Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Goal #151: Regain the 30 Pounds I Lost in the Philippine Islands

When I left to live in the Philippine Islands for a couple years, I was 19 years old and weighed 145 lbs. When I returned, I was 21 and weighed 115 lbs dripping wet. When I got off the plane my mother cried. I just assumed it was because she was so glad to see me. Years later she told me that she was crying, not because she was glad to see me (although she was glad to see me) but because I looked so terrible. She just kept asking, “What did they do to my son?”
I was so skinny by the time I was in my last area that when I went to pick up my working companion at the airport, he thought that someone was pulling a joke on him. Elder Whitchurch thought that the other guys found some skinny American who had lived there all his life and gave him a name badge and told Elder Whitchurch that I was his companion. It wasn’t until the next day that he realized I really was his companion. Kind of sad isn’t it.
When I got home, it took several trips to the hospital to finally completely rid myself of all the worms and parasites I had inside my body. After a couple of months of medication and LOTS of food, I finally started gaining weight again. It took several months before I finally regained all my weight back. Decades later I still experience health related problems from this experience. But if I were given the choice I wouldn’t trade that 2 year experience of living in the Philippine Islands for anything. It was a life changing experience in so many ways.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Goal #121: Keep a Journal

I cannot even begin to tell you how glad I am that I’ve kept a journal for most of my life. The fact is, we forget things and the older you get the more you forget. I cannot even count the number of times I’ve settled an argument by going to my journal to verify something we disagreed on. Cha-ching!  If nothing else, it’s been a good money maker for me with the number of bets I’ve won.

I started keeping a journal when I was 18. That first one was a bit sporadic. But when I started a new life in the Philippines, I kept a daily journal. Since that time, with one small exception I’ve kept a daily journal for 35+ years.

A friend of mine who works in a archive refers to journal writers as The Rememberers. These are the people who help humanity remember our past by writing down not only the events and details of national and world events, but also the hopes, the fears, the despair, and the dreams of humanity. Each person who records his or her feelings, regardless of how they do it or how often they do it, contribute a piece to the massive puzzle of humanity.

Mystics called these collective memories of humanity the Akashic Records. Rupert Sheldrake refers to these thoughts, feelings and memories as the Morphic Fabric. Christians often consider these journals as part of the Book of Life. I just call them my journals.

Years from now, long after I have passed away and my body has turned to dust, my posterity will know who their great great great grandfather was, for better or worse. They will know my fears, my dreams and what I tried to contribute to the betterment of humanity. Someone once told me that you cannot love someone you do not know. What better reason to keep a journal than the thought of being loved and cared for by one’s posterity.   

Goal #180: Go into The Wilderness and Find the Hair of a Mouse

The first time I did this was at a Tom Brown Tracker School week-long Native American Skills retreat in the redwood forests near San Jose, California. It was a cool experience. I was amazed when I realized that I can do this.

What did I learn from this experience? I learned that most of us miss so many seemingly insignificant things in the world; things that are  fascinating and miraculous in their own way. We miss these things because we rarely take the time to separate ourselves from the world of “big” and focus in on the world of “small”. When we take the time to do this, we discover a whole other world right under our feet.

This world of "tiny-ness" is a world filled with amazing wonders. I discovered a system of trails that the small creatures use to move about, under cover of the grasses, out of site of hungry mammals and birds of prey. I discovered flowers that were as small as a grain of rice, mushrooms that look like they came right out of Alice in Wonderland, and so much more. It is an entirely new world that demands your attention once you are aware of it. And best of all, it's costs you only some time and very little effort. How great is that! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Goal #754: Have a Paper Route

Every Saturday I had to walk the entire route to collect the 20 cent paper fee from my customers. I don’t know how many miles I walked to visit each one of my customers but it was a lot. Whenever I had something go in on that I wanted to do I ran most of my route. I’m convinced that all that walking and running is what got me in such great shape for when I ran track and cross country in high school. Even into my 50s, doctors always told me that I was in great shape. I attribute that to all the exercise I got doing that paper route.What kid hasn’t had a paper route at some time in his life? 

My paper route was the Pioneer Press, one of those huge bulky Sunday morning papers that came out only on Sundays. My route covered the entire town of Luverne, Minnesota. We used to go out to the state park and sell papers to the campers, but my brother had to drive me there since it was out in the country. I hated it because my brother smoked and every Sunday morning I would come home sick to my stomach. I'd lay down in my bed with a waste basket next to my bed for me to throw up into. When I think about this paper route, I always remember an incident that involved my brother Dan. He rarely helped me on my paper route because he had his own route. He gave it up after a year and I ended up with his customers in addition to mine. My first year, just before Christmas Dan came to me and told me that for his Christmas present to me he was going to do my Saturday collection route and not charge me anything for doing it. What a great Christmas present!

This was the first time ever having a paper route during the Christmas season. Dan had experienced it twice before so he knew what to expect. I thought I was getting a great deal with his “gift.”  But when he came home from collecting he had several boxes of chocolate covered cherries (my favorite), a pocket FULL of money and several other gifts. They were supposed to for me. Dan knew that the week before Christmas all my customers would be leaving Christmas gifts in the paper box for me, their paper boy. His offer to do my route was nothing more than his attempt to cheat me of all my paper route gifts. I was so mad. I never let him help me again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Goal #10: Perform a Funeral and Burial

Not a lot of people get to conduct a funeral or a burial. But then again, most people don’t want to. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what it would be like to conduct a funeral.

For a few years I was able to serve as a leader of our local congregation. Part of my responsibilities allowed me to conduct funerals for ward members who died.
When I got word that someone had died, my first duty was to go to their home, comfort them and help them make some funeral arrangements. You would think that making funeral arrangements would be a fairly straight forward thing, but it’s not.

Some families wanted to make a funeral a very celebratory event. I’m talking loud brassy music, multimedia presentations, comody routines and the works. It was my job to help the family plan the funeral so that stayed within the reverent guidelines my church recommended. I still remember the 81 year old aunt that played taps on the bugle at the funeral of each family member. That was important to the family and we had to have it. At another funeral, the family insisted on doing a “family roast” of the dead man, telling all kinds of unsavory stories about him. Then there is the time that family members of the deceased refused to sit next to other family members. It was the classic Hatfields and McCoys kind of funeral, each blaming the other for the death of the man in the casket.

The hardest are the tragic deaths. They are the ones where little children die, or young mothers or fathers are taken before their time. Sometimes it’s the suicide or the murder victim. As the spiritual leader you have to say something that gives comfort to the family and helps them understand that sometimes there are no easy answers for what happened.
I have to say, there is never a dull moment at a funeral. You never know when someone is going to faint, or start screaming at another family member, blaming them for what happened. Sometimes, someone feel a need to get up and give an unplanned talk, even though they aren’t on the program. I’ve seen the falling floral bouquet, the tripping pallbearer, and the fainting mother. I’ve seen more than I ever intended in the 5 years I conducted funerals. But I have to admit that I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Goal #771: Be a Hamburger Jockey for a Day

I have always wondered what it would be like to be a hamburger jockey in a fast food place like McDonalds or Burger King. It wasn’t something that I had ever seriously aspired to but I was curious. I got my chance to find what it was like when one of the local communities down the road was celebrating something called Strawberry Days asked for volunteers to help with the refreshment during their big rodeo. The rodeo was always the big culminating event of the local Strawberry Days celebration

When I asked what they needed me to do they asked if I would be the hamburger cook for a 6 hour stint. This was it!!! I was getting my chance to see what it would be like to be a burger cook.  Six hours later, when my shift was over I knew why I was so grateful that I never quit school or do anything to compromise my chances for a higher education. I didn’t ever want to have to make a living cooking burgers 8 hours a day 5 days a week.

When I got home, the first thing did was to take a very hot shower. It took 15 minutes of scrubbing to get all the grease out of my hair and out of the pours in my skin. It took literally more than a week to finally get that smell of hamburger grease out of my sinuses.

Now, whenever I go to a burger place I have a renewed respect for the fry cooks. From time to time I leave a tip for the cook and ask the cashier to make sure they get it along with my heartfelt appreciate for all their hard work.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Goal #2098: Get $50 in $1 bills and leaving them in Places for People to Find

I thought I would do something that would give a lot of people a small moment of happiness. To do this goal, I withdrew $50 in $1 bills from my savings with the intent of leaving each bill in a public place for someone to find and feel excited about finding money. After all, everyone gets a little excited when they find a dollar on the ground, right? It’s kind of that feeling like you’ve got some good luck coming your way.

I had a great time doing this goal. I left some dollar bills on the bus, dropped some on street corners, left them in public restrooms and in stair wells. I left others in odd little places where people would by chance happen upon them. Several times I would put money in to vending machines and then push the return button to get my money back in change. Then I’d leave the change in the return slot for someone to find. When I was a kid, I used to love it when I would check the change return slot and find money that someone didn’t remember to pick up. It always made me feel so lucky.

This goal took a little longer to complete than I originally expected. That’s because people at work kept turning the dollar bills they found in to the lost and found or taping them onto walls asking if someone had lost it. I always thought that was the funniest thing to see. I am delighted to see so many people so concerned about making sure that whoever had lost their dollar bill, got it back.

It was kind of cool to think of 50 different people getting that small but pleasant thrill of finding money in an unexpected place. It’s nice to think of how easy it is to bring such a simple little bit of pleasure to so many people.