One of the men from our Team stopped me the other day and said, "Have you been down to the men's room lately?" That's not usually something we discuss - so I was anxious to find out why he wanted to know. "I walked in and smelled this beautiful aroma." Well, I had to agree that we wouldn't normally associate a public rest room with a beautiful aroma. He went on to say, "When I got back to my office, it had that same beautiful aroma." And what was the explanation for this spreading fragrance? Clarene, the wonderful volunteer who cleans our offices every week, had been doing her scrubbing and spraying. And though we didn't see her in any of those rooms that day, she left that great aroma wherever she had been.
I was speaking at a winter conference in Canada - and the word cold took on a whole new meaning to me. The temperature was minus-40 Fahrenheit - literally the coldest temperature I had ever experienced. When I walked in the room, people stood and sang, "Freeze a jolly good fellow." I really don't like to wear hats or hoods, but I learned to do it that weekend. One Canadian teenager told me he had been outside on his farm, in this cold, for 30 seconds and his ear literally froze - and part of it broke off. That is cold. I had about a five-minute walk ahead of me - believe me I had my parka hood on! I didn't realize you can do permanent damage in no time.
My plane had left the gate at O'Hare Airport in Chicago - and I thought we were on our way. Wrong. First, they routed us across the backside of the airport - I think it was in Wisconsin. Then, after a slow, meandering tour of that huge airport, we finally ended up in a long line of aircraft waiting to take of. Well, after a while, I got a little impatient. That's okay. What's important is that the pilot not getting impatient. We don't want him to go until the tower says it's okay. He knows you don't take off until you've gotten clearance from the tower - no matter how long you have to wait.
When I was growing up - when our kids were growing up - when generations of kids were growing up, mommys and daddys read stories to their kids. And most of them had a predictable ending - "and they lived happily ever after." Except for this one nursery rhyme - the one about that uncoordinated egg. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to learn from that one. You know - "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again." I kept waiting for the happy ending. There isn't one. Humpty's broken, he's in pieces, everybody tries to put him together, and nobody can. Humpty is broken and no one can fix him. Not necessarily.
Well, our kids have reached that age - the age when they're old enough to tell us how we did parenting them. In fact, a while back we got into one of those uproarious "remember when" conversations. The subject was various times we had disciplined them. We explained to them how we had tried to discipline them by the principle of natural consequences - experiencing the most natural negative outcomes in the area where they had disobeyed. So if you did something bad with your mouth, you didn't get to use your mouth for a while - or you got it washed out with soap. If you did something bad with your hands, you didn't get to use your hands for awhile. At which point our eldest son said, "But I never did anything wrong with my bottom!" Which launched a discussion of great spankings we have known - including the ones we are now told didn't hurt. Well, this went on for over an hour. It was a laughing and loving and learning time for all of us - and a reminder of what is probably a parent's biggest challenge.
Waking up early most mornings is not an option for me. If I oversleep, it means missing a plane or a speaking commitment or radio broadcasts or an important meeting. In other words, my clock radio had better work. And it does. Even on the days when many other clock radios don't. Because the power went out during the night, that is. There have been mornings when I have been awakened by my clock radio - and looked over at the other one in the room and seen it blinking at me some time when it was the middle of the night. Now, that clock was plugged into the wall - and sometime during the night the external power supply had failed. Good thing I wasn't depending on that! But mine always comes through - because it's powered by batteries! What keeps it going is inside!
If you've ever stayed in a hotel or motel, you've experienced the amazing work of the Room Fairy. You know, that wonderful creature who miraculously puts your room back together while you're out. Of course, they don't always clean your room. The other day the Room Fairy never came - and it was my fault. Because I was sleeping in and also doing a lot of intense preparation, I hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign on my door. Later in the day, I noticed a piece of paper that had been slid under my door. Here's what it said. "Housekeeping (that's the Room Fairy's real name) did not clean your room today in honor of the Do Not Disturb sign that was on your door." Well, as the kids would say, "Duh." By the next day, the trash cans were overflowing, the towels were shot, the toilet paper and Kleenex were going or gone - the mess was accumulating. All because of my dumb sign.
If you think all American history is boring, you need to check out the greatest American adventure ever - the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It's attracting all kinds of new attention as its bicentennial approaches - a major public television series, a mini-series, best-selling books. And it deserves all the attention. Just as America bought the Louisiana Purchase and suddenly owned much of the West, President Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to put together an expedition to explore the unknown territory. Imagine 30 men, going where no non Indian had ever gone, seeing what no non Indian had ever seen - like the Rocky Mountains, animals like antelope and prairie dogs, tribes that had ever contacted.
The first time I heard someone talking about an invisible airplane, my reaction was, "I don't think so." But, in a sense, there is such a thing. Not exactly an airplane that people can't see - but an airplane radar can't see. It's called the "Stealth" bomber. Of course, if a bomber is headed for you, you want to know it. And radar has always been what alerted defenders to that bomber. But the "Stealth" is able to come in under the range of radar - and invade air space undetected - and do damage it might never have been able to do if it had been detected. Nobody realizes they're in danger until it's too late.
When you hear the word "superstar," you think of someone like, say, Michael Jordan or some box office giant. I'm sorry, but that's a pretty lame use of the word when you hear about the kind of star astronomers have recently discovered. It is the largest known star in the universe! Conventional telescopes had missed it because of vast dust clouds. But the Hubble space telescope picked it up. And it's 186 million miles wide and 10 million times brighter than the Sun! That's a superstar. Don't even try to comprehend one star that enormous! Interesting footnote - according to many theories on how stars are formed, a star this large is an impossibility! No, it's not.