May, 2010

May 10

Runnin’ on Empty

Hi, I feel better today.  But that still doesn’t mean I will have anything meaningful to say.  As most of you know… I just write what pops into my head.

Every now and then something worthwhile tumbles out and it surprises me as much as it does you.  But that is the joy of opening one’s self.  You will never really know what amazing things are inside of you unless you take the risk to open yourself up in a creative process and be willing to empty yourself. 

The reality is, I’m not special.  I am truly an ordinary guy with issues, insecurities, good points and bad points.  The only thing that makes me a bit different is that I am taking a step to open up and empty myself.

I’m trying not to worry about what people think; I just open up my head and heart and allow my life to flow out. 

Humm… empty one’s self.  That is a foreign concept in our society.  It’s counterintuitive.  The human default is to focus on self and make sure your needs and wants are filled.  I am no different than anyone else.  But this blog journey I started in January is different.  It is not a journey for fulfillment, self-realization or higher awareness.  It is genuine journey of liberating exploration.  I am trying to let down my natural defenses and just empty self.

You may be wondering why in the world a person would want to empty themselves and take the risk. 

Basically, I believe that everyone has all kinds of interesting stuff inside.  There are amazing insights, thoughts, facts, and information squirreled away in all the nooks and crannies of our mind.   Usually there is so much stuff packed in our heads and hearts that it seems cluttered and makes no sense most of the time. 

I think our minds are sort of like my house now.  We just moved and the rooms are stacked with all kinds of boxes and the clutter is overwhelming.  I know that there is some good stuff in there somewhere but I have no idea where things are.

I want to challenge you.  I want to stir you to consider the possibility of a new creative outlet… just as a starting point.

The perfectionist inside of you will scream for details and demand perfection.  Don’t worry about that… just start something.  As I said in an earlier blog, “Movement is key not direction.”

I have a friend that has a sign beside his office door that says, “Die Empty”.  That is challenging to me and encouraging at the same time. 

I feel I really don’t have anything of value to offer.  But I am attempting to empty myself.  I am opening the door to the cluttered room and pushing stuff out.  Most likely nothing will ever come of this blog… but what if?  What if someone is challenged to step out and take a risk and they write that song that has been nagging them, or take that class that has held some interest but scared them. 

A pebble thrown in the water makes a small ripple.  My blog is a small stone and I toss it out. 

One more point… and it is the most sobering point of all.  I am not trying to be melodramatic when I say this, but the reality is, anything left inside dies with you… lost forever.  The encouragement to the friend in need, the book that will never be written, the song that will never be birthed by a voice, the canvas that won’t be beautifully covered, the boat unsailed, the letter not written, the touch not given.

And the sad truth is we lose because you kept full… and honestly… you lose too.

I challenge you to open the door and start tossing stuff. 

See you later my risk taking friend.

May 10

Water from a Dry Well

Hi, good to see you again.

The title pretty much describes me today.  Have you ever felt empty?   I am not talking about emptiness of the heart.

Emptiness of the heart:  The dull ache that comes from an inner void. 

This is the intuitive knowledge that something is missing or incomplete.  No matter how hard one tries to push it back into its place it seems to seep out the cracks when alone or at night.


I am full in heart but empty in being today.  I’m drained and feel I have nothing to give.  But that is the time I must step out.  Historically I would have blown off the blog.  But I am reminded of an amazing principle… absolutely amazing.


For my non-Christian friends this story is from the Bible.  Now don’t go discounting what I’m about to say until I have finished.

This is a principle that applies to anyone regardless of their beliefs.  But for Christians it will have broader implications.


There is a story in the Bible about a poor widow who gave her last few pennies at the Temple.    Christ was observing and told his friends that this poor widow gave more than all the others who gave huge amounts of money.

Side Note:  Let me stop here for a moment.  I have heard this story my entire life and it was always told in relation to money and giving.  I now believe that money is by far the lesser point.


He observed all the giving and said that she gave out of her poverty while the others gave out of their abundance.

This story provided one of the most amazing ah ha’s of my life.  God has a marvelous way of smacking us in a way that really gets our attention.  I am not talking about a smack that is negative but a “Wow, I could have had a V8” smack.

People tend to give things that they have the most of.  It’s human nature.  Giving of any sort with the right motive is good and honorable.  But there is a giving that transcends the realms of known and makes a very ordinary act sacred… even Holy. 

I am talking about those acts where people are giving (albeit little) the last they have.

  • The single mom who is tired to the bone and their child needs attention and she musters her last ounce of energy to provide extra tenderness to a needy child.
  • The man at work who holds his tongue when every fiber of his being is yelling for fairness.
  • The parent who will forgo the badly needed pair of shoes to provide the fee for the elementary school outing.
  • The teenager that risks their fragile reputation because they dare to defend someone needing a friend.

I in no way believe that the writing of this blog today merits anything special.  All I know is that I am tired and I feel dry.  I thought of the poor widow and was inspired.  I knew I was suppose to write.  So I did.


May 10

Back to the Mountain


Did you notice that my writing accent took on a distinct down home twang since we’re back on the trail?

Side Note: No need to say it… weird, I know… you just have to bear with me.

I have been at this blog thing for five months.  It has been a very interesting journey so far, but not easy.  I have heard that anything substantive and worth doing isn’t easy.  I tend to agree.

That’s one of the reasons I feel pretty good about writing this blog.  It’s sure not because I feel I have set the standard for literary excellence.  But it’s because historically I have tended to be pretty lazy and take the easier way.  It’s sad to say and embarrassing to admit it, but it’s true.

That’s one of the things that I finally had to face up to.  Lies and excuses will keep you trapped in the purgatory of mediocrity.  I was going to hell of mediocrity but pain produces action.  Purgatory is a state of nothingness.  You’re not good enough to experience the excitement of risk and joy of success, but you’re good enough to avoid the pain of failure.  Like I said… nothingness.

I really can’t say what has stirred over the past few years but thank God something has.  Now you can get a glimpse of why this blog was a big step.

I pray (don’t worry, I’m not going to get all churchy on you) that something I share may pierce the shell that either protects you from outside things, or traps you from getting out.

Once again listen to the voice beyond the wall (Blog # 1 & 2) calling you to something more.

“Men go out into the void spaces of the world for various reasons.  Some are actuated by love of adventure, some have the keen thirst for scientific knowledge, and others again are drawn away from the trodden path by the lure of little voices, the mysterious fascination of the unknown.”

-          Ernest Shackleton, Explorer (1874-1922)

Side Note: If you have never heard of Ernest Shackleton I encourage you to read the book Endurance.  It is an absolutely amazing true story and of courage, perseverance and heroism.

You cannot have discovery unless you have the unknown.  Yes the unknown can scare the hell out of you.  Mediocrity is the home of the known.  No risk, no fear, no discomfort, no life.

That’s the beauty of listening for the siren call.  Hearing the call captures the imagination and the fear of looking bad or fear of failure is overwhelmed by the fear of losing out on something great.

Listen… Do you hear it?  I do, what a joy.

See you Monday

May 10

A Case for Ignorance

Welcome back.  Sorry I missed posting this yesterday… my bad.

Well, over the last couple of blogs you have learned quite a bit about my family and my youth.

As I think about my youth, I now see that I was protected from a lot of negatives.  I was protected by the fact that I just wasn’t told about them.  I never realized we were poor because our parents (nor anyone else) ever told us we were poor.  I think there is something to be said about ignorance.  Not that I am promoting ignorance I just think that it has been given a bad rap.

Information is greatly overrated sometimes.  For example, I really believe that if I were in school now I would be diagnosed with all kinds of interesting stuff with fancy names and initials.

There is no question in my mind that I have dyslexia and DDA.  But since I wasn’t told I had it I had the luxury of not bearing the burden of knowing any better.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that having a handle to grab hold of when trying to figure out why things are the way they are is ok.  It is important to have context.

But if not careful things can get real messy.  The problem is not so much the person with the challenges but other people.  All too often they begin to weigh down the poor afflicted soul with reasons for their struggles and excuses for their lack of success.

Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.
Maya Angelou

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.
Mark Twain

Not knowing you can’t do something can a blessing.  The curse is hearing people say you are not capable or it can’t be done and then believing it.

If not careful, some information can trap one into the perceived “what is” and keep us from what “can be”.  There are lots of examples of successful people who were blessed by ignorance… they didn’t know enough to realize they couldn’t do or accomplish something.

I have an acquaintance that while in college started his own concrete construction company.  He and his brothers made a few dollars doing small jobs like pouring sidewalks and driveways.  The company grew because of their hard work and ability to do more work in a day than their competitors.

He told me one time that they didn’t know that they weren’t supposed to be able to pour the amount of concrete they did.  Now they are the world’s largest concrete construction company.

Now don’t everyone get upset with me thinking that I am advocating ignorance as a lifestyle… I am not.  I am just making the point that well intended information can trap your thinking and limit growth if not careful.

For me, not knowing I was poor kept me from thinking poor, and not thinking poor kept me from acting poor, and not acting poor allowed me to step beyond my circumstances.

Well, enough philosophizing for today, back to climbing the mountain on Thursday.

May 10

The Positive Negative

Hello… Pumpkin Head here.  If you did not read the last blog the Pumpkin Head thing will make no sense what so ever.

The time box that I have been exploring the past couple of blogs has been pretty interesting, sentimental, fun and… not so fun.  Looking through the box I found some vivid reminders of my academic accomplishments, or more accurately non-accomplishments. 

I was in the quarter of the graduating class that made the upper three quarters possible.  The interesting thing is that I know now that I’m not dumb.   

Side Note:  Not being dumb doesn’t mean that I haven’t done some stupid stuff and goofy things.  I have learned that intellect doesn’t negate stupidity.

Have you ever done anything stupid?  Humm… my guess is… YES!    


Although I don’t think I am dumb you would never known it by my grades, they were horrible.  I even had to repeat a grade in High School because I failed too many classes.  (Too bad the pass theory now in place in schools wasn’t in there when I was in school.)

Not only did I make crappy grades I didn’t fit in.  I was the classic misfit.  I wasn’t cool enough to be with the popular kids; athletic enough to be a jock; obviously academically challenged as to not make it to the National Honor Society crowd;  or bad enough to hang out with the “Bad Boys”.

I was just there… pretty much a non-entity.

Side Note:  While writing all this about myself I could just hear some of the various responses.

  • “Poor thing”
  • “Ahhh”
  • If you are from the South you said, “Oh bless his heart.”

Now don’t go feeling bad for me.  My psyche wasn’t damaged too much and I did all right for myself.  I ended up marrying a hot girl from Georgia who was Miss High School everything plus Homecoming Queen… so take that Linda from Miss Rogers 5th period History class.  Sorry, I just got carried away.

I’m sure the big question on your mind is, “So what?”  You may be wondering what in the world does this guy sharing his High School experiences have to do with me. 

Maybe nothing.  Maybe more than you might think. 

This blog is about a journey, a journey away from things that restrict growth, freedom, and experiencing life at it’s fullest.  It is also a journey to, to taking risks, putting things in their place and really enjoying this marvelous life ride we are all on.  What an adventure.  What a blessing.  I used to view negative things in my life so… so… negatively. 

This may sound strange but not all negative things are negative.  

I don’t know the negative things in your life that somehow ended up in your bag of rocks.  (See the 3/9/30 blog Sack of Rocks.)

All I know is that some of you are reading this blog and something is stirring.  Something that compels you to let go of some of those rocks you perceive as negative that have been making your journey a bit more difficult.

I have never openly shared that I failed a grade in High School… it was embarrassing.  But strangely enough I don’t see it nearly the deal it was at one time.  Growth and openness has a way of changing the way we see things.

See you Monday.

May 10

The Big Indian

Howdy, back for another thrill filled blog adventure I see.  Well… thrill filled is a bit of an exaggeration. 

It’s probably more along the line of, you didn’t have any thing better to do or you can’t get to sleep and you are looking for a verbal sedative. 

Well, you’ve come to the right place.  I have found in my life that we tend to find what we’re looking for.  For some, this blog will knock you out pronto and to others it could hit that internal sweet spot sending a tingle up and down your leg (I hope Chris Mathews is reading this).

As most of you know I have been on a new personal journey that started January 4, 2010 with my first blog entry.  I have been mentally meandering looking at the joys of life and trying to put into place those things that tend to trap me from experiencing more of life’s amazing gifts.

The journey has been very forward looking but the past couple of blogs I have been looking back.  I discovered a time box from my youth that my mom had assembled before she passed away. 

This is not a morbid retrospective examination of my youth but an amazing blessing of context.  An honest open look at the past periodically is important to do… as long as looking back motivates forward motion. 

So while digging in the box I found all sorts of things that stirred deep stuff… good stuff.

The Birthday Card

Maybe it was me, maybe it is characteristic of youth, who knows… but I really didn’t appreciate things then that I cherish now.  When I say things, I don’t mean tangible stuff.  Frankly we didn’t have much stuff.  I didn’t know it at the time but we were actually pretty poor.  We knew that we couldn’t afford things like other people but it didn’t seem like we were poor.  Mom and dad (especially mom) was good at keeping us from feeling poor.

One thing I absolutely cherished then and now were my Grandma and Grandpa Woods.  This was my mom’s mother (Polly) and her step-father (Frank).  They were full of life, joy, fun, and unconditional love.  I loved my father’s parents but… they were old and acted it.

Side Note:  Mom’s dad, Bennie Palmer, died when she was 8 from a ruptured appendicitis.  She, a younger sister and baby brother and grieving mother were left alone… during the Great Depression in Missouri.

My grandpa Woods came on the scene and filled the void. 


Grandpa Woods was full-blooded Cherokee Indian.  Although we were not blood related, we were his grandkids, he absolutely loved us and we him.  He was a short rotund man whos belly bounced when he laughed.  I remember him being a very hard worker. 

Because he was a full-blooded Cherokee he gave all of us kids Indian names.  And he called us by our Indian name.  I honestly believe he did not know what our real names were… seriously.

The Indian names were really cool.  My sister was “Morning Star”, my cousin was “Buffalo”, another cousin “Papoose”. 

But then there was my name.  Well, you might say it didn’t have quite the flare the other names possessed.  (Hold on, hold on, I’ll tell you in a minute)

In the time box I discovered a birthday card from my Grandpa Woods on my first birthday.  Inside he wrote….

          “To little Pumpkin Head Jerry.  From Grandpa Woods”


Pumpkin Head!  That may be cute for others but you ought to live with it.  This is especially true as a teenager.  Seriously… when we were in a store or at church he would yell across the room my name.  He did this not to make fun, he did it like anyone would to call someone’s name to get their attention.

Being called “Pumpkin Head” is especially not cool when as a 15 year old you’re talking to a girl… not fun at all!  He called us all by our Indian names into adulthood until he died.

When younger I was embarrassed.  I was concerned about what people would think and that I would look bad.  I’m not different from most folks but it’s pretty sad the focus we place on making sure we look ok to the world around us.

I have a couple of questions for you.  What do you value now that was not important when you were younger?  Is there anything that embarrassed you when you were young but now you see that it is a part of the fabric of your life that makes you who you are?  

I don’t know about you but I sure would like to hear him call me “Pumpkin Head” again. 

Signing off, see you Thursday.

Pumpkin Head

May 10

Unpacking the Box

Hello again.  Wanna help me unpack?  Any help provided in these matters is always valued and appreciated.

I know the question about unpacking sounds weird but if you take a minute to read the last blog entry it will make sense.

I mentioned that the time box from my youth created a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts.  It was very stirring.

It is important to note and differentiate the difference between being stirred and troubled about something.

Both tend to have an unsettling dimension… a sensation of slow bubbling fermentation.  But to me, both are very different at the core.

Stirring has the sense of something loosening up or breaking apart.  These are old encrusted things being freed from their casement of distorted perspective, faulty memory or erroneous beliefs at a given time in our past.

At the core it is a good thing (uncomfortable… even scary… but good).

Troubled has an ominous feel and is sinister in nature.  Troubling things poke at us demanding attention… all of our attention.  It can easily suck us into a black hole taking us down.

What I am feeling is stirred.  There is something in all of this for me that creates a sense of anticipation… even excitement.

I know that poking around the past can be a bit dicey if not careful.  But our past in proper perspective provides amazing insight to who we are, what we believe and wonderful context to the journey we are on.

The Box

One of the first things I found was a yellowed envelope that had a sort of fabric feel because the stiffness of the paper had deteriorated.  I gently opened the flap and inside was beautiful blond curls of hair… my hair.  It felt weird seeing my childhood hair.

I looked on the envelope and in faded pencil was written, “Jerry’s curls – age 3”.  I have some pictures of me at that age sporting a head full of blond curly hair.  I thought about posting one but that would have been weirder.

Side Note: The items in a time box tell more about the person who saved and packed the box than the specific subject of those items.

As I waded through the box I was beginning to understand more about my mom than learning things about myself.

At the time of the cutting of the curls my mother was a 28 year old woman with three boys (a fourth died shortly after birth).   She had married at the age of 17 to a man who was a migrating country preacher; 10 years her senior… times were hard.

With the envelope I saw a young mother trying to hold on to a snippet of time by capturing the essence of children she loved.  Maybe it was her small way to stop time in a life wrapped in the continuous motion of church, moving and three rambunctious boys under the age of 7.

It makes me wonder what I would pack in a time box.  What would it say about me?  What would your time box say about you?

Interesting things for me to ponder as I continue to unpack my box.

See you Monday.

May 10

A Time Box

Good Day!

I feel kinda weird this morning, I sit pecking away on my computer trying to allow escape of anything of worth and meaning.

This journey of life I am on is taking a new twist… we are unexpectedly moving (that’s a story for a different time).

Don’t be afraid of unexpected twists and turns in life.  They used to rattle me.  But I have learned that they tend to be gateways not obstacles.  What I viewed as a negative, in the greater scheme, were amazing points of growth and opportunity. 

The beauty of a river is not in the straightness of the path.  The beauty and contribution a river makes is in the countless twists and turns as it winds its way through the countryside providing life and enjoyment.   So my river of life is taking a new bend to new territory.  It’s not comfortable but it’s exciting.

So back to my weird start, it is due primarily to the pensive mood I am in.  As I mentioned, my wife and I are moving so I spent most of the afternoon yesterday sorting through boxes in the basement.  Most of the boxes have lain dormant for years tucked out of the way in their assigned corner unnoticed, undisturbed.    

Most of the boxes contained bits and pieces of kitchen and household stuff that when opened demanded an impulsive burst of, “Why in the world did we keep this?”

But then I opened a box of stuff that my mother had in her home.  I am one of five and she had boxes for each of us kids where she tossed all sorts of oddball things that were mementos of our youth.

It was like opening a box of time

Side Note:  To get a perspective of where you are and where you are going it is necessary to periodically look back.  It is not a place to dwell but a place that provides context.


Most of the boxes I opened with casual disregard… a chore that needed to be accomplished and expediency the goal.

But when I pulled this box onto my lap there was a pause, a sudden slowness to my cadence.  There was an unexpected soberness. 

I cracked the box and the distinct smell of time escaped… musty, dusty and fragile. 

I had very mixed feelings about the box.  Like most people I grew up with a mixed bag of good things and not so good things. 

I was blessed with some wonderful positives that laid a magnificent foundation for my life.  Two things particularly shouted loudly.

  1. I was loved… really loved.  There is nothing more beautiful and foundational. 
  2. Faith… a real, personal, meaningful, relevant faith. 

But… there’s always a “but”, I have other parts of my youth that shaped me in a not so positive way. 

Allow me to share a couple of examples for context.  I knew that we moved a lot.  In my baby book mom listed my birthdays and each of the first nine I lived in a different town.  Secondly, most people enjoyed their high school years, not me, mine were awful. 

I unpacked and sorted the box physically but over the next couple of blogs I plan to unpack it mentally.

There’s a lot stirring.  Not bad stuff, it’s a good stirring.  Its things that I believe will serve me well on my current journey.

If you stick with me over the next couple of blogs you too may learn something about yourself from my time box.

See you Thursday.