All of life is a journey; which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Unspeakable Love

There are some events that should never occur; some objects that should never be needed. A tiny casket on frozen earth is one of those events and one of those objects. Today in this small town there was a great deal of mourning. Christmas, for many in this community, was preceded by a great tragedy, the loss of a life before it had even begun. Due just after Christmas, this little infant was taken before anyone had the opportunity to meet him. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and loss felt by this strong woman, as she was told at her last appointment that no heartbeat could be found. That this gift she had felt for so long would not be entering her life as expected. I have never been to a service for an infant. I never anticipated the emotion and sadness that awaited. Looking on helplessly as a mother held her baby, wrapped in blankets and love. She wept almost silently cradling him in her arms. Watching her say goodbye and carefully set him into the small casket. I cannot fathom the agony of that separation.

As the solemn procession moved to take him to his earthly resting place, there was so much love there. The program was beautiful. Family members read a poem and played a touching arrangement of music. Then a letter was read written from mother to child, expressing love and gratitude for him. The final words offered spoke of compassion and service. But more importantly, they spoke of believing. Believing in something greater than ourselves. Believing in family and undying love for one another. He spoke of believing in hope and faith and courage. His words were laced with power and comfort. As the multitude of loved ones looked on, it was not despair that they witnessed today, it was hope. Washington Irving once described, "There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.” All the tears shed today remain as a testament to the unspeakable love that emanated from this small town. That the loss of one, was the loss of all. But that the love of all, was directed for that one.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Anniversary of my ride on the luggage carousel

The time has come dear friends and strangers, to celebrate the anniversary of my ride on the luggage carousel. This is a long one, but I think worth it. Many of you may have heard this story told over the years, and for others this may be your first time. I hope to capture in writing the experience that will never leave my memory. Why now? That is easy, I never had a blog to record it before and I just flew home for Christmas, and as I waited for my checked bag to come, I instantly went back to that fateful day. It was after the Christmas holiday, the Sunday before classes began on campus. I was flying from Denver, CO to Salt Lake City, UT. The day had begun with an early drive to the airport, followed by announcements of possible delays due to snow. We were informed to remain close to the gate because once we were cleared to take off, we were going to take advantage of it. They were not sure if it would be fifteen minutes or hours. Well about 30 minutes later we got the good news, we were cleared to take off. I have never seen a plane get boarded that quickly. My plan is always the same, sit as close to the front as possible in order to get off as quickly as possible and get my luggage. The plan seemed to be working perfectly, I was one of the first people off the plane and made it to luggage carousel 2 rapidly. No one was around, and I was thinking about how quickly I would get my bag and go home with my aunt.

After waiting about 20 minutes I looked around to find seemingly hundreds of people, and something like 10 flights blinked on to the screen. Apparently there were a good number of flights that had been cleared to take off, and we were all arriving at the same time. People were pushing and shoving, and as the luggage began to come, I realized it was not my flight and moved to the back of the crowd. After about 40 minutes I saw a girl from my flight get her bag. I moved quickly to the front and saw one of my bags coming off the ramp, victory!!! As I made my way up to grab it I saw something. The furry slippers that I had gotten for Christmas were staring, looming out of where the zipper should seal them, and there was a seam of colors along the edge. My heart dropped as I realized that although my bag was closed, the zipper had popped and was in a precarious position. Quick on my feet I formulated a plan. As it came by I would simply hold the suitcase shut as I pulled it off the luggage carousel and fixed the zipper. Brilliant, I thought! I waited patiently until it came around, but I could not reach it at the back. Not in any hurry to test fate, I figured I would wait until it came around again, that was a very different idea than what the man next to me thought. He looked over and said, "Is that one yours? I will get it". Before I could stop him he grabbed the handle and yanked. The bag opened and strewn the entirety of its contents onto the carousel. "I think I made it worse", is what he said as he placed the empty suitcase down and left.

Ok, new plan. There were too many people to follow it around, although I knew exactly where it was. Location was evident by the gasps that escaped the mouths of onlookers as it made its way around. I wanted to stand up and shout, "Nobody panic! It's mine." I decided the best thing to do would be to grab armfuls as it came by and dump it into the bag, grab and dump. As it came around the first time, kind people tried to assist by grabbing things for me. (Side note: people do not look you in the eye when handing you your undergarments, it is more of an unspoken eyes lowered exchange) So I fly into action, grab an armful of clothing and go to turn and drop, when it happens. I try to turn and drop and I am caught on something. I am suddenly very aware that in some way my sweatshirt is caught and I cannot stop myself from being drug by the carousel.

I am hunched over unable to escape and pushing people out of the way saying, "I can't stop! I can't stop!" (Additional side note: as this was happening the people I am pushing out of the way are actually glaring at me, like this was some sort of choice. Thanks) As I look up I see what is ahead, that stupid metal pillar looming in the ever approaching distance. What the purpose of this pillar is, I am still unaware. However, when they talk about an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, I think they had moments like this in mind. I hit the pillar and fall backwards onto the luggage carousel. With my foot wrapped around it and having luggage hitting me in the back of the head, I feel a bulge in my pocket and realize what has trapped me in this tragic situation. As I had bent over to grab and dump, the wheel of another suitcase had gotten stuck in my pocket, thus taking me on this spectacular ride. I yank it out and here the voice of a man yell, "Don't worry, I got you!" He grabs my hand and I go flying off the carousel, miraculously landing on my feet. I look up and barely utter thank you, as this hero of mine replies, "No problem" and walks away. Needless to say, after nine times around I gathered what I am pretty sure was all of my belongs, left my pride at the airport and exited Salt Lake with the memory of my ride on the luggage carousel.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If I were a snowman, my name would be Carl

I hope this little story warms your heart during this Christmas season. As I am leaving to go home soon, this may be one of the last work stories until 2011. Apparently in addition to be easily frightened, I am also extremely gullible. I was working one morning when two of our dock workers came in upset about a new volunteer that had offered service that morning. "He does not do anything. He cannot follow even simple instructions. In fact, he is standing by the stop sign like a lump of snow. We need you to find something he can do while he volunteers." They said his name was Carl, and even talking to him was a chore. I was about to call for morning meeting, but assured them I would find a project he could work on after we met together. I paged everyone up and we began. Suddenly I realized that this new volunteer was not there, and asked where he was. The dock workers said that he did not want to come in, but would rather stand in the freezing snow. I felt horrible. In my mind I pictured this poor man standing in the snow, feeling unwelcome and frustrated (probably having sensed the frustration with our own workers). My co-worker offered to go out and invite him in to the warm store.

When my co-worker returned, he was alone. I could not believe that this man still refused to come in. My co-worker said he would not come in and gave the dock workers a strange look and said something I could not hear. At that point I thought, I am not letting this man stand in the snow. I handed the meeting over to my supervisor and was determined to help this person feel comfortable enough to come in. I raced down the ramp, through processing and out the back doors into the freezing, snowy air. I looked around, but could not find a man outside. Then I walked back towards the stop sign. That is when I saw him. Carl. He stood about four feet tall, pale complexion and large ears. He had on a blue volunteer's apron and stood motionless in the overcast, blustery day. It was then that I realized why he did not want to come in to the warm store, he would have melted. Yes Carl, our new volunteer, was a snowman. He stood valiantly welcoming donators, and I think worked harder than most of the men out there. Alas he left this good facility on Sunday December 19, 2010 when warmer temperatures got the best of him. Rest in peace Carl, you will be missed by all. But I have a feeling he will be back as soon as Mother Nature allows.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Revenge is Sweet

The title should say it all. My last post left off as I swore revenge on the pranksters at work. Well this week, I got it. So in reality, I only got the man that jumped out of the box with this stunt, but it was enough for me. At work we have a wonderful volunteer that comes and works with us nearly every day. She is expecting her second child in about 3-4 weeks (although she keeps begging to have him now, as she is extremely uncomfortable). Because some days she expresses her discomfort, this particular prankster has repeatedly informed her that under no circumstances is she to go into labor at work, let alone deliver the baby. Well on Monday that is exactly what happened. Here is how I set up the prank...

I called this woman in and asked if she would be willing to play along (she was of course more than happy to oblige). I then had her go down and talk to this man and during the course of the conversation mention how she was not feeling well today and had some cramping, at which point she was to go sit in the break room. Meanwhile, while she was in the break room we poured water under her chair and I hid in the nearby closet, in preparation to hear what would soon ensue. My target was then paged by the store manager (also my willing accomplice) to bring in some extra chairs from the break room to the office. While he was getting said chairs, my willing comrade suddenly panicked and said, "Oh no!!! My water just broke!". To which he replied, "Oh no it did not!". You could already hear the panic in his voice. Then she said, "Yes it did, I think I am going into labor!". It was at that moment that he really sounded freaked out and ran out yelling he would get help. Of course we did not actually want a 911 call to be made, so my manager was just around the corner to stop him from reaching the phone. He told this man that he needed to go stay with her while help was called. Just after he ran past the closet I was hiding in, I got out and waited for him to come back around. When he did I just smiled and said, "Gotcha". Oh the look on his face. Nothing can really describe the satisfaction that I received as the look of realization came about. This time the roars of laughter from staff were not directed at me, but rather are baby delivering hero.

Like I said before, I don't get mad... I get even.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jack in the Box

Like any normal human being, when scared by an unexpected stimulus, I react. I really do not believe I am any more jumpy than your average person, just normal flight or fight response. Why am I explaining this? It is simple, once you have been pegged for being easily frightened, word gets around. At work I now have a reputation for being jumpy, easily frightened, however you would like to put it. If you had people sneaking up behind you and poking around corners, I suspect that you may also have a similar reaction. Apparently I have a wonderful one, since it is now the goal of several individuals at work, to experience it whenever possible.

It all began yesterday... It was a typical crazy Saturday, everyone busy complaining and whining that we had to work. I believe I may have made the mistake of suggesting that individuals make the best of the situation. This is how two particular men did. I was leaving to get lunch. It was already 3pm and I was literally walking out the door when one of these men flagged me down and asked me to give them further instruction. I begged and pleaded for them to ask the other staff member so I could go, but they insisted it would only be a moment and that I was the only one who could help them. So I follow this man down to the processing area in the back. There was a huge cardboard box, which we call a gaylord, that was half full of donated clothing and a metal bin also half full of clothing. He asked me to look at it and let him know if we should combine the two and free up the metal bin. As I look into the box to see what was included, another man who had been hiding under the clothing in the box, came jumping out at me. Clothes flying and arms flailing, I jumped back and screamed in terror. My heart was racing and I could barely breathe. Then came the roars of laughter echoing from the entire back area. Cheers were going out and, do you want to know the biggest concern? That it was too bad it was not caught on camera to be enjoyed by those not present.

I have never understood the fun in the toy jack in the box. But I guess after this experience I can deduce that the enjoyment does not come from the poor unfortunate soul that is frightened, but by the onlookers watching. The silver lining in this scenario, I have already come up with the perfect retaliation. At the risk of this being read by someone that could forewarn these small town tricksters, I am going to leave the details to the post prank post. Until then I will continue to live by this one simple phrase, I do not get mad; I get even.

To be continued...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Living on Borrowed Time

Where to begin. This post began with a man. He volunteers doing hours at my work. The day was like any other, when he came in to ask a favor. He needed some flexibility with his hours so he could keep a friend company. This was not a problem, he could go and come back as he needed, but he lingered there. So I asked about this friend. He told me this man had just been given less than 6 months to live. He wanted to spend as much time as possible with him, and the man wanted to get things ready for Christmas, knowing that it would be the last one he spent on this earth. As this man described, his friend knew he was living on borrowed time. This got me thinking about what I would do which such heart breaking news. How would I evaluate my time on this planet? Would I curse the heavens, bargain for more, accept the time I had left and do anything and everything, be reckless and selfish? Or perhaps all of the above? I have heard of people's bucket lists. The things they want to do before they die. I have also heard about that fad falling to the wayside and being left undone. I have never really written a bucket list, but after giving it some thought I wanted to put out there what came to mind. At least the things I am willing to share with the world. Some things are goals, hopes, opporuntities. Some I have complete control over, others may be a combination of myself as well as those around me, but here are a few:

1. Change someone's life for the better. And when I put this I mean to really know that my time here was not a waste. That my life as insignificant and small as it may be in the grand scheme of things, meant or contributed something.
2. Write a book (I have no idea about what or why, but knowing how others writings have changed how I view the world, I would like to contribute to a new perspective)
3. Go to the Vatican (I am working on this one in 2011, so if all goes as planned I can mark one off the list)
4. Be financially savvy (gotta a ways to go there, but this is why it is a life long list)
5. Develop or invent something useful and market it
6. Learn another language, and become fluent in that language.

Now here comes the interactive part of this post. I have found that sometimes I learn the most from others. I have questions or problems and they are addressed by something another person has said, written, questioned, etc. Many of you reading this I may know personally. Some may have stumbled across this randomly and decided to let curiosity take over. But to whoever took the time to read this short post, I would love to know what others have in mind for their lives. While I thought about this man, with such a short amount of time left, it allowed me a chance to evaluate my life and where I may go. Now this list may change if I knew my time was short. It would probably be full of visits with family and friends, taking trips I could not afford and not working a bit. But what would yours include? Perhaps something else included here will inspire another reader or myself to push the envelope and make every second we have count. Perhaps the turtle in Kung Fu Panda had it right (who says you cannot learn from children's movies). Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery. But today is a gift, that is why they call it the present.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Come Full Circle

How to even begin a post like this is difficult to do. This particular entry is more for myself than anyone else. I wanted to make sure and document it before the details became fuzzy and the spirit of this day weakened by life and time. Today was the first Thanksgiving in my 26 years on this earth that I did not share it with my family. Most times it was my immediate family, and other times my extended family. In this Town X, going to share Thanksgiving with my family was just not possible. I had my co-worker, and friend, invite me over to share Thanksgiving with her family. I really did not know what to expect. I knew it would be full of love and sharing, but I wondered if my missing my own family would overcome the gratitude that I have felt lately. Although I did miss being with my family, and thought of them constantly, this particular Thanksgiving is one that will live on in my fondest of memories. Here are some of the reasons why.

The first is the incredible people I got to share it with. The day was spent with family and games, laughter and cooking. I taught their family and grandparents to play stupid (only the best card game ever!) and it was unbelievably funny. In the game the 10 is a special card that can save you from others. Well when their grandmother played her 10 she followed up with a terribly sad, "Oh no!" Confused and concerned everyone at the table quickly asked what was wrong. Her response, "That was the card that made me most happy and now it is gone." Needless to say that should have been a preview to the highlight of comedy for the evening. That arrived when, as she was leaving and hugging goodbye, she looked at her son and said, "How do you like the new hair?" I thought she must have recently gotten a haircut. Boy was I wrong! It was at that moment that she followed it up by saying, "Do you like it on or off?" Then she grabbed her hair and pulled it off revealing a very bald head. My jaw must have dropped because no one stopped laughing for quite some time. Being a character does not even begin to describe how amazing this woman is.

After the festivities and "hair raising" fun at the house, I went and met a friend at his AA meeting. Here is where the introspective and humbling part of this Thanksgiving came into play. I have been to my fair share of AA meetings, but never on a holiday. I sat quietly and listened to the stories, the gratitude and the love in that room. For some, sobriety was new. This was their first Thanksgiving they would remember tomorrow. For others, they offered stories of hope and faith to those struggling and feeling alone. This meeting offered me a chance to truly examine what I am grateful for this year. It offered me perspective for my life and the challenges that I face. In the midst of darkness, these individuals offered clarity and joy. When I looked into their eyes I was given the opportunity to catch a glimpse of their strength and determination. It was remarkable. I cannot even begin to express the joy I felt today. So often I think of Thanksgiving as the last hurtle before the Christmas season that I love so dearly. But this year, this day, has offered me more than I could ever have imagined. I realized that although I may not have been able to spend Thanksgiving with my biological family, it was indeed spent with family. To all of those people that have filled my life with love, I offer my sincerest gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Great Garter Caper

Today's post is one of those moments in time that you think, I am an idiot and then laugh your head off afterwards. Allow me to explain. One of my best friends, my soul sister, got married to the love of her life last week. The wedding was Friday, so the last minute craziness ensued on Thursday. I got to come up and be part of the pre-nuptial fun. We had spent the day running errands such as going past the florist, last minute tux adjustments, facials, and picking up pictures. As the day was coming to an end, her fiance reminded her that she needed a garter for the reception. Now the bride-to-be was not a fan of the garter toss. However, the groom-to-be felt otherwise and wanted the tradition to remain at their reception. So off for this last errand we went, racing against time to get to the hall to set up for the reception. My first suggestion was David's Bridal. I knew where it was and figured, they must have them there. This plan was inherently flawed, however, because it was know by everyone in the free world, other than myself of course, that they are very expensive and that other places would be better to visit.

So stop number 1, Victoria's Secret. Here is one hint for you readers, the secret is that they do not carry garters. So stop number 2, a wedding place called White Elegance. Now here is where the real story took place. We walk in and quickly realize that this is a very religious wedding boutique. However, one glance to our left and we see a display of bands of lace and ribbon and think, perfect we have hit the jackpot! We run over and look up and down the options. She picks some up and feels them, and me being the task oriented person I am wonders what is taking so long to make a decision. I hurriedly encourage her to pick whichever she would like, as they all look pretty and white (the only two criteria we had). As she is holding one she mentions that they seem rather stiff. I dismiss this comment, mostly thinking that I never would have noticed that, when she looks over with wide eyes and says there is a problem. I look confused as I can see nothing stopping us from picking one and going. That is when she points to the tag which labels these lace and ribbon displays not as garters so much as "Infant Headbands". Oh yes, at that moment the woman working there asks if we need assistance. As we burst into laughter we explain that we are actually looking for a garter rather than a baby's hair accessory. She looks mortified at us and suggests we go to Dirty Joe's, because apparently garters now belong in a sex shop.

So as we leave White Elegance and head over to, you guessed it, David's Bridal. We are pleased to find a display of actual garters that are not only labeled as such, but also on sale. At the end of the day, a garter was bought, a groom made happy and a memory created that I will think of every time I see a baby with a white lace and ribbon headband on.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christmas A Little Early

So I will be honest, there has been a bit of a dry spell in Town X, which has made life a little rough. I felt like I was in a rut. Work went along, but sometimes it felt as though little progress was being made. I work in vocational rehabilitation, and it seemed that if anything we were moving backwards. Until Saturday. Then Christmas came a little early this year. I was working with a man we will call Roger. He is a good man, not from this country, who had been in the program almost two years. His English was conversational at best, but he has improved dramatically since he began. He always wanted to work for UPS. Why UPS? I am not sure, but anytime he talked about his dream job, UPS was there waiting. His time in the program was coming to an end last week, and he and I had been working on applications for weeks and weeks. Although he could speak well, reading comprehension and vocabulary were difficult for Roger, so we took time nearly every day working on applications and the required assessments. It seems that no matter where you are applying, there are now accompanying assessments to submit with your application. For many these are inconvenient, but do-able. For Roger, 75 questions would take us 2 hours. To read through and explain the meaning and choose his answer. Where did he apply? Places like Walmart, Kmart, KFC, Pizza Hut, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, you name it he applied there. Then came the listing he had been hoping for. UPS Driver Helper. We applied and received the follow up interview information. We practiced possible questions and scenarios, but ultimately, it was up to Roger. He went in and completed his interview, but parts of his application needed verification. So he went back, and back again. Finally he thought he had another interview tomorrow. Well Saturday the woman that interviewed him called me back from a previous message I had left and informed me that his interview tomorrow was not an interview after all...

It was Orientation!

I could hardly believe it. I was so excited for Roger, tbis is what he had hoped, worked and prayed for. She explained that although his interview was difficult because of the language barrier, that his enthusiasm and dedication shown through. She said she could not live with herself if she did not give him a chance. It is amazing the tender mercies that surround us every day. It may seem like a small thing to most, getting an entry level job at UPS. But to Roger and myself, it was an answer to prayer and hard work. I will miss seeing Roger at work, but I am humbled to know that he is moving on to the next chapter of his life. I could not have asked for a better Christmas gift.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Motorsickle Gang

So as this spooktacular time of the year is at hand, there are always memories that emerge from our youth that help explain how we shaped into the adults were are today. At work, people discussed their favorite Halloween traditions, scariest stories or best and yet most feared memories. I began to think back to my favorite scary moments, and did past Halloweens pop into my head? Nope, but a past birthday sure did. You may be wondering, why on earth when thinking of sweet, yet utterly terrifying moments, a birthday (not on Halloween but in September) would come to mind. So if you would indulge me, sit back and I will tell you the tale of my 10th birthday and experience with...dun dun dun (dramatic pause inserted here) the MOTORSICKLE GANG!

It was a beautiful September in 1994, when a blonde, blue eyed girl got ready to celebrate her 10th birthday. I am telling this as I remember it, so no correcting of the facts because this will be how my shrink hears it. My dad asks me if I want to have the best birthday ever. Of course, I respond with an enthusiastic yes! We plan the big event. Me, along with 10-15 or so of my closest friends, plan a night of bowling and slumber party festivities. We finish bowling and are traveling back for pizza, junk food and movies, when we enter the gated community we were living in while our house was being re-built after the earthquake. As we drive, we notice a man walking along the sidewalk wearing a motorcycle helmet. Keep in mind, there was no motorcycle in sight. As we pull up to our house, we see that there seem to be red fliers on every door. They are a warning to lock all doors and stay put. My parents usher us quickly into the house and there are hushed tones and phone calls from the other girls' parents instructing them to not leave the house and t listen to whatever my parents say. The questions and curiosity are mounting as we try and fathom what could possibly be going on. It is then that my father enters the room, to tell us the twisted tale of the Motorsickle Gang. Here is what he shared.

When my dad was young, he loved working on cars and bikes. His friends would hang out and rebuild them together after school. They started a little bike club, which had quite a few of them involved. During this time there was an infamous motorcycle club in the area, called the Motorsickle Gang. The leader of the gang was powerful, almost beyond understanding. He has a connection with bikes. They could feel his presence. He could walk past a motorcycle with no gas and it would start up merely in his presence. Well my dad had had a run in with this leader. He was vague on the details, but what happened and what he saw required him to testify against this man at his trial. He was convicted, but swore to seek vengeance on my father. They thought he had died in prison, but it had been an elaborate escape and our house was now on lock down by the police. (PS. all the parents were in on it, so if you are starting to think my dad is the only crazy one, he has accomplices) Suddenly, we hear the motorcycle in the garage start up. The fumes begin to creep under the door and you can see the headlight glowing in the crevice. We scream and my dad yells for all of us to stay put while he runs out the back door. My mom runs after him and as she turns on the backyard light we look on in utter horror at the scene before us. Blood on the cement, a severed arm draped over a tricycle and then before we can react a huge figure with a horribly scarred face jumps toward us out of the darkness with a 15" machete. We go screaming for our lives as he comes into the house, begins to laugh and pulls off the mask to reveal my father.

Now that the jig was up. One of the other dads comes out of the garage and poor Nicki locked herself in the bathroom for quite some time. Over the top and out of control, quite possibly. Terrifying and unforgettable, most definitely. But when comes to knowing that my childhood was anything but boring, it was absolutely worth it. So Motorsickle Gang, at this time of year, I salute your memory and thank my lucky stars that I grew up with the most outrageous, over the moon crazy parents the world had to offer.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mail Call

So today was a fantastic mail day. And no judging me, it is a small town and sometimes it is the little things that mean the most. So I came home after a long day to find not one but two packages! The first from my wonderful family, and the second from my best friend and her wonderful family. In the package from my family #2, was a small envelope that had traveled a very long way. All the way from Istanbul. Family #2 had been in Istanbul and Greece for a wedding and my best friend's mom (knowing me so well) sent some prayer beads she had gotten while there. When they were in Paris last year they brought back a rosary from Notre Dame Cathedral (I live vicariously through them). If you could not tell religious traditions fascinate me, and I love learning about them. When I went to the Hari Krishna temple for the Festival of Colors I also got a string of prayer beads and learned from the couple that runs the temple about their significance and use. So I thought, why not share what I learned about these new beads, also called tespih. Now there are two kinds of strings that you can use. The longer strands have 99 beads, or the shorter strands have 33 beads. The tespih comes from the word supha, which means to recite the glories of God. Each of the 99 beads represents one of the 99 names of God in Islam. When using these beads the first 33 you recite the entreaty Suphanallah, which means praise be to God. The second 33 you recite Elhumdulillah, which means glory be to God. The third set of 33 you repeat Allahuekber, or God is most great. If you have a the strand with 33 then you go around 3 times, until you end with one final prayer totaling 100. These strands can be made out of a number of materials including mother of pearl, gold, silver, ivory, amber, ebony and fragrant woods.

Now I apologize if I have gotten some of the facts incorrect, you can never be too sure when you are searching things online, but this seems to be the very basics of this tradition. It is amazing to me how similar we can be, yet as human beings we focus so much on our differences. For instance the Hindu prayer beads I got at the Hari Krishna temple are each carved out of wood and have the symbol of the mantra on it. You go through the beads, usually consisting of 108, but if not usually divisible by 9 and recite, chant or mentally repeat a mantra or the name of deity. I was told that it is through this repetition that you become one with deity and become closer to self realization. When I was young, I learned from my Catholic friends about their rosary. Which was used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary. The prayers here consist of repetition of the Lord's prayer, followed by ten recitations of the Hail Mary and a single praying of Glory Be to the Father. Now I do not mean to over-simplify these sacred rituals, but I am amazed at how similar many of our religious customs are. In a time when there seems to be such animosity and hate for our differences, we are missing the things that connect us. Whether that be the belief in a higher power, in the desire to live happy lives or in our innate desire to love and be loved in return. On the scoreboard of life, our similarities seem to be pulling far ahead of our differences, and that is a side worth rooting on.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Annie Oakley I Am NOT!

So I went to my first ward activity down here and in true small town fashion it was skeet shooting. Now I am not sure who came up with the name skeet, or why, but I thought this would be a great experience to try out. A little background... I had never even held a shotgun before, and only just recently shot a handgun for the first time. I was extremely nervous about how this would go. I had heard all the urban legends and old wives tales about people being knocked off their feet from the kick, dislocated shoulders, accidentally shooting others in their party, you name... I heard and imagined it. So the day came and I think the others underestimated my lack of experience. When they handed me the shotgun I tried to remember all the advice I had been given from the men at work. Which was not hard because they all said the same thing. Hold it tight to your shoulder, or it will hurt. Then came trying to load the thing. When you ask an expert hunter how to load a gun, the look of disbelief is hard to miss. Then when you have to ask them to slow it down to say "normal speed" so you can tell what they are doing, shock is unmistakable. After years of college and graduate school, when did I feel the most incompetent? Right then. After all was said and done, weapon loaded, the others were here to play. We played a game called Annie Oakley, and for those like me who have no idea what that means, you basically stand in a line and take turns saying pull and if you miss hitting the target the next person can try and so on. If someone after you hits a target or pigeon you missed, you are out. The game continues until the last man or woman is standing.

The first round, I got to try twice before getting out. And the second round once. The third I bribed the guy after me to miss so I could practice some more. He was very kind and did. As soon as I was out, he miraculously never missed again. He is ace in my book. Here is the only issue with a game like that, when you cannot see really where you shot (all you know is you missed) it is hard to compensate. Overall, I hit nothing, but I also hit no one. So skeet shooting adventure is deemed successful in my book. Last thing of note, I think what may help me fit in a bit more here is to not be the only one without a big belt buckle... Just a thought. Also in case you were wondering (because I know you must be dying of interest) only one bruise and no falling over or dislocated shoulders. I don't think I will be joining any hunting parties in the near future, I was informed that I would not be able to handle the kill. Mostly because I thought I ran over a rabbit once and cried until I saw the stupid thing run across the road in my rear view mirror and realized I had only hit a deep pothole. All I have to say is, Annie Oakley, you got game!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Witness to the goodness of people

So today's entry is something unexpected. I went to work today and met a man that touched my life. But more than just him and his dog coming in to share his experience, was the opportunity it gave to think outside of myself and see the goodness in the people around me. I opened the store today and things were busy as usual. Lots to do, and sometimes begrudgingly so. I was called up to the front because someone wanted to speak to a manager. I was the only staff there, and I will be honest, I was preparing for the worst. The reasons for requesting a manager usually involve arguing over a price, or complaining about a policy that the customer does not agree with. I got to the front to be greeted by a man whose eyes were the kindest I had ever seen. He was filthy, smelled of a mixture of cigarettes and body odor, and it was apparent that bathing was not a frequented occurrence. But there was something about him that struck me to the heart. He asked to show me something and we walked outside the building. There to the left side was a bicycle pulling a small trailer with a giant blond dog laying over the covered top. He explained that he had just gone to the local food bank, who had given him some food and directed him here in the hopes that we might be able to help him. Two things to note about the scenario thus far. The food bank is normally closed on Fridays, however it happened that one person was there by chance and able to help him. And two, the person that just happened to be there is an employee that was doing an internship there and felt to send him over. This man had been to the store the day before to get some bike parts, but had spent everything he had left. I later found out one of our employees had seen him crying in the Home Depot parking lot while doing the repairs that day. He asked if there was any way that he could get a pair of clothes, a sleeping bag, a can opener and some socks. His name was Bobby and he was traveling by bicycle from Montana to Arizona to escape the winter weather. It has taken him 5 weeks to ride 500 miles and he had 600 to go. He was camping wherever he stopped and since his dog Cody was his best friend (he was five and Bobby had had him since he was five weeks old) they were inseparable. So here was our deal, he would volunteer two hours of his time and he could take the items he needed.

He set Cody up with some water in the shade and he graciously grabbed a volunteer apron. Here is where the day got even more amazing. I went out to check on him throughout his time. He never said a word about his situation or struggle to anyone else while he worked. But his kind spirit and demeanor attracted all of our associates to him. They did not know about the deal, for all they knew he was a local volunteer helping out for a couple hours. But then one girl came to me and asked, Jessica, is he homeless? I responded that yes he was. Her next statement caught me off guard. Without skipping a beat she said, I want to see if anyone has some money they could spare in case he needs something. And that she did. Now this may not seem like something huge or spectacular, this act of kindness. But here is something you should know about all the people that gave today. Most are on assistance of some kind. They have shared stories of eviction, one had their power shut off earlier this week and just got it back on, some are staying in local shelters and every person there could have easily and honestly responded by saying that they were not in a position to donate to this stranger. But every one of those individuals took out their wallets and offered what they had to this man. A man they had never met, and that there was a good chance they may never see again. Now I know when Bobby and Cody rode away today they left with a tent, a sleeping bag, some clothes, socks, a can opener and a small plaque to hang on the back of his trailor. But what he left with us today was a love for the tender mercies in this world. He left me with the deep gratitude I have for the incredible people I work with. And a knowledge that despite the hate and trials that this world tends to offer, there is still innate goodness and love in every person. That regardless of the ease that exists to care about oneself alone, that as human beings we share a love greater than ourselves. I heard a quote by Albert Pike that seemed to sum this whole experience up. It said, "What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." These moments have been made immortal by the love for a brother that, until today, none of us had known.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You can call me Beelz...

My work history has been pretty similar to most others. Worked at a Pizza Hut as cheap labor all through high school, call centers during summers when back from college, nanny gigs, the usual. Customer service has been a part of all the above listed jobs. And to be honest I always felt like I was pretty good at doing right by the customer while being fair and honest to my employer. I am absolutely a rules kinda girl. Give me the boundaries and I will follow them. But give me an upset person and I will do anything within my power to make it right. I have been lucky in my limited retail experience, in that rarely did I ever have any real power and thus when things got really hairy they moved on up, and two, I usually got to be the good guy. Well Town X, you have done it again. I work part of my job as a job coach and supervisor at a retail establishment. Which means when the problem moves up, it now comes to me. One regular afternoon I was working with an associate in the office when an older woman comes in already yelling over some wooden blocks. At first I had no idea what she was talking about. Then she laid it out. There were wooden blocks that had been carved into letters and painted that together spelled Christmas. An even older woman that she met in the store, had to look throughout the wood section to find all the letters. As she put it, search through the wood pile (which would not look like a pile if customers like herself did not look and then throw into a mess what had just been organized). For the time it took them to find the pieces she felt that the $.50 they were marked was too much. I put my best customer service skills to work, while at heart still remaining the rule follower I am. The blocks were fairly priced, they followed the guidelines we are given, and I explained this to this woman, who decided then was a good time to go a little postal. She started screaming how I was stealing an elderly woman's Christmas and how heartless I was.
Now let me be totally clear. If this woman had come back with a coat and explained that the older woman could not afford the coat, but clearly needed it for the upcoming winter, I would be the first person to give her the coat even if I had to take it out of my own pocket. But for decorative Christmas blocks, I felt like this was not the same scenario. So after a great deal of yelling, she stormed away yelling, "She IS SATAN!". I am not going to lie, a reaction like that seemed a bit over dramatic, not to mention the fact that she expressed this opinion to every customer and associate she ran into on the way up front. Then the irony of it all. Twenty minutes later I was called up again to help a woman at the register. Who of all people was it? Oh yes, the satan deeming drama queen from Town X herself... And what does this woman have to say after having a little time to cool off... "I am sorry to have been so harsh with you, but I meant it from the very bottom of my heart." I think she should give a workshop on apologizing, woman had class. So after dwelling all night over it, and realizing that somehow I have got to grow thicker skin (the elderly woman by the way still got her Christmas blocks in case anyone was wondering) I go back in the next day to have her come in AGAIN. This time to relate the story to my co-worker who later told me she used to work at our establishment. And that she came in to tell him she was not sorry for what she did, she still felt I was evil and that she had been off her medications for over a week. Coincidence... I don't think so. One last piece of advice for Town X, don't elect this woman for any city council positions, big mistake!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Town X couple found dead in apparent murder-suicide

This post would probably fall under the category of most shocking experience since moving to Town X. I was out of town at a work conference when I got some texts and calls asking if I was ok. Concerned by this, I called and found out that the small little town I now called home had made the news on The town had been rocked that ordinary Friday morning by a gruesome scene. A local couple both found dead in their home by what appeared to be a murder/suicide. As I drove home I wondered what had happened. Was it really a murder/suicide or could it be a double homicide? Living by myself for the first time, I think of these threats a lot more. The scariest part was that the coordinates on the location put it within 50 feet of my apartment. I had no idea if I could possibly be driving back to see police tape near my house. As I drove onto Main street I saw the KSL van and knew that this was no mistake. Although it was not in my back yard, 10 blocks still felt too close. Here is the information the report gave. A happy local couple, known by their friends, family and neighbors as loving and carefree were found dead. Those that knew them could not believe that this could possibly happen, and they were never seen as being angry, let alone angry at each other. They left four children, the youngest being a ten year old, orphaned. My heart broke for those kids, not only over the loss of their parents, but the horrific circumstances surrounding their deaths. Try explaining that to future friends and family. But the first thing that you learn when living in a small town...

There is no such thing as secrets.

And the next day at work, versions of the truth came flooding out. The saddest of which was the lack of surprise experienced by so many in this town. Did they expect the deaths, no. But the turbulence was known community wide. There were reports of adultery with other members of the town, as well as confrontations between husbands and lovers. The truth painted a vitally different picture of life then the article and television spot on KSL. I guess the myth that you can escape tragedy and chronic unhappiness in small rural communities with good values is exactly that, a myth. For their children, loss will be a very real part of their adolescent and childhood experience. For the town a reminder that hatred and scandal are never far. And for me, the knowledge that a facade is exactly that, a superficial appearance or illusion of something that does not exist.

Friday, October 8, 2010

There's something about fairy...

So I figure after a good ghost story, a funny one is now in order. This has got to be the best thing that has happened since moving down here. After you read this you may feel a bit sorry for me, haha. So we had a new volunteer start at work last week. Lets call him John. Now John's arrival was unexpected, but well accepted. He is an attractive guy that the other women working could not stop talking about. His first day the girls were going crazy talking about the possibility of future relationships with him. It was like watching a shark feeding frenzy just after a fisherman chums the water. He was quiet, but nice. He worked hard, and we appreciated how determined he was to make a good show of his work ethic. A few days after beginning, I was in the office getting someone ready to go home. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the security monitor with the cameras over differing parts of the store. One of which is the dock, where are hard working John was volunteering. This is where it gets good. What caught my attention initially was the thought that I had just seen someone prancing down the dock. I thought I was going crazy, and continued to stare at the now empty camera in the hopes of confirming or denying my suspicion. The girl I was with thought I was seeing things, until almost a full minute later walks John back into the camera frame wearing blue, glittering fairy wings. The laughter that ensued was uncontrollable. Having now confirmed that I was not crazy, a rewind was a necessity. I could not get the camera to rewind, so I grabbed my co-worker and he was able to rewind that video. Here is what we saw...
Sure enough in the corner of the screen we see our dear John pick up the fairy wings in question and look them up and down. Here is the where the laughing begins. Very carefully he looks around himself to make sure that no one is looking. He then slips on the fairy wings, stretches out his arms a little and makes one final glance around before he starts skipping and flapping his arms down the dock driveway like he is a bird about to take flight. At this point there are about five of us watching this take place and dying of laughter. I just could not leave it there. So I rewind the video to the beginning and page John to the office. He comes in having no idea what we have all witnessed. I ask him is he would be willing to do some training for us while he is here. Reluctantly he responds yes but he does not understand what he would be teaching. My co-worker jumps in without skipping a beat and says that we have some employees interested in dance and that we could use some help. I press play and we watch him as the realization of what he is looking at is made clear. "Oh noooooooooooo!" is what escapes his lips first followed by, "I even checked to make sure no one was watching". Needless to say whenever there is a rough day at the office, I rewind the video to September 30, 2010 at 5:55pm to get back a little happy. As for the rest of the story, the reason John gave for his winged experience and I quote..."I had to make sure they worked right!".
The included wings are very similiar to the ones in question. Enjoy!

The End

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Every small town needs a good haunting...

So I am definitely not a fan of all things haunted. Every once in a while I will watch a scary movie (mild to say the least), but other than that I avoid all things supernatural. I absolutely do not, I repeat do not, go to haunted houses. I broke this rule only once in high school, and it ended very badly. But that's another story. Starting just a few weeks after moving here and beginning work, the haunting stories began. The people I work with when I close the store told me of all the various sightings that have been reported over the years, and the ones most recently. Here is the information I was told.

There is the ghost of a man the walks in the basement. Many have seen him and all describe him the same way. One of the individuals that works here knows who this man is. Before the store was built, the land was a used car lot. This man worked there and was married to a relative of her ex-husbands. He was an avid drug user and ended up killing himself. He has been on the grounds since. I have heard these stories numerous times, and have chosen to live in ignorant bliss. The fact that we close at seven and it was still light out made this relatively easy. Well... the fun is over.

Today was a gloomy, rainy day. Which I usually love, because there is almost nothing in this world better than the smell of rain. But a gloomy day means a very early, dark night. So tonight especially, with the weather playing into the mood, the stories began. By the time the three of us were ready to finish the last check of all doors and locks, it was nearly black in the vast space in back and you could hear the rain hitting the roof. Outside we checked everything huddled into a very tight circle, the two women even holding hands at times when they thought they heard something. I for one, was ready to leave. They wait just outside the door as I set the alarm. I went to set it like every other night when is displayed the words that sent a chill down my spine "alarm not engaged, basement door ajar". The first thought that ran through my mind, "are you freaking kidding me?" I mean, why tonight of all nights, this has never happened and now I have to go down there. Well not alone. I grab the two woman and we start down to the basement. I begin by turning on every light we pass and we stay very close together. Down the stars into relative darkness we go, when sure enough the boiler room door is ajar. I do not think I have ever grabbed a door and shut it as quickly as this one. Once back upstairs and ready to alarm again, another error message. "Alarm not engaged, motion censor activated". Nooooooo!!! Luckily for me, I was the motion it sensed and the next try armed is right up. After all is locked we walk around to our cars nervously laughing about any other creepy occurrences, when headlights illuminate from behind. I don't think you've ever seen three adult women scurry so fast to their cars. Are the stories true? Is this place really haunted? I hope to never know for sure. Ignorant bliss please don't leave me now. As for a solution to the closing issue, the purchase of some safety precautions is in the near future. More to come...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blog Virgin

So this is my very first blog. I know shocking in this day and age, that there are still some of us that are blogging virgins. So why now? What has brought me to this glorious moment in history, the turning point in am otherwise fast paced existence? One word: boredom. Here are the facts. I moved to a new town, population 6,000 people. Now some of you may look at this as a positive change, back to good ole values and close knit community living... You would be wrong. Not that there are not any advantages to small town life in the US: we have no traffic unless stuck behind a tractor or atv, running errands cannot take you more than an hour, ever, mostly because if it is not on Main street it does not exist, and if you want to know the truth about anyone in the town, ask almost anyone else and they will tell you. I was encouraged to start this blog for a couple of reasons. 1. Weird things tend to happen when I am around and 2. What else is there to do with the time that has freed itself up now that there is not a pesky social life to get in the way. And thus, the blog was born. I hesitated beginning because thus far there has not been a whole lot to report on. But I thought, maybe there are those out there with a little free time to kill as well, and what better to fill that time you should be spending elsewhere, than reading about a place that at the end may make you appreciate where you are now. Now since not everyone who reads this may know where I moved to, lets not ruin the glamor by talking about where it is. It is in Utah, and since I would prefer not everyone associated with this place hate me, lets call it Town X. Bet you did not know you were getting a blog and a mystery all rolled into one. Here is a little teaser of the few adventures I have had thus far, and will be sharing more about in the near future (I cannot talk about them all now because there may be dry spells that will need filling).
1. There's something about fairy???
2. The truth behind small town tragedies.
3. Service, fulfilling or frightening?
4. You can call me beelz
I bet you are waiting now with baited breathe. Or you are thinking, not going to add this to my favorites. Either way, just having a place to share may be just what the doctor ordered. And who knows, perhaps expressing these small insights may one day help me gain a new appreciation for Town X. Weirder things have happened, I think... May this be the start of a glorious virtual relationship. As for now I bid the world, adieu.