#tbt — Gentle on My Mind

(Originally written 8/12/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Gal 5:22,23

Gentlenesss — to be gentle is to be considerate and kindly in disposition, according to dictionary.com. It’s a good biblical definition as well. The Greek word chrestotes – the word for gentleness – is defined as kindness and goodness. The word gentleness appears only four times in the Bible, twice in the Old Testament, and twice in the New Testament. 2 Samuel 22:36 says, “Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.” David is speaking after he has been rescued from Saul’s clutches. His song is repeated in Psalm 18:35. “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Incredible words, but what’s even more incredible is that every Christian, every child of God, can say those same words. It is God’s gentleness, His kindness, that allows all of us to come to Him, to come to the cross, ask for His forgiveness, and, more importantly, to be granted that forgiveness. The third appearance of the word is in 2 Corinthians 10:1, which says, “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:” Again, it refers to the gentleness of our Lord and Savior. But what, exactly, does it mean? How do we exhibit gentleness in our lives as proof of the Holy Spirit within us? There are a couple of excellent descriptions in the Bible. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 says, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.”So, one aspect of gentleness is to care for people as you would care for your children. 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 says, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” The servant of the Lord must not strive. To strive means to quarrel, fight, argue. So, another aspect of gentleness is not getting involved in conflict. That just means with our friends, right? Can’t we still argue with the people we don’t get along with? No. “But be gentle to all.” Even those who cause us grief. Family, co-workers, people who cut us off in traffic. We know we can’t do that on our own. We would like nothing more than to argue about everything. It is human nature to be combative, and it’s only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can allow ourselves to be gentle toward each other. So, what can I do to ensure I’m bearing fruit in this aspect? I can think twice before getting into an argument with someone. I know there will be times when conflict will be inevitable and at those times I will have to make sure I remember to do all I do in love, showing the gentleness to others that Jesus shows to me. Will it be easy? Not always. Will it be possible? Absolutely, as long as I rely on the strength of my Creator and Savior to guide my steps.

My Year in Review

So, here I am at the end of 43, about to turn 44 tomorrow. And looking back, this year has had by far some of the most interesting and unexpected turns. As the last couple of hours’ worth of sand trickle through the hourglass, I would like to take a moment to reflect on all the wonders I was able to experience.

When I wished for a fun and exciting year, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. Who knew where a simple audition for a game show would lead me? A visit to New York for the first time in almost 20 years, an appearance on national television, a perfect trip to Europe, and getting a brand new car for the first time in my life! Not to mention this was also the year that I graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree and gave the valedictorian speech, That alone would be enough to make anyone’s year. But that’s only the surface of my life.

It had been less than a year before that my wife had passed when I hit my 43rd birthday, and the last thing I wanted to do was anything. I was mad at the world for continuing to carry on as if nothing happened. I was mad at myself for not doing more to prevent my wife’s death (not that there really was anything I could have done), and, I hate to admit it, mad at God for taking her away and leaving me alone again. When my birthday was approaching, I knew I needed to move forward or I would never move at all, and so I forced myself, one step at a time, to take a step out of that box, or that box would become my coffin. And so, I took a step. And another step. And I began to see the sun again. I began to live again. I still missed, and still miss, Heather terribly, but knowing her, the last thing she’d want me to do is wallow in misery and self-pity. I know she’d be happy for the joys in my life and it would have been so good to share those with her. But I’ll have plenty of time to tell her all about it when I see her again in heaven.

One major change this year is my finally moving closer to God again. I don’t know why He does the things He does, but it’s enough for me to know that HE knows why He does the things He does. I realize that, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not all about me, and one goal for my 44th year is to get more involved with helping others, volunteering where I can. I’ve gotten back into reading my Bible and praying and I am finally ready to get back to church.

I intended to make the theme of this coming year “Dreams Come True.” Last week, a dream I’d been waiting on for eighteen years seemed to finally come true. Saturday, I followed a tradition and went to the Disney Magic Kingdom. I was supposed to go with my best friend for lunch, but he fell ill, so it was just me. I got my birthday button and strolled down Main Street. A barbershop quartet started singing, “Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream.” I stayed and listened to that song, thinking he had indeed brought me that dream. As I headed toward the Cinderella castle, I saw the characters were performing. I get to the castle in time to hear Mickey shout, “Dreams come true!” Then the princes and princesses came out and Princess Aurora (who I’ve taken pictures with – twice!) sang, “I walked with you once upon a dream.” Somebody was trying to tell me something!

I told my friend this and he pooh-poohed (pun intended) the idea, saying it’s Disney, what else would I expect but stuff about dreams? The point I made to him was that I spent all of twenty minutes there. If I had shown up later, I would have only heard the quartet sing Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, and the characters at the castle would have been singing about being pirates. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I still believe that my theme should be “Dreams Come True”.

Ironically enough, I found out today that the eighteen-year long dream turned out to be just a dream, after all, so the day before my birthday, it seems that my theme is already falling apart. But then I realized that dream was shattered before my birthday in order to make room for the dreams that WILL come true! So, hang on to your hats, true believers, and prepare for Jax out of the Box: Year Two – Living the Dream!

Europe Epilogue

Transcribing my journal notes helped me to relive the most amazing trip I ever had, but there is so much that I didn’t cover in my notes. I was worried that taking the trip in early March would mean cold weather, but, except for the aforementioned half-hour of rain in Barcelona, the weather during the rest of the trip was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. The days were sunny, except for my last day in Paris, when I was heading home. The skies were cloudy and the day was gray, almost as if Europe was sad to see me go.

My Personal Paella!
My Personal Paella!

The food during my trip was excellent. Barcelona, a seacoast town, prides itself on its seafood, which I don’t care for. I did eat fast food (McDonald’s and Burger King) for a lot of my meals. But, just before I went into La Sagrada Familia, I stopped at a restaurant around the corner and I asked the proprietor where I could go to get a paella that did NOT have shrimp or some other disgusting sea creature in it. He had me hold on while he went to speak with the chef, who then proceeded to go out of her way to make a custom chicken paella just for me. It was delicious! And they were so friendly and accommodating. As I mentioned in my journal, I did have the pizza and gelato in Rome. You can purchase the pizza by the pound. You tell them how much you want of the pie, they cut it, weigh it, and charge you accordingly. And every bite was such a delight. And the gelato…my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. In France, at the creperie, I managed to enjoy both a sweet and a savory crepe. I also got to sample a delicious cider with quite a kick. Even with so many wonderful culinary memories, I think the one that stands out is when I had descended from the Eiffel Tower and was waiting for my tour boat to arrive. I got a hot dog from a vendor, but this was no ordinary hot dog. Two franks in a hoagie roll, a generous sprinkling of cheese, and then the whole thing was pressed. I sat on the bank of the Seine, facing the Eiffel Tower, and eating the most delicious hot dog I’d ever had.

The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps

Stairs were a big factor in my entire trip, and reading back through my journals, I’m surprised I didn’t mention it more. My hostel in Barcelona was on the fourth floor, a little piece of information they really should include online. But, of course, most of the occupants of hostels are young, energetic people, and not older, out of shape individuals like myself. I remember the first day, climbing those stairs and thinking I didn’t really want to go anywhere outside because that would mean climbing the stairs again when I returned. But I braved those stairs many, many times in my days there. By the end of my stay, I was actually able to take the stairs with minimal complaints. Stairs also factored in Rome. When I visited the Spanish Steps, I had to climb them, of course. And, as I mentioned, I climbed all the way up to the second floor of the Eiffel tower, the equivalent of 46 stories. I know that, if it hadn’t been for the fourth floor hostel in Barcelona, I would not have been in any shape to try the stairs at the Eiffel tower a few days later. Just another example of how everything happens for a reason.

The Beehive - A Honey of a Place
The Beehive – A Honey of a Place

Speaking of the hostel, these are the places I stayed at and would highly recommend:

Barcelona – http://www.pensionmariluz.com/site/
Rome – http://www.the-beehive.com/
Paris – http://www.novotel.com/gb/hotel-5060-novotel-paris-gare-montparnasse/index.shtml

Both hostels in Barcelona and Rome were inexpensive and clean. I did splurge in Paris with the Montparnasse, but it really was worth it.

There are so many other things, so many other memories. The kissing couple at the Trevi Fountain. The cats at the Coliseum. The awe of seeing the Mona Lisa in person. The countless sights, sounds and smells that, together, combined to form the perfect trip. And I can say that with no hyperbole. And I can’t wait for my next visit, because, good Lord willing, there will be a next visit.

On a final note, the last leg of my trip continued to be both nerve-wracking and fortuitous. When last we left our gutsy globetrotter, he had just gotten through the maze of the Charles de Gaulle Airport and had gotten himself a first-class seat on the way back to Atlanta. The story continues…

When I landed in Atlanta, I found out that my standby ticket had not been validated for the leg from Atlanta to Orlando, which meant I needed to speak to a ticket attendant in order to put myself on the standby list. Because our flight had been delayed, I barely had enough time to make it to the ticket counter. Once there, I see there are already more people on the standby list than there are seats available, meaning I may have to find alternative means of getting home. A later flight, or even possibly a car rental to drive home. While I’m talking with the ticket agent, I see a group of four who are also waiting to get on the plane, and, when three seats open up, the younger woman volunteers to stay behind and catch another flight. This leaves just two of us at this point on the list. A minute or so later, her name is called and she manages to get on the plane. And then there is one – me. As I’m on the phone discussing options with a friend, my name is called. I have managed to get the last empty seat on the plane. Soon enough, I’m seated comfortably and on my way to Orlando. A perfect ending to a perfect vacation!

Paris Prattle

Paris Panorama
Paris Panorama

And now, the last stop on our trip…

March 9, 2012
Midnight Paris Time

Final thoughts, final words on a trip that has been amazing, marvelous, spectacular and a host of other things. Arriving in Paris last night proved even more of a language barrier than Rome. I had a tough time trying to figure out where to go. Of course, part of that is my fault for not getting the Paris travel guide. The series served me well in Barcelona and Rome. But I knew Ali would be here and she would serve as my guide. Assuming I ever found her hotel. Which I finally did.
Once we got ready, we had a spectacular night on the town. We had crepes, saw the Eiffel Tower light up, saw L’Arc de Triomphe, then went to the Crazy Horse to watch a burlesque show, as well as a magic show by Rocco. Champagne flowed freely and the night was perfect.

L'Arc de Triomphe
L’Arc de Triomphe

I decided to pay more than I had for my last two hotels in order to stay another night at the Novotel Montparnasse. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it.
Then today, the touring started. The Eiffel Tower. The Seine on a boat cruise. The fountain at St. Michel. The Church of Notre Dame. The Louvre. L’Arc de Triomphe. Then back to the creperie I ate at last night. This time I shared a booth with four women. They were very friendly. One is from Connecticut, in Paris on business. I gave her my name. She said she’d look me up when she went to Boynton Beach.
As long as the subject of women is up, I had a great conversation on the boat cruise with the guide. She’s Italian and her name is Guiseppina, Italian for Josephine. And she was very beautiful. I do feel that, between getting fitter – I climbed 670 steps to the second story of the Eiffel Tower! – and feeling more confident about the things I can accomplish, I feel more self-confident and more self-assured. No more believing I deserve second-class anything. I will not settle.

The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower

I am a little sad that this incredible journey is reaching its conclusion, but I am also happy to be going home, close to those I love and who love me. It will be strange coming back to reality, because this entire week has not felt at all real. I will always treasure this opportunity I was given and the perfect weather and timing and everything. I am grateful I got to experience this. I guess this may be my last European journal entry. If so, then adios, arrividerci and au revoir!

March 10, 2012
1:05PM Paris Time

So, it turns out there will be one more European entry into the journal. Today has been the first real nerve-wracking day of my entire vacation. I went out early to get souvenirs, little realizing how long it would take. I didn’t get back to the hotel until after 10AM, later than I’d hoped. Then I faced a looooong train ride to the airport, arriving around 11:30. The the next speed bump. It seemed like I needed another ticket to get OUT of the subway. Fortunately, I found an exit that was open and I walked out, figuring if someone said something I’d be able to explain. Then the next speed bump – the check-in. I started at Area 3, and the lady there told me I needed Area 7. I get to Area 7 and the lady there says I need to go to Area 2, which was right next to Area 3. I get in line and then the agent sends me to the Delta desk to get my buddy pass information. Then it’s back in line. The lady talking to the agent I need to see again is talking…and talking…and talking. I start getting a little frustrated, but I still manage to smile when I get to the desk. I finally get my boarding pass, but I’m still standby, so I’m not out of the woods yet.
I go to Gate 37 for my 1:40 flight. A couple of minutes after I sit, ready to enjoy my coffee and raspberry croissant, they announce the flight has been changed to Gate 41 and 2PM. Finally, after a few more minutes of waiting, a seat assignment – 1C! That’s right, I’m in the front row, first class, baby! See you in Atlanta. Or Orlando. Au revoir!

Up next – Final Thoughts on the European Adventure

Barcelona Babble

It’s been a while since I posted, and I am going to try to make the hiatuses (hiaiti?) less frequent. I promised I would blog about my European trip, so, without further ado, here are the journal entries I wrote during my trip. First stop – Barcelona!

March 2, 2012
12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time

I’m sitting on the plane just minutes from takeoff on the first leg of my international trip. Who could have imagined that an impulsive decision to try out for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” seven months ago would have resulted in my traveling to Europe today? Not me, that’s for sure. I find it humorous and appropriate that my first leg, to JFK, is almost an echo of the trip that got me to the show, although that one was to LaGuardia and not JFK. I am nervous, thrilled, and scared all at the same time. I love to travel. It’s something I got from my dad, probably both genetically and through example. My father was a tour guide when I was growing up, so I got to see a lot of places. Virginia, Washington, D. C., Canada, Dominican Republic. Once I was old enough to travel on my own, I did. I’ve lived in Arizona, Texas, and Florida, and I’ve traveled almost every state on the Eastern coast, and all the states on the Southern border. I also have been to Illinois, South Dakota, and Minnesota. In other words, I’ve traveled a LOT. But this is a completely different experience. This is a whole new country. A whole new continent! Talk about loving outside the box. I can’t wait to see what this adventure holds for me.

March 3, 2012
7:00AM Eastern Standard Time – 1:00PM Barcelona Time

Here I am, in a completely different continent. I am still in amazement that I’m actually here.
The flight from Orlando to JFK was uneventful, but the flight from JFK was a different matter. I knew it was going to be a good flight when I got a first class seat. Then when a beautiful woman took the seat next to me, I really knew this would be a good flight. We had a great time talking throughout the flight. The dinner was okay, but nothing spectacular. The seat was comfortable, and I did get some rest on the way here. But there’s one moment that is quite vivid and will probably not be forgotten for a long time. At one point during the night, I looked out the window, and the sky was full of stars. It felt like we were in space. The beauty of that moment is indescribable.
After landing, I grabbed a bus to Barcelona, and then I wandered around while I waited for my room to be ready. Then I checked in, showered, and am now ready to head back out there!

March 4, 2012
12:10PM Barcelona Time

My first full day in Barcelona was one of mixed emotions. It was, and is, amazing being in another country, heck, another continent, and the sights are fantastic. On the flip side of the coin, though, is a deep, overwhelming sense of loneliness. I am thousands of miles away from everyone I care about, and if something were to happen to me here, I would have no one to turn to. I used to consider myself a lone wolf, a wanderer with no ties to anything. After all, in 2003, I took off for Texas without knowing anyone. And that wasn’t for a visit, but to live there. This is for a week, but I guess it’s different because it feels so foreign.
I did have fun, though. I got to see the Picasso Museum. I strolled through the Parc de la Ciutadella. I got to see the Arc de Triomphe, which is funny because, in a few days, I’ll be seeing the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Another interesting tidbit is that Picasso also went to Paris after Barcelona. I wandered La Rambla last night and it reminded me of Times Square, if the buildings were older and everyone spoke Catalan. There was an energy to this city that was probably what brought NYC to mind. Performers are everywhere, street vendors hawking their wares on every corner. Like I said, this trip is one filling me with mixed emotions. I love it, but I wish I were sharing it with someone.

The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe

March 5, 2012
11:40PM Barcelona Time

It has been a jam-packed couple of days. Yesterday, I took the bus tour which took me just about everywhere. Halfway through, I stopped at Mount Tibidabo. After a tram and a funicular ride, I reached the top. Tibidabo is like Barcelona’s answer to Disney. Rides, food, even a roller coaster. The atmosphere is pure fun and the vista is breathtaking. When I left there, it started to rain, and it rained for at least a half hour, if not longer. I toughed it out on the bus and, eventually, the sun came out. After another hour or so, I got off the bus and headed back to the hotel.
After a couple of hours I headed out again, this time to see about the karaoke bar I’d seen advertised. It prove to be just as much fun as I expected. After wandering around Port Olimpic some more, I called it a day.
Today was another full day. I rode the Metro to La Sagrada Familia and all I can say is…wow. That is the place the biblical term awesome was made for. That is a beautiful, amazing piece of architecture. From there I rode the Metro again and headed for the beach. I got to touch the Mediterranean Sea, and it was cold! From there I headed back to the hotel.
I next spent an hour at a Laundromat. How utterly normal and unremarkable, doing laundry, you would think. But even that proved unique. Two girls were in there doing laundry as well, and one had a guitar. She just started playing right there. This place is so beautiful and amazing. I will miss it.
Tomorrow, I check out and fly to Rome. I will only have one full day, so I will need to make the most of it!

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia

March 6, 2012
10:00PM Barcelona Time

I am just a few hours away from flying to Rome. It’s funny how I never would have imagined being able to say that. And yet, here I am, about to hit the second of three European countries on my whirlwind tour.
Barcelona has been strange and familiar all at the same time. The architecture and the language have been the strange part, while the flow of life here reminds me so much of New York. It’s almost like my whole life had prepared me for international travel. I manage to get a pretty good sense of the area within a day or so, to the point where I went from constantly consulting the map to only having to check it occasionally. I’m sure if I had more time than one day in Rome, I’d be able to do the same. Although, that may not be so.
One advantage I have here is knowing Spanish and a smattering of French. Some signs take me a moment to decipher, because Catalan is a mixture of both languages, but more often than not, I can figure them out. I may not fare as well in Rome. While Italian and Spanish are similar, they have a lot of differences as well. We shall see shortly how I do. See you in Rome!

To be continued…

Fear Knot

It’s been about a week since I’ve returned from Europe, and I’ve got lots to talk about. But before I get into that, there’s another subject I wanted to discuss – fear.

It’s hard for me to admit this, but I’ve spent most of my life afraid. When I was younger, I was afraid of everything. I was shy – a nicer term for afraid – and had trouble talking to people, especially girls. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. I was afraid of looking like a fool. I was afraid of rejection. When I almost drowned, I became afraid of water. I wanted to be an author/artist/celebrity, but I was afraid of failing. Paradoxically, I was also afraid of succeeding. I was afraid of – and still am afraid of – snakes. Actually, most wild animals, I suppose. I was born and raised in a big city, so wilderness definitely scares me. I’d much rather face a crowded city street than a desolate forest trail. By the same token, I was raised to be afraid of getting mugged or attacked in a city environment. In short, I spent most of my life in fear. Afraid to die, and afraid to live. I built myself a comfortable box, and I stayed in it for a long time. While the box has gotten bigger as I’ve gotten more comfortable with some changes, it’s still a box. I have overcome my fear of water, even though I still can’t swim. I’ve mostly overcome my fear of talking to strangers, although I still can get a little tongue-tied around women. I’ve opened myself up to new experiences, especially since my last birthday, which is when the whole “Jax out of the Box” experiment began. But, I learned that I still have plenty I fear. The week before I was supposed to go to Europe, a part of me was hoping that plans would fall through, because the thought of going to a whole new continent was very scary. If my flight attendant friend wasn’t going to be able to get me on a flight, or if my boss wouldn’t be able to schedule my time off, well, then, at least I could say I tried to go, and things just didn’t work out. There was so much to be afraid of. What if something happened to the planes? What if I got robbed? What if I couldn’t figure out how to get around? What if I got stranded? What if I couldn’t access my money?

And yet, none of those things happened. That reminds me of the saying that F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. That is so true. We fear things that, very often, never come to pass. I’ve heard many pastors say that the Bible says “Fear not” 365 times, one for each day of the year, as a daily reminder. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, having never counted them myself. (And what about Leap Year? Are we allowed to be afraid on February 29th? In that case, I had reason to be afraid about the upcoming Europe trip!) But I do know there are plenty of times the Bible does tell us to have no fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Hebrews 13:6 states, “The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” And my favorite: “The LORD [is] my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD [is] the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) One night, when the apostles were on a boat and saw Jesus walking toward them, they thought he was a spirit and were afraid. Jesus responded, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) Peter went from fear to trust, enough trust to step out of the boat and walk on the water toward Jesus.

Once the airline tickets to Europe were purchased, though, my fear became something else. Yes, I was still nervous, but I was also beginning to look forward to the trip. A friend of a friend posted something on Facebook which I’d never heard before, but really liked. She posted that “the only difference between fear and excitement is your attitude about it.” As far as the Europe trip, that proved true. Once I changed my attitude from worrying about what can go wrong to thinking what an amazing opportunity this was going to be, the fear was gone, and it was replaced with excitement. I took a giant leap out of the box, and I got to experience so many wonders that would not have come to pass had I let my fear take over.

I know from experience how hard it is sometimes to let go of the fear. But if we never let go of that fear and step out of that boat, or that box, we may miss out on some amazing experiences. I came close to postponing, or even canceling, my travel plans, but, after the wonderful time I had, I’m glad I felt the fear and did it anyway. How about you? Is there something you might be missing out on because of fear? “Fear not.”

Freaky Friday!

Today has been a surreal day, and it’s only just begun. I was driving down I-4 this morning, making good time, when suddenly traffic came to a complete stop. There was a woman in an SUV who had obviously entered the exit ramp, because her car was facing traffic. Everyone waited while she pulled a u-turn and exited the ramp. Thankfully, no one was hurt, because that could have been a lot worse for her.

I should have known it was going to be an interesting day, considering how it started. I didn’t get to sleep until after 1AM, so I was pretty sure I would be in no shape to work out this morning, and sure enough, when my alarm went off at 5:30, I was certain I would not be going. With one eye open, I went through my ritual of checking email on my phone and discovered that someone had left a comment on one of my songs on SingSnap. It was a song by MercyMe called Move.

As you can imagine, I was starting to feel a little convicted, especially since I’d called that song “My theme song for 2012.” But not convicted enough to get out of bed. Then, the final boot to the rear came from, of all places, my Sims game on my iPad. I had closed my eyes again, torn between getting up and going back to sleep, when a small flash of light caught my attention. I opened my eyes and saw there was an alert on my iPad from the Sims game letting me know one of my Sims had woken up and “It’s time to get moving!” I’m not a believer in coincidence, or as the saying goes, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” So, I got up, and I went to work out. I’d like to say that something unexpected happened during my workout which warranted the two promptings this morning, but, while that would be what happens in the movies, in real life I just got a really good workout.

Can’t wait to see what the rest of today holds!

Health, Wealth, and Happiness

This week has been off to a good start for out-of-the-box living. I have three new experiences, and the week isn’t even half-done!

Health

On Monday, I got myself a personal trainer. This is something else I’ve never done before. I’ve joined gyms before, and I’ve tried Weight Watchers, but the problem I have is a difficulty with internal motivation. I know I have to lose weight and get fit, but DOING anything about it is a whole different thing. This trainer teaches kickboxing and the classes are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6AM. To my surprise, I got up at 5:30 on Monday with minimum complaint (which is also very out of my comfort zone!) and got quite a workout. Today, I went in and managed to twist my ankle five minutes in while I was warming up. Now, if this had happened while I was working out alone, that would have been it for me. I would have called it quits, sat on my couch, and continued to gain weight. My PT, instead, managed to help me with the ankle, and I still got a killer upper body workout. I know this, if I stick with it, will definitely pay off.

Wealth

I am now a stockholder in several companies. I’ve never before imagined myself in the stock market, yet here I am. Now the question remains whether I’ll be any good at it. But this is an experience I felt I needed to take. I’ve never really tried putting my money to work for me, and it’s a nerve-wracking decision, definitely not in my comfort zone. Whether it pays off remains to be seen.

Happiness

The third out-of-the-box experience of the week will take place today. I am applying for a passport. It seems that once I made the decision to travel, doors have opened that I would never have expected that have made the possibility of international travel a reality. As of now, I’m shooting for an early March trip to Europe. I’ve been out of the country before, but as a child, and then only to Canada and the Dominican Republic. The idea of seeing a whole other continent is mind-blowing!

So, there it is. We’re off to a great start, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this “season” holds!

Back from Hiatus

A little less than six months ago, an idea was born. I was about to celebrate my 43rd birthday, and I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone, to step out of my box, and to embrace new experiences. During the first six months, I got quite a few experiences. I tried out for several shows, and actually was on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” I got to spend a week in New York as a tourist. I got to see myself on national television. I tried new food, although that one did not go so well. I took a painting class. In short, I would say the first six months of JOOTB were quite successful, and if my life were a TV show, we would just now be done with the winter hiatus and moving into the second half of the season. Now that I have a little “funding”, the experiences should be more frequent and hopefully more ratings-worthy. Some of the things I’m hoping to accomplish include: traveling to a foreign country, learning to swim, and taking cooking, dancing, and photography classes. (not all at the same time-although that would make for quite an interesting class…) Between moving, working, and studying, I haven’t given myself any time for new experiences lately. That will soon change. By the end of this month, I will have finished packing and moving (yet again!) and will be comfortably settled for the foreseeable future. And in just five weeks, I will be graduating with a Bachelors degree, which will free up a huge chunk of my time. But I’m not waiting. The out-of-the-box experiences will begin anew as of tomorrow.
Starting tomorrow, I will be taking kickboxing classes, three times a week, at six in the morning. For those who know me and know how much I LOVE my sleep, this is extremely out of the box. I found a personal trainer who will hopefully be able to get me on the right track as far as getting fit and losing weight goes. Some of the things I would like to experience require a smaller me. For instance, skydiving and horseback riding. I’ve let myself go for too long, and it’s time to reclaim myself, body, mind and soul.
Speaking of soul, one piece of unfinished business from the first half of the “season” is my thoughts on the fruits of the Spirit. I left off with my old blog on goodness, and I have not been able to get back to that. I will finish those soon, as well.
So, to recap, JOOTB is back, with – More Action! More Adventure! More Alliteration! So, step out of that box and join me, won’t you?

Happy New Year!!

So, here we are at the end of another year and the beginning of a new one. A blank canvas to start fresh on. But before moving forward, it never hurts to look back to where you’ve been. 2011 was a year of ups and downs, happiness and sadness, triumphs and tribulations. (but isn’t every year?)
The beginning of the year started out with me saying goodbye to the place my wife and I called home for a little less than a year before the Lord called her to her eternal home. That was probably one of the toughest moves I had to make, knowing that where I would be moving, I would be alone. To add to the solitude, I found a place with no neighbors nearby, and for several months, my life was a robotic existence of work, school, television and sleep. I can admit it now, but I couldn’t admit at the time, that I was a little mad at God for taking Heather away and leaving me alone. I distanced myself from my church, because every time I went there, all it did was make me sad because Heather was no longer sitting next to me. I even took a step back from family and friends for a while. And so my life was, day after day after day…
The first ray of sunlight this year came at the end of April. One Saturday, I just woke up and decided I was going to drive down to Sanibel Island. I had recently purchased a professional digital camera and wanted to take it for an inaugural run. It was a beautiful, magical day. I got to go through a wildlife preserve and see some animals, and I got to pick up shells along the beach while I watched a beautiful sunset. Thus began my climb back out of the valley.

In May, my best friend, Rob, invited me to Pompano Beach for a week. We had a blast down there. We even managed to spend a day in Key West. I managed to get some great photos there as well.

The next few months, I started really enjoying life again, but the real change started on my birthday week. Those of you who have followed my blog know about the “Millionaire” tryouts and success, as well as the tryouts for Biggest Loser and The Voice, which were not as successful. You are also aware of the birth of Jax out of the Box, and my attempt to do more things out of the ordinary for me.
The end of the year, though, saw life head back toward the valley. I had to step away from a couple of long friendships, each for different reasons, and whether those friendships will be mended in the new year remains to be seen. As Thanksgiving and Christmas drew nearer, I felt, once again, the bitter reality of being alone. I also was blessed with the music from a Gospel choir at Disney World(!) through the holidays.
I spent a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, then spent a few days afterwards down in the valley again. Today, like last year, I once again face the prospect of seeing a new year alone. But it’s okay, because I’m not really alone. I have friends and family who love me, and most importantly, I have a Father above who loves and treasures me and wants only the best for me. So, I know this coming year is going to be amazing. I get my check from “Millionaire” sometime in the next couple of weeks. Then I can pay off some bills. I will be moving again, but this time I’m moving in to my mom’s house. That way, I can help her financially, and I won’t have to worry about my place and my things when I’m traveling. Because, this year, I WILL be traveling. I haven’t decided if it will be to Europe, Asia, or South America yet, but it will happen. And there are other out of the box experiences I’m hoping to follow through on this year – swimming lessons, scuba diving, skydiving, horseback riding, the Renaissance Fair (every year I say I’m going to go!), volunteer work, maybe another game show?
Looking back on 2011, I can honestly say I’m coming out of it in better shape than I went into it. And my hope is that I will be able to say the same about 2012 a year from now. And I hope all of you, my dear readers, also can say the same. I hope you have a wonderful, blessed, New Year’s day, and all the days following as well.