Friday, September 28, 2012

The Single Guy and the Chicken Alfredo

Last week, the Single Guy went on the first date he had been on in months. And he was kind of proud of himself. This wasn't a set up or a blind date. This outing was with a girl he knew in college.

She was never someone that the Single Guy knew very well. They would hang out with the same people from time to time but, at best, they were just acquaintances. Of course, that hasn't stopped them from being Facebook friends for several years.

A few weeks ago, the Single Guy noticed something she posted on the social network. This got him thinking about her a little. He had always thought of her as attractive and knew her to be a very sweet girl in college. So he checked her all important relationship status. She was single and didn't live too far away.

The Single Guy, with a little encouragement from the Other Single Guy, talked himself into sending her a message asking her to dinner. Due to busy and complicated schedules, they exchanged messages for a couple weeks before settling on a good day and time to meet up.

She suggested meeting at the Olive Garden. This warmed the Single Guy's heart, because who doesn't love the Olive Garden? They planned to meet at five. This seemed a bit early to the Single Guy, considering he had no plan for activities after dinner. But then he thought it would be okay. They could stretch dinner out with conversation.

But this is the Single Guy we're talking about. Conversation is not exactly his forte. Particularly when faced with an attractive single woman. They're like his kryptonite. Like how Clark Kent would get all klutzy and stuttery when Lois Lane was around. Except that his kryptonite was actual kryptonite.

Point is, dinner only lasted 90 minutes. The Single Guy knew that couldn't be a good sign. At one point the Single Guy looked down at his cold chicken alfredo and silently berated himself for being so socially awkward.

He walked her to her car and hugged her, letting her know it was great seeing her. To him, the hug felt somewhat forced, like they were both just trying to be polite.

The next day, the Single Guy kicked himself for not asking for her number. So he emailed her again. He thanked her for a great time and asked for her phone number, suggesting they get together again sometime.

A week later, she hasn't responded. Maybe the Single Guy would be better off known as the Awkward Shy Guy.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Legends of Another Bank Teller

Source: via TĂȘn on Pinterest

Some time ago, I got a text message from the Most Awesome Person I Know asking for my opinion. She wanted to know if she had made a mistake after applying for a job as a teller at a bank. Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback.

We've been friends for some time. Most of that time, I was a bank teller myself. And she was my most frequent sounding board (other than this blog) for the frustrations I felt day in and day out as a teller. Did she learn nothing from my experience?

But I seriously considered her as a bank teller. Knowing her personality, I started to believe that she would be a lot better at the job than I was. My biggest issue with being a teller was the customer service portion of the thing.

I take that back. I was good with customer service. I could fake a smile with the best of them. Honestly, there were a handful of customers that I didn't have to fake the smile for. But it was a small handful. The rest of the time I faked it. Then I kicked my coin locker out of frustration because there was nothing I could do to affect the customers' stupidity. I'm sorry. That's the old me talking.

Anyway, I know that she is a much nicer person than I am. Or was. When I was a teller. So I told her as much. I told her that I didn't think it was a mistake to go for that kind of job. Because it's a job, which is something that's difficult to come by these days. It's the reason I stuck with it for as long as I did. So I told her it wasn't a mistake.

Selfishly, I'm hoping that I'll hear lots of insane stories about the array of customers that she will have to deal with. She's working at a different bank in a different part of Raleigh. That's a whole new demographic. It'll be a blog posting gold mine.

Granted, she has two of her own blogs. But those don't typically deal with hilariously frustrating stories about bank customers. I'm sure things could change and she could decide to write enthusiastically about the world of banking. But she's just not as sarcastic as I am. Which will also help her in the world of banking.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Directed by Robert Altman
Netflix sleeve: Director Robert Altman's thinly veiled Vietnam War satire is indicative of when the spirit of the 1970s went mainstream, with Elliot Gould, Donald Sutherland and Tom Skerritt as Army doctors fighting military insanity and healing wounded soldiers during the Korean War. Featuring an Oscar-winning score and standout work from a huge ensemble cast (including Robert Duvall and Sally Kellerman), M*A*S*H is a masterpiece of '70s cinema.

I'm fairly certin I grew up with M*A*S*H reruns playing as background noise in my childhood home. I never really cared for it. Which is why I never attempted to watch the movie that inspired the series. But to a kid, a satire about war just isn't entertaining. As an adult, I found a great deal of humor in the exploits of Hawkeye and Trapper and Hot Lips. I'm sure that, at this point, I would enjoy the TV show a lot more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mom's Challenge

Not too long ago I asked you guys to challenge me. My mom was the first to respond, giving me a name, setting, object and emotion to write a story about. This is what I came up with. If you still want to play along, just leave your ideas in the comments and I'll be glad to give it a shot! To those who have already played, thanks! Your stories are forthcoming. This one's for you, Mom!

Name: Alex
Setting: Courtroom
Object: Knife
Emotion: Fear

On the night in question, Alex had been standing in the same dark alley as the defendant and his victim. He didn't make it a habit to loiter in dark alleys, but on that night, he was desperate for a cigarette. Before he was halfway through that smoke break, he wished he had resisted the nicotine craving.

Because of that need to feed his addiction, he became an eyewitness to a brutal murder. Now he was on the stand in a large courtroom and all eyes were on him. The judge, several attorneys, twelve jurors, many spectators and Devon J. Burnette, the murderer, all stared at him.

Alex knew that Burnette was, technically, supposed to be referred to as the "alleged" murderer. But he had a hard time using that term, especially when he had replayed the horrible scene every time he closed his eyes for the last nine months.

Yes, it was dark, and the defense would attempt to use that lack of light to discredit Alex's testimony. But he saw everything as clearly as if it had been day.

"Please state your name for the court," said the prosecutor as he approached the witness stand.

"Alexander Wheat."

"And what do you do for a living, Mr. Wheat?"

"I'm the assistant copy editor for the Times," said Alex. Mr. Hawk, the prosecutor, was asking the same questions they had rehearsed several times during the previous weeks. As the only eyewitness to the crime, Alex was Hawk's star witness.

"Is that your only job?" asked Hawk.

"It is now. But up until two weeks ago I also waited tables part time at Marco's."

Hawk turned to face the jury, his motions in the courtroom were carefully choreographed. "Really great eggplant parm at Marco's."

Alex smirked, "Yes, sir."

"How long did you hold your part time position at the restaurant?" the prosecutor asked, still facing the jury.

"A little more than two years."

"And were you working a shift on the night of January 14 of this year?"

"Yes, sir," Alex answered, growing nervous. Yes, they had rehearsed this back and forth, but it had been in private. Now he was giving these answers in front of everyone; in front of Burnette. Fear was beginning to settle into Alex's gut.

Mr. Hawk turned back to the witness stand and took two deliberate steps toward Alex. "Tell us about that night, if you don't mind."

"Well, I wasn't supposed to work that night. But the restaurant was short handed, so the manager called me up to ask if I'd be willing to pick up a shift. She said in return I'd get to pick my weekends for February. That was enough to get me in. I'd have done anything to guarantee I would work Valentine's weekend," Alex could tell he was starting to ramble.

"So you went into work that evening," the prosecutor stated, getting Alex back on track.

"Right, sorry. So I got to Marco's around 7 and clocked in," Alex continued. He tried to imagine that no one else was in the courtroom. He imagined that he was back in Hawk's office, just him and the prosecuting team. "Right away, I was assigned my usual section. And my first customers were real pains in the a-- ah, I mean, neck."

Alex's near slip caused some stifled laughter in the courtroom. He cleared his throat and continued, "It's not important how awful they were or how little they tipped me. But the stress of dealing with that quartet of customers led to my craving a cigarette. I had quit smoking as a New Year's resolution, so I hadn't had a cigarette since New Year's Eve. I know two weeks wasn't a very long time, but for a guy that had been smoking a pack a day for five years, it felt like an eternity. Especially when I got stressed out."

"Did you take a smoke break, Mr. Wheat?" asked Mr. Hawk.

"Not right away. It wasn't until around 8:30 that I got a chance to bum a cigarette off the hostess and sneak out the back."

The prosecutor paced a bit. "You say you sneaked out back. What's behind Marco's?"

"It's just an alley. Not much to speak of back there. A dumpster that we share with the tenants living upstairs and the pawn shop next door. I sat on a box next to the dumpster and lit my cigarette."

"Were you alone in the alley, Mr. Wheat?"

Alex took a deep breath. "I was at first," he said as his eyes darted around the courtroom. He noticed Burnette staring directly at him, like just about everyone else. But Burnette's stare bothered him. It scared the hell out of him. It wasn't Devon Burnette that really scared him. This was an open and shut case. Burnette would be in prison serving 25 to life. But he had violent friends who weren't afraid to do him some favors, even if he was going down for 1st degree murder.

Burnette knew that Alex had been in that alley back in January. Oh, he hadn't known about Alex being there that night. If he had, Alex was sure he'd have been killed too. Just like that poor girl. No, the killer found out later. After all, someone had to have called the police. Someone had to have identified him in a line up. It was only a matter of time before Burnette's friends figured out who squealed.

A month after Devon's arrest, Alex received a few visitors at Marco's. At first they were no different than any other customers. Then they started mentioning rumors about the murder in the alley behind the restaurant. They mentioned Burnette by name. Then they mentioned a few small details about Alex's personal life. Their sudden threats made Alex's blood run like ice water. They scared him.

But that was months ago. Since then, the prosecutors had assured Alex that none of Burnette's men would be able to touch him. They let him know that he would be safe. They said all these things because they needed his testimony. Or did they?

Alex had seen the evidence. They had enough physical evidence to put Burnette away twice over. Alex's testimony should just be icing on the cake.

"I was taking my time while I smoked. It was cold out, but not so cold that I couldn't handle taking a few minutes away from people. I just sat there, looking down at my feet. Then I heard a loud bang. I stood up slowly and peeked over the dumpster. I saw two people coming out of the pawn shop's back door. A guy and a girl... the girl was being pushed, kind of violently, out the door."

The prosecutor walked toward Alex again. "Just take your time, Mr. Wheat."

Alex glanced at Burnette again. "The guy was yelling at the girl. He said, 'You don't get to leave me until I say you leave...' I saw him hit her with the back of his hand. She fell against the wall. She was crying and screaming that she was sorry. I couldn't stand seeing this guy hitting her. I couldn't imagine that she could have done anything to possibly deserve to be treated like that. I stood up and got ready to run over. I wasn't trying to be a hero, but I figured if the guy knew that someone else was there, he wouldn't be so brave about beating up a woman. But that's when I saw the knife."

Hawk walked to the table holding all the evidence and picked up exhibit A. "Is this the knife you saw that night?"

"Yes, sir," Alex said, looking at the knife. The image of the weapon had been etched into his mind since January 14. There was no chance he would ever forget what it looked like.

"As soon as I saw him pull the knife out of his jacket, I ducked back down. I guess he didn't notice me moving since I was in a darker part of the alley. They were closer to the... to the street light," Alex began to falter. He didn't doubt his story. He was just becoming emotional. It wasn't easy for him to think about what happened that night, even though it was all he could think about. Talking about it made it real again. Watching that poor girl die. Knowing that he didn't do a thing to stop it.

He took another breath and continued, "It all happened so fast. He stabbed her over and over again. There was so much blood. I was frozen... I just couldn't move. I didn't know what to do."

"What happened next, Mr. Wheat?"

"I kept watching. I couldn't look away, you know?" Alex looked away from Hawk. He looked directly at Burnette. "I just couldn't understand how someone could do something like that. He stood over the girl's body for what seemed like forever. Though I know it was just a few minutes. He pulled out his cell phone and called someone. He talked quietly. I couldn't hear what he was saying. While he was still on the phone, he walked back into the pawn shop. That's when I took off. I went back into the restaurant and called the police."

Alex knew what happened next, but he didn't need to testify about it. The police showed up and investigated the crime scene. No one was in the pawn shop. But Alex gave the description of the murderer to a sketch artist. The detectives did their jobs fairly quickly and picked Burnette up the next day.

"Can you identify the man from the alley?" asked Hawk.

"Yes, sir. The man in the alley was the defendant, Devon Burnette."

Alex noticed some murmuring in the courtroom. He couldn't figure out why people would murmur about that tiny revelation. It should not have come as a shock to anyone that Burnette would be identified as the killer. But the whispering became so distracting that the judge needed to bang his gavel and ask for order.

"Thank you, Mr. Wheat," said Mr. Hawk. He looked at the judge, "No further questions."

Burnette's attorney stood as Hawk took his seat. "Your honor, the defense requests a short recess before cross examining the witness."

The judge looked at his watch. "Very well, we'll break for lunch. Court is adjourned for one hour."

The bailiff called, "All rise!" It all seemed so far away to Alex.

He remembered hearing the judge saying something about lunch, but he had no appetite. The easy part was over. After the break, Alex would have to face the defense attorney. That realization just made his fear set in all over again.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Question of the Week: Compare

Who do you sometimes compare yourself to?

If I'm honest about it, I probably compare myself to just about everyone at one point or another. Most of the time, it's not a conscious thing. I don't generally sit around comparing myself with other people. But sometimes it just happens. That judgmental side is just a part of the human condition.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blowing Smoke

Remember that time when I said I was going to consciously try to lose some weight? It was about three weeks ago. I did this whole blog post about it. If you need to look back, feel free.

I want to talk about my running routine a little. As I mentioned in that previous post, I've challenged myself to go from the couch to a 5k. I'm three weeks into it now and I'm really into it. I have days off built into the program, and on those days off, I find myself missing the chance to get out and move. I realize those days are built into the challenge for a reason, so I refrain and take the days to rest.

At first it was hard. That first day I went out was a struggle. The first day's requirement was only to walk 5 minutes, jog 1 minute, then walk another 5. That's it. But that one minute of jogging was tough. I know it shouldn't have been, but it really was. And probably would be for anyone who was as inactive as I'd been.

I have this app on my phone from the good people at Nike. In theory, it keeps track of how long I'm running, how far I'm going, and even tracks where I run through the phone's GPS. It also posts the results of my run onto Twitter and Facebook. That way, my friends and followers over there can give encouragement by liking or commenting on what I've done.

I thought I was doing so great. That first day, despite the apparent ease of the walk/jog, I was told by my phone that I had gone 1.87mi in 11 minutes and 43 seconds. I have to say, I was really impressed with myself. But then I thought about it and became really suspicious.

When I was a kid, it took me a good 20 minutes to circle the track four times for that stupid physical fitness test we had to do for PE twice a year. Granted, I can do a mile faster now, simply because I'm trying and because my legs are longer. Okay, they're not much longer, but there has been some slight growth since I was 7.

But I kept going. It felt good to think I was going around 2 miles each time I went out. And then this week I decided to really test it. Tuesday was a rainy day. Really rainy. So I didn't feel like running outside in all that. Luckily, my apartment has a fitness center, equipped with semi-state-of-the-art treadmills and elliptical machines. I jumped on the treadmill and went roughly the same pace I go when I'm outside. I could only estimate by what felt right compared to the numbers the machine threw out there.

That day I walked for 5 minutes, jogged for 6, then ended with another 5 minute walk. By the time I stopped the machine, I had gone a mere 0.95mi. SERIOUSLY?!

I knew the Nike app had to have been off by some margin, but I had no idea it was off by that much. So, what? Has Nike just been blowing smoke up my butt all this time? Trying to make me feel better about my jogging abilities than I really should?

I'm not discouraged. Not in the slightest. I still went out this morning. The application was a little more accurate today than it has been. At least, I assume it was. And I think the reason is the GPS signal. From what I can tell, Nike reads my distance based on how far the GPS thinks I've been running. All this time, I thought it was based on a motion sensor in the phone that acted like a pedometer. A lot of days, early in the morning when I've gone out, I've noticed the phone saying that the GPS signal was weak. Today, the signal was strong.

I've noticed some things since I began running. My breathing has gotten a lot easier. At first, jogging would cause my lungs to feel like they were on fire and I would be hyperventilating by the time I got back to the walking portion. Now it isn't the lungs that bother me. It's the legs. They are definitely feeling the burn. But I assume that's a good thing.

By the way, for those who are interested, three weeks into this thing I'm down 12 pounds and have gone in an extra notch on my belt. Seems kind of fast...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

AFI 55 - North by Northwest

North by Northwest
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Netflix sleeve: What if everyone around you was suddenly convinced that you were a spy? This classic from master director Alfred Hitchcock stars Cary Grant as an advertising executive who looks a little too much like someone else and is forced to go on the lam (helped along by Eva Marie Saint). Hitchcock's sure-handed comic drama pits Grant against a crop duster and lands him in a fight for his life on Mount Rushmore--a true cliffhanger if ever there was one.

I can't say I've seen too many Hitchcock pictures. Surprising since I absolutely love Psycho and Rear Window. The latter of those, in particular, is an all time favorite of mine. But I've never seen this one, despite having so many classic scenes. Cary Grant being chased down by a crop duster? Check. Hanging on for dear life from the edge of Mount Rushmore? Check. Alfred Hitchcock missing a bus in the opening credits? Check-a-roony. It's a pretty good movie displaying a case of mistaken identity. I'm inspired to give more of Hitchcock's movies a look. I'd like to see Vertigo, is that any good?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The List

As I've gotten older, I've almost decided that I'd like to eventually find a woman with whom I can spend the rest of my life. I say almost because I know I'm not ready yet. But it's something I'd like to build up to.

It's not something I'll Ted out about. But, like Ted Mosby, I do want to make an official list of what I'm looking for in a potential mate. Nothing wrong with knowing what I want, right?

By the way, that little reference to How I Met Your Mother won't be the last.
  • She's got to be attractive - Let's just get this one out of the way. I'm not saying I want to marry a super model. Though I wouldn't turn down Heidi Klum if she asked real nice. But she has to be someone that I will find attractive, even if others don't see it. Talking about physical attractiveness sounds shallow, but when we're honest about it, that's the first thing we notice. And if a girl I've never met doesn't get my attention, I'm not gonna approach her. Well, it's me, so odds are I won't approach her anyway. I won't go into what I do find attractive. My tastes have fluctuated over the years. Right now I'm kind of drawn to redheads. Not sure why. Though I think I blame Emma Stone.
  • She's got to be outgoing - At least, she has to be more outgoing than me. An extrovert would be a nice counterbalance to my introversion. Related to this, it would be awesome if she could seamlessly fit in with my circle of friends. Sure, it'd be nice if I fit in with her friends, but selfishly, I'm not as worried about those people whom I've probably never met before.
  • We need to like a majority of the same TV shows - Our lives together certainly won't be spent in front of the idiot box. But the thing is, eventually we will know all of each others' stories. When we run out of things to talk about, it'd be nice to talk about things we've seen on TV. This also applies to movies and books. Warning: I will discuss fictional characters and settings as if they actually exist. Be prepared to play along and/or debate.
  • She needs a willingness to negotiate - This could be useful for many areas of life including, but not limited to, what's for dinner, where we eat, who does certain chores, children's names, etc.
  • She has to play an instrument and/or sing - One of my favorite things to do is sing loudly when I'm driving somewhere. It would be nice to know that, if she's in the car with me, that we can nail the harmonies on "Endless Love" every time.
  • She has to be okay with the frequent high five - Ideally, we should be able to do an unplanned, no-look high five. Kind of like Marshall and Lily often do. That's another HIMYM reference for those following along.
  • She has to be a Christian - This is my last big item on the list and the most important one. While I have not been a regular church attender recently, my faith is still very important to me. I need to be with someone who will challenge me to grow. And I'd like to be able to do the same for her.
That's about it. But, ladies, if you really want to impress me, begin familiarizing yourself with the following. Note: this list is not definitive and is subject to change.
  • Back to the Future
  • Superman
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • Harry Potter
  • The Goonies
  • Star Wars
  • Community
  • Lost
  • Friends
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • The works of Stephen King
  • The Hunger Games
  • Parks and Recreation 
Hating Twilight is not a requirement, but is a plus. And, two final notes. I am a dog person. It would be nice if she is as well. And as for the roll of toilet paper... it rolls over the top, not from underneath. This is non-negotiable. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Exploring Outer Space

This is quite possibly the greatest music video in recent memory.

Seriously, when will they bring back Fraggle Rock for good?

Providing Therapy

As a counselor in school, I enjoy the task of observing certain children who require certain services due to certain difficulties they may have in classroom and social situations. That's how I spend the majority of my time on any given school day.

A smaller and probably more important portion of my time is spent in one on one or group counseling sessions. It's during these sessions that most of the therapeutic work is done. That's when I'll discuss specific issues a child may be having in his or her classroom or even at home. It's always my hope that those specific issues will be completely resolved at the end of our half hour together.

Hasn't happened yet.

I have a confession. I have a much easier time with younger children than older ones during these counseling sessions. With kids under the age of 8, I can read a Dr. Seuss book, play some Candy Land and call it a day. That strategy doesn't really work with a 7th grader.

I like having an activity to do. Not only does it help to take up some time, but it also provides a sneaky way to introduce an important topic. Thus far, I'm having a difficult time finding age appropriate activities for the tweenagers. They don't want to be treated like kids, but they're far too immature to be treated like adults. My question is, has anyone found a middle ground?

If a kid doesn't feel like talking, there's not much one can do to convince them to talk. So a lot of sessions turn into dead air.

... ... ...

Gets awkward.

Are there any counselors or therapists out there who have some ideas? I mean, I was a kid in therapy once. But I have no idea how my therapist got through to me. I'm sure I wasn't much of a talker. She must have gotten me to open up somehow. Look how well adjusted I turned out.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Question of the Week: Something New

When was the last time you tried something new?

I recently began two new somethings: new eating habits and new exercise habits. The eating habits are a big change. I'm eating less, following more reasonable guidelines for portion sizes. I've also switched out some of my regular foods for things that are definitely better for me. The exercise habits aren't so much a change as a beginning. I haven't regularly exercised in years. So I've gone from no activity to walking/jogging every other day. Eventually I want to get into some other exercise habits. But, for now, baby steps. In November, I'll be trying another something new. I'm planning to run a 5k on Thanksgiving Day. Should be fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Understand

"I don't understand!" I screamed over the rush of wind blowing all around us.

"What's not to understand?!" the sorceress shouted right back at me. Her name was Karen and, yes, she was gorgeous. But I tried not to look at her that way. For one thing, she was about 320 years older than me. She didn't look a day over 32, though. But trust me, our relationship was purely professional. And I intended to keep it that way, until our inevitable deaths. Which, judging by our current situation, wouldn't be too far off.

"I did what you told me to do!"

Karen smiled wearily and nodded her head. "Yes, you did! But it was too little, too late! The ritual was completed before we had even had a chance to stop it!"

By now the wind and thunder were near deafening. Soon the vortex would be completely opened and unspeakable evils would spill into our world. I refused to believe that the most we could do now was watch it happen.

My mind raced. I was good with a sword. I was good with a bow. I was even good with automatic weapons, but those wouldn't really be useful against the beasts that would be coming through the portal. The sword I had was enchanted. The arrows I would use had been blessed by priests from the Order. Bullets in a gun might hurt our enemies a little, but they wouldn't do a great deal of damage. Modern weapons never seemed to do the trick. Except for a nuke. Unfortunately we didn't have access to any of those.

So I had my weapons ready. My bow to pick them off as they emerged, my sword for when they got closer. And I had some defensive magic up my sleeve, just in case. But I knew it wouldn't be enough to defend the world. Karen was the one with the real power. I just hoped that she had some good offensive spells that would make a dent in the coming horde.

"They're coming!" she yelled, her eyes never moving from the eye of the vortex. Her vision was obviously enhanced. All I saw was a dark center surrounded by swirling light and debris. Then I notice them. They were ugly with dark green, scaly skin. They were moving quickly. I loaded the bow and sat poised, ready to shoot. Karen looked at me and screamed, "Don't hold back!"

That was my cue. I fired. I fired again. And again. My aim was true as I watched one after another fall. But I knew it would be only a matter of minutes before they reached our position and I would need to draw my sword. In the meantime, Karen was throwing fireballs and lightning bolts left and right.

I was always impressed when I saw Karen work her magic. Tonight, she was taking down dozens of demons at a time. Her next big move was to tear open the earth itself. Well, she somehow made a gorge appear in the ground, which probably swallowed about a hundred of those monsters. And it took a great deal out of her.

They were still pouring out of the portal and they were getting closer. Karen was tired. And I knew it was time for the sword. Thankfully, these beasts weren't the greatest thinkers. If they'd wanted, they could have easily taken us both down, just by sheer numbers. But a few attacked us individually, while the rest continued their march beyond us.

I lost track of how many monsters I slayed with the sword. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Karen was holding her own, but she wouldn't last long. Then she stopped.

In a panic, I turned toward her, afraid that she had been struck down. But then I could see that she was thinking. And I saw a sudden look in her eyes. It was a look that I'd seen before. It was the look of victory. She smiled at me, "I know how to close the portal!"

"How?!" I asked, desperate to hold off the B-movie rejects.

"I'm going to cross the streams!" I looked at her, puzzled. "It's from that ridiculous Ghostbusters movie you made me watch!"

I knew what movie it was from. I just didn't see how that applied here. As she explained, I continued putting down any demon that dared approach us. "See the jewel that each of them carries around their necks?" she asked. All I could do was nod. "That's what's allowing them access from the other side. If we can get one back through the vortex, the portal will close!"

"You know, that has nothing to do with crossing the streams, right?!" I yelled.

Karen tore the jewel off the chain worn by one of the dead creatures. She then levitated into the air. Somehow, I knew what she was about to do. "It's up to you to clean this up once it's closed!" she yelled, looking down at me with a certain sadness, as if she knew she'd never see me again.

"Wait! Why can't you just throw one of these monsters back through?!" I asked, desperate to keep my friend and mentor alive.

"Because they are not native to this world!" Karen looked back to the portal. "You're clever, talented, and more powerful than you realize! I expect you to mount a rescue someday!" she shouted as she began flying toward the vortex.

"I understand!" I said as I watched her as she moved through the air, then lost sight of her when I blocked an attack by another demon. I was fighting for my life and for the lives of all humanity when an explosion rocked the world around me. A massive shock wave knocked all of us down.

I sat up and saw the devastation around me. But the portal was closed.

I jumped up, ready to defend myself, but none of the demons were stirring. Thousands of them, lying on the ground. I wasn't sure if they were unconscious or dead. I wasn't willing to take the chance. So I began the long, arduous process of beheading each and every one of them. It wasn't pretty, but it had to be done.

Hours into the clean-up, I realized that something or someone must have been controlling the monsters from the other side. With the vortex gone, access to the creatures' minds must have been gone too.

As I piled demonic bodies to be burned, I thought about all that I would need to do. My first task would be to rid the world of the evidence of these things. Then I would have to figure out who had opened that portal in the first place. Just because they failed to destroy the world tonight didn't mean they wouldn't try again. Then I had to figure out a way to get Karen back to this side, assuming she survived the trip.

Suddenly I was a little sad that I didn't get the chance to really say good bye to her. I knew there was a distinct possibility that I would never see her again. But she had some kind of faith in me. She seemed to believe that I would be able to get her back someday. And I won't stop trying until I do.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Challenge Me

I cannot tell you how many days that I sit down in front of my computer and just can't get my creative juices flowing. Often, I'll look back on my day and try to think of some anecdote to exaggerate to an appropriate, or even inappropriate degree. It isn't that interesting things don't happen throughout my day. Believe me, my days are interesting.

But let me explain how my job works. Once school is over and I sit down in front of my computer, I'm required to write notes about how the day went for each of my clients. So by the time I have free time to post something here, I've already regurgitated my day in a lot of clinical language for the job. I'm sure I could do it all again in a less clinical way, but I don't like repeating myself. I'm just not a fan of redundancy. See what I did there?

So there are a lot of days when I'm not able to come up with something good. That's where you come in.

I want you to challenge me. I want you to provide some random information for me. In response, over the next few weeks, I'll turn your ideas into stories.

Here's what I need from you:
  • Character name
  • Setting
  • An object
  • An emotion
You give me those four things, and I'll do my best to come up with a decent story.

I have 53 followers. I don't expect to get 53 responses here, but it sure would be nice to have more than 2 or 3 in the comments. Play along! I hope this will be fun!

Friday, September 14, 2012

AFI 56 - Jaws

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Netflix sleeve: Director Steven Spielberg virtually invented the summer blockbuster with this white-knuckle adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel about an insatiable great white shark that terrorizes the townspeople of fictional Amity Island. John Williams's legendary score punctuates the tension as the police chief (Roy Scheider), an oceanographer (Richard Dreyfuss) and a grizzled shark hunter (Robert Shaw) seek to destroy the bloodthirsty beast.

Another film franchise that I didn't know much of as a kid. Jaws: The Revenge was the first of the series that I actually saw. And that movie sucked. I knew that much at the age of 10. I didn't sit through this Spielberg classic until I was an adult. I'm not sure what makes it such a classic, though. It's got some great lines. But it mostly exploits a fear of sharks; a fear that, in reality, is mostly irrational. I do like the scene on the boat where the guys are drinking and comparing scars. They're probably about to face the most dangerous day of their lives, but they laugh and cut up like their lives aren't about to be at risk.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

AFI 57 - Rocky

Directed by John G. Avildsen
Netflix sleeve: When world heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers pick palooka Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. Gritty, grim and epic, this crowd-pleasing film won the 1976 Best Picture Oscar thanks to John G. Avildsen's solid direction and Stallone's root-for-the-underdog script.

This is a film that reaches far back into my memory. I'm pretty sure I was introduced to this franchise when Rocky III came out. It had Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. Rocky and Apollo worked together; they were friends. Imagine my shock when I finally sat through Rocky as a teenager and Apollo was the bad guy. Sort of. Rocky wasn't exactly a good guy. But that's who you pull for. And he doesn't win. But that's not the point of the story. The challenge for the Italian Stallion was to go the distance. He just wanted to go toe to toe with the champ and last 15 rounds. Which, spoiler alert, he did. On a personal note, I'd like to say that my favorite of the series is Rocky IV, in which Stallone single-handedly takes down Communism. Also, the soundtrack has a lot of amazing "get psyched" songs.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Title: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Author: Donald Miller
Published: 2011

Donald Miller made a splash in the world of Christian non-fiction with his bestseller Blue Like Jazz. I never read it. But I know it was a big hit among folks in my age group at the time.

For a long time, I only remembered the title of Miller's book. I couldn't have told you who wrote it or even a little bit of what it's about.

Then I was in a bookstore with Mark, who was looking for something inspirational and encouraging for where he was in his life at the time. Blue Like Jazz came to mind for him. The book had recently been made into a movie, so the title had slipped back into our consciousness. Not that either of us had seen the movie. We just remembered its existence.

Mark asked me to text Andy. Since he works in ministry, it's generally assumed that he has his finger on the pulse of Christian popular culture. Andy suggested A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, believing it may speak to Mark a little more than Blue Like Jazz at this time in his life.

So Mark made his purchase and we exited the Barnes & Noble. As Mark drove away from the store, I pulled his new book out of the bag and began reading the introduction. I was intrigued. When we went our separate ways, I asked if I could borrow the book once he finished it.

Like I said, I never read Blue Like Jazz. But I could tell I would like Miller's style from the first few pages of this book.

It seems to me that this is an unofficial follow up to Blue Like Jazz. On the surface, it's the story of making that book into a movie. Scratch the surface, and it's really about Miller's attempt at living a better story.

As a person who finds joy and therapy in writing, Miller's journey struck a chord with me. I know what it's like to take a character and thrust them into situations that will cause some kind of change within them. Why should our own lives be so different?

What kind of stories are we living? Miller points out the reality that most of our stories will be boring. Not that there aren't exciting moments that come along. But the majority of the time is kind of dull.

But what stops us from living a more exciting story? What keeps us from living a story with purpose? With direction? Fear keeps us from challenging ourselves so much of the time. We become content with complacency and it holds us back.

That's where I was a year ago. I was in a job I hated, but because I had become comfortable, I was okay with it. As long as I got that paycheck every two weeks.

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted a better story. I stepped away from what I knew, what was comfortable. I found myself in a challenging job that I really had no business doing. After a few months, I believed it had been a mistake, making the move I made. Turns out, it was what Miller calls an inciting incident.

This challenging career move and my utter failure in it incited me to find something better for myself. And I've moved forward, changing in ways I wouldn't have thought possible a year ago.

For the first time in my life, I'm certain of what I want to do. I'm certain of what kind of story I want to live.

I want to live an inspirational story. I want my story to encourage and interact with other people's stories. I want to live an adventure story. I don't want to explore the Temple of Doom, but I no longer want to be content with watching others' adventures come to life on the screen. I also want to live a love story, believe it or not. I want to be able to eventually share my story with someone who wants to share her story with me.

God's the writer here. I'm one of his characters. And I can honestly say that I'm looking forward to him writing some more inciting incidents into my story. Not necessarily because I want to be challenged, but because I know my character will grow and change as a result of those challenges.

Question of the Week: Youth in Asia

Would $50,000 be enough money to induce you to take a loyal, healthy pet to the vet to be put to sleep?

No. Absolutely not. No. I'm really not sure what else to say aside from that. I don't have any pets at the moment, but I have in the past. Loyal pets are like family. I think, for me, I'd have a hard time euthanizing a pet that wasn't healthy. Besides, when you think about it, $50,000 really isn't that much money.

*Question of the week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Reasons Why I'm a Horrible Person

Do you ever wonder if you're a horrible person? Well, I don't have to wonder. I know. About myself, I mean. I have no idea if you are horrible. That's between you and God.

If you're nice, or, at least, attempting to be nice, you're probably saying I can't be that bad. You've probably read many of the hilarious things I've written over the years and, therefore, want to give me the benefit of the doubt.

Rest assured, there are plenty of horrible people who have terrific senses of humor. I mean, did you see OJ Simpson in the Naked Gun movies? Right, more stupid than hilarious. But think about Hitler. You think he didn't know how funny it sounds when you're screaming at people in German? He knew.

And there's my first example of why I'm a horrible person. I just used one of history's worse offenders to make a joke and get a ridiculous point across. That had to have crossed some kind of line.

Example 2: I laugh at inappropriate times. But not just that, I laugh at small children.

I was observing the first grade class the other day. And it was a pretty typical day. A kid who is notorious for talking back to his teacher and is constantly out of his seat fell down. But the way he fell was epic. It's the kind of thing that would have gone viral on YouTube (which would just serve to prove how many of us are horrible people). Somehow he tripped over his own chair and did a face plant. He lay on the floor for a good 30 seconds, unmoving. His legs and arms were all splayed out, as if he were preparing for the CSI guys to show up and make a chalk outline.

My first impulse was to laugh. Is that so wrong? He wasn't crying. So he wasn't hurt. And he didn't even fake cry to make it seem like he was hurt. I'm sure that, as he prepared to stand back up, he knew that if he had been sitting in his chair, as the teacher had asked him multiple times to do, he would still be sitting safely. By the way, his teacher had to stifle a laugh too.

The final example I have today involves a sign in front of a local church. That's right, not only will I joke about Hitler, but I'll border on blasphemy. The sign spelled out, in bright colors, "Jesus is the answer!"

You know me. You know I love Jesus. I think Jesus is every possible kind of awesome. But at that moment, all I could think was, "What if the question is 'what is two times two?'" I'm sorry, but the answer isn't Jesus. It's four.

I want to be a teacher someday. Sooner than later. And at some point, I'm going to give my students a test. If I ever have a student who writes "Jesus" as the answer to any given question, they will at least get partial credit. 'Cause Jesus is the answer.

How 'bout it? Am I as horrible as I think?

Monday, September 03, 2012


This is me, just over a week ago. No, really. Don't let the sunglasses and hat fool you. I'm posting this picture here because I wanted something recent of myself. And I don't figure I've changed too much in the last 9 days.I post this picture because I want something to look back on in a few months.

I hereby announce that I am attempting to lose some weight.

You're probably thinking, "Why would this amazing specimen need to lose any weight?" Notice the slight pudge around the midsection. Just under the word "football" on the t-shirt I'm wearing in the picture. One might call it a gut.

I've never attempted to lose weight before. Especially since that time I lost all that weight from not eating. Not the healthiest way to go about it, I'll admit. This time, I want to be smart about it. Also, yes, making a conscious effort.

But I've noticed some things about myself that I'm not really liking. When I recently bought some clothes, I realized that an X-Large shirt kind of swallows me, but a Large is a little too tight for comfort. That tells me I could stand to lose a few. So I decided to jump on the Mark Hipes weight loss train.

This is a guy who has lost around 80 pounds over the course of the last couple years. He's like a different person. I sat down with him while I was in Bluefield last weekend and got some tips on how I should do this thing.

The first thing I need to do is cut out regular sodas. Now, when he started his weight loss kick, he kicked all sodas altogether. But I need the caffeine. So I'll need to keep getting that fix somewhere. And diet drinks will be the best option. I'm not a fan of a diet soda. It tastes like evil. But I'm starting with the Coke Cherry Zero. It's not so bad. It's like a gateway diet drink.

Next, I need to exercise. This is great because I've been planning to work on the Couch to 5k Challenge to get ready for this year's Drumstick Dash in Roanoke on Thanksgiving Day. I began this morning and walked/ran about a mile and a half. By the end of 10 weeks, I should be fully prepared to run a 5k. That's the theory anyway.

Third, and probably most importantly, portion control. This is pure discipline. I have a lot of respect for Mark and his ability to cut back on his portions. He's a guy that likes to eat. Now he gives himself a little more than he did starting out. Apparently his metabolism kicked up a notch during all this. Wouldn't mind that happening for me too.

Another little step is the importance of whole grains. Oh, and light or fat free foods. And, you know, I'm sure there are other details that I'm leaving out. But those are the big ones.

I weighed myself today. First time I've done that in a long time. Came in at 224.2 pounds. I'm not sure what the American Medical Association says a guy standing 5'6" tall should weigh. And I don't care. But I'd like to get down to 180. That's 44 pounds. And I'd like to do this by the time I turn 33. That gives me 6 months and 3 days. Totally doable.

For the record, I'm not doing this because I want to look better. I'm not doing this to win the affections of some random girl in a white SUV. I just want to feel better about myself and not get winded when I'm walking from one classroom to the other while I'm at work. So take a good look at that guy in the picture up there. 'Cause in 6 months, he's gonna look kind of different.