Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Danger

This post is a rerun. I originally wrote this back in 2010 in a Sunday Scribblings post. But it got a reaction as something of a scary story. So I thought it would be a good one to bring back for Halloween. Hope you enjoy it. And try not to eat too much candy tonight, kids.

The girl ran as fast as her feet would carry her over the uneven ground. She knew that her unseen assailant was not far behind. She knew that looking back would cause her to slow down, but she wanted to see how much of a lead she had on the Bad Man.

Was it a man? She couldn't be sure.

Her eyes were still trying to adjust to the dim light and she had trouble seeing the next step in front of her. She tripped when she came to a wide set of stairs. Hitting her chin on the cold stone, she became stunned. But she didn't have the luxury of time. She couldn't just stop to feel embarrassed at the thought of falling up the stairs.

She half crawled, half ran up the stone staircase. As she caught sight of the top, she felt a familiar, firm grasp on her ankle. She screamed. Her one free foot was kicking wildly as her scraped hands clawed for that top step, which now seemed so far away. The Bad Man was dragging her back down the stairs on her stomach.

Her screams and cries would be heard only by her attacker. A rush of adrenaline gave her the strength to twist onto her back. The Bad Man was caught off guard by the girl's sudden assertiveness and lost his grip on her leg. The girl used his confusion to her greatest advantage and kicked him hard in the chest. The Bad Man flew backwards, landing hard on his back at the bottom of the stairs.

Part of her wanted to go to him and continue hurting him as payback for what he had done to her thus far. But she knew better. She knew that her best chance of survival was to put as much distance between the two of them as possible. She had to get back above ground. She had to feel the sunlight on her face once again. She had to live.

Her breathing was labored as she reached the top of the stairs, but her small victory gave her new found strength. She broke once again into a sprint, not looking back to see if he had gotten back to his feet. Her body ached, but she pushed through the pain. The lacerations on her face stung as the cold, underground air washed over her. She could hear her attacker behind her again, and fear took over.

The girl didn't know where she was. She didn't know why she had been taken or why she was being attacked. None of it made any sense. She was beginning to lose hope. What would happen when her mother found out she was dead? How would her friends react? Would she ever even be found?

She heard him getting closer and tears ran down her cheeks. The sounds he made frightened her even more, as if that were possible. Was he/it actually growling? She had been questioning the thing's humanity. She was now becoming more and more certain that this Bad Man was no man at all. Whatever it was, she was also certain that it would catch up to her eventually. It was only a matter of time.

Crying out for help would do her no good, not in this place. As she ran, she realized that it was getting darker. The thought that she may be heading in the wrong direction filled her with dread. What little hope she had of survival was dwindling. But she kept running.

Now the only sound she could hear was her own gasping for breath. What had happened to the growls? What had happened to the heavy footfalls of the thing chasing her? She risked a look back as she continued to move forward. Nothing.

The shadowy figure had disappeared. The Bad Man was gone.

She turned completely around to scan the area behind her. She still saw nothing. She had no idea what she should do now. Should she continue running in the direction she was going? Should she backtrack and pray that she could find an exit that she had somehow missed?

She turned back in the direction she had been traveling all this time and continued forward. In the darkness, she ran into a wall and fell back. Landing hard on the ground, she reached up to massage her bruised forehead. She couldn't believe she had run into a wall. Though she had been having trouble adjusting to the darkness, she didn't remember seeing a wall in front of her.

Then, a cold realization swept over her. She hadn't run into a wall at all. It was him. Somehow the Bad Man had gotten in front of her. Silently, he reached down for her. The girl's screams were silenced as he placed his claw-like hand over her mouth. Squeezing her face, he lifted her to her feet, then off her feet.

She dangled in the air, unable to scream, unable to cry out. She could only hope that the tears streaming down her face would cause him to lose his grip. But luck, it would seem, was not on her side.

He carried her off into the darkness. He didn't know her name. He didn't care. To him, she was a means to an end. She was just another of his nameless, faceless victims. On the surface, her absence would eventually become apparent, but she would never be found.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stories from a Teacher

Title: Stories from a Teacher
Author: Jonathan Flores
Published: 2012

I have to say a quick thanks to Erynn. Not too long ago, she liked or posted something about BookBub on Facebook. It's a service that provides information about free and discounted e-books that are available. This encouraged me to sign up. Since then, I've downloaded about a dozen free books to my Kindle. Stories from a Teacher is one of them.

Generally, I'm drawn to true-life anecdotal books revolving around the workplace. Depending on the author, a lot of these stories can turn out to be really humorous. That's why I decided to download this free copy. And the fact that I currently work in a school and hope to soon be a teacher myself just made the book that much more appealing to me.

Jonathan Flores begins his book with the lighter side of teaching. The stories are funny and even make the reader feel kind of good. As he progresses, the stories become more somber and even a little heartbreaking. Through it all, it's easy to see Mr. Flores' passion for helping his students. Sadly, passion was not enough to keep him in the teaching profession for more than four years.

It's a little disappointing to know that Jonathan Flores resigned from his teaching position at the end of his fourth year. It becomes clear throughout the book that he becomes discouraged by students, parents, fellow faculty, administration and even the school system. Working in a school, I see many of his frustrations manifested in the teachers I work with.

Thankfully, I haven't been discouraged myself.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Question of the Week: Questions

Do you ask enough questions or do you settle for what you know?

It's rare that I ask questions. The reason should be obvious. I already know everything. Just kidding. I don't really know everything. I just pretend that I do. But it's true that I don't ask a lot of questions, unless I'm watching Jeopardy. Socially, this can lead to problems. I notice this when I'm witnessing my more outgoing friends in action. They're constantly prepared to ask questions, if only to keep the conversation going. I tend to let things progress into an awkward silence. When it comes to learning about something, I have a tendency to look something up myself, rather than ask someone else for the answer. Again, I'm sure my lack of inquisitivity can be traced back to my introversion.

And there's always the fact that I ask a question right here, each and every week. Though I rarely receive any answers. But I keep on asking, and I'll ask again. Are you inquisitive? What kinds of questions do you ask? What do you want to know? Now you've got me curious and you haven't even responded yet. Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Treasure Island

Title: Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Published: 1883

For a very long time, I've steered clear of books that are considered classic literature. In most cases, I'm sure it's out of a fear that somehow my 11th grade American Lit. teacher will appear from nowhere and expect me to write an exhaustive paper on the hidden symbolism found within.

But the thing about classic literature is that, most of the time, it's free to download on my Kindle.

That was the case with Treasure Island. It's a book that I've known only by reputation for most of my life. I've never seen a film adaptation. Not even the Muppet version. The only thing I knew for sure about Long John Silver was that he could cook a mean fish and fries combo meal.

Now, having read the novel, I know a lot more about Silver, Flint, and young Jim Hawkins, who narrates most of the tale. Some of the language takes some getting used to, but what would you expect from a story written over a hundred years ago which takes place over 250 years ago. It's a fun read: adventure, intrigue, and even a bit of comedy thrown in. Well, I thought it had some funny parts, anyway.

It's made me appreciate classics a little more. Good thing since that's the majority of what's on my Kindle. Maybe I'll go back and read The Scarlet Letter or The Red Badge of Courage, both of which I allegedly read in 11th grade. However, Mr. Isaacs, I will not be looking for any symbolism. Sorry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

AFI Top 100 - The Halfway Point

When I posted my thoughts on West Side Story last week, I came to the midway point on the AFI's list of the top 100 films of all time. I started this thing in January of 2011. So it's only taken me one year, ten months and seventeen days to get halfway through the list.

Originally, I intended to watch all 100 movies throughout the course of 2011. I'm not too unhappy that I didn't make it. After all, it kind of means I don't actually spend all my time just watching movies. This has been the impression that a lot of people probably have of me for a long time. To them I say HA!

I digress. I seem to have a pretty decent schedule going on these movies now. One a week isn't too bad, right? Which means that at this time next year, I will have completed the entire list. Assuming I stick to that one a week schedule.

Movies are fun. If you're interested in following along with the top 50, I'll be watching The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring for next week. It's a good one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Movies I Want to See This Fall

I think we can all agree, movies are awesome. Well, most of the time they are. Okay, some of the time they are. There are a lot that are utterly ridiculous and unoriginal. But who am I to talk about unoriginal? Most of the sentences in the majority of my conversations come from movie lines.

Anyway, there are a number of films coming to theaters this season that I'd really like to see. Of course, that doesn't mean I'll actually get to see them before they hit DVD. Movies are expensive.

Currently Showing:
Paranormal Activity 4


Taken 2


The Perks of Being a Wallflower

October 26:
Cloud Atlas

November 2:
Wreck-It Ralph


November 9:


November 23:

December 7:

December 14:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Monday, October 22, 2012

Question of the Week: More Time

What do you wish you spent more time doing five years ago?

Let's see... Five years ago I was living in North Carolina. I hadn't been there very long, so I'm sure I was still trying to find my bearings. I probably wish I'd spent more time dwelling on the past. Wait... no I don't. I think dwelling on the past is pointless. I didn't do it then and I won't do it now. I will say I wish I currently spent more time writing. And preparing for the Praxis, which I need to take soon if I ever want to become a teacher.

Is there anything you wish you'd spent more time doing back in the day? Or, better yet, today?

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Rock Star

At the beginning of this school year, I was asked by the powers that be to switch schools. When I started my job as a counselor, I was located at a school that was just past the middle of nowhere. This year, I'm working at a school that's just this side of nowhere. I mean, they have a gas station. Kind of a big deal.

I wasn't thrilled with the change at the time. Who likes change? For an introvert, like me, it almost felt like a punishment. But I decided to make the best of it. I would be doing the same job and I would just keep doing it to the best of my ability. It wasn't easy, at first. But I've made friends. I've gotten comfortable with the layout of my new school. I like the way things work.

But that doesn't mean I didn't jump at the chance to go back to the old school. The counselor that I left behind in my old school had a free day off coming to her. In order for this to happen, she needed someone to cover her clients for her on her day off. I was the most logical choice, since I had previously worked in that school and knew the kids I'd be working with.

Like I said, I like where I work now. But going back to my old school kind of made me feel like a rock star today.

When I walked into the kindergarten classroom, filled with children I do not know, the teachers not only noticed my haircut, but commented on my recent weight loss. Old School - 1, New School - 0.

When I walked into the cafeteria during lunch, I was greeted by the shouts from the 2nd graders. These are the kids I worked with when they were 1st graders. They greeted me using the nickname they gave me last year. "Dr. Pepper! Come sit with us!" That's right, they competed for my attention, trying to get me to sit in certain seats around the table. Old School - 2, New School - 0.

Throughout the day, I was told by no fewer than six individuals that I was missed at the school. Several of those individuals are individuals that I never even directly worked with last year. Old School - 3, New School - 0.

I think the score speaks for itself. I'm not saying I want to go back to my old school. As I stated above, I really do like my new school and the people in it. I'm just suggesting that they may have some catching up to do if they want to start treating me like a rock star as well.

Rock on, kids.

Troy and Abed Airing Someday!

I hold the Evil Empire* in the highest regards. After all, they've done so much for one of my favorite shows. First they put it on an indefinite hiatus in the middle of the season last year. Their comforting words to the fans were basically, "we haven't canceled it, we just don't know when we'll bring it back yet."

And then, over the summer, the Evil Empire fired the show's creator, Dan Harmon. Granted, there were reasons behind the firing and even Harmon admits that he's a difficult character with whom to get along. Still, getting rid of the showrunner doesn't exactly instill a show's fans with a great deal of confidence about the future of the series.

Despite renewing the program for a fourth season, they've only been given an order of half a season. Just one more nail in the Community coffin.

The latest? The pushing back of the fourth season premiere date. A date which is to be determined. Thankfully, our favorite study group has banded together to let us know that we will be seeing their wacky adventures. Someday.

*Evil Empire refers to NBC, for those who were interested in knowing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Chilling Connection

I have this tendency to watch the Harry Potter movies whenever they're on TV. Having HBO included in the price of my rent gives me plenty of opportunities to watch these movies. At least, I have plenty of opportunities to see Sorcerer's Stone and the two Deathly Hallows films. Those are the ones currently showing on the various HBO channels from time to time.

Anyway, I was watching Deathly Hallows Part II the other day and something occurred to me. It's something that I haven't thought of before, which is surprising because I'm such a huge geek. It's the kind of thought that should have hit me ages ago. It's the kind of thought that some other funny geek probably came up with long before I did.

You know that scene when Snape gathers all the students in the Great Hall in the middle of the night? It's right after Harry, Ron and Hermione finally arrive at Hogwarts. Well, Snape and McGonagall have an impromptu duel and then Snape turns tail and runs. Except he doesn't really run. His cloak goes kind of crazy, then he turns into a puff of smoke and flies out the window, shattering the glass in the process.
That's when it occurred to me, that's how these Death Eaters travel. And if you're not familiar with the term Death Eater, you should know they're Voldemort's followers. We see them moving around this way over and over throughout the final films. Most notably, a group of these black puffs of smoke destroyed London's Millennium Bridge during Half-Blood Prince.
Where else have we seen a fast moving puff of black smoke? Yeah, it was back on a mysterious, nameless island in the middle of the South Pacific. Remember the smoke monster from Lost? Well, if you've been wondering all this time, like I have, as to what the smoke monster really was, this should clear it up. The black smoke is obviously a Death Eater.
But it can't just be any old Death Eater. It has to be the original Death Eater. The one that even Voldemort aspired to be. Because Lost showed us that the black smoke originated hundreds of years ago. That means that he was able to do something that Voldemort was never able to do: live forever.

How's your mind? Blown? Yeah, I thought it might be.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

AFI 51 - West Side Story

West Side Story
Directed by Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
Netflix sleeve: Winner of 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, this classic musical set among the tenements of New York City finds star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) caught in the midst of a turf war between rival street gangs. The modern Romeo and Juliet story features original choreography by Jerome Robbins, as adapted from the Broadway stage production. Oscar winners Rita Moreno and George Chakiris co-star.

Mom tried to make me watch this one when I was a kid. Her reasoning, in theory, made good sense. After all, I liked other musical films: The Sound of Music, Grease, The Wizard of Oz. But I could never get more than 10 minutes into West Side Story. The problem I had was with the gangs. These were the tough guys? These were the guys that intimidated everyone in the neighborhood? The ones that are hopping around, arms flailing about, snapping in unison? I just couldn't see it. Now that I've sat through the whole thing, I can plainly say it's not my kind of story. Some of the music was good, but overall not impressive. But I liked it better when it was called Romeo & Juliet (and I didn't even like that all that much).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Southern Ocean

The other day, as I was observing a second grade classroom, I spotted a map on the wall. Recently the kids have been learning about the world map and geography during the social studies portion of their day.

Everything on that map was mostly as I remember it. All the continents were in the same places. Good thing, too. I can only assume a major shift in continental placement would have been on the news.

But then I noticed something odd. There was an extra ocean. When I learned geography as a kid, there were seven continents and four oceans. Now, it seems, there are five. Where did this "Southern Ocean" come from?

I realize this water has always been there. But, to me, it was always just the southern portion of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

According to the good people at Wikipedia, this Southern Ocean has had a debated existence for decades. However, in 2000, it was officially determined what it would be called and where its borders would lie. The International Hydrographic Organization took a vote and the name Southern Ocean won out over Antarctic Ocean. Apparently the organization had previously had a difficult time determining the northern limits of the Southern Ocean due to differing seasons and inconsistent limits of the bordering oceans.

It should be noted that not all mapmakers agree that this ocean should be its own thing. The National Geographic Society still depicts the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans as extending all the way to Antarctica. Personally, I'm with them. But it's good to know that the Southern Ocean exists in some minds, just in case I ever show up on Jeopardy.

So what other common knowledge are they going to strip away from my elementary education? It's bad enough that they revoked Pluto of its planetary status. Now we have to put up with an extra ocean that no one really needed? I mean, were we really getting enough use out of the four oceans we already had? Just one more thing the planet needs to keep clean.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Question of the Week: The Hard Way

What life lesson did you learn the hard way?

I've learned that your dream job doesn't always turn out to be so dreamy. But I've also learned that unexpected situations can lead you to places you never thought you would be, and those places can become everything you never knew you always wanted.

How about you, readers? Any lessons you've learned the hard way?

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Power of the Written Word

I spend the majority of my days observing young children in a classroom setting. Most of the time I find myself frustrated by their behaviors and attitudes. I often wonder if I was like this when I was a kid, or are younger generations actually getting progressively worse? Is that just something older people say?

Every now and then, I'm pleasantly surprised by a handful of the kids I keep an eye on. This little story probably should not count as a pleasant surprise, but here it is. Because if you make me laugh, you get points.

There's a kid in the first grade that has proven to be a fairly analytical thinker. He's all the time asking questions that first graders would not typically ask. I've noticed that he doesn't just let things the teacher says fly over his head. If there's something he doesn't understand, he'll generally ask until he gets his answer. He seems to be pretty smart. And in that sense, he's definitely a diamond in the rough.

This week, the class spent time studying Christopher Columbus and his first voyage to the New World. Each day, the first graders were required to write about a certain aspect of the journey in their very own Captain's Log. For example, on Tuesday they discussed the types of creatures they may have seen on the trip across the Atlantic. On another day, they wrote about different aspects of the ship. This brings us to the journal entry in question.

Bear in mind, these children were encouraged to use their imaginations, but keep it as realistic as possible in relation to a sea voyage that may have taken place 500 years ago. Also, the passage I quote is written by a 6-year-old. Therefore, the spelling isn't so much accurate as it is phonetic. That being said, enjoy the following:
"Are ship was almost attakt. Are ship was almost got [fudged] up."
Only he didn't say fudge.

His teacher eventually had a talk with him about what he wrote. But this was after she had a good laugh about it. He realized before she even showed the paper to him that he had written a bad word. He told her that he wrote that because he was angry about the ship being attacked. She had him clarify, was he really angry, or just imagining that he would be angry if he was really on that ship. He let her know he was just imagining it. She was able to get him to make a quick edit so she could hang the paper in the hallway with the rest of the class.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hungry Bears

I saw a report on the news this morning about a bunch of bears, or a sleuth, on the loose in Aspen, Colorado. Apparently, the bears are just looking for some food. This is hardly the first time a wild bear has invaded the territory that man has rightfully taken over. It certainly won't be the last time we hear of such a report.

Bears, like most animals, get hungry. It's a fact. But I submit that we should not panic over these creatures lumbering through town looking for something to eat. There are some very simple steps that anyone can take to subdue these large animals. All you have to do is determine the type of bear you're dealing with.

I'm not suggesting that you know each type of bear species. Some are easy to recognize: the black bear, the polar bear, the grizzly. Just try to recognize if it's male or female, or a cub of any gender.

Your first step is to feed the bear. This part may be a little difficult. According to legend, bears prefer porridge. I'll admit, I'm not too sure what porridge actually is. I'm sure it's delicious. But this is where it becomes important to know what kind of bear you're feeding. If it's a large male, you're going to want to serve your porridge hot. Some would consider it too hot. If it's an adult female, the porridge should be cold. Again, some might think of it as too cold. And if the bear is a wee cub, you'll want the porridge to be lukewarm. In less common instances, the bear you're facing could be a panda. In this case, you will want to provide chopsticks with the bowl.

Now, tell the truth, when you've had a good meal and are feeling full, don't you often feel tired? Well, that's the theory here. It is assumed that, once the bear has had a filling portion of porridge, it will get drowsy. If you don't want to take any chances, you may want to add a sleep aid to the porridge while you're preparing it.

Your next step will be to lay out a mattress near the bowl of porridge. This is to tempt the sleepy bear with a full stomach to lie down and take a nap. Again, the kind of mattress you set out will depend on the kind of bear you've just fed. The adult male prefers a firm mattress. Like, really firm. The full grown female likes the soft mattress. And for the cub, you'll want something that has a medium firmness. I'm not sure how the people at Sleep Number would classify these mattresses. It may be worth your while to do some research on this.

Once the bear is sleeping soundly, call animal control so that they can deliver the satisfied critter back to the wild. You can attempt to carry the animal yourself, but I would prefer to leave this part to the professionals. After all, you wouldn't want to accidentally jostle the sleeping bear and wake him or her up.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

AFI 52 - Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Netflix sleeve: Martin Scorsese crafts a violently prophetic, gripping vision of urban decay and insanity in which mentally unstable Vietnam vet Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) drives a cab through the sleaziest streets of pregentrified New York City and befriends a child hooker (Jodie Foster). The groundbreaking film earned four Oscar nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Score, and for De Niro and Foster's haunting performances.

"Haunting performances" is right. I mean... that was pretty jacked up. So the AFI list gave me two very dark De Niro flicks back to back. I'm not saying I'm looking forward to watching number 51 on the list, but at least it will be a lighthearted romp compared to this and The Deer Hunter. I'm not sure I know what else to say about this thing, other than completely jacked up. I mean, here's this movie that starts out okay. A guy's just trying to make a living for himself. He boldly asks out Cybill Shepherd. And somewhere he kind of snaps. He buys a bunch of guns shaves his hair into a Mohawk and starts killing people. And he's a hero for it! I won't have nightmares or anything. But I wouldn't want to run into this Travis Bickle character in a dark alley. Or a well lit alley for that matter.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Erynn's Challenge, Part One

Not too long ago I asked you guys to challenge me. After my mother responded via Facebook, my friend Erynn left her comment on the blog. She left me with a name, a setting, an object and an emotion about which to write a story. This is what I came up with. If you still want to play along, just leave your idea in the comments and I'll be glad to give it a shot. At this point, I only have one more to do. I'd love to get more challenges! In the meantime, Erynn, here's part 1 of your story. I really only get around to the name of your character this time. The rest will have to wait until part 2. It was just getting too long for one blog post. I promise, the rest is coming! Hope you enjoy it!

Name: Taylor Steele
Location: Route 66
Object: Magic 8-Ball
Emotion: Nostalgia

The funeral was over. Most of the people who had gathered afterward had already left. This allowed Taylor Steele to finally get busy cleaning the house. She was done talking to people. She did not want to hear anymore platitudes from well-meaning people expressing condolences. Taylor really did appreciate those people and their thoughts and prayers, but in the four days since Mason's death, she had heard all she could stand.

By this time, only three of her and Mason's closest friends remained in her home. A part of her wished that they, too, would leave. A bigger part wanted them to stay forever. Taylor was unsure if she was ready to face a night alone in the house she had shared with her husband for the last two years. But she did not want to think about it. So she got busy. She swept through the living room like a purposeful breeze, picking up stray plates and napkins and plastic cups half full of punch and iced tea.

"Let me give you a hand with those," said Leslie as she walked up behind Taylor, reaching for the stack of plates in Taylor's hand.

Taylor shook her head. "You really don't have to," she said, but put up no fight, handing over the plates willingly.

"Yeah, I think I do," Leslie said. "Sit down. You've been on your feet all day. Take five."

Taylor considered her friend's words. Leslie was right. She had been up since six, unable to sleep any later than that. This had been the norm for months; Mason's passing had not changed that. Before the 2pm funeral, there had been a hundred tiny things that needed to be done; a hundred things that she hardly considered important. But they kept her busy.

"That's not true," said Taylor as she fell to the sofa, "I sat down during the funeral. And at the graveside."

"Well, you've got me there."

For a long moment, the only sound in the room was the sound of Leslie picking up leftovers. Taylor could hear Leslie's husband in the foyer talking to Daniel, Taylor's brother. Rob was telling the story of his and Mason's legendary road trip to the Grand Canyon when they were freshmen in college. When she realized what the guys were talking about, Taylor had to stifle a laugh. Mason had told her about that road trip a dozen times and it was never the same twice. Every telling seemed to become a little more exaggerated.

"What?" Leslie looked at Taylor, hearing her slight snort.

She laughed again. "Nothing. I'm just listening to your husband tell his tale."

"Oh, yeah." Leslie carried an armful of garbage into the kitchen and returned a few seconds later. "Do you want to stay with us again tonight?" she asked as she took the seat next to Taylor.

Again, Taylor shook her head. "I really need to stay here tonight. It's got to happen sometime," she said, leaning forward to hold her head in her hands. "I appreciate you guys letting me stay with you since Mason..." She started to break down, but took a breath.

"You know, you're allowed to cry," Leslie said as she placed her arm around her friend's shoulders.

"I know." Taylor wiped her cheeks of the few tears that managed to slip out of her eyes. "I don't want to, though. I was ready. We were ready. We said our good-byes a long time ago. Well, relatively speaking."

"That doesn't mean you're not allowed to miss him."

"I know that too. I do miss him. More than I can say. But I'm not ready to break down yet. I've still got a lot to do and I can't get things done if I'm an emotional wreck," Taylor said. She stood up and walked to the kitchen.

A lot of people would have looked at the mess and felt overwhelmed. Taylor was just glad that she still had so much to keep her occupied. She began dumping leftover food into plastic storage containers and placed them in the refrigerator. "I'm not gonna have to cook for two weeks," she said as Leslie entered the room.

Leslie made herself useful by taking the newly emptied casserole dishes and dipping them in the hot, soapy water in the sink. "I'm serious, Taylor. You can come back and stay with us for as long as you want."

"And I appreciate that," she said as she scraped cheesy broccoli into a Tupperware bowl, "but I'm gonna bite the bullet."

At that point, Rob and Daniel walked in. Rob joined Leslie at the sink, drying while his wife washed. Daniel approached Taylor. "Hey, sis, I'm gonna take off."

Taylor stopped what she was doing and gave her big brother a hug. "Do you need anything?" he asked while she pulled away.

"No," she said as she returned to her chore, "I'm gonna let these two do some more cleaning, then I'll kick them out. I'll be fine for the night. Gonna sleep. A lot." She smiled up at her brother, but he had a look of concern on his face. "Don't look at me like that," she said.

"All right, but call me if you need to."

"I will. Thanks."

Daniel looked over at Rob and Leslie, bid them good-bye, then left through the back door. Rob leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek. "You okay here?" he asked, referring to the mountain of dishes still in need of washing.

"I could do this in my sleep," said Leslie.

"I'll be right back." Rob then walked toward Taylor, "Hey, can we talk for a minute?"

She nodded and followed him into the living room. Taylor was a little confused. What could Rob have to say to her that he could not have said in front of Leslie? She wondered this, but then she saw the look on his face. She saw the tears filling his eyes. Taylor knew that Rob hated to cry in front of Leslie. But she also knew that Leslie loved knowing that Rob was capable of crying. But Taylor said nothing.

"Mason asked me to give something to you," Rob said as he pulled something out of his pocket. It was a flash drive. "He gave it to me a couple months back and instructed me to give it to you after he..." Rob had to take a breath to compose himself. "Well... here you go."

Taylor was puzzled. "Do you know what's on it?"

"Yeah, it's a video message that he made for you. I didn't watch it, but he did tell me the gist of what he said in it."

"Well, what's it about?" she asked.

"Taylor, you know I'm not gonna tell you that. You have to watch it. Just know that Mason had something important he wanted to say to you," said Rob as he put the flash drive in Taylor's hand.

"Hey, sweetie." Leslie walked into the room and saw Taylor scrutinizing the little blue flash drive.

"Yeah?" Both Taylor and Rob said at the same time.

Leslie laughed a little at their mutual reaction. "The dishes are done," she said, looking to Taylor. "Do you need me to do anything else?"

Taylor closed her hand around the flash drive. "No, I think I can handle things from here. Actually, I'm probably not gonna do anything else tonight. The bed is calling out to me," she lied. "You guys have done more than enough. Go home; get some rest yourselves."

Rob nodded his head, looking at Leslie. "All right, if you're sure," she said. She hugged Taylor tight and then traded off with Rob, who hugged her tighter.

"If you need anything..." he began.

"I'll call," said Taylor. She walked her friends to the front door and saw them out. As Rob and Leslie walked to their car, she called out to them. "I'll talk to you guys tomorrow."

Leslie turned back and said good night before walking around to the passenger door. Taylor stood under the light of her front porch until her friends drove out of sight. Then she turned to go inside. This is when the reality of the empty house sank in. She closed and locked the front door, then began turning off lights throughout the ground floor.

Taylor made her way up the stairs. Stopping by the office, she dropped the flash drive onto the desk. Whatever message Mason had could surely wait until morning. She then walked slowly, but was determined to make it to her bedroom before allowing her tears to flow. She knew they were coming and there would be no stopping them this time. When she got to the bedroom, she stood in the doorway for about 30 seconds, though it felt much longer. She stared at the bed that she had shared with Mason up until four nights ago. She thought for sure that this would be what started her sobs, but it did not.

She went into her closet and undressed. Taylor had been wearing her black dress all day and it felt good to finally be out of it. She crossed the room to the dresser and began rummaging through the drawers. After a few moments of searching, she found what she was looking for. It was Mason's old football jersey from college. She held it close to her face. It could have been her imagination, but she swore it still smelled like him. Taylor slipped it on over her head and turned back toward her bed. She stared at it again, for longer this time.

Without a thought, she turned out the light in the bedroom and walked back down the stairs. She had no plan. She just did not think she could handle climbing into that empty bed, not feeling the warmth or the weight of her husband beside her. So she went to the living room. She turned on the TV and popped a disc into the DVD player before lying on the couch.

As Taylor lay there, hoping that sleep would take her sooner than later, she watched her wedding video. She felt it was a nice way to end one of the saddest days of her life, by reminding herself of one of the happiest. She watched herself say "I do" and knew that she would do it all over again.

Taylor saw Mason's smiling face. And that was her trigger. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, her tears came. Her body heaved with sobs that she could no longer hold back. Suddenly, the pain she felt from losing the love of her life was so immense that she could feel nothing else. Gone was the joy felt by the girl on the DVD. Now there was only grief and sadness and misery. She buried her face in a throw pillow and allowed a wave of depression to wash over her. She felt as if a part of her had been removed somehow; like there was a hole in her chest that could not be repaired.

Taylor cried herself to sleep that night, in spite of the happy images shining down at her from the television.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Question of the Week: Excited

What gets you excited about life?

I don't consider myself a very excitable person. I'm sure most people I know would agree with that consideration. More often than not, I don't get excited over things. If I do, there's a good chance I'm not going to let it show when I'm around other people. But then there are some times when I just get so freakin' excited over the most ridiculous things. I get excited after seeing certain movie previews. I get excited after buying a book that I'm dying to read. I get excited when I know I'm going to see friends that I haven't seen in a long time. But I'm not sure those things count as getting excited about life. So maybe I'm still looking for something big that would get me excited about life. Not that I'm necessarily indifferent about life. And not that I'm looking for something to get me excited. I'm just gonna keep livin' the dream and if I get excited, awesome.

How about you? What gets you excited?

Friday, October 05, 2012

TV Time

I don't have a DVR anymore. It's a luxury that I very much miss. But I can't complain too much because I still get cable. And it feels like it's free because the cost is worked into my rent.

But I'm not sure a DVR is even necessary anymore, because so many shows are available through the internet the day after they air. That being said, I'm sure you're all dying to know what shows I'm keeping up with this television season. I don't want to leave you hanging.
  • How I Met Your Mother - This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog. Season 8 may be the final season, which means that we will finally meet the mother of Ted's children. I'm hoping for resolution in that mystery, as well as the completion of the slaps that Marshall still owes Barney.
  • Bones - I've been with this one since the beginning. I'm not about to stop now. The dynamic between the characters has always been great. And they occasionally have a recurring villain, but they don't beat that dead horse. They throw in a lot of done-in-one episodes in between, keeping the story from stagnating and feeling drawn-out.
  • Revolution - This is the only new drama that I'm allowing myself to get caught up in. Others have looked interesting, but I just don't want to invest in a lot of new things. This one looked interesting enough to keep me coming back. I want to know why the power shut off. It would not surprise me if it has something to do with a certain button in a certain hatch not being pushed.
  • Go On - And this is the only new comedy I'm allowing myself to get caught up in. I'm a fan of Matthew Perry. And I've already gotten some great group therapy ideas from his fake grief counseling sessions. In a lot of ways, the group dynamic reminds me of the lovable misfits we see on Community.
  • New Girl - Jessica got me watching this show toward the end of the season last year. I watched every episode from the first season on Hulu and found it to be hilarious. So I'm in for this year.
  • Modern Family - Consistently one of the funniest things on TV. Dozens of Emmy nominations and wins can't be wrong.
  • Survivor - I don't know why. I just... I don't know.
  • 30 Rock - A final season for an historically great show. Gotta see how they wrap it up. I thought it was a little disappointing last year, but this season's premiere was hilarious.
  • The Office - Another final season. Past due, in my opinion, but I still think the characters are highly entertaining. I think I'll miss Creed the most.
  • Parks & Recreation - Ron Swanson is awesome. That is all.
  • Glee - Honestly, I couldn't care less about the stories or the characters on this show anymore. I haven't cared since about midway through season 2. But I still love the music. I generally have this show as background noise while I do something else. Like when I'm writing a blog post.
  • Community - As if Alison Brie wasn't enough reason for me to watch. I've long considered this the smartest comedy on TV. I'm a little scared about how this season will work since creator and showrunner Dan Harmon was fired over the summer. I'm hopeful.
  • Fringe - Again, a final season for a show. Despite its low ratings in recent years, it's been consistently awesome. I have to see how it ends.
  • The Amazing Race - Again... I don't know.
  • Once Upon a Time - It's like they took all your favorite Disney movies and threw them in a blender and this is what came out.
  • The Walking Dead - This is the only one I worry about being able to see this year. See, my free cable doesn't include AMC. My free cable is actually provided by Dish Network, which doesn't carry AMC for whatever selfish financial reasons. So if I'm not willing to buy each episode from Amazon or iTunes, I'm out of luck. But it's an awesome show. My solemn vow is that I will see season 3 eventually.
Well, that's it. I know it looks like a lot. But I think it's actually cut down a lot from a few years ago. What are you watching? Is there anything you think I'm missing out on? I can't promise I'll start watching it, but let me know in the comments and I'll be glad to give it a try.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Why Do We Cry?

Source: via Nancy on Pinterest

I spend a lot of time on the Facebook. Well, more than I used to. I don't consider it an unhealthy amount. But I also don't consider my caffeine intake an unhealthy amount, though I'm well aware of my severe addiction to the stuff. But I noticed a status update from the Most Awesome Person I Know.

Apparently she had decided to watch a known tearjerker. If you're unfamiliar with the tearjerker, this is a movie or program which is likely to make the viewer cry, possibly in an uncontrollable fashion. The movie in question was P.S. I Love You. This is a film that I have, in fact, seen before. I did not cry.

But it apparently has that affect on some people, including my friend. And she couldn't help wondering why she would put herself through that. Why would she watch a movie that she knows will make her cry every time she watches it? Does she enjoy crying?

Does anybody really enjoy crying? Think about what happens when a person cries. Tears stream from the eyes. This causes a difficulty in seeing. Once the tears stop, there's a certain feeling of dryness and itchiness in the eyes. Then there's the running of the nose. Breathing becomes impaired. And have you ever looked at yourself when you cry? Does a beautiful crier exist? If such a person is out there, I have never seen them.

So why do it? Why do people put themselves through the misery of watching something that will make them an emotional wreck? What good can come of it?

So here's a list of a few movies that one should avoid if you do not want to cry. If you're a glutton for punishment, watch away.
  • Old Yeller
  • Sophie's Choice
  • Love Story
  • Bambi
  • Steel Magnolias
  • A Walk to Remember
  • My Girl
  • The Lion King
  • Terms of Endearment
  • Batman & Robin
Okay, that last one isn't really a tearjerker. It's just a good idea to avoid it at all costs. Though, if you're a big Clooney fan, the movie may cause you to cry anyway. It's that bad.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

AFI 53 - The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter
Directed by Michael Cimino
Netflix sleeve: In this Oscar-winning epic from director Michael Cimino, a group of working-class friends decides to enlist in the Army during the Vietnam War and finds it to be hellish chaos--not the noble venture they imagined. Before they left, Steven (John Savage) married his pregnant girlfriend--and Michael (Robert De Niro) and Nick (Christopher Walken) were in love with the same woman (Meryl Streep). But all three are different men upon their return.

Pretty sure I said it back when I reviewed Platoon. Probably said it when I reviewed Full Metal Jacket, too. I'm just not a big fan of the Vietnam War epics. That's not to say I thought that either of those movies was bad. And I didn't think this one was bad either. It's just not a genre that I would choose to watch when faced with a choice of what to watch on movie night. I will say the acting was really well done. And now I have Apocalypse Now to look forward to at some point on this list.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Title: Firestarter
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1980

I feel like I've been reading this book forever. I started it back when I was still living in Roanoke. If you've been keeping up with me that long, that means I started reading Firestarter in April at the latest.

I'm usually a speedier reader than this. And this should be no reflection on Mr. King's writing. This book may not have been as exciting as, say, Carrie or The Shining, but it wasn't boring.

My big excuse? I moved twice over the summer. So the book spent a lot of time in a box. Still, I suppose I could have finished the story in less than a week if I'd really put my mind to it. But I didn't.

The novel follows a young Drew Barrymore and her dad, the jerk from Major League. Just kidding, that's just who played them in the movie. Charlie McGee is a little girl who has an amazing ability. Spoiler alert: she can start fires... wait for it... with her mind.

Her father, Andy, and mother, Vicky, met in college while participating in an experiment involving a drug known as Lot-6. The drug gave them some psychic abilities, which were passed on to Charlie in an extreme fashion. A shady government agency wants to control and study and eliminate the family. After Vicky is murdered, Andy and Charlie take off.

Roughly half the book depicts the McGee's as they hid from the Shop (that shady agency I mentioned). Eventually they're caught, leading to the second half of the book. While in captivity, Charlie is manipulated into showing off her mental flamethrower. When she finds out she was manipulated and betrayed... Well, you know that thing they say about a woman scorned? Imagine that woman is a slightly unstable little girl who may or may not be able to cause a nuclear explosion with a stray thought.

Not my favorite of Stephen King's work, but a decent read nonetheless, despite the length of time it took me to complete it. Much better than the movie, which I actually saw many years ago. Not sure what I'll read next, but I know it'll be on my Kindle. No room for real books anymore.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Question of the Week: Sensible

What's the most sensible thing you've ever heard someone say?

"You have to be a little crazy to be a good counselor." I'm not sure where I first heard this or who said it. Could have been someone back at the Baptist Home or someone with my current employer back when I worked with them years ago. It's something I've repeated and found to be true. I've spoken to a lot of counselors who have been through some form of therapy themselves. In my case, I wanted to get into counseling in spite of a lot of the counselors who worked with me as a teenager. I felt that most of them lacked any real compassion and had no business working in this field. Others are inspired to help others because someone genuinely helped them somewhere along the way. Whatever the case, it seems that if you aren't in some way touched by insanity when you start counseling, you will be by the time you quit.