Sunday, January 25, 2015

He's Back

I was kinda hoping he wasn't going to visit this year...
I was kinda hoping he wasn't going to visit this year...
Just when I thought we might get to skate through the winter without any major snow events, it looks as if my fantasy winter forecast may just have a rude awakening. In case you missed it, the weather experts are saying Old Man Winter is about to rear his ugly head and dump what's touted as "historic" amounts of snow on the North East in the next few days. This in and of itself enough to make me want to grab the Mister., the furkids, and flip flops and head south for the winter. Add this onto the muckery of late and you have a full blown chaos factory. What kind of chaos?...
Well it all started like this. My Yaya went to be with the Lord recently. So we traveled a few hours north to attend the memorial service and visit family. Sad yes because she will be missed by everyone, but also happy because she was such an inspiring and kind woman who touched so many people in her ninety years on this earth. She immigrated from Greece as a young girl of twenty two years of age and lived what really was the American Dream. She waited in line, went to school and learned to read and write English and then passed her exam to become an American citizen. She married her true love, raised three wonderful children, worked hard, never demanded anything from this country, and never took a penny she did not earn. As my uncle Chris so eloquently stated... a sharp contrast to whats going on in our country today.
Spending time with family to reflect and honor such a wonderful woman was enough. Grief as many have experienced can be hard. I found happiness though the day of the memorial, the morning was cold and snowy. When we came out of the luncheon at the church the skies we bright blue with blazing sunshine. The neatest part of this was my Papoo had passed just over a year earlier and he was obsessed with the weather. He was always talking about the weather and it was almost like they were giving everyone the sign that they were together and happy with Jesus.
So Saturday rolls around and it's time to pack up the car and go home. We stopped for a hot cup of magic a la Dunkins for the road and off we went. We get not thirty miles from town when all of the sudden while driving down the highway the cruise control shuts off and this yellow coil looking do-dad light comes on in the dash. The car starts to slow down and acts as if it is not getting any power from the accelerator. I'm thinking "What in the heck in the world is happening on with our 2013 German tank aka VW Passat TDI"? Normally I'm gushing to everyone about the 40+ mpg we get, how we just love love love our TDI, and how we can get from NY to FL on two tanks of diesel. Saturday night however, I was singing a different song.
After much sputtering, shaking, the coil light going off never to go back on, then the  engine light coming on, and a terrible wind whistle noise coming from the engine which eventually led to a burning smell, and three calls to roadside assistance, turning the car off and doing everything they told us... We found ourselves stranded in the middle of rural upstate NY on a cold dark side road with not one, not two, but five furkids in the car with us. Thankfully we were only thirty miles from family who came to rescue us and our belongings while the tow truck took Paul Passat off to the nearest VW dealer. Where it will sit until Monday morning when the dealer opens. After getting to safety lo and behold we discovered we are not the only ones this has happened to. The internet is full of people who had the exact same thing happen. The cruise control turns off while driving and end up just like we did. It turns out, in many of these cases it is the turbo blown and engine as well.
You can bet your bottom dollar that this Greek girl is going to be on the phone with VW ASAP. Especially since our car has only 25,000 miles on it, is under warranty, is also a certified preowned, and worst of all it has been into several service departments for a "hesitation issue" with the acellerator. Where we described to them that it felt like it was not getting power when pushing gas pedal and a sputtering at times. Only to be told it was "nothing to worry about", that they did a computer update on the transmission that should take care of it. According to what we found on the internet there has been a known issue going on with the TDI's in this model year and we were never made aware.
So on top of sorting out trying to get our car fixed we will be trying to get home just in time to get a wallop from old man winter as he makes his 2015 debut. Frustrating yes, but at the same time all fixable. At the end of the day it's all a matter of perspective. I can complain because we got stuck on the highway at night, or I can be happy that we have a newer car that actually is under a warranty. I can be annoyed that there is a major snowstorm on it's way or I can be happy I'm still here to complain about it... No matter what is going on, the most important thing is that we live every day to it's fullest. Something that my Yaya did.
Times might not always be perfect, and yes they may even be hard. Every day there is something to learn and a new chance to plant seeds in the lives of those around us. So grab that shovel and get ready to welcome Old Man Winter back for what hopefully is a short stay.
Blessings, Love & Music ~
Ava xo

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Prize

Through the darkest times we still have a hope...
Through the darkest of times we still have a hope...
It's that time again, the time of year when I find myself day dreaming about flip-flops and wishing the white stuff would disappear for good. It's also awards season... the time of year when eyeballs around the world tune into see who takes home the golden statue.
Personally I was surprised at the Golden Globes snubs this year. There were some pretty fantastic films that didn't even get a mention. Funny to see what was celebrated while the one film that has the possibility to perhaps make the biggest impact on people was sadly missing... Unbroken. Not just because I was first in line to see it on Christmas Eve with my family and a bucket of popcorn in my little hands and a cup of Dunkin's hidden in my bag either.
Not to knock any of the other films but Unbroken was not only superbly produced, but it has the potential to change lives. If you're thinking; yeah, yeah a big budget Hollywood film made by a big Hollywood star how could it be anything beyond all the narcissistic tabloid hullabaloo?... hear me out. Unbroken is a true story unlike anything anyone in my lifetime can even comprehend living through, but it's also just the beginning of the story. The film leaves off when the hero returns home. That is where his journey really begins.
Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a World War II prisoner of war survivor. It details his gripping experience including 47 days floating on a raft in shark-infested waters in the Pacific Ocean. While the film details much of Zamperini’s life, including his Olympic career as a distance runner, it only shines a light on part of his story. Perhaps the best part is told not by a big Hollywood studio or star, but by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Filmed before Hollywood came calling "Louis Zamperini: Captured By Grace" tells the story of his life after returning home a hero. Through the power of the Gospel and his experience at the 1949 Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles, Louis overcame alcoholism, night terrors and a failing marriage to live a joyous and full Christ-centered life until his passing at age 97. Along the way he inspired millions. (To learn more about seeing it - click here)
We can get upset or complain about the things we see as problems. The economy, the weather (guilty as charged), global unrest, pop culture run amuck, and on and on. I however don't think anything we face today compares to what he lived through. Not only Louis Zamperini, but also all of the other men and women of The Greatest Generation. Many have no idea what price was paid for the lives we have. The world might look a lot different today had it not been for their courage, strength and determination.
What I love most about his story is that as dark as it got he was never really alone. A man who didn't really know a lot about faith, or grace: while he was out there floating on a raft in shark infested waters he made a promise to God that if he survived he would serve him the rest of his life. A promise that was long forgotten after being rescued from that raft, captured, thrown into one of the worst Japanese prison camps ever, living through years of brutal torture and starvation, and then actual rescue when the war was over. It wasn’t until he was home and his life was falling apart due in part from suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder while attending that Billy Graham rally that he remembered that promise. While telling his story he says when he remembered he stood up without hesitation and gave his life to Christ. Once he did for the first time the nightmares were gone. The anger and desire for revenge were also gone.
He spent the rest of his life as a Christian Inspirational speaker focusing on forgiveness. His story was hard, it was brutal, and none of it made any sense at the time he was going through it. As a boy he overcame going from a troubled youth to an Olympic Athlete. It was his strength and determination that got him through that part of his life and it were those same qualities that helped him to survive his ordeal and go onto become a hero. He also had help from above. When looking back on his life it's hard not to see the fingerprints of God all around.
So am I surprised that a film that has the power to impact people in such a way was snubbed by a liberal leaning secular organization? Not really. I hope it won't be the same case with the Oscars. Because I suspect that after watching the film viewers will get curious to what happened after the movie ends and discover for themselves the rest of the story. Where he not only lived out the miracle of grace but went onto to share it with countless others along the way. That in my opinion is the best prize. So I do hope it will be included in order to be exposed to people across the globe.
Something I also hope to do with my music. Though I've spent a large part of my life chasing after a "prize" success in the music industry... I've come to understand the real prizes of life are not what we necessarily think they are. That's why I'm working on my first faith based Contemporary Christian Music Album. My hope is to inspire people to be strong, courageous, to never quit, but most importantly to share the love of Jesus. To let people know they really are something beautiful, and to believe that no matter how far they've gone, there is someone who cares, who loves them and thinks they really are something worth dying for.
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippines 4:13 (NIV) 
Blessings, Love & Music ~
Ava xo