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.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Even Magicians Have an Off Day

A top hat, cumber-bun, white gloves and a wand. Add a magic word and kazam! You have a magician. Magicians have dazzled and amazed throughout time, inspiring wonder and curiosity for the unknown. They vary in skill and ability. And yet one would think that in order to really appreciate a good magic show, the magician's skill would need to be exceptional. Today proved quite the opposite, as I witnessed the greatest show on earth (and no, this was not Barnum and Bailey). I was at work (a new job in a medicaid rehabilitation center) when I got wind of a magic show being performed for the residents. I took my seat in the audience and prepared myself to be dazzled. Well our 81 year old magician put on quite a show, but I quickly discovered it was more of a comedy act than actual magic. Let me just share with you the highlights. The stage was set for the magic of popcorn making. A silver dish with a lid was filled with un-popped kernels of popcorn, a dash of salt and oil and a glide of the magic wand. Then what should happen but that the bowls were mixed up and the one pre-filled with pre-popped popcorn spilled out right before our very eyes. But did this little mishap phase our magician, NO! He just picked up the bowls, turned around and switched them only to replace the lid and set it on the podium. The best part of witnessing this super secret switcharoo, was that after a minute or two of waiting he tapped his wand on the covered silver dish and said, "I don't know about you, but I hear some popping going on!" I am not sure if the popping he was hearing was the kernels of corn or the muffled laughter of the staff in the audience. For one of the finale tricks he placed three glasses on the table, covered by a pie tin, with three empty toilet paper rolls on top each with a plastic egg cradled atop the empty rolls. Then he emphasized that the trick should be done with real eggs, but that it was better for him to stick with plastic ones. Boy was he right! He grabbed a broom, held the bristles with his foot and catapulted the handle at the pie tin. Now because I was unable to see what should have happened with the eggs, this is how I think it was supposed to go... Broom handle hits pie tin, eggs end up in respective glasses. This is how it did go... (both attempts) broom handle hits pie tin, toilet paper rolls, eggs and glasses and everything goes flying! Needless to say, all of us in the audience were grateful that no actual eggs were harmed in the execution of this magic trick. Although some lesser magicians would have left the performance with egg on their face (both literally and figuratively), this magic man ensured to leave with pride by using plastic instead. Life is a comedy, not always a drama.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A life lession learned

I can be a complainer. I try not to be, but as time goes by the urge to complain gets the best of me, and I find myself letting it out. Especially lately. I had been thinking over the past few weeks about how difficult life seems to have been. How much I was struggling despite all the blessings in my life. And tonight that urge got the best of me when I called my family upset over something that happened at work. As I sat in my car, feelings hurt and hope waning for a bit, I left for another job and never expected what would come next. After a full day of working in various settings and with differing groups of people, I sat in a small group talking about life and the challenges that we face. A woman I work with related the following story about her husband. Eleven years ago he was involved in a serious accident in a semi. The truck overturned and rolled and he was left with his face seriously injured and permanently paralyzed. After the accident he was without movement, sight or hearing. They were a family with 5 children under the age of nine, and now given the trial of a lifetime. At this point this man had a choice. With all that he was faced with, he could choose to be absorbed and overcome by his circumstance, or move forward despite the long and difficult road ahead. He chose to fight. He chose hope. And he decided that only in love, and not anger, would he find true happiness and joy. It was six months after the accident that he yelled from the bathroom to his wife. She ran to see what was wrong, when he answered, "I heard the towel dry my hair." After six months he could hear. She expressed how as she began to weep her first thought was that she had never known that the towel made a sound as it dried her hair. It was another three months before he began to regain his sight. Even eleven years later, smiling and facial expressions are not possible. But his family and friends have learned to see his emotions through his eyes. Even after all this time, the small victories are what continue to combat sorrow or resentment. He is now seeing the muscles in the corner of his mouth start to develop from shock treatments. The most incredible part of this remarkable story is the fact that through everything she says he has never once complained. At a time when he had the opportunity to decide the path he would take, he every day chooses happiness, strength, love and hope. He teaches those around him to never take for granted the small things, and that it is a conscious choice how we will allow experiences to affect us. I left tonight feeling full of gratitude for the lesson I had learned. Although I know that I will have times that may get the better of me, I hope I will carry this example with me always. That it will help me be a better person and keep a clear perspective of what is important. I must try and remember that life is not a destination, but a journey full of ups and downs, trials and tears, happiness and progression. To develop strength of character like this man is my sincere hope; that when the difficult days come I choose every time to make the best of every moment I am given. Without even knowing it, he has become a great source of inspiration and triumph for which I am unbelievably grateful.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Warning About Small Town X

Let us begin at the beginning. Small Town X has never been the travel destination for most. But while here, I have had a couple brave souls come to visit and see the place I have called home for the past nine months. Why brave? Because given any average weekend in Small Town X, crazy things can happen. This is a case and point example. One of my dearest friends came down for the weekend to visit me. Arriving on a Saturday, she met me at work and we began our Small Town X kickoff by going to the park and listening to the local high school jazz band concert. Not two minutes into the first song, did we begin to hear some guy yelling behind us. I could not understand what he was yelling, but could not believe that he would be so inconsiderate to these performers. As he ran closer to us, the reason was clear he was yelling for someone's phone to call 911. My friend handed him her iphone, which after several failed attempts he gave back yelling he needed a phone with keys. The group we were with had a nurse in the midst and she went right over to discover a man had slipped and fallen and tore a tendon in his leg. Despite all the commotion and the ambulance arrival, the band played on. So a rather dramatic start to the Small Town X experience. If only the drama had ended there. Our next stop, the local Walmart for some supplies. Once entering the parking lot, we were greeted by a nice man sitting in a camping chair next to his motor-home, in the Walmart parking lot drinking a beer. Needless to say, first impressions are lasting... But the highlight of this friend's trip had to be the next day after we left church and decided to go for a drive up to a local lake about 30 miles from Small Town X. We had heard it was beautiful and she had visited once as a child. We drove up and enjoyed the peacefulness and beauty all around us. Then the skies opened up and we decided to head back. A seemingly calm afternoon was then shattered by murder. Who is the murderer you ask? That would be me. While coming down the mountain I killed Bambi's mom. The weapon of choice (not by my own choice I might add), my car. Unfortunately, my dear friend (since I will no longer have any deer friends once word gets around) had to experience the moment of impact followed by my crying over the suffering animal as we waited for the local sheriff. The most important fact, neither of us were hurt, and it was the best case scenario for a poor situation. So after two days of jam packed 911 calls, local intoxication, and murder, I offer this one brief warning. Should you choose to ever venture to Small Town X, prepare yourself for the possibility of much more than you bargained for. Because things will come up around every turn (literally and figuratively). To this brave woman, I hope that at the very least, you had a one of a kind experience into Small Town X.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Frugality: A Candle Too Far?

We live in a day and age of instant gratification and excess. If you want it, then buy it. If your neighbor has it, then you should have more. The differentiation between wants and needs has been seemingly lost in the desire to have it all. Growing up we were always encouraged to use it up, to ask ourselves if we really needed it, and if we did to save until we could afford it. These have been lessons, that although I sometimes struggle to maintain, have stuck with me throughout the years. But can one take frugality too far? Well I went home to celebrate my mother's birthday this weekend and what I saw in the kitchen is what sparked this train of thought. I went down one morning to heat up something for breakfast. My dad was down in the kitchen, and when I place the plate in the microwave I turned it on, but alas there was no reaction. The timer was counting down, however, there was no heat being inserted into the food within. My dad saw what was going on and looked at me giving me a knowing glance. I asked if the microwave was broken and he said, "No just grab the candle on top of it". My initial reaction was that he was pulling my leg, since he has a history of encouraging me to follow instructions that later lead to absurd ends. So I was instantly hesitated and resisted following his instructions. He confirmed to indeed grab the candle and stick it under the door of the microwave. I could not believe what he was telling me to do! But I did and sure enough the microwave roared to life and completed its timed process. I asked why it had not been replaced and he told me my mom said it still worked and she liked using the candle. Sure enough when I went to my mother, the woman who taught me our frugal nature, her reply was an exact match. Why replace it? It still works! I just started laughing. The picture is worth a thousand words as every time something needs to be heated in the microwave a candle protrudes out of the front. So is this act of frugality too much? Or would society be in better shape all around if every person exercised the same restraint over their unnecessary purchases? Or is there perhaps a middle ground where one can replace a candle run microwave and continue to be a responsible shopper? The answers to this question are individual and vary depending on the person being asked. As for this frugal shopper, I think that a new microwave is in this mom's future whether she likes it or not.