Tuesday, May 14, 2013

See the People

Okay... so here's another post that has nothing to do with cake, or cookies, or sugar, or anything edible for that matter.  It also has nothing to do with my dad.  It's just something that has been on my mind for some time and that is the issue of gun control... but really, it's not about gun control at all.

The Democrats vs. the Republicans.... Liberals vs. Conservatives... who's right?  In my opinion, Nobody has it right.  We are so focused on guns... who has them, who can get them, what kind they have, how many guns they have, how many rounds they will fire, etc.  Do I think we should do background checks on anyone purchasing a gun?  Absolutely... I think it's a good idea to know who owns what.  It seems logical.

Will background checks and further restrictions on guns affect random shootings and mass murders?  Would it have prevented the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook?  I seriously doubt it.

Everyone is so focused on the guns... the weapons... how easily they are purchased.  But what I don't understand is why no one talking about WHY these shootings are occurring?  I have a theory about that... but I'm not sure I have a solution.  At least not one that can be legislated.

Basically, I think our society is screwed up, backwards, and places emphasis and the spotlight on all the wrong things.  We put such a premium on celebrity, beauty, fame and fortune.  If you're beautiful and on television, you are revered and idolized in our society.  The same goes for professional athletes.

And all of these horrific acts of violence?  They get the attention of the media... the perpetrators are "glorified" on television and on the internet.  Everyone has an opinion and everyone talks about them.  They are famous.... they are celebrities.

In our society of beauty, perfection, notoriety, and celebrity, it seems that THAT is what everyone strives for and measures their own personal worth by.  Of course, everyone can't be famous, but do we all want to be perfectly beautiful? (which, by the way, I think most of us are... but not in the way the media and social networking defines it).

I think all any of us want is to be seen and heard.  To feel like we matter... like we make a difference in someone's life.  How many of these violent offenders were invisible to us?  To their classmates, co-workers, family and friends?  Did they go through everyday feeling like they didn't matter... like they were somehow flawed and not good enough for, I don't know... anything or anyone?

I don't know.  I'm certainly not trying to say that we should have empathy or sympathy for them after the selfish, destructive, and altogether horrific acts they committed.  But what about before that?  Did anyone see them?  Did anyone interact with them?  Did anyone look them in the eye and ask "how are you?" and really want to hear their answer?

We live in a fast paced, superficial and shallow world, for the most part.  Most of us are lucky enough to have family and friends who see us and acknowledge us.  Some, however, aren't so lucky.  How easy is it to feel completely invisible and insignificant in today's society?  I work from home... if I didn't have kids in school, I'm not sure how much interaction I would have with people on a regular basis.  I need that interaction... that acknowledgement... that realization that people know I am here... that I count... that I matter.  We all need that.

We try not to look at the people on the corner with their signs asking for help or food.  We tell ourselves they are lazy or just con-men.  That could never be us.  But could it?  If I didn't have family and friends, how easily could that be me?  I don't know... I don't want to know.  I'm grateful that it's not a fate that seems one stroke of bad luck away.

What about the kid in school who's awkward... who doesn't quite fit in?  Who doesn't have the social skill set to maintain friendships or maybe even conversations for that matter.  How do we perceive and treat them?  How we feel about ourselves largely depends on how we view others.  No one wants to be that person ignored, whispered about or made fun of.  I think those misfits and outcasts scare us... they scare us because we desperately fear being one of them.  Anything to feel superior and rationalize why that would never be us.

We are all born with infinite possibilities.  But genetic limitations and life situations slowly, one by one, take away options for success... options to thrive.  Without parents to encourage us... financial opportunity to take advantage of sports or the arts... without teachers invested in us as individuals.  Where we live, who the people are that surround us in life, opportunities, or lack thereof, all shape who we become.

Hurtful words, neglect or abuse of our physical body or, even worse, neglect or abuse of our soul and spirit, all shape who we become.  The kind of person we will ultimately grow into being.

Are we so concerned with ourselves that we fail to see those around us?  Those in need of acknowledgement, understanding and acceptance?  I think we all fail to recognize the power and value of kindness... be it in act or words... a little kindness goes a long way.  Unfortunately, I think a small amount of hurtful words or actions can go even farther.

So while you're out and about today... living your everyday, vanilla, "normal" life... take a look around you and "see" the people you encounter.  You have no idea who is struggling with what... how deep their pain or scars might run... you don't know if just a kind word or gesture from you might just turn their day around.... it might open a window into the possibility that they are not alone... that they matter... that they are seen.

I try to see the world, and people, through my daughter's beautiful eyes :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Story Behind the Cake - Jimbo

Every cake has a story, really.  I mean, it was someone's birthday... they really, really like chocolate, or she loves anything pink and girly.... There's a reason... a story... about why a cake was made and why it looks and tastes the way it does.

But some cakes have a bigger story.... an amazing story... a story that needs to be shared much more  than the cake.  This is one of those stories.

Brenda and Jimbo... friends of mine for years from karaoke (yes... karaoke ;).... a table I always felt welcome to join anytime I ventured out into the world of karaoke at local venues here in Austin, TX.  There is a small group of people I know from this particular niche.  And each one of them is very special to me, and each for different reasons.

Brenda and Jimbo are that couple that is always smiling... always enjoying their surroundings, each other, and just life in general.  They are people that instantly bring a smile to your face when you run into them.  Always positive, kind, and kind of kooky fun.

So...to the story... Back in March of 2008, Jim went on a routine business trip to China.  The trip was supposed to last 7 days.  While there, he became ill.... gravely ill.  Apparently he had a blood clot in his legs that traveled to his lungs.  The situation went from bad to worse very quickly.  He was put into a drug induced coma and given less than a 50% chance of recovering enough to even make the  trip back home.  Originally, he was in Shanghai and was later transported by air to Hong Kong.  He was on a ventilator, had a tracheotomy, and was unconscious for most  of his ordeal.  His 7 day business trip turned into a 7 WEEK nightmare.

Can you Imagine Going Through This in a Foreign Country?

Prayers for Jimbo Were Being Lifted Up like Nobody's Business

Brenda would give us updates online as to his condition.  Many of his friends, myself included, added them to our prayer lists at church.  Each time Brenda posted, I was so afraid I was going to read "he's gone..."  I prayed really hard for them both and very honestly, often my prayer was just that he be able to travel home with her.  Recovery seemed like such a long shot.  I just wanted him to make it home and be allowed to pass here with family and friends.   I could not bear the thought of Brenda traveling back from China escorting a coffin.  And the outlook was so bleak, I was terrified this was going to be the case.

Initially, the reports and updates went from bad to worse to nearly impossible to imagine.  The odds of a recovery seemed about as possible as my becoming a prima ballerina... each time I saw an update about Jim, my breath would catch just a bit, wondering if this was the day.... the day the battle was over.

Amazingly... A M A Z I N G L Y, Jim slowly started to improve.  He was awake... he was off the ventilator... he was sitting up... he was eating... communicating... talking....

I was amazed at God's grace in this entire situation.  The strength of Jim and Brenda... the overwhelming support from family and friends... the incredible and wonderful prayers that lifted them both up everyday.   7 weeks and 2 days after their ordeal began, Jim was headed home... alive and definitely on the road to recovery.

Just a few short weeks later, Jim was to celebrate his 50th birthday.  Brenda asked me to make the cake.... I was thrilled to be tasked with such an honor.  The photo on the cake is Jim on a snow covered mountain top after a tremendous hike.  What a fitting image to celebrate the birthday and life of a man who had overcome mountains just to survive....

I am so blessed, to this day, to call Jim and Brenda my friends.  I am honored to have had the privilege of making this cake to celebrate Jim's life.... they are amazing and wonderful people, with beautiful souls and generous hearts.  Jim continues to deal with issues related to this event.  But both he and Brenda face it head on, with a positive attitude and gratitude for each day they are given.

Thank you, Jim and Brenda!  Thank you for your most inspiring story... thank you for your gift of friendship.... thank you for being you....