Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Where do you exist?

My men's group tonight hit on a fascinating topic.  Each of us had a different location of where we feel like our 'essence' or soul exists.  You know, when you close your eyes and you're just thinking - where do you feel like you 'are'. 

Personally, my consciousness is right behind my eyes.  For a couple of the guys, it was also in the brain, but further back.  For one, it is right between his ears.

Two of the guys felt like their consciousness was not inside their heads, but attached, either on top or right behind.  One of them stated it was like Geordi LaForge's visor on backwards.

And one of the guys felt like his consciousness is several inches behind his head, completely detached.

Weird, wild stuff.  And it led to more questions.  Do women feel differently?  Do people with heightened emotions feel it more in their chest?  Is it different for blind people?  And what correlation, if any, is there with people's personalities?

Feel free to let me know where your consciousness resides.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blog Therapy: My childhood may not have been as I remember it.

I had lunch with my mother today.  And she mentioned that I'd taken a certain medication from 2nd grade through Junior High, at which time I suddenly refused to take it anymore.  It was an early ADD medication, the idea being that I had trouble concentrating in class.  And I really don't remember taking it at all (she's told me before - it's not like it's a secret).  And when she mentioned how I refused to take it anymore, I didn't remember that.  But some of it's coming back to me.

I remember feeling like I wasn't really a part of my family.  I had this impression, almost like they were all 'acting normal', so that I would be lulled into accepting my place in the family.  Like those stories you hear when they find an abductee is living with their abductor and has transitioned into thinking it's normal.  And being adopted played right into that.  And I'm remembering that my reasoning behind the medication decision was something like, 'Who are you people, and why are you drugging me?  Well, I'm not going along with that anymore.'

There's this cautionary vibe around adopting kids these days.  Not that people shouldn't do it or anything, but just this warning that adopted kids, even if they're adopted as babies, will often have their own set of issues and that they'll have trouble fitting into the family.  And it's strange, because I remember my childhood as normal.  But I'm wondering if that's just because we tend to think of ourselves as the norm.  I'm starting to realize that maybe I am that problem child.

Because, in my family, I'm the one they had to put on medication.  I'm the one they held back a grade.  I'm the one who had that phase bordering on paranoid delusions of not belonging.  I'm the one who struggled with severe depression.  I'm the one who attempted suicide.  I'm the one they sent to a therapist.  I'm the one who didn't finish college.  And even today, I'm the one who's not married and I'm the one who has never settled into a stable job.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not having paranoid delusions now.  I think I'm a fairly normal guy with fairly normal struggles, only some of which have their roots in being given up for adoption.  But I am wondering to what degree I've whitewashed my memories.  I'm left with a sense now that in my family, I was 'special'.  And it's creeping me out. 

It's hard to say, though, because I remember so little - my memories of my childhood are almost nonexistent.  And what little there is - they're mostly not even real memories - I just remember facts about what I used to remember.  I think a big part of that is because I don't visualize.  My brain does not store images, so I don't have those visual cues to help me remember.

So, to my family - sorry.  I guess you did the best you could.  Not that all of your decisions were perfect, but it's trial and error and I get that.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Messing With the Count

You know how when someone is busy counting, some people like to jump in and count with them, but just a little off, to mess with them?  Well, they're doing it wrong.  It's the sign of an amateur.  Also wrong is throwing in random stuff, like '46 ... 47 ... blue ... horseshoes ...'  This is even less effective.

The most effective way is to start just above where they're at and count backwards.  Because people can usually ignore someone just messing with them, but that will make their brain go, 'Hey, wait, what are you doing?  You're doing it wrong!'

So now you know.

Challenging People

As I was going to bed tonight, I felt prompted to pray for someone.  This is a person in my life who can be a little challenging.  They would identify themselves as a Christian, but they've got a lot of issues to work out.  Still, this is someone I see fairly regularly, and I think that's a good thing.  For me, and for them.  For me, as I think we're called to spend time with challenging people, as it helps us to work on being patient and forgiving and all of that good stuff.  And for them, as good, christian community is so important and, frankly, life changing.

Anyway, I was prompted to pray for them.  And I was about to pray kind of my standard, 'Lord, help them to ...'  You know the one.  But I stopped, and evaluated for a moment.  And instead I prayed, 'Lord, help me to be more loving.'

Like I said, this person needs a lot of work.  Mind you, we all do - and I generally think of myself as the most flawed individual in the room.  But it just struck me.  We are to be His hands.  I want to figure out how to connect better with them, how to give them some of what they need.  How to help make this person feel secure enough that they can begin to make the necessary changes on their own. 

So, I did pray for God to help them.  But mostly I asked God to work on me.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bob & the Blerg

Once upon a time, there was a God named Bob.  Bob had created a pretty cool universe for himself, and he'd spent quite a bit of time seeing all of the sights.  But it was time for something new.  So, he picked a planet, and made up some people to live there.

These people were known as the Anachondrians, and they looked a lot like you, only rather rainbow-hued.  And they loved their math.  They'd have lively parties where they'd engage in advanced calculus and trigonometry and several other types of mathematics that you couldn't begin to understand.  Bob would often join them at these parties, and they'd spend all night doing calculations and coming up with new formulas.

Bob was pleased with himself and how well his people were getting on.  So he decided to do it again.  He picked a new planet in a different galaxy, and created the Shrouds.  This was a race of intelligent gasses.  And they were the sneakist of the sneaky!  They invited Bob to join them on spy adventures and covert operations.  Oh, it was exciting, and Bob had a marvelous time with them, as well.

So, Bob kept making new peoples, each one special and unique.  One was a quartet of giant felines (so big the planet was almost too small for them) with amazing, poofy tails, that mostly lazed in the sun all day.  Another was a dragon made of water that had 18 heads and pondered philosophy for hours on end.  In all, Bob created 100 planets in 86 galaxies, and he had the best time bouncing from one world to another, hanging out with all of his creations.

One day Bob was visiting the Stak (androids with a hive-mind with beautiful voices and penchant for musicals), when his assistant, Angus McFoodle, popped in to report a problem.  Which caught Bob by surprise, because up until now there had been no problems.  Each group of people Bob had created was getting along fine, both among themselves and with their creator.  But Angus reported that on planet 39, the Blergs were not doing so well.

Okay, Bob wasn't completely surprised.  He knew if there was going to be a problem, it would probably be with the Blergs, as he'd given them quite a lot of free will.  Added to that, their life-cycle could be a little confusing.  The Blergs had three lives: Pre-life, Mid-Life, and the Afterlife.  Pre-Life seemed fairly straightforward - grow up, eat your vegetables, listen to your parents, figure out what kind of stuff you're into, and do that.  Mid-Life occurred after the Blergs had lived 70-80 years.  They would die and go to a place called The Waiting Room, where they could sit and drink root beer or coffee or what have you, and have deep conversations about poetry and the meaning of life.  Or, if they preferred, they could play video games.  And all that Bob asked was that they would take turns sitting on the Throne of Blergness while they all hung out and waited for the Afterlife.

The Afterlife was something all of Bob's people had in common.  Once each people had had a good long go-round on their respective planets, Bob was going to gather them all together for the biggest party ever!  He was so excited to see how the Shrouds would interact with the Amarm-a-mamoulles.  Or to watch the Papi-Papu exchange recipes with the dinner eaters from Rahnduva.  It was all very exciting, and it would be the party to end all parties, inasmuch as it would go on forever.

But now the Blergs were throwing a wrench into Bob's plans.  The problem started in Pre-Life.  Apparently, the Blergs, instead of taking the time to know and love and appreciated each other, were growing self-involved.  Each one only interacted with others when they needed to, and even then they could get quite snippy.  And the situation only got worse in The Waiting Room.  Instead of interacting, the Blergs each retired to their own room and played video games, and never spoke to each other anymore.  And because they weren't on speaking terms, there was no way to work out a schedule for sitting on the Throne of Blergness, so nobody did.

Well, this would not do.  Not only was it unhealthy behavior, it was downright anti-social, and would put a huge damper on the party.

So, Bob went down there and tried to explain to them that they needed to change.  And that's when Bob discovered another problem.  Most of the Blergs couldn't hear him.  They'd become so self-involved that their ear canals had changed over time to tune him out.

Fortunately, a few of the Blergs could still hear him.  So, Bob explained the situation to them and sent them as his ambassadors.  And each time Bob sent one of these ambassadors, the rest of the Blergs would come out of their houses and start talking to each other for a while.  But then they'd get sick of each other and start to bicker and fight and go back home alone.

Bob tried and tried to get the Blergs to change their behavior, but it wasn't working.  So, Bob came up with a new plan.  He created a machine and called it the Blergian De-Selfinator, and he installed in The Waiting Room, next to the Throne.  This machine would suck the selfishness right out of every single Blerg.  All it needed was for one Blerg to hop onto the Throne to power it up (it could only be powered by a Blerg).

And then Bob did something quite unexpected - he split himself in two.  One part he called Bo, and the other part he called Ob.  Bo stayed where he was, to oversee operations, while Ob turned himself into a Blerg.  And Ob went down and lived among the Blerg.  He grew up and ate his vegetables and listened to his Blergian parents and then became a famous movie star.  And when he'd become quite famous, he went on the Blerg equivalent of Oprah and explained that he was really Bob.  And he explained that he wasn't angry, but that he was there to help them all out by sitting on the Throne of Blergness for them.

The Blerg were not impressed.  In fact, they thought Ob was quite full of himself.  So they killed him.  Which suited Ob just fine.  He died and went to The Waiting Room, and plopped himself down on the Throne, and sucked all of the selfishness out of all of the Blerg there.

When that happened, the Blerg there were ecstatic.  They'd never been very happy in their selfish state, and now they were free to interact with each other and with Ob.  Life was back the way it should be.  And each and every Blerg from then on, when they died and went to the Mid-Life, was shocked to find themselves in a whole new way.

That's pretty much the story of Bob.  Eventually, they got around to that Afterlife party, and it was one for the record books.  The Creampuff Puffers of Dandeloss were a special hit, as all of the other guests could eat them for dessert and and not worry about calories (it's okay, the Puffers regenerate as fast as they're eaten)!  But everyone like the Blerg the best, as they were so friendly and engaging and seemed to flit about the party making sure everyone else was having a good time.  And everyone lived happily ever after.

The End

Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. - Luke 15: 3-7

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Time Spent

There's a book you may have heard of called the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  It talks about how people usually have a primary love language: Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. 
My love language is Quality Time, or as I like to call it, Time Spent.  What it means is that I tend to express love by spending time with people, investing my hours with them.  And, conversely, I feel most loved when people choose to spend time with me, especially when they initiate it.

I remember when I was getting over a big breakup, I was, understandably, in a slight depression.  Then one day, I had a friend call.  He'd missed my birthday party, and wanted to make it up by hanging out with me.  We had lunch, then went to a nearby game shop and tried a couple of games, and he bought me one.  Then we went back to his place, where his wife, another good friend, made us all dinner.  And then we played more games.

Wait ... maybe my love language is games ...

Anyway, that was the day that I got over the breakup.  Because two of my friends just wanted to hang out with me all day.  That's what I needed.  It made me feel like I was a person that was worth spending time with.

There are some downsides to this love language.  For example, I don't always call friends to see if they want to hang out, because subconsciously I'm waiting to see if somebody calls me.  And it's a bit odd having this love language and being an introvert, as I'm usually pretty content to just hang out by myself a lot.  But if I'm not careful, I'll stay alone too long, and my tank will drain from lack of quality time, and then I just don't want to leave the house.  Which is why I try to protect myself by having different groups meet at my house regularly.

So, what's my point?  Gotta have a point, right?  Alright, three points.

1. Good book - worth the read.  I've got a copy if you want to borrow it.
2.  It's important to figure out the love languages of the people around you.  Because you may be a gift giver, but they don't always get the message when you give them little presents, because their language is Acts of Service.  Or you may not be much of a writer, but a little note to a Words of Affirmation person can change their whole day.
3. If you want to make me feel loved, hang out with me.  And we'll play games.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Thoughts on "Frozen"

At this point, I'd have to say my favorite movie this year is Frozen.  Gravity affected me more while I was watching it, but Frozen is the movie I'm still thinking about weeks later.

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it, for the beautiful animation and the well-written songs performed by mostly broadway types, plus the terrific Kristen Bell.  But more than anything else, I recommend it for the messages it sends.  In a media landscape where the amoral is celebrated more and more, it's refreshing to see a movie speak some important truths.

***Spoiler Alert***

Don't go any further if you haven't seen the movie.

Thought # 1 - I love how Anna falls head over heels in love with Hans, and they truly seem to be compatible and perfect for each other.  And their early scenes and especially their duet gives not one hint that they're not actually right for each other.  It's a depiction of early romantic love that rings true - that feeling that everything is perfect and it always will be and I just know we'll be happy forever and anyone who says differently just doesn't understand how big my feeling are.

Only, they're not meant to be together.  I actually was a little confused in the theater when Anna met Kristoff.  Because she already had her guy - why are they now setting up a second romantic interest?

I think what's great about this is that it shows what so often happens.  People fall in love and think they're 'soul-mates', and ignore the warnings of others, or ignore obvious signs or don't take the time to see if those signs manifest to begin with.  I'm so happy that a Disney film has a heroine that is mistaken in the same way that most people are at some point in their lives, and I think it's positive to reflect that reality on the screen, where it can stand as a cautionary tale.

Thought # 2 - The main message of the film, to me, is that love is about self-sacrifice.  And between this and The Hunger Games, I think it's inspiring to see heroines who are more concerned about other people than about their own romantic self-interest.

Thought # 3 - I missed this in the theater, but caught it on the soundtrack.  On the song 'Fixer Upper', the trolls are singing to Anna about how Kristoff is a bit of a fixer-upper, but basically a good guy.  And while you might get the impression that they're saying she can fix his flaws, the real message is that people change for the better when they're in a loving environment:

"We’re not saying you can change him, ‘cuz people don’t really change
We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange
People make bad choices if they’re mad, or scared, or stressed
Throw a little love their way (throw a little love their way) and you’ll bring out their best
True love brings out their best! "

Thought # 4 - I've read several reviews of the film, and some have pointed out that there is no true villain.  I completely disagree.  Elsa is the villain.  She creates a monster ( on purpose ) that very nearly kills Anna and Kristoff.   And if not for Anna finally breaking though to her, I think you're looking at someone who would grow more icy and withdrawn with time until in her solitude, she truly would become evil.  The very best villains are the ones who believe they are doing good, and Elsa thinks she is protecting her sister and the world by staying away.  But you can see how her isolation has led to anger and hurt that over time would create a bitter, twisted creature.  We're shown only the beginning of that transformation, and it's interrupted by Anna's self-sacrificial love.

There you have it - my favorite movie of the year - chock-full of real wisdom that goes against the conventional wisdom that we so often get in movies.

Friday, January 3, 2014

U.L.P. – Unintentional Lameness Projection

I’ve made up a silly acronym to talk about something serious.  What I’m talking about is when you make someone else feel like a loser through inaction and lack of communication.  Something we all do and we’re all subjected to.  And I think it’s one of those life lessons we need to learn and relearn. 

Example # 1 – During this very cold December, my apartment was without heat.  About a month and a half ago, the gas company red-tagged my wall heater.  Don’t worry, I have a space heater and blankets and a higher tolerance for cold than most, so I was fine.  But it was bothering me that it’s taking the landlady so long to fix it, especially during such a cold month.  I called her, and I could tell she felt bad and, frankly, embarrassed.  Seems that the heaters in over half of the units had to be replaced, and it’s $3,000 a pop.  And she didn’t say this specifically, but I’m guessing a $50,000 price tag was a bit steep for the building owner all in one month.  And she did say that they were focusing on the apartments with kids first.

Now, again, I’m fine.  But it’s the lack of communication that bothers me.  And the main problem is not my landlady’s fault – she’s stuck with what the building owner is willing or able to do.  But her error is in letting her awkwardness or embarrassment keep her from calling me and letting me know what’s going on.  Because that’s all I really want.  But her lack of dealing with me properly sent me the message that I’m just a peon renter and that I’m not important.

Example # 2 – I was at the grocery store about 6 months ago.  I had all of my items on the conveyor belt, when the line stopped moving.  I didn’t know what was going on at first, but about 5 minutes went by, and the cashier studiously avoided my gaze.  It turned out that what happened was the shopper in front of me had decided to go grab ‘one more thing’.  And the cashier was stuck there waiting longer and longer.  The cashier was put in an awkward position.  And if she’d just turned to me and explained what was going on or somehow acknowledged me, then I would have been fine.  But instead she ignored me, which made me feel like crap.  And it happened to be on a day when it was the last straw and it jacked up the rest of my day.

We all do this.  Sometimes it’s when you’ve been meaning to call someone, and then you feel bad that you’ve taken so long, so you postpone doing it some more.  Okay, you’re feeling bad about not calling, but you’re also making them feel like they’re not worth your time.  And you know that if you call them and tell them that you were doing the thing where you weren’t calling because you felt bad about not calling, you’ll probably both laugh about it – because we’ve all done it.

Or at a party, when you don’t say hello to someone because you ‘don’t want to bother them’.  You may be doing it because you feel shy or insecure.  But the message they may be receiving is that you’re too good to talk to them.

I was at a party recently, and someone I only know as an acquaintance was about to leave, when she looked over and noticed me.  She stopped and walked across the room just to say hello to me.  I felt like a million bucks.

So the next time you’re feeling shy or embarrassed or awkward, and there’s a chance that someone else could take that the wrong way, just take the time to communicate with them.  Swallow your pride or insecurity or whatever and try to see that lack of communication from their side.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I recently read a book called Pastrix, by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  You can check it out on Amazon.  She’s this really fun pastor – foul-mouthed, tattooed, and she started a church called House for All Sinners and Saints, where they welcome gays, lesbians, transgenders and so on. 

Now, I love how welcoming she is – she’s preaching that God loves everybody, and especially the outcasts.  And not just tolerated, mind you, but welcomed and included.  Which I think is spot on.  

But here’s where I have a problem.  It seems like they not only welcome these people, but celebrate them, too.  For example, they think it’s great that gay people get married and they incorporated a name change ceremony for a transgender into one of their services.

I want to be open minded.  For example, I’ve read articles that try to explain away the ‘gay verses’ in the Bible.  And it would be so much easier if I could honestly say that I thought Christians in previous generations had just ‘got it wrong’ (Lord knows, I believe that with some other major issues).  For example, when it comes to Sodom, it’s been explained that they didn’t like outsiders, and that they would rape strangers, just to make it clear how unwelcome they were.  So it wasn’t that the whole city was gay (which seems pretty unlikely), it was that they were trying to drive out strangers.  Not that it makes their actions any more acceptable, but it does show that the city’s sin wasn’t really that they were all gay.

But still, as a Christian, I look to the Bible, and it lists some things that are wrong, and that includes men having sex with men.  I’ve personally done some of the other things on that list, so I’m not casting stones, and I’m not saying we should make some sins worse than others or keep people out.  But if you had a church that celebrated adultery and acted like it was a good thing, what would you think of that?

For what it’s worth, I do recommend the book.  It got me thinking, and I think Nadia does a lot of things right.

Bad Hugs

A friend of mine recently posted this this article.

I don’t really want to talk about that.  Frankly, my guy friends and I have no problem hugging each other.  We hug all the time – good, firm, bear hugs.  Manly hugs.

What I do want to talk about is when girls give bad hugs.  This article talks about how men have backed off from being physically affectionate because they don’t want to come across as creepy.  But what makes me feel creepy is the way some women hug me.

Let me explain.  Some women give perfectly good hugs.  But some women, for whatever reason, give A-frame hugs.  An A-frame hug is when you lean way forward when you’re hugging, so there’s as little contact as possible.  This to me defeats the purpose of the hug.  When I hug someone, my inclination is to give a full hug.  I don’t always wrap my arms completely around the person, but I would say my hugs are boisterous, attempting to show, through physical contact, how I feel about the person.  There is a squeezing, a drawing in of the other person.

But the way some women hug, it’s as if they’re afraid that I’m going to cop a feel.  Please.  As if I’m going to be turned on by my chest pressing against yours for a couple of seconds.

Look, I know there are creepy guys out there, or even guys that you don’t know well enough to decide if you want to give them a real hug.  I get it.  I don’t want to hug those people either.  But if you know the person, and you know they’re not creepy, then why not express your affection in a real, full hug?

Because not doing so sends the message that you think they’re creepy.


This is a quick explanation of how it is that the odds of anything happening are 50/50.  You may think that’s crazy or that I simply do not understand how ratios work, but I will prove it to you.

Disclaimer: it must be something that is possible.  If something appears to be unlikely to happen, the odds remain 50/50.  However, some things, barring miraculous intervention, are actually impossible, like an apple spontaneously turning into an orange or a good Twilight book.  In those cases, the odds are, of course, 0.

So here is an example.  What are the odds that I will die in the next 5 minutes?  Well, there are any number of factors that might contribute to this happening.  I could have an aneurism.  An airplane could crash into my apartment.  There truly are an infinite number of things that could happen in the next 5 minutes that could cause my death.  But there are also any number of scenarios wherein I do not die in the next 5 minutes.  I could sit here at the computer uneventfully.  I could walk outside and not fall over the railing.  Truly, there are an infinite number of ways in which I could not die.

Now we apply a little bit of math.  Infinity vs infinity.  They’re equal, and therefore 50/50.

So, the next time someone asks you, ‘What are the odds?’, you’ll know how to answer.