Monday, December 11, 2017

Dear Readers,

I am happy to announce that I am merging my blog onto a more flexible platform! I have enjoyed using blogger, but have found a site that looks a bit more professional, and has a mobile app so that you guys can read it on the go. From now on, I will be writing my posts to this web address!

I have enjoyed writing for all of you, and look forward to continuing our adventures on this new blog site!

Thank you for all of your support,



Imagine playing football with your childhood friends. The wind playfully whips through the trees above and sends leaves spiraling down to meet you. Your feet sink into the soft soil of a luscious green field, and your eyes are locked onto the opposite team. Each of you is covered in sweat and tears. You've worked hard for this moment, and you know which play will win you the game.

In your head you can see the crowds cheering for you as you're hoisted high on the shoulders of your teammates. Everyone chants your name as you soar on the clouds of fame and fortune. You will be famous. You are the star. You are their only hope.

With a slight nod to your team, you yell hike! Everyone scatters across the field, forming the patterns that you instructed them to. Very good, you think to yourself as your eyes highlight an open player. You focus, and step back. As soon as you prepare to spiral that football into his glorious, open arms...he's gone.

Suddenly, a phantom player phases into view right in front of the player you were throwing to. Without warning, your arm flings the football high into the air as you scream inside to stop it. How could you have not seen this coming? How could someone so big sneak into view? Your player was wide open!

That is when you start noticing a slight flicker in the air around you. By some sort of wizardry, your football is levitating mere feet in front of you. It's no longer spinning, but there's a slight blur against the pigskin. The colors seem to blend into one another. Each white string along the back of the football smears onto the brown and black. You hear the noises of people shouting and the wet thud of their feet against the muddy terrain, but they are standing still.

In this moment you begin to realize that something is wrong, but it's too late. You already launched the ball into the melting sky. Each second passes like an hour of agony as you hear phantoms surround you. Their bodies are frozen in mid stride, some even in midair, but you are fully able to move. You can't think straight, and there is nothing you can do to prevent the failure that is about to wreck your athletic life. You brace yourself for the inevitable, and stand there.

Without warning, every player on the field is thirty yards away, watching as your ball launches itself into the neighbor's window. The shattering of glass and the ensuing turmoil it causes from within the house abruptly ends the game that you were so hopeful to win. You knew you threw the football to the open player, but everyone on the field says you freaked out and launched it at the window. You look down at your hands, and meet the eyes of every other player on the field as they walk by you, not even attempting to hide the bitter scowls on their faces. You ruined their game. You alone made them unable to continue in their sport fantasies that brought them adrenaline and excitement. 

In the gaming world, this is called lag. It's a loathsome, horrid aberration of technology that has made it's way into online play. Technically, it's existence is granted by limited connection speeds in contrast to the necessary data needed to perform actions over a network. In short, it's the inability of an internet connection to keep up with what's going on in your game. 

Sadly, lag is an ever present, deadly predator of the gaming community. In it's natural habitat, it stalks those who lack the speed to escape it. When it finds prey, it tortures them with the illusion of control, only to violently take it from them in their time of need. Oh, were you about to line up that perfect shot? It'd be a shame if your gun jammed and the enemy stabbed you from behind! Oh no! It looks like you failed the mission. Now your friends are mad at you for wasting their time. What a pity.

Lag needs to be stopped. It's silently ruining the gaming experiences of all those who fall victim to it's conniving ways. In order to stop it, we need to understand it. There are two main sources for this digital villain, servers and users. 

Server-side lag is when the gaming company is having issues hosting your game. One way to know if there is any issues with the server is a small phrase that no one wants to read in the middle of a match. Migrating Host. This means that the lag monster is slithering away to another network and is waiting to devour those it comes into contact with. Be careful. Host Migration is an important progress, but it can also be misleading. Just because you migrated hosts does not mean your gameplay will be any smoother. It just means that you are on a different host than you were before. Sometimes this new place is just as dangerous as the last. 

If the problem is not on the server, then that means it is the user who is being infected. Like any infection, a lagged player may affect the gameplay experiences of others in their session. This is how friendships are tested. Just like the football game example above, if lag commands attention at the right moment, your team may suffer. You might be the reason why the team couldn't score the last goal, or why the enemy has killed you thirty seven times. But don't worry, there is a way to stop it, but no one can do it alone.

The trauma that lag brings can be a lifelong condition. If you or a loved one have been afflicted with lag, please do not hesitate to call 1-800-stoplag or visit our website,

(DISCLAIMER: Calling the number or visiting the website will be at your own risk and/or expense. I am not responsible for anyone who legitimately contacts either of these sources.)

Thank you for your time and may your games be lag free.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dear Readers of Life Through Levity,

I want to apologize for my absence. For months I was consistently giving you all new material to read and enjoy, yet when my personal life became difficult I abandoned you. Although my life has been stressful in more ways than I wish to share, I should've thought about trying to cheer someone else up instead of nursing my own wounds. By doing that, I became self-focused and less available to help people see life in an uplifting way that I originally promoted.

See, I realized something. It was easy to write this blog when everything was going smoothly. Each article was as simple as writing words on a page. There wasn't much resistance or difficulty in it, but still it proved to be an effective way to make you smile. I shouldn't have given up on the idea, but now I have matured and am more capable of helping people enjoy life even amidst the pain.

This season has been truly painful in many ways, but I learned something. Learning to live life through levity isn't only about laughing at yourself and the world around you, but also about how to heal from wounds we receive when life gets tough. Lately, I've been healing from a lot of wounds. These wounds, and my inability to properly deal with them, is what led to my absence.

One way to deal with these wounds is to keep moving forward. Take a few breaths, maybe a couple of days of relaxation, and then pursue your dreams again. Push through the doubts. Forgive those who've hurt you, and remember that the only thing in life that can truly stop you from enjoying life and spreading that joy to others is you. So don't get in the way of yourself, because everyone has a unique purpose in life that will make them feel accomplished, fulfilled, and excited. Reach out to others who need encouragement and uplifting, and don't be afraid to accept a helping hand from those who wish to encourage you.

I hope that all of you will still read my blog in the coming months, because I miss writing to all of you.

Thank you for being there for me,

Jonathan Shuffler

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Photo Credit:

Before reading this article, focus on the picture. Let your eyes gently look upon it's simplistic beauty. Have you marveled at the dark lines and distinguished figure? Good, because I have a very important question to ask you. Don't think about it too hard, just answer. What did you see?
Well, obviously you saw the young lady looking away in such an elegantly distasteful manner. You might even ask yourself what could have been said to made her turn so abruptly. Was it her lavish upbringing mixed with a sour disposition to those of less exquisite taste in fashion? We will never know, and the background behind her prideful plume is irrelevant to this piece. Wait what? You didn't see her at all? Her chin is nestled against the fur coat right above her pitch black choker, and her nose is slightly peeking over her softly curved cheek bones. See her now?  

Of course, some of you saw something entirely different. You saw an old lady with a firm grimace attached to her aging face. Her nose is crooked and pointed down towards her upper chest, and her eyes are receding behind little upturned wrinkles. There is even a wart on her nose, just above the arching bridge. She also has dark hair that is gently covered by a white head covering.

When I first asked you to look at the picture, most of you probably didn't see both ladies. You either saw the young, wealthy woman or the elderly lady. If you'd already seen this drawing, you saw both at the same time. Life works in similarly mysterious ways.

How we look at life determines how we live life. It all depends on what you accept and reject. If you accept failure and live only to disprove it, then you will never be satisfied even when you're successful. On the other hand, if you accept success but improve yourself after each setback, then you will be nearly impenetrable in your dreams. But, the main question is, how do you get to that point?

Some of us could only see the old lady in the picture above at first. It would not be a lie to believe that an old lady was in that picture, because she is, but it would be ignorant to disregard the young woman coexisting in the same drawing. By ignoring that fact, we failed to see the entire picture. We would only see what we wanted to see.

A lot of people do the same thing in their lives. To show an example of this in action, I will rip a page out of the story of my personal life and share it with you. I recently lost my job. It was a difficult experience that has taken some time to get adjusted to. Even as I'm writing this I'm still fighting back the negative thoughts that are assaulting my mind.

Why couldn't I perform well enough to keep my job? How could I have let my fiance down by not trying harder to keep it? Are my parents mad at me because of my failure? Will I ever be happily married and successful in my career? Will this be an indicator for the rest of my life? No. It won't.

I could list all of the screaming thoughts shrieking through my mind but I will spare you the discomfort. Instead, let's focus on what I am doing to silence them. Instead of speculating on what my life will look at based on what has happened, I will base my future on what I WANT to happen, and work towards that. Do I want to be homeless? No. Do I want to be a wonderful husband and great father with a steady job and successful, inspiring career? Yes.

So here's how to look at it. First off, we need to address the elephant in the picture above. Don't you see it? Look at the picture again. Harder this time. A little harder. Maybe just stop reading and scroll up if you don't remember what it looked like. It's trunk is nestled softly along the fur coat and it's eyes are big and black. Don't see it? Good. There isn't one.

Sometimes life tries to twist the picture into something it was never meant to be. If you lost sight of your picture, you're likely to believe anything. Your picture consists of your hopes, dreams, aspirations, desires, passions, personality, character, charisma, and everything that makes you a unique person. The moment you stop thinking about who you were born to be is the moment something else can be born in you that you didn't want, like bitterness, anger, grief, regret, and pain.

You may have had to scroll up to the picture above to make sure there wasn't an elephant, or you just assumed I was right and didn't check. If something in your life doesn't add up to who you believe you are, it may be time to double check your picture. Take some time to yourself, think about who you want to be, not who the world tried to mold you into. Once you get that down, you can start solving the puzzle of perspective.

Now, back to my story. There were two main trains of thought I could've boarded at the station. First, I could've believed that I was a failure, with slim chances at finding another job as good as the one I had lost. It was true that I made some mistakes at my job that could have hindered me from further success, but I couldn't allow myself to focus there. Learning from a mistake is one thing, but constantly lamenting an error would only lead to it's unwilling repetition later on in life.

The second train, which I am currently working on boarding, is far more uplifting. I realized that I had a gift to help others laugh, smile, and feel positive about their day. It was astounding to see the reaction to my departure. People checked on me and asked me if I was okay and told me they'd miss me. A lot of them were employees I didn't personally work with, but only spoke with on breaks. A few of them became close friends of mine, who I still keep in contact with.

I didn't need to focus on losing the job, which was painful, but on the friendships I made, the connections I established, the atmosphere I brought with me, and the laughter we shared while I was present. I realized from that point on that I could help lift up people who were sad, encourage people who were down, and inspire people to laugh at life even when it was being difficult. In fact, this blog started during the period of time I was employed there.

So, even though losing my job was difficult, I discovered more about myself and am able to confidently stand in who I was made to be. It's been difficult to get to this point, but I believe we all can. When life tries to show you pictures, always seek the one that fits in line with who you are and live in it. Whether your life looks like the old woman or the young lady is up to you. Just don't go looking for the elephant.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Photo Credit:

I took a deep breath. The metal apparatus stood still in front of me. Brown blotches of rust crusted to its edges as if it were far older than it had any right to be. But, that didn't matter. I was here to order food, not investigate the cleanliness of the outside speaker. I rolled my window down and stared at the speaker.

It is proper etiquette, when dealing with such devices, to wait until a voice from the other side contacts you first. Speaking out of turn may cause unwanted chaos from within the walls of any fast food establishment. So, it is best to exercise patience and listen closely for the sound of crackling and barely audible voices to start ordering. Sometimes, in newer buildings, the speaker is quite clear and the crystalline cadence of a well trained voice can make it's way to your car with no delay or dilemma. This was not one of those buildings.

"Hey, may I take your order?" The voice said, amidst a crackling mist of static.

"Hi! I will take...will take...take...a sandwich combo...wich" I said, trailing off into an infinite series of echos to the far beyond. Great, I thought to myself. 

"Uh, sure, what side?"

"I want"

There was a brief pause, and then he continued. 

"What sides? We have rice, beans, fries..."

"No, I said...I said...aid...I want fries...want"

"Oh! Rice! Ok anything else?"

"No! Fries...ries...ries..."

"Yes, we got your rice."


"Oh! I got it." He said confidently. "Your rice will be ready soon." 

"FRIES!" I said, trying to be aggressively polite. It worked.

"Fries. What do you want to drink?"

"Sweet tea." I said, and took a deep breath. I was almost finished with this fast food fiasco.

"We don't serve Pepsi here sir. We have coke, diet coke, sprite, tea..."

"I want...sweet...tea..." I said in the plainest English I could muster from my slightly annoyed core. Behind me, a conga line of cars full of hungry souls was forming. There wasn't much time left.

"You want tea? Okay. Sweet or unsweetened?" He said in response.

"Sweet." I said, taking a deep breath and gripping the steering wheel. 

"Ok. So you want a sandwich combo with fries and sweet tea? Is that correct?" 

"Yes, thanks!" I said and started driving away, until I remembered something very important. I let my car ease backwards into the same spot. "Also, I have a coupon for that sandwich."

A soft silence fell over the speaker as little crackles filled the air between us. Did he leave? I thought to myself as I leaned closer. 

"MAY I TAKE YOUR ORDER?!" The metallic device screamed at me.

"Look, I have a coupon for the sandwich I just ordered."

"What kind of sandwich?"

"The one I ordered a few seconds ago. I forgot to mention it."

"You want to add a sandwich to your order?"

"No, I want to add the coupon to the sandwich I ordered."

The silence was deafening. The line of cars began to look far more menacing. I should've just added the coupon at the end instead of backing up to the speaker again, but it was too late now. I was going to get my discount.

"Pull up to the window. Thank you."

"What about my coupon?"

"May I take your order?" He said again. Fine, I will bring it to the window.

As I drove up to the window and presented my coupon, I thought about what had just happened. An incident in life that could have ruined my pre-dining experience turned into a story that you are currently reading. Look on the bright side. There's always a story in everything. You just need to know where to look.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

 Photo Credit:

Shoes are a unique compliment to one’s feet. They protect our partners in transportation while simultaneously giving them a sense of comfort. Before the invention of these cloth bound carriers, we had to endure the harsh heat of the summer sun burning away our soles or feel the unpleasant sensation of a frostbitten winter evening. But now, glancing down upon the shining star achievement of man, I realized that they are a double edged sword. They do have one weakness.

I discovered this weakness while treading dangerously upon a speeding treadmill. As my eyes watched the colorful glow of a well animated Netflix series, my feet bounded off of the constantly revolving pathway. Sweat dripped from my brow as I tried to push myself past my perceived limit. With each hard landing my heart slammed against the inside of my chest. It felt good.

Air flooded in and out of my weary lungs as I continued my energetic endeavor when I suddenly felt something suspicious. If it weren’t for my extremely keen sense of observation, I would have fallen to my doom. My feet were slowly drifting away from their sole mates, and the slithering serpents were escaping from their designated caverns.

My eyes glanced down and realized that my well calculated loops I tied were slowly unraveling before me. I stopped the treadmill and panted as I bent down to fix the problem. My fingers gently caressed the dark strings until I felt the need to firmly tug them back into place. On any normal day, they would have complied and tangled themselves in a gentle web of embrace, but this was not a normal day.

Within seconds the serpent decided to escape from its former partner and run off in an audible snap. It was an escaping fashion hydra with nowhere to run. What a sneaky little shoestring, I thought to myself as I observed it in the light. It no longer wanted to be part of my foot laden vessel and instead wanted to venture off into the soft carpeted landscape below. Well, I guess I had no use for it then, I thought to myself as I slowly walked away. The other strings will pay for your insolence, I sneered.

I could feel the other writhing tentacles pleading for mercy as I tore them away from their comfortable homes. There was an odd satisfaction in seeing the discarded fragments of two frayed strings lying still on the ground next to the gutted remains of my shoes. Now, to find a replacement.

My eyes wandered around the room until I happened to see a discarded pair on my back porch. Perfect. With a gentle suggestion I unwound the dirty tenants from their equally messy homestead. They were covered in little specks of grass, but they were easy to clean. Every swipe of my hand across the shoestrings made them a little darker, until the pitch black tones revealed themselves. These strings matched perfectly, I thought to myself as I introduced them to their new home.

Feeding the soft serpents through the proper holes had a cathartic effect I didn't foresee. They softly overlapped each other, and with a tug, tightened into a functional piece of string. Progress was quickly made as I watched in awe at my handiwork. My hands were like dancers, twirling the strings around like ballerinas in a beautiful ballet. With each passing moment, I could hear music accompanying the wonderful dance the shoestrings and I were performing. It was magical.

The soft glide of the cloth contrasted with the hard, plastic end made for a delicate and intrinsically spectacular endeavor. Soon, I finished each shoe and relaxed, looking at the art I had just created. With just two hands and two strings, I was able to save myself from disaster. Instead of falling hard to my face upon the unrelenting pace of an electric treadmill, I learned a new art form.

Tying shoes isn't all about function. Surely it was created for a brief and noble purpose, but there is more behind the layers of string than meets the eye. To most people, it is seen as an unnecessary and mundane affair, and on any other day I would have agreed. But the day my string abandoned me, I realized something.

There is an art in any activity if you take the time to appreciate it. In this case, the art was good for my sole.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Photo Credit:

For years I have perfected the art of pepper tasting. Through strenuous trial and error, my taste buds have become accustomed to the searing pain of uncontrollable fire. I have conquered many peppers, from the elusive ghost pepper to the deathly sting of a Carolina reaper. With each victory, fighting through tears and sweat, I gain more confidence. Deep inside the bowels of my being, there is still an insatiable appetite for more.

There is only one place on the planet that has met my desire for fire. It's mascot smiled at me as I walked underneath it to the wood paneled interior of my domain. The name implies an ornate design full of royalty and extravagance, but the reality of it's existence lies in the simple fact that only true masters can walk out of there alive. Welcome to the Pepper Palace.

As I walked into my trial, my fiance swiftly shot me a gentle but concerned glance. Are you sure you want to do this? Her eyes whispered to mine. With strong, manly confidence, I nodded my head and walked to the counter. From my past experiences I've learned that the "hottest" sauce in this shop is a  shifting entity. Pepper Palace is constantly experimenting with new concoctions that are hotter than the last, or use different peppers, or are an altogether different kind of spicy delicacy that only true warriors can appreciate. Usually, these sauces are named something ridiculous, like "Barnie's Butt Burner Sauce", or "Hottest Hot Sauce in the World" complete with a little pepper flying around the globe.

I expected a crazy name for the sauce as I walked up and asked what the "hottest" sauce was THIS time. The lady looked at me, and then quickly shot a look at my fiance, who kept her distance away from the counter. She could sense the tension in the air and didn't want to face the flames. My eyes glanced at the big sign and were greeted by a simple title. It confused and amused me. "The End" the bottle read, and I glanced back at the lady. That's the hottest sauce?

It's foreboding bottle was dripping with black goo, and an ominous warning label that warned of what could happen. One of the side effects was truly terrifying. Loss of consciousness. Most peppers had labels that warned of hiccups, or even vomiting in extreme cases, but this was new to me. This pepper, if my body couldn't handle it, would actually knock me out cold. A shudder shot up my spine as I looked at the lady and back at the bottle. What did they do this time?

No pepper ever conquered me before, and this won't be the first one, I told myself as I signed the waiver of possible doom. My signature was messy as usual, but I didn't care. My fiance just shook her head and looked at me. Here we go.

With a stern look I reached out and grabbed the chip with the little dab of darkness patiently waiting to be devoured. I slipped it into my eager mouth, chewed and swallowed. After just a few seconds, I realized my mistake. When tasting peppers, especially potentially dangerous ones, you're not supposed to let the goo slip onto your taste buds. But, without realizing it, I cracked the chip and spilled the sauce directly onto my tongue. The liquid then proceeded to travel throughout the rest of my mouth and eventually down my throat where it belonged.

For the first few seconds, my body had no reaction whatsoever. I stood there speechless, looking around the store in bewilderment. Was this really the hottest hot sauce? A simple little dab of nothing that ceased to impress me? I almost started to laugh until I realized my tongue wouldn't move. My body froze as I realized the true terror of what was happening. The searing pain of the intense heat was merely receding, like the ocean before a tsunami. Then it crashed.

Tears poured out of my eyes as the sudden shock of heat erupted inside of my exposed mouth. Everything burned, from the tip of my tongue to the back of my throat. Little coughs escaped from my lungs as I tried to catch my breath. My fiance looked at me in terror as I continued to breathe in and out, gasping for oxygen. Every breath I took ignited further flames in my mouth like a wild brush fire in the Savannah.

A sudden tinge of regret stretched across my suffering face as I tried my best to keep it together. I will not fall, I told myself as I looked at the lady and thanked her for letting me try it. It was getting difficult to see as my eyes drained tears out of their drying sockets. Finally, I gave in.

I decided to get some fudge that we had bought earlier. It wasn't completely quenching the fire, like drinking milk would've done, but I couldn't allow myself to do that. I was going to conquer this sauce, even if a little bit of assistance was needed. With a quick glance to my fiance, I said "Baybeicanhavesfudeg?"

It was at that moment that I forgot my tongue wasn't fully operational. She looked at me, confused. "BayebahveIfugede?" I repeated myself and pointed at the bag. Each swallow of my saliva burned my throat further, leaving me gasping for air, which reignited the fire that I eventually swallowed again. It was an uncomfortable loop of spicy suffering. If I could just have some of that chocolatey piece of heaven I'd be okay.

She eventually got the message and handed me a gooey chunk to slide into my burning mouth. The sweet sensation slid around my mouth, dousing the fire in a swirl of chocolate and delicious caramel. Within half an hour, the fire died down, except for little burps that were like embers in the back of my throat. The pain of the pepper lingered for hours after the experience. Thankfully, I did not lose consciousness and was perfectly functional that evening.

After the incident, my fiance just stared at me with her beautiful brown eyes. I looked into hers and asked, "What?" She took a deep breath, and wiped away the tears from my sore eyes and a smile crept across her face. "What?" I repeated as I sniffed and wiped away the liquid from my leaking nose. "I'm okay! It was fun." I said and smiled, still feeling the little embers searing the back of my sensitive throat.

"Baby, I love you, but you're an idiot." She said, and walked away with a playful smile stretched across her face.

If you want to try "The End" or other amazing hot sauces, here is the website for Pepper Palace.

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