Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Curious Birds

A couple months ago, I was in my kitchen fixing breakfast and packing lunch when I heard an odd animal scuffling-like noise. I'd stop, listen, it would stop. Then, 30 seconds later, again! Where in the hell was it coming from? I thought maybe it was a mouse rooting around in some cupboard or in a wall, but I could not for the life of me pinpoint the noise.

I let my cat, Hershey, into the house. I thought, okay, this will solve the mystery, and sure enough, the distinctive knocking, scuffling. Hershey's body stiffened and he took off into the living room at a quick trot. I followed, but then, the noise disappeared and he seemed as mystified as me. Bah, whatever, I gave up! But, not long after, I spotted Hershey staring intently out the window, so I stopped to watch, too. That's when I spotted a female cardinal just outside the window. She looked jittery, on edge and then, bam!, she flew into the window, frantically trying to figure out why she was thwarted by an invisible force field. Over and over again she hurtled herself at the window. What the hell was she trying to get at...I didn't see anything shiny or especially inviting. After that, she was there every morning for the next week, knocking at my window. Most recently, she's been replaced by a little White-Eyed Vireo (originally, I thought it was a Carolina Wren but was mockingly informed that I was a moron by a know-it-all friend). These birds don't even care that I'm on the other side of the glass. In fact, I think it infuriates them when they see me. It's like they're saying, "How the flippin' fuck did you get over there?" I just laugh.

This whole situation is insane. Every morning like clockwork. The birds' newest past-time, Window Wars. I wanted to relate this story to you, because by god, it's hilarious, but I keep thinking there must be a law in it somewhere. You know, it kind of reminds me of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

These poor, misguided birds are long on courage but way short on wisdom. On and on, they bang they're heads and flap their wings against a window that will never open for them. How many of us do the same thing every day, in our personal and professional lives? Maybe, right now, we should all take a minute to reflect on all the things & people we are incessantly trying to change. Are any of these things truly going to change? Or, might we be better served to accept it as is and move on? Perhaps what needs to change is us, instead of the world around us. And, this is when serenity finds us.

Law #4 - Be smarter than the curious birds, stop banging your head against impenetrable force fields.

P.S. Soon, my blog will be changing a bit. I accepted an invitation to serve with the Peace Corps in Zambia for 2 years, leaving Feb. 14. I'll be fiddling with the template and background, and I anticipate entitling it, "The Paddle Lays Down the Law in Zambia." If anyone has any suggestions for a more clever title along those lines, please feel free to share!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Little Gestures

 I dedicate this post to Miss Mac, one of my dearest friends in the world. It's the late birthday installment.

Before I get into my sermon, watch this video:

I love this dude. Did you see all those frowns magically turn upside down? Good vibes were spread through the simple gesture of a random high five. Everyday, these people ride the subway together, ignoring each other, lost in their own worries and thoughts. Lost in themselves. For this brief moment, a connection was made with a crazy guy handing out high fives and camaraderie was built amongst the crowd as they laughed over a random event. Life is made of these moments, where happiness is transmitted through little gestures. Those little gestures multiply down the line. Instead of going to work sour and grumpy, many of these people likely carried their smiles with them, handing out a little random love to other people as they continued on with their day.

Not long ago, I posted this message on Miss Mac's Facebook wall, "You are soooooo beautiful!!!" I got this comment back in response, "I'm waiting for the birthday installment of Paddle's Laws. You could always write about the impeccable timing of telling one of your best buds that she's beautiful. Cuz I kinda need that today. :)" I don't know why I posted that comment. Completely random, very little thought went into it other than, I thought of Kari, thought she was beautiful, thought she'd like to know I'd thought of her. So, I told her and a bit of happiness was spread down the line. Her response reminded me of the importance of these small gestures that so often get overlooked by the overwhelming worries of life.

Little gestures are free; they take seconds to hand out; but their returns are exponentially bigger than the effort put into distributing them around to friends, family, colleagues or anyone, even if you've never met them in your life. I challenge you to adopt the habit of a daily little gesture. Make life count!

Law #3 - Don't forget the little gestures, happiness is made of them!

I'd like to give a shout-out to my friends over at The Mindfulest. I found the high five guy on their blog. I love their podcast, check them out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dr. Gramling

I've been wanting to write this story down for a few weeks. Today's the day. Just before Labor Day, my grandfather (a.k.a Pop-Pop) fell sick and ended up having an emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder. To ease your mind, yes, he is alive and well and recovering nicely for an 83 year old man. He's spent his recovery period in a Golden LivingCenter. An assisted living facility for seniors recovering from surgery or illness. It's something in between a hospital and a retirement home. During his stay, my grandfather had a roommate who came in on the same day. This post is dedicated to him.

Dr. Gramling was his name. In his younger years, he was the head of radiology at South Fulton Medical Center. Now, he's stuck, recovering from a stroke, in the Golden LivingCenter. The morning of Labor Day, I rode with my father to visit Pop-Pop. As I entered his room, I glanced over at Dr. Gramling and caught his eye. In a demanding, uncompromising tone, he hollered, "Orange juice! 2! I want orange juice! 2!" At first, I was thoroughly confused. I thought this crazy old man was just saying hello to me. Maybe "orange juice!" is the new way to say "hi, how ya doin'?!" Then, it hit me. Duh! This dude thinks I'm part of the nursing staff and he wants me to bring him 2 orange juices. I relayed the message to my dad, and he headed down the hall to alert the nursing staff.

Not long after this incident, one of the male nurses came to visit Dr. Gramling. He immediately demanded two orange juices from the nurse and refused to cooperate in any fashion until he received them. I was completely amused by the power struggle between the two. The nurse trying to figure out the best strategy to coax the patient to cooperate but failing miserably as Dr. Gramling became more annoyed and incensed that his requests were not being respected. A physician's assistant was the next victim. She tried her damndest to keep an even tone and be kind while Dr. Gramling demanded orange juice and accused her of being mean and trying to kill him. Ha! Poor woman. She said, "But, you're being mean to us!" Then, she made the ghastly mistake of calling him, "Mr. Gramling." Oh God, any respect she may have earned from the good doctor immediatly flew out the window.

"It's DR. Gramling. Are YOU a doctor?!?"

At this point, I wanted to laugh out load, but I didn't think that was the appropriate response at the time. Here's the thing. The P.A. was apologetic, but her apology wasn't sincere. Her pride was hurt by the thrashing she was receiving, and she was losing her patience. I felt for her. All she wanted to do was make this man better, and he was being immensely difficult. However, I, also, felt for Dr. Gramling. Here was a man, who for the majority of his life gave the orders. He was an authority, and people jumped to action when he barked. As a stroke victim and an 88-year old patient, this identity was slipping away, ignored orange juice demand by ignored orange juice demand. That's a scary, scary place to be. Though I felt the pain of both P.A. and patient, I felt that in this instance the nursing staff needed to swallow their pride and turn eyes of compassion on this dying man. Here was a teacher (and I suspect that many of their patients fit this role) sent to challenge them and make them adapt and respond to him in way that would comfort him as opposed to incense him. What would make this man respect them enough to relinquish control and let them do their job properly? I don't know the answer to this question. I hope that, by now, someone in the facility has figured out the answer. With that, I give you....

Law #2 - Do not dismiss the Dr. Gramlings in your life. Your worst enemy may just be your greatest teacher.

Booyah! More words of wisdom from the Paddle!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beautiful Surprise

Welcome to my blog! For my inaugural post, I want to share something beautiful that I discovered outside of my house last week. I was rushing to my car, late for work as usual, when I happened to glance over at my garden. Usually this time of the year, I look at it with disdain and even a little stress. It's overgrown with weeds and to get it into any shape to plant will require at least a day's worth of hard, sweaty work. I'd recently noticed some viney weeds that had grown up my plastic deer fencing, starting to weigh it down. I know this weed. I always rip it out of the ground before it has a chance to make it to its current stage of maturity. As luck would have it, I've been pre-occupied with other aspects of my life for months now. I let the garden go back in June. On this particular morning, this is what I discovered:

Morning glories! Everywhere! They've even grown up into a tree next to the garden and are spreading their glory from 10 feet high. When I saw them, I just froze in mid-step and stared and wondered at their sudden appearance into my world. I had no idea that this prolific vine I'd been destroying for the past two years could produce such artistry. I walked to my garden and observed all the weeds in it from a whole new perspective. Sunshine yellow butterflies flitted from flower to flower. Bumblebees climbed deep into the trumpets slurping out nectar. Then, I looked into the garden full of weeds and saw life, so much life. Perhaps I didn't love the weeds, but countless insects found a home in the plants I cursed and despised. What an enlightening moment! 

This leads me to my first law. These laws will be in no particular order. In fact, I'd say they will just randomly fly from my head depending on what story I feel like telling at the moment. Despite their randomness, they will always be words of wisdom and worth heeding. So, without further ado...

Law #1 - Practice the art of letting go, for it may yield beautiful surprises.

HA! Now that's the kind of shit they should write on fortune cookies!