Friday, November 24, 2017

Stop Being Thankful?

It’s Black Friday and I am up way too early and waiting around almost like everyone else, wondering if this is worth it. You know, wondering if we really learned anything about being thankful yesterday while gorging on turkey and stuffing, or in my case, ribs. Now, I’m not in a store shopping, I'm up waiting to go back to sleep because at 42 years old, I am getting to learn about how thankful I am for little things like toilet paper at 6AM. Sitting around waiting to get tired enough to get to go back to sleep so I can at least feel like I got to sleep in on a day off, is almost as much fun as waiting around to get something you never knew you needed until it is 75% off at 4AM for one day only. 

We hear a lot about being thankful and learning to be thankful as we grow up. Currently I’m still trying to figure it out as I raise my kids; but maybe that’s the wrong goal. I am not making some big, huge new parenting declaration here, I’m just making an observation and talking it though with you all because my bladder decided I should be up this morning. So here it goes. 

Should we focus on thankfulness or contentment?

I remember growing up having adults tell me and other kids that “you need to learn to be thankful”. I, like every other kid, have gotten the look on a birthday or Christmas that promptly tells you, “you will act thankful for the white socks that are 3 sizes too small that you got from Grandma’s aunt that came to the party this year…don’t say anything but ‘thank you’…do not embarrass me a parent or you may stop breathing…are we clear”. What I have learned is that being thankful gets way harder the older you get if you don't understand contentment. This is partly due to the fact that most adults harp on the act of being polite and call it thankfulness-leaving the heart out. I made this mistake with Peter when he was about 2 1/2 years old. We were all sitting around the table for a meal and he look at Kirsten and boldly said “I want more juice”. Being a good Dad I looked at him firmly and said, “Peter, what do you say to your Mother?” Because after all, you need to be stern with this young misguided kid so they don't grow up not being thankful, right? Peter looked at me, looked at Kirsten and you could see the wheels turning, the gears grinding as he contemplated the next words that would come out of his mouth. With apprehension and a lot of uncertainty he looked at me and the words that come out of his young, innocent 2 year old mouth, “I, I wannn’t morrre juice???” Ding, ding, ding, I needed to learn something that morning…not him. I was so concerned with teaching thankfulness (politeness) that I missed being content with Peter. He had just learned to simply say what he wanted when we asked him. He wasn't being rude, I just didn't meet him where he was at.  

Fast forward a year later, and I am sitting in a wheelchair after I got hurt and the kids are being polite and thankful for all the gifts that people were getting them for Christmas. I, on the other hand, was a mess. The guilt that I couldn't get anything for my kids was overwhelming. I was thankful, but far from content. This emotional dilemma went on for many years, fueled by the mis-teaching that my generation received on politeness over thankfulness. Life sucked. We were never taught about the relationship of contentment, thankfulness, grace and giving. 

I had to learn a few tough lessons in order to even come close to understanding what it meant to be thankful. The first lesson came one day when I was having a conversation with a mentor about not being comfortable receiving anything from anyone else. He looked me in the the eyes and asked, “Geremy, do you take joy in giving to others?” I replied “ Well, yes, what’s that have to do with it?” He answered, “Then why would you take the joy away from someone who wants to give to you?” Yep that stung and took a little time to get over. The next lesson is this: as a culture we are so worried about safety, that we do everything possible to prevent anything bad physically and emotionally from happening to us. The unintended consequence is that we lose the opportunity to overcome, the opportunity to learn faith. It is interesting to see the look on peoples’ faces when I tell them that one of the best things that ever happened to me was getting hurt.The third lesson is this: no matter how hard you work to change your circumstances, life still happens. The difficulties in life aren’t personal, they just happen. When we take them personally, we skew our understanding of grace. We don't deserve anything, grace is getting what we don't deserve.

Contentment is interesting because it changes your view on a whole lot more than you think. It changes how you are thankful. Contentment is being ok with whatever you get. It means you are ok with financial security or wondering where your next pay check is coming from. It means you are thankful for the success of other and the toys they are able to get, while not craving anything more for yourself. It’s not about politeness, it’s about being at peace with what you have and where you are at. 

Yes, life is worth waiting around for, both the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the frustrating and the success. Many years ago a young man said it best, “God will get us through this, but if He doesn't, that’s ok.” So as we go through the holiday season let’s learn contentment and thankfulness. 

I wonder what the chances are that I can fall back to sleep…

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I Want My Money

We just got back from a long, rewarding, hard and fun weekend selling fishing tackle at a ice fishing show in South Dakota. Peter is going to be sixteen soon and it is a blast watching him shine doing what he loves-talking fishing. It’s hard to believe that he has been running Missouri Secrets Tackle with his brother for 8 years now. At first, Kirsten and I were just parents with a drivers license at sport shows like this one, but this year Peter got his own drivers license, bought a new truck and keeps mom and dad around for moral support. There is a lot of parental pride watching Peter and Dan’s success in a small little venture they started when they where eight and ten years old, respectively. However, there is a back story that needs to be told, not because of what we see in our boys, but what we hear from the older generations.

So how did Missouri Secrets Tackle come to be? Well, when I got hurt in 2005 we lost everything in a gradual destruction of our business and finances. It was a time when every financial decision we made was a no-win situation. Money wasn’t tight; it was non-existent. Due to our situation and the plan that we were going to raise our kids to work for what they wanted, before I got hurt, we started having the kids do odd jobs to earn some spending cash. Keep in mind that Dan was 5 and Peter was 3 when I got hurt.

When Peter was 4 or 5 he wanted to start shooting the .22 so we asked him if he had some money to buy some rounds. He went to his room and came out with a handful of change and bills. On our next trip to town we stopped at the sporting good store. Peter ran to pick out two boxes of .22 rounds and we looked at the price and made sure he had enough money to cover the cost. This was not the first time he bought something with his own money, but is definitely the time I remember. He proudly walked up to the register and placed his rounds on the counter. The clerk rang them up and asked for the total. Peter proudly counted out the money and gave it to the clerk. She took the money and placed it in the till. Peter’s face instantly turned from pride to a horrified, confused combobulation as he look at me and said, “what is she doing with my money?”. I said “putting it in the register, that’s her job”. He looked back and forth between me and the clerk a few times and with a desperate confusion in his young, crackling voice and tears streaming down his face he proclaims “I want my money” without skipping a beat, the clerk leaned over the counter and with all the compassion she could muster looks at Peter and says, “Honey, I feel the same way every time I go shopping”. After a little convincing by me and the clerk, Peter decided to leave his money in the till and take the .22 rounds home.

Fast forward 11 years…Dan and Peter are selling fishing tackle at sport shows across the upper midwest and one of my favorite things to do is talk to all the folks who are watching Dan and Peter sell tackle.  There is a comment made that completely caught me off guard the first time I heard it. But now that we've been following the boys selling tackle for eight years, we hear this comment between five and 10 times every show. What's interesting about this comment is who it comes from. It's typically from the generations that lived through the Great Depression and World War II. These are folks that I have a lot of respect for and they generally don't speak about personal things with much of anybody. And because of this, I was first caught off guard by this comment and now realize how close I was of been guilty of the same thing they're commenting on.

The conversation typically goes like this. They ask what exactly is going on with two young boys selling fishing tackle and I give them a quick little description of how Dan and Peter were earning money to support their hunting and fishing habits and learn the value a dollar. And then they look at me or Kirsten and say “this is amazing, I ruined my kids.” You can see why it caught us off guard the first couple of times we heard it. Every time I hear this comment we ask, “what do you mean by that” and the answer is typically the same. They say something to the effect of “I did everything I could for my kids so they didn't have to work like I did, and because of that, they have no work ethic and they expect someone else to do everything for them.” This show was no different; we had six people come and ask what was going on at our booth and make this comment and we had the same conversation.

What's humbling about this conversation is that Kirsten and I probably would've never stuck to our plan or at least never been as strict as we talked about before we had kids, if I never would've gotten hurt. And if that was the case, none of our kids would've learned the valuable lessons about faith that we as a family have had the opportunity to learn over the last 12 years. There's a really good chance I would not have had the opportunity to take the stage with my son Peter at this sport show and teach a seminar entitled “Raising an Angler”, where he and I discuss what it takes from the parent’s and child's perspective to raise a kid to love and respect the outdoors. So don't be afraid to make your kids work for things. Don’t be afraid of not giving them what everybody else has given their kids. What I've learned over the last 12 years is that the most important thing you can give your kid is the one thing only you can give and that's you. You can only teach them what you know and help point them in the direction they need to go for the rest of their life. It’s a lot of fun to learn hard work, determination and what it means to have faith together as a family. 

Don't miss out.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Monday, November 6, 2017

Questions from the Blind

This year our house made an life changing decision. You know the kind of decision the neighbors and friends will question. The “what are the Olson’s thinking, have they gone mad” kind of decision. We chose to not apply for rifle tags for deer gun season this year, so we would have no excuse to not learn to waterfowl hunt. Yes, you heard me right, we gave up tenderloins for ducks. 

What makes this so hard to explain is that I really should be writing a blog on confessions of a failed water fowler. Quite frankly, I stink, no hope of ever being successful at water fowling, stink. My record for the last 30 years is 1 goose and maybe a dozen ducks. A couple of years ago some buddies invited Peter and I to go goose hunting on a cold, snow-covered veterans day and I shot my first and only goose to date. It took me 2 boxes of shells to down that first goose and I should look at it as a life long accomplishment. But I have to live with Peter who has the ability to humble any man in his presence with what I like to think is a unequalled lucky streak. That day at age 12, Peter, with a half a box of shells got his first 5 geese. This, with the knowledge that my kills are 1 duck for every 10-12 boxes of shells that I shoot, and my wife hits everything she shoots at, is enough for most guys to hang up the decoys and stick with the tenderloins.

So you are wondering what’s up with the life changing decision; well there is something about a waterfowl blind and the conversations that happen in that blind that you just can’t replicate anywhere else. In the blind you need to be still, but not quiet, giving you a time to talk about life, while allowing nature to put it all into perspective. There is a beauty to watching the sun rise over a fog covered pond with the anticipation of what is to come. Knowing you will always learn something that day that will help you make it through life. 

This year’s waterfowl season is only half done but it has exceeded any expectations I could have had when our family made this life changing decision. This isn’t because I shot my second goose and 2 ducks and I am only two boxes of shells in to the season. It has been a great season because of the questions from the blind.

There have been a lot of questions this year but the one that sticks out so far is, “dad, how do kids learn about God as their Father if their dad here on earth abuses them?” I’ll let that soak in for a minute. Pretty deep questions for a 13 year old waterfowl hunter. It is the kind of questions you get however when you’re sitting in the blind. 

The question, discussion and answer was the reason we made this life changing decision. It is our responsibility to demonstrate for our kids all the attributes of God our heavenly father: loving, patient, kind, just, forgiving, merciful, perfect, authority and all-knowing, just to name a few. This is a responsibility that we will never be able to fulfill perfectly or even close to perfect like God does for us. But it is our responsibility to work on our relationship with God so that we can better demonstrate for our children what God has done for us. So what about the kid who grows up in a home with the lack of this example and worse, the opposite of what God is done for us.

Scratching the surface of this question, sitting in the duck blind, we talked about the fact that we don't always learn everything from our parents and each one of us needs to be an example of what God does for us. We need to hold true to what our heavenly Father teaches us in the Bible and work on our relationship with Him daily. So that through us as parents, friends, coworkers, customers or just somebody a person runs into on the street, people see an example of the attributes of God. 

The questions from the blind are the questions that help us grow. The questions from the blind are the questions to help us learn what it means to change the world.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker