoma’s control, winning the next game is all that matters.
I guarantee Brent Venables isn’t telling his players, “ok guys, we just need to win two more games to make it to a bowl game.” He’s not saying that. He’s not wired that way. He wants to win football games, and there are five more to go.
In the words of the late Al Davis, “Just win, baby.” That’s all the Sooners can do. Win some football games and let the chips fall where they may.
All this is the result of 3 disappointing losses, particularly the blowout 49-0 loss against rival Texas. Those failures took away the Sooners’ opportunity to control their own destiny toward a major bowl or playoff run. But it didn’t rob the Sooners of controlling their own destiny from here on out.
Our challenges are sometimes major impasses. They knock us down and drag us out. Sometimes they knock us out. The Sooners coach isn’t a man willing to lay down and whimper. He’s not done that in his personal tragedies and he’s not about to do it now as a first-time head coach. He’s got decades of experience, knows what he’s doing and knows he has to prepare his team to push through this adversity so they can grow. Those willing will benefit. Those unwilling will be gone. Either by their own choice, or his.
This isn’t really about college football or OU. It’s not really about a football coach. It’s about us. You and me.
It’s about our life and our challenges. It’s about how we’re going to stand up against our opponents and impasses. How will we respond? Will we wither? Will we increase our resolve to fight? What will we do when trouble comes?
I’ve talked candidly – and I’ll talk even more candidly today – about being in this 4-year struggle. It’s been such a long, arduous fight I’ve reached a point where all I know to do is what the OU Sooners football team must do…
Worry about what’s in front of me!
I shared these graphics on social media yesterday. Both of them spoke to me, more so now than maybe at any other time in my life.
Let’s take them in reverse order.
“Travel and tell no one, live a true love story and tell no one, live happily and tell no one, people ruin beautiful things.”
– Kahlil Gibran
Gibran is best known as the author of The Prophet, which was first published in the United States in 1923. He was a Lebanese poet, writer, and philosopher who died in 1931. I don’t profess to know much about him, but my recollection was that in the 1970s there were college students who discovered him. I’m supposing some college philosophy professors helped expose students to his work. But no matter, the man did write some quotable lines including that one I made into a social media graphic.
I love quite a lot of things about it.
Keeping quiet – which is going to sound very weird given that I’m a podcaster who hits RECORD maybe more frequently than I should – is VERY appealing. The longer I live the more I understand how intrusive many people are anxious to be in our lives. Not because of us. We’d like to think we’re special like that, but it’s got nothing to do with us. It’s got everything to do with them and what they most want. That doesn’t mean they’re heartless and uncaring. It just means their priority is usually self-focused. And it’s understandable because we’re ALL experiencing life through our own eyes. We’re in our own heads. Our life matters more than anybody else’s, not because we necessarily think we’re better (but we may), but because it’s OUR life and uniquely our responsibility. Plus, we mostly care about the outcomes of our life and that’s how it should be.
There is something a tad more sinister going on though. All of us are subjected to practicing it.
Not in the sexual sense, but in the immoderate and indecent sense. The desire to know because we want our curiosity satisfied, or we want to know something others may not yet know…or some other selfish reason having nothing to do with serving or helping the other person. For some, life is largely a game of “I know something you don’t.” That’s what I mean.
That’s why I love quietness in the sense of not sharing too many details about life. In spite of the documenting that happens here at LTW, and elsewhere in my podcasting life, there’s much that isn’t revealed. It’s private. Personal. Sometimes confidential. And quite often it involves others besides me. Besides, sometimes, most times – I just don’t feel like sharing details of what’s going on with me. I’m much more comfortable asking about others, but I try to be careful with that hoping I read the moment correctly. Do they want to share? Are they craving somebody who is truly interested? Mostly, I lean into conversations about their life because they start it. As they open up I embrace it and keep it going for as long as they’d like. It’s not that I’m unwilling to reciprocate by sharing details of my life, but it pretty much takes care of itself when the conversation continues about their life. I will – 100% of the time – subtility (if possible) shift the conversation on them and their life. It feels better for both of us. Almost always!
So when I mention quietness I’m talking about two distinctly different kinds of communication. Quietness is a form of communication just like pausing in a podcast is form of it, too (something I’ve long been known for).
There’s the quietness that serves us. There’s the quietness that serves others. Sometimes they’re parallel and sometimes they’re not. Care to guess which one gets the priority? Of course, the version of quietness that serves us!
The Yellow Studio 2.0 Has To End So 3.0 Can Begin
In 2015 I did a virtual tour of The Yellow Studio version 1.0. For more than 15 years, this was how I operated The Yellow Studio. Then, thanks to Rode we shook things up by replacing the original rack of hardware with a single device, the Rodecaster Pro. That ushered in The Yellow Studio 2.0. For the past few years, the workflow inside The Yellow Studio has been greatly enhanced with the Rodecaster Pro. Thanks to you guys!
The Yellow Studio 1.0
The Yellow Studio 2.0
The end of The Yellow Studio 2.0 began a few months ago when I began to declutter and purge. I won’t bore you with yet another rendition of that effort, but it was invigorating.
The Yellow Studio is a home office and podcast studio all in one. It has been the place where I’ve produced 99% of every podcast episode over the past 20-plus years. The only exceptions are the episodes I’ve recorded in the field. Thousands and thousands of hours of shows have been recorded right from this spot inside this yellow room. Most of the shows were recorded into a Heil PR40 mic. When the Rodecaster Pro entered the picture I sold both PR40s opting for some different sounds. I broke the cardinal rule of podcasting and went from a dynamic mic to a condenser mic. My workflow improved.
Bittersweet is how we tend to describe wanting something while also partially dreading it. I’ve had months to think about The Yellow Studio 2.0 coming to an end. I may have had a moment or two where “bittersweet” applied, but mostly it was all sweet all the time. I was longing for a change. Looking forward to closing a chapter.
I talk a lot about chapters of our life – these moments in time when it can be easy for us (and others) to define us. This chapter of our life has endured for about 23 years. Rhonda and I were ready to close this chapter of our life. It’s important when ending something – the desired ending – that we’re anticipating starting something new. Many people are busy running from something, but that’s empty unless we can find something we want to run toward. Closing this chapter is mostly an exercise in saying goodbye to one chapter so we can say hello to a new one! It’s time to get busy writing a chapter we’ve not yet written.
The past months have provided lots of learning coupled with considerable angst. 😉 And it ain’t over yet.
Eternity Changes Everything
Okay, I had already learned this. I’ve been learning it all my life thanks to Christian parents. But recent months reinforced this truth.
Big life decisions are hard, but they’re made somewhat easier when you’re able to see what matters most. For example, Rhonda and I were engaged in a conversation about one specific decision confronting us. When we crunched the numbers the decision boiled down to risking a few hundred dollars or risking $26K. That’s not a hard decision because the difference is so enormous and apparent. So it goes when we can clearly compare our earthly life with eternity.
We tend to think of it as living and dying, but the reality, based on what the Bible teaches, is different. We live here, in human bodies, while we’re living this earthly chapter. When we die our soul or spirit is separated from this earthly body and we live on entering the eternal realm. We end one chapter and begin another one, our final one, which happens to be a chapter without an ending because it’s eternal.
The more we study this and think about it the more clear it becomes that we should give it more weight than what happens here on earth. It’s part math and all God. The math is straightforward. My dad is 99. And healthy. He’s living a long, long life, but it’s still nothing compared to forever! Would he – or any of us – be wise to devote ourselves to something here, for a brief time (even 99 years) if it would cost us a high price FOREVER? It’d be foolish, but we could. Many of us – most of us – do just that. We devote ourselves to whatever suits us without any thought of the Scripture, God, or Jesus Christ. We play the short game oblivious of the longer, eternal game.
Sometimes You Can’t End A Chapter On A High Note, But You Need To End It Anyway (the sooner the better)
Ideally, we end on a high note. Presentations, speeches, stories, and most anything else you can name, including podcasts. But it’s not always possible so you do the best you can with what you’ve got. We’re all living our lives in real time. The challenge is doing our best to get it right in real time. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we don’t.
My ideal outcome for ending this chapter of my life may not necessarily be written the way it’s played out. But in spite of the fact that Rhonda and I are writing this chapter of our life together, there are some circumstances and events beyond our control. So, we’ve huddled over the past four years or so and done our best to respond the best way we know how. History will judge how well we did. With a limited perspective, we’re both feeling pretty good about our effort so far.
You hear people talk about big-time professional athletes who play great under pressure.
The moment is never too big for them.
I wish there were no moments that were too big for me, but I’ve had quite a few moments that proved too much for my talent, ability, skill or resolve. So what do you do if you mess up? Well, you don’t keep on messing up. And you don’t linger in self-pity. You have to just respond as well as you can, pick yourself up, and get on with doing your best. None of us want these bad moments to define us, but it happens because redemption can be difficult.
At 4:47 pm Central on Sunday, October 23, 2022, I’m sitting here inside The Yellow Studio watching game 5 of the NLCS. Ironically, Bryce Harper hammered a 2-run home run in the top of the 8th inning giving the Phillies a one-run lead over San Diego. Talk about a moment not being too big!
We all want to be that guy. Sometimes it works out. It’s glorious when it happens. It’s gut-wrenching when it doesn’t. Bryce Harper doesn’t want the chapter to end without a World Series ring, something he’s never achieved. In fact, until this season he hadn’t even had post-season success. The man is writing a new chapter playing for the Phillies who are now, thanks to his homerun, headed to the World Series.
When we make a mess of things – or when things aren’t going as we planned or hoped – we just want to end the chapter. Quickly, if we can. But writing our lives takes time. And so it is with bringing an end to The Yellow Studio 2.0. I’ve thought about it. Dreamed about ut. Planned it. And some days it feels like it might never happen. I’ve had days where I felt like television weatherman Phil Connors in the movie Groundhog Day. The days just blended into each other, with many of them feeling identical to the prior day.
Eventually, the calendar will change. I just don’t know when.
Daily we put in the work. Daily we fall to our knees praying for wisdom…and for an outcome we desired. All the while, prepared to accept what results happened to come. When you don’t know how things will turn out (which is much of the time), you can at least determine how you’ll respond when they don’t. I leaned more heavily into optimism than I ever have before. It’s difficult to avoid thinking the worst because life has largely felt like a 4-year knife fight. After such a long time it’s been exhausting making it harder to think our ideal outcome would happen. We need to keep faith in ourselves, in our plan, in our priorities, and in God’s answer to helping us achieve whatever would be best for us eternally. Maybe what we’re pursuing isn’t going to be ideal for us. We lack Divine knowledge, but we feel we’re aiming in the right direction, and for the right reasons.
I made up my mind that I was going to write the ending the way I wanted…at least in my mind. I’ve thought about it. I’ve dwelt on it. I’ve leaned so hard into the optimism I refuse to let myself entertain doubt for more than seconds at a time. I choose to believe we can create a great ending to an otherwise less-than-stellar chapter. We just want it to end. Please. Today. Or sooner. 😉
When You’re In A Hole Do You Stop Digging?
Depends on what hole you’re digging and whether or not you want or need the hole. 😉
“When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”
Well, that sounds good and all. Wise even. But it’s not easy when you feel like a mole whose sole purpose is to dig. 😉
It’s also not easy when you don’t want to stop digging because you’re mostly driven to go as far underground as possible. That’s how my life has been for the last 4 years. There’s been enough time I don’t mind sharing with you a little bit — which happens to be a whole lot more than I’ve shared with you before. I won’t go into all the details, but I’ll tell you that my grown daughter, after 15 years of marriage and being a mother to two boys…left the reservation. She left God, her husband, and her sons.
It’s a long, arduous story, but I love my son-in-law very much. Technically, he’s my ex-son-in-law, but he knows he’s never going to be an ex to me and Rhonda. Thankfully he’s got full custody of the grandsons who are 15 and 13 now. Given her evil, profane behavior she lost her parental rights so the boys are protected from her. So is their dad (protected from her). Along with their dad, they’re the 3 amigos and we’re close to them.
Prescribed opioid meds, colossal selfishness, profane rebellion against God – they’re all in play, and more. Our lives – all of our lives – cratered about four years ago so we’ve been digging ever since. But everybody is safe, devoted to God, and doing well. Everybody except her of course.
I’ve been digging in, not out. It wasn’t my intention – well, okay, maybe it was. It just happened and I leaned into it. Maybe more than I should have because mostly, I was stunned that the little girl who grew up in our home – a self-confident young lady filled with Faith, conviction, and a strong sense of conscience would embrace the darkest side of herself and surrender to sin. But she did. And even a faithful husband, or parents, are powerless to make decisions for others. When foolishness is the choice, it’s a painful choice to watch and we had to watch it for too long, but no more. Some months ago I created this and posted it on my social media channels.
I had posted and written a considerable amount about this girl who captured my heart about 40 years ago. We were close. Connected. Sharing faith and much more. Until she chose to stop and lean fully into self-centeredness. The stubborn demeanor that had served her in living for God and goodness backfired, manifesting as profane rebellion. A wickedness none of us had ever seen.
We have no contact or relationship anymore. It’s over and I’m not going to participate or watch.
I dug in to learn all I could about opioids’ impact on mental health. I dug in to hide, too.
The learning was good. The hiding was, too (for a while). It is still to some degree.
From old people to teens I found out that prescribed Fentanyl and other opioids seem to impact people exactly the same. An old woman. A teenage boy. And everybody in between. They all behave the same. “They’re like a rebellious out-of-control teenager,” was a phrase I heard constantly. I contacted substance abuse clinics, physicians, psychologists, and therapists who specialized in such things. I was a sponge for the first two years or more. I was looking for answers but wound up with more questions.
I endured the harsh judgment of others who felt her sins were my sins. I endured the puzzled viewpoints of why I was behaving differently…”Why is he so withdrawn?” I endured – and still do – the resolve of people who only think of themselves and not what may be best for me. People who feel they have to be the ideal human for every person in every situation. News flash! If you’re the right person for me, you already know it. If you don’t know it, then you’re not one of them. 😀 #TRUTH
So there it is, our 4-year knife fight that I suppose will continue as long as we’re alive.
I’ve continued to remark to some that I’m just looking for a rock to crawl under. It’s the most accurate depiction of how I feel. I still mostly feel that way. I’m not the same man I once was. But today, I’m better and I’m determined to get – grow – better more and more. That doesn’t mean going back, but it means going forward. Let’s worry on what’s in front of us.
Dig in or dig out, that was then and today remains the challenge. Some things, like investigating opioids and mental health issues, are very much worth digging into. Digging out of a funk was harder. Mostly because the funk is tough to define. If the funk is self-pity it’s more easily identified, but that isn’t what I was ever feeling. And it wasn’t guilt, even though my self-righteous critics wanted to put her sin on me. Upon news of her decision, told to us by her husband, Rhonda looked at me and said, “We did our job.” She meant we had trained her to love God, and Jesus, and be a Christian. She had violated all of it – things she had embraced most of her life, including her adult life. She had betrayed her husband, and her sons because she had betrayed God.
The funk was hard to describe except in telling people what I most wanted to do – climb under a rock.
Part of it was driven by my introversion, something others who aren’t bent this way can’t seem to figure out. “Snap out of it,” isn’t sound advice. “I want you to be like you were before,” isn’t either. When such things happen to us we’re changed. Maybe forever. And it could be that our latter end is better if we can find ways to grow through that pain and suffering. I was determined to grow and improve. I just had no idea how long it might take. The impatience of others continues to drive me nuts. (And I’m talking about people who know firsthand what’s going on)
The ending of this chapter is about selling a house that has been our home for over 23 years. A place where I once remarked to Rhonda, “You can just bury me in the backyard.” It’s been home. Big trees. Nice big yard. A lovely established mature neighborhood on a tree-lined street. But four years ago it all changed. Now we’re marching forward toward concluding this chapter because we’re desperate to write a new one. A better one. I’m confident we’ll be able to do that because our minds (me and Rhonda) are made up.
Time To Move, Time To Get Going
Tom Petty’s Wildflowers album is a classic. So much so, after his death, it was re-released with tracks that didn’t make the final cut. The record is filled with many great songs. “Time To Move On,” is among them. Take a minute or three and click the play button on that YouTube video above. Enjoy it. I do. Every single time.
Tom was enduring some challenges when he wrote and recorded Wildflowers. I don’t know what he was precisely feeling or thinking, but tragedy, challenges, and obstacles are common to all of us. I’m not a rock star and never have been so I can’t possibly relate to whatever Tom endured in that role. I’ve never lost a house to fire or experienced divorce, but Tom did. No matter, like Tom, we’ve all had tough times. Times from which we wanted to move on.
I can’t fully express how ready we are to move on. Figuratively, emotionally, physically, and in just about every other way you might name.
“What lies ahead I have no way of knowing” isn’t a line that resonates with us so much though because we’re carefully planning every decision. Does that mean things will work out as we plan? Maybe not. In that regard, we don’t have any way of knowing because these things aren’t guaranteed. We can only guarantee our effort, but we’re optimistic! Very much so.
Our moving on is positive. Helpful. It’s our ideal outcome.
Going has a direction, forward. Progress. Growth. Improvement.
Let’s worry about what’s in front of us.
We’ve been planning all this for more than 2 years, but at our age, there were some milestones we wanted to hit first. As soon as we began to hit those we went into action. Then we had to be patient, which is extremely hard. We answered our impatience with prayer…LOTS of intense prayers. Funny how that works. Facing the unknown often provokes an increased intensity in prayer because God knows when we don’t. I also decided to choose optimism (and gratitude) more than ever. Daily I’d wake up intently focused on telling myself that each day would be a good day (and asking God to help me make it so). Praying that every day might inch us closer to our goal. Some days there’s an imperceptible inch. On other days it’s utterly invisible and we have no idea if we’re making progress or not. But we’re keeping the faith, confident things will work out favorably. All the while we do our best to maintain the priority of putting God first, prepared to accept whatever He might provide providentially. We just know we have to do our work and do our best to reach our goals.
Sometimes there’s a moment of progress. Sometimes there are many smaller, less perceptible moments of progress. Sometimes there are small or big defeats, too.
We’re always gonna keep praying and hoping.
Rocky, Rosie, Hockey Teams, & Gospel Preachers
Through the years dogs have inhabited our lives and hearts. We began this chapter we’re now ending with a dog I registered as Bernard P. Fife. Yes, we called him Barney. He was a Bichon. A rather stubborn critter, but I loved him when he wasn’t infuriating me. I wept when we had to say goodbye due to an illness that was making his life miserable. He’s buried in the backyard.
Some time passed, as it must when you’re grieving, and we drove down to The Woodlands, just north of Houston, where Rocky and Rosie entered our lives. Brother and sister, they were a pair of Westies (White West Highland Terriers) and we were immediately in love. Never before had we parented two dogs at the same time, but experts in the breeds who become our friends continued to admonish us, “Get two.” We followed their advice and it was the best pet decision we ever made.
No two animals impacted my life as much, and I’ve had dogs in my life from the beginning, but these two were very special. I loved them more than I ever thought I could love an animal. They were our constant companions, determined to be right under our feet as much as possible. Two completely different personalities, but one gaping hole was left in my heart when we lost them. First Rocky, who had become ill, then Rosie, who would follow about a year later.
The house felt so empty. For almost 16 years or more these two creatures had been more of a focal point than perhaps we ever realized. That’s a chapter that ended in the fall of 2016 when we lost Rosie, but this place was the only home they ever knew! The squirrels, birds, and lizards were the only ones happy to see them go.
Hockey players and one particular hockey team have spent time around here. Just about every hockey team I ever coached has spent time here. And in the pool. Hockey has been a considerable part of our lives since our son began to play back in early junior high. This now father of 3 still plays whenever he can, but mostly he’s busy coaching his sons in baseball, which was always his first love – until he found hockey!
Lots of cookouts, sleepovers, pizza parties, and the like once took place here. We’ve not had one for the better part of 15-plus years, but I can still hear the laughter and see the ping-pong brackets my son created (ever the competitor). Those college guys are all grown up now. Mostly married and mostly with kids of their own. Time flies, but thankfully memories linger.
Gospel preachers have spent many nights under this roof, the blessing of a floor plan with two master bedrooms – one near the kitchen, which proved invaluable to traveling preachers. For a few, it was home away from home. Sometimes with mere hours’ notice, a guest would pull into the drive to spend an evening before journeying on to the next stop.
Rocky and Rosie always loved it when preachers could visit because it meant new hands to pet them and give them treats. They had their favorites too – based mostly on how accommodating the preacher was toward them. One preacher named Ronny was their absolute favorite. Likely because he was one of my favorites and spent more time here than any. Ronny passed away years after Rosie. Upon news of her death, he told me, “It’s not gonna be the same around there anymore.” He was right. It never was the same after that. And it’s never been the same since his last visit either.
It never will be the same, but that’s okay because we experienced it once. In fact, we experienced it many times. As much as I want to repeat life’s greatest moments I know that it’s impossible in reality, but it’s instantly possible if I just remember. Some days it’s hard to remember because I forget. Moments I didn’t think I’d ever forget. But I do. Some memories come more easily. I’m trying to lean into all the best ones because it helps diminish the worst ones. And we’ve all got plenty of those, but the end of this chapter isn’t about them. It’s only about what a great chapter this has been, but the next one will be even better! Lord willing.
I Need To Weep
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
― Kahlil Gibran
Some folks don’t understand it, but I need to weep. For years I’ve happily admitted that I cry daily. I can’t remember – ever – a day where I didn’t. Nor can I remember a day when I didn’t laugh out loud. It’s not some planned, scheduled activity. It just happens. It’s how my life operates. It’s never contrived or shallow. It’s pure emotion that pours out and may last seconds or minutes. I admit that sometimes I embrace it, while at other times I try to hasten its conclusion. Embracing it is easier.
I think of what I’ve lost and I weep. But the fact that I once held it in such regard means it’s now a loss. Gibran got it right I think. I’m weeping for that which was once my delight.
I’ve set a new weeping record during the past 4 years or so. It’s been a time period during which I’ve experienced my deepest losses. The defeats have been crushing, but survivable. I’m still here. Standing. Sometimes barely, but mostly upright except when I’m on my knees. Being on my knees has felt better, but eventually, we have to stand up and do the work.
Where & When Does It End?
It’s like that quote from some unknown source that I love…
I may quit, but not today!
In that press conference, I’ve embedded at the top of this page – Brent Venables’ OU football head coach – somewhere near the 40-minute mark talks about how success demands we run into “the hard.” It’s that whole be a buffalo admonition I’ve given before. Around the 43-minute mark of his press conference coach Venables talks about pushing forward toward what’s in front of his team. We’ve all got our dragons to slay, mostly the dragon that is us.
I don’t know the outcome of my current adversity. I don’t know if or when it’ll cease. I just know that today I have work to do. And if like my favorite college football team, I do the work as well as I can, with the effort it deserves, then I can trust the results will follow.
Mostly, I know that if I’m going to worry…it’s best to worry about what’s in front of us, not what’s behind us. Time to move on. Time to get going. Time to lean hard into the work that wisdom demands. I know that’s my very best option.
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