Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Aunt Vada's Eulogy

Vada Miller. Words can only begin to describe that remarkable woman we call our Mother, our Sister, our Grandmother, our Aunt, our Cousin, and our Friend. A true southern bell with old-school values, and a noteworthy seamstress with a knack for exceptional cooking and baking. A sassy sophisticated woman with an eye for fashion, Vada always wore her Sunday finest day-in and day-out complete with elegant jewelry, polished makeup, and an up to date cut and color. She always looked immaculate wherever she went, and that is perhaps one of the most noteworthy recollections people seem to make of her today aside from memories of her cornucopia of confectionary creations. I never will forget her seven-layer cake with homemade chocolate frosting, something I looked forward to whenever I knew she was making it and that the family and I famously dubbed the “Vada Cake.” As we look back on her life, we remember Vada as a woman with a great sense of pride, pride in her work and pride in her family. She valued her family above all things and always stressed the importance of working hard and pursuing an education as paramount to succeeding in life. Now as we come together in congregation to this church today, let us not mourn the death of Vada, let us not shed tears of sadness, but rather let us celebrate the life of an extraordinary hard working woman who devoted herself to serving her friends and family. We must make realization that she is now in a better place, a place without worry, without aging, without sickness, without death. A place where she can forever bathe in the glory of the Lord and the love of her friends and family who have for so long anticipated their reunion with her, for this is not an end but rather another beginning. We must accept life as it is, to cherish the beautiful memories we’ve shared, and understand that we will all be together once again some time from now. Until that day, Vada will be forever busy baking cakes for the angels. May she forever rest in peace.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Piecing Together Happiness

What makes us happy? An age old question that today is still trying to be discovered and completely understood. This past school year in college, I took an English course in the spring semester that was very writing intensive. Among the few papers we had to write, the first and probably the most intriguing to me was the one centered around actually trying to determine for ourselves what makes us happy. We read an article from online magazine, the Atlantic, actually titled What Makes Us Happy? by writer Joshua Wolf Shenk, in which he wrote about a specific Harvard case study investigating the key to happiness.

"Is there a formula--some mix of love, work, and psychological adaption--for a good life?" Shenk questioned. Perhaps amidst all the experimentation and critical thinking we are overlooking the true meaning to living happily. Maybe it isn't about trying so hard to find the secret to being happy, maybe it's more about accepting happiness for what it is -- simplicity. Sometimes the simplest things in life can be the hardest to understand. We as humans, with our inquisitive nature, always try to find complexity within simplicity. Maybe we should just take a smile for a smile, a hug for a hug, and love for love, because when it all comes down to it, they are all like intricate little puzzle pieces that each have a place within a much bigger puzzle. Once we have our pieces together, so to say, we can assemble the puzzle and admire the big picture. However, sometimes in life we may lose sight of how important each one of these "puzzle pieces" really is-- it only takes one to make the puzzle incomplete. Once we find out what we're missing, we can, with a sigh of relief, finally realize that our "puzzle" is complete and that we are finally happy.

Link to Joshua Wolf Shenk's Article:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Brain Games and Words of Wisdom

Several weeks ago I came up with the quirky idea to perform a sort of psychology experiment of my own -- on myself -- to demonstrate the brains plasticity in forming new neural connections . While it may sound confusing at a glance, it was actually quite simple and required little more than about 3 minutes of my time each day and a tooth brush. Now before we go saying, "What could you possibly do with a tooth brush?" allow me to explain...

Generally, I am a right handed person and the mere thought of brushing my teeth with my left hand at the time was utterly confusing and extremely frustrating -- I just wasn't coordinated enough. But each and every day I would take the time to brush my teeth with my left hand until I got progressively better at it -- a sign that my brain was actually "rewiring" itself in a sense, and these "wirings" became increasingly stronger the more I worked at my left handed tooth brushing. Overall, it would appear that we as people were born for self-improvement and all it takes is a bit of practice and commitment.

Before we start doubting our abilities to achieve certain things, I think it goes to show that practice really makes perfect -- I mean, after all I can easily brush my teeth now with my left hand. But whatever it is that you do, it should appear to be relatively clear that with some time and effort we can achieve much greater things in life. Maybe you want to become a better football player, all you need to do is practice. Maybe you want to become a lawyer, all you need to do is practice. Maybe you just want to be simple like me and perform your own little science experiment of your own, all it takes is practice. Whether we're playing sports or studying our butts off, it all remains evident that we're not perfect and that there is always room for improvement; that we are beings who constantly undergo change and have the ability to become better. All it takes is a little bit of practice.

The Sea of Time

What is Time,

But matted footprints upon grizzled sand,

Swept silently away by the incessant lull of the ocean’s tides,

Like the foreboding hands on a circular clock,

Time is eternal, cyclical,

Seasons come and go,

The last green leaf falls in Autumn,

Shriveling, wrinkling, ravaged by Time,

The once living leaf passes to dust,

Taken up by the gentle embrace of singing winds,

And blown into memory,

For like matted footprints upon grizzled sand,

We succumb to the vast Sea of Time,

Who’s unremitting tides,

Are dictated by the ominous glow of Eternity’s silver moon.

Michael Althouse

Copyright ©2009 Michael Althouse

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Bite Into Remembrance

The York Peppermint Patty, a classic confectionary concoction of wonderfully blissful dark chocolate and a creamy refreshing mint center --without a doubt it remains a favorite in the hearts, or rather, the stomachs of so many people around the world... but is there more to it than just meets the tongue?

Recently, my mom had bought me a Peppermint Patty of my own after I had mentioned how I hadn't had one for quite some time (we're talking years here). I came to find it neatly placed on my computer desk in its shiny silver wrapper, and after thanking her for being so thoughtful, proceeded to eating it, or rather, savoring it... and that I did. However, with every bite my mind became flooded with memories and I became less focused on what is and more focused on what was. It was overwhelming at first yet completely explainable in as little as two words: Sense Memory.

Sense memory is the interaction between senses and memory in which stimuli are received via the senses and evoke memories stored within an individual's brain. For example, you're at a bake sale and you smell someone's freshly baked chocolate chip cookies at one of the baked goods stands, the scent of the cookies then evoke memories of when you used to go over your grand-mom's house as a child and bake chocolate chip cookies of your own with her.

For me, it wasn't about baking chocolate chip cookies with my grand-mom as a kid, but rather how something as simple as eating a Peppermint Patty could bring back so many memories I had of my grand father as a kid. The Peppermint Patty which remained a favorite of his, next to butter creams, evoked memories I held dear to me as a child and even now. From the trips to the local convenience stores for slushees and candy, to him bringing all the grandchildren home chicken fingers from our favorite place, to all the times he'd take the family out to dinner on the house, it was like a huge tidal wave of emotions that finally culminated to its peak and crashed down on me. It reminded me of how much he meant to not only myself but the rest of my family, how much he did for us during his lifetime... and how much he's missed.

In the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's easy to forget to count our blessings and remember the little things. It's important to take the time to pause that busy lifestyle of ours for just a few moments, and to be grateful for and remember everything we have and everyone we love and hold dear to our hearts, because with a blink of an eye it can all be gone. After my little Peppermint Patty experience today, I took the time to remember my grand father and give thanks to him and all he has done for those around him and for those that admired him dearly and proudly looked up to him -- one being myself.

So what I ask in turn is that, who-so-ever reads this blog post think about what you have to be thankful for, and feel free to share your own personal story (if you have one) of how something you experienced evoked memories of your own.