Transfixus Sed Non Mortuus

Here I Stand, Pierced and Transfixed

Browsing Posts tagged joy

My Birthday Dinner

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On Saturday, I was able to celebrate my birthday with quite a few of my friends. It was a lot of fun for me. I have found in my life that I feel the most fulfilled when I am a part of a community. In this case, it was great to have so many of my friends able to share my birthday with me, and that made me feel included and special.

I am incredibly grateful for my friends. Some have been with me for a very long time and some have been with me only a short while, but I can say that each one has made a mark on my life and in my heart. I really feel that that is what life is about. When I feel that friendship and love is flowing, I really feel alive and that my life has purpose. What an amazing gift it is when I can feel that way!

My life is amazing today in large part because I have such amazing friends. My thanks to all of you!

An Anniversary

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A year ago today, I had a biking accident that incapacitated me for a long while.

It’s interesting to look back on that day. It started like any other day, yet ended unlike any other day. It was dark and windy, just like many days since, but it is special in my mind because of how much it affected my life. Even today, I ride differently at night than I used to. I try to be a little more careful and in less of a hurry, but like that night, sometimes I forget to be safe. It’s very easy to get caught up in the past and future of my life, but to not pay attention to the present. The experience taught me a lot about asking for help, being grateful for what I have and what I do not have, and also not feeling like I have to control my whole world.

Another thing that is brought to mind at this anniversary is all my friends, family, and strangers who have helped me in the past year. Rich drove me to the emergency room. My friends John, Andrew, Joe, James, Rixin, Liz, and many other friends and family were able to drive me back and forth to places I needed to go. My parents put me up for a week and took care of me until I could at least start to go back to work. The staff at Quantum Physical Therapy helped me get back on my feet. Along the way, there were countless strangers who went out of their way to help me, from opening doors for me to just being careful to watch out for me. I am able to see how important a community of friends and family is, especially when I needed them the most. Also, I can see the goodness of strangers reaching out to the rest of the community with no reward other than altruism. It really is a beautiful thing!

This past weekend, I was able to go on a camping trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Glen Arbor, Michigan.

My friend John and I were coming from Ann Arbor, and Gordon was going to meet us at the campsite. So, around 10:30am on Friday, John stopped by my apartment. We loaded up, went to his parents’ house to load up some more items, and then we were on our way.

Along the way we passed by Frankenmuth, and John started talking about how he had never had the chicken dinner from Zehnder’s. We thought that maybe we should stop, but we decided that we would wait and see if Gordon wanted some on the way back. Nevertheless, all that talk of food got us hungry, so we stopped at Cracker Barrel for some respite.

Kimberly, our waitress, was quick and efficient as she brought us our appetizers and drinks. I got a the cranberry apple iced tea with corn muffins, which I really enjoyed. For the main course, both John and I had the chicken fried steak, which was most excellent!

Soon, we were on our way again. We continued on I-75 for a long way till we reached Grayling, where we cut off onto M-72, which pretty much took us all the way to our destination. We did stop in Traverse City for groceries, and after spending a small fortune for our two-day trip (which is pretty standard, it seems), we were on the road again.

We reached our campsite number 57 at DH Day campground between four and five in the afternoon. The rain had been sputtering the whole ride up, but it had stopped for a few minutes by the time we arrived. So, we rushed to get a tarp/lean-to up before the next storm rolled through. The wind battered the tarp as we assembled it and we were a bit concerned about the tarp’s integrity. There was little that we could do about it anyway. We set up the tent during this period as well.

After we had gotten everything in order at the campsite, we took a stroll down to the beach. The rain had started sprinkling again at this point and the wind had really started blowing down across Sleeping Bear Bay. It was actually a beautiful sight in its power and majesty, and it was certainly a sight of the bay that I had not seen before. Large waves heaved and crashed on the shore while the clouds swirled and swayed overhead. Through it all, a strong wind blew. It was awe-inspiring.

After our walk, we got back to the campsite and started a fire. Within a few minutes, we had a lovely fire going that kept out a good bit of the cold and filled our nostrils with the lovely smell of burning wood. Our lean-to tarp held up fairly well against the buffeting that the wind was handing it, but we noticed that a few of the rivets had started to pull away from the plastic tarp material. We made a few adjustments to help ease the stress a little bit, and before long, we were fairly safe and comfortable once again. I must say, though, we didn’t trust the tarp all that much and were ready should it fall down.

We ate a dinner of hot dogs and brats that had been cooked over the fire. It was completely delicious and tasty!

Gordon showed up a while later for desert. He made a banana boat while John and I made a reese’s-peanut-butter-and-marshmallow “hobo pie.” It was all incredibly amazing and yummy!

We then sat around the campfire and talked for a while before retiring for the night. I woke up quite a few times as the wind and rain howled around us. Once, I had a dream that the one of the tent poles was blowing away. I sat up with a start, practically hyperventilating, only to find out that it had been a dream!

At last dawn came, and though the sky was still quite cloudy, John and I set out for a morning jog up to Alligator Hill. We ran for quite a while and when we couldn’t run much further, we stopped. However, about thirty steps from where we stopped was our destination: the first overlook of Alligator Hill. It was beautiful to see Sleeping Bear Bay, though the chill of the air and the sweat on my brow blended to cause me more than a few shivers. We took in the sight for a little while, and then headed back at a much slower pace to cool down.

We met up with my friend Emily around midmorning, and then we went for a few hikes around the area. Emily is a really cool friend of mine who works for the National Park Service right there [she’s in the youtube video I posted earlier this month]. Because she’s stayed in the area for the past few summers, she was able to lead us on a few really fun hikes and show us some really cool places I had never been before. The weather also cleared up by the afternoon and it turned into a remarkably beautiful day.

That evening we had dinners wrapped in tinfoil that we cooked over some of the hot coals from the fire. I browned some beef and chicken, and then we laid out all kinds of great vegetables to blend in, like carrots, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes. We didn’t go hungry, that’s for sure!

We sat around the campfire for a while and Gordon entertained us with his awesome musical repertoire. I cooked another reese’s-peanut-butter-and-marshmallow “hobo pie,” but this time I added apple pie filling, and it was deliciously good! I will have to remember that one! Emily cooked a few s’mores as well, and overall, I think it was a great fall campfire!

We took a long walk on the beach in the moonlight after the fire had died down, and that was amazing as well. The stars were out, but the bright moon held many at bay and out of sight. Nevertheless, the wind blowing in and the waves crashing on the shore only added to the beautiful twinkling ambiance of the moon, stars, and lights across the bay.

We then went back to our tents and crashed. I slept till after sun-up, and since John didn’t want to take a run, I took a long walk in the morning light. I took a few pictures with my camera during this walk that I really liked as well.

After my walk, we cooked chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and got ready for our return trip. We picked up and cleaned up the area, and within an hour we were on the road. Our original plan the night before was to go for one last hike before we headed for home, but Gordon didn’t have time for that, and we had already started thinking about the Zehnder’s chicken dinner that we had promised ourselves at the outset of the journey.

So, we headed back towards Ann Arbor, and stopped at Zehnder’s along the way. John was duly impressed with the meal, and I know I was gentle, happy, and well-filled by the time we were done with it all.

We got back to Ann Arbor, and said our goodbyes. I then got ready for the new week, but with a certain lightness to my step. The weekend had really brought a lot of peace and happiness to my heart. Even as I write this, I still have that little spark of joy that must have been fed like a fire in a gentle wind. I feel like I saw so much beauty, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand how beautiful it all was to me at each moment along the way. What a great feeling!

The Beauty of Life

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Being a little quirky myself, I could really relate to the following article:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/127918148.html
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I knew that Jim Hankin was dead before the medical examiner came out of the house to ask me to identify the body.

Jim hadn’t answered his phone for a week. And he didn’t come to the door when I went to his house Saturday.

But that wasn’t the tip-off.

Jim was a recluse, a modern-day hermit who lived in a house so crammed with old tin cans and piles of newspaper that even a cat would have a hard time slinking into some of the rooms.

Quirky.

Odd.

Sometimes annoying.

Surprisingly sweet.

The reason that I knew Jim was dead on Monday morning was that he hadn’t called his 15-year-old next-door neighbor, Sam, to sing “Happy Birthday” like Donald Duck. It was his signature move.

A few years ago, I thought I had an accurate and true trust in another human being. I had a deep and abiding faith that things would be fine especially because I felt our friendship was strong from moment to moment. I began to expect that my feelings of trust would continue growing and developing.

What is still strange to me is how just a few things I did (and a few things the other person did too) caused the friendship to stress and bend like a metal spring. Before I knew it, the metal was fatigued by fear and distrust, and it just fell apart. The worse part was that I didn’t really see it coming until I was at the stepping off place. As I held what was left of the friendship in my heart’s hands, I didn’t see any way to fix what was left. I didn’t see any way for me to trust that the same stressing and bending of my heart wouldn’t happen again if the die was recast. I was afraid.

In my fear, I chose to stand still. I held myself away from the friendship for a time and tried to sort those distrustful feelings out, but the time only made my fear grow. I felt disconnected and disjointed, like a kneeless giraffe that wants to run, but knows that it cannot. I stayed there in the silence of my soul for a while, cocooned from the hurtful words, pleas, and demands of the other person who couldn’t understand what I was trying to communicate nor what I was doing.

At last, a change happened in me and I emerged from the cocoon in my soul, willing to try to reshape the metal of that friendship again. But, I came to realize that the friendship wasn’t just broken, it was also only memory now as well. The other person wanted to hurt me in return for my previous actions. So, I wished the other person well, and worked to grow in the spirit of unselfish love.

Later, the person tried to rebuild the friendship, but this time there were situations beyond my control that disallowed the rebuilding of the friendship right away. So, I tried my best to put it all out of my mind and see if the roads of life would lead me back to that friendship again. I searched and grew in ways that I never thought possible. Like a butterfly unfolding its wings, I started to see things in new and interesting ways. I often thought of my friend from before and how I would have wanted to share these new skies’ grace with them.

Whenever I saw that person, my feelings were still confused and fearful, like I was struggling in a dragonfly net. My friend couldn’t see the change in me, and the descriptions I used to convey those changes were judged by the words I used and how I had used them in the past. The person was just hurting due in part to my actions, and I knew that I shouldn’t (and couldn’t) pull them up from this hurt. I could only try to amend the past in whatever way made sense.

This strange simile story isn’t complete because I don’t know the ending. I have a heightened awareness of things today, but I see that I am still easily trapped in the webs of my own dreams, instead of reaching for sunlight and letting others reach for me and with me. I see that I need to continue to grow and develop, but most of all, I need to learn to trust that as long as I do what’s right in terms of my head, body, and emotions, then the right thing will happen in the end.

Perhaps a friendship can be mended or perhaps not, but I do know that I must have faith that whatever happens, I will be loved and cared for. I must trust these new wings that I’ve been given by emerging from my cocoon of self so that I may reach the grace of the sky, and dance on the winds’ wings in the sunlight. That must be where I put my faith and trust…

As I was jogging into work this morning, I had one of those psyche-changing moments. It was like I had come out of a dark room into the sunlight.

To be honest, I’m sure I’ve heard the phrase before, but as I was running uphill on Carpenter Road as it crosses I-94, I was feeling rather tired and I was working on “attacking the hill” anyway. All of a sudden, the phrase, “Take what the road gives you” flashed in my consciousness. At that moment I realized that I had been fighting the uphill instead of letting my body take me upwards.

That might not make a whole lot of sense, so I will backtrack a bit. When I first started running “for real,” there were a lot of hills on that mile-long route that I started on. I remember that the first time I ran that route, I could barely finish with a time around eleven minutes. My breath felt hot and heavy in my pounding head and I just wanted to keel over in that warm summer sun. I didn’t, though. Instead, I tried it the next morning with approximately the same results. I tried it again and again until things got better.

I got much faster as time went on, and I learned to enjoy “attacking the hills,” as my cross country coach would often say. I have still enjoyed a hill workout from time to time. I have ran to the top of Gator Hill at sunrise. I have ran Cascades hill twenty times in a row. I’ve ran to a secret hill at sunset to watch the last rays fall in the west. I’ve ran countless nameless hills and conquered them all, never stopping to walk or rest on them.

This morning was an interesting morning in particular. I didn’t feel like running. I lay in bed deciding whether I should sleep for another half hour (and ride my bicycle) or get up and run down to the bus station. I had a lively debate with myself about how I was too tired to run and that the bicycle is an easier workout. Eventually, I talked myself into doing the run.

Once I had decided to do the run, I realized that I would be hard pressed to do the run and catch the bus I wanted to catch. So, I was a bustling ball of speediness while I raced around to get on my running gear and get ready. I was running about five minutes late by the time I was completely ready. I ran out the door of my apartment like a shotgun shell from a gun and quickly spun my legs onto the road. I pushed myself to run the 1.75 miles to bus station, checking my watch from time to time. I hadn’t stretched out, so it was really great to feel my muscles uncoiling and recoiling, getting looser and lengthening my stride as I got further and further from my apartment. I ran hard most of the way, except for a bit of jogging to catch my breath for about twenty seconds after cresting a hill on Liberty St. When I arrived at the bus station, the bus was getting ready to go. I stopped and walked back and forth for a few seconds, and then stepped on the bus. I had made it just in time!

When the bus dropped me off (which is about 1.5 miles from work), I started my jog a little slow because I thought I would be tired and unable to pull off a decent pace. However, once I got going, my legs seemed to spring back to life for the first half mile or so. Then, I hit the large hill that slowly slopes up and over I-94. My breath became more ragged and my stride became a little more shortened and jerky as I fought for oxygen. But then, something happened.

I sort of just heard the words in my head, “Take what the road gives you.” All of a sudden, a thousand images flooded my brain. Mostly it was a change in feeling, though. I had a moment of just loosening up everything in my body, mind, and soul. I’m 90% sure my speed kicked up, but it didn’t feel like it at all. I just knew I was going faster with a lot less effort. All of a sudden, I was breathing mostly freely, and my stride was unlike any I’ve felt before. I felt like I was dancing on my tiptoes instead of running. It was amazing. For an instant, I could no longer see that looming hill as something to fight through and conquer. Instead, I was able to see it as something to embrace in the present moment, and for some reason, that made the hill far easier. It helped to make me feel more like myself and maybe a little more in tune with this wonderful world surrounding me.

I don’t know if I can keep that feeling with me next time I run, but it sure did feel good to feel it this morning! I need to just “take what the road gives me,” whether it’s an uphill, downhill, flatness or sloping. “Take what the road gives you” might just be my new mantra for running, and maybe for life in general.

Many years of research conducted by The Gallup Organization suggest that the most effective people are those who understand their strengths and behaviors. These people are best able to develop strategies to meet and exceed the demands of their daily lives, their careers, and their families.

A review of the knowledge and skills you have acquired can provide a basic sense of your abilities, but an awareness and understanding of your natural talents will provide true insight into the core reasons behind your consistent successes.

Includer

“Stretch the circle wider.” This is the philosophy around which you orient your life. You want to include people and make them feel part of the group. In direct contrast to those who are drawn only to exclusive groups, you actively avoid those groups that exclude others. You want to expand the group so that as many people as possible can benefit from its support. You hate the sight of someone on the outside looking in. You want to draw them in so that they can feel the warmth of the group. You are an instinctively accepting person. Regardless of race or sex or nationality or personality or faith, you cast few judgments. Judgments can hurt a person’s feelings. Why do that if you don’t have to? Your accepting nature does not necessarily rest on a belief that each of us is different and that one should respect these differences. Rather, it rests on your conviction that fundamentally we are all the same. We are all equally important. Thus, no one should be ignored. Each of us should be included. It is the least we all deserve.

Connectedness

Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries.

Input

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information, words, facts, books, and quotations, or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

Positivity

You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation. Some call you lighthearted. Others just wish that their glass were as full as yours seems to be. But either way, people want to be around you. Their world looks better around you because your enthusiasm is contagious. Lacking your energy and optimism, some find their world drab with repetition or, worse, heavy with pressure. You seem to find a way to lighten their spirit. You inject drama into every project. You celebrate every achievement. You find ways to make everything more exciting and more vital. Some cynics may reject your energy, but you are rarely dragged down. Your Positivity won’t allow it. Somehow you can’t quite escape your conviction that it is good to be alive, that work can be fun, and that no matter what the setbacks, one must never lose one’s sense of humor.

Woo

Woo stands for winning others over. You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them. You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport. Some people shy away from starting up conversations because they worry about running out of things to say. You don’t. Not only are you rarely at a loss for words; you actually enjoy initiating with strangers because you derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection. Once that connection is made, you are quite happy to wrap it up and move on. There are new people to meet, new rooms to work, new crowds to mingle in. In your world there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet, lots of them.

One Walsh Family Christmas

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I think I was about fourteen years of age that Christmas. The Christmas tree stood in the corner of my parents’ house, heavily laden with years and years of traditions and memories, from ornaments from my grandfather’s tree to cardboard cut-outs my littlest sister had just completed in school.

Most of us children had unwrapped our gifts, and were basking in that wonderful lazy feeling of coming down from the combination of Santa-high and the fact that our stomachs were full of fruit roll-ups and chocolate. On the “excitement” scale (from one to ten), we were at a healthy seven and that was slowly falling into a peaceful six.

My sister Rose and her husband Steve had just pulled in the driveway. Immediately, our excitement level went back up to a value of eight. We ran out to the car and welcomed Rose and Steve. I remember that the sun was shining that day, and I don’t recall much snow.

They brought a large bag inside the house, and we followed, excited to see them. After some cursory introductions, Steve and Rose told us that this year, times had been a little lean, and they didn’t have much to offer us in the way of gifts.

I remember that I felt a bit of sadness. In truth, there wasn’t a lot of “woe is me” in that sadness, even though I wasn’t getting a cool present from them. Instead, I felt sorry for my sister and brother who were trying hard to make ends meet. At that time, we Walshes understood hard times all too well.

Steve then opened the big bag he had brought in and reached all the way to the bottom. Gently, he pulled out some plastic wands about fourteen inches long and a quarter of an inch in diameter. They were made of clear plastic, and had little black and orange pieces of candy inside. On the top of every wand, there was a plastic toy ant, about three inches long. There was a suction cup on the bottom of the ant, and that was hollowed out so that it would stay on the plastic wand. Rose and Steve had probably got them from a clearance rack after Halloween.

Steve and Rose handed these wand-ants out to each of us one by one. Before we had all gotten our gift, (I think it was) Dan started using his wand-ant to playfully attack Joe’s wand-ant. As soon as I got mine, I attacked Rachel’s. Soon, all the children were engaged in an epic ant battle of exciting proportions. Across the room, the battle raged, while we were whooping, hollering, and laughing. I can’t remember whose it was, but one of the wands got bent into a ninety degree angle. We all laughed about it, and I think that person bent it back straight, held the wand at the break, and then joined the fray again! Our excitement meter went up to eleven!

I was so busy playing with my siblings, I hadn’t noticed Steve and Rose’s reactions. Apparently, their jaws were hanging out of their heads in sheer amazement, especially when they heard, “These are GREAT!”

After a few minutes more of this, they regained their composure, and the battle had begun to wane. I was making my ant walk up the boughs of the Christmas tree when I heard Steve tell us that it was supposed to be a joke. They had intended for us to be disappointed, so that they could reveal the true present, a new(ish) computer!

So, we followed them outside to their car, and lo, in the trunk sat a desktop computer and monitor, a Gateway 2000 4DX2-66. Before this, the family had had an old Tandy 1000SL, which could not even run Windows or any of the programs of the time. In contrast, this computer came with Windows 95 and Word 2.0!

We were all pretty excited about it, but in all honesty, I think we all had more fun with the ant-wands because we could all join in the fun. Only one or two people could sit at the computer at a time, and with six or seven kids still living at home, that made it challenging to use.

My sister Mary recently reminded me of that Christmas, and it made me appreciate the joy that I have for being a part of my family. I really like that memory because it shows off our “good side” as Walshes. My family isn’t perfect by any means. Heck, with that many people, there’s bound to be problems! Through it all, though, I have learned to love each member of my family uniquely and truly, and I am excited to see us through the years as we all grow and change.

That moment in Walsh history also reinforces truths of the heart for me, like the fact that money and family can never be compared, and that you can truly be happy and have fun, regardless of mean estate or circumstance. Those are lessons I hope I’ve really taken to heart, and I hope I’ll never forget them. I’m really grateful that I was taught truths like these, because knowing them seems to bring greater and greater joy in my life. Because of these things, I am very proud that I am a Walsh.

Harvey: What do you you keep singing for?

Manuel: Because I like to sing.
(continues singing)

Harvey: I’ve never heard that song before.

Manuel: Me neither, I just make it up.
(continues singing)
Harvey: You can’t write songs.

Manuel: I don’t write ’em. I just find ’em in my mouth.

Harvey: A song can’t be any good like that when you just make it up.

Manuel (interrupting): Say…that best kind songs. When you feel good inside…like…like trade winds, she just come out. (singing) Oh, my beautiful lady…

Harvey: Aw, people learn songs…songs aren’t just inside of people like that.

Manuel: Say, sometimes a song so big and sweet inside, I…I…just can’t get him out. And then I look up at stars and maybe cry, I feel so good. (pauses) Don’t you ever feel like this? (looks sadly at Manuel) No, I guess you don’t.

Harvey: And nobody else ever did either…

~Victor Fleming?