Archive for the ‘Growing Up’ category

Enjoyment

May 10, 2012

I want to do something enjoyable tonight, like sleep. … … … Wow. My parents were right. My idea of enjoyable has changed.

I remember a time when “enjoyable” was not even a word that I would use. Something was either fun or not fun. Unfun? Fun things included staying up, drinking Mt. Dew, and playing games all night. Fun was eating a pizza, a whole pizza, just because I could. Fun was breaking out a new video game and the cheat codes. (Learning how to win on your own was for suckers. Beat it fast, then challenge yourself!) Fun was playing Home Alone at double speed on the VCR so that everybody sounded like they were chipmunks. (We called it Chipmunk Mode.) Back then, if it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t enjoyable.

Now, I not only appreciate enjoyment, but I also see the difference between it and fun. I still do fun things. Reenacting is a heck of a lot of fun. Watching funny movies is fun! Yes, video games are still fun… in moderation. As far as enjoyment is concerned, one of my favorite forms is in relaxation. Try going to a baseball game and not being relaxed. (That doesn’t work if you’re a Red Sox or Yankees fan. Sorry!) Sitting around and reading. Having dinner or a drink with friends. Getting a good lie-down, or even just closing my eyes for a little while. (Okay, that usually results in sleep, but sometimes it doesn’t!) Then there’s sleep itself, whether it’s a nap or getting to bed early. I appreciate it and find it greatly enjoyable, as well as the feeling I get afterwards when I’m rested.

So my plans for tonight? I’m going to get a good night’s sleep and wake up bright and early in the morning to get back to something not-so-enjoyable. Work. Ah, being a grown-up!

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Elizabethtown

April 4, 2012

When I was living in Louisville, Kirsten Dunst and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) were filming a movie called Elizabethtown on location in Elizabethtown, KY. A couple of years ago, I finally got [around] to watch[ing] the movie. It was a cute but very dark romantic comedy. The film centers around a suicidally depressed New Yorker, whose family hails from central Kentucky. He learns that a family member dies and he must go back to the Commonwealth for the funeral. Through the course of the film, Legolas meets and begins a relationship with a flight attendant, Kirsten Dunst, who challenges him to both grieve and find himself. The line from the movie that I always remember is “If it wasn’t this, it’d be something else,” meaning no matter what circumstances under which it happens, things are going to happen. In this case, it meant the family would gather together again. In all, it wasn’t a terribly great movie, but it wasn’t bad either.

On Monday, I was returning home from the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Shiloh and visiting Fort Donelson. My journey took me on the freeway along the outskirts of Elizabethtown, KY, and I considered stopping. It was about 2 in the afternoon, and I knew a stop would give me a delay of about 3 hours. You see, my grandmother lives in E-town. She’s in an assisted living facility there. I decided to press on to try to get home early, and I’d plan a longer visit later this month. As I made my decision, that line popped into my head. If it wasn’t this, it’d be something else. I made it home relatively early and finished unpacking my truck before the basketball game started. (WAY TO GO CATS!)

I found out yesterday at lunch that my grandmother had fallen on Friday and was taken to the hospital. She wasn’t seriously hurt, but they took her as a precaution. She was recovering very well, but mentally, she was in an age 10 or more years ago. She was talking about seeing long-dead family over the past few days and the coming days. She would never have recognized me if I had stopped to see her. As much as I would have liked to spend time with her, I felt a little less bad about not stopping.

Late last night, we got a call from my mother’s aunt. My grandmother had just passed away. Now I’m trying to find out how much work can be put off for another week and preparing to travel back to Elizabethtown tomorrow or Friday. I don’t know the funeral details yet, but it will likely be Friday morning or Saturday. Once again, that line is going through my mind: If it wasn’t this, it’d be something else.

Stopping wouldn’t have made a difference that she’d know, and to be completely honest, stopping wouldn’t have made much of a difference to me. Seeing her one last time in her mental state, would not have left me with a better memory of her life and the time we got to spend together.

I used to spend a week visiting when I was younger. My parents would meet my grandparents at either King Fish in Louisville or Frisch’s in Winchester, KY, and leave one of us with them and take the other two back home. For three weeks, my grandparents had one or another of us. We used to take walks on the trail to Freeman Lake. She always got after me whenever I ran ahead and got out of view, and I’d have to come back to her. We golfed at Fort Knox. Whenever we’d go on base, we’d stop at the PX, and I’d get Pringles. We stopped by the Coca-Cola bottling plant in E-town. We never went on the tour. We would just go in to look at the koi pond and get free drinks from the fountain. Nearly every time I was there, it was Shark Week. I don’t know if my parent’s planned it that way or not, but I’d watch all the shows on Discovery Channel in the evenings. My grandmother never understood why I’d want to watch shows about shark attacks every night for several hours, but she’d sit down in her chair and watch them with me.

When I was in college, I would call my grandmother from time to time. When she asked who was calling, I’d always announce, “It’s your favorite grandson!” She actually seemed to enjoy hearing me declare that. Those are the memories that I will keep with me of my grandmother.

Now, I find myself getting ready to go back to Elizabethtown a few weeks before I had initially planned to see my grandmother again. This time, it will be for one last time. The troubles my grandmother has had for the last seven or eight years are finally over. I’ll again make the journey to where my grandfather was laid to rest twelve years ago. I know that they’re together again. If it hadn’t been this, it’d be something else. Family together again.

Doctor Who: The Mountaintop That Is Traveling With the Doctor

February 8, 2012

It’s 12:19 on a Wednesday morning. I can’t sleep. I was about to pop in an episode of Doctor Who, one of my favorite shows of all time, when I remembered I had started an entry on Sunday that I never got around to completing, because I wasn’t sure where I wanted to take it. I’ve just decided to take it in both of the directions that I was considering! Here it is:

I was sitting watching Doctor Who Sunday morning, (Now you see why watching Doctor Who reminded me that this was here.) and a piece of dialogue jumped out at me. The set-up is this: Donna Noble had been caught up in a plan for an alien to use the Earth as a breeding ground for her arachnid children at the beginning of the previous season. She met the Doctor, who saved the day while introducing her to the concept of space and time travel. After their brief adventure, the Doctor went on his way, taking on a young physician named Martha Jones as his companion for the rest of the season, until she decided to return to Earth to continue her life. The following dialogue is from Series 5, Episode 2 “Partners in Crime.” This is all copyright by BBC, so hopefully they don’t shut down my blog and sue me for thousands of pounds.

Donna: Still on your own?
Doctor: Yeah. Well, no. I had this friend. Martha, she was called. Martha Jones. She was brilliant, and I destroyed half her life. But she’s fine. She’s good. She’s gone.
Donna: What about Rose?
Doctor: Still lost. I thought you were going to travel the world.
Donna: Easier said than done. It’s like I had that one day with you, and I was going to change. I was going to do so much. Then I woke up the next morning… Same old life. It’s like you were never there. And I tried… I did try. I went to Egypt. I was going to go barefoot and everything. And then it’s all bus trips and guidebooks and “Don’t drink the water” and two weeks later, you’re back home. It’s nothing like being with you.

This really stood out to me. Donna had one of those life-changing moments. She met the Doctor, who made her realize there was so much more to life than what she was living. She decided right then to change and truly experience the world around her. Then she woke up the next morning. She was in the same bed. The same alarm clock. The same morning news shows. The same cereal in the cupboard. Despite what she had seen and gone through, the rest of the world was the same.

She attempted to make the change. She made the first of the many trips she promised herself. It wasn’t what she expected, because it was exactly what she expected. In two weeks, she was back home, feeling completely let down by the experience. She chased after what she got a taste of, but she couldn’t recapture the experience, the feeling of it. Instead, she spent the next year looking for the Doctor in the hopes of finding him and traveling with him. He brought that feeling to her, and she believed that he would do it again. Of course, he does. After all, he’s the Doctor, and it’s scripted television.

There are always moments in life, these mountaintop moments, when you feel lifted up and excited and changed. The problem is, you go up the mountain, but you can’t live there. You can see all there is around you from the top of a mountain. You can see your options for where to go, what to see, what to do, but when you get to the top of the mountain, you have to make that choice of what to do and then do it. You can go back the way you came or you can strike out in a completely different direction. Once you’ve reached the top of the mountain, though, there’s no higher to go. You have to go back down. Worst of all, if you try to stay on top of that mountain, it will sink beneath your feet until you feel like that mountain you once climbed is now only a hill, and the amazing feeling that you had from being on it is a mere fraction of what it had been.

Donna never had a chance to stay on the mountain. The Doctor never stays, except for the seasons that the Time Lords had stranded him on Earth as punishment for breaking their laws. He always moves on after each adventure. He climbs a mountain and then searches for the next one to climb. That’s where his experience on the show differs from real life: he never has to deal with coming back down off the mountain. There are no consequences for his constant search for adventure. Donna did have to come back down. Egypt was supposed to be her next mountain, but the tour buses and safety guidelines and tourists and trash and everything else made certain that no matter what, she would not be able to get the same experience she had before. It was predetermined and planned. She needed the mountain, but she got a hill. She was so let down that she gave up on the search for the mountain and instead searched for the Doctor to take her away to his next mountain. No matter what adventure she found, she had to come home to bills and laundry, the two things that the Doctor and his companions never seem to have to deal with.

If she used the mountain as an opportunity to find a new, sustainable purpose in life, Donna would have profited greatly from her time with the Doctor. Instead she immediately began to look for the next mountain.

The reason that segment of the show stood out to me was because I had seen a lot of information about a church Youth conference in the past few weeks. The first thing I saw was on the blog of another Youth leader. He talked about taking over the position at a new church, and the kids kept asking about going to an event that they went to every year. He took a group. They had that mountaintop experience. The kids were fully energized and involved and devoted the entire time they were there. There were group sessions where the kids talked about their lives, and a number of the kids brought up things that they should be seeking professional help with. Because of the emotion of the event and the encouragement of everyone else, they delved deep into their souls and the psyches. Unfortunately, there was not anybody there equipped to properly handle some of the things that were coming out, and the kids opened up major issues that would need long-term professional guidance to deal with but without anything in place to help them once the weekend event was over.

It sounded like it was a true mountaintop experience, but then the event ended. Everyone came back home, and the Youth program continued as normal. The kids all wanted to know why every Youth meeting wasn’t like the event, and questioned their faith when they didn’t have that feeling every day. This Youth leader wasn’t alone. There were comments from Youth leaders across the country discussing dealing with the same thing. The events never prepared the kids to come back down the mountain. They were great for invigorating faith while the kids were there, but there was no direction when they came back to the real world of their families and school and chores and sitting in their Youth groups discussing life and faith without rock bands and emotionally charged speeches. Everything expressed at the event was that faith was always the mountaintop. At the event, there are no friends making poor life choices and trying to get you to make them, too. There are no deaths of people you know. The kids are in a sterile, isolated world, which is wonderful while it lasts. Unfortunately, you can’t live on the top of the mountain. You have to come back down to where you have to make hard choices and deal with bad things happening, or even harder sometimes, nothing happening. The event never prepared the kids.

As I was reading what these other Youth leaders had to say, I thought back to the time I went to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium in 1998. It’s a week-long assembly of Presbyterian youth from around the world. I was going into my senior year of high school. I had an amazing time. I had my first “girlfriend.” She was from Canada, and yes, she was real. We discussed life and faith in small groups. We heard emotionally charged speeches. There was rock-like music (as well as goofy music and legitimate, traditional church music). I don’t remember ever feeling the shock of suddenly being off the mountain though. I can think of a few reasons for this.

A  day before the end, I broke my toe while playing volleyball. I missed about a third of a day’s worth of activities. Because of that, I experienced more than just the joy and excitement of the event. I also experienced pain and loss. Because of the broken toe, I couldn’t meet the “girlfriend” when I was supposed to because I was in the first aid station. We were going to exchange information to keep in touch after it all ended. (Remember, this was before Facebook and AIM and ICQ were popular, so we couldn’t just look each other up when we got home.) I worried for the rest of the time I was there and the trip back that she would think I was a horrible person. Knowing what I know now about teenagers, she probably did at the time and has since completely forgotten that I exist. Still, I had things bringing me down from that mountaintop while I was still there.

When I got home, I started band camp the next day. (Yes, even with a broken toe. I re-broke it many times through the fall.) I was with my closest school friends again from 8 in the morning until 5 or 9 at night for the next two weeks. It was almost like being on top of another mountain, except I had my toe and 95 degree weather and the bee tree to keep it from being perfect experience.

I’d also like to think that what they told us at Triennium helped with it, too. We talked about life. We talked about going back to our churches, with the quietly sitting and organ music. We heard and talked about going back to school and friends and dealing with things in a more realistic manner than just being told to make the right choices. We did role-playing and actually made things difficult on each other. There was a mountaintop for nearly the entire time I was there, but I felt prepared to go back to life and the real world. I had direction and felt refreshed to take it.

From what I’ve read, that is what is missing from many of these Youth-geared events. The organizers know exactly how to bring kids to the top of the mountain, but then they leave them there. There’s no direction for making it back down the mountain or into whatever lies next.

Before I saw that blog entry, I had never heard about that event. It turns out that it’s an annual event held in multiple cities across the country. I read the blogs of a few other Youth leaders, who all said similar things and had similar experiences with other similar events. About a week after I read that first blog entry about the event, I got an email from my church. The church had received an invitation for our Youth to attend this event in a city about six hours away.

I decided to take a look at the information that was on their website. After a couple of hours of reading testimonials and hearing their promotional information, I decided to just let it sit in my inbox. That’s my equivalent to placing the Ark of the Covenant in a government warehouse or donating anything to a museum. Nothing they had waylaid my concerns, and several things brought up even more concerns than I originally had.

I want the kids in my Youth Group to have mountaintop experiences, but I want to make sure that when they do, they’re experiences that leave them with a good idea of how to get back down and live their lives. Life isn’t just one mountain after another. This isn’t Doctor Who, and I don’t want my kids to be Donna Noble. It can be hard enough for teenagers to be Christian without throwing that at them!

Mindset List: 2003

August 19, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote about the Mindset List for this year’s entering college students.  It made be think of what it must have said when I went to college, so I looked it up.  Here are the highlights from the Mindset List for the class of 2003.

John Lennon and John Belushi have always been dead.  I’ll say it: I’ve never been a huge fan of Lennon’s work after he left the Beatles.  John Belushi is someone I would have loved to see more of.  Instead, he’ll always be Bluto from Animal House and the samuri deli guy.  Of course, there’s also the Blues Brothers.

They have never needed a perscription to buy ibuprofen.  Thank goodness!

Cats has been on Broadway all their lives.  Sadly that’s no longer true.  *tear*  I’ll NEVER get to hear Magical Mr. Mistoffelees live!!!!

Mike Myers is The Spy Who Shagged Me not the first congressman expelled from that body in a century for his role in “Abscam.”  I know not of this Abscam of which they speak, but I do know a psychopathic knife murderer from suburban Illinois named Mike Myers.

The term “adult” has increasingly come to mean “dirty.”  Tee-hee.

They don’t understand why Solidarity is spelled with a capital “S.”  It is?

They have never seen white smoke over the Vatican and do not know its significance.  Sadly, this is no longer true.

They cannot identify the last United States President to throw-up on a Japanese Prime Minister.  Sadly, this is no longer true, either.

They remember when Saturday Night Live was still funny.  Ouch.  Fair, but ouch.

Then there’s the list of things that only children of the 80’s can explain:

They owned and operated a “trapper keeper.”  I think I may still have one or two laying around.  Do they not still make those?

They can explain the “cha-ching” thing.  I kinda miss those commercials.

They know what “psych” means.  Thanks to USA, that’s been expanded to lots of people.

They know that another name for a keyboard is a “synthesizer.”  Is not not still?

Partying “like it’s 1999” seemed SOOO far away.  It really did, and then it never happened.

They can, right now, hum the theme to Inspector Gadget.  And I am right now!

Poltergeist freaked them out.  How could it not?!?!?

They have occassionally wondered why Smurfette was the ONLY female smurf.  Or we wondered about her character.  They did eventually add that little girl smurf with red hair and freckles.

They know what a “Whammee” is.  I still think that is possibly the greatest game show ever made.  Of course, having not seen it for years probably has something to do with my feelings towards it.

That’s been a lovely trip down memory lane for me.  Hopefully it reminded you of something fun, too!

Mindset List: 2014

August 18, 2010

Beloit College in Wisconsin has created the Mindset List, a list to help professors know what references their students just won’t get, since 1998.  Since learning about this list, I’ve always found it fascinating to see what people born just x years after me just don’t know about.  The list for the class of 2014 is no different.  The first item on the list was not surprising: Few in the class know how to write in cursive.  That does not surprise me at all.  From my sophomore year in college until I went to grad school, four years later, I rarely used cursive writing.  I either typed or printed nearly everything but my signature.  In fact, when I went to grad school, I had to actually relearn some of my cursive letters because I had forgotten them.  (I still say that the cursive capital “Q” makes no sense.)

Also on the list is Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.  Is that just because of Million Dollar Baby?  I have trouble seeing him as sensitive.  To me, he’ll always be waving a .44 Magnum around. 

Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.  If that was the case, what would they have put on Channel One news all those mornings for about two years?

They never twisted the coiled handset wires aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.  I’ve never done that either.  I always twisted it around one of my fingers.

Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.  I miss 30 minute pizzas – not that Domino’s ever offered that service to where I lived, 18 minutes from the nearest Domino’s.

Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.  That idea still seems strange to me.

Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.  That’s just wrong.

J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone.  Hasn’t he?  Although I can never remember who shot J.R., I distictly remember that he was shot and that he was alive before then and not alive afterward.

The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.  Even I can’t remember when people approved of Congress.

If you want to read the full list, I put the link above.  If you’re lazy, here it is again.

Protected: Hazy Shade of Winter

April 30, 2010

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On writing development

April 14, 2010

I hopped on WordPress this morning to add a tag to a couple of back posts.  I was looking through some of the recent posts to see which ones needed the tag and noticed something:  I actually don’t dislike reading what I’ve posted.  I was shocked!  I remember when I used my old blog; I went back once to read some of my early posts.  I couldn’t stand them.

I never much liked my writing in school either.  Why did I never do rough drafts or revise anything that wasn’t marked in red ink?  The answer is that it would have required going back and actually reading what I had written in order to make real revisions.  I was always told that I had a talent with writing, but I never saw it.  Who knows.  Maybe if I had actually gone back to rewrite, I would have seen it in the final version of papers.  Then again, maybe if I had read more – or something other than J.R.R. Tolkien or Dr. Suess* – I would have had something more to emulate in my writing.  Perhaps fewer of my papers would have had rhyme schemes as well.

Actually, one of the reasons that I started blogging years ago was to improve my writing.  (Obviously, I also wanted to broadcast my entire life to the world like the complete narcissist that I am.)  One of the things they – whoever “they” are – say you have to do to get better at something is practice.  I think that has apparently been true because my writing seems to be much better.  This is so much the case that I will probably start preparing my entry for Sunday evening today and go back to revise it on Sunday.  Then again, I could just be much less picky about what I read.

* I still think that The Butter Battle Book is one of the best and most underrated books about the Cold War division and arms escalation as well as the ramifications of ideologies that are isolated from each other.