Tuesday, April 30, 2013

10 Benefits of Having a Comb Over

We're all well aware of what the comb over is, right? Did Donald Trump just enter your mind? Joe Biden? Two men at either end of the political spectrum, both rocking the comb over. The comb over transcends politics, values and beliefs. But what would possess a bald or balding man to make that life decision? Why would they go with such a hair style? It's not as if they're fooling anyone. Comb over guys, the secret's out. We all know you're follicularly challenged. But there must be a reason. And I've come up with ten.

1. Sun Protection Factor:
Anyone who has shaved or even buzzed their hair in the summertime knows just how painful a scalp sunburn can be. Then, as it heals, the skin flakes off, giving a dandruffy impression. A comb over would provide some much needed shade on those hot, sunny days.

2. Keeping Out the Chill:
People tend to underestimate the amount of warmth that hair can provide. Even shaving off a beard can cause your face to become unexpectedly chilled. So a comb over could be a great asst for a bald scalp when winter comes.

3. Weaponized Hair:
Comb over hair can become quite long for some men. After all, that hair may have to cover a lot of real estate, depending on the area of baldness. That long hair can become a dangerous weapon if utilized properly. Whip that thing around and you could put an eye out. Just be careful that it's not your own.

4. Camouflage:
The purpose of camouflage is to help you blend in. In a way, comb overs are an attempt to blend in with people with full heads of hair. Nice try, fellas!

5. Halloween Costume:
Again, if that comb over hair gets long enough, it can be beneficial. When October 31 rolls around, you'll be ready to trick-or-treat as Cousin Itt from The Addams Family.

6. Neck Muscle Strengthening:
Hair gets heavy. You've gotta build some pretty strong neck muscles to carry it on your head. Especially if you've weaponized it and are whipping it around taking out the bad guys.

7. Charitable Donations:
Ever heard of Locks of Love? Well, while you grow that hair out to the full 10 inches they require, comb it on over to save some space.

8. Provide a Good Home for Rodents:
You get a good pile of messy hair wrapped up on top of someone's head, it kind of looks like a rat's nest, right? So there you go. Keep some tiny animals in there. They'd make for a good topic of conversation. Okay, maybe not a good topic. But definitely a topic.

9. Give Daughters Practice in Braiding:
Once again, if that comb over hair gets long enough, there's a lot that could be done with it. And if you have a daughter, there's a good chance she's gonna like playing with hair. She might want to practice her braiding skills on dear old dad's comb over. It's just hanging there, too tempting for the girl to pass up. Submit to the comb over makeover.

10. So Darn Stylish:
Self explanatory. Really.

And there you have it. Can you think of any other reasons why the comb over is such a popular fashion statement? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Question of the Week: Being Human

What do we all have in common besides our genes that make us human?

Well, we all have eyes and mouths. Though I guess that's something that's written in our DNA. So... I guess that's a part of our genes. I'm gonna just go with emotion. Even the most emotionless among us (for example, me) have this tendency to feel things. It can be argued that many animals feel emotions as well, so maybe our emotion isn't exactly what makes us human. But I'd be willing to bet that animals don't feel emotions as deeply or to the extent that people do.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


I usually embrace the Sunday Scribblings writing prompt as a challenge to write a short piece of fiction. Last week, I wrote about my actual day. Some of it may have been exaggerated, but it was, essentially, non-fiction. This time, I don't even have a non-fiction story to share.

I've been sitting in front of my computer for the last hour. I've been looking at the word "Resistant" trying to come up with some story to build around that word. And I've come up with nothing. It's as if my brain is resistant to creativity today.

Maybe I just have a lot on my mind and it's difficult to wade through all of that. No, I'm not stressed out exactly. I mean, yes, I do have a lot to do for work this week. Well, really, in the next couple of days. Tends to happen whenever the end of the month arrives. But I'm really not concerned about that. I'm not too concerned about much of anything right now. That's how I am most of the time.

I don't tend to worry. There are some people who look at me and wish they could have that kind of attitude. I can't teach people how to not worry. It's just a choice that I make. But I don't want this post to be about how much I do or don't stress out about things.

Believe it or not, I do want to incorporate this week's writing prompt. And to do that, I need to talk about some stuff I've been reading lately.

The small group that I've joined through church is reading through the entire Bible this year. Thus far, we've read the entire books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Job. This week, we're getting through Judges. I've attempted to read through the Bible before. I usually fail around Leviticus. It's been a lot easier this time around because I'm doing it with a group of people. We're able to encourage each other week after week to keep going. And we discuss what we've read and how to apply it to our lives today. Not always easy to do when taking on some of the, seemingly, more obscure laws found in the Pentateuch.

Last week, as a part of our discussion as a group, we were each challenged to think of a favorite story or passage that we've read thus far. I came up with one or two specific stories that I've really enjoyed. But those aren't the things I wanted to share with the group. No, I wanted to share just how impressed I was with the Bible as a whole.

I'm sure that sounds like a cop out. Especially since we haven't actually read through the entire Bible yet. But, what we have read, I love. Not the individual stories. I love how cohesive it all is. I grew up in church and I've taken a lot of classes involving biblical studies. So I've heard a lot of pastors and professors talk about the Bible as a whole. I've heard it said that everything prior to Jesus' lifetime is pointing toward the work He did on the cross. Everything afterward points back to His work on the cross. It's great to see that for myself while reading through the early history of the nation of Israel.

And it's not as difficult as you might think to apply a lot of the Old Testament's lessons to life in the 21st century. People are people. When it comes to listening to the voice of God, we still have the same struggles that Abraham's descendents had. It's always been so easy for me to look back at the story of the Exodus and think about how stupid the Israelites were. I mean, God just saved them from slavery in Egypt with some pretty amazing miracles. The sea parted. Moses goes up on the mountain to get the law from the Lord and in the time he's gone, the people build a golden calf to worship. This kind of thing happens repeatedly. The people are so easily distracted from living righteous lives, only to be violently reminded who is really in control.

Like I said, it's easy to look back at those stories and think the people were stupid. It's also easy, and maybe a little convenient, to ignore my own stupidity. Time after time, the Bible gives us examples of how resistant God's people were to hearing His voice. Time after time, I find that I am just as resistant to hearing His voice.

Over the centuries, it seems that mankind has become more and more removed from our ability to hear God's voice. Those old stories usually involve God speaking to a chosen individual or individuals. There was Abraham and his immediate descendents, Moses, Joshua and the judges. God spoke, they listened. God used those men and women to remind Israel that God was still around. If the people of those days had God speaking directly to them, and still had trouble hearing His voice, how much harder is it for us today?

In this day and age, we don't have prophets to tell us what God is trying to say. If we did, there's a good chance we would just label them as crazy people. So how do we change that? Should we go out looking for a burning bush? Should we lay out a fleece looking for God's answers? I don't have the answer. All I know for sure is that I'm finally at a place in my life where I enjoy reading the words that God gave humanity that have been passed down through the millennia. So far, I really enjoy what He's had to say and I look forward to hearing His voice even more clearly from here on out.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Usually I'm Not One to Brag

Honestly, though, I'm kind of proud of myself.

Toward the end of last summer, I made a decision. I decided that I wanted to make changes in my life. I wanted to try and become more healthy. That kind of change would involve a switch in the way I did most of the things in my life.

Looking back at a blog post I wrote on September 3, it's easy to see where I've succeeded and where I've fallen short. Makes me kind of glad I still do this blogging thing. My life's story is available at a moment's notice.

It was then that I decided to shed some weight. I decided I would change the way I ate and the way I exercised. In changing the way I ate, I cut back on a lot of things and cut out sugary sodas. In changing the way I exercised, it meant exercising at all. And, for the most part, I've stuck with it.

I'll be honest, there have been moments when I've failed in this change of lifestyle. The temptation is always there to choose Mountain Dew over Coke Zero. Most of the time, I'm able to resist that temptation. Sometimes, though, I give myself a pass.

I set a goal for myself to lose roughly 44 pounds by March 6, my 33rd birthday. I didn't make it. Nearly two months later than that 33rd birthday, I can still say that I've just lost 25 pounds. But I'm not that disappointed by that number.

25 pounds feels kind of significant, especially considering I've never attempted any kind of real weight loss regimen before. I'd be thrilled to tell you that I've been able to get down to my goal weight of 180, but I'm equally thrilled to say that I've gotten down to floating around 200 and have maintained for over a month. The fact that I've plateaued in my weight loss just inspires me to begin pushing a little harder.

But weight is just a number. There are other reasons that I can be proud of myself. For one thing, I ran in a 10k race two weeks ago. I finished the race. And I did it in less time than I expected for myself. That's huge to me, considering I never cared to even lace up a pair of running shoes before last September.

Another thing that excites me is my clothing. I see myself in the mirror every day, so whatever changes are happening are gradual and I really don't recognize them in myself. Where I notice the change is in the clothes I wear. Last summer, I was wearing pants with a size 40 waste. Now, I wear size 36. The other day I needed a black belt and the only one I own is from a suit that now hangs off me like a black circus tent. In order to make the belt fit the pants I was wearing, I needed to cut a new hole with my pocket knife. That new hole is about 2.5 inches farther into the belt than the closest factory-made hole. That felt pretty darn good.

As I've said, I'm usually not one to brag on myself. Most of the time, I walk a very thin line between self-deprecation and overconfidence. When I put on an air of cockiness and tell people how awesome I am, I have to convince myself to believe it, even though I'm saying it with a hint of sarcasm in my voice. But I'm proud of how far I've come in the last 8 months and I thought it worth sharing.

I'm not finished. I haven't reached my goal weight. I have 20 pounds to go. And I'm not done running. I have a 5k to run in November. I have a repeat 10k to run in 2014. And I'd kind of like to work my way up to a half marathon at some point in the not too distant future. So stay tuned.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Remembering Bluefield: Sarah Nash Blunt

Welcome to another thrilling installment of Remembering Bluefield! This week we sit down with Sarah Blunt. I met Sarah at Bluefield College, but soon realized that I had met her when we were both small children, back when I took piano lessons from her grandmother. Small world, right? But enough about me. Let's catch up with Sarah...

Sarah Nash Blunt

What year did you graduate?

What degree did you earn?
B.S. in Psychology, Minor in History and Criminal Justice

What drew you to Bluefield College?
My parents really pushed it because it was the cheapest of all the colleges I looked at, but I liked it because it was small and Christian based. And every time I visited, it was May and gorgeous.

What kept you there?
Friends!! And Justin :-) And my classes with Dr. Johnson.

Is there a class that changed your life? If so, what?
Psychology and Childhood Development made me realize I really liked studying that and I was good at it! So I changed my major from Education to Psychology.

What teacher had the biggest impact on you? Why?
Dr. Johnson, who taught Psychology and Childhood Development and a lot of my other psychology courses, was my all-time favorite professor. She was not afraid to be an example of a schizophrenic, tell you what she believed, and pray for you. She really showed she cared about what she was teaching, and that she cared about us. I actually enjoyed going to her classes. She didn't just lecture, she taught! She was an all-around great lady too!
I like Dr. Tresch too. Most people might have thought he was boring, but I loved history and was amazed at all he knew from memory!

Did you live on campus or commute?
I lived on campus the whole 4 years!

Who were your roommates?
Freshman year, first semester - Sophia (something)... sad I can't remember her name.
Freshman year, second semester - Shannon Harris and Jessica Taylor
Sophomore year - Beth Hyatt! I loved living with her!
Junior and Senior years - I was an RA, so I lived alone. But senior year I had the best suite mates Jo Cummings and Tish Smith!

Share an epic roommate story (if you have one).
Can't remember any good ones right now.

What's your most cherished Bluefield College memory?
Dating Justin is one of my most cherished memories! But as a financially poor couple, where do you go for a date in Bluefield? To Wal-Mart! We would just sit on the outdoor swings, which had been placed for sale throughout the stores and talk for hours. That was free!
And one of my favorite memories would be coming back from my brother's wedding in Roanoke just in time for the Homecoming dance (I was also supposed to be on RA duty the next day). Justin and I walk in the door and Heather runs up to me so excited I made it back in time; I guess she knew I was going to win Homecoming Queen. That was pretty special. I have never ever won something like that, as superficial as it may be, I felt pretty special.
I also loved to play Spoons or Phase 10 with a big group of people out on the Rish Hall porch! So fun! I loved going to the basketball games too! Or going to get Hardees' biscuits at 2am!
Another memory that sticks out to me was during my Junior year, I was at one of the Freshman social things for the first week as an RA. They had karaoke in the Quad. I saw this guy get up to sing, and the DJ said he was going to sing the Reba song "Fancy." And so that was the first time I saw and heard Andy Berry, and I remember thinking, "Oh, he's special..." Sorry, Andy!

Where are you now?
I married Justin Blunt, and we have two great and cute kids. Emilie (Emmie) is in kindergarten and Caleb (Cal) is 11 months old! We live in the east end of Richmond, close to New Kent. Justin and I will have been married 9 years in July. Justin teaches 8th grade Civics at Oak Knoll Middle School and is the youth director at Sandston Baptist Church.

What are you doing?
I work for the International Mission Board (Lottie Moon Offering) helping missionaries who serve in Asia. I kind of work in the "human resources department" and the missionaries are the "employees" I serve. I love it! One of the best jobs I have ever had.

Does that mean you're using your degree?
I do use what I learned a lot actually. I may not be a counselor like I thought I wanted to be, but I do use what I learned in the classroom in everyday life; helping missionaries, helping the youth group, and raising my kids.

Are you where you pictured yourself being when you were in college?
Not really. I always hoped I would be married and have kids one day, but I never thought I would move away from Roanoke, live in Richmond or work for Lottie Moon!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Here, being a mom of a 10 year old girl and 5 year old boy. Oh, I don't like thinking that far ahead! The only change I hope for is a new house. We are running out of space!

What's your greatest post-BC accomplishment?
Emilie and Caleb

What's your fondest post-BC memory?
Our wedding! So fun!

If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything?
I don't think so... maybe get a different wedding planner... and a better cake!

Thanks again to Sarah for taking the time to play along! Who should we grill next week? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ny-Quil Fueled Altered States

You know, I've been taking Ny-Quil for most of my adult life. No, I don't mean I take it all the time just for the heck of it. I mean, I've been tempted on those nights when I just can't get to sleep. But tempted isn't the same thing as actually doing it. What I mean is, when I get a cold, my usual go-to night-time medication has been Ny-Quil.

I don't remember the over the counter medication giving me quite so many strange dreams as it has this week. For the past three nights, I've taken Ny-Quil to help relieve my current cold symptoms so that I could get a full 8 hours. Or, more realistically, 6 hours. Anyway, each of those nights, I've woken in the predawn hours with the fading memories of some pretty bizarre dreams.

Personally, I'm a fan of the weird dream. The weird ones are the most memorable. And, as far as I'm concerned, the more unrealistic the better.

Monday night, I dreamed that my Dad was still alive. Any of you who have followed this blog for more than a few years are probably aware that Dad passed away back in 2006. At first, he would often make appearances in my dreams. As time has passed, he's shown up less and less. There's a part of me that really enjoys dreaming about him and seeing him again. Even though it's just a dream, it's like getting to spend time with him, something I dearly miss. At the same time, I don't like dreaming about him, simply because waking up is like a cruel torture. The mind can make a dream so real while you're in it. Waking up to reality becomes completely unfair.

So in my dream, he's still with us. He had gotten a new apartment somewhere. It was a place that seemed familiar, yet, at the same time, was really unfamiliar. For some reason (and I knew this to be a completely logical thing in the dream), he wasn't home. In fact, I had been house sitting for him while he was out of town. Not sure where he was, but I was doing him a favor. So I came back to his place after an evening out and about and was getting ready to go to bed. Then I heard the TV on in his bedroom. So I went to investigate. And there he was, lying in his bed. He had fallen asleep while watching it. Something he often did in life. I'm not sure why, at that point, I felt the need to explore his apartment. If I'd been watching the place while he was on vacation, I should have had plenty of time to get the lay of the land. But as I explored the place in the middle of the night, the apartment seemed to expand and shift. Perfectly normal in this dream world I was creating. What had begun as a 2-bedroom, 1-bath place suddenly had multiple hallways, extra bathrooms and a sprawling dining hall. Sadly, I woke up to the real world before getting to hang out with Dad in the dream. He was asleep the whole time. Slacker. I mean, if you're gonna take a break from hanging out in Heaven to make an appearance in your son's dream, the least you could do is stay awake for it.

Tuesday night, I dreamed that Dad was alive again. This time, however, we were all hanging out at some campground. And by "we" I really don't know who I mean. I think several other family members were there. And, in my head, they were all family that I knew by name. But their faces were unfamiliar. Even Dad's face was unfamiliar. But I knew he was Dad. Yeah, I don't get it. I read once that we can only dream about people we've seen before, that our minds are incapable of creating facial images from nothingness. So if you dream of someone you don't recognize, your mind is simply pulling up the image of a face that you saw and didn't even realize you filed away in your subconscious memory. Weird, right?

Anyway, we're at this campground and we're trying to get ready for some big event. I don't know what the event was and I don't know who put us in charge, but nothing was going right. There were apparently animal attacks that were happening off camera. Of course, when I say off camera, I mean that I knew it was happening, it just didn't happen in the context of the dream itself. Is everyone still with me? I hope so, 'cause I kind of feel like I'm losing myself. One attack that did happen within the dream occurred when a swarm of wasps somehow got into one of the cabins. I shouldn't have been surprised by this insect infestation. The cabins were pretty shabby. It's amazing they were even standing at all. But I guess real world physics don't really apply to our dreams. Anyway, the wasps attacking was the last straw for me. I found the "Dad" character, who seriously looked nothing like my father at all, and began crying. I yelled at him, telling him I hated this place and I never wanted to come back here again! I don't know why I was throwing a temper tantrum. In my dream, I was an adult. Though, I did throw a temper tantrum in real life last week as an attempt to show a kid I work with how ridiculous a temper tantrum actually looks.

And then last night, I had another wacky dream. But this one I don't remember. All I really remember of it is waking up at 4am feeling really unsettled by it. I don't think it was frightening or anything like that. It must have just been crazy go nuts.

I was thinking about going to bed tonight without the Ny-Quil. But I'm still showing the signs of a cold. The symptoms aren't as severe as they were earlier in the week, but I'm sure I could benefit from the sleep aid anyway. Besides, I'm curious as to what kind of strange worlds my liquid dream weaver will send me to this time. If I see anything good, I'll let you know. If I remember them in the morning, that is.

Sweet dreams, kids.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sharing the Groceries

You know what? I consider myself a somewhat friendly person.

No. I can't back that up. I'm far to introverted to ever be considered a "friendly" person. The best I can give you is probably "I'm not mean." Will that work? I'm not a mean person.

The thing is, I'm single and usually at the broke end of the wealth spectrum. I live in an apartment with roommates out of necessity. That necessity being that I can't afford to live on my own at the moment. The roommates I currently have are people that I don't know very well. These guys are not friends of mine. I'm only in the same apartment with them because the property managers of the complex in which we live randomly placed us together.

Because we are not friends, I do not want to share my groceries with them. Is that so wrong? I work very hard for the little money I receive on a monthly basis. So I want to use that money on the groceries that I want to eat. I simply can't afford to feed myself along with two hungry college students.

Financially, things have been difficult lately. It's hard to make ends meet when snow days get in the way. If I've never explained, I don't get paid for days when I'm not in school. I mean, it's great to have a day off every now and then... or to only have a 3 day work week (like we did for most of the winter), but that makes my savings account disappear. So this week, I made a plan. I bought the groceries I would need to get me through to my next paycheck. I planned out my meals. That plan changes when suddenly some of the food I bought has disappeared.

Math lesson: Yesterday I opened a new package of frozen chicken patties. That package contained 9 frozen chicken patties. I ate 2 of them. Today, I looked in the freezer and that package only contained 4 frozen chicken patties. Do you see how the numbers don't add up? Or subtract down, as it were. If I've done my math correctly, there are three missing.

Notice this image is from Home Alone. That's how I wish I was more often than not. Via
It would be completely different if I lived with roommates that I considered friends. Back when I lived with the Other Single Guy, we went to the store together. We shared the grocery bill more often than not. But that's now how it is with the guys I'm living with right now. We don't go to the store together. We don't do anything together. We're not friends! I don't want you to eat my food! I don't drink your vodka!

Yesterday, one of the guys let me know he used a cup of my milk to make mashed potatoes. That's fine. You know why? I drink out of the jug of milk that I purchase. It's mine, that's my right. So I've been drinking out of that jug. And I have a cold. So, roommate that's been stealing my food, I hope you enjoy my germs in the next couple days.

As always, donations to the Feed the Blogger Fund are undeserved but much appreciated!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Dater's Guide to Disney Princesses

Ask anyone, even a guy, who their favorite Disney princess is, and there's a good chance they'll have an answer for you. Chances are, they'll have a well thought out answer. According to the official Disney Princess home page, there are currently 10 Disney princesses in the line up. Each of these fictional, animated characters shares the common thread of being featured in one or more films. But each was also created to have her own unique personality. These unique personalities have made it possible for people to choose their favorites over the years.

So how do people choose a favorite? Is it how they look? What dress they're drawn in? Singing ability? Willingness to frolic with tiny woodland creatures? What follows is my guide to just how datable each of these princesses really is. If the Disney princes had had this primer before their movies premiered, some may have had second thoughts. Others would probably think, Yeah, I picked the right one! So here they are, in order of their appearance in popular culture...

Snow White
Everyone knows who Snow White is, right? I mean, if you haven't seen the Disney classic, there's a good chance you saw one of the two movies that told the story last year: Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror, Mirror. And then there's the current TV show Once Upon a Time, which puts a modern spin on things. What do we know about the first Disney princess? According to Christopher Finch's The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms, Snow White is a 14-year-old princess whose parents are dead. A magic mirror claims that she's the fairest in the land, whatever that means. Turns out that's enough to set off her psychotic step-mother in a jealous, homicidal rage. So Snow has to run away from the castle to become a housekeeper for a group of miners. This isn't much of a change for her since the queen was using her as slave labor.

Should You Date Her?
Absolutely not. For one thing, she's 14. I don't think that's ever mentioned in the movie, but it's in a book that chronicles the history of Disney animation. That means that someone somewhere made a decision to make Snow White a 14-year-old girl. That's just way too young. Also, that information really paints the queen in a much more evil light. Who tries to murder a 14-year-old girl? But let's pretend she's old enough to date. She lived with seven dudes at the same time. That denotes a questionable morality at best. It may have been completely platonic, but still... seven guys just seems like too much. Add to that the fact that some of her best friends appear to be birds and rodents, it just seems sketchy. They help her clean house. That doesn't scream "clean" to me. Prince Charming should probably just move on.

Another tragic story of a poor little rich girl. Raised in an aristocratic home, she lost her mother at a young age. Dad felt that she needed a mother figure in her life, so he remarried and brought a couple step-sisters into the mix as well. I've got to ask, where did her father meet this woman? Did she just pretend to be nice until the old man died? Because, as we all know, Lady Tremaine forced the girl into slave labor (I'm sensing a theme). Luckily, Cinderella had a fairy godmother that decided to give the girl a magic date night with a prince. Unlike Snow White, she wasn't born into royalty. Spoiler alert: she marries into it, giving her that "happily ever after" that these princesses all seek.

Should You Date Her?
I'm gonna say no to this one as well. While she is noticeably older than Snow White, she still has that issue of consorting with vermin. While the mice of the sprawling mansion seem to be fantastic seamstresses, I'm not sure I'd trust them to put together a proper dress. What's worse, she talks to the mice and they talk back. Someone may have some issues with hallucinations. This becomes more apparent when a "fairy godmother" magically appears and turns her rags into a gown and a pumpkin into a coach. Assuming the fairy godmother's magic was real, Cinderella relies a bit too much on that magic to make her happily ever after come true. Although, she and the step-sisters are the only ones we see vying for the prince's affections. That being the case, Cinderella is the only logical choice, with or without the glass slipper.

Ah, Sleeping Beauty. I'll admit, this was one of my favorites as a kid. Maybe it's because they did a lot to flesh out the villainess, Maleficent, this time around. She just seemed like a really cool bad guy. Aurora, on the other hand, doesn't get a lot of screen time. She's only around as a speaking character for the middle third of the film. At the beginning, she's an infant. For most of the end, she's asleep.

Should You Date Her?
Probably not, no. Don't get me wrong, she's cute and all. And she's got more of a rustic appeal than the previous princesses had. It helps that she was raised in a cabin in the woods, away from her royal palace. But that's an issue in itself. She's got family she doesn't know. That's going to cause a significant identity crisis when she goes back home for her 16th birthday. Also, she's only 16. Also, she's another one that talks to animals. I'm starting to think it's almost understandable to have conversations with these woodland creatures, though. Snow and Cindy were slaves, so they didn't get a lot of social time. Aurora only hangs out with three old women. I'd probably find myself talking to mice and squirrels too. Throw all that out, though. She apparently has a problem with narcolepsy. She and Prince Phillip get married, they settle into their own palace and Phillip might be feeling a little frisky, as husbands sometimes do. All he ever hears from Aurora? "Not tonight, dear, I'm tired." Red flag, Phillip. Red flag.

The Little Mermaid is another of my favorites. This is one that was new in my childhood. It probably really introduced me to the Disney animated musical. For the first time, we have a princess who has a very strong personality. She's assertive and rebellious and it gets her into a whole lot of trouble. Which is probably good because, otherwise, it would have been a boring movie. She's a collector of random surface-world items and happens to fall in love with a handsome prince. Don't they all?

Should You Date Her?
Absolutely not. I feel like I'm being really negative with these girls. And I like Ariel, I really do. She has a fantastic singing voice. But she was willing to sacrifice her greatest asset to a sketchy sea-witch. So right off you know her decision making skills are pretty poor. Also, she's a hoarder. I know, I called her a "collector" in the above paragraph, but I was being nice. Have you seen that trove of hers? Who needs 20 thingamabobs? I mean, really. Also, it's never enough. In a direct quote from Ariel's "Part of Your World" she says, "You want thingamabobs? I got 20! But who cares? No big deal. I want more." Prince Eric, look out. You could give her the world and it will still not be enough. It may seem simple to give her a lifetime supply of dinglehoppers with which she can brush her hair, but do you really want a palace full of useless forks? And, again, I feel the need to bring up the age issue. She's 16, which means she's probably old enough to date. But she is just 16. And she's kind of delinquent. Why is she signing contracts as a minor? I get it. She's a real princess. She's the possible heiress to the Seven Seas. But where's her mother? As the youngest of Triton's daughters, there's a good chance she's never had much of a maternal influence in her life. With only an angry merman to raise her and her six sisters, she's bound to have some serious daddy issues.

Beauty and the Beast is definitely my favorite of these Disney films. Sure, Disney took a lot of creative liberties with the story and there are tons of plot holes that one could spend hours, even days, debating over. But it's fun to watch. And sing along with. Go on, pretend like you're not singing with Belle when she walks through the village saying bon jour to the townsfolk.

Should You Date Her?
Yes. This is one of the good ones. She's well read and obviously educated. She's not shallow, otherwise she'd be with that lunkhead Gaston. She loves her family. Granted, the only family she has when we meet her is her father, Maurice. But she doesn't care what the people of the town say about her dad, she's there for him no matter what. And she sacrifices her own freedom for his after they first encounter the Beast. The Beast/Prince definitely comes out ahead in this relationship. Especially when she breaks the curse and all the servants become people again, meaning they have no furniture or dishes in the palace.

Her tale is told in the story of Aladdin. She's the daughter of the Sultan of Agrabah, giving her a significant amount of power herself, as the person she marries will eventually succeed the sultan as ruler. It seems a bit unfair to think that Jasmine herself isn't in line for the throne, only the guy she marries. Actually, that's really unfair. Come on, Agrabah! Let's try to rethink how the line of succession works in the future, okay?

Should You Date Her?
No. Don't get me wrong, Jasmine's gorgeous. And I think the name, Jasmine, is all kinds of beautiful. But she will probably always question why you're with her. Do you love her for her or do you love her for her father's throne? Yes, she's adventurous and courageous. Much more so than most pampered princesses who rarely see beyond the palace walls. And let's think about her family for a moment. The sultan doesn't seem to be playing with a full deck. And he's highly susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Studies have shown that, in cases like these, the apple does not fall far from the tree. How long would it be before Jasmine started exhibiting signs of her own senility? That could turn into a long-term problem for Prince Ali.

The daughter of a Native American chief, Pocahontas was single-handedly responsible for welcoming the British to the new world and taught them how to fish and plant crops so that they wouldn't starve to death during the harsh winter. What? That's not really how it happened? Well, if Disney can rewrite history, why can't I? To be fair, it can simply be said that Disney fictionalized a story based on actual historic figures.

Should You Date Her?
Yes. In 1607, when the Jamestown settlers arrived in the New World, the real Pocahontas was only 12 years old. The movie portrays her as much older. Let's go with the movie portrayal so it isn't quite so gross. She's outdoorsy and knows her stuff. Also, she's wicked brave. She put her own neck on the line when attempting to save John Smith. Pocahontas is the kind of girl who is able to respect her family and their traditions, but she's also not afraid to stand up for something she believes in so she can follow her own path. I respect that.

Is Mulan really a princess? She doesn't come from a royal line that I'm aware of. And in the end, she falls in love with her superior officer. I don't think that means she's a princess. She's admirable, yes, but not a princess.

Should You Date Her?
No. For one thing, she's lying about being a princess. For another, she seems kind of gender confused. I understand that her reasons are noble. She's saving her elderly father from having to go off to war. This means she has strong family ties, a plus. But she's dressing like a guy. For most of the movie. I mean, if that's the kind of thing she's into, that's cool. I guess. But it seems to me that would be problematic in terms of having a relationship.

Tiana is another one who married into her title. Sorry, hope that's not a spoiler. I've only seen The Princess and the Frog once, so I'm not as familiar as I have been with some of the older movies.

Should You Date Her?
Yes. Like I said, I'm not terribly familiar with Tiana's story. But here's what I know about her that makes her datable. She's a very hard worker. The girl's working two jobs when we first meet her, all to save up money to make her dream of owning her own restaurant come true. This causes her to become a little obsessed, but she's able to move beyond that obsession soon enough. She's willing to work for what she wants, but isn't oblivious to the fact that what she wants is not always what she needs. Another plus, she's faced with temptation and an easy way out of her predicament, but turns it down. She's ready to do what's right for the right reasons. She's a keeper.

Poor girl. Lived a sheltered life 'til she was 18. Locked away in a tower for "her own good." The woman that raised her kept her away from the world because it wouldn't be safe for her if people knew about the magical properties that her hair possessed. The truth of the matter was that Old Lady Gothel wanted that magic for herself, just to stay forever young. But Rapunzel, as it turns out, is not the kind of girl to just sit back and play the damsel in distress. Sure, she's a little naive as we start the story, but she goes on this whirlwind adventure and discovers that the woman she's called "Mother" all these years has been lying to her. And then, the fury begins. Just a whirl of wind and arms and fingernails. And hair.

Should You Date Her?
Absolutely. Rapunzel's the kind of girl who obviously does not need some guy to come along and save her. Well, she does. But not for the traditional reasons. Flynn Ryder shows up and just happens to be in the wrong place at the right time. Rapunzel's looking to make an escape from her tower and Flynn's arrival just happens to be serendipitous happenstance. I'm sure I used that phrase all wrong. Anyway, she manipulates him into helping her leave home for the first time. She's excited and a little jumpy at first, but she quickly learns how to take care of herself in the real world. In no way does she let herself become a lesser character than her leading man, standing equal with him throughout the film. And, in the end, she's the one who saves his life, not the other way around.

According to one source (Wikipedia), Brave's Merida will be added to the Disney princess roster later this year. I won't go into why she's datable, but she gets my stamp of approval. Mostly because she doesn't take any crap off anyone and can handle a bow and arrow like a champ. Also, I think Disney should consider adding Princess Leia to the line-up as well. Disney now owns the rights to Star Wars, and Leia is a princess. But I wouldn't date her. She says she likes nice guys, but she's really attracted to the bad boy. Also, she kissed her brother. Not a peck on the cheek. Full on lip lock. I'm just sayin'.

There you have it. If you're a guy, which of these princesses would you hypothetically date? If you're a girl, which of these princesses would you like your son to hypothetically bring home?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Question of the Week: Lifespan

If the average human lifespan was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
Well, I would have retired at the age of 30, so I'd have plenty of time to enjoy that last decade or so. To be honest, I don't know that I would do much differently at all. I have no real regrets as I look back on my life at this point. I don't see the need to change that view just because my lifespan has been cut in half. Things that happen happen for a reason, whether it happens over the course of 40 years, 80 years or 120.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wake Up!

The following is based on a true story.

"Wake up!" the alarm on my phone screamed at me during the wee hours of the morning. Okay, it didn't actually scream, "Wake up!" It just made a really loud and obnoxious ringing sound. It's amazing how similar they can make it sound to an old school alarm clock.

I jumped out of bed and turned off the alarm. No, that's not the truth. I rolled, reluctantly, out of the bed. Then I turned off the alarm. 3am. Why on earth would I set my alarm for 3am? I'm sure that's what you're asking. I can't actually hear you asking the question, I'm just assuming.

Last night was prom night in Blacksburg. And that meant that the after prom party was held at the high school. The high school, by the way, is where my church meets on Sunday mornings. So there was much work to be done in order to clean up the school and get it prepared for worship services which would begin at 8:30.

When the after prom was over at 4am, the after after prom committee gathered. We moved tables and chairs, took down banners, swept up glitter. So much glitter. It was so very early.

The rest of the morning went off without a hitch. We were done cleaning a little before 5. So I headed back to Radford because I had a couple hours to kill before I needed to be back at the school to help set up for church. I was productive with my time. I got my grocery shopping done. You'd be surprised how many people aren't at Wal-Mart at 5am. It was glorious.

I was back at the high school by 7. I helped with the set up process, making sure everything was ready for folks to start arriving. I stayed for the early worship service, then I headed back to my apartment again. I had every intention of staying awake and getting stuff done. But then I fell asleep.

Before I fell into my nap, I had the presence of mind to set my alarm for the afternoon. See, I had to go back to Blacksburg (for the 3rd time in one day) for my very first members meeting at church. I officially joined up last month. So I really didn't want to miss out on hearing exactly what is going on in the life of my church. I remember going to business meetings as a kid and walking away feeling like humanity was lost. I didn't get that feeling today. I freakin' love my church.

So yeah, I dealt with my phone yelling at me again. "Wake up!" This time it was 3pm. Not as ridiculous as the morning counterpart. But it's kind of been a long day. It's been a good day. But it's been a long one.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Single Guy and the Conditioner

The Single Guy has a soft spot for hairdressers. He kind of always has.

There was the girl that cut his hair in college. This is the one that he insisted looked exactly like Sarah Michelle Gellar, so he would visit her at the mall and pay nearly twice as much as he could have paid the ancient barber with the tremor in is trimming hand.

Then there was the girl that worked at the place inside the Wal-Mart. The Single Guy isn't necessarily a fan of getting his hair cut at the Wal-Mart. Actually, the Single Guy isn't necessarily a fan of getting anything at the Wal-Mart. But the price of the haircut was kind of cheap and the girl that cut the hair a few times was kind of cute. He figured it was worth it.

And, of course, there was the Girl in the White SUV. Not that she ever actually cut the Single Guy's hair. She was one of those high end hairdressers. He worked in one of those expensive hair salons that catered to people in downtown Raleigh. The Single Guy tried once to get an appointment with her, just to convince her to run her fingers through his hair, but it was not meant to be. Totally would have been worth the $60 for a simple trim.

The Single Guy has had a much better time of controlling his crushes these days. Maybe he's matured. But it seems easier for him to just go into a hair-cutting-joint and not just decide that a girl is cute because she massages his scalp. More often than not, he's successful in not developing a crush. He's more talkative these days, so he's usually able to talk to these girls to either realize they have a significant other in their lives or their personalities just would not mesh with his. This helps.

About a month ago, however, he kind of got talked into doing something that he didn't necessarily want to do. The Single Guy has a regular place that he likes to go to get his hair cut. It's a chain that had a location in Wake Forest when he lived down there. Since moving to the New River Valley, he's been pleased to find that there's a location in Blacksburg as well. So that's where he's been going.

Part of the draw isn't just the price that he has to pay. It's the shampoo that they use. Upon finishing with the haircut, the stylist will escort the Single Guy to the back room where there are a few sinks lined up. He's seated in a chair that has a footrest and a massage feature. He leans his head back into the sink and the girl lathers up the most amazing smelling shampoo one could ever hope to experience. It smells like Christmas.

By "it smells like Christmas," what's really meant is that it smells like peppermint. It's a very soothing aroma. And it kind of tingles on the scalp. In a good way. The stylist will not just wash the hair, she'll massage the scalp as well. It's quite relaxing. The Single Guy has threatened to fall asleep on more than one occasion.

Anyway, on that last visit, the girl who cut the Single Guy's hair was kind of cute. He had no desire to ask her out or anything crazy like that, but that doesn't mean she didn't hold some kind of almost irrational influence over his wallet. The Single Guy's first mistake was mentioning how much he loved the smell of the shampoo. Of course, when she asked if he had any at home, he couldn't lie. So he told her that he didn't have any at this time.

Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, this shampoo is not cheap. There are bound to be more expensive shampoos out there, but when the Single Guy is used to buying the cheap stuff at the Wal-Mart, the real stuff can pinch the old bank account. So she went on and on about how great the shampoo was. And how great the conditioner was, as well. And how that particular shampoo was on sale that day. And it would be totally worth it to spend $45 on gigantic bottles of shampoo and conditioner. It was a package deal.

Now, the Single Guy doesn't typically do conditioner, unless it's a 2-in-1 kind of thing. You know, you just have the one bottle and the conditioner is magically mixed in with the shampoo. He has a really hard time understanding what the point of conditioner is. But, since he spent so much money on the package deal, he felt that he should give this hair tonic a try. A month later, he's still not sure what kind of difference the stuff has made in his hair.

Today, it became a moo point. Because the Single Guy decided to get rid of all his hair. The reasons are several. The most pressing reason is that he couldn't afford to get a real haircut and he could shave his head for free. So now he has this huge bottle of conditioner and no hair to condition. On the plus side, he still smells like Christmas when he gets out of the shower.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

75 Super Years

75 years ago today, Action Comics #1 hit newsstands, introducing the world to the world's greatest superhero. His origin has been altered a number of times over the years, but he remains a survivor from the doomed planet Krypton. Kal-El was sent here as an infant by his father, Jor-El, who knew that he would grow on Earth to have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Along with the changes to his history, his power set has changed a bit as well. At first, he was unable to fly. But he was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. To celebrate Superman's 75th birthday, here's the latest trailer for the latest film incarnation of the Man of Steel. The movie title? Man of Steel.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Becoming Invisible

I think I'm phasing out of existence. Maybe not out of existence. Maybe I'm just phasing out of the visible spectrum. I've been having a lot of trouble lately with automatic sliding doors.

I'm sure you know the ones I'm talking about. You go to the grocery store and you don't have to do any work to walk inside. The door just opens for you. It senses your presence and welcomes you inside. I'd like to say these doors have only ignored me on one occasion, but once would be a blessing. It's happening more and more lately.

I've lost count of how many times I've nearly run into the door at Wal-Mart. That would be incredibly embarrassing if it were to happen. I'm just walking, trying to exit the store. I'm not running toward the door. I'm just walking. I'm sure I'm walking faster than the average Wal-Mart shopper, but I'm fairly certain I'm walking at an average pace for a human being. I force myself to stop within an inch of slamming into the glass. Then I have to wait for roughly a second before the door decides to slide open.

If it was just at Wal-Mart, I probably wouldn't be too concerned. I could just assume they have a faulty mechanism. Although I have seen the door open for other customers without hesitation. A couple weeks ago, it happened to me at Best Buy. The only logical explanation? I'm turning invisible. Or maybe I'm putting off some kind of electromagnetic field that acts as interference for motion sensors. If that's the case, I obviously have super powers.

I'm sure that, by posting this little story, I leave myself open to ridicule. People will accuse me of the same kind of idiocy that I often saw in customers of the bank where I worked in Raleigh. It's been a long time since I wrote about it, but on a daily basis, people would come into the bank by manually pulling the door open, then they would forget that they had to do the work to get out. Somewhere in the span of 5 to 10 minutes while they made their deposits, they forgot that our front door wasn't automatic.

I can promise you that I'm not making that kind of mistake. The doors that are not opening for me are genuinely automatic doors. I almost caused someone to run into me when I stopped in front of an automatic door at the grocery store the other day. It's becoming problematic.

Sadly, the only scenario in which I can think of this new super power becoming of value is if I use my power for evil. If I'm not being picked up by motion sensors, that means I could make a pretty decent cat burglar. I'm not saying that's a path I want to go down at this juncture. I'm just putting it out there as a possibility. What else is the invisible man good for?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Single Guy Versus the Fifth Grader

Before he began attending the church he currently attends, the Single Guy had not had the opportunity to participate in many service projects. Actually, it wasn't that the opportunities weren't there. He simply didn't embrace them. The last time the Single Guy had a genuine desire to help out in his community was way back during the college years. And since he graduated from college 10 years ago, well, one can assume it's been a long time since he's plugged in and acted the part of the servant.

Last week, the Single Guy was given the chance to help out at a local food pantry. There wasn't much involved. He went in and helped families in need as they perused the shelves, seeking the groceries they needed to make it through the next few weeks. For the Single Guy, who has never truly been in a position where he was unable to provide his own basic needs, it was a very humbling thing to be a part of.

That evening, he served alongside three other volunteers. One was a girl that the Single Guy knows from church. Another was a Virginia Tech grad student who is in the same program as the girl from church. The other was a boy in the fifth grade. And that kid was all kinds of awesome.

First of all, he's 11 years old. When the Single Guy was 11, he wouldn't have even thought about giving up an afternoon to help the people in his community to find the groceries they needed to get by. This kid is there every Monday with a smile on his face, ready to serve in whatever way that he can.

Now let's focus on the fact that the Fifth Grader is wise beyond his years. Things were slow at the food pantry compared to other evenings. Or so the Single Guy was told. After a while, things came to a standstill, so the volunteers had nothing but time on their hands. So they sat around talking. The Fifth Grader was ready to talk about food, life, love, politics. Scratch that, he didn't want to talk about politics. In a very adult manner, he stated that talking about politics made him upset.

But, wait, he was able to talk about love? Yeah, this is the part where the Single Guy realized that he may not be smarter than a Fifth Grader.

It had not started as a conversation in which the Single Guy was seeking advice from the youngling. They were just sitting around, shooting the breeze. The girl from church had asked the Single Guy about his day and he went on to explain an awkward situation involving a girl and another girl. Nothing too crazy, but slightly awkward nonetheless. The details are inconsequential. Just imagine your basic episode of Three's Company and you've got your awkward.

The Single Guy did need to explain the details to the Fifth Grader, however, because he wasn't alive when Three's Company was a thing. He didn't even know Three's Company was ever a thing. But the Fifth Grader pondered the situation. He thought about it. He went outside for a bit to enjoy the beautiful afternoon weather. Then he came back inside to dispense his advice.

He told the Single Guy, in relation to his situation, to basically play it cool. He didn't use these words, but to sum up, don't change the status quo. But, he also advised, don't get stuck in the friends' zone. Hold up, Fifth Grader, how do you know of the legendary "friends' zone"?

"Everyone knows about the friends' zone," he said matter-of-factly.

The Single Guy couldn't help but laugh a little. Throughout his life, he'd been stuck in the friends' zone at least half a dozen times. He'd been placed there by a number of women who considered him to be a really good friend. Or worse, like a brother. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. The Single Guy likes to consider himself a good friend. But these days, when he meets an attractive woman that he might be interested in, he doesn't want to be friends. As far as he's concerned, he's got enough friends.

The conversation flowed normally after that. Soon, the Fifth Grader had to go because his mother came to pick him up. Before he walked out of the building, he turned back to the Single Guy and again stated, "Get out of the friends' zone!"

So to all the other single folks out there, pay attention to this kid. He kind of knows what he's talking about. It wasn't long after that evening when the Single Guy saw something online that said, "The only reason guys get stuck in the friends' zone is because they never ask the girl out in the first place." That's not always the case, but more often than not, it probably is. Guys tend to let the women they're attracted to intimidate them into staying silent. Those women aren't trying to intimidate these guys and it's likely they don't even know they have that kind of effect on them. Okay, they probably know. And not all guys are intimidated. But a lot of the nice ones are. So, nice guys, stop being intimidated. That is all.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Question of the Week: Message

If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
Never say that you can't do something. Especially if you've never tried. A year ago, I wouldn't have dared to imagine that I would have run in a 10k race. And if someone had told me I would not only finish, but do so in under 2 hours, I'd have laughed at them. Now that it's done, I kind of feel like I can accomplish anything as long as I'm willing to put forth the required effort. Everyone is capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for. They just have this tendency to allow fear and doubt to block their paths.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Apology

It was a beautiful afternoon. The kind of day that kids daydream about when they're stuck inside a school listening to their teachers drone on and on about World War II or the Pythagorean Theorem. Christopher had been waiting all week for Saturday to get here and he had been praying just as long for a warm, sunny day. He could hardly believe it, but he got exactly what he wanted.

He woke earlier than any 13 year old should on a Saturday morning. But he was excited. He had paid close attention to the weather forecast while his dad watched the evening news. Clear skies and a high of 72. Perfect weather for some baseball with the other guys in the neighborhood. It took just about all that he had to resist the impulse to run out the door and hop on his bike as soon as his eyes shot open. He stopped himself, though. None of the other kids would be at the empty lot at 7:30 in the morning. So he waited.

In the meantime, he decided he could use a decent breakfast. Well, as long as blueberry Pop-Tarts can be considered decent. His folks weren't up yet and he still wasn't, technically, allowed to use the stove unsupervised. No bacon and eggs for Christopher this morning. By the time he finished eating it was nearly 8. Still too early.

Chris flopped down on the sofa in the living room and turned on the TV. Not that there would be anything good on. He flipped through all the cable channels three times before giving up and turning the television back off. He peeked out the curtain of the front window and sighed. He wanted to go out so badly. But it was still too early. Besides, he had to at least wait for one of his parents to come downstairs. He couldn't just leave the house without telling them where he was going.

8:27. He finally heard someone moving around in his parents' bedroom. Of the two possibilities, the footsteps sounded lighter. Must be mom, he thought. A moment later he could see the bottom of his mother's bathrobe as she descended the stairs.

"Mom, can I go play ball with the guys?" he asked before his mother even got to the bottom step.

She tried to stifle a yawn, which really didn't work. "Isn't it a little early for baseball?" she asked.

Christopher rolled his eyes. As far as he was concerned, it was never too early for baseball. The sun was shining. As long as he could see the ball, he could play the game. "It's 8:30! I've already eaten breakfast. I promise I'll take a break and come back for lunch. Please?"

"Okay." His mother was barely able to say both syllables before he hugged her and thanked her and ran out the door.

Chris stopped by the garage to pick up his bat, glove and a ball. He wasn't sure who else would be out at the empty lot or if they would have thought to bring anything with them. He honestly didn't care if no one was there yet. He would be perfectly content running the bases alone, imagining that he had just knocked one out of the park at Fenway.

He rode his bike about as fast as he could. He could have gone faster, but he didn't want to overexert himself before he got a chance to play a game. Chris arrived at the lot and saw that he was the first one there. He surveyed the ground before him. It wasn't very well kept. Grass growing sporadically here and there. Rocks and gravel made for interesting obstacles throughout the dirt. They had tried to clean up all the broken bottles and empty cans, but he could see that they missed a few. Or there were a few new ones. It's not like cops came by here on a regular basis to enforce litter laws.

He dropped his glove on the ground near the road. Then he walked over to home plate with his bat and ball in hand. He tossed the ball into the air and took a swing. Miss. Wake up, Chris! He tried again. This time he connected.

He hit the ball a lot harder than he had intended to. The baseball from his garage sailed past what the kids considered to be outfield. It flew over the privacy fence that acted as the boundary of Old Lady McGee's property. And that's when he heard the sound of glass shattering. Before he could blink, he was back on his bike, pedaling as if his life depended on it.

Chris got home, threw his bike to the ground, then ran inside, slamming the front door behind him. "You weren't gone long!" he heard his mother call out from the kitchen. He was breathing heavily. He was scared. He'd just broken the window of one of the meanest old ladies in town. Then his heart dropped. He suddenly forgot how to breathe and all the blood in his body drained down to his feet. To his horror, he realized he left his glove lying on the ground. The baseball glove that had his name and address written on the inside with a black Sharpie.

His mother came around the corner, still in her bathrobe. "Are you okay?" she asked, suddenly concerned when she saw how pale her son was.

"What?" Chris asked, "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. No one was there, so I decided to wait here for a while before I go back." She won't buy it, he thought.

"Are you sure you're feeling all right? You look like you're gonna be sick."

Chris let out a nervous laugh. "No, really, I'm fine. I just rode my bike really fast to get back here. I got chased by a dog that got loose." She won't buy it, he thought again.

"Mmmhmm..." His mom turned to go back to the kitchen.

He let out a sigh of relief. She bought it. "I'm gonna go up and play a video game to kill time," he said as he took the stairs.

Chris turned on his Wii and had barely begun a game of Super Mario Bros. when he heard the doorbell. A few seconds later, he heard his father say, "I'll get it!" before hearing him walk down the stairs.

He dared to open his bedroom door, just a crack. He couldn't hear what was going on, and from that angle, he certainly couldn't see who was on their front porch. And then his dad called his name.

Busted. Slowly, as if he were walking the Green Mile, Chris made his way down the stairs. Sure enough, standing in their doorway was Old Lady McGee. She was holding Chris' bat and glove in her hands. His dad was holding his baseball.

"Chris," his father began sternly, "I believe you owe Mrs. McGee an apology. And a new window."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

14,683 Monumental Steps

The goal was to finish the Monument Avenue 10k in 2 hours. Was I able to do it? The answer is... You know what? I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a step back for a second.

This whole running thing is kind of new to me. I decided to start running back in September of last year and as soon as I started, I began to question what I'd gotten myself into. I had never been a runner. I was never much of an athlete as a kid or as a teenager. But back in the fall I decided it was time to start making an effort toward being healthier. Running seemed like the most logical way to get moving with that. I knew it would be difficult, but I was sure it would be worth it.

I set a goal for myself to run in a 5k race at some point in 2013. After running throughout the fall and winter, I figured I was on my way to accomplishing that goal. I just needed to find a good 5k and register. I even talked Mark and Brandon into joining me. Well, time went by and finding a nearby 5k was becoming a challenge.

One day in January I got a call from Mark. He asked me how I'd feel about going to Richmond in April to do the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10k. I took a deep breath. 10k? I thought, That's twice as much as I've been training for... Could I even be ready for that thing by then? Needless to say, I was nervous. But I figured if I was running the race with two of my best friends, it wouldn't be that bad.

So the months went by and I kept pushing myself in an attempt to get ready for the 10k. While the weather was cold and the mornings were dark, I decided to make use of the treadmills provided by my apartment complex. I was feeling good. I reached a point where I was able to run a full mile without slowing to a walk for the first time in my life. I mean, I was the kid who would walk the mile in elementary school during the annual physical fitness test. I don't think I ever finished that thing in less than 20 minutes. I wasn't sprinting, mind you, but my jog wasn't exactly a snail's pace.

After reaching that milestone, a week later, I was able to run a full 2 miles before slowing down. I was feeling really good. Then, a couple weeks ago, Mark dropped the bomb that he might have to drop out of the race. Apparently there was some work thing that had come up and he would not be able to get out of it. Was that really it? Or was it that he had been talking a lot of smack to me and Brandon and had not been training even a little bit, so he decided he couldn't back the smack talk? Okay, I'm sure he really did have career commitments that he couldn't get out of. Just seems a little fishy to me...

But that didn't deter me. Brandon was still in this thing. And even if something happened to pull him out of the race, I wasn't going to back out. I was excited. I might not have been fully ready in a physical sense, but my mind was set on crossing that finish line, no matter what.

Last week, the weather finally got really nice. Like, ridiculously nice. Cloudless skies, cool breezes, moderate temperatures. It was phenomenal. So, last Saturday, I decided to take advantage of the pathway that runs next to the New River. It's right across the road from my apartment, why not? I ran from my apartment to the far end of Bissett Park and back again. Well, on the way back I walked/ran. But I felt good. I felt that I needed to push myself a little because the 10k was only a week away and I'd never gone that far at one time before. Last Saturday's run got me to 3.9 miles in just under an hour.

Then something strange happened. The next day I was in tremendous pain. I wrote it off as just aches from having pushed myself harder than I was used to the previous day. But, on Monday, my shins began hurting. A lot. I started to wonder if I was dealing with the legendary shin splints that I've heard so many people talk about in the past. I remember seeing volleyball and soccer players during college coming into the dining hall after practices with ice packs taped to their shins. I couldn't figure out why I would suddenly get this pain now, less than a week from race day, when I hadn't experienced it at all in the last six months.

Well, there are probably several contributing factors. My shoes are awful. I don't have shoes that are designed specifically for running. And they're kind of old. They've gotten the job done, but apparently not well enough. Then there's the fact that I switched from treadmill to asphalt kind of suddenly. I'm sure my body wasn't prepared for that surface change. Also, I'm sure I haven't been stretching properly before or after my runs on a consistent basis. I should really start doing that.

But I wasn't going to let this deter me either. I ran again Tuesday evening, but wasn't able to go as far as I had Saturday. And the pain was a little worse. So I decided then to just rest until the 10k. And rest is what I did.

That brings us to today. Race day. All week I had been more excited than anything else. I was ready to do this. I'd been telling myself that I only wanted to run the first half, that my true goal for this moment of my life was to run a 5k. If I had to walk the second half, so be it. I wanted to finish 5k in an hour. I wanted to finish 10k in 2. I had no lofty aspirations for setting or breaking records, except maybe my own personal records. And, since this was my first ever 10k race, the bar was set pretty low.

Brandon and I stood among the crowd of run/walkers and waited for the announcer to send our group over the starting line. And we were off. Brandon took off at a good pace as soon as he was able. I was still stuck amongst the walkers for a bit. Then I found an opening and took off after him. I stayed behind him for a good while, then overtook him for about 30 seconds. It felt good, considering he's been running for several years now. But that lead didn't last for me. I kept up with him for a while longer, but then began to slow slightly.

I was able to keep up a good run/jog for about the first mile. Then the pain in my legs began to get to me. So I slowed down. I walked pretty briskly, but it was still a walk. So much for running the first 5k, right? Oh well, I could still make good time and I could still hit my goals. So I pushed. I would run for a while, then walk for a while, then run a little more, then slow back down. On average, I probably ran about half a mile for every mile of the race.

At the halfway point, my phone began to die. This was a bad thing for me because 1) I was tracking my run with the Nike+ app and 2) I was listening to my running/get psyched mix through the phone. Now, I won't say I was too upset about losing the Nike+ app. My phone has degraded into a near worthless piece of junk that does very few things accurately. Needless to say, it does not keep up with my run accurately. At all. Today, it told me that I completed my first mile in 5 minutes, 13 seconds. The thing thought that I had finished 3 miles just after I passed the real world 1 mile marker. Piece of junk. But I did miss the music during that second half.

Before I turned the phone off to save what was left of the battery, I was able to see that I had actually been going for nearly 45 minutes. That told me that I had beaten my goal of an hour long 5k! I was pretty excited about that news. That gave me a second wind and inspired me to push a little harder than I had for the previous mile or so. So I ran again.

Now I was without music blasting in my ears. This turned out to be a good thing. This gave me the opportunity to hear the people on the sidelines. There were hundreds... thousands of folks yelling and cheering as the runners and walkers made their way down Monument Avenue. The energy was incredible. And it only helped to get my adrenaline pumping even more, inspiring me to run even harder. People were waving signs and clapping and whistling as I ran past them. They didn't know who I was, but they were proud of me anyway. And even though they were cheering for the tens of thousands of other runners, too, it felt like they were cheering just for me. Especially when I heard anyone say, "Way to go, Superman!"

Soon I came upon the marker that let me know I had gone 6 miles. That meant I was really close to the finish. At that point, I didn't care how tired I was or how much my legs ached. I just ran. I pushed myself all the way to the finish line. I crossed, feeling more alive than I've felt in a long time. And, believe it or not, I probably could have kept going, I was that pumped.

Now that it's been over for a while, I've been able to look online to see the official race results. Are you ready for it? Drum roll, please...
  • 5k - 47:16
  • 10k - 1:36:20
I beat the goals that I had set for myself. Finishing this race alone was worth putting the time and effort into training. But finishing better than I thought I was capable of? Feels even better.

So now that I've accomplished this goal, does that mean I'll stop running?

It's not over. I will take a break for a bit. Probably a couple weeks. I definitely want to get some new shoes before I start running again, but they're expensive, so I may have to wait a bit. But I want to keep going. I want to set new goals and keep pushing myself. This Thanksgiving, I want to run in the Drumstick Dash in Roanoke. I walked it a couple years ago, this time I want to run it. It's a 5k, so I'm hoping I'll be able to crush it by the time November rolls around.

Next year, I want to do the Monument Avenue race again. But next time, I want to do it in an hour. I don't see why that can't be done. The year after that, I want to find a half marathon. Depending on how I do with the half, maybe someday I'll do a full marathon. I honestly can't wrap my head around that at this moment, but it's out there and it's a possibility. Until then, I'll have these 2 races to keep getting ready for. Who's with me?

Oh, I can't believe I almost forgot this... By far, the funniest inspirational sign I saw today said, "Keep Going! Keep Going! (That's what she said...)" Definitely got me laughing on the run.

*The number represented in this post's title is an estimated guess as to how many steps I actually took during the 10k. I did not actually count my steps.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Remembering Bluefield: Sarah McCloud Clevenger

Welcome to another thrilling installment of Remembering Bluefield! This week we focus on one of the most musically gifted women I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Most of you know her as Sarah Clevenger. The Rams of the turn of the century knew her as Sarah McCloud. And so, without further ado...

Sarah McCloud Clevenger

What year did you graduate?

What degree did you earn?
B.A. in Christian Studies - Ministry focus and a minor in Vocal Music

What drew you to Bluefield College?
It was semi-close to home, but far enough away for me to get my "wings". Plus, I loved the size and the Christian atmosphere was a huge plus! :-)

What kept you there?
I loved the new friends that I made, the size of the classes, the wonderful professors, and all the opportunities for growth not just academically, but spiritually as well!

Is there a class that changed your life? If so, what?
I don't know if there was an exact class that changed my life, but there were several of my Christian studies classes that truly helped me solidify my beliefs and faith with ways to help me grow as a Christian while also sharing the love of Christ with others in a meaningful way!

What teacher had the biggest impact on you? Why?
There were SEVERAL amazing professors that I will never forget and many that impacted my life in wonderful ways! Two that really stand out to me are Dr. Eddie Stepp and Mr. Sheppard! They both showed me how to truly reach out and minister to those around me and helped me realize the gifts that I have and how to use them more effectively! :-D I truly loved working with Dr. Lyle, Mr. Mosley, Mrs. Castillo, Charles and Rebecca Reese, and several others as well! :-D

Did you live on campus or commute?
I lived on campus for four years and off for one year which was interesting, cause I didn't have my own car...LOL It was an interesting and fun experience, but I enjoyed living on campus much better! :-P

Who were your roommates?
I had several! My first year were Amanda Jarvis and Carrie Rae Peters, then there was my year off campus with Sarah French, Stephanie Cox, and Kristy Thompson (SOO much fun!) and we had a CRAAAAZY old neighbor...wow... that was an interesting year... LOL, and then I was suite-mates with Stephanie Ball for my last two years and me, her, and Kita were usually stuck together like glue most days! haha

Share an epic roommate story (if you have one).
Goodness, there were SO many! lol Mmmm, I'd have to go with the year I lived off campus and we had that CRAZY neighbor! "Junior"....LOL He would spray leaves off his car EVERY morning and would constantly come knock on our door and request that we turn up the heat. (He lived with his elderly mother, who by all accounts I was in awe that she was still alive...!! haha And for some reason, our houses were "joined" and the controls for the heat were located on our side). I swear we would have it set to like 80 degrees and have the windows open in the dead of winter just to be able to breathe and he would STILL come knock on our doors and make us turn the heat up! One night at like MIDNIGHT, he began knocking on the door and I was by myself. I just ignored him like I usually do, but he persisted to knock on the front door, kitchen wall, etc....Then it happened..the DOOR KNOB began moving..I was like "REALLY??, Jeez, he's persistent tonight...", and I ran up the staircase freaking out and just peered around the corner watching the doorknob jiggling back and forth... I was just about to call the cops (yes I was very freaked out) when I heard a male's voice saying "Maintenance, Maintenance!" Apparently our lovely neighbor Junior had called someone with maintenance and they had to come and confirm that our heat was indeed turned up to 80 degrees....I was like REALLY??!! Needless to say the maintenance man later apologized for the bother and I saw them both out of the house...CRAZINESS! That's when I realized I'd rather live on campus! LOL :-P

What's your most cherished Bluefield College memory?
Goodness, how do I narrow this down...Mmmmm...I would have to say all the memories I have involving the music/theater departments along with my missions experiences in Brazil! I grew so much as a musician and as a Christian through all my experiences! I often found myself WAY outside of my "normal" comfort zone, but I'm so glad I was placed in every circumstance, because the ways I have grown have made it SO worthwhile! :-)

Where are you now?
I'm currently living in Big Stone Gap, VA with my husband Josh Clevenger (we will be celebrating our 7 year wedding anniversary in June!) and our two adorable baby girls, Ryleigh (almost 2 and a half) and Selah (7 months).

What are you doing?
I'm a stay-at-home-momma and I LOVE it!! It's one of the hardest, yet most rewarding "jobs" I've ever done! I'm also working with two independent sell companies to help pay the bills, etc. They are Thirty-One (https://www.mythirtyone.com/76361/) and Origami Owl (www.sclevenger.origamiowl.com). I LOVE both companies and everything they stand for and the products are AMAZING! :-) They both get me out of the house, providing for my family, and I've met so many amazing people along the way! :-D

Does that mean you're using your degree?
Well, yes and no...LOL My degree is in Ministry, so I just always look for any opportunity to minister to anyone and everyone that crosses my path! I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that people are brought into our lives for a reason, so I just try to show the love of God to everyone I meet, while helping them see their own potential! **I also am involved in an integrated worship service at my home church and facilitate the music for our Summer VBS, so that is definitely using my music degree and I love it! :-)

Are you where you pictured yourself being when you were in college?
I had no clue what God had planned for me after I graduated, and I remember how scared and unsure I was...God has brought me through some of the happiest and darkest times of my life and I couldn't imagine going through anything without Him! I'm glad He has a plan even when I don't have a clue, and His love is what I try to keep at the center of my life, because I know it's the only thing that lasts.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
5 years...goodness, my babies will be in school for a couple of years and I'm not really sure of the rest! haha I just hope to be right where God wants me to be and in the center of His will, because that's the only place where true peace is. I would love to eventually get a professional CD put together of all the songs I've written, maybe one day! Praying for God's direction with that! :-)

What's your greatest post-BC accomplishment?
I would have to say that I married my best friend and have given birth not just once, but TWICE to two beautiful and amazing little girlies that hold my heart and are the main reason I try so hard at everything I do, because they are my love and life! 

What's your fondest post-BC memory?
The day I married my husband is a day I will never forget! We ran off to Gatlinburg, TN with just a few family and friends, and that is where our amazing journey began. :-) I remember thinking that I would never get married or that no one wanted to be with me, and going through all the crazy emotions and feelings of constantly feeling that I need to be perfect or change something about myself to make me "better", better enough to be with someone. My husband truly loves me for ME and I can be myself, good and bad, pretty and ugly, happy and in despair, he loves me, BECAUSE I'm me!! How great is that feeling??! I pray everyone can experience this kind of love. We still have good and bad days, but when you find someone who will love you and you them even if it's not all hunky dory all the time, that's the love you want to hold onto and never let go! :-)

If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything?
I know I wouldn't want to change anything, because I know every experience, moment, etc. made me into who I am today. I would, however, LOVE to tell my college self that it will all be okay and to try and enjoy every moment even more, because those were some good 'ole days back in the Field of Blue, and that little place will forever hold a place in my heart!

Thanks again to Sarah Clevenger for participating in this week's Remembering Bluefield post! Come back next week to find out who else has been willing to take this little trip down memory lane!