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.