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No Limits–No Kidding!

July 8, 2012

Imagine typing with only one hand. Or walking with only one foot. Now imagine that you have no hands and no feet–in fact you don’t even have arms or legs. Would that be a hindrance? Well I don’t know about you, but if I woke up tomorrow without limbs, you’d better believe I would find myself feeling limited.

But here’s the beauty of God–He didn’t create us to NEED limbs. In fact, Nick Vujicic–the author of Life Without Limits–is living proof that all we need is faith, determination–and a little help from friends–and we can live far beyond anyone’s imaginations.

Vujicic is not only an inspiration, he is an inspiring author. Faced with “disabilities,” his story is instead the tale of a young man who not only lives a full and rich life, but who has dedicated his life to making others feel more comfortable with themselves.

Rarely do I say “everyone should read this book,” but in this case I will, for there is something in here for every single person who is facing limits in their own lives. Take a page from Vujicic’s book, and turn your limits into launching pads.

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The Oracle

December 1, 2011

They gathered at the foot of the mountain because they had been called, not because they wanted to be there. They gathered because the Oracle of the Lord was about to speak, and when the Oracle sent out his servants with the call, you answered.

They gathered, men, women and children, some still in hastily-covered nightclothes, others with half-milked cattle trailing dejectedly behind them.

“The Word of the Lord!” Called out the heralds standing three paces before and to the sides of the cave opening, the giant maw from which emanates the Word of God.

A small man, a young man, an old man, a tall man–few knew what he was for while his voice carried it was at times both strident and warbling. His shoulders were both strong and bowed over, his back straight and yet he stooped, hunched over as if carrying the weight of all the people.

“Hear now the Oracle of the Lord!” his voice rang out, and stopped the murmuring, the muttering, the shuffling and clamoring. “Hear now the Word of God for His people!”

All eyes turned forward and strained in the pre-dawn dusk to see the face of the one sent by God.

The man, the vessel of God’s message, eased slowly down the path and scuffled his feet along the stones as though to extend the contact, for to be the Word of God Most High is to be shunned, set aside, both revered and feared.

The man, who had a name once but forgot it as his parents had forgotten him at the foothills of this rock, stopped just before the edge, where he was still shrouded in shadow and mystery, for as he was cast aside so too did he feel set apart and so too did he wish to remain.

It was a burden on him, day after day, night and evening, whiling the hours away in prayer and supplication for a people who assumed he was there to absolve them of their sins on a regular and everlasting basis.

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one!”

“He is one indeed!” came the reply, cried not with conviction of the heart but solidarity of a people who felt themselves superior to all others.

“Hear my people, the Oracle of the Lord! He has shone a light on the wicked and wishes you to root him out from your midst.”

At that the murmurs returned and eyes cut to the sides, children grasped their parents’ hands and hid among their skirts.

“How will we know them?” asked a brazen youth, who seemed both rash and untested, proud and unsure.

“Ye shall know him by this,” replied the man, “They do not fear the Lord.”

No fear? The women stared daggers at the men for the women knew they had fear indeed within their hearts.

“They flatter themselves unjustly and consider themselves better than their equals.”

The men now stood tall and sought to determine whose wife, whose self-righteous nag was the evil in their midst.

“They blaspheme before God and men, and they covenant with their evil thoughts. Not even their bedclothes provide a sanctuary from their plotting.”

Their feet shuffled. A groan was stifled and a baby’s cries went unchecked as silence fell.

For none in the multitude could hold themselves apart from these accusations. None, from the youngest child to the skilled hunters to the most doddering old woman, could say that they were free from all such stain.

A wail cried out, a lament for the souls of the people. A heart-wrenching cry emanated and yet as the man took his hand from his eyes he felt beneath his feet the rumbling undercurrent which began in one heart then swelled past the lips and pointed like daggers at him “What you say is a lie! We are not the wicked. We are chosen by the Grace of God!” Yet others moaned in their grief “All of us, all of us deserve to die. There is no redemption for one such as myself.”

“Wait,” cried out the man, arms outstretched towards the people whom he loved. “There  is yet hope! There is yet light, for the One who made us saved us, He who created us redeemed us. His valley is wide and the rivers of life flow from on high.”

But the anger and the agony were too much to bear. In droves women wailed and left for home, covering their heads in shame. In droves men grew fierce and picked up stones, aimed and threw, to drive away the man of God and bury his outright lies.

He raised his arms above his head to ward off the blows while stones of flint and jade struck and tore at cloth and flesh.

And yet he cried as he turned away and, limping, sought the stony door “Lord protect me from their evil ways, protect themselves and call them to you, for he who casts the stone in anger or in fear shall himself be cast aside.”

And lo, before he reached the threshold of the mountain range, built of timeless stone, a twist of fate, an ankle turned, a rolling rock and a gust of wind sent him over the edge, down, down to fall and never return.

Yet as the cheers and jeers of the men rose into the mist, a child, who had climbed to seek a post whence he could view this man of God, the child could swear he saw an angel gently lift him up, and bore him skyward on wings of gold. Yet in his mind’s eye the child saw the men balanced out like coins on edge. He flipped a stone from hand to hand, then tossed it down–and saw them fall, one by one, never to rise again.

9/11: 10 Years Later – My Story

September 11, 2011

American Flag for 9/11

Everyone has a story. Everyone who was alive and cognizant of the terrible events has the memory indelibly imprinted into their mind, their heart, their psyche. I debated not writing, for mine is no story of valor or ultimate loss. But it is my story, my own, and it is as clear in my mind today as it was 10 years ago. So I write this for future generations, that my small thread would weave into the tapestry of the United States of America, 09/11/2001 and beyond.

I Remember 9/11:

I remember waking up to the radio like usual. It was a workday. I took a shower, got dressed. The morning voices barely entered my still-groggy consciousness until suddenly the heavy velvet of the newscaster’s voice registered in my brain a plane hit one of the Twin Towers in the World Trade Center. I listened for a few minutes in stunned silence as my favorite voices shook with confusion and concern.

I turned on the TV, one of the only times I’ve ever turned it on in the morning. I saw the smoke, black and billowing, and watched as if a movie while the second plane flew directly into the second tower. More smoke, more clouds, billows of fear, a knot in my stomach, looking back and forth as if for someone to tell me I didn’t have to go to work. Scrambling for the Walkman, my old radio (so funny to think of today) jammed earphones in and spun to a news network, clung to the words of the dry voices concerned what was happening? on the train towards the city, buildings growing up around the train. North side, not downtown back then, walked to a low brick building in the door put down my things ran to the conference room. Gathered with co-workers eyes glued to the television so much smoke. So many people screaming and crying out and “Oh Shit” was the only clear sentiment of the day. News of a plane hitting the pentagon, eyes glazed over with too much pain and sorrow, what to do but grab hold of the chair and blink to watch more. Another plane down, Pennsylvania, my mother’s state, phone calls on the air loved ones screaming and crying, dying. Cameras rolling dust and fire and shaking and like a movie like Ocean’s Eleven only horrible the building collapsed down, down down onto itself. Oh Shit. Oh Shit. Oh Shit. How can that have happened? The plane hit the building so high. Black dots falling from windows learned later were people jumping. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. The second building. Dust engulfed a city thousands of miles away and choked me.

What left? What was–

Go back to my desk. A man’s voice announcement in the office Voluntary Evacuation. Get the hell out of dodge just in case something happens in Chicago. Old town isn’t downtown but there’s no way in Hell I’m gonna work who can work? Turned on the computer to turn it off again get a ride home can’t ride the train can’t do it won’t do it how am I on groceries please Jesus don’t let anything happen in Chicago.

Walked in the door missed calls, my best friend couldn’t get through the lines couldn’t get through so many cell phones calling, calling, ringing, loved ones at work on the way to work the sick, the running late in New York they’re the lucky ones. Turned on the TV talking all the talking suits are talking pictures rolling who is it who is it who did this who who who? Why?

Talking all day all night twelve hours of talking talking talking Al-Qaeda Taliban who? Who? Why? what did we ever do to you? Work doesn’t make sense any more who cares if you buy a used car have to go bleary-eyed didn’t sleep for watching, watching. Crying, weeping for men and women I didn’t know and newscasters broke into tears Brokaw called his family just to say I love you.

Next day newspapers showed the horror the carnage the suicide jumpers from windows stories evolved and came out “Let’s Roll” became a rallying cry, Congress sang God Bless America, President GWBush in a bomber jacket and Mayor Giuliani stood in the dust and we heard stories of the men and women who ran towards the towers, into them up the stairs weakening under their very feet. Later “Beautiful Day” by U2 reminded us all to live and to love and brought tears walking to the train on a sunny day post-9/11 everything is now post 9/11 I don’t even remember what I did for my birthday.

Television was only news. Radio was only news. Talking just to try to make sense of it, sharing stories, weeping together going to work because we had to we had to show those sonsofbitches we’re the fucking United States of America and we don’t quit we don’t back down we will rise from the Ashes victorious and strong even while women and men comb the city of rubble with photos in hand “have you seen my daughter/son/brother/mother?”

I remember when Jay Leno came on and Conan. They spoke of their own pain and fear. Conan isn’t a religious man but with tears in his eyes he said on the day of he walked into a church and sat down just sat down and thought. What if? And they became more than late night talk shows because they brought on the people who had been talking all day and asked them the questions we all wanted to ask. Explain this they said explain the Taliban explain why that happened tell me why the towers fell and what what what are we doing about it? And we were glued to the TV not for jokes although that came later but because we needed to see humanity, needed to see the suits explain the big words, needed to know that life will go on and that we would rise victorious.

And we went to war.

Channel 7 the Disney-owned channel played Saving Private Ryan the first time since 9/11 that “Fuck” was said on network TV because we are Americans and we have fought before and persevered against all odds and Michael Eisner said they would play the movie in its entirety we would remember that we are a nation that fights for what is right.

And the Indian woman at my office received dirty looks because of her dark skin and racism disappeared as long as you didn’t look middle-eastern.

But life slowly, gradually, returned. Late night shows became late night shows. Radio became music and laughter and hating the traffic. And family was family we took for granted once again except those who were in Afghanistan and Iraq but you can’t take shampoo on the airplanes or nail clippers and pat-downs became welcome annoyances not on this plane Jesus please not on this plane never again.

But look at the clock 9:11 has a meaning just like 5:00 is go home 12:00 is lunch and 11:11 is make a wish. 9:11 is a small shudder and internal cringe and a prayer that it never happens again and our men and women will come home. And calling 911 is buildings on fire and heart attacks.

Birthdays and wedding anniversaries have new emotions Giuliani walked a woman down the aisle when her father was killed who schedules for 9/11 now the first year flights were the brave the stick-it-to-those-bastards-I’m-not-afraid-of-flying memorials churches songs prayers of healing and comfort and don’t forget forgiveness.

And no one wants to advertise, who wants to buy a car so after 8 months finally laid off can’t blame the Taliban directly but they didn’t help. Met men and women who shared where they were when one was in Puerto Rico my pastor though I didn’t know it yet, we all shared we all needed to tell our story days months years later we all have a story and this year I went to church and sang and spoke Psalm 107 and prayed and wept at the videos the audio the crying dying voices all alone in the dust all over again.

And one day I realized the building I work in the Merchandise Mart is branded in concrete and metal as One World Trade Center, Chicago.

I said hello to people today tipped the cabbie well because we should because this is America and dammit we’re good people and we are going to persevere and remember that going back to normal shouldn’t include back to bigotry, back to selfishness, back to taking advantage of the system but helping each other living in joy not in fear enjoying the little things enjoying the big things family dinners and fond stories of the ugly sweater you wore that year and the dog that ate the pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

So we play Taps on 9/11 and Amazing Grace and remember the stories because you’ll have children to tell who will look at you as blankly as you look when you hear of JFK or Martin Luther King (or Lincoln) and think it’s just a point in History and it will truly become Patriot Day and that is good and healthy but never forget we honor our patriots because we were given reason to remember that is what we all are. We are all Americans. We are the patriots.

And may we never forget.

Chicago Air and Water Show 2011 (Or, “Why I Love Bernoulli’s Principle”)

August 23, 2011
Air and Water Show 2011

Chicago Air and Water Show 2011

I’m in love with Bernoulli’s Principle.  The man may not have invented flying, but thanks to him, whenever anyone says “I wonder what makes an airplane fly” I can answer, with confidence: “Bernoulli’s Principle.” I don’t know anything about it other than there’s something to do with force and pressure and air going over the plane’s wings. And updrafts, maybe.

Whatever it is, I’m thankful for it.

I’m also thankful for Chicago’s Air and Water show. I’ve only been going for the last few years–the first few years I lived in Chicago I never knew when it was, and only really found out because I’d be sitting on the couch some lazy summer afternoon, reading a book, when suddenly a stealth bomber would be dive-bombing Wrigley Field (and by proximity, my house). Ok, they didn’t really dive-bomb the field, but they have to go somewhere to turn around and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they fly over the field when there’s a game. I think it’s quite purposeful.

But for years I didn’t actually venture outside to watch the planes. Then slowly, gradually, I’d spend an hour or two, and finally last year the entire day down at North Avenue beach, watching the planes, the helicopters, and the people.

Oh, those crazy, sunburned people.

But for all those years I watched alone (say it with me now: “awwwwwww”). Until this year, when my sister and her friend came along. I was so excited to be able to share this even with someone. Plus it was the most glorious day, and I enjoyed spending it with people instead of just surrounded by people.

I also enjoyed it because I got to explain what keeps the planes up. (See first paragraph). And somehow I wonder why I always get labeled as the smart one. More likely it’s just that I love spewing out random factoids of knowledge in an attempt to sound uber-cool and knowledgeable.

On the other hand, neither of them knew that it was Bernoulli’s Principle. So maybe I am uber-cool and knowledgeable. Maybe.

But either way, there is nothing, I repeat Nothing, better than the feeling in your chest when a couple of Thunderbirds roar over you at Mach-whatever. It’s enough to make me realize I would date just about any man in a pilot’s uniform, just on principle.

Especially if his call sign was Maverick.

Nothing says “You need to work out” like deep-fried cookie dough

August 15, 2011

I was going to name this post something energetic and fun, like “Counting down to fitness!” And then I realized that I’m not exactly sitting here going “hooray, I’m so excited to deprive myself of food and start sweating again!”

So I figured I’d write about what I ate today.

You got it: Deep. Fried. Cookie. Dough.

About the only non-lethal word in there is “deep” and only because I separated it from fried, because if the “badness” of food were fictional characters, fried food would be Cruella DeVille. But deep-fried would be Hannibal Lechter (which is either very ironic or very fitting) 🙂

I can still taste the cookie dough, 4 hours later.

And it was wonderful. In a very very bad sort of way.

*sigh*

So, it is with extreme sadness displeasure caution excitement that I make this announcement: I am going to start working out again!

You got it… I slacked off for way too long, and now it’s time to lose some pounds! But the best part is I’ve got support…

A very dear friend of mine who happens to be a Zumba instructor, gifted me with the new Zumba Exhilarate DVD set (I know, she is awesome, isn’t she?). Plus I still have 4 months left on my pre-paid year at Bally’s, so I really have no excuse not to go. I mean, I slogged through slush and snow to get there, I think I can handle walking in the beautiful weather. 🙂

Plus, another friend of mine just got the same DVD set (from the same awesome Zumba instructor, actually) so we’re going to be workout bunnies.

Yes, I said bunnies.

The story is this–my friend E. had suggested in a Facebook chat that we should be workout buddies, only I was reading the comment quickly, and I think the word below buddies had a double “n” so I read it as bunnies. I actually think it’s quite fantastic, however, so I’m sticking to it. I hope E. doesn’t mind. 🙂

The Exhilarate set has a 10-day plan that they promise (!) will make you lose a dress/pant size. Of course it’s because it has you eating like a rabbit (see how the naming all works out) and jumping around like one for all 10 days too. But I’m excited to try it. The recipes actually look pretty good and fairly easy to assemble, and they allow for a few snacks, which is good! Of course I don’t know that I’ll even be hungry whilst drinking 135 ounces of water a day. I think I’ll lose weight just running to the bathroom every 10 minutes!

But here’s to finally getting back in the saddle, taking the bull by the horns, and other metaphors which really don’t apply since I’ve never actually lived on a cattle ranch.

And seriously, don’t waste the $7 on the cookie dough. Just melt some in the microwave and eat it with a spoon. Same thing.

The Bunnies and the Carrot: A Fable

August 13, 2011

There once were some bunnies who found a ripe carrot.
“Let’s pull it,” they said, “and together we’ll share it!”
“Pull the leaves from the top” said the one on the right.
“No, no” said another, and they started to fight.
“Grab the leaves near the bottom, and wiggle it well!”
Said the bunny whose black eye had started to swell.
“Oh no” said the fourth, “you’ve got to pull hard!
Just yank nice and strong and get out of the yard!”
So the bunnies all quarreled the whys and wherefores,
When along came a filly, and her mother the horse.
“Look mummy, a carrot, I’ll share it with you!
What’s the best way to pull it, oh what shall we do?”
“Don’t worry” said mother, “there’s more ways than one.
What matters at the end is that the job has been done.
It’s good to take time to hear others’ thoughts,
But don’t take offense any more than you ought.
No one’s always right, and no one’s always wrong.
Pick what works for you, and just get along.”
So they pulled up the carrot, the horse and her foal,
While the bunnies continued to punch, kick and roll.
What then is the moral of this story I tell?
Every bunny’s got their own way but it’s no use to yell.
Be like the wise horse and her daughter the foal,
And focus instead on just reaching your goal.

Not-So-Famous Last Words

August 2, 2011

I don’t really make a habit of walking through cemeteries and reading gravestones, but if you’re going to do it, wouldn’t you like to see a couple of funny ones? So here’s a list of not-so-famous epitaphs and last known words. Try to look past the macabre and just enjoy the laugh. 🙂

Last Words

  • “If you’re going to text me, do it right. The correct grammar is ‘The runaway elephant’s coming your way’ not ‘the runaway elephants coming you’re way.'”
  •  “Ok, now I’m going to stand in the middle of the street and take a picture of you looking the wrong way in front of the ‘look left’ sign.”
  • “I don’t know why they say you can’t use a blow dryer while you’re still in the tub, it’s working just fine.”
  • “So I figure the best way to track down the runaway lion is to cover myself in raw steak. I’m sure to find him.”
  • “The trick to juggling chain saws is to never get distra–hey look, a penny!”
  • “If you’re going to keep holding that golf club in this storm, at least come stand over here under this tree.”
Epitaphs
  • “He made me buy the expensive headstone, but he didn’t make me promise what I’d write on it.”
  • “Funerals are expensive. Do your family a favor and die at sea.”
  • “Ha ha, I’m the only one who knew the password to the safe.”
  • “If you’re here because of the will, just go ahead and spit on me now.”
  • “Can’t find the remote, eh? Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha.”
  • “Come closer…. closer… Ha ha, made you look.”