Thursday, April 27, 2006

Spare the Rod...

In an earlier post, I address my desire to ‘recreate’ as much of my childhood for my kids as is possible. I have some rather large gripes with the modern methods of child rearing. Now that I have children my once very determined stand may have its occasional weak moment but I am still pretty determined. It is very hard at this point to even imagine my 4 ½ month olds throwing fits, talking back, hitting, or otherwise disobeying the rules. It is even harder at this point to imagine the need to discipline them but I know that day is coming. One way I sincerely plan on duplicating my childhood is in the realm of discipline.

Nothing drives me crazier then parents who fail to discipline their kids. Forgetting for a moment that I have issues with current methods of punishment, at least those people have consequences for misbehavior. As a former restaurant manager and casual observer in my daily life, I have seen some of the worst parenting out there. I’ve seen temper tantrums that the Tasmanian Devil couldn’t match. I’ve seen kids break glasses, stand on tables, run full speed through a busy restaurant, and yell at the top of their lungs. And in almost every case…the parents either do nothing at all OR they succumb to the wishes of said tantrum to quiet the child.

All I can think about when witnessing such events is:

A. My rear would’ve been on fire for that kind of behavior.
B. Either spank that child or I’ll do it for you.

If you for some reason you live under a rock and have never observed this kind of spectacle just turn on the TV and watch Supernanny. That show is not my favorite but I will watch on occasion. And while my discipline arsenal will include spanking, Supernanny does normally manage to effectively use alternative discipline techniques.

The problem with spanking and alternative discipline (IE: time out) is the misunderstanding of their application. Time out is a real joke to kids if you do not enforce the length of time and the boundary in which they can move. Most times, ‘Time Out’ is just an idle threat. I for one, cannot bring myself to use this pansy method. I may tell my kids to go to their room now and then (that is what it was called when I was little) but I have no plans to say, “time out”. For one thing you cannot take a time out in life…there is no pause button or penalty box. For another, I do not have the proper skills needed to effectively make that discipline work, and I know it. Spanking is my method of choice but it too has poorly executed scenarios. Spanking out of anger is the most often abused and can easily lead to swatting too hard. This is when the line of discipline and abuse get blurred and also why so many modern-day parents are scared to use it.

I think that is a bunch of bull. Just like with time out, you enact the punishment (without anger) and then explain to the child why this action was taken. It is quick, it is effective, and I will use it.

Interestingly, me and my brother did not get in much trouble. The only two situations that ever really led to spankings were road trips and bedtimes. Even the best of children can only behave civilly for so long on a road trip. We were often threatened with “don’t make me pull this car over!!!” Of course we eventually made him pull over and we regretted it. Perhaps the scariest part of getting spanked on a road trip is not that actual hand to butt contact but rather the feeling of leaning forward as dad firmly braked and swerved to the shoulder of the road. Our eyes would inevitably get wide and our minds would race as to how we were going to get out of this one. The other problem we created for mom and dad was getting out of bed passed our bedtime. They would tolerate two or three infractions per night before executing the spanking but by then we had been thoroughly warned.

So while we did not disobey or find trouble very often, we did understand discipline and consequences. And I firmly believe that knowing a spanking was potentially in my future, kept me from sassing my parents and acting like the kids that I detail above. When I was asked to do something, I said yes ma’am or yes sir and I did it. If we did not have the good sense on our own to know that you do not run through a restaurant hollering at the top of our lungs, throwing glass salt shakers and standing on tables, we learned the lesson quickly.

Disagree with me if you will but I think we do our children a disservice to raise them as undisciplined brats that only know the consequence of being isolated for five minutes.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blackout Epiphanies

No, I am not talking about the kind of blackout you experience when severely intoxicated (why would I know anything about that?). And no, I am not addressing the kind of experience one has as a medical condition. I am referring to the electrical kind of blackout. Last night, around 8:00pm our power went out. My Wife and I were immediately irritated if for only two reasons:

1. This happens all the time now in our area with seemingly no explanation. No storms, no lightning, nothing.

2. We were watching our tv programs for the night and relaxing with the babies.

The outage lasted for about a half hour but it’s amazing how slowly time seems to move when all of your normal comforts are gone. My anger slowly subsided and the observant, calm side came over me as though I was meant to learn a lesson or three. I believe I did and as I processed the various thoughts that came to me, the blogging part of my brain captured each moment for your reading pleasure. That’s right; I am a generous and thoughtful man to be so giving. No need to gush over my servant-like heart.

  • Too Dependant - No power means no light, no tv, no cordless phones, no AC, no heat, no computers, and no connection to outside world. I know this is an obvious observation but it really amazes me how connected and reliant we are on power. I really did not know what to do with myself, so I sat in the dark holding my daughter wondering how people functioned pre-electricity.
  • Schedule Change – I realized sitting there watching the horizon slowly get dimmer and dimmer and therefore making my home darker each minute that I would go to bed much earlier if we no longer had the luxury of electricity. There is only so much you can do with candlelight or lanterns. Reading, for one, is a strain on the eyes in lowlight situations. I would also likely get up earlier each day as dawn breaks. Since there is only so much sunlight in one day, I would have to make use of its every hour.
  • Time Stops – As implied earlier, time passes eerily slow when none of your gadgets and technological toys are at full blast. When the shock wears off though, it is nice to experience actual quiet. The only noise filling the air is the occasional conversation between MW and I or maybe a baby cooing.
  • Full Attention – I make a point everyday when I go home to be Daddy. Little Boy and Little Girl have just a few hours from the time I get home and the time they go down for the night. I always thought that my time with them was pretty well spent until last night. With nothing else to distract me what-so-ever, I was able to devote my full attention to them. It was nice.
  • God’s Timing – I learned a lesson when experiencing two years of fertility problems. God’s timing will not always match up to yours. But last night I forgot this lesson and had to briefly get a refresher course. I kept playfully waiving my hands in the air and forcefully pointing to the lights and saying, “turn on….now!” I thought it would be so cool to have the power come on at my beckoning. Then I started asking God to turn the power on…again very playfully. Hey I was bored. I realized after about ten minutes of playing this game that I was treating God like a genie in a bottle rather than the All Powerful, relational being that he is. “God, I’m in traffic…would you mind making my lane move faster? God, my boss is overbearing…would you mind teaching him to respect me? God, my power is out…would you mind turning that back on?” Little requests like this, while prayerful to some degree, are just an abuse and a misinterpretation of Gods relationship with us.
  • Good Memories – Oddly, some of my favorite memories of growing up were with my family huddled together in the darkened hallway, faces lit only by candlelight as we would settle in for a night of storms and possible tornado activity. I sensed the danger of the outside world but was so enamored with the warmth, closeness, and safety of the family that all worries dissolved. Besides, bunking down in the hallway in sleeping bags with mom, dad, and lil bro was like an indoor campout. What could be more fun? I hope to give my children a similar memory.

And just like that, the lights came back on. I snapped out of my daydreams and observant trance and continued my nightly routine. Hopefully, I will take that 30 minute lesson to heart and take pause now and then to remember what is really important. If not, I hope we have another blackout soon.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Church in a Box

Tired of that same ole church? Looking for something new and exciting? Well do I have a product for you! It slices, it dices, it juices, it spruces, it jingles, it tingles, it snaps, crackles, and pops! What is it, you say? It’s Church in a Box. Church in a Box is a revolutionary design from some of the brightest minds on the planet today. CB for short, it is the next best thing since the microwave oven.

Here’s how it works folks. For the low, low cost of a tithe (10% of your income…oh, heck we’ll take whatever you can give) we will be your church. And by YOUR CHURCH we mean that we will do anything you want. We will perform, we will dance, we will sing, we will show multi-media, we will stand on our heads. After all folks, you are the Boss! Tired of hearing Bible verses? Tired of being told what to do? Tired of feeling like a sinner in need of repentance? Tired of hearing sermons? Well rest that tired soul of yours in our pews and let us wow you today. Choose from a menu of current items and feel free to make suggestions as to what else we should serve. Super-size CB for only a few more dollars and get a free prayer bracelet guaranteed to bring you health, wealth, and success.

Order now while supplies last!

Does any of that sound absurd? I wish it did. But between this on the RLP site last week and the photo I took this morning…

Sign reads: Win New Car/Register every service you attend/To be given away at "SpiritFest 2006"/June 3-4

I am not so sure if the church isn’t headed in that direction. What is missing from this photo but was there over the weekend is an actual car. The sign is in front of an Episcopal church near my home in Dallas. I easily could have shot this at an angle that showed the church too but thought I better not. I will let the embarrassment of this sign be their only suffering.

Who are you trying to attract with gimmicks like this? The unchurched? I have never been out of the church so I am not sure what a non-Christian, un-churched person is looking for but does this stuff really work? Even if it does, do you want the people you are attracting if the only reason they are in the pews is for a chance to win a new car?

Church is not for the consumer but that is what we as “shoppers” tend to make it. And because most churches realize this, they are responding in a similar manner to Target, Lowes, and Wal-Mart. Perhaps the biggest and most successful marketing ploy of recent date is the WWJD bracelets and corresponding gear. While this is also Christian propaganda, at least it asks a very important question…What would Jesus do? I don’t think he would be pleased with these most recent examples.

How about you?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Marriage Quirks

To be fair, this post is not so much about marriage. Anytime you cohabitate with another human being for a long period of time, you learn their quirks. I have had several roommates before getting married and did (to some degree) experience similar things. What IS different is the male and female dynamic and the fact that you are in love with this person, not just sharing the rent and utilities.

For all intensive purposes, my wife is Monica from Friends. Not that they look alike but they act alike in their manic preferences. I constantly tease her by boldly claiming that she suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Of course, most people when compared to me look OCD since I am extremely laid back and people oriented. My wife loves to “get things done” and crossing tasks off of her lists. Nothing is ever quite important enough for me to even have a list and if I can’t get it done today…there is always tomorrow.

So with that set-up in mind here are a few observations of our various quirks:

My Wife

Must have things straight – I am not talking about a clean house (though that is true) but rather picture frames and nick knacks. I am pretty sure I got the idea from watching Friends but I will often go around making wall hangings crooked and moving decorative items a few inches out of place. If she does not notice immediately, it is only a matter of time before her keen eye hones in. This is a very fun and entertaining game when I get bored but it drives her nuts.

Spontaneity – She has none. You could call her right now with a free three week vacation to the Caribbean, all expenses paid with the only catch being that she has to leave tomorrow morning and it would be refused. This was a hard thing for me to adjust to. I am the type that used to have no plans whatsoever and wait to be invited out each night. Inevitably my brother, a friend, or church group would have something going on and call me the day of to include me in the action. I try to get her to relax a bit about this quirk and she has made efforts. However, I think this will be a life-long struggle for her and I really don’t mind.

Movies – This is related to the item above but deserves its own category. Mostly MW will not go see a movie because it was not pre-planned and therefore classifies as spontaneous. However, I accuse her of baiting and switching on me with this item and its true. When we were dating she always went to the movies with me AND I LOVE MOVIES. I used to go twice a week, minimum. I understand that marriage in general will slow down that kind of frequency but I am lucky to sit in a theatre twice a year now. Strangely MW is fine with a rental. She has tried explaining to me that it gives her the freedom to be in her own home and simultaneously finish other tasks but I don’t get it.

Hygiene – This is a good quirk to have but MW makes the guy on Monk seem dirty. Admitting that she goes overboard means I have to admit going under-board. I can be nasty sometimes but hey…I’m a guy. I call her the Hygiene Police when she busts me for my hand washing technique or for complaining of dirt under my nails. I have been embarrassingly caught a few times avoiding cleanliness as though dirt was the better option to being clean. As for her, you can count on her having wipes, hand sanitizer, and a full scrub-down kit if any germs break through her personal barrier.

Lists – All highly organized and efficient personalities do this. There is nothing negative about it unless these lists become regarded as sacred. Afterall a list usually contains tasks and inanimate items. If those become more important than people, there is potential for problems but MW doesn’t take it there. In fact, I have encouraged her to make very detailed grocery lists in order to help us stay in budget with our shopping. (We both have a tendency to wander down the isles like kids in a candy store, grabbing anything that looks shiny and yummy).


I never thought I had any quirks. I always figured that my laid back nature was indicative of a “whatever” mentality. For the most part that is true but I have discovered that this does not prevent one from having quirks.

Bathroom behavior – I WILL NOT use the restroom in front of my wife (peeing is the exception). Furthermore, I DO NOT want to walk in on my wife using the restroom. Everyone used to tell me that I would change my views on this once married. Nope. Never. I am not sure why I have such a hang-up about it but I do. We are now on year four and I can proudly say that there have been no infractions to this rule.

Toothpaste – Surprisingly MW, the neat and tidy OCD driven personality, squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle. Even more surprisingly, Mr. laid back, not a care-in-the-world, me…cannot stand it. I constantly take the tube and work the paste from the end to the front only to find a depression in the middle the next day. Sometimes MW does this on purpose to repay me for all of my kindness to her about her quirks and sometimes she just legitimately does not think about it. So the toothpaste battle will likely be endless.

Singular Focus – Modern-day society demands to some extent that we be able to multi-task and as such, I meet the minimum requirements. I can drive and talk on the cell. I can surf the net, email, and chat on IM. I can take a business call while motioning to my staff to give me a minute. But that is about it. I am singularly focused to such a finite detail that most other things around me disappear. This has many applications and examples that deserve their own subheadings

  • Television – Unless something I hate is on, do not count on talking to me while my eyes are on the screen. I may even say, “uh-huh” as though I heard you but I didn’t. I am not sure how women can listen to two conversations at once but I cannot do it. Ever. So if the conversation you are starting is something you want me to hear, make sure to break my gaze on the TV by pausing it (Tivo is great) or standing between the set and me. I prefer the first one but either will get my attention.
  • Work – Despite my ability to multi-task on a minimum level my job requires more than that from me. As such, when I have 10 tasks to get done all at once, I go nuts. My stress levels spike and I am likely to be mean and huffy until the weight of the demands loosen. Of course they don’t loosen until I get them finished or delegated out.
  • Hair Brushes and Dryers – To my surprise and MW’s, I can be very detailed when cleaning something. The key is to get me started because I likely have no interest in cleaning in the first place. One day MW handed me her brush and I noticed the gobs of hair caught in the bristles. For the next hour I meticulously picked every single strand out of the brush and then did the same thing to her hair dryer screen. It doesn’t have to be a hair-related product for this phenomenon to occur but these are the most common of examples.

Hot Blooded – At night and only at night, my body heat rises to a crazy level. It probably has something to do with my super-powers and my body's way of recharging. Suffice to say, I get really uncomfortable and must shed most clothing (sorry to put that image in your mind). Don’t worry, I normally stay fairly presentable until its safe to crawl under covers. The problem that stems from this quirk is cuddling and thermostat preference. I love to cuddle and would never keep my wife from doing so. In order for it to work though, I have to be uncovered with the fan on pretty high. She tolerates these conditions as we generally watch TV and I scratch her back and head waiting for slumber to overtake us. The thermostat is where arguing might ensue. MW is likely to have the house set to 80 degrees during the hottest part of the summer whereas I prefer a crisp 70. We compromised…sort of. If it where a true game of tug-of-war her side would be winning with a two-point lead at the temp of 77. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

I bring all of this up in fun. Any differences between me and My Wife are what make things interesting and fun. After all it allowed me to have content for this blog entry, right? My quirks and personality work well with her quirks and personality. At the end of the day and in all honesty, neither of us have a problem with the other’s idiosyncrasies.

I would love to hear about your quirks…or your roommates…or your spouse's.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Bad Christian

I am a bad Christian. Or at least that is what my email messages tell me. You know the ones that have pictures of angels, babies, rainbows, clouds, and sunshine? Sometimes the images even move whilst a soft melody plays in the background. The text is usually in a soft cursive font and often blinks as you read it, rendering you blind. The message…you name it. It might be a prayer for you and yours. It might be a sad tale about Bashmali Dassock, the one armed, one legged boy suffering from poor hygiene and dateless nights. Then he became a Christian and grew a new arm and leg, suddenly becoming attractive to women and thus solving his problems. I can stomach most of these, though I must admit that my gag reflex goes into overdrive. Where I totally blow a gasket is at the end. Almost every ‘Christian email’ has it…the guilt message.

It goes something like this:

Now that you have been blessed by this absolutely worthless waste of time, please pass it on to 5 of your friends who will receive the same blessings.

Christ said, “Do not be ashamed of me and I will not be ashamed of you in the presence of my Father.”

Then there is usually a very ironic statement spouting promises of health, wealth, and happiness. The condition: You must send this email to 45 people in 25 seconds or suffer the horrible wrath of burning hemorrhoids. I say ironic because this is a statement of superstition. Something Christians should not put merit into.

Do you honestly believe that you will enter the Pearly Gates and be confronted with your inability to pass on the worlds worst form letter ever authored? Furthermore, do you honestly believe by sending me this email that I then believe that you are Super-Christian, able to leap tall building in a single bound? Well if you asking…NO, I don’t! In fact, I am wondering which line of the guilt trip/superstitious promise got to you. I am wondering how many brain cells you killed at college frat parties. I am wondering if you really do get sad when at 11:11PM tonight something miraculous and wonderful fails to happen.

Maybe I am just being overly sensitive and critical…but that was nice to get off of my chest.

Now send this to 57 people otherwise you'll be attacked by rabid squirrels and flying monkeys when you leave for work tomorrow.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Jesus...The Easter Savior

As I slowly bite into my Cadbury Egg this Easter, with eyes closed, enjoying the Cadbury, gooey, goodness I am reminded of Jesus and how he hop, hop, hopped out of the tomb and began laying eggs for his disciples to find. But then he saw his shadow and disappeared into the heavens causing 4 more weeks of rain.

Oh wait! That isn’t how it goes?

With 4 month old twins, I am starting to look at life through their eyes. In doing so, I am reminded of confusing traditions like Easter and Christmas when I was a kid. Now please understand…I am not suggesting that these traditions go away. I am just as brainwashed as you are and must have my Easter Bunny and Santie Claus. But I can see some danger in these practices with rearing children.

I understand that we probably don’t want to make our kids dwell on the suffering of Christ by hiding nails and crowns of thorns in the yard but lets make sure that they do understand something. The real something, not just bunnies, pastels, candy, and hard boiled eggs.

The danger is this: The Bible has some pretty outlandish and hard-to-believe characters and stories in it, much like Jolly Saint Nick, The Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. When kids come of age and have the truth explained to them, it can be very easy to throw out all other seemingly amazing tales. I do not specifically remember being so disappointed that there was no Tooth Fairy that I rebelliously quit believing in Christ but it did start a long line of questions.

My goal (and hopefully it can be done successfully) is to let my kids enjoy the pagan traditions of the Christian Church but make sure they know the real reasons for the celebration.

I better quit while I am ahead. Lightning might confuse my sarcasm for blasphemy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Classic Childhood

I promise not to make a huge habit out of posting email forwards. However, there are a few decent ones out there with good content and this is one of them. It has been around several times so most of you will probably recognize the message. The reason it strikes a particular chord with me is that:

A. I make the cut having been born in the 70’s
B. This pretty accurately describes my childhood (and it was great)
C. I am a parent now and would like to give my kids a wonderful childhood as well

D. I think we are raising a generation of children with very unrealistic perceptions.

I hope NOT to come across as the old man that claims to have walked uphill to school both ways in the snow. But this has that potential, so be forewarned.
TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

I made it into this category by a fraction. I am a 70’s baby, not to be confused with a 70’s child. I am an 80’s kid and rightfully detest the 70’s. In fact, these new 70’s hairstyles and clothing that teenagers are wearing make me a bit ill. At least Disco has failed to make a comeback (and I pray daily that it stays that way). Ironically, I do enjoy the movie Dazed and Confused as well as That 70’s Show. Go figure.

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

Yeah. I am glad we don’t do this anymore. But the point of these three facts is that we were not coddled or overprotected even at or before birth. Besides the lead-based crib was key to my gaining super powers.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

Hitchhiking was a bad idea by the time I came around but the rest of this sounds about right. I especially take issue with the helmets, knee, and elbow pads. It’s called the outdoors. It won’t bite and if it does you will learn to avoid the pitfalls.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Another thing that needed to change but I have noticed something. Cars in my day were made of steel (or at least it seemed that way). I used to drive a Cutlass Supreme and it was a veritable tank. I got in two wrecks with it and barely broke a headlight. The other cars were much more modern and crushed like tin cans. So I think we have traded seatbelts and airbags for the technological “give” of modern alloys.

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because...WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!

Can I get an Amen?!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

This again is where my later birth makes some points a bit untrue for me. I did play Pong, Atari, KalecoVision, and by middle school had purchased a Nintendo. However, I mostly hung out with friends and only played games when it was rainy or time to go inside.

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

Afterall it was our fault, not the tree, its owner, or the city's.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

No we didn’t. Unless it was a triple-dog dare. Gotta protect your rep.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

I like the choice of the phrase “very many eyes”.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Remember riding bikes? Not a battery or gas powered scooter or minibike but bicycles?

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned

HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them!


Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

Where are those sewing shears?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Blogity Blog Blog

Formally called Weblogs, this new phenomenon has taken the internet by storm. I would bargain to guess that MySpace can lend a decent amount of its popularity to this feature (though not all members author a blog). I am no expert on why this craze is well…a craze. But I have been observing and reading blogs for a couple years now. And while my blogging status is still set at ‘rookie’; I have a few thoughts about what is currently out there.

The True Weblog
I really don’t like a true web-log. This is the ancestor to modern-day blogs as they started out in diary form.

Dear Weblog,

Today I was totally wearing my Daisy Dukes and caught Todd staring. He is SOO hot and I majorly think he’s gonna ask me out soon. Lol!!!!

Check ya later,

Susie Q.

Unless you life is super-interesting, I do not want to read about it. If you have a theme or an idea for a story and incorporate your life, great. But if you talk about April 11th from 8am when you woke up and end with 12pm when your sorry butt hit the sack, I am bored.

Speaking of Bored - Try to write something interesting. I am quite certain that my posts bore some people to tears. Hopefully a few make the grade though and interest the random reader. No one says that you have to be a novelist to blog but do consider that someone MIGHT accidentally find you.

Be Passionate – I will concede that passionate opinions can miss the mark of having any value. But at least you have a chance of getting my attention if you are interested in the subject matter yourself. The worst opinions of course are the ones that contradict mine, so try your best to be right about everything.

Themes are good – Some of my favorite blog sites are thematic. As you can see by my links list, there are blogs about cycling, twins, writing, and faith. Hmm…those subjects sound familiar…ah yes, that is what I write about. The reason I choose to be multi-topical is the same reason you should carefully evaluate any themes before committing to them:

You eliminate any opportunity to speak on other areas of interest AND you better know lots about your subject. Otherwise you will certainly run out of material and become disinterested yourself.

Update Regularly - Even some of the best sites make the mistake of keeping the same posts up too long. I understand that people have lives and busy schedules. So if you have to let a few days pass by, your audience will likely forgive you. The amount of time that you can allow to pass will directly correspond with just how studly-a-blogger you are. Even the pros are likely to lose a significant audience given a long enough hiatus. Besides, if you update regularly, you will have readers regularly visiting.

Tweak Your Site - I am no HTML expert or even a novice. But there are tons of materials out there that can help you give your blog some spark. I am not talking about being obnoxious like the guy in Office Space pedaling his flare but making a subtle change makes a difference. The skins that come with your free site are overdone and shared by thousands of other bloggers.

Consider Your Readers – Isn’t this the point of blogging for the most part? I know, I know…you say you do it for fun. Or you are just honing your craft, right? Sure but you could do that in a personal journal or in Microsoft Word. The allure of blogs is that someone might read your material. That someone will likely then decide if they like your stuff and might even comment. There is no other forum that I know of that allows hordes of amateur writers to publish their writing. The real question is whether or not you will attract the masses or just 12 hits per week. Either scenario presents an opportunity to have an audience but it sure would be nice to watch the hit counter spin.

One Final Rule - Don't blog about blogging. Only I can do that.

Happy blogging! Just don’t screw it up.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

It is way too early to weigh in on this story since it just broke last night. But there is a document that allegedly was penned by Judas Iscariot, best known for his betrayal of Christ. The report I saw last night does not bother to tell you any of the narrative except for one, potentially difficult fact for Christians:

Judas claims to have betrayed Jesus per His request. Meaning that Christ asked Judas to turn Him over and set everything up secretly.

Assuming of course, that this document is authentic (as it is reported) I would really like to know of his other accounts and compare them to existing Gospels.

Barring that, I have a few tidbits to for you to chew on:

  • The Bible for one reason or another came together in its current form without the Apocrypha or missing accounts from Judas. Some will argue that humans are solely responsible for that editing but I claim Devine intervention. As such, nothing is to be added to or taken from the Bible (whether it is the Book of Mormon or this current document).
  • Is this document truly authentic?
  • Does it matter if this document is authentic?
  • If Judas could betray Christ, what would keep him from reporting falsehoods in his written accounts?
  • There are always going to be attacks from Satan to throw doubt into the Christian belief system. Much of the literature I have read about Anti-Christ describes a plot to disprove the Christian faith. One such theory is that a seemingly authentic document will be uncovered that discredits Jesus. Could this be it?
  • How will the Christian community as a whole, deal with this issue?
  • How will you?

Two posts in one day is rare for me, so I better go lie down. I figured I would give you something to get you through the weekend though.

Give me your thoughts either in comment form or through email.

Dreams and Themes

I have always been fascinated by dreams. Not the kind that drive you to accomplish goals but the kind you experience when asleep. It seems as though I am having less and less dreams the older I get. But experts say that all of us dream, every night. So maybe we only remember dreams that emotionally affect us in some way. That would make sense because the older I get, the more substantial a dream would have to be to get a rise out of me. Contrast that with childhood, when I dreamed all of the time and was very much a blank slate. Two types of dreams get my attention and likely yours; bad dreams and good dreams.

Bad dreams are even easier to remember than good because the emotional response is usually very intense (at least for me). Whether I have dreamt of a loved one’s death or that I have fallen into a pit of snakes…my adrenaline gets pumping. You can only have so much of that chemical shooting through your veins before you rouse yourself awake, which is why we often wake up gasping right as the worst of the dream starts.

Good dreams don’t make us sit up in bed gasping for breath with hearts racing. But they do invoke an emotional response. These are the dreams that if you do wake up, you try to get back to sleep quickly and re-fabricate the scene. It never works though and I hate that.

Last Nights Dream
I was boarding a plane and settling into my seat. Whether I heard an audible warning or just sensed trouble, I knew that I needed to get off of the plane. I even knew why…there were missiles being fired. My efforts to deplane were thwarted by the hatch being sealed and the attendant asking me to return to my seat. The plane immediately began gaining speed and I had to crouch on the floor during takeoff since it was too late to strap in.

We interrupt this dream sequence…
I must pause the story for a second to address and interesting phenomenon that you likely experience as well. I rarely, if ever, dream from the perspective that I have in real life. I am not usually looking through my own eyes but rather I see the story unfold as you would a movie. I can see my whole body, the entire scene, and any others involved.

Back to original programming
With that in mind, the camera (for lack of a better analogy) switched to an outside shot of the plane gliding through the air and a missile running parallel, thrusters blazing. If my emotional response had not already kicked into full gear, this is where it started. I seem to have an ability to ‘will’ things to happen or not happen if I am determined enough. I did NOT want this projectile to hit our plane and experience the horror of a fiery, mid-air death. So my airplane made maneuvers that allowed our escape. Like most dreams, the sequencing can make little to no sense. Or it could be that my memory of the exact chronology is messed up. Either way, the next thing I knew we were standing outside of the plane in the middle of an abandoned town. I cannot say if we actually landed or crashed but there were only 15 of us huddled together trying to figure things out. So my mind just dismissed the 100 or so other people from the original boarding.

In the distance we saw a large plume of smoke and knew that the missile had finally hit ground. A man amongst us was very concerned and seemed to know more than the rest of us. He explained that we were going to die from radiation and fallout since we were exposed to the elements with no shelter. I quickly scanned our surroundings and saw an abandoned shopping strip. Pulling on each door, I finally found an unlocked store front that happened to be an ice cream shop (that was my mind telling me that a visit to Baskin Robbins is overdue). I motioned for the rest of the gang to join me and the once gloomy expert, was now smiling and excited.

We had food, we had bathroom facilities, and we had shelter. The question was how long do we have to stay in order to dodge the fall out? The rest of the dream had me and the crew searching through supplies, duct taping doors and windows, and claiming various sleeping areas. It was when I started to settle in for the night that it finally hit me. I was with strangers and still uncertain of my life expectancy. Where were my wife and family? How would they get along without me? The emotional response kicked into high gear again and I began wishing that this were a dream. I began telling myself that this was not real, and that I have to wake up.

Usually when that happens, I do actually wake up but this time I didn’t which added more stress. I became more certain of the dream-world being a reality and continued my survival regiment. Finally my alarm went off and I snapped back into the real world, relieved that my wife was next to me and Armageddon had not started.

While I cannot say that I have ever had a reoccurring dream, I do have common themes return to me quite often. I also have something I call dream memories. Whether I am actually remembering other dreams or people from other dreams, there are times that I talk with someone that I (in real life) have never seen or had contact with. In the dream though, I remember them as though we are friends and life-long acquaintances.

My reoccurring themes are:

Flying – These are fun until I realize that I should not be able to fly. I usually lose the power and spend the rest of the dream trying to regain it. I have had various objects, like parachute-looking kites and hand held propellers help me fly the friendly skies.

Hide and Seek/Being chased – These can be scary or fun depending on whether my brain has friends or foe chasing me. I tend to explore vast buildings and find very well hidden areas to keep my pursuers at bay.

Snakes – In real life, snakes do not scare me. But in dream land I have had nightmares involving these creatures since childhood. The scariest part of these dreams is when I have to grab one behind the head and try to choke it. They always fight like mad, turning their head right and left almost overpowering my grip. To my knowledge, they never win but do manage to put me through really rough wrestling matches.

The Devil – Before snakes took over my nightmares, I had a handful of dreams where I was playing on my swing set in the backyard. The yard backed up to a wooded area in real life and in my dreams. I would then hear a very scary noise that I knew was the devil. Mind you, I never saw this creature but I just knew what it was. The rest of the dream was in slow motion as I would jump to my feet and run for the back door. (For some reason you were safe if you could get inside the house) I would always slam the door safely inside as the creature would almost have me in its grasp. I theorize that these dreams and the snake dreams had something to do with Biblical stories told to me as a child. The devil and/or the serpent were the villains, you know?

Searching for something – These are similar to the Hide and Seek dreams in that I am usually in large, maze like structures. Sometimes it’s a hotel, others it’s a warehouse, arcades, or department store. Instead of being chased, I am the pursuer, not of a person but a treasure of some sort. I don’t know what I am looking for but for some reason understand that I will recognize it when I find it. I theorize that these dreams stem from my constant search for life’s answers. These were very prevalent when I was really lost and looking for truth about 7 years ago.

There are probably more that I fail to recall at this time. That is the gist of it though, so I will end the list there. Feel free to add your comments about my dreams or your own. Also, new to the site (I am slowly figuring out some HTML) is a link to email me. I figure some would-be commenter might prefer sending me a message that won’t necessarily be published.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Walking a Thin Line

From the Morning is a blog that I read pretty regularly. FTM posts a pretty funny article about Manliness and getting injured. Most of his posts are tongue in cheek and this was no exception. It got me thinking though about my own experiences as a male in modern society and I figured it was worth a rant of my own. So here goes…

I am not sure when children actually become aware of their gender. The first time I remember anything of the sort, I was four or five. A neighbor girl and I were playing and the subject came up. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” was offered by one of us (probably me). We took turns saying, "you first" for about ten minutes and then she finally did it…her pants came down. I was a very curious child but very bashful too. So after a quick glance at her…I took off running to avoid my turn and any possible embarrassment. Looking back, that was a pretty mean thing to do but at the time, it seemed the only option.

Besides the anatomical differences though, you have fairly standard personality deviations and behavioral patterns. Modern day society is doing its best to make this line more and more blurry as we feminize our boys and toughen up our girls. I think my generation was one of the last to truly experience the rough and tumble, classic childhood.

I was typical in a lot of ways. I rode my bike everywhere, popping wheelies, hitting some massive jumps, falling down, busting my chin, knees, lips, and head. I played every sport under the sun but seemed to excel at things that demanded speed (as I was a fast runner). I was right next to the other boys, playing in the creeks, trying to catch crawfish, and having an all out dirt clod fight. I made forts in the woods and poked snakes with really long sticks. I tried starting fires with a magnifying glass but mostly burnt ants that were minding their own business. I was an energetic ball of sweat that had to squeeze every moment out of the daylight possible before having to go inside for the evening. I knew it was time to go in when the streetlights came on. On the rare occasions that I pushed the envelope, my dad was usually whistling from down the street with a stern look on his face.

Where I was not so typical was my sensitivity to others. I had (and according to my wife, still have) a really big heart. I wanted everyone to be friends and harmony to spread throughout the land. I wished no harm to anyone and assumed that all others felt the same way. So you can imagine how easily someone with this kind of innocence can get hurt. Forget getting pushed or socked in the jaw…that got me crying for sure. All it really took was a nasty sentiment or mean insult for me to get hurt. Thankfully, I had very few of these moments in my neighborhood or Christian school. It wasn’t until I went to Southfield Elementary that I got my first real lesson in manliness.

Not only was I the new kid but I was poor. I had no right to walk the hallowed hallways with the elite of Shreveport, Louisiana and they let me know it. I used to wonder how they knew my economic status until I saw a picture a me a few years ago. My school mates were clad in Izod and Polo shirts and nice slacks with freshly manicured hair-do’s. I was in a pair of faded and tattered corduroys with a ragged t-shirt and wild locks flying in my face. By fifth grade I began to toughen up but the entire first year (4th grade) was hell. I think it was Payton who first figured out how much fun could be had making me cry. He would hurl insult after insult at me. He would track how often I wore a certain piece of clothing and make sure the entire class knew that I had worn it again a few days later. Soon he had a group of boys that would surround me at recess and join in on the fun.

My only saving grace was my athletic ability. Interestingly the very kids that were getting me to cry five minutes earlier, were choosing up teams for football and picking me first or second. You see, Clint Madison was their athletic god before I came around. He was faster than any kid in our grade and had the coordination to go with it. The boys found out quickly that I was the ONLY one that could match and sometimes even best Clint in sports. So pride was swallowed when it came time for competition and I would become a hero, if only for the 30 minutes of scrimmage time.

I am not sure when it happened but somewhere in my frustrated dealings with bullies and mean-spirited cohorts, my dad set me down. Having still not mastered the art of “being tough” his words did just as much to make me cry as anything my schoolmates did. He told me to “toughen up” and quit my crying. In not so many words he explained that I needed to be a man or else get squashed by life and its various bullies. The irony in all of this is that I get that sensitivity from him. So it must have been hard for him to give this tear jerking speech to me. But in his mind, he was saving me consistent, future heart-ache…and to a large extent he was right. Sure I got knocked around some in Middle School but I also pushed back. Insults were returned with insults. And half the time, your would-be enemies backed down once they find out you can dish it back.

Don’t get me wrong though, I was a fraud for a long time. I sincerely still wanted to cry…to run, trembling in fear. But I faked it. And I faked it again, and again. Until it became my natural response to confrontation and ingrained into my personality.

As much as that process needed to happen and as much as I am glad it did, part of me is saddened by the loss of that little boys innocence and emotional sensitivity. I am not talking about a boy that is confused about his sexuality that puts on dresses and plays with Barbie. I am talking about a boy that played with frogs and spiders and believed the best in everybody and everything. It is a thin line that we males have to walk. We need to maintain some sort of masculine and protective nature. But a little sensitivity usually hides somewhere in the depths of our hearts. Most of us won’t ever let you see it. But if you glance over at us at the right moment (maybe towards the end of Forest Gump or during Extreme Home Makeover, or the Super Bowl) you may just see that lump in our throat and a bit of moisture in the corner of the eye. We will likely say something got stuck in there but you will know otherwise. Just try to keep our secret.

My newfound fear lies with my infant son. So far, he seems to be my absolute twin in every way. I dread the day that his sweet, innocent, sensitive persona has to make its transition. I dread having to be the one to “toughen” him up.

But damn it…its good to be a MAN. Now enough of this crybaby crap…where is my beer?