Monday, December 21, 2009

My Early Muppet Christmas Present & a Link to My Past


Shortly after my wife and I first started dating, she made a startling observation about me. At least it was startling to me. Everyone else I asked completely agreed with Carly. She said that I really latch on to past experiences that give me security. Actually, what she just said was "You really liked certain parts of being a child, didn't you?" Yes......Yes, I did. And anyone who knows me sees that things haven't changed in my thirty years on this planet. Whether we're talking about pro wrestling, cartoons, movies, or video games, I've always had this driving desire for closure and comfort.

One thing from my childhood that I've always coveted are The Muppets. Those simple, furry, foam-rubber puppets always brought a smile to my face through their humor, music and message. I can't tell you how many times our family watched The Muppet Show while we did manual CPT in the early eighties. The VHS tapes were worn to the brink of snapping and the audio sounded like a fast food drive-thru box, but we still watched, laughed and sang along while Mom and Dad pounded to the beat of "Mahna Mahna Song" (AKA - "Lullaby of Birdland" for all you Muppet aficionados).





You see, I love Jim Henson's vision for the world. Full of goodness and giving, laughter and positivity. It's how I try to live my life and I attribute part of that to what I learned from his imagination. I believe it was fate that Jim Henson's Fantastic World was appearing at the EMP Museum in Seattle, WA at the same time I was participating in The Breathe Music Event. I swear, Angie had a hand in this phenomenal coincidence! Part of the exhibit involved playing with Muppets and karaoking (is that a word? It is now!) to one of several classic Muppet songs. I was the only one over 12 years old playing in the exhibit. When Carly saw the pictures from the trip, she jokingly said I looked happier there than I did I on our wedding day! Not true, but it was in the top five for sure! Until this Christmas...

I was browsing on YouTube during my therapy and happened across some funny posts people made with their very own Muppet Whatnot puppets! I had seen these things last year, but there have clearly been some upgrades to them since then. So I told my sweet wife that this is what I wanted for Christmas. "Really? Do you really need a Muppet?" she sweetly replied. I explained that I wanted to use my Muppet to help people - particularly kids - learn about CF on my YouTube site. I also let her know that I was going to use any Christmas money received to buy one anyways. She just laughed at me and said I would have to wait and see. Sure enough, the next morning I had a gift card in my email for my very own Muppet Whatnot from my beautiful wife. I ran into the bedroom and asked her why she didn't wait until Christmas. Her reply:

"You were so excited, I couldn't wait. Plus, there was no option to hold the online gift card until Christmas. So you just got very lucky, Mister."

I've got news for you, sweetie. I was lucky the day I met you. Sorry to be so mushy, but it is the truth. Love you, Carly.

So here is my new Muppet Whatnot, Moganko! It is going to help me have some fun on this blog and on my new YouTube site : "Welcome To Joshland". Our first assignment was to come up with a theme song and make a video for it. Hope you all enjoy it and will return often to have fun and learn from me and my little mascot:



You can check out more posts as they are created on the YouTube widget below all my blog posts, or go to the link: http://www.youtube.com/user/welcometojoshland

Here's wishing all my readers Happy Holidays. I hope that even if you are a grown up, you'll never forget to be a kid. It's something we should all do every single day of the year.

Peaceful Holidays and Muppet Things,

Josh

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Letter To My Sister


Hello Angie,

I don't feel like writing much today. Perhaps, another time I will tell a story about you with more joy and vitality. Right now, I am hurting so much that the words I write are making me well up with tears. You have been gone for 16 years....the same amount of time that you were on this earth fighting CF. It's still blows my mind that you are gone. You and I need to remind our friends and family with sibilings to love each other as much as they drive each other crazy, tell each other how much they care, and forgive what they swore they wouldn't. It makes everything much more peaceful when one sibling is gone.

You fell in love with "River of Dreams" by Billy Joel right around the time you passed. It 's full of hope, love, and joy for tomorrow...just like you. I was lucky enough to hear this live in concert with our "brother" Chad. We got the tickets last minute from a friend. I think it was you taking a moment to say hi.



Lots of love sweet sister. I miss you so much. You are my guardian angel.


Peaceful and Lonely Brother Things,

Josh

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Hexagon Claus


I was a child when it first appeared at our house. Both my mother and my sister were extremely allergic to pine trees, so we never had a live Christmas tree growing up. Our tree came in a box. Its limbs were hooked one at a time onto a pole and each branch was individually bent upward for maximum hanging ability. It was like having an enormous green twisty tie to manipulate for a month out of the year. Somewhere along the way, we were gifted a scented ornament to counteract the unpleasant aroma of plastic and that "new car smell" that is a part of owning a fake tree. I named the ornament the Hexagon Claus because of its shape and pictures of Santa and Mrs. Claus donning their respective sides.

(I know, I know...My wife actually counted the sides and suggested I rename it the Octagon Claus. I'll admit right now I am bad at math, but give me a break. I was a little kid and never took the time in 30 years to notice my mistake. And I refuse to change the name now for nostalgia's sake!)

Hexagon Claus smelled of cinnamon and pine, but not the real kind...more of the air freshener variety. The scent was overwhelming and filled our entire house with what eventually would become the smell of Christmas for me and THE ornament to hang on the tree. My sister and I would rampage through boxes, casting aside far more expensive decorations in search of it. It's possible that this ornament may have caused my sister and I to engage in verbal and physical violence toward one another, but those allegations are unfounded at this time. I have no comment on the matter other than it was all part of the Christmas tradition.

Unfortunately as I got older, Christmas had lost it's appeal to me. So many bad things had happened in my life right around Christmas that I lost the spirit and joy of the holidays. My parents were no longer together on the couch opening presents with us or staying up until the wee hours of the morning making sure Santa hadn't forgotten anything on our list. I lost my sister and grandmother during the holidays in 1993. The winter always wore me down emotionally and physically. It's not like I didn't have a lot of love around me during the holidays. My family and friends were incredible. There was just a piece of my heart missing and the only thing that really gave me a morsel of that joy was a little smelly ornament. Every time I opened that box of decorations that smell would bring me back to my happy childhood. Back to simpler times where the weight of the world was not bearing down upon my shoulders. I'd pinch the soft cloth ornament between my thumb and finger like a baby with it's blanket as I wished for the day I would learn to like Christmas again.

It wasn't until a few years ago that my thoughts started to turn. My mother called asking me to swing by and pick up a few things from the house that she found for me. My wife and I had purchased our first home the past summer, so naturally, everyone had things to donate to us. I wasn't terribly excited by the idea of another box load of nic nacs, but I went over anyways. When I arrived, Mom sat me down and handed me a medium sized red box. “Take your favorite ornaments. You have your own home to decorate now.” I opened the box and sure enough there were all of my favorite ornaments from my childhood including the Hexagon Claus. Its aroma was still so strong that the smell managed to embed itself deep within the fibers of most of the old decorations. For the first time in years I was excited about Christmas! I could make new memories with my wife in our own house with a piece of my childhood. I kissed my mother on the cheek and dashed home to see my wife.

I burst through the door like...well...like a little boy at Christmas, calling for Carly to show her our new decorations. She smiled as I placed the Hexagon Claus on our new tree. Carly had been trying to bring me out of my Christmas funk for our entire relationship, so this newly found yuletide spirit thrilled her! Her family had their own tradition of tying roses to the tree, so we started doing that as well. We tied two white roses: One for my sister and the other for her mother, who we lost a few years ago. All of the red roses represent those we love who are here and who are no longer with us. We've even started using a live tree with the knowledge that if it ever starts to give me problems breathing we'll go back to the ol' "twisty tie" tree. Three seasons and no problems. Hooray!

To this day I still struggle to get pumped up for Christmas. I get lost in the hoopla that is the holiday season just like everyone else. "What do I get this person? I want this...I want that...." It's only after I find my little smelly ornament that the season's reason fills my house and I remember what this holiday is all about. It's about believing that good things can happen for myself and others. It's about taking moments to remember the past, having courage to live in the present, and to hope for the future. I know it sounds like a cheesy made-for-TV-movie ending, but it's what I believe. Thank goodness for smelly little ornaments, huh? I hope the aroma never fades away.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

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Peaceful Things ~ Josh
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