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Monday, December 31, 2007

Frances Anne "Fanny" Kemble (Mrs. Butler)

"His breath like silver arrows pierced the air, The naked earth crouched shuddering at his feet, His finger on all flowing waters sweet Forbidding lay--motion nor sound was there:-- Nature was frozen dead,--and still and slow, A winding sheet fell o'er her body fair, Flaky and soft, from his wide wings of snow."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Somewhere "Between raising hell and amazing grace".

Winter is a funny thing. She is both beautiful and brutal, embracing yet unforgiving. She beckons me to the highest points with a whisper of caution that death is near, spoken sweet and softly, yet she makes my soul shiver. She is a lover that yields a sting with each hug. A window of grace is given to those who venture alongside her, but only on her terms. She reminds me of a life spent frozen in a moment, of endings and beginnings, and the cost of idleness of life.

As I was driving away from this love of mine, I became lost in a moment, listening to one of my Christmas CD gifts; the new Big and Rich CD. The words spoke to me as I pondered my time spent with my frozen mistress. One of the songs,"Between raising hell and amazing grace" got me thinking about Mike Barrett's "Adventure-Faith" blog and the battle that rages inside so many people I know. How are we to make change without raising hell? How do we in return, validate that amazing grace that allows us to chase such change? I found an odd relation between such a pursuit of change and my time in the harsh realities of the frozen season's relenting onslaught on all life caught in it's grasp. We live our lives day in and day out. But to what purpose or end to we live? We have only but a breath of time frozen in history's harsh realities. Some choose to evade the bitter cold winds of time only to expire, never experiencing the wonder of it all.

On top of all this thinking, another song came on and continued my agony. The song has a section that says " Heaven can't help you if you live faster than angels fly....some souls only know one speed, faster than angels can fly." I realized that I have spent unfathomable amount of time searching for change that will bring peace to my restless soul. I burn my candle at both ends searching for hope. I live like I explore the wintry mountains, somewhere between fear and happiness. I feel like my life is frozen in a moment, a moment that reveals no answers, only raises more questions. I stop to rest, but live takes it's toll on my idleness, I must keep moving least I be consumed.

I asked myself this question. "How do you change the world in 30 seconds?" You may ask why 30 seconds? To me our life is a mere moment in history's account of humanities efforts. We live our lives as if we will live forever. But we all now this is not so, but yet we set idle, day in and day out. My wintry mistress would consume us if we dared to sit idle in her presences. She would return us to the earth for simply doing nothing with our gift of breath other than sit still. The energy she asks of us is unrelenting to just stay with her. Why do so many chose to live frozen, as if time was not watching? Why do so many exhaust themselves living faster than angels fly? As I though about these things, I reflected on my time with my children in the presences of my brutal mistress. I was satisfied that I taught them the importance of togetherness when they are with her. When we stand together, she as a much harder time consuming us.

Our lives are lived in 30 second segments. One of these segments could change the world, but we are never given the fore site of which segment will be the one. But how can we live each 30 seconds at our best? Which 30 seconds will stand out in a life frozen in time? How do we stand, together, ready for that moment when time stops and a life time is lived? How do we prepare ourselves for such a moment? A moment that will decide if we are worthy of this gift of life. A moment that history may just give us some forgiveness for so many wasted opportunities.

Thoughts?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

We're Back.....Thank goodness!

Well, we finally enjoyed a white Christmas. A whole week in the High Sierras, enduring temperatures of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, plenty of snow, slippery ice, and pure exhaustion. I was able to get some snowboarding in, the family was able to venture out into the back country snow shoeing in 3 foot deep fresh powder together and we all made it back. As you can see by the photo, my kids never thought the truck looked so goooood.

I had to do battle with my two youngest kids on the three layer concept of clothing. Once they got up on top of a wind swept mountain where the wind chill was around 0 degrees (F) they finally realized that dad was right. They learned that the tree line was their friend and that hot food was a gift to be savored. This was truly a Christmas to be remembered for us.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Moving past the "what if".

Last year one of my employees came to me with a tragic story that he had heard about in the community where he was assigned. As he recounted the story to me, I soon agreed that it was truly horrific. Right before the holidays a man was involved in a really bad car crash which was fatal. This man left behind a wonderful family. This happens more than most realize, but the details of the incident were ugly. My employee started to wonder. As he wondered he did the old "What if" saga. It is something that many folks do, but never put any action to their wonderful ideas. I challenged him to go to the next step and figure out what it would take to move past the what if and make it a reality.

He did just that. He started a project to find donations, get volunteers, and make "Christmas" happen for not just the family that lost the loved one, but for three others. We called the project the "Adopt-a-Family" project. This year he decided to do it again. And like all great ideas, this one grew.

Last night I got to go out with numerous volunteers and DO the "what if". Our group was made up of several at-risk-youth, Marines, Deputy Sheriff's, parents, counselors, and park and recreation staff. My employee had received donations from no less than 30 companies. What he put together was amazing. Through the help of some community based and faith based organizations he identified 7 families in true and dire need. He was able to get donnations of, a small pine tree, ornaments, toys and clothes, and food for an entire Christmas dinner for each of the 7 families. The volunteer group were persons involved in a youth intervention program that guided at-risk youth in the community, as well as some of the youth who had graduated from the program. The youth, themselves, packaged, wrapped, decorated the trees making them Christmas Trees, and, along with the adult volunteers, delivered the gifts to the families.

I, for one, was grateful to have the deputies with us. The areas we traveled to , in the night, were very rough neighborhoods. I was amazed to see how at first the people were un-trusting of the cops and how the cops were able to warm up the whole situation and the people opened up the homes and hearts to a group of young folks who were already standing in the cold and rainy night air with open hearts themselves. It is amazing to me to see such poverty in the midst of such a wealthy city. One of the cops stated at the end that he was shocked at how little some of the families actually had. He himself had grown up very poor and had not seen such things since his childhood. For me, it was what the season was is all about. Mercy of not getting what you deserve, Grace in getting what you don't deserve and most importantly, the shedding of all differences to better humanity, one person at a time. Everyone walked away from last night with the knowledge that we helped take a "what if" and turn it into a reality, change some seriously embedded paradigms, shed a few tears, and experience Christmas in it most true and pure state. Job well done Brian!

Thoughts?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lorraine Anderson

"Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion."

Ahhh, I love the winter weather

I woke up this morning at around 0 dark thirty looked at the temperature gauge for outside and it was a blistering 25 degreesF. The frozen thick blue ice over my KOI pond edges, grass and stepping stones was evident that the sprinkler system had ran during the night. I glanced over at my heated spa and thought, hummm why not. I hurried out the door, removed the cover and jumped in. Nothing like a morning soak watching the sun tickle the tree tops as nature wakes up. The frozen yard, heated water and solitude remind me of a funny story.

I had been acting director for an outdoor adventure outfitter company operating in the High Sierras. We had been out for several days and we were winding down a trip for over a hundred clients spread out over a huge area. I had two other guides staged at base camp with me just in case hell broke free and we needed emergency support staff. It had been a very long week with some major issues popping up every hour, or at least it seemed that way to me. All in all it was a great trip and all of our clients made it home safe and sound. On the last night I asked the boys if they would like to "roll" out of base camp early and meet some of the teams at the trail head the next morning? You would of thought I was offering free lotto money. At around midnight, when the last of nine teams had bedded down safely for the night, we packed up and headed for lower ground. As we got into our vehicles a few hours later we noticed that we had acquired that smell my wife refers to as "man stench." I knew we were not about to represent this company by going around town smelling that foul. So I proposed a quick trip to the nearby hot springs. Once again that was like free lotto money.

As we get to the hot springs it was very late, or early, depending on how you see it. The place was vacant and we were excited to get freshened up. As we took a quick inventory we soon realized that we had not packed any swim shorts due to the winter weather. So I, being the leader, stripped down to my special suit and jumped in. This presented a dilemma for the other two manly man guides working for me. I simple stated, " why not, no one is around." So they did the same. So there we are, three naked, physically fit, male wilderness guides sitting in the hot spring at 0 dark thirty. We all had our "zones" in the water. The old "do not get to close to me you naked freak kind of thing." Sworn to secrecy, and a man blood oath taken to ensure no one would ever know we had stooped so low as to bath naked with another male. About then a car starts to drive up the road leading to our location. With eyes wide open, and more alert than I had seen them all week, they both simultaneously say, Oh shit! The panic began to set in. I started to laugh so hard. These grown men worried to death about some one seeing them in the buff. I said, well that's why I brought my towel and set it next to me. The look was priceless. In the mean time one of them says " who the hell would come up here this time of night. "Well.....we're here." "Maybe its the cops? " "And what do you think they will do?" Anyway, the conversation went on like this for a few minutes. Then the car turned around and went away. We decided that we were clean enough and scampered back to the trucks and went to Denny's. By the time we reached the trail head to say good job, we had been up for well over 30 hours. But we were clean.

I watched with some amusement as the 30 plus instructors kept asking how we got clean so fast. Evasive did not describe their answers. I simple stated, we all went skinny dipping at the hot springs on our way out. The answer back was " that's cool, you base camp guys get all the luck." I thought this experience was a funny one, may be you just had to be there. Hot water, frozen surroundings, and solitude make for a great start of the day, no matter how much sleep you get.

Thoughts?

Are we off route?

A while back, and looking at this picture it would have to be a life time ago, I was hired to teach two fellas how to lead climb. After many trips together, I took them up an eight hundred foot multi-pitch climb. I challenged them to lead the whole route, but we had an understanding that if they "nutted-up" I would lead that section. During the climb, I constantly asked them "are we off route?" My goal was to keep them conscious of where they were going relative to what they could actually climb. Our route paralleled a very hard 5.11c climb that if we strayed over into we would have some problems. I knew we were doing good because I had done this route before, but to them it was a whole new world without obvious street signs.

I have taken my strategies from instructing rock climbing into my professional life. Know your route,constantly check to ensure your on a doable route, and enjoy the view have become way points for every project of mine. Where do you want to go?, Where are you now?, Do you have what it takes to complete this route? and are you savoring your accomplishments for what they are? These questions, I ask myself and those I lead constantly.

Getting off route however is not always a bad thing. There is a time in the instructing world where you need to teach the "what do you do now?" mind set. In the vertical world there is very little margin for panic. Teaching the mindset of calmly readjusting the comfort zone and accounting for needed adjustments without drama is time well spent. In fact, when done well, often one starts to seek that area outside their known comfort zone . There are some cool things out there in the zone hidden by our fears of the unknown. And often times we find something we do better than what we were doing inside our comfort zone.

I had a great teacher. He would just start climbing. I would ask " hey what route are we doing?" He would simple say "who cares." I would respond "aren't we off route?" He would say "most likely." This guy would scare me all the time. But I soon learned that the route I so desperately wanted to keep to was nothing more than some one elses route. We were free to create our own line up the rock. We only had to answer a few internal questions. Where do you want to go? Do you have what it takes to get there? Am I letting fear rob me of my accomplishments?

Thoughts?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The gift of Love

Recently, there was a challenge on the "blogosphere" asking for fellow bloggers to write about their all time best Christmas gift. Today during my 180 mile commute, for some unknown reason, this challenge came to mind. So, with a few minutes on my hands, I let my mind roam a life time of wonderful gifts unwrapped during this time of year. After flipping through over four decades of memories, I settled on something that I think I will hold up high as my all time favorite.

Twenty years ago during this time of year I was looking forward to tying the proverbial knot. Christmas, that year did not even register on the Richter scale of life. I was young, in love, and about to be wed to my best friend. We had dreamed of doing all kinds of stuff together and we had no doubt, bought whole heartily into the "happier ever after" sold in fairy tales. How do you wrap that kind of present?

Looking back over the years I can honestly say, that was the best gift I have ever been given. Sure we have had our sagas. We have had our heated disagreements, and there is no such thing as "happier ever after". But every sunrise is like getting that wonderful gift again, and again. I have learned that my gift of Love is much more than butterflies in the tummy, or happiness and contentment day in and day out. The love I unwrapped twenty years ago is more like steadfastness in times of turmoil, commitment in time of doubt, acceptance when rejection is all around, not quiting, when quiting seems to be the only answer. There is no fairy tale ending involved. I now know what " in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part" really means and feels like. I now know that this gift, given twenty years ago, has more value today then I could have ever imagined. No matter how it is wrapped, the gift of Love given to me by my wife is the greatest gift I have ever received. As I thought about this gift today, I realized that this is exactly what this season is about. The gift of Love.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas list chaos.

Every year my family gets a call to generate Christmas lists full of what we want. For sometime this tradition just bugged me. I would argue that this season is not about "getting". I tried to stop some of the madness by lobbing for less presents. Just spend the time to find something special instead of a bunch of covenant stuff. After earning the title of Scrooge, and lost that argument. So this year I implemented a whole new strategy. And to my surprise, other family patriarchs have liked this new idea and are doing the same.

No more Christmas list of what YOU want, is the simple side of of this effort to teach what Christmas is about. My kids, and my wife, were instructed to make a list of what they want to get other family members. Of course the question of " well, how will we know what the want" came up. I just smiled and said " that is the beauty of it, you have to ask". Each family member has to choose what they want to GIVE based on time talking with each other and the amount the can give. The cost of the gift becomes clearer and understanding about true giving is brought forth. I am hoping to get away from the selfishness that is inadvertently taught during this time of year. I want my kids to focus on the giving. I want to tie into the cost of what was given to us. But, I think, we never learn about the cost until we pay the price of giving. I am hoping that this year, around the tree, we learn about the joy of giving instead of the greed of getting.

Thoughts?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Anne Frank

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. "

Are we addicted to hate?

As the merry time of the year comes around I have noticed, observed, and done, the odd sweep the crap under the rug, put on a smiley face, and just get through this holiday season. It is, after all, hard to be merry when you hate. I think that is what this season is about anyway, HATE. Well at least the conquering of it. The sacrifice of Jesus was not needed to heal all the LOVE in the world, was it? God gave us a gift, so what do we do? We create a Holiday to give gifts, but that is not our perspective anymore is it? Ask any kid, they will tell you CHRISTmas is about getting presents. This life was sacrificed to pay a debt that we owed. A debt that was created by things like: hate, fear, rejection, rebellion, deceit. So, if He died for those things, why do we keep bringing them back into our lives? If we celebrate His sacrifice, then why do so many kill themselves over the same issues He died to save us from? No wonder there is such a movement to take Christ out of Christmas, we just can not tolerate the absence of hate. We can not have the image of LOVE be the center of this holiday season when we are addicted to hate.

We love to hate, don't we? We just love all that drama in our lives. I watch people create the drama just so they have something, or some one, to hate on. I can't believe the things I have witnessed. Why do we find it so hard to love, to be kind to one another, to extend the least bit of forgiveness to some one? In a season that we talk, and advertise concepts like love, mercy, grace, I see very little of it in the big reality show called life. Sure we act like it, but come Christmas day when we are together with our families, the hateolator is going to get turned up and wham. Just be nice until you get your gift then the hate is back on. Lets pull all that crap back out from under the carpet and, yell, 'game on!' Why do we continue this madness? Because we are addicted. We are hate junkies who will do anything for another fix of hate. After all, it makes us feel better about the season when we can hammer on some elses issues and get our eyes off of our issues.

Hate Thoughts?

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