Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Apologies

I feel the need to apologize to the 3 or 4 of you who look forward to reading something new on Carp Dime every single day. When I got to work this morning I realized that I forgot to write something yesterday. It's the first time I've missed a day since 2013 began. My bad, guys. My bad.

In my defense, it's the last week of school and things are incredibly hectic. There is so much work to be done between now and the last day (which is tomorrow). It isn't anything that can't be done and I'm not so stressed out that I'm going crazy or anything. At least, no crazier than usual.

But all that work has left little time for creativity in my free time. It's also left little time for free time. I'm glad to say that, after 11:30 tomorrow morning, free time is something I'll have in abundance for the next 2 weeks. It will be glorious.

As it is, I have very little to share today. But I will share a short anecdote from over the weekend.

I had lunch with the Most Awesome Person I Know and her family, a crew I don't get to see too often these days, since we live in different states now. Her oldest daughter said something that nearly made me choke on my club sandwich.

While talking about things to do in Roanoke while they were in town visiting, the preteen girl mentioned, in hushed tones, that there was a Lesbian Festival happening in town. While attempting not to spit out my food at the mention of the Lesbian Festival, I realized exactly what she was talking about. I knew because, and this may show my maturity level, I thought about making the same sort of pun earlier in the day while riding around town with my mom.

There was no Lesbian Festival in Roanoke this weekend. It's next weekend. And it's actually a Lebanese Festival. An easy mistake to make if one isn't closely looking at the signs plastered all over town. At quick glance, a person could easily transpose some letters and see another word. Like Lesbian.

So... yeah... I ended up not cracking that particular joke in mom's car Saturday morning. It was funnier coming from a kid anyway. I can't promise that you'll get something new from me tomorrow. But it is a half day at school, so it could happen.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Question of the Week: Try

Which is worse, failing or never trying?

Never trying is definitely worse. After all, if you don't try, you don't know if you'll have failed or succeeded. And seeing as how there's roughly a 50/50 chance of either outcome, I say go for it.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Luscious

"This isn't really my kind of place!" yelled Leigh over the noise of the crowd.

Christine just shook her head. "That's why we're here! Time for you to get out more!"

Leigh sat at the bar and absentmindedly stirred her drink. Exams were over and Christine had talked her into going out to celebrate the end of another semester. She was okay with celebrating. She just wasn't sure how she was talked into walking into a place called Luscious. Who names a bar Luscious? It sounds like the name of a strip joint. Thankfully, Leigh looked around and saw that it wasn't that kind of establishment.

"I'm gonna try to get us a table!" Christine yelled. Leigh just waved her off as she took a sip of her Seven & Seven.

Great, she thought, now I'm sitting here alone. How long 'til some drunk guy delivers a cheesy pick up line?

"Excuse me, do you have a Band-Aid?" asked a random frat guy.

Three seconds. "I sure don't, sport!"

"That's a shame. I skinned my knee when I fell for you over there," the guy said, delivering the end of his pick up line.

"Sounds like you're kind of a klutz. Maybe you should cut yourself off from the alcohol for the night."

Frat Guy faked a laugh. "Sorry, I know that was kind of lame. Can I make it up to you? Buy you a drink?"

Leigh sighed, "Already got one, sport. Sure you didn't hit your head when you fell for me? You're kind of having a hard time paying attention to your surroundings."

She could tell that the Frat Guy was getting frustrated. Apparently he was just used to girls dropping everything in their lives whenever he came on to them. Not this girl.

"Come on, Leigh!" Christine shouted from a few feet away, much to Leigh's relief.

"Better luck next time!" Leigh yelled to Frat Guy as she grabbed her drink and walked over to Christine's empty table.

She sat down and looked at Christine, who rolled her eyes at her friend. Leigh was the one who should have been rolling her eyes. She knew what Christine was thinking. A good looking guy was hitting on her and she rejected him flat out. Multiple times. "Don't say it," said Leigh.

"Say what?" Christine asked.

"You know what."

"I'm not saying anything," she said as she looked over at Frat Guy, who looked as if he was ready to pounce on more vulnerable prey.

Leigh got Christine's attention. "I don't think I'm gonna stay much longer. You know I hate these kinds of places."

"Come on!"

"I'm serious. It's loud, it's populated by morons and I'm pretty sure I've got a massive headache coming on."

"All right," Christine said, "Let's go."

Leigh sighed again. "You don't have to go. Stay. Have fun. Just be careful around Frat Guy up there."

"I'm not staying here by myself, are you crazy?"

"Good girl." Leigh said as she and Christine got up, closed their bar tabs, then made their way to the exit. "So on the list of places to hang out in town, we can remove Luscious, right?"

"Absolutely."

Out of My League

Earlier tonight, as I was on my break at work, I heard a song being played over the store's speakers. Honestly, I didn't hear the whole thing and I don't know what it was about. I'd never heard the song before and I have no idea who sang it. But one line talked about a girl who was out of the singer's league. That kind of got me thinking.

After thinking for a bit, I posted a status update on Facebook that received a number of jeers in the form of comments from friends and family members. What was this awful thing that I said? What could have warranted 14 derisive comments?

"I've just about decided that I'll probably consider any woman worth pursuing to be out of my league."

After getting so many negative comments on that one little status update, I feel the need to clarify what I said. I look at it and I realize why so many people had an issue with what I posted. I'm sure it sounds like I'm putting myself down or that I'm lacking self esteem or self confidence or some other self thing. That's really not the case, kids.

Don't worry. Self esteem is fully intact.

Now that that's settled, I think we can all agree that I'm kind of awesome, right? The way I see it, whomever I wind up with should probably be equally awesome. I don't want, nor do I think I should, settle for someone who is less than amazing. Well, someone who's at least amazing in my eyes anyway.

When I say I'll consider her out of my league, I mean that I'll probably see her in a better light than the one I shed on myself. Again, that's not because I think less of myself. I just know that I'm going to want to place the love of my life on a pedestal. I'm going to want to constantly chase after her. I'm going to want to constantly try to impress her. Someone that I think of as out of my league will be someone that will push me to be a better person. Personally, I don't think that's a bad thing.

So, to those of you who thought that I was tearing myself down, I hope this has shown you that that's really not a problem. Good night everybody.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things: End of School Year Edition

Throughout this school year, I've posted a number of Facebook status updates which were not actually status updates at all. Instead, they were quotes from the kids I work with at the elementary school on a daily basis. Some of them are a priceless kind of hilarious. Others are probably only funny to me and the teachers that spend hours upon hours with these children. They're the quotes that are "you had to be there" kind of funny. Hopefully, you'll at least find some of these quotes from children to be slightly funny. If you don't, at least you can look forward to summer. I know I am.

2nd grader's thoughts on relationships: "I ain't never gettin' married. I can't deal with girls."

Question asked by a 1st grader: "Did you go to school when you were little?"
My reply: "No, I was born a grown-up."

Teacher: "Two things you don't talk about at dinner, politics and...?"
7th grader: "Your favorite huntin' spot!"

1st grader's reaction to a surprise fire drill: "That scared the mother nature out of me!"

Random 1st grade quote #1: "Sometimes I smell marshmallows when no one's cooking them."

Random 1st grade quote #2: "Your breath smells like sandwiches... mustard sandwiches."

Random 1st grade quote #3: "I can suck it up with the air in my mouth."

Kindergartener's thoughts on feeling sick: "I done vomigated four times!"

1st grader on the study of words: "Trip has 3 syllables." I think that depends on how far south you live.

Random 1st grade quote #4: "My brother said when it rains God is crying." His brother might be Jack Handey.

Teacher: "New game for work stations today. I think Carla already played it yesterday."
Carla: "Me too! I played it too!"
Teacher: "That makes sense. Since you're Carla."

While watching a scene following the abolition of slavery in an animated film about the life of Abraham Lincoln, a 1st grader remarked: "They're singing 'FREEDOM,' not 'free ball!'"

Random Kindergarten quote: "They melt old cans so they can make new cans. Then they fill them with new Dr. Pepper!"

Teacher (to student): "Are you okay?"
Student: "Yeah."
Teacher (to me): "'Cause you look like you want to murder someone."
Me: "No, that's just his face."

When asked to define a pronoun, a 2nd grader responded: "Someone who's really good at nouns."

Random 1st grade quote #5: "I'm an Exodus"
Upon hearing this, the teacher and I both looked at each other, confused. The girl then explained that she could write with both hands. So, she was trying to say she was ambidextrous. Totally made sense then.

So those are the decent ones. With only 2.5 days left in the school year, I'm not sure that there will be too many more funny quotes from the kids. Also, I should mention that there were more than a few quotes throughout the year that involved cuss words, or, more accurately, the misuse of cuss words. Those instances were hilarious, but I do try to keep the blog family friendly. Have a great summer!

Things I've Learned While Working Retail

I've been back in the world of retail for several months now. It's a dirty job, but it's a necessity. Over the last few months, I've made some observations. I'm sure there are more observations that will be made as I continue with that part time gig, but here's what I've got so far...
  • I'm very good at cleaning mirrors - More often than not, I'm working in the fitting room. I figure they've put me back there because of my excellent people skills. Whatever the reason, the person that closes the fitting room is responsible for cleaning up. That includes the bathrooms. And that's a completely different category of observations, which may or may not be covered in this post. But if you've ever been in a fitting room, you're probably aware that there are a lot of mirrors. And those mirrors get kind of smudged. So I'll clean those things every so often. And I've gotten really good at making sure they're clean. By the time I'm done, they're so clean, you can see your face in them.
  • 83% of all customers take their clothes off inside-out - That percentage may not be entirely accurate. But since 74% of all statistics are made up on the spot, I'm pretty sure I can get away with it for an insignificant blog post. My number has to be close, though. If I had a nickel for every time I had to fold or re-hang an article of clothing that has been turned inside-out, I wouldn't need a second job. As many people that do this, I'm a little surprised that we don't see people walking around in public with their clothes on inside-out. America, is it really so difficult to make sure the clothes you've tried on but are not buying are turned the right way? Who am I asking? Of course it's so difficult.
  • Women are slobs - Before you ladies grab your torches and pitchforks, hear me out. I've spent a great deal of my life listening to a number of women in my life complain that men, in general, are slobs. I won't necessarily deny that. I mean, yes, it's a broad generalization that isn't always true 100% of the time. And so is the statement I just made. But to the women of the world who believe that men hold the monopoly on sloppiness, I invite you to visit my store. Peruse the women's denim wall. Take a stroll through women's clearance. Compare the ladies' restroom with the men's room. Once you've done that, you may not complain so much about the fellas in your lives.
  • Stupidity is a familial trait - I know that sounds incredibly mean. But I find it to be a relief. If it's a hereditary thing, it means that stupidity isn't contagious. Which is fantastic, because that means I can't catch it like a communicable disease while working in the fitting room. For years I've said that if stupidity was a fatal disease, it would be the number one killer in America. At least it isn't airborne. At the moment, I can't think of anything specific that has happened. Follow me on Facebook if you want nearly live updates when something epically stupid occurs. It won't be really live, since I'm not supposed to have my phone on me when I'm working. But once my shift ends, look out.
  • Children who are often adorable become evil when turned loose in a public place - I love kids. I wouldn't keep my day job if I didn't. At school, the kids are cute and inquisitive (most of the time). When they're in the care of their parents in a public place, something happens to them. They become loud, obnoxious and abrasive. And I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to have soccer balls and footballs sitting out for the kids to get their hands on in our store. I've been hit by no fewer than 5 of those soccer balls. Again, this is a broad generalization, but it covers a lot of the kids that come in through those doors. I do like the parents who aren't under the impression that a night out at the clothing store is an invitation to let their children run free with no regard for anyone else in the world or the property of the store.
  • People have no concept of time - This is another rant about parenting, for the most part. So many people come into the store after 9pm. And they come in dragging 3-year-olds with them. I'm not too hip to the parenting scene and I don't know what a good "bedtime" for a 3-year-old might be. But I'm pretty sure it's not 10:30pm, which is what time it must be by the time you spend an hour looking around the store and throwing clothes on the floor in women's clearance and then make the drive back to your home and wrestle your toddler into bed. You know why your kid is fighting you on going to bed? Because she's wired. You kept her out really late and now she doesn't want to go to sleep. She wants to watch Conan.
That's what I've learned while working retail. I'm sure there are a number of readers out there who have worked in retail at some point in your lives. I'm sure there are some who still do work in retail. What have you learned? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

I'm not sure that I would consider myself a Trekkie. Or a Trekker. I don't know which term is supposed to be derogatory. Either way, I don't put myself in that people group.

I will admit to being a sci-fi junky. I'm not too discriminating when it comes to science fiction entertainment. There are some franchises that I hesitate to get into, just because it feels exhausting to invest in brand new fictional realities. Though I recently (finally) sat through the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series and am now getting into the Doctor Who phenomenon.

But I was kind of raised on Star Trek. Dad was a big fan. I'd probably call him a Trekkie. Or a Trekker. Whatever. Though he never dressed like a Klingon to go to a convention, which might be a defining characteristic of the Trekkie/Trekker.

Before Dad passed away, he and I saw ever Star Trek film that was released in theaters. Well, from the fourth one on. I wasn't born when the first one came out and was far too young to see Wrath of Khan or Search for Spock when they were in theaters.

So now, every new Star Trek movie that comes out, I go to see in memory of Dad. He would have absolutely loved the reboot that came out in 2009. And I think he would have loved Into Darkness. By the way, from here on in, there be spoilers. You have been warned. If you just want to know what I thought of the movie without being spoiled, here it is: it was pretty much awesome. Now, you non-spoiler people, go away.

Everyone who's left, I expect you've either seen the new Trek or are ready to be spoiled on some key plot points.

I'm not sure exactly how much of the movie ended up being a huge surprise to fans anyway. There had been rumors since they rebooted the film series that the sequel would feature the classic Trek villain Khan. JJ Abrams did his best to keep details of the film on lock down. I think he did a pretty good job. Or maybe I purposely avoided possible spoilers on the internet over the last couple years. Still, the rumor was a pretty strong one.

Turns out, it wasn't just a rumor. Sure, they gave Benedict Cumberbatch's character an assumed identity, but about halfway through the movie, he admits that he is, in fact, Khan Noonien Singh. But, as it turns out, while Khan is still not a good guy, he's not the film's main villain. That honor goes to Admiral Marcus, played by Robocop. I mean Peter Weller. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Into Darkness throws the audience right into some action from the start. The crew of the Enterprise is on a mission to study a pre-warp society. Actually, they're pre-industrial as well. But while surveying the planet, they discover that a massive volcano is about the erupt, which would annihilate all life on said planet. And so, in a severe breach of the prime directive, they decide to stop the volcano from erupting. This causes all kinds of problems when Kirk and Spock return to Starfleet Headquarters. Kirk is demoted, Spock is transferred to a different ship. Great way to start the movie, right?

Meanwhile, this guy who's not supposed to be Khan manipulates someone in Starfleet Intelligence, making him become a suicide bomber at a secret installation in London. When the powers that be at Starfleet gather to discuss the bombing, Not Khan attacks and kills Admiral Pike, who has been like a father to Kirk. Understandably, Kirk is ready for some revenge. Admiral Marcus recognizes this and sends Kirk after Not Khan, who has decided to hide out on Kronos, the Klingon homeworld.

It's funny, I was wondering when we'd be introduced to the Klingons in this alternate Star Trek reality. They have a different kind of look that I'm still not too sure about, but maybe it works. Kirk, Spock and Uhura arrive in an uninhabited area of the planet where Not Khan is supposedly hiding out. They're met by a pretty aggressive squadron of Klingon warriors who, at this point in Federation history, do not get along with humans. A fight breaks out and Not Khan ends up saving our heroes. Then he gives himself up and is placed under arrest and returned to Enterprise.

But why would he do that? Because Spock mentioned the number of powerful torpedoes that were aimed right at his location. 72. What does that number mean? Turns out it's the number of cryogenically frozen people who represent Khan's crew. Oh, yeah, Not Khan admits that he's Khan.

See, when Vulcan was destroyed in the last movie, Admiral Marcus did a deep space search for the SS Botany Bay, Khan's cryo-ship. Marcus thawed Khan in order to use him as a tactician. Marcus believed that a war with the Klingons was coming and he wanted to be prepared. When Khan became a loose cannon, Marcus wanted to clean up the mess. And he wanted to use Captain Kirk to do that for him. And then he planned to destroy Enterprise and her crew. Real stand up guy, Admiral Marcus.

I loved this movie. As a fan of Wrath of Khan (which I consider the best of the original cast's films), I was excited to see all the throw backs and Easter eggs that were thrown into the movie. Alice Eve joins the cast as Carol Marcus. If you saw Wrath of Khan, you'd recognize her as a former flame of Kirk's, and the mother of his son. Obviously, these are younger, alternate versions of the characters we knew, but it's nice to see the possible connection between these characters beginning to form. Maybe they'll explore that further in the next sequel. Which is almost certain to happen.

And you know how William Shatner screamed "KHAAAAAAN!!!" when Khan stole the Genesis device and left him marooned underground? We got that scream again. But this time, it didn't come from Kirk. It came from Spock, who showed a surprising amount of emotion at the climax of the film. It was kind of touching. I nearly cried. But, unlike the Vulcan, I was able to contain my emotions.

So yeah, this was a really good movie. I'd go see it again if I thought I could afford it. If you liked the last Star Trek, you'll love this one. I definitely think it's better than the last one.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Prayers for Oklahoma

Thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by the disastrous tornado that has devastated Oklahoma. Below is a video that shows us that not all has been lost. I dare you not to cry.



If you are interested in helping with disaster relief, here is a link that can point you in the right direction.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Question of the Week: War

What is important enough to go to war over?
Well, there's the obvious: foreign oil control, retaliation for terrorist attacks, Great Depression, global domination. Truth is, anyone can justify just about any reason to go to war. The big historical ones are usually over territory expansion or religious differences. The Trojan War was started for the love of a woman. Not to get political, but I totally would have backed up the early colonials who wanted their freedom from Britain. And I thought it was a good idea to go after al Qaeda after 9/11. However, I did not agree with shifting our focus to Iraq so we could take out Hussein. I'm not saying he was a decent dictator, I'm just saying that the US military should not be the world's police. Anyway, I think it's important to ask, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Moves

We moved a lot when I was a kid. No, I wasn't an army brat. Dad just had this nomadic streak about him. The longest amount of time we ever spent in one place was 18 months. That was because of a recession and we couldn't afford to move. Or so I was told. I think that, deep down, Dad really just liked the small town feel that he got from living in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

But, eventually, we moved on from there too. "Can't be tied down," Dad would say to me and my brother.

"But what about our friends?" I would ask, the hint of a whine in my voice.

"That's what Facebook is for!" he would say impatiently as he started up the car and we hauled our few belongings to our next destination. Well, I'm sure that's what he would have said if Facebook had existed in 1994 when I was ten years old. It didn't. At that point, I don't think I even knew what email was. I didn't make a lot of friends in those days.

I was born in the fall of 1984. I was the second of two boys and, unfortunately, Mom died in childbirth. I know, that sounds really sad. I'm sure I'd be a lot more sad to talk about it if I actually had known her. My brother, who was three at the time of my birth, doesn't remember much about her either. He remembers her as being warm and caring, which I'm sure most toddlers think about their mothers. For a while I think he hated me after I was born. He probably blamed me for killing her. He even brings it up every now and then when he wants to give me a good time. Brothers, am I right?

Looking back, I'm pretty sure that's the real reason Dad kept us moving all those years. If he stayed still too long, he'd be forced to remember Mom. Moving from place to place was his way of dealing with his grief. Or, and this is probably more accurate, it was his way of not dealing with his grief.

Six months after I was born, we moved from my hometown of Baltimore to Charleston, West Virginia. Initially, I think he planned to be there for a while. In fact, he may have meant to raise us both all the way to adulthood in West Virginia, because he had family there that could help him out. It was hard for him to suddenly be a single father. Turned out, his sister (my aunt) was pretty much worthless when it came to helping to take care of two small children. I want to say she dropped my brother on his head, which is what's wrong with him to this day. But the story may actually go that she dropped me on my head, which is what's wrong with me to this day. I guess we'll never really know. Some things are just lost to us in legend.

From Charleston, we went to Athens, Ohio. I have no memory of that town. We left there before I turned 2. Over the course of the following 10 years, the three of us went to Indianapolis, St. Louis, back to Charleston for another three months, Louisville, Myrtle Beach, and Wake Forest.

As much as I liked living at the beach, I liked Wake Forest even more. Probably because we were there for more than a year and I actually got to spend time making friends. I was in a single school for an entire school year for the first time in my life. It was the only time in my life that I experienced the beginning and ending of school with one teacher.

After Wake Forest, we moved to Richmond for a while. Dad decided that was too close to Baltimore. So then he took us to Phoenix. That was our most extreme move. After that, our homes were spread out across the western half of the United States. If only he'd have moved us to Hawaii at some point. I'm sure that would have been nice. Not the nice that tourists get to see while they're hanging out on white sand beaches. But, still, it's an island in the middle of the Pacific. But we couldn't drive the station wagon all the way to Hawaii. Not a possibility.

Santa Fe was a possibility. So were San Diego, San Francisco, Olympia and Billings. I'm tired of moving. I'm in college now at the University of Maryland. Dad won't visit me here. Too close to Baltimore. Maybe that's why I'm here, because I knew he wouldn't show up. I might regret that decision if I decide I want him at my graduation, but at the moment, I'm okay with it. I should probably feel bad about resenting him for making us move around so much my whole life. But, hey, that's what therapy's for, right?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Complimentary

I'm never really sure how to take compliments. I'm really quiet and reserved. While I like to pretend that I enjoy being in the spotlight from time to time, I really don't like to receive attention when I do something right or do the right thing. To me, it just seems that doing what's asked of you, or even going above and beyond, should be its own reward. I get embarrassed when someone feels it's necessary to heap praises on me when I really feel like I haven't done anything to merit that kind of attention. At the same time, I am extremely appreciative when people pay me a compliment. Even if I don't feel that I deserve it, I know that such words often come from a thoughtful and caring kind of place. Unless the compliment is from a fake kind of person. But I'm pretty careful not to surround myself with fake people. Been there, done that.

I've received a number of compliments in my life. After recently receiving a high compliment from a friend I met through church, I've decided to rank the top 3 compliments that I've been paid over the years. Here they are, in specific order. That's the order of how I've ranked them, not the order in which they were received. I just wanted to clarify that...
  1. "You remind me of your father." I realize that this statement may not be a compliment for everyone who receives it. I consider it a compliment because my Dad was awesome. Some kids I've known will probably hear that someday and think, "Man, my dad was strung out on meth for the first six years of my life..." I don't say that to be morbidly funny. It's a sad fact in a lot of kids' lives. And it may not just be meth that's a problem. There are a lot of bad guys out there who have procreated. But I digress. My father was a great guy. In fact, I'm convinced that I picked up the best traits of both my parents. I'm not saying that makes me a perfect person. Far from it. I just got a pretty good head start with the personality they passed on to me.
  2. "You say more funny things in a day than I say in a month." This one came from the lips of a girl I go to church with. We had gathered at a mutual friend's home for a frank discussion about Islam and how Christians can cultivate relationships with our Muslim neighbors. Fascinating conversation, by the way. I don't remember what I said while we were standing around before we got to the evening's topic, but whatever it was must have been kind of hilarious. For someone to kind of say, "You're the funniest person in the room," it must have been funny. (Yes, I realize she didn't actually say I was the funniest person in the room, I just assumed it was implied. I also assume it was implied that I'm the funniest person in just about any room. I say "just about" because it could happen someday that I'll find myself in a room with Bill Cosby and Robin Williams, at which point, it would be a complete toss up.)
  3. "You are so adorable." I'll admit, I haven't heard this one since I was a small child. I take that back, I have heard it recently. But it was used in the past tense. As in, "You were so adorable." Were? What's that supposed to mean? By using the past tense, you're kind of saying that I'm not adorable anymore. I find that to be mildly offensive. Hey, I may not turn heads when I walk down the street; I may blend in with the wallpaper when I find myself in awkward social situations; I may purposely camouflage myself so that no one can see me when I get overly anxious around people I don't know. But I'll have you know, I am a freakin' adorable wallflower.
So... Those are my top three. What kind of compliments have you received? Let me know in the comments below!

Oh, and I should also mention that, while I'm not very good at accepting a compliment, I'm even worse at taking criticism. So if you have a problem with anything I said in the above paragraphs, keep it to yourself. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Remembering Bluefield: Brandi DeBusk Powers

Welcome back to another installment of Remembering Bluefield. This week we flashback with Brandi, who takes us all the way back to 2006. A magical time in Bluefield College history. I actually can't back that up. I wasn't in Bluefield in 2006. If any magic happened, we'll have to rely on Brandi to tell us about it. So the floor is now hers.



Name:
Brandi DeBusk Powers

What year did you graduate?
2006

What degree did you earn?
BA in Christian Studies

What drew you to Bluefield College?
It is a small town college and I am a small town girl so I felt at home there.

What kept you there?
I stayed because of the friends that I had made, but also just the sense of community and an overwhelming feeling that it was the place where I belonged. It was easy to become involved in campus life through SUB and BCM as well as within each major.

Is there a class that changed your life? If so, what?
I am not sure that there was one class that changed my life, but rather the experience of all of the classes within the Christian Studies Department. Each one gave me new insight to God and to the Bible. I was drawn to place that was beyond where I began my journey as a Christian and was encouraged to cultivate my faith and belief so that it was mine and I could express that faith as my own and not someone else's.

What teacher had the biggest impact on you? Why?
There were two teachers that had the biggest impact on me. First, Dr. Crawford. He pushed all of his students to be more and to know more than they ever thought they could. He also taught me Hebrew and how to pronounce some really good Hebrew gutterals with just the right amount of spit. Mr. Moxley also impcted me greatly. He helped me to discover where God was leading me in life. Mr. Moxley encouraged, inspired and invested in his students and he cultivated them into his peers.

Did you live on campus or commute?
I lived on campus.

Who were your roommates?
My first year I roomed with Kim Jeter and Miranda Herdman. My sophomore year I roomed with Erin Losey Moehlen, Junior year Maggie Michael Lavoie, and Senior year with Lisa Robinson Yost.

Share an epic roommate story (if you have one).
I'm not sure if any of our stories are epic! But Lisa Robinson Yost and I hid a toaster in our room. I also did that with Erin Losey Moehlen. Maggie Michael Lavoie and I once watched the RAs catch someone in the boys room of New Hall after hours. Kris Hardy and Mike Lavoie trapped them on either side of the dorm. I was pretty boring.

What's your most cherished Bluefield College memory?
I have so many great memories so it is hard to choose just one. Mud Pig Day is always one that sticks out because it is part of a larger tradition on campus. But there was also this time that Andy Berry, Matthew Brooks, Erin Losey Moehlen and I went to David Taylor's house really late at night and placed post-its all over his car trying to peg him as one of the Secret Seven. The funny part is, D.T.'s neighbor had a security camera outside and it caught the whole thing and we were busted the next day.

Where are you now?
I am the Children's Minister at Inman First Baptist Church, Inman, SC.

What are you doing?
I am a part-time Children's Minister and a full-time Mom.

Does that mean you're using your degree?
I use my degree every day.

Are you where you pictured yourself being when you were in college?
No, I pictured myself out on some mission field in the middle of nowhere.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
At Inman First Baptist still working as a Children's Minister and branching out to include some other ministries as well.

What's your greatest post-BC accomplishment?
I completed my MDIV from Gardner-Webb University, got married, have been ordained, but my greatest accomplishment is raising my son Joel.

What's your fondest post-BC memory?
My fondest post-BC memory is my former church, First Baptist Forest City, NC, asking if they could ordain me. It was such a special and high honor.

If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything?
I wouldn't change anything. All of the friends I made and the experiences I had, have all led me to where I am now and have helped to shape me. Without all of it, I would be a completely different person. It all started at Bluefield College.




Thank you, Brandi, for participating in this week's question and answer session. Come back next week, when I will have (hopefully) talked another BC alum to sit in the hot seat!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Am a Seed

I spend a lot of time sitting in a classroom full of first graders. Because of this fact, I find myself relearning a lot of things I've known for nearly 30 years. Actually, more often than not, I find myself realizing that a lot of the things I know, which I've assumed for years was knowledge I was born with, was in fact taught to me by a teacher many years ago. Anyway, week after week, the kids are given writing assignments to help them learn to think creatively. Creativity is not an easy thing to teach, especially if a kid is feeling particularly lazy about education in general. But that's a topic for another day. Earlier this week, the kids were given the task of writing about what it would be like to be a seed. They had to come up with a type of seed, how it travels and gets planted and what it might experience in that journey. So I got to thinking about what I could come up with as a writer. Here's what I've got...

I'm just a pumpkin seed. It's not a glamorous life, I know. People only get excited about pumpkins in the fall. But I guess it's no different for a candy cane, receiving attention only at Christmas time. Like I said, my life isn't glamorous. I can't say it's a thrill to be a pumpkin seed. But I'll tell you my story anyway.

I was liberated from my mother (a pumpkin) by an old woman in a kitchen. I knew nothing of the world when I emerged from my mother's dark shell. Imagine my surprise when her stem was cut off and light poured in. For the first time in my short life, I saw that my soft surroundings were a bright orange. The old woman scooped me out, along with my brothers and sisters, separating us from my mother's insides. It was pretty morbid, but I've since learned, that's how things are. It was just her time. I didn't know her very well, so I didn't mourn very long.

Once we, the seeds, were cleaned up, the old woman put us in a bag and set us to the side. It was nice to be surrounded by family, but we didn't have mouths, so it's not as if we could pass the time by speaking to each other. I really have no idea how much time passed, but eventually, we were moved. The next change came when an old man took us out of the bag and tossed us into the dirt. I didn't have a lot of time to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, but it was nice. Before I knew it, I was covered over with dirt, buried alive. I then realized that I may be cursed to spend a great deal of my life in the dark.

I couldn't accept that. I wanted to break free from my earthen prison. Soon, that's exactly what I did. I burst out of my shell, no longer content with being a seed. I worked my way up through the soil. I wanted to see the sun again. I wanted to feel the wind. As a vine, I was free to do just that. Eventually I became long enough to break the surface and I could feel the warmth of that glorious sunlight. It was amazing.

Time continued to pass. I continued to grow. Eventually, I grew my own fruit. I became my own pumpkin. If mother could see me now. I know I said I didn't really know her, but I'm sure she'd have been proud of her baby seed. I was getting pretty big. As a pumpkin, however, I couldn't see anything. No eyes. Not that I had eyes as a seed or as a vine. But the perception of a pumpkin is different than it was in those other stages of my life. Just take my word for it, okay?

It wasn't long before the old man came along and cut me from the vine that connected me to the earth. I was carried, along with a number of other pumpkins, to the back of a pick-up truck. From there, I was taken to a market. Some stranger picked me up, handed over some strange paper to the old man, then took me home. I had been adopted. I was so excited.

I found myself in a kitchen, very similar to the one in which I was born. I was feeling really nostalgic. Again, I couldn't see it, it was just a feeling I had. It felt good. Until I felt the knife dig into my top. I was opened up, just like my mother had been. I had been so cold and uncaring when this had happened to mom. Now that I was going through it, I realized that my time had also come. There would be no one to mourn me.

I could feel something digging around inside me, scooping everything out of me. I felt so empty. I felt the sharp edge of the knife once more. This time, shapes were being cut into my side. Eyes! I had eyes for the first time! I could see clearly. I had been right, I was in a kitchen. I could see my own guts lying on a counter. Beside the pieces of me, I could see seeds. I had children of my own. I wondered if they would be planted, as I had been. Would they have a chance to grow into pumpkins themselves?

I wasn't just given eyes. I had been given a nose and a mouth. But I couldn't speak. I wish I'd been able to. Sure would have been fun to scare the woman who had gutted me. All I could do was sit and watch. I saw her put my offspring on a flat piece of metal. Then she placed that inside a large metal box. I could feel heat radiating from the box when she opened it up. Then it hit me, she was roasting the seeds! I wanted to shout out, but I couldn't. Leave my children alone, you monster! She cooked them before they even had a chance at life.

I was miserable. With my new nose, I could smell the seeds as they roasted. I wanted to leave this kitchen. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long. I was carried outside and placed on a porch. From there, I watched days pass. It was boring. Until tonight, when I felt something placed inside me. It's warm and feels as if I'm glowing. Tonight, my view of that boring yard has become a lot more exciting. I've seen dozens of children, each dressed more strangely than the last. I can tell it's gotten late. I'm still glowing, but the people inside the house have turned off their lights.

This is strange, though. Someone's coming into the yard. Wait, why are they approaching me? They're older than the kids I've seen tonight. They're dressed in normal attire. I'm being picked up! I want to cry out for help, but I can't! I'm being lifted over someone's head! I'm scared! I don't like heights! No! Don't do this! I'm being thro--

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Against the Wind

Have you looked outside today? Actually, I hope you've been outside today. 'Cause it's gorgeous out there. I'm missing out. I managed to pick up some stomach virus that's been floating around the school for the last couple weeks. Fun times. I'll spare you the details. Instead, you're here to read about the picnic I attended on Sunday.

It sounds boring when I say it like that. So I'll try again. You're here to read about the epic gathering of friends where we enjoyed the edibles in an outdoor setting! Is that better?

Weather's been a little weird this year. Spring never really came. I mean, we may have had a taste of it here and there. But winter really stuck around for a long time. For example (and this has nothing to do with the picnic) I woke up yesterday to a temperature of 34 degrees outside my apartment. Today, the high is 84. So we had a long winter then shifted straight into summer. Spring is supposed to act as a convenient segue. Don't think we got that.

Sunday, the small group I'm part of through church had an end of semester picnic. Not sure if that's the reason we actually had a picnic. Could have just been because we're a group of individuals who like to hang out together and enjoy good conversation while facing down 65 mile an hour winds.

Via
Oh, yeah, I didn't mention that part. It was crazy windy. And the wind was cold. It felt really good outside when the air was still. We moved one of the picnic tables out of the shelter and into the sunlight to help us stay warm. It worked when the wind didn't blow.

I was observing a lot of the world around me. At one point, I saw a bird flying into the wind and it wasn't moving. It was as if the bird was just floating in midair. At the time, I was looking for something to write about on the blog. And there you have it.

Are you tired of hearing me say that I love my new church? I guess I can't call it my new church anymore, since I've been going there for five months. Just, don't get tired of it, okay? Embrace it. I love the church and the people I've met through it. Thursday, the night my small group meets, has pretty much become my favorite night of the week.

Yes, I enjoy getting together to talk about what we've been reading in our Read the Bible in a Year curriculum. But I also enjoy the conversations that are just about as random as this blog post. Usually, those Thursday night conversations spawn ideas for blog posts. When we didn't meet last Thursday night, I was a little worried I'd have a day this week when I wouldn't have anything to write about.

Then the picnic happened. And I saw a bird flying against the wind. And blogging history was made!

Okay, this post was really, really random. But I don't feel good, guys. Cut me some slack. I've got some other stuff cooking. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stressed

I don't often feel stress these days. In the past, when I've found myself in jobs that I either didn't like or absolutely hated, I stressed out. It's easy to stress out when you don't enjoy what you're doing. But I haven't been able to say that for over a year. I love my job and I love working with kids.

Today, however, I can say that I'm stressed out.

As I said, I haven't felt stressed out in a very long time. It's kind of nice to coast through life without feeling the stress of it all. It's not that there haven't been stressing events that try to press down on me from time to time. I just choose not to let them get to me. For me, that's a relatively easy thing to do. I'm not a worrier.

I don't know where that particular personality trait comes from. I come from a long line of worriers. I've just never seen the point in it. I have clients who deal with anxiety on a regular basis and find myself quoting Van Wilder to them: "Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere."

Today, I'm a little worried. I've been traveling down life's road, not a care in the world. Suddenly, it's like life looked at me and said, "Who do you think you are? Not worrying about anything! I'll show you!"

"Not stressed out about the job you love? BAM! Here's a few piles of extra paperwork for you to deal with. Oh, and it has to all be completed, with guardian signatures, by the end of the school year. That's in two weeks, sucker!"

"Making it okay on that measly paycheck you call a salary? BAM! Here's an unexpected expense that you never saw coming!"

"How's your health? Feeling good? BAM! Here's a stomach virus that all the kids at school have been passing around! What, you thought you were too good for it? Thought you were gonna avoid being sick? HA!"

And then the stress piles on in multiple facets of life all at once. I don't write this to complain. Well, maybe I do. But I don't think complaining is something I do too often. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on that one. I just needed to vent a little.

I'm hopeful... prayerful... that I'll be able to sleep on it tonight. I'll wake up tomorrow morning renewed, refreshed and virus-free. I'll have a new perspective on all the things that are weighing me down under the circumstances and I'll find a way to rise above the circumstances.

I may not actually be virus-free by the time it's time to get ready for work. It's possible I'll need to wait for that thing to run its course. But you get what I'm saying. Rise above. Stress free. Don't worry. Be happy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Question of the Week: Work

Would you rather have less work or more work you actually enjoy doing?
I'm of two minds on this one. I've had a lot of jobs that I haven't liked. I've had a couple that I absolutely despised. Currently, I'm in a job that I love for the first time in my life. But even the job I love has aspects of the work that can be tedious. As much as I enjoy writing, the paperwork involved with my work is incredibly time consuming and irritating. As far as that part goes, I'd like less work. But when it comes to doing things with the kids, I'll take as much as you're willing to give. On a good day, that is. Honestly, if one of my clients is being a bad day, 2:35 can't arrive soon enough.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Popular

Grant was never popular during his high school years. So he should have been extremely suspicious near the end of his senior year when he was invited to a party by one of the beautiful people. But he was too excited to turn down the invitation.

It all seemed innocent enough. Becky had approached him while he grabbed some books from his locker. While Grant had trouble talking to most of the popular kids, Becky was different. She was a lot nicer, for one thing. She'd never given Grant a hard time for skipping two grades. She'd never made fun of him for being so small compared to all the other kids in the senior class. She'd always seemed to make an effort to let him feel like he was actually a part of the Jefferson High student body.

"Hey, Grant! What are you up to this weekend?" she asked in that excited, bubbly voice for which she was so well known.

Grant thought for a moment. The truth was, he planned to spend a lot of his time reading. He also expected to help his mother in the yard. He was sure it would be nothing compared to the excitement that Becky would experience. Instead of the truth, he just said, "Nothing much, why?"

"There's a party at Vanessa Duke's house. You know her, right?"

"Yeah," said Grant, hesitating. Of course he knew Vanessa Duke. Everyone knew Vanessa Duke. Head cheerleader. Student body president. Homecoming Queen. Yearbook editor. She was the high school girl that they made movies about. Not that Grant had a crush on her or anything. He knew that a girl like Vanessa was way out of his league, so he never wasted a second thinking about her.

Grant was confused. Why would anyone, even Becky Freeman, invite him to a party at the home of the most popular person in school?

"So does that mean you'll go? You can even ride with me if you want," Becky said, trying to sweeten the deal.

For some reason, Grant agreed to go. He even took Becky up on her offer to go with her. He didn't imagine that it was a date. He just assumed Becky was being nice again. Something the other popular kids wouldn't know how to be if someone paid them. Not that they needed the money.

Saturday night came and Grant was nervous. This was his first high school party. Being so close to graduation, it would likely be his only high school party. Maybe it would be good practice for all the college parties he was bound to not be invited to.

Becky picked him up at his house at 8, just like she said she would. "Nervous?" she asked as he climbed into the passenger seat.

"How can you tell?"

She didn't have to say anything. She just pointed to his quickly bouncing right knee. He put his hand on his leg to make it stop. Now he was a little embarrassed. A nice addition to his anxiety.

They arrived at the party and Becky took Grant by the arm to lead him through the crowd. Soon after they got to Vanessa's, Becky excused herself, promising she'd be right back. That was when everything went wrong.

Vanessa walked up to Grant and was sickeningly sweet to him. By this point, Grant wondered if he was dying of some disease and no one had told him about it. Vanessa had never been nice to him in his life. Here she was welcoming him to her home and offering him something to drink. Grant didn't want to act like he was suspicious of her behavior.

"Just go on into the kitchen, I'll be right behind you," said Vanessa, pointing Grant in the right direction.

Grant opened the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining room. By the time he realized a bucket of water had been propped above the door it was too late. He was drenched by five gallons of water. He turned back toward the crowded dining room in time to hear the laughter and see several of the athletic guys high-fiving each other.

A part of him wanted to laugh it off. He didn't want to show these jerks that they had gotten to him. But he wasn't feeling that brave. He pushed his way through the laughing crowd and yanked open the front door. He didn't bother to close it behind him as he stormed off into the night. Grant wanted to go home and that meant he had a long walk ahead of him.

He was fuming. As he walked, he plotted his revenge. He didn't have many ideas. How could he get back at the entire senior class? He had a thought. Something that might just work. But it would take a lot of work, and he didn't have a lot of time to prepare.

When Grant was three blocks away from Vanessa's house, he heard footsteps behind him. "Grant!" It was Becky's voice calling his name.

He turned on her, furious. "I thought you were different than those other guys! I never would have thought you'd set me up like that!"

"Grant, you have to believe me. I had no idea Vanessa and those guys were planning to mess with you like that," Becky said. Grant could tell she was sincere, but he wasn't willing to forgive her at the moment.

"Just leave me alone!" he yelled as he turned to walk away.

"At least let me take you back home," Becky offered.

Grant didn't stop. He didn't respond. He just kept walking.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Passionate Student

I would be remiss if I did not mention that this week was Teacher Appreciation Week. If you didn't take the opportunity to let your kids' teachers know you appreciate them, it's not too late. In fact, it's never too late or too soon to show your appreciation for what teachers do. There are a whole lot of teachers out there who work very hard to make sure children receive a quality education, despite the difficulties and pressures placed on them by the powers that be.

On the other hand, there are also some teachers out there who seem to do what they do just to get a paycheck. Why they remain teachers is beyond me. After all, the paycheck, as everyone knows, isn't that great when one is a teacher. This week, a video made the rounds featuring a high school student making an impassioned plea to a history teacher who seemingly doesn't teach, but only hands out information on photocopies, expecting the kids to basically teach themselves.

I don't know the whole story. I don't know if the accused teacher ever got a chance to defend herself. I'd like to hear her real response. In the actual video, she's very passive. There are two sides to every story. I would hope that the teacher in question generally does more than passively sit at her desk while her students read worksheets day after day. Whatever the case, the kid is passionate about his belief that a teacher should inspire the kids to want to learn. In my opinion, he's not wrong.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Remembering Bluefield: Gertie

Okay, Gertie isn't a Bluefield College graduate. But she should at least be an honorary alumna. She has been a fixture for Bluefield College students for many years. She's the beloved night shift waitress at the Omelet Stop in Princeton.

Back in the day, the restaurant was known as the Omelet Shoppe. During those college years, there weren't a lot of places to go in the town of Bluefield if you were hungry in the middle of the night. The short drive to Princeton provided us with the all-night diner. It was the perfect place to load up on grease and coffee and cigarette smoke at 3am. Come to think of it, it was the only place to load up on all those things.

Gertie was our favorite waitress. She saved my life once. I'll never forget that. She made such an impact on the kids that some of us created an intramural flag football team and named it in her honor. I say "we," but I really mean my friends. I wasn't allowed to play. I shouldn't have to remind anyone of this, but I'm a dropper.

A few years ago, I remember hearing that Gertie had passed away. I don't remember exactly where I heard this information or from whom. But I'm not the only one who remembers hearing that news. Mark and Brandon can back me up on that. There's even a Facebook group titled "Remembering Gertie."

As I was pulling out of the elementary school parking lot yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Brandon. He asked what I was doing last night. "Nothing, really. Probably just catch up on some reading."

"Wanna meet me and Mark at the Omelet Stop at 10?"

"In Princeton?"

"Yeah!"

I sighed. Loudly. "You know it's a school night, right?"

"Come on!"

When the offer to pay for my meal was put on the table, I had to agree to go out. How could I pass that up? A late night trip for some greasy food with two of my best friends in the world? Life's too short not to. Screw the Murtaugh List.

We sat and ordered our food. While we waited, we spent time catching up. Then a strange thing happened. A woman who looked eerily familiar walked into the restaurant. Brandon said, "That lady looks a lot like Gertie."

Mark and I both turned to look. Sure enough, the resemblance was uncanny. We were all stunned. As I said before, we'd all heard that she had died. How could she be sitting at the Omelet Stop before our eyes? I offered to walk by and attempt to accidentally bump into her, just to see if she had corporeal form. Maybe she was a ghost.

We weren't the only ones who could see her. She was having a conversation with a guy at the counter. For a while she disappeared. For a while, we thought we'd imagined that we had seen her. But we couldn't have. Brandon got a picture of her with his phone. She was real.
At the end of the night, she rang us up at the cash register. She spoke to us and had Gertie's same accent. She took our money, proving that she did, in fact, have corporeal form. She was no illusion and she was no ghost. If she recognized us, she didn't let on. But it sure was good to see her again.

Obviously, rumors of her death have been greatly exaggerated.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Single Guy and the Esteemed Panel

A couple weeks ago, the Single Guy got a phone call from one of the church leaders. Over the phone, he was presented with the opportunity to sit on a panel of experts for an open forum on relationships.

A note of explanation. The Single Guy, as has been mentioned a number of times, is part of a small group that meets at least once a week. That small group is part of a larger group within the church known as GAP (Graduates and Professionals). Once a month, the larger group gets together for various activities. The Single Guy has only been a part of this group and the church as a whole since January. So he's only been around for a few of these monthly get-togethers.

Back in January, before he got involved with the group, they met for a game night (?), which served as a kick off for the upcoming semester of small group Bible studies. In March, they joined up for a service project, hanging drywall and taking care of various other small construction projects at a local church with whom we have a strong relationship. April's big group centered around a cookie making competition, which in turn became a service project when the cookies were wrapped up and given out to graduate students at Virginia Tech.

This month, the big group would meet to hash out the details of what the word "relationship" was really all about. This is what the panel was being put together for. That panel would sit in front of an audience and answer questions about relationships, which had been submitted by GAP folks. The Single Guy was asked to represent the Singletons. When he was asked, he said he would have to think about it. But he knew right away that he would say yes.

The panel also consisted of Newlyweds, a Married with Children couple and a woman married to a non-believer. These people would represent a wide range of opinions and were willing to dispense the knowledge and wisdom that they had accumulated over the years. Not that the Single Guy really imagined that he had accumulated a great deal of wisdom. Nor did he consider himself to be anything close to an expert. But, being single for his entire life did give him the practical experience that may have been necessary to sit in the comfy seat at the front of the auditorium.

Okay, he hasn't been single his whole life. There was that short time during preschool when he was engaged to a girl named Angie. It wasn't meant to be. By the way, the "meant to be" mentality was sort of touched upon.

There were a lot of really good and really tough questions that were asked. The Single Guy felt a little out of his element. Not because he felt uncomfortable answering questions about being single. But he has little to no experience being in a relationship of his own. So he was a little afraid that his expertise would be called into question.

The night before the event, the Single Guy kind of had a bad dream about the whole thing. He envisioned himself sitting at a long table behind a microphone. He was answering questions intelligently and throwing in a handful of witty comments here and there. Things were going well. And then the audience participation began. A girl sitting in the front row stood up to address the panel. The Single Guy couldn't recognize her. She wasn't from his small group and he was fairly certain he'd never seen her at church before. Looking directly at the Single Guy, she accused him of being a fraud. She asked how he could possibly answer these questions when he's never been in a relationship. She asked how he could stand to sit there smugly in front of all those people when he's never even been beyond a second date. Then she called on her fellow audience members to revolt. They began launching rotten vegetables at the Single Guy. Thankfully, before the first tomato could strike his face, he woke up in a cold sweat. It had just been a dream.

The real life relationship panel went pretty well. At least, that's what he was told by the folks that ran the show. It's possible they were just being polite and sparing the Single Guy's feelings. But he's fairly certain these people wouldn't lie to him. As it turned out, he wasn't nearly as nervous as he thought he would be. Looking back, the whole event is kind of a blur for him. But it was fun. And he'd be more than happy to participate in a similar panel in the future.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

To the Future

Today I did an activity with the kids where I had them write letters to themselves in five years. Looking back, I probably should have said 10 or 15 years. They didn't really have a good concept of time. Most of them will still be in the preteen phase, but they wrote letters regarding marriage and careers.

It was interesting to see how the kids' imaginations would shape their futures. What began as a therapeutic activity for the kids got me thinking about my own future. So I decided to write a letter to my own future self. And because I love my Carp Dime followers so very much. I'm sharing it here.

Dear Future Aaron,

What's it been? 20 years? How are you holding up? I hope things are going well for you. Or me. Whatever. You're 53 now. I'm sure I don't have to remind you, that's how old Dad was when he passed away. For both our sakes, I hope you've been taking care of yourself as far as your health goes.

If things have gone according to my current plan, you'll be wrapping up your 18th, maybe 19th year teaching. How's that going? Are the kids of the future behaving themselves any better than the ones I'm dealing with in 2013? It's hard to imagine behavior getting worse, though I'm sure it can. Probably has. But I hope you're enjoying being in your own classroom, shaping the minds of the future leaders.

Here's the big one that I would get tired of hearing if I were you. Which I am, but I'm gonna ask anyway. Are you married? If not, that's cool. No judgments here. If you are, here's hoping she's even more awesome than I've imagined. And you better be treating her like a queen. If you're not, I'm gonna find a way to travel into the future and kick your decrepit butt!

Speaking of time travel, is that even possible? If it is, would you mind finding a way to send back this week's winning Powerball numbers? The jackpot is up to $222 million. Not that money is that important. I'd end up giving most of it away. I'm just saying it would be helpful during those days when school gets cancelled. 'Cause remember, back when you were a counselor, snow days were unpaid. I assume you made it through those days unscathed, now that you're teacher of the year and all. By the way, the specific date for those winning numbers should be 5/8/2013. Just give it some thought.

What about the whole writing thing? Did anything ever come of that? Did you ever get a book published? That would be super. How about the blog? Still keeping up with that? I have no doubt you are. Blogging is a trend that will probably never die. And if it ever does, you better be the last hold out.

And what about running? I've set a goal to do a half marathon next year and maybe even a full marathon someday. Did you manage to get that done? I hope so. It would be cool to look back at 53 and say I've run a marathon before.

Okay, last question. Did they ever manage to create a Justice League movie that could rival the success of The Avengers? You know what? Don't answer that. I'm sure I'll just be disappointed.

All right, old man. See you in 20 years. Take care of yourself.

Sincerely,
Past Aaron

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

How To Be Perpetually Early

The other night, I found myself involved in a conversation debating the merits of showing up early or late to any given event. I happened to mention that I have this tendency to arrive perpetually early to just about everything. A friend of mine said that she would like to have that problem. I'm here to tell you, being early to everything is as much a curse as it is a blessing.

It may not be so bad for the half of the population that considers themselves extroverts. For an introvert, such as me, arriving early can provide a plethora of awkward situations. This is particularly true if I don't know a single person that's already there.

Another problem comes when one's patience is tested. If you're impatient, boredom can quickly overtake you as you wait for other people to arrive. For the impatient, boredom can lead to irritation and frustration which, if you're not careful, can be misdirected at those you perceived to have kept you waiting. Not the best way to make friends.

Don't get me wrong, being early has its up sides. After all, you're sure not to miss anything important. If food's involved, you'll have the chance to get the good stuff while it's still warm. And you can avoid the embarrassment of making a scene and calling attention to yourself when you make a late entrance. Unless that's something you're going for. Like I said, I'm the introvert, so I usually try to avoid that kind of spotlight. Usually.

Some of you may be asking, "Aaron, how can I be perpetually early?" Well, I'm not sure that it's something I can teach. For me, I think it's an innate trait. I really don't like being late. In fact, in college, if I knew I'd be even five minutes late to class, I'd have rather not gone. But let's give this a shot.
  • Set your alarm for an hour before you actually think you need it. This is particularly helpful at the start of the day after waking from a decent night's sleep. It also helps to be a morning person. This, I've discovered, is a very hard thing to become. Most of the time, you either are or are not comfortable with the early morning. I believe anyone can train themselves to become morning people, but it's very difficult and requires a great deal of discipline. And possibly caffeine.
  • Figure out, on average, how long it takes for you to get ready. Don't worry, I won't make a broad generalization and claim that men always get ready faster than women. I've known a number of women who can be ready to go in 15 minutes or less. I've also known men who take an hour and a half trying to make their hair look like they just rolled out of bed. However long it takes, learn your get ready schedule and stick to it. Then you'll know the absolute latest you can begin getting ready to leave. To be safe, add an extra 15 minutes.
  • Determine if you have incentive to arrive early. As I mentioned earlier, food can be an incentive to get to your destination early. Maybe seeing a particular person is enough to make you get to where you're going. Maybe you want to get to a party early because you want to talk to a girl you like. Or, for the introvert, you want to give her a chance to come talk to you as you stand awkwardly in the corner praying that either no one notices you or at least she does.
There you have it. Not an elaborate list, I know. But I said it's likely it can't be taught. You either tend to arrive early or late. People will come to know this (whatever the case) about you and love you for it, ridicule you for it, or both.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Question of the Week: Books

If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all high school students, which book would you choose?

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This is, in my opinion, the best work of fiction to be found. I love this book and have read it more than a dozen times. It's a truly American fairy tale that's a lot deeper than people usually give it credit for. Most would look at it and see a simple children's story. L. Frank Baum may not have known at the time that his story would become a timeless classic. But I'm sure he enjoyed the public response and the call for further adventures in Oz. If high school literature teachers can pull out hidden meanings from The Red Badge of Courage, they can certainly do the same with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Fuzzy

"How are you feeling?" asked Jason as he poked his head into Naomi's cubicle.

She had just finished blowing her nose and felt a little embarrassed at having Jason witness the act. There was no way around it though. Naomi was sick. Nothing serious. Just a cold. It was more of an irritation than a problem, really. Annoying enough to make her feel awful, but not bad enough to allow her a day off work.

"How do you think I feel?!" she snapped as she tossed a tissue into the wastebasket. She hadn't meant to snap at Jason. He had simply asked a question. And he'd done so with genuine concern in his voice.

"Sorry," Jason said as he turned to walk away.

"No, I'm sorry," Naomi said, "I didn't mean to snap at you."

"It's okay. I've been there. Just a couple weeks ago, actually."

"Yeah, I remember," she said as she turned to cough into her elbow. "To answer your question, I feel like crap."

"Are you taking anything?" he asked.

"I am. But it's making my head all fuzzy, you know?"

"Why did you come in today?" asked Jason, "Don't you have any sick days saved up?"

"I thought about calling in, but I've just got too much to do. These reports aren't going to file themselves," Naomi said as she sighed, looking at the pile of paperwork on her desk.

"If you need a hand with anything let me know."

"Thanks," Naomi said softly before turning back to her computer.

She stared at the screen for a few minutes until her vision became blurred. According to her watch, 15 minutes had passed. That medication was really messing with her today. Maybe Jason was right. She should have taken the day off. In the state she was in, she wasn't sure that she would be able to spell her own name correctly, much less wade through the mountain of paperwork she had to do.

Naomi got up from her desk and walked to Jason's cubicle. "I'm gonna leave," she said.

"Good idea," Jason said as he looked up at her. "Do you want me to take care of anything for you?"

She gave him a strange look and he realized that came out wrong.

"No! I meant work! I mean, do you have any paperwork I can take care of for you?"

She laughed, "I think it will wait 'til tomorrow."

"All right. Feel better. Hopefully you won't feel so fuzzy tomorrow," said Jason, receiving another strange look. "I'm just gonna stop talking now."

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Summer Movies That Might Be Worth Seeing

Summer is a happy time. The days are longer. The air is warmer. The sun is shinier. School is out. And the movies get a little more explosive. And dramatic. And funny. Or maybe it's just that Hollywood pulls out the stops and makes the movies seem like all of those things have gotten better. In some cases, they get it right. It's definitely not always the case. Some movies that are expected to be blockbusters become box office bombs. No one sets out to make a bad movie. Except for the Wachowski brothers when they decided to make the Matrix sequels. Here are some movies that I'm looking forward to in the months ahead.

In theaters this weekend (May 3):


Iron Man 3
I saw this today. It was really good. I might do a more in depth review later. For now, you'll just have to be happy with my statement that I thought it was the best of the three.

Coming Soon...
May 10:


The Great Gatsby
Never read the book. Never saw the older films. But it looks good.

May 17:

Star Trek: Into Darkness
The last one was just about awesome. The follow-up looks just as good.

May 24:

The Hangover Part III
Okay, the second one wasn't great. Actually, it was real disappointing. But you can't see the first two parts of a trilogy and not stick around for the final act.

May 31:

After Earth
M. Night Shyamalan's more recent stuff has been kind of disappointing. But I like some sci-fi. This looks decent.

Now You See Me
This one I don't know a whole lot about, but the trailer has me intrigued enough to want to take a look.

June 7:

The Internship
Good to see Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn working together again. Wedding Crashers is a classic, maybe this will recreate that same kind of magic.

Much Ado About Nothing
William Shakespeare meets Joss Whedon? Yes, please.

June 14:

Man of Steel
Does the word "duh" mean anything to you?

June 21:

Monsters University
Like most of what Pixar has to offer, I loved Monsters, Inc. Why wouldn't I give this one a shot?

World War Z
A zombie movie where the zombies move like rabid wolves rather than shambling corpses that are falling apart? Should be a little more exciting than the average zombie movie. Honestly, it wouldn't take a lot to be more exciting than the majority of the last couple seasons of The Walking Dead.

July 5:

Despicable Me 2
If you saw the first one, you'll understand why this is a must see: the minions.

July 19:

Red 2
If you saw the first one, you'll understand why this is a must see: actually, I don't have a good one for this. I just thought the first one was really clever.

July 26:

The Wolverine
Come on, it's Wolverine.

August 9:

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Being a fan of the Percy Jackson book series, I was enormously disappointed with the first film adaptation. But this trailer looks a little better than The Lightning Thief. Here's hopin'.

August 23:

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
This book series is on my list of things to read, assuming I can ever find time to get around to them. The movie looks pretty good.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Remembering Bluefield: Mark Hipes

It's Friday again! Some would call it the best day of the work week. They usually mean it's the best day because it's the last day before the weekend. What they should mean is that it's the best day because it's time for Remembering Bluefield here on the Carp Dime. And this week we focus on a guy that was my roommate not once, but twice. And I'd split the rent with him again if the opportunity presented itself. Ladies and gentlemen... Mark Hipes!


Name:
Mark Hipes

What year did you graduate?
2003

What degree did you earn?
Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies

What drew you to Bluefield College?
I transferred to BC after completing my associates degree at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. It was the people involved with the BSU at Bluefield College and meeting Janice Bishop at a college fair that made me desire to check out Bluefield. Once I set food on campus, it was my college.

What kept you there?
I guess because I was a transfer, I never thought about transferring. I loved my time at Bluefield.

Is there a class that changed your life? If so, what?
I don't know that I could pinpoint one class that changed my life. Colloquium my senior year may be my favorite. It was team taught by the entire Christian Studies department. It was a discussion type of class and we really got to pick each others minds. My brain was exhausted when I left that class.

What teacher had the biggest impact on you? Why?
Dr. Stepp and Dr. Lyle. From the theological conversations to the conversations on relationships and life.

Did you live on campus or commute?
Campus all 3 years.

Who were your roommates?
Brandon Caldwell my first year. The second year, Brandon Caldwell, Dereck Harris and Aaron Peck (until he got scared and left). My third year, Andy Berry, until the "divorce."

Share an epic roommate story (if you have one).
There are so many... I loved living in Rish Hall. That first year, second floor Rish was a great place to be. I loved hanging out with the guys and listening to Celebrity Jeopardy, Eddie Murphy, Brak, Arj and Poopy, the Naked News, and the first social network... TheSpark.com. Two of the guys on the floor even managed a few relationships off of the Spark. Great platform, ahead of its time.

What's your most cherished Bluefield College memory?
Not just one memory but many. I loved BSU and some of my favorite memories are trips to Eagle Eyrie and times spent together in worship. From my first BSU retreat at Camp Laurel when I was selected for the "red hen" club (or whatever it was called) to that last year of BAM.

Where are you now?
I am in Bluefield, WV.

What are you doing?
The Director of Admissions at Bluefield College. In August I will become the Director of Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund.

Does that mean you're using your degree?
Yes, that is the beauty of a liberal arts degree... I also believe my work is my ministry.

Are you where you pictured yourself being when you were in college?
I didn't really have a picture. At least, I can't remember it. I never thought I would be in my current position and I consider myself privileged to serve an institution like Bluefield College.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Finished with my masters, living in either Richmond or Roanoke. Working in either higher education fundraising and advancement or working as a financial planner. Or in vocational ministry. Married.

What's your greatest post-BC accomplishment?
Working as the Director of Admissions at Bluefield College.

What's your fondest post-BC memory?
Becoming an uncle. Travel, competition, and life with the "Four Fathers." And, November 10, 2012, the perfect date.

If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything?
Yes, but life doesn't work that way... wouldn't be any fun.

For the record, I didn't get scared while living with Mark, Brandon and Dereck. I'm just the kind of guy who enjoys his alone time. There's no such thing as alone time when you have three roommates sharing one bedroom. Don't get me wrong, I love those guys like brothers. But Aaron doesn't share a room. Thanks again to Mark for playing along this week. Do I have a volunteer for next week? Let me know in the comments if you'd like to get personal!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Single Guy Versus the Dartboard

The following account may be a bit of an exaggeration. But, to be honest, that's how most accounts in the Single Guy's life tend to be.

Not too long ago, the Single Guy was sitting around a fire with some friends. At some point, someone brought up a little sports bar in Blacksburg that served hamburgers for a buck on Monday nights. And they weren't the flimsy little McDonald's style burgers, either. This place serves up the quarter-pounders for a dollar. Of course, you have to add toppings at 35 cents apiece. Still, not too shabby. Who is the Single Guy to pass up an economic incentive such as this?

Thanks to Jamie for the picture!
To sweeten the deal, it was mentioned that this little sports bar included pool tables and dartboards. The Single Guy hadn't played a legitimate game of darts since college. During his sophomore year, he had an electronic dartboard hanging on the closet door. This proved to be a great deal of fun for him, his roommates and the various passers by that would drop in from time to time. Until all the plastic tips for the darts bent or broke from repeated use. They lasted a good two months.

After obtaining permission from Michaelangelo to attend the Monday night outing, the Single Guy made plans to be there. In fact, he spent much of the weekend looking forward to a dollar burger and some old fashioned dart throwing.

Monday night arrived and the sports bar delivered. The burger was a little undercooked for the Single Guy's liking. But, still, it was a decent meal for way under five bucks. Bonus, the restaurant offered a substantial basket of french fries for $2.50. So, actually, the night cost the Single Guy a little over $5 when a tip was included for the barkeep. Then came the darts. Which were free.

The group with whom the Single Guy was hanging out was split into teams. Then they all began playing a couple separate games of something called Cricket. The Single Guy, being less than an expert in all things involving a dartboard, was somewhat clueless as to how to play the game. In fact, he was pretty sure that cricket involved some kind of flattened baseball bat and something called a "wicket." But he learned. As did his teammate and opponents.

The Single Guy's partner suggested a proper name for their team. After all, one can't cheer for a team without knowing the team's name, right? So the partner went with Team Jesus. Her thought was that, with a name like that, God would be on their side. It may have worked.

Throughout the evening, there were ups and downs to Team Jesus' dart throwing abilities. But it felt really good when they were able to hit the bulls eyes. The Single Guy has never been great with his aim. So to have a small, metal-tipped projectile leave his hand and find its intended target? He was a little thrilled.

Team Jesus barely won their first game against the opponents. The opponents kind of destroyed Team Jesus in round two. By that point, it was getting kind of late. But neither team could walk away with a tied record. They had to play to the best of three games. Game three was kind of close, but Team Jesus walked away with the victory. Was it because God was on their side? Let's just leave that question as it is.

The Single Guy didn't realize how much fun throwing darts could be. Immediately after leaving the sports bar that night, he began to hope that the night would be repeated the following Monday. He's always wanted to have the kind of place that a group of friends could hang out. A real life Central Perk or MacLaren's Pub. Maybe this sports bar could be just that. Now the Single Guy just needs to come up with a catchy theme song and his life as a sitcom is all set.