Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunrise

I remember attending Easter morning sunrise services all throughout my youth. I grew up in a church that changed locations when I was 9 years old. At the time, the new building was built on top of a steep hill overlooking a beautiful valley. It gave a terrific view of the sunrise on those early Sunday mornings.

I want to say I went to a sunrise service at some point during college, but I could be wrong about that. Either way, it's been more than a decade since I participated in an Easter sunrise service. That changed today when I joined Northstar Church's GAP group for our very own sunrise service.

It was cold. It was raining. It was informal. It was all kinds of awesome. We sang old hymns, we prayed, we discussed what Easter means. Viktor, one of our GAP leaders, lead us in a short devotion that you can read here. Seriously, go read it. It's good stuff.

So I have next Easter to look forward to. But this begs the question, why should a sunrise service be limited only to Easter Sunday? Is there some kind of law or tradition that says a sunrise service cannot happen more than that one Sunday each year? I'm not saying we should do it every week. But I'd certainly participate in a monthly or semi-monthly thing. Who's with me?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Crackaroni & Cheese

So, I've been invited to another potluck meal, which will take place after church this Easter. This means that I'll need to make some more food. But, what to make?

For the last potluck I went to, I made the Chicken Quiche-adilla and the Sugar Cookie Fruit Cups. I don't just want to make the same thing all over again. 'Cause I'll be potlucking with a lot of the same folks. Don't want to come off as a one trick pony.

Luckily, I was able to spend Thursday afternoon with my grandmother, henceforth known as Mamaw. Mamaw has an amazing talent. She is an incredible cook. My personal favorite? Her homemade macaroni and cheese. This stuff is so good, it's impossible to stop at what officials consider to be an individual serving size. It's kind of addictive. We, the grandchildren, lovingly refer to the side dish as Mamaw's Crackaroni & Cheese.

Mamaw's version. Flawless.
Thursday, I was given the opportunity to watch Mamaw make the mac & cheese. No, she did not use any actual narcotics in the making of the dish. Yes, it was as delicious as it always is. And I'm pretty sure I was able to pick up exactly how it's made.

Today, I gave it a shot. It came out of the oven looking pretty good. Obviously not as good as Mamaw's version. I guess I'll find out how it is for sure tomorrow afternoon. I do know that it smelled amazing. And I transported it in my car to the friend's house where the potluck will take place, so I'm hoping that my car will smell like macaroni and cheese for the next week. That would be awesome.
My version. Not as flawless.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sunday's Coming

Today is Good Friday. For the billions of us who call ourselves Christians, it's a day of great significance. It's the day we remember Christ's sacrifice on the cross. It's why He was born in this world. It's why He lived and walked among us. His disciples were distraught, mourning their loss as they observed the Sabbath. But we have the privilege of knowing that Sunday was on its way. So this week's Remembering Bluefield segment is preempted in observance of Good Friday. The video below was shown this evening at Northstar Church's Good Friday service. If you haven't been in a while, Sunday sure will be a good day to find a church and worship.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

One Hour

Let's talk about a one hour delay, shall we? To me, it's kind of a waste. It's the kind of thing that shouldn't even be an option.

When a school system decides on a delay of one hour, it doesn't really take a lot of time away from the school day. I suppose that bit appeals to the school board. But by the time we make it to the school, it's like having a full day anyway.

The logic behind a delay is that it gives a little extra time for the roads to get clear and become safer. But does a single hour provide enough time? In that time, does the sun have enough time to warm up the area to melt the ice that remains? Doubtful. You know what would help? An extra hour. I'm a big advocate of the two hour delay.

Now, ignoring the condition of the roads, driving can still be a hassle at this time of the day. At the normal schedule, I'm on the road and leaving Radford before all those college kids have a chance to get up. With a 2-hour delay, I'm leaving town after all those kids are already in class. One hour means I have to share the road with the students. Not cool.

In my opinion, if you're gonna go with a 1-hour delay, you might as well not have a delay at all. Really, what good are you doing?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Single Guy Hesitates

There's an old proverb that says, "He who hesitates is lost." No one knows this more than the Single Guy.

Because that's just what he does. It's his modus operandi. He hesitates. He thinks. Then he over thinks. Then he misses out.

It's the definition of insanity, doing something over and over again while expecting different results. But people do that sort of thing all the time, right? Maybe not everyone.

But here's how it goes: The Single Guy meets a girl. He spends some time getting to know this girl. This time period varies. Could be days. Could be months. But then, at some point, he decides she's worth the risk of a broken heart. What he doesn't realize is that he's already too late.

More often than not, he's too late due to the fact that he's managed to find himself in the legendary Friends' Zone. The F.Z. can be a fun place to be, as long as one is perfectly content with simply being friends. Although, there's nothing simple about being just friends.

Usually, when there's a Friends' Zone involved, there's a good chance that one of the friends will have stronger feelings than the other one will. This has happened to the Single Guy. A couple times. Okay, more than a couple times. But that's because he's all the time hesitating. And he's a really good friend.

But there are other consequences to hesitation, aside from the Friends' Zone. Namely, there's the missed opportunity. While waiting around and getting to know a girl, a guy can end up letting her slip right through his fingers. It's easy to let it happen, too.

Part of the reason the Single Guy chooses to hesitate more often than not is because he wants to get to know someone before taking a leap of faith. For someone with the vast array of trust issues that the Single Guy has, it is a significant leap of faith. But then he figures out, she's pretty awesome. Unfortunately, someone else has figured it out too.

Once again, he who hesitates is lost.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Bad Counselor

"What's the matter?" asked Mrs. B as I walked into the teacher's lounge to take my lunch break. I hadn't meant for it to be obvious that I was suddenly in a less than great mood.

"Turns out I'm a bad counselor," I said. Then I threw in, as a joke, "Not that that should come as brand new information to you."

I had just come from supervision, the weekly face-to-face ordeal in which I'm required to discuss how things are going with my supervisor. It's not that I don't look forward to these weekly sessions. It's just that I don't usually walk away from them feeling like the job I've done has been inadequate.

Today I was informed that one of my client's is unhappy with the services that I've been providing. Or, as this client's mother has put it, the lack of services. This is a legitimate concern, and one that I've had myself. I'm about to explain myself, and it's going to come off as me making excuses for slacking on a part of my job. But, please, believe me when I say, I'm not slacking.

I have six clients at the moment. That's the most that I'm legally allowed to have at one time. Those kids are spread throughout the school in 4-6 different classrooms. I say 4-6 because five of those children are spread between a 1st grade classroom and two 2nd grade classrooms. The other is a 7th grader who moves between three classrooms throughout the day. This is the one that I've failed as a counselor.

I've expressed my concern with my supervisor a number of times in the past. This 7th grader is a well-behaved kid. As a counselor, part of my job is to observe and maintain classroom behaviors. When a client is well-behaved in the classroom, it means there isn't a lot for me to do while I'm there. So, can you guess where I spend the majority of my time throughout each school day? If you guessed the 1st and 2nd grade rooms, you'd be right.

Those younger kids have the more severe disruptive behaviors. Their need for a counselor is far more evident than my 7th grade client's. Not that his need isn't there. It's just not as obvious. Another part of the job is to meet with each client individually and in group counseling sessions. This is where therapy takes place. Can you guess how difficult it is to juggle 6 students' schedules, attempting to find appropriate times to meet with each of them multiple times a week? It's really, really hard.

Especially when it comes to the 7th grader. With the younger kids, it's generally no problem to pull them out of the classroom at any given moment. For older kids, they miss even a little bit of class time, they potentially miss some important information for coming tests or quizzes. When you calculate snow days, sick days and days when my client just doesn't want to meet, or can't meet due to a need to make up classwork, it makes meeting individually next to impossible.

I hate feeling like I'm neglecting one of my kids. Again, I've expressed this attitude of guilt with my supervisor. At the same time, I've described my clients as being different balls that I'm trying to juggle. Five of them are made of glass, while one of them is made of rubber. This means that I can drop one of them and not worry about it shattering when it hits the ground. It'll just bounce back up and I can pick it up where I left off. My 7th grader is the rubber ball in that metaphor. At least, that's what I've thought until today.

I've never had an easy time connecting with this client. Talking has never been my strong suit, even in a counseling capacity. As a counselor, my best assets are my ears. I'm an excellent listener. Always have been. But I can't listen if the client isn't willing to talk either. This has made for some quiet counseling sessions. Rapport just hasn't been built between us. One more thing for me to feel bad about. I have no problem connecting with the younger kids. Candy Land can easily turn into a therapeutic activity. I can act like a fool in front of those kids and they love it. Have you tried connecting with a teenager by acting like an idiot? It doesn't work for me. If it works for you, let me know, I could obviously use the pointers.

There are times when I'll joke with my co-workers that I'm afraid someone will come in to observe me and figure out that I'm some kind of fraud, that I don't really know what I'm doing. Even though that's said in jest, it's a real fear that hides just under the surface of my confidence and bravado. For someone to come along and expose that fear to the open air kind of makes me doubt my ability to do the job at all.

I think I've done a pretty decent job with my other five clients. But should that make me feel better about all this? I feel like I've failed the one, and I can't get that out of my mind.

Am I a bad counselor?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Question of the Week: Law Breaker

Via
Would you break the law to save a loved one?

This question seems kind of vague. Are we talking about saving someone's life? Are we talking about saving someone from some jail time that they would be serving for a crime that they, themselves, committed? If it's the latter, no. If they did something wrong, then justice demands that they make restitution for their crime. If it's the former, then yes, I would. And then I'd confess to my crime and let our imperfect justice system deal with me as is deemed necessary. I've had a very strong belief in justice lately. Probably all that time I spent training with Batman last summer.

Energy

Becky got the coffeemaker going when she heard the commotion in the living room. I really don't have the energy for their crap this morning, she thought. Not before my coffee.

None of them had much energy for anything. After spending a night in the cabin waiting to be mauled to death by some legendary creature that supposedly lurked through the woods. Randy had spooked everyone, claiming he had heard the thing growling in the darkness. This kept them all awake all night. Of course, nothing happened.

Randy seemed like a sweet guy. Becky could understand why Rob and Lana would try to set the two of them up. But he just wasn't her type. That part where he was kind of a wuss turned out to be kind of a turn off for Becky. Causing a panic over hearing a cute little woodland creature moving around in the bushes? Great impression, Randy.

"Becky!" Lana yelled from the other room.

"Hang on," she called back, "it's almost ready!"

"Come here! The coffee can wait!"

Becky rolled her eyes as she moved toward the living room of the cabin. "Don't you know me at all? The coffee should never wait," she said as she rounded the corner. What she saw made her freeze in her tracks.

Rob was on the floor, squirming under the weight of a German Shepherd. It was obviously playing with him, tail wagging, bathing his face with its tongue. "We found Randy's horrible beast!" Rob said as he pushed the dog off his chest.

Becky loved dogs. She drew near and dropped to her knees ready to play with the apparently friendly animal. She reached for the dog's collar and read the name on the tag. "Hey there, Annabelle," she said, scratching behind Annabelle's ears. "Where'd she come from?" Becky asked, turning back to Rob.

"Not sure," he said as he got to his feet, "I opened the door to get some air and she pounced."

"I wonder if she has an owner nearby?"

Lana walked to Becky and Annabelle. "I thought this was the only cabin around for a few miles."

"Maybe someone's camping," said Rob. "Randy, you gonna at least play with the monster that kept you up all night?"

"No, thanks," said Randy as he curled into a ball on the couch. Becky rolled her eyes again. He was probably afraid of the dog, too.

"Think the coffee's ready?" Lana asked.

"Yeah. I need some. Like, right now," said Becky.

The girls walked into the kitchen, leaving Rob to play with their new four-legged friend. They each poured a cup and began to sip. "I'm sorry about Randy," Lana began.

"Don't worry about it."

"He's not usually like this, though," she continued.

Becky sighed, "Are you sure about that?"

Lana didn't have an answer. Or, she didn't want to answer.

"Look," Becky said, "I appreciate you guys thinking of me, but Randy's just not gonna work out."

"I understand," said Lana as she took another sip of her coffee.

"Don't worry, though. I won't make the rest of the weekend awkward."

"You won't," Lana said with a smirk, "but Randy probably will."

Becky rolled her eyes yet again. It would take more than coffee to give her the energy to deal with this guy for the rest of this getaway.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ah, Geek Love...

So, I woke up crazy early for a Saturday. Couldn't get back to sleep. So I did the only logical thing I could think of. I got on Pinterest to waste some time until the sun came up. Found this video. It's a song called "I Love You More Than Star Wars." Enjoy!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Remembering Bluefield: Brandy Campbell

This week the spotlight falls on Brandy Campbell, who began her time at Bluefield College the same year I did. A mutual friend has told me that my sarcasm will get me punched in the face some day. Well, I'm pretty sure that, back in the day, my sarcasm got me punched in the arm more than a few times by Brandy. Despite taking a beating from time to time, I can honestly say she's one of the best people I've had the honor of knowing.

Name: 
Brandy Campbell

What year did you graduate?
2002

What degree did you earn?
I double majored in Communication Arts and English, with a minor in Christian Studies (didn't everyone have Christian Studies as part of their major/minor at BC? :) )

What drew you to Bluefield College?
Funny, I just wrote about it...an excerpt from that writing (I was writing about visiting colleges as a senior in high school):
The third school was more than three hours away, west down the interstate, through two tunnels that cut through great hunks of mountain. Bluefield College was nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. It was a tiny campus, and the brick buildings were a little worn. The quad had huge oak trees that dropped red and gold leaves in front of the library. Everything about this campus felt unknown--from the faces I passed to the mountains that rose up from the ground, fog pouring over them like water.
"I think this is the place for me," I said as we drove home.
"It's a long way," Dennis said.
"I know."
What kept you there?
One part stubbornness, two parts community. Bluefield wasn't perfect, but it was the right place for me in that season. I felt supported by the faculty and staff and had some really great friendships.

Is there a class that changed your life? If so, what?
That's a tough question to answer. There were classes that helped me professionally (Mrs. Merritt's journalism class). Classes that expanded my mind (English senior seminar with Merritt, Massey and Steenken).

What teacher had the biggest impact on you? Why?
That honor would have to go to Dr. Ken Lyle. I felt like he cared for me as a person, and he was present during one of the darkest times of my life (when I lost my stepfather, Dennis) and I will never be able to repay him for the support he has extended to me.

Did you live on campus or commute?
On campus all four years.

Who were your roommates?
First year was Becky McCracken (who had more hair than any other person I've ever met. We used to brush hairballs out of our carpet that could have been made into wigs). Then for the last three years, Hollie Harmon and I roomed together.

Share an epic roommate story (if you have one).
Oh, how to narrow it down. One of my favorite ones to tell: Hollie and I were both pretty modest, so we often changed clothes in the closet if the bathroom was occupied by our suitemates. One day I came into the room and thought Hollie was in class. I was facing our bunkbeds, rummaging through my backpack, when I heard a noise behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the door opening slowly. It did not even occur to me that it was Hollie. In my mind it was a serial killer. So I began to run. But, you know, I was right next to the bunkbeds. So I promptly ran into the bunkbed and fell backward. Hollie stood over me, shook her head, then went to get an icepack for the giant knot on my forehead.

What's your most cherished Bluefield College memory?
I wanted to post something funny (the great Bebo Norman fiasco, perhaps) but honestly, I cherish the months after Dennis' death. I was shown so much kindness by friends and faculty. I will always cherish the community that surrounded me at that time.

Where are you now?
I've been in Colorado Springs, CO for the past almost 7 years.

What are you doing?
I work as a feature writer at Compassion International, a non-profit ministry that works with children in poverty in developing countries.

Does that mean you're using your degree?
Yup :)

Are you where you pictured yourself being when you were in college?
Hmmmm. Good question. There are things I pictured for myself at this stage--marriage, family, etc. And while I haven't ruled any of that out, I'm thrilled with where I am. I love my job and am incredibly fulfilled by it. I am almost done with my Master's degree, and it has been one of the hardest, most fulfilling two years of my life. When I was finishing my degree at Bluefield 10+ years ago, I didn't really know what the future held. I couldn't have dreamed where I would end up--but I'm so thankful for all of the ways I've been blessed.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Who knows! Would love to have a book published. Maybe that whole marriage and family thing will have happened? I'm just along for the ride :)

What's your greatest post-BC accomplishment?
While my work and grad school accomplishments are exciting, I'm most proud of starting The Merci/Mercy Project about four years ago (mercimercy.com) Every year I beg my friends for money, and then send those funds to Togo, a small country in West Africa, to send kiddos to school. We've sent more than 400 kids to school, and it has been one of the most humbling endeavors I've ever taken on.

What's your fondest post-BC memory?
Having moved away so soon after finishing my time at Bluefield has meant little contact with BC folks, which is sad to me. But every time I've seen my alumni friends, there have been sweet times of laughter and catching up. Seeing Hollie and a bunch of other Roanoke folks a few years ago was lovely. Being on campus in 2011 to speak to journalism students, and again for homecoming that year, was also a fun time of remembering, and visiting with old friends like Mark, Shannon, Heather, Kelly and Shannon. And sitting next to Andy at the football game and watching him do a double-take when he realized who I was was also good times :)

If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything?
Nope. The good and bad have made me who I am. Cliche, but true!

Thanks to Brandy for taking the time to participate in Remembering Bluefield. Be sure to check out her blog I'm Just Sayin' and check out The Merci/Mercy Project when you're looking for worthwhile causes. Come back here next week for more from another Bluefield alum!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

In the Words of a Non-Parent

Today's blog post comes as an idea from Jessica. She suggested that it would be interesting to hear parenting advice from someone who isn't a parent. With as much time as I've spent among families and working with kids, she felt that I could offer some unique insights into the art of raising children. So, depending on how well this is received, this could become a regular category on the Carp Dime.

And as my first attempt at offering unsolicited and (in some eyes) unqualified advice, I ask a question: How involved should parents be in their child's school?

First and foremost, know your child's teacher. I say this in the same way that comedians have to know their audience. A stand-up comic really has to be able to read his or her audience to know how some jokes will come across. One audience may think something is hilarious, while the people at the second show might be completely offended. Teachers are just as varied in style and personality as those fickle comedy club audiences.

Have you determined what kind of teacher you and your kids are dealing with? Trust me, it'll be important throughout the entire school year. It might be best to come up with a list of questions to ask on Back to School night, that way you can begin to familiarize yourself with the person that your son or daughter will be seeing for 7 hours a day for the next nine months. Things to ask that you may not think about asking include, but are not limited to:
  • What kind of reward/consequence system do you have in the classroom? (Especially important in the younger years.)
  • How much weight do you give to homework?
  • What is your favorite kind of cookie? (Who doesn't appreciate a cookie every now and then? And it never hurts to suck up to your kid's teacher, am I right?)
  • Do you need a hand with anything throughout the school year?
That last question may take some teachers by surprise. A parent who's interested and willing to lend a hand to their child's teacher? This is a rare and precious thing in our world today. As I said, teachers and their personalities vary. Some will want a volunteer to help out just about every day. Others are the kinds of people who are very independent and want to do things on their own. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's important to make it known to your teacher that you are available if he or she needs help. There are so many simple things that can be done to take some of the weight off our teachers' shoulders.

At the same time, don't step on your teacher's toes. If you happen to be in the classroom thanks to some free time, which you've chosen to spend by volunteering as a helper, remember that you are a parent. The teacher is there doing a job. I'm sure it's difficult to relinquish control over your own flesh and blood, especially when you're in the same room, but you have to trust that your kid's teacher is doing a good job. After all, that teacher has been certified by the state to do that job. So let them do it.

Not all parents can help out during the school day, nor are they expected to. Working parents, for example, just aren't able to afford time away from work to help in the classroom by making copies or cutting shapes out of construction paper. But that doesn't mean you can't still be involved in your child's education. Yes, the teacher has them during the school day, but you have them in the evening and on weekends.

Show an interest in what your kid is doing at school. Ask questions of them. What did you do today? What did you learn? What did you like about it? What didn't you like? How did it tie into what you've already learned? I beg of you, begin asking these questions at an early age. If you show a genuine interest in what your child is learning, your child will develop a genuine interest in what they are learning. If you have a teenager in high school who doesn't give a crap about school, look back and ask yourself if you gave a crap about their schoolwork when they were younger.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, it is inevitable that your kid will get a bad grade someday. And it's very likely that he or she will get into trouble at some point. When that happens, please, do not automatically assume it's the teacher's fault. Granted, there is no such thing as a perfect teacher. But, here's the thing, (and this will come as quite a shock to a lot of parents) your child isn't perfect either. I'll give you a moment to compose yourselves after the shock of that statement has passed.

I've seen it too many times. A kid is acting up in class. He's not paying attention, he's talking back to the teacher, he's picking on other kids in the room... could be anything, really. But it can't be the kid's fault, right? Parents are so quick to shift the blame to the teacher, that they aren't able to look at themselves or their precious little angel. I'm gonna say this because it's something I've witnessed dozens of times. If a kid is acting up in class, there's a very good chance that they're doing it for attention. If they're trying to get attention, even negative attention, at school, then there's a very good chance they're not getting any attention at home. Getting in trouble at school gets their parents' attention. But even then, most of the time, the parents will meet with the teacher and blame the educator or even the school for their child's behavior problems. So the parents' sudden attention isn't even focused on their child, it's focused in the wrong place.

See how it all comes back to showing a genuine interest in what your kid is doing? If they bring home good grades, heap on the praise. If they bring home bad grades, let them know that life isn't over, that you still love them and that, as long as they're trying and doing their best, you're still proud of them. And if they're genuinely struggling with certain subjects, meet with their teachers. Develop a plan to help them succeed. Because if you're both doing your jobs and you both care about the welfare of your child, then you've both got the same goal: to help that child succeed to the best of their ability.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Letter to the President

I've never taken politics seriously. I mean, I take seriously the fact that there are men and women in positions of power throughout our country who make decisions that keep our government running. Sort of. The part I've never really taken seriously is the part where we, as citizens of the United States, are encouraged to voice our opinions by writing letters to our representatives in congress. It's a good idea, really. But I've never imagined that one guy writing one letter could really make much of a difference. Then I remember that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa won a trip to Washington, D.C. thanks to an essay she wrote. She got to meet her local congressman and was discouraged by his corrupt attitude. After that, she changed her essay to reflect her new feeling toward the American government. A low level aide heard her new speech and reported back to the president that a little girl had lost faith in democracy. This sent the powers that be into action and within seconds, that congressman was removed from the House of Representatives. If only things in congress moved that swiftly. No, I don't really believe that one letter can have that kind of affect on how the government works, but that doesn't make a voice any less important. That doesn't diminish the need to be heard. I've decided to write a letter concerning something that has bothered me for years. I'm not looking for approval from the Carp Dime visitors, I just wanted to share it with my readers before sending it on to our leaders.

Dear Mr. President,
 
This is the first time I've written a letter to the President of the United States since I was in the third grade and Reagan was in office. I'm grown up now and write today as a concerned citizen.
 
I'm not an expert. At anything, really. But I have had certain experiences in my adult life that I feel qualify me to voice my concerns. I work as a counselor at a small, rural elementary school. I can honestly say that it's the most frustrating and fulfilling job I've ever had. I love every minute of it. Well, I love most minutes of it.
 
But this letter isn't about me. It's not about the job I do and it's not about any of my fellow counselors or the educators with whom we work. It's about the state of social services in our country. Specifically, my concern lies with Child Protective Services.
 
During the first half of this school year, I worked with a client in the second grade. For reasons of confidentiality, I won't go into the specifics of his case. I will say that I felt and still feel that he should be receiving services currently. However, someone somewhere decided that his behaviors were not severe enough to warrant continued services with a counselor. It's a decision that was made by someone who has no contact with my clients whatsoever. This complaint does not involve the Department of Social Services. But I use this client's situation as an example of the problem I've seen in social services.
 
Over the years I've seen a number of cases where Child Protective Services has been called to get involved in certain homes. I've been apalled at times to see CPS remove children from homes with parents who genuinely care about their kids. For whatever reason, they've fallen on hard times or someone presented circumstantial evidence that could not be ignored.
 
On the other hand, I'm even more apalled when real evidence keeps piling up in homes where abuse is obviously taking place. Yet, in those homes, despite numerous reports to Child Protective Services, the children are left to suffer.
 
My former client and his siblings are examples of the latter. Each day that they come to school, it's difficult not to wonder what fresh horror story the teachers will hear from one of these children.
 
Again, I'm no expert. I do realize that the people in the Department of Social Services and Child Protective Services are just that: people. They are busy and stressed out, just like anyone else with a job. But it's difficult to ignore certain injustices, particularly when it comes to the welfare of those who are incapable of finding justice for themselves.
 
I don't expect this letter to amount to much and I don't expect a sweeping change to suddenly occur. I simply want to draw attention to what I perceive to be a serious problem concerning the future of our country. That said, I am sending a similar letter to my local congressman, both Virginia senators, as well as the state legislature. In my opinion, the more eyes that read these concerns, the better.
 
Thank you for your time.
 
Sincerely,
Aaron L. Peck

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

School Haiku


My alarm wakes me.
It is still so dark outside.
Slap snooze, sleep some more.

The long drive to school
On a twisty, curvy road
Is filled with danger.

Some cars that I meet,
Completely out of control.
Get back to your side!

The morning bell rings.
The children pledge allegiance,
Hands over their hearts.

Inquisitive kids
Asking curious questions.
Shaping the future.

They all get so loud.
Screaming, yelling, arguing.
Head begins to ache.

Where is the weekend?
Summer is so far away.
Needs to get here soon.

But don't get me wrong.
This job is really, really
Great. Some of the time.

It's really awesome
At two-thirty when the kids
Get on their buses.

And I drive back home
Down that dangerous road, to
Start over again.

I'm bad at poetry. I always considered haiku the one kind of poetry I could do. The rules seem simple enough. 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables... I'm sure I just found a way to screw it up though. Try not to judge too harshly. I've been fighting a migraine for a couple days. I'll try to have something better tomorrow, kids.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Question of the Week: Age Is Just a Number

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

I'd probably be in my 20s. Early 20s. That's how I feel most of the time, anyway. Sure, I have moments when joins pop or ache, reminding me that I'm now in my 30s. And the mirror tells me I have grey hair, but I've dealt with that since I was in high school. So yeah, I still mostly think of myself the way I did fresh out of college. Guess that puts me around 23.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's Out There...

Via
Randy quickly entered the cabin and slammed the door shut behind him. He was breathing heavily and had a panicked look on his face. The others just stared at him, confused. He slowly turned, daring to peek through the peephole in the door.

"Dude," Rob said, "What's the matter with you?"

"It's out there!" Randy screamed.

"What's out there?" asked Lana.

"The beast!"

Rob, Lana and Becky exchanged nervous glances, then burst into laughter. Rob walked to the front window and pulled the curtain to the side. "I can't believe you bought that old lady's story!" he said.

It had seemed a little far fetched. On their way out to the cabin, they had made a pit stop to refuel the car and pick up some provisions for their weekend getaway. For some reason, it had never occurred to any of them to stock up at the supermarket in town before hitting the road. For some reason, they didn't question the fact that stopping at a run down old gas station on the way to a secluded cabin in the woods was like a cliche out of every horror movie any of them had ever seen. Really, none of them should have been surprised by the terrifying legend shared by the woman behind the cash register.

She warned the young quartet of travelers of a monstrous beast that roamed the nearby woods late at night. She told the tale of a woodcutter that had lived in those woods. No one knew for sure what happened to him. They didn't know if he was devoured by the beast, or if he had become the beast itself. The whole situation was shrouded in mystery. "What's this beast look like? You know, just so we'll know what we're looking for," Rob asked the old woman as he paid for the gas and groceries.

"I wish I could tell you, son," the lady began, "Anyone who's seen it hasn't lived to tell about it."

The girls got nervous. Randy looked like he was going to wet himself. Rob just stifled his laughter. "Well, thanks for the warning, ma'am. I think we'll take our chances." With that, they continued their drive into the middle of nowhere. No landlines. No cell signals. No means of communication with the outside world whatsoever.

"I'm telling you guys! It's out there!" Randy yelled again, his back pressed against the door as if he was desperately trying to keep it closed.

"Yeah? What's it look like?" Rob asked, still staring out the window into the darkness beyond the porch.

Randy moved slowly away from the door, his eyes darting around the room. "I didn't see it," he said as he suddenly moved quickly to the sofa. He slid it across the floor, using it as a barricade against the front door.

"Of course you didn't see it," Rob said, "It doesn't exist."

Lana and Becky drew near to each other. They were getting nervous again. They remembered the old woman's warnings. Sure, the drive from the gas station to the cabin had helped to rid their minds of any worry they may have had about some legendary monster in the woods, but now that Randy was panicking and claiming to have encountered the beast, their fear was rising once again.

"Maybe we should go," Becky said to Rob.

"No," said Rob, turning away from the window. He closed the curtain and sat on the arm of the sofa which now blocked the front door. "There's no reason for us to panic just because Randy jumped at his own shadow on the way back from the car."

"I didn't jump at my own shadow!" Randy yelled. "I heard it in the trees! Whatever it was, it moved fast!"

"Yeah, rabbits do that sometimes when they get startled by people in their habitats," Rob said, laughing to himself.

"You really think it's just a rabbit?" asked Lana with a slight tremor in her voice.

"Or a raccoon or a possum, maybe even a bear," Rob said. "I can pretty much guarantee it's no monster. This isn't some stupid B-movie where four friends drive out to the middle of nowhere and get picked off one by one."

Lana and Becky just looked at each other. They weren't feeling any better about the situation. Randy paced back and forth, obviously still terrified by what he imagined was outside. Rob sighed, "If it makes you guys feel better, we'll leave the couch here to block the door overnight. I'll even stay out here and stand guard."

"But what if it breaks through!?" Randy asked. He was freaked out. Nothing anyone said or did would calm him at this point.

"Then I guess I'll get eaten or ripped to shreds," Rob said insensitively. "In which case, you'll have been proven right, brother. First time for everything. And when that happens, I expect you'll pile into the car and get the heck outta here."

"Good plan," Becky said.

"Go to bed," Rob told the others, "I got this."

None of them slept that night. The girls shared a room, huddled together in fear, gasping at every noise their sensitive ears picked up. Randy was too afraid to sleep in his bed. He crawled into a closet, knowing that there were no windows through which the beast could sneak in to eat him. And Rob, despite showing a strong sense of skepticism, was kind of unnerved by Randy's panic stricken expression when he had come back into the cabin.

Rob had known Randy since they were five. Even Randy would admit that Rob was always the brave one. Randy was content sitting back, watching Rob take all the risks. So for Randy to be afraid of something as simple as a story told by some random stranger was no surprise. Still, the look on his face made Rob stop and think about what could have really caused him to become so terrified.

Nothing happened. The night passed without incident and the dawn broke, just like it would on any other morning. As sunlight filtered through the cracks in the curtains, everyone slowly left their bedrooms to check on their brave night watchman.

Rob stood from the couch, yawning and stretching. "See?" he said, "I told you nothing was out there. It was just some happy little woodland creature that probably got scared when Randy closed the back of the Jeep."

Becky and Lana seemed to look a little better now in the light of day. They breathed a little easier. Randy still looked wide-eyed and scared.

"I'm gonna make some coffee," Becky said as she made her way to the kitchen.

Lana walked over to Rob and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "My hero," she said.

"Shucks, ma'am," Rob reached for her and gave her a hug. "Mind helping me move the sofa back where it belongs?"

Lana nodded and they slid it back across the floor. She decided to take a seat and invited Randy to sit with her. "Come on, Randy. Nothing happened. Rob was right, we were all freaking out over nothing."

"Yeah, dude," Rob said, moving back toward the door, "you can calm down now. In fact, I think I'll take a step outside and get some fresh air."

Rob unlocked the door and turned the knob. He opened the door and looked out. It was then that the beast attacked.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Food Blogging

Yes, this is going to be a post about food. Specifically, it's a post about food that I made. Don't worry, Carp Dime is not becoming a food blog. There are plenty of food blogs out there. While I may not fall into a specific niche, I know I don't want to fall into that one.

Not that there's anything wrong with food and cooking blogs. I follow several on a regular basis. It's just that it's a rare occasion that I actually cook these days. But I did this week and it was fantastic.

Last week, I got an invitation to a potluck dinner. At first I was concerned that I would be forced to bring something store bought, as has been the norm for the last couple years. Then I realized that, thanks to Spring Break, my roommates would be out of town. This gave me full command of the kitchen in my apartment. Days like these are far too rare to cheapen with sandwiches and frozen pizza.

Around the same time that I decided I'd be able to actually cook, I came across a recipe that I really wanted to try. It was a true moment of serendipity.

It was an entree that I found on one of those food blogs I follow, The Girl Who Ate Everything. The recipe was for something called Chicken Quesadilla Pie. It looked delicious in the pictures I saw. The ingredients and directions are as follows:

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 (10-inch) flour tortilla (burrito size)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • (optional) 1/3 cup drained jarred pickled jalapeƱos, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Instructions
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 9-inch pie plate. Press tortilla into prepared pie plate and spray lightly with cooking spray. Toss chicken, cilantro, jalapeƱos (optional), 1 cup cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in large bowl until combined. Spread filling over tortilla.
  2. Whisk eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt in bowl until smooth. Slowly pour over filling, then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until surface is golden brown, about 16-20 minutes, and when knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve. 
 
I think it turned out pretty well. It even tasted good. I took the Chicken Quesadilla Pie to the potluck (which happened to fall on Pi Day) and I assume it was a hit. It was all eaten by the time I left the party. Anyway, I liked it. And it was easy to make. So I'll definitely be making it again.

Since it came out like more of a quiche than a pie, I hope The Girl Who Ate Everything doesn't mind if I renamed it the Chicken Quiche-adilla (a name which got a decent laugh at the potluck).

But that's not the only thing I made. The girl hosting the gig, who you may remember as Michaelangelo from the Best Birthday Ever, is, I'm pretty sure, on a Vegan diet. That meant that she would not be able to enjoy the Quiche-adilla deliciousness, what with the chicken and the cheese and the eggs. So a second serendipitous moment took me to Pinterest, where I found the Sugar Cookie Fruit Cups.

This was simply a visual recipe, which you'll see to the left. No words were needed to complicate things. Should be simple enough, right? I mean, it's just sugar cookie dough cooked in an unconventional way. Add some sliced up fruit and, BAM! you've got your dessert.

First Attempt - Nailed It
Yeah, not so much. Like I said, it's been a while since I baked anything. Sure didn't take into consideration the fact that cookie dough will spread out as it cooks. So I used way too much on that first try. How way? Way way.

I could have thrown in the towel and decided not to take a dessert. But I was not to be deterred. I went back to the store, got more sugar cookies and tried again.

This time, less was more...
I filled the cups with strawberries, blueberries and bananas. I also provided Cool Whip to anyone who wanted to top the fruit off with a spoonful. They were delicious, if I do say so myself. Think I'll be making those again as well. They really are easy to make, as long as you don't cover the bottom of the muffin pan with dough. Oh, and, by the by, I checked the ingredients on the sugar cookie package. The dough contained eggs. So, I think I'd fail as a Vegan.

So if you're having some kind of potluck type of get together in the near future, remember, this guy can make a mean Quiche-adilla and some pretty impressive edible fruit cups.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Remembering Bluefield: Brandon Caldwell

I briefly met Brandon Caldwell during my sophomore year when he made the trip to Bluefield for a campus visit. At the time, he was considering transferring in from Dabney Lancaster Community College. Obviously, he followed through with that consideration and became one of the best friends I've ever known. I'll let him tell the rest.

Name: Brandon Caldwell

When did you graduate?
2002

What degree did you earn?
Business Administration and Information Technologies

What drew you to Bluefield College?
One of my best friends, Mark Hipes, talked so much about it while we were in Community College, we were going to walk onto the baseball team and room up from there. I ended up getting a part time job at Subway instead of walking on the team.

What kept you there?
The people. The friends that I grew to know and love.

Is there a class that changed your life? If so, what?
I wouldn't say one particular class absolutely CHANGED my life. I will say that after doing both Business Administration and Information Technologies, I knew I couldn't just simply "write code" all day long. So I went the business route.

What teacher had the biggest impact on you? Why?
Probably either Dee Shoemaker or Dr. Anderson. Both were just great at relaying their messages in class. Both were able to put that personal touch on things so we could appreciate the classes we were in.

Did you live on campus or commute?
Lived on campus of course.

Who were your roommates?
First year, Mark Hipes. Second year, Mark Hipes, Aaron Peck, and Dereck Harris. (Aaron decided to relocate after a semester though)

Share an epic roommate story (if you have one).
Good gosh....where do I start....I mean there's spotlight, throwing pumpkins off the roof of Rish, playing spades, Playing Bond and Tetris all day....literally all day. "he can go fast if he wants to"....and those were just a few while we were in college... not to mention our later years.... "whats that smell.....ITS US, no seriously, I smell something.... DUDE I'M TELLING YOU ITS US", Bigtenoh11, and.....hey, remember that time we went to Pittsburgh? I know, I know....these are all one liners and your 50+ readers may not get them because they're inside jokes but... man are they awesome stories...we should tell them sometime.

What's your most cherished Bluefield College memory?
Just knowing that all of the times we had and shared with each other for my two years there, whether they were good or bad, have resulted in stronger bonds with a lot of those people today. And its miles apart from the relationships that I have with the people I grew up with. That's a pretty powerful thing to me.

Where are you now?
I spent 10 years in Roanoke and just recently, as of August, moved back to my hometown of Clifton Forge.

What are you doing?
I'm a Vice President, Business Banking Relationship Manager at SunTrust Bank. I just celebrated 10 years with the company in February.

Does that mean you're using your degree?
Yeah I'd say so.

Are you where you pictured yourself being when you were in college?
I don't think I really pictured much of what or where I would be after college. I knew I wanted to get myself set up and established with a job, and fast.... I was fortunate to do that.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I'm in the process of re-examining my goals right now. The past couple of years have really thrown me some curveballs, so I really need to sit down and do some soul searching.

What's your greatest post-BC accomplishment?
Being fortunate enough to be able to work hard (sometimes too hard) to provide for my family everyday.

What's your fondest post-BC memory?
becoming a father. It's completly changed my life. I went from wearing that "corporate hat" everyday to wearing the "number 1 dad hat" everyday.

If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything?
There may have been some things that I might have tweaked along the road. I really do think that I'm where God has planned for me to be though.

Thanks to Brandon for taking the time to participate in Remembering Bluefield. Come back next week for more from another BC alum!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Good Old Days

Is there anyone out there like me? I'm sure there's not. I'm kind of unique. I mean, I know I have a doppelganger out there. I've met him. Looks just like me. It's off putting. But our personalities are extremely different.

In this instance, I'm wondering if anyone is like me in the sense that we all miss old school Disney cartoons. You know what I'm talking about, right? Old animated shorts starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale. These were some of the cartoons I grew up on.

Of course, these were old school 'toons even in the 80s. These were cartoons that were created throughout the 30s & 40s, maybe the 50s too. They're classics. And what do we get today? 3D computer animation. And they aren't just fun anymore. No, they have to teach something.

During my North Carolina years, I spent plenty of time watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Gabby. She was a toddler, so she pretty much got to watch whatever she wanted. MMC was not my first choice.

But I watched plenty of episodes. I didn't exactly get invested in the storylines. I mostly just got annoyed. Mickey & Co. were all the time breaking the fourth wall. Why do creators constantly think this is okay? Dora the Explorer does it too. I get that they want the kids watching to feel like they're contributing to the adventure. But, really, they're falsely teaching kids that the people in the TV can hear them. Believe me, that's not the case.

I don't know how many innocent girls I've tried to warn that the masked killer was right behind them. Those girls always end up dead. They can't hear me at all. The fourth wall is there for a reason. Unless you're Zack Morris or Ferris Bueller, do you really think you have the right to break it?

And here's one of those classics. It was one of my favorites when I was a kid. "Who gets stuck with all the bad luck? No one but Donald Duck!"


My favorite part is where Dale finds the needle in the haystack. He looks so proud of himself. This may be one of the only instances where Donald actually wears pants. Also, after watching it, that final scene is pretty racially insensitive. Ah, different time, 1952.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reading Blogs

Apparently, Google Reader is dying in July. I feel I should take a moment to mourn this loss. Instead, I'm mostly just outraged.

I read a whole lot of blogs. I mean, I browse a whole lot of blogs and read a few a little more closely. But I keep up with a lot of blogs. And I do this through Google Reader. It's convenient that I'm able to go to one place and find all the blogs and articles that I want to read in one location. What happens when that goes away? Where will I be able to go for a one-stop blog reading spot?

I'm seriously asking this question. Because I have no idea. Not that I've done any actual research on my own. I just found out about the Google Reader thing about 3 minutes ago. But if any of my fellow blog-keepers and blog-readers have any suggestions, I'm all ears. I may have kept this blog for the last 7+ years, but I'm still a novice at all this.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Registering

Remember that epic birthday party I had last Friday? Well, I had an interesting conversation during dinner that I thought may be worth sharing.

The conversation came about when one of my friends brought a birthday gift. Upon opening the bag, I saw that I'd been given a set of Avengers dishes consisting of a plate, a bowl and a cup. The reason for this gift is because I may have mentioned that I don't have any of my own dishes in my current apartment. Pretty thoughtful, right?

The discussion turned to the fact that I don't have dishes, nor do I have furniture, thanks to living in a furnished apartment. I had to explain that I did have furniture at one time, but that I sold everything, including my dishes and cooking utensils, when I moved from North Carolina.

This is where the interesting conversation comes into play. As I was sitting with a couple of single friends, we decided that it seems unfair that people can't register for household items until they decide to get married. What about single folks who live alone for years after college? Like they don't need furnishings and appliances?

Would it be so wrong for a single guy or gal to throw themselves a housewarming party when they move into a new place? Don't you think these single friends could use a toaster or a vacuum cleaner or an espresso machine or one of those new-fangled bladeless fans?

By the way, I'll be moving in July. You can expect to find me registered at Target.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful

Confession: I've been looking forward to this movie since I first heard it was in the works. If I've never mentioned it before, I love just about all things Oz.

I've probably seen the classic Wizard of Oz film a hundred times. I'm even a fan of Disney's less than stellar Return to Oz. L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book that started it all, is my favorite book of all time. I still have the old copy that my aunt gave me for my 6th birthday and read it about once a year.

I admit, I haven't read all the Oz books. But it's worth mentioning that there are dozens of them. Baum himself wrote 14, and I'd love to at least read his original series. Thus far, I've gotten through the first six. I also haven't gotten around to reading Gregory Maguire's Wicked series, though I've heard good things.

Anyway, back to this movie. I was excited when I started seeing trailers for the new Oz. I was intrigued by the idea of a prequel to the classic story that I'd grown up loving. At the same time, loving the original made me skeptical about how good it could possibly be. I had high hopes, but I was cautious.

Oscar Diggs is portrayed by James Franco. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of his. I was somewhat disappointed when news came out that he would be playing the Wizard, as opposed to Johnny Depp or Robert Downey, Jr., who were both attached to the role at one point. That being said, Franco did a great job. He was able to believably play the flawed hero without overselling the part.

Also taking prominent roles are the three witches that had been previously introduced in Oz film history. There's Glinda the Good, who really has no mystery to her character. Then there are Theodora and Evanora, sisters who never had names in the movie or in Baum's books. I know these characters have names in Wicked, but Maguire's work is completely separate from this movie franchise.

The mystery surrounding the sisters mostly has to do with which direction each of these sisters will go. One would be destined to live in the west, the other would end up in the east. We know how their stories end, this is an interesting portrayal of their beginnings.

Theodora is the naive younger sister of Evanora. Her naivete becomes her undoing when she falls in love with Oz, who is little more than a womanizing con man. With some helpful manipulation from her big sister, she proves the old saying that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

As with the orginal film, Oz encounters people and creatures that remind him of folks he'd known back in the real world. Glinda is the spitting image of a woman he loved back in Kansas. A winged monkey who assists him in his quest is similar to the man who was his magician's assistant at his circus. And the little China doll whose legs Oz glues back together is the same as a wheelchair-bound little girl who came to his magic show begging him to make her walk again.

The difference here is that we're not left believing that Oz is a dream land, as it seemed to be where Doroty was concerned. That makes it a little harder to swallow the idea that he could encounter these people from his old life.

I love that there are tons of nods to the original movie. Oz's real world love wears a gingham dress, similar to Dorothy's. She mentions a possible engagement to a John Gale. Any relation to Henry Gale, Dorothy's uncle? The circus where Oz performs his magic act is named after L. Frank Baum. And when the Wizard flies to Oz in his hot air balloon, he literally flies over the rainbow.

I loved this movie. It was amOZing. OZsome. StupendOZ (okay, that's the last one, I promise). I highly recommend seeing it. And see it in 3D. I usually hate 3D, but it's really well done with this movie.

On a side note, I'm also hoping that this will interest a new generation of readers to explore L. Frank Baum's original literary work. They're such great books that really don't get the attention they deserve. If you haven't had a chance to read any of them, by all means, pick them up.

Question of the Week: Risk v. Reward

When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards and just do what you know is right?

Immediately. But that doesn't mean it's easy to just stop thinking things through and acting. I'm not saying that people shouldn't think about their actions. I'm just saying we shouldn't spend a great deal of time over-thinking everything. That's something I do a lot of. So many times in my life, I've over-thought about situations and probably missed out on some opportunities. If you have a decent moral compass and are able to discern the difference between right and wrong, why wait? Do what you know to be right.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Instinct

When you see a butterfly, what's your first reaction? Do you cower in fear? Do you run and hide? Chances are you don't. Unless you have some kind of butterfly phobia that causes you to have an irrational fear of those particular insects. If memory serves, it's called lepidopterophobia. But that's really not important right now. If everyone was exposed to the butterflies in this story, we'd all be lepidopterophobes.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The boys and girls in the lab were just doing what they knew they could do. Looking back, it seems that just because they could do something doesn't necessarily mean they should. They absolutely shouldn't have done this.

When they began their work, the powers that be could have given a number of great reasons why it was important to genetically alter ordinary butterflies. Whatever their reasons, however noble they may have been, it all ended in tragedy.

After breeding several generations of altered butterflies, the insects evolved into something the lab techs could no longer control. The first sign of danger came when the wings became as hard as a diamond. Being as thin as they were, it was as if the butterflies were floating around with razor blades attached to their bodies. Anything they came into physical contact with got shredded.

Next came the change in the butterflies' appetites. No longer were they satisfied with the nectar from flowers. These bugs became bloodthirsty. Their wings gave them easy access to all the blood they could ever desire. There seemed to be no preference for the type of blood they fed on. These new butterflies descended upon animals in the wild, livestock, domesticated pets and, tragically, people.

It was something out of a nightmare. We once lived in a world where butterflies acted skittish and instinctively flew away at the sign of danger. Now the butterflies were predatory in nature. Their only instinct was to attack. And feed.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

You Totally Should've Been There

Of course, I'm referring to the most awesome birthday party ever.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I turned 33 on Wednesday. The middle of the work week isn't exactly convenient for throwing a party to celebrate one's birthday. So the celebration was postponed until Friday, yesterday. And it was so worth it.

The evening began with dinner at Macado's. It's a place that's casual and laid-back and has managed to remain my favorite restaurant for years. If you have one near you, I highly recommend visiting someday soon. There are literally dozens of different sandwiches to choose from on the menu, along with a number of other entrees. Personally, I tend to get the same thing every time, a Stogie on Kaiser roll. The Julius Caesar and the Babe Ruth are also good.

We were seated at the back of the restaurant, where there would be plenty of room for a large party of 12. Part of the charm of Macado's is the random decoration all over the place. It's as if the owners just did a random search on eBay for the most random crap they could find. So when you're seated and you look around, you may see model airplanes, framed vintage comic books, old concert posters, street signs or even statues of super heroes.

Side note: When I put out the invitation on Facebook for this unbirthday party, I encouraged people to dress up as super heroes. Only a few took me up on that encouragement. We had a Flash, a Michaelangelo of TMNT fame, a SuperTeacher and a Clark Kent. Of course, I went with Superman. It's what I do.

Special thanks to Michaelangelo for sharing this photo.
Anyway, I sat in a booth without really paying attention to my surroundings. Turns out, directly behind me, standing above my head, was a statue of Clark Kent changing into Superman. I promise you, this was not planned. Obviously, the picture had to be taken. So I climbed up on the back of the booth and posed for the photo op.

Dinner itself included great conversation and lots of laughter. And if that had been all we had done, I'd have considered it a successful birthday party. Excuse me... unbirthday party.

But that wasn't the end of the night. After we had finished eating, we all headed over to a place called Adventure World. It's a place I'd never been before, but I chose it because they offered roller skating and laser tag. That's right. Laser tag.

So we spent a couple hours skating in circles, but took a break to shoot at each other with beams of light in a very dark room. It was all kinds of awesome. I haven't strapped on a laser tag vest since I was a teenager. I don't know why I don't do it more often. I mean, it helps that I was playing the game with a bunch of great people who have become great friends.

I feel like I should be honest about something. I was nervous about how last night would turn out. I've explained on this blog a number of times that I'm pretty introverted. So I have this perception of myself, that I have a great deal of difficulty making new friends and connecting with new people. Maybe this is a misconception. I'm not saying that I'm not an introvert. I'm just saying that maybe I've underestimated my ability to connect with new people. The reason I say that is because every person that came out last night was someone that I've known for less than a year. Most, I've only known for a couple months.

I had been hoping that some of my older friends from the Bluefield days had been able to come. But that just didn't work out. It was a little disappointing, but that's life. The thing is, I was hoping some of those folks would be able to come to serve as a buffer. It would give me a comfort zone. If my introversion caused me to feel awkward around my new friends, I could fall back on my old friends to get me through. As it turns out, I was nervous for nothing.

I had an amazing time with all these new people in my life. And I'm so very grateful to have them in my life now. I am incredibly blessed.

Bonus: I didn't fall while skating. Not even once.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Remembering Bluefield: This Guy

Well, this is a little embarrassing. See, I was supposed to officially begin the "Remembering Bluefield" posts today. Last week, I kind of said that I would do that. The idea is to find different alumni from Bluefield College and have them share their memories, as well as where they are now. Since it was David Lowe's idea, the idea was to have him be the first interviewee. But I kind of had a hard time coming up with proper interview questions. And I didn't get the questions to him until yesterday. And, well, life being what it is, I didn't provide him with enough time to get the answers to me by the time I needed to post today's blog. But I've spoken with him and he's assured me that the answers will be back here next week.

So for this week, you're stuck with me. Chances are, all the information found in my answers to the questions can be gleaned from the past 6 years of blog posts. But you'd have to do a lot of research to pull them all together. I don't expect that of anyone. Except for my Number One Fan. Hey, Number One Fan, wherever you may be, whoever you are, I bet you know all these answers before I even tell them. Memo to self: once I gain a little more popularity, I should have a contest to determine my Number One Fan. It will be my greatest triumph!

I digress...

When did you graduate?
May 2003

What degree did you earn?
B.A. - Christian Studies; B.A. - Behavioral Science (that's right, I got two)

What drew you to Bluefield College?
It's where my youth minister had gone, so there was that connection. Once I visited the school, I decided that I really liked the smallness of the place. I went to a large high school and mostly felt lost for 4 years. I didn't want to feel that way at college.

What kept you there?
I almost decided to transfer after my freshman year. But then I went on a mission trip with the BSU during Spring Break. That's where I really started to come out of my shell and make some of the best friendships I've ever had.

Is there a class that changed your life? If so, what?
I wouldn't say there's a particular class that changed my life or changed my perspective on things. A lot of my Christian Studies courses were eye opening and really caused me to think about my beliefs and my faith. Not in a questioning-God's-existence kind of way. Just in a way that made my faith even stronger than it had been growing up.

What teacher had the biggest impact on you? Why?
I have to pick two here: Dr. Ken Lyle and Dr. Eddie Stepp. Both of these guys were Christian Studies professors. Dr. Lyle was also our campus minister. I was privileged to spend a lot of time in conversation with both of these men. By the end of my college career, I felt that I could count them as friends, not just teachers.

Did you live on campus or commute?
On campus all five years. Yeah, five. But I got two degrees. So... yeah...

Who were your roommates?
So many... Freshman Year - Landon Walls, then Kevin Anderson; Sophomore Year - Phil Kidd and Ronchez Hancock; Junior Year - Dave Lowe; 1st Senior Year - Mark Hipes, Brandon Caldwell and Dereck Harris; 2nd Senior Year - had my own room.

Share an epic roommate story (if you have one).
So many... Well, Landon used to stumble into the room in the middle of the night while I tried to get my rest for the next day's 8am class. Kevin had nothing in the room. The only things we had were the furnishings provided by the school and the small TV I decided to bring from home. It was a very Spartan semester. Ronchez kind of had an emotional breakdown one night. Scared Phil and I to death. We were really worried about him, but he turned out all right in the end. I introduced Dave to his wife. I only stuck with Mark, Brandon and Dereck for one semester before I ended up getting my own room. The introvert in me couldn't handle sleeping in the same room with three other people. Don't get me wrong, I still love those guys like brothers. They're just the brothers I like to know are down the hall instead of right on top of me making fun of me when I talk in my sleep.

What's your most cherished Bluefield College memory?
Just about any memory that involves singing with Variations and/or Praise Singers. I loved singing in college. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the people I sang with in those choirs are possibly the most talented musicians I've ever encountered in my life. For such a small school, there was an extraordinary number of gifted people there. I particularly remember visiting DisneyWorld on choir tour. While waiting in line for some of the rides, we would break into a capella versions of our repertoire. All kinds of fun.

Where are you now?I'm currently living in Radford, VA. Not too far from the old alma mater.

What are you doing?
I work as a Therapeutic Day Treatment Counselor with Family Preservation Services. I also fold clothes for the good folks at Old Navy from time to time.

Does that mean you're using your degree?
I'm definitely using the Behavioral Science degree, yes.

Are you where you pictured yourself being when you were in college?
Not quite, but I was never one to really set goals for myself back in college. That whole goal-setting frame of mind didn't really develop until the last year or so.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I would like to be certified to teach and have my own classroom somewhere. I wouldn't mind finding a good girl to start building a life with. Not necessarily married yet, but on the way to it would be nice. Never thought I'd be ready to admit that's something I want.

What's your greatest post-BC accomplishment?
I don't think I've reached it yet. Stay tuned.

What's your fondest post-BC memory?
Again, there are a lot. Any time I'm back together with my college friends. We're scattered all over the place these days, but whenever we get together, it's like no time has passed. Specifically, though, I have to go with the road trip to Indianapolis with Mark, Brandon and Andy.

If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything?
Not a single thing.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Super Hero Stories

Recently, I saw a couple interesting stories on the news. These reports are making me believe that we may be close to entering an age when super powered individuals walk (or fly) among us.

The first story is about a little boy who fell out of a third story window in an apartment building. Not only did he live to tell the tale, but he walked away with barely a scratch. According to reports, he fell out the window and landed on his feet.

The boy's mother stated that she felt horrible for allowing something like that to happen. As a preventative measure, she's looking for a new apartment. Something on the ground floor. I say go the other way. Test this kid's invulnerability a little. I'm not saying someone should drop him from a plan. But what about a fourth story window?

Another story I heard was about a guy in Great Britain who dressed as Batman. This vigilante captured a burglar and hand delivered him to the police. The police booked the criminal but were unable to question the Batman. He left before they could even get his name.

Of course they didn't get his real name. It's called a secret identity. As a man, he's flesh and blood. He can be ignored. He can be destroyed. But as a symbol... As a symbol he can be incorruptible. He can be everlasting.

The day after seeing that story, the media revealed that the man behind the mask was just a delivery driver named Stan. He delivered a friend to the police because his friend was voluntarily turning himself in for crimes he had committed. Stan just thought it would be funny to drop him off at the station dressed as Batman.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

33

And just like that, I was another year older.

I mean, it shouldn't have been a shock to the system. But I kind of got used to being 32. I got used to telling people, "I'm 32." Someone comes up to me on the street and asks, "How old are you?" My immediate response for the last 12 months has been to say, "I'm 32."

But I can't say that anymore. As of 7:48 this morning, I've been 33 years old. I can see myself having difficulty with the transition. Not because I think that turning 33 is momentous and difficult to my aging psyche. I see the difficulty being akin to forgetting to write the correct year on your checks for the first couple weeks of the year.

Personally, I feel fine with being 33. Actually, I feel better right now than I did a year ago. I'm in better shape than I've been in for a long time, and continuing to work on that aspect of life. I'm in a comfortable place career-wise, with very clear goals for my own next steps where all that is concerned. And, honestly, I still think of myself as being in my 20s. I guess that's part of the whole "as young as you feel" thing.

Maybe I don't physically feel like I'm in my 20s. At least, not all the time. I'll be honest, there are days I roll out of bed and things just start popping and cracking like crazy. Mentally, though, I definitely feel like I'm younger than I really am. I'm sure people would point out that I could just look in the mirror to make myself feel my actual age. And if that's a crack about the gray hair, ha ha. But you've gotta come at me with something better than that. I've had gray hair since I was 17.

I can honestly say it's been a good anniversary of my birth. It snowed, so I got the day off work, which was nice. The Other Single Guy came into town to buy me dinner, which was also nice. And in a couple days, I'll be celebrating in style with a bunch of friends. What's the celebration? Dinner at one of my favorite restaurants followed by roller skating and laser tag. Yeah, laser tag. Take that, ageist stereotypers!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Legends of the Bank Teller: One By One

Via
It's been a very long time since I ran the drive-thru at that bank in Raleigh, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the Girl in the White SUV. I remember the Spider-Girl. I remember getting really irritated with stupid people who had no right using the drive-thru lane at the bank. I remember kicking my coin locker hard enough to break my toe on more than one occasion (if my bones weren't unbreakable).

I also remember my old co-workers, who seem to be slowly peeling away from the bank one by one since I left. First the manager left. Then Barney Stinson left. And now, one of my fellow tellers is leaving for greener pastures. Friday will be her last day.

I may have hated my job as a teller, but that doesn't mean I didn't have plenty of good times with these co-workers. With this teller, in particular, we spent a great deal of time laughing. Most of the time it didn't take much to get her started. I could quote a line from Steel Magnolias or bring up the fact that it was Cuss Tuesday.

Side bar: Cuss Tuesday was the one day of the week when we allowed ourselves to drop swear words freely as long as there were no customers around. It was a huge stress reliever. At least, that's what we told ourselves. Cuss Tuesday usually fell on Tuesdays, but sometimes necessity would dictate that it fell on a Thursday.

She shared in my excitement when the Girl in the White SUV came by. She mocked my extreme nervousness every time I tried to talk to the Girl in the White SUV. But that was okay because I mocked whenever creepy customers came by to hit on her.

So, to this teller, I wish the best of luck as she moves on to her next venture.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Question of the Week: 80

When you are 80 years old, what will matter to you the most?

I'm sure there will be a lot of things that could be considered important by the time I hit 80. There will be the ten or so bestselling novels I'll have had published. There's the Oscar I'll eventually win for screenwriting. Also, the Emmy I'll get for best comedy. But, you know, none of that will mean anything if the people I love aren't around to share it with. It would be nice to reach 80 while still surrounded by family and friends, a wife, some grown kids, maybe some grand kids. They're what will matter most.