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The Few Uncomplicated Things

me and max big

Max tugged my finger and led me down another aisle in the Dollar Store. He is 21 months old.

“What, buddy?” I asked.

He pulled harder. We walked down the aisle of Hallmark cards to a rack of Christmas wrapping paper. On the end caps, a row of shiny red bows were stuck to the wire frames.

Max let go of my finger and ran to the bows. He knelt down, lowered his head, and sniffed one, thinking it was a flower like the ones in his scratch and sniff books. Like the ones in his mother’s garden this past summer.

The rush of love I felt in that moment was pure and real and absolutely uncomplicated. It was beyond explanation, but any explanation would have cheapened what I was feeling.

For A Few, Uncomplicated Things

Many of my favorite things and most precious pleasures are similarly uncomplicated. The sound of the wind. An evening by a fire with friends. The perfect, heavy lift. My wife’s face, after she is asleep and her concerns and pressures are gone.

The smell of cinnamon. The sound of laughter. Sunsets in Moab. A sincere hug. Cold water. The chaotic sight of a blizzard from my bed. The exquisite sight of a Butterfinger blizzard from Dairy Queen.

The rare minute of beautiful, physical stillness that I am always imagining but cannot quite reach.

For a few uncomplicated things, I would give a great deal. But for most of them, nothing is required but the willingness to slow down, calm down, breath, and see.

If he can see a flower in a bow, I wonder what I am missing.


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  • Karina November 20, 2009, 12:51 am

    First of all, where have I been?! I never knew you had a son! When I read another post of yours about Max, I thought you were talking about a dog or something – now that I think about it, it wouldn’t make sense to put your dog to sleep at 8pm. What was I thinking? Anyway, that’s awesome!

    Now on to your post, which is really such a beautiful message. Simplicity. It saddens me so when people forget about the simple things in life. These things are things that keep up sane, that make us appreciate what we’ve got, the things that make the hard parts bearable.

    I think I might just fill a vase full of bows. It’ll serve as a neat reminder of your message.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 8:06 am

      Karina, I do have a son, which is an interesting part of the whole Tourette’s story. He probably has it, and it scares me to death. But he’s absolutely the best thing in my life.

      • Karina November 20, 2009, 10:24 am

        I hope he doesn’t have it, but if he does, he’ll learn the best from his father. He’ll be the World’s Strongest whatever he’ll want to be – emotionally and maybe even physically.

  • Sophia November 20, 2009, 1:36 am

    I recently found your blog and have been really enjoying your posts. Thanks:)

    • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 8:07 am

      thanks Sophia. I’m nominating you as my tour guide when I come to Scotland.

  • Greg November 20, 2009, 6:00 am

    My kids brighten my day in ways I never would have imagined before becoming a father. They are truly a blessing.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 8:59 am

      I have a lot of friends who never want to have kids, and for some of them, it’s definitely the right choice. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not having children. I also believe that there is a happiness that comes with it that I personally cannot get from anything else.

      • Helen Hoefele November 20, 2009, 8:44 pm

        Actually I’m someone, too, who doesn’t plan on having kids (though who knows what the future holds, either way I figure there are always kids to help out if I feel the need.) Anyway, this post was quite touching, for some reason it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rose November 20, 2009, 6:05 am

    So true. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Shane November 20, 2009, 6:54 am

    Great post Josh,

    I had one of those moments with my 25-month old son the other day.

    He didn’t want to go to bed so he kept trying to crawl out of the bed. I grabbed him by his waist and pulled. He grabbed onto the edge of the bed and held on. His entire body was off the bed with only his finger tips touching.

    He must be doing grip strength training while I’m not looking, because a 31-pound toddler should not be that strong. I wanted to be mad as I pulled and pulled on his, but his complete laughter at the event made that impossible. I had to bust out laughing myself, which made him laugh even harder, which made me laugh even harder.

    I finally broke his grip, gave him a big bear hug, and told him I loved him. At that point, I didn’t care if he slept or not.

    It’s those little moments that only a father can relate to.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 8:08 am

      That’s great. What a funny image. What’s his name?

      • Shane November 20, 2009, 9:19 am

        His name is Chris, but we call him “Boopie”…another funny story I’ll share some time.

  • Ben (from TIC) November 20, 2009, 7:22 am


    I love the crisp, still autumn nights we have in the Midwest.

    Your post reminds me of one of my favorite poems, which I’ll paste below for everyone’s convenience:

    A Blessing


    Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
    Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
    And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
    Darken with kindness.
    They have come gladly out of the willows
    To welcome my friend and me.
    We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
    Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
    They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
    That we have come.
    They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
    There is no loneliness like theirs.
    At home once more,
    They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
    I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
    For she has walked over to me
    And nuzzled my left hand.
    She is black and white,
    Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
    And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
    That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
    Suddenly I realize
    That if I stepped out of my body I would break
    Into blossom.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 8:09 am

      Ben, that’s a lovely poem, thanks.

    • Michelle McGee November 20, 2009, 8:53 am

      Ben, thank you so much for sharing this poem. I have never seen this one before – but now I can count it as one of my new favorites. Such beautiful images!

  • The Frugal Hostess November 20, 2009, 7:47 am

    Wow. I don’t really dig some of the things you mentioned (blizzards, of either type – boo), but I sure do dig how beautifully written and moving this post was. Tears in my eyes – and a sudden spike in my already dangerous baby fever. 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 8:05 am

      Two things: 1. I can’t help you with your baby fever, but good luck:)
      2. Dairy Queen Blizzards are part of being human. You’re a human, right?

  • Michelle McGee November 20, 2009, 8:55 am

    Beautiful post – as always. I read this post and was reminded of feeling the exact same way when Jacob was a toddler. Here is a poem I wrote to give voice to that feeling:

    Teach Me

    Understand my life is yours.
    It’s all so simple now.
    Such a small reminder of all
    That is bigger than me.
    Such a small package – such a big message –
    Slow down.
    The wisdom in your curious gaze,
    In the way your hands linger
    Over the roundness of an acorn,
    Or the way your fingers
    Question the coolness of the diced apple you hold,
    These simplicities are your primers.
    I have so much to learn from you
    Of things I once knew –
    Precious lost moments
    Of exploration and discovery.
    Teach me to savor
    The smell of sunshine.
    Teach me to hear
    The smiles of wildflowers.
    Teach me to taste
    The words I say.
    Teach me to feel
    The paths I choose.
    Teach me to be real again.
    -February 26, 1999


  • Heather November 20, 2009, 8:56 am

    Tee-hee-hee-hee-heeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Max! Max is awesome! He’s also spot-on about those bows! It’s great that he can pull you down an aisle at 21 months! Imagine what this kid could do with a kettlebell! And ibid to the Dairy Queen Blizzards!

  • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 9:00 am

    Heather, Max has a two lb kettlebell. I’ll have to post a video of him swinging it and making what we call the “war face.”

  • Jay Schryer November 20, 2009, 9:07 am

    This is realy beautiful, and precious. I loved this story! Thanks for making my day, you rock!

  • Jessica Marie November 20, 2009, 10:28 am

    I have these types of moments with my nieces and nephews. I once spent 20 minutes crouched on the sidewalk looking and talking about ants with two three-year-olds. It was 20 minutes well spent. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or have a bad attitude about my own life I just spend time playing with one of them.

  • Oleg Mokhov November 20, 2009, 10:37 am

    Hey Josh,

    The best things in life are monetarily free – while sounding cheesy, it’s completely true.

    It’s funny. People pay exorbitant amounts to be in fancy clubs, posh restaurants, mansion getaways, and so forth. Soon, they might get bored and need to up the ante (and budget) for bigger, more expensive things.

    But (being a guest in a few of those restaurants and a mansion) I’ve found the most enjoyable aspects of life don’t cost a dime. Like you stated, it just requires us to slow down and appreciate what’s already around us.

    Taking a hike through the woods, feeling the warm sun sneak its way through the leaves, the wind rustling the trees, the tasty smell of pine.

    Sharing a simple moment with amazing people. An inspiring conversation. A warm hug. Sitting on sand, or swimming in an ocean, watching the sunset.

    Even walking through the city – admiring the skyscrapers, how the clouds are reflected in the window, or all the details on each building that are slightly hidden from the main sidewalk.

    The best thing is that all of these and more are already there. No cover, no VIP access, no monetary cost. All it takes is just noticing them, letting yourself take the moments in.

    Great reminder to love life, and an even greater photo. Here’s to enjoying the uncomplicated things,

  • Megan Horton November 20, 2009, 10:49 am

    I love Max!! He’s so sweet. I can’t wait to see him on Sunday! When he was here last with Janette he was smelling the flowers in the yard and he would make the cutest sound everytime he bent down to smell one. It was adorable.

  • Boris Bachmann November 20, 2009, 12:06 pm

    Nice. I’d like to meet you and your familiy someday Josh.

    I did a short article for Dan John’s newsletter on “Training Time Management For New Dads” a while back. I’ll shoot you a link if you’re interested.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 12:07 pm

      I’d love that link. Where do you live, Boris?

  • Boris Bachmann November 20, 2009, 12:13 pm

    Urbandale (Des Moines), Iowa. Let’s make that happen sometime.

    Article starts on page 2.

  • Suzannah November 20, 2009, 2:39 pm

    When I look at my son, I often feel like my heart is going to burst out of my chest because he’s such a beautiful, creative, funny, unique individual, and for just a few brief years I get the honour of taking care of him. I guess that’s a pretty common feeling for parents, in light of your story. Can’t wait to see my new baby in the next week or so, and have two little darlings to squeeze.

    Beautiful post. There should be more of these around the blogosphere.

  • Srinivas Rao November 20, 2009, 4:03 pm


    It really is amazing how the most uncomplicated things bring us the most joy. We really don’t need much if we allow ourselves to enjoy those uncomplicated things to the degree that you have.

  • TheWordWire November 20, 2009, 7:01 pm

    I LOVE your list of uncomplicated things — particularly sunsets in Moab. Soon as I read that, all my worries melted away. Thanks!

    • Josh Hanagarne November 20, 2009, 7:12 pm

      I used to live in Moab. It was like living in a bottle of some sort of antidote for everything, particularly when the sun went down.

  • Daisy November 20, 2009, 7:01 pm

    Oh, what a sweet story!
    The smell of cinnamon must have aromatherapy qualities. When I walk through the school cafeteria during breakfast, I smell the cinnamon toast and get a great feeling of calm. Or – maybe it’s the students waving at me and smiling. Well, both!

  • Beth L. Gainer November 23, 2009, 11:19 am

    Very beautifully written and so true. I agree that simplicity is golden. In a world where we are taxed by deadlines and hard work, it’s sometimes hard to remember to appreciate the simple things in life.

    Now that I’m a mother, I study and appreciate my beautiful daughter, never taking her for granted.

    When I was on chemo, everything I ate tasted like metal or Lysol. Every day since treatment ended I have savored the taste of all foods like nothing else. The fact that I can eat an apple with great gratitude means a lot to me.

  • Tracie Yule November 23, 2009, 12:18 pm

    What a beautiful lesson! Don’t you love how kids make us look at the world in a completely new way.

    To me, when my daughter (who is 3) hugs and whispers “Mama” in my neck, is when I feel complete and could live in that moment forever.