Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Getting Used to It

For a little more than two years, I've been driving a Toyota Yaris. If you're unfamiliar, this is a car that has all the gauges in the center of the dashboard, rather than behind the steering wheel.

So for two years, I've grown accustomed to looking slightly to my right to check my speedometer and fuel gauge. It was really odd at first. I thought it would be really inconvenient, or worse, a distraction. But it turned out to be okay.

Since the Yaris was pronounced a total loss, I've been back behind the wheel of other vehicles. Over the weekend, I was in a rental that the insurance company provided for me. It was a Hyundai Accent. Not a bad car, but the gauges were back behind the steering wheel. I know that's what's normal, but for me, normal has been different for a couple years.

The problem for me comes when the steering wheel cannot be adjusted. If it can't be moved up or down, there's a good chance that part of the wheel will block my view of the speedometer. All weekend, I constantly found myself ducking a bit anytime I wanted to check my speed. Not a big deal, but a slight inconvenience.

Then I purchased a new car yesterday. It's a 2009 Toyota Corolla. I think a part of me hoped that, if I got another Toyota, the instruments would be back in the middle. No such luck.

But I do have a sunroof and hands free Bluetooth. So I forebear.

This is the newish Corolla. I need to name her. Suggestions welcome.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Question of the Week: Doing Things

Are you more worried about doing things right or doing the right things?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I'm more concerned about doing the right things. I mean, I do like for things to be done correctly. But I'm not a stickler. I'm pretty laid back more often than not. If someone is helping out with dinner by setting the table, I'm not gonna freak out because they put the salad fork on the left side of the plate. They're being helpful. And, you know what? I don't even know what side of the plate the salad fork is supposed to be on! Is it really that important? I don't think so. Just say thank you to the nice person who decided to rummage through your silverware drawer and throw everything on the table for you. Unless they came in and did this uninvited. Especially if it's not meal time. That's weird. And you should probably invest in a better lock for your door. Because once one stranger gets in and starts setting the table, it sets a precedent. Suddenly you've got people from all over town coming by. "Hey man! I heard you let people set your dining room table for free!" There's no one who won't want to get in on that action.

Friday, August 23, 2013


I keep playing the vents of Wednesday afternoon over and over in my head. This is an involuntary thing. Because why on earth would I want to relive one of the most terrifying moments of my life?

But it's there. And not even when I close my eyes. My eyes can be open, focused on something entirely else, and I'm still transported back to my point of view from the driver's seat of my car as it rolled over and over again.

Wednesday, I felt fine. I wasn't hurt. Not badly, anyway. I wasn't upset. In fact, I was fairly calm. No, I was extremely calm. A friend who was nice enough to give me a ride home remarked at how calm I was. Today, I think it's catching up to me.

Around lunchtime, I took a good look outside and noticed just how overcast it was. A little later, someone complained that it was raining. Not much, but just enough to get the ground wet all over again. That's when I started getting nervous.

Out of nowhere, I started feeling really anxious about my drive home. No, anxious isn't the right word. I was scared. I was literally afraid of the prospect of driving home from work today. There were a few moments when I was on the verge of tears.

The school day ended. Much as I dreaded the trip back to Blacksburg, I was more than ready for the day to be over. I may not have been seriously injured the other day, but my body still feels as if it's been beaten severely. I was in pain and I was tired. Nothing to do but drive home.

So I made the drive. I even decided to go down the same road I typically take. I passed right by the spot where my car ended up when it came to a rest. I saw a heavy indentation in the ground where it came to a stop. I got a serious cold child down my spine. And I drove on.

I made it home safe and sound, just like I've done a hundred times before. Just like I'll do a hundred times more. The flashbacks are still coming. Over time, I hope, they'll come less and less. For now, I pray that God will just get me through each trip to and from my job.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Tales from Old Navy: Again with the Bad Parenting

Just when I think for sure that I've met the most obnoxious child in existence, someone brings their kid into my store and proves me wrong.

I'm (sort of) exaggerating. Honestly, it's not so much the kids that I have an issue with. It's their parents.

Unless you're new to this blog, you've seen my complaint about parents who bring their children to the store late at night. That hasn't gone away. And I still believe it's a valid complaint.

My current problem is with the parents that treat their kids so poorly in public that it makes me genuinely concerned for how they must be treated at home. The other night, I encountered two families that bothered me. Not only as a counselor who works with small children, but as a human being.

For the first case study, I present a family of five. I'll be honest, I judged the two youngest children in this family very harshly before I met them. As is often the case, they were running around the store unsupervised and were extremely vocal. When I first heard them across the store, I rolled my eyes. Then I observed the "adults" raising them.

The father brought his young son into the fitting room for him to try on some jeans. Once they got into their changing room, the father began to loudly berate the boy. Some of the things he said made me wonder if he thought the fitting room was soundproof. Soon after, the mother walked by with the younger daughter, yelling at her as well. At least those kids get their loud voices honestly.

What bothered me more is that the two young kids both seemed to have something holding them back. What I mean is, there may have been some kind of mental disability happening there, which made me feel guilty about the earlier rolling of the eyes. Now, I was not and am not in any position to diagnose those children, but a quick judgment based on what I saw and heard told me that things were not okay here. So to believe that the kids are handicapped in some way, and to know that their parents are yelling at them the way they were really made me worry about their well being.

By the way, there was a teenage daughter to round out this party of five, but she was pretty uninvolved. Who could blame her?

The second family involved what appeared to be a single mother with a boy and a girl around 8-10 years old. As far as I could see, her kids were very well behaved. Yet the mother was loudly yelling at each of the kids, calling them names and threatening them with mild physical violence.

Once she finally left the store, I approached my manager. "Do you ever get the feeling you should call Child Protective Services on some of these parents?" I asked.

She looked at me, sighed heavily and said, "All the time!"

If I'd had my counselor hat on, I don't think I'd have hesitated to make that call. As a random sales clerk at a retail store, it's a lot easier to decide that it's not my place to get involved.

I've heard it said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. So I ask, what would you do in that situation? What have you done in that situation? I have no doubt we've all been there at one time or another. All you have to do is take a trip to your nearest Wal-Mart to see some pretty questionable parenting decisions. Where do we draw the line as observers? Do we keep to ourselves, complaining in private about such public displays? Or do we cross that line and get involved?

Let me know what you think in the comments...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blog Post

Ladies and gentlemen, Carp Dimers of all ages, I had different plans for today. I had fully intended to write a post about my night at work last night. Actually, I'd already written it out on paper. All I had to do was type it up and click publish. Simple, right?

Well, it would be simple if I had the notebook in which I wrote it all down. You may be asking, why doesn't he have his notebook? I left it in my car. Now, you're probably saying, just go out there and get it out of your car. It's a nice thought, really, but my car's not outside my house. She's in Floyd. She's sitting at a garage. She's all alone. She's scared. She's broken.

At approximately 3:00 this afternoon, I was on my way home from work. I was driving down a road that I drive every single day. I was keeping an eye on my speed because, due to recent rainfall throughout the day, the road was a little wet. As I was driving around a curve, my car hit one of those wet spots and began to skid.

When I realized I would not be able to straighten back out, I prepared myself for the inevitable impact with the embankment to my right. But I kept drifting. And then the center of gravity shifted. The car flipped. Then she rolled. Not once. Not twice. But three times.

As it happened, I threw my hands up in the air and braced myself against the ceiling. Looking back, it was probably a stupid move. Any number of things could have gone wrong. As it was, things turned out okay for me.

By the time it was over, Half-Pint was lying in a ditch on the side of the road. I took stock of my situation. The ceiling looked like it was caving in a little. The windshield was shattered and threatened to fall in on me. Tiny shards and slivers of glass littered my arms and hair. The rear window was gone. The front bumper was somewhere to the side.

But I could move. As far as I could tell, I had no broken bones. While I had some cuts from the glass, I had nothing deep. I was not bleeding profusely. I was alive with no head injury, no back injury, no neck injury. God was definitely with me in that car today.

I'm thankful for a friend who was close by and willing to pick me up and take me home. I'm thankful for a responsible stranger who was willing to stop and make sure I was okay while calling emergency services. I'm thankful for the EMTs who arrived on the scene to check me out and give me the chance to refuse a ride to the hospital. I'm even thankful to the state trooper who wrote me a ticket because I failed to keep my car between the yellow and white lines on the road.

Memo to self: Next time I roll a car, I need to keep it on my little section of the road.

The insurance folks let me know that, based on the information given to them, their computer is calling it a total loss. Looking at the damage, I'd be surprised if they said it wasn't totaled. So I'm gonna take a day off tomorrow, try to get my ducks in a row. Gotta pick up a rental car and start figuring out what I'm gonna do on a more permanent basis.
I probably shouldn't have been able to walk away. No, I probably shouldn't be alive.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One of Those Days

But just for the time being.

I've been having a pretty serious I-don't-like-people kind of night. It could be because I've had a pretty wicked headache most of the day. Another factor could be the lack of sleep I've experienced since school started back up. Whatever the reason, it seems like anything that anyone said or did just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

Please, don't take it personally. I really do like people. Most of the time. And, honestly, I hate when I have days like this. Days like this make me feel kind of guilty for tending toward introversion.

Introversion, I think, is the big reason why I'm feeling this way. The last few days have been heavy on the socialization. Not that I haven't enjoyed spending time with friends and strangers. It's just been a lot. It seems like every time I turn around, there's another article being posted on Facebook about how introverts need alone time to recharge their batteries. I'm sure a lot of people, especially extroverts, are getting tired of hearing that. But it's really true.

So, to my friends, for my sanity (and possibly for yours), I may just need to cut myself off from the world tomorrow night. I'll get home from work/school tomorrow and just take some time to do nothing. I mean, I'll probably read or maybe watch a movie. But I'm gonna have to do it alone.

Unless someone has something really, really awesome planned. Like Robots vs. Wrestlers. If that's happening, I'll make an exception. Otherwise I'm locking myself in my room. Gotta recharge the batteries.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Question of the Week: Want

What do you want most?

I feel like this is a question whose answer will change throughout life. My heart's desires have evolved even within the last year. Being where I am in my life, I find that I don't want things as much as I did in years past. Though, I've never considered myself to be very materialistic. Not that I don't want things or haven't wanted to own stuff in the past. I just don't like to spend money, so I don't allow myself to afford the stuff. These days, I'm more involved with a church than I have been in years. As a follower of Christ, I have a strong desire to be a friend to anyone who crosses my path. I want to say that I've shown the love of Christ to others. I know I fail at that. A lot. I let my own insecurities and discomfort with circumstances get in the way. But it's definitely what I want the most.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Lie in the Truths

Yesterday I had a little fun playing Two Truths and a Lie with you guys. I said I would reveal which story was the fib if I had 10 people respond with their guesses. Well, I didn't get 10 people to comment directly on the blog, but I did have 9 leave answers on Facebook. Combined with the 4 that left blog comments, that's more than 10. I am a man of my word, except when I lie. Maybe the lie was that I would tell you which one is the lie...

Just kidding. If you guessed that number 2 was the lie, you'd be right. I never actually tried to grow my hair out in order to gain super strength.

I really did nearly spend the night at school during kindergarten and I really did have my sister convinced for a while that morticians cut the legs off the deceased for a while. I should probably apologize for that last one. That's a pretty sick thing to tell a 6-year-old.


Ladies and gentlemen, I'm dying. I know that this news may come as a shock to many of you. It's really sad. I may have as few as 50 or 60 years left.

The truth is, I suffer from a degenerative condition that so many people deal with every day. It's called aging. It's a condition that we contract at conception. In the beginning, it seems like a really great thing. Aging causes us to grow and develop and learn. But aging does not maintain this positive face forever.

Eventually, this condition begins to take its toll on our bodies. There comes a time when the symptoms of aging become more and more harmful

At first, those harmful symptoms appear innocuous and are seemingly only skin deep. Hair turns gray or begins to fall out. Lines appear on faces that were once smooth. Then the internal damages start. Joints don't work the way they used to and will sometimes pop or creak when in use. Our aging digestive system doesn't allow us to eat the same delicious foods that we enjoyed when we were younger. Neither does our metabolism for that matter. Vision gets blurry. Hearing becomes difficult.

Worst of all, in my opinion, we forget things. You may find yourself driving around singing a song on the radio. It's a song you've heard and sung a hundred times over the years. Suddenly, the lyrics you know backward and forward are gone, as if someone popped open your skull and scooped those words out of your brain. If you've experienced this, you know how unsettling it can feel.

Aging can also open the door for other miserable conditions. As years pass, odds of getting cancer or dealing with heart disease or dementia increase.

I try not to think of the effects of aging. In time, I may forget about them anyway. Maybe I'll finally realize that ignorance is bliss.

So if you or someone you love suffers from aging, just know you're not alone. More people than you know are suffering silently. Recognize the signs. Remember that knowledge is power.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Two Truths and a Lie

I know a lot of people don't like icebreakers. Some may think they're a cheesy way to get to know people. But I love them. There's a part of me that really enjoys being put on the spot to answer random questions. My favorite is the "Two Truths and a Lie" icebreaker that seems to be really popular at random gatherings. It probably says a lot about me that I find it easier to come up with lies than truths.

Anyway, I'll list two truths and a lie below. It's up to you to figure out which one is the lie. If I get 10 people to leave a comment with their guess, I'll reveal which is the lie. If not, it will remain a mystery! But that shouldn't be too hard, right? 10 comments out of 56 followers? Totally doable.

1) When I was in kindergarten, I got trapped at school during a really bad flood. For a while I thought I would have to spend the night there. It's the only time in my life that I had to eat dinner at school. Most of the evening was spent in the classroom watching videos in an attempt to distract us from the devastation happening outside the window. It didn't work. In my mind, I can still see homes from the nearby trailer park floating by the playground equipment.

2) Around that same time of life, I heard the biblical story of Samson for, probably, the first time. I convinced my parents to stop cutting my hair because I was certain I would obtain superhuman strength. Once my hair started to get pretty shaggy, I decided to test my theory. Unfortunately, I was unable to lift my dad's LeCar over my head. I couldn't even budge the thing. In my disappointment, I found scissors and cut my own hair. Got in pretty serious trouble for that last part.

3) When my great grandmother passed away, we made the long drive to Nashville for the funeral. My sister and I got bored, so we went exploring around the funeral home. We came across a door marked EMPLOYEES ONLY, behind which we heard some disturbing sounds. April asked what the noise was. Being her older and wiser big brother, I told her that was where they cut the legs off the people and that's why they never open the bottom half of the casket. She cried and cried. But later, I'm pretty sure she thought it was a funny joke.

What's true? What's false? Make your guess in the comments below and if I get enough interest, I'll give the right answer.

BTW, I almost said, as my lie, that my favorite book was Twilight. But I couldn't even type that with a straight face.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Letter to My 3rd Grade Self

As this school year begins, I'm working in two 3rd grade classrooms. It's gotten me thinking about my own 3rd grade year, which was my favorite year in elementary school. The kids were asked to write a letter to current 2nd graders, offering advice. I thought I'd do the same, but to myself in 3rd grade.

Dear 8-Year-Old Aaron,

Greetings from 25 years in the future! Before you ask, no, there are no flying cars and you do not have your own jetpack. Disappointing, I know. You do have a car, though. And it gets great gas mileage, something you'll appreciate when you're older.

You're getting ready to start 3rd grade. I know you're nervous about it. You've heard the rumor that your teacher will be Mrs. Caldwell. You know she had been teaching 4th grade and it's been said that she's a hard teacher. Hearing those kinds of things would probably make anyone a little apprehensive about starting the new year. However, those rumors are untrue.

I mean, yes, she did teach the 4th grade and now she's teaching 3rd. But the part about her being too tough on her students, not true.

Mrs. Caldwell will go down in history as one of your favorite teachers of all time. Every 9 weeks, she's gonna host a classroom spelling bee. The winner will get to go to the teachers' lounge, get a soda from the vending machine, then drink the soda in front of the other kids. And guess what... You're going to be the big winner at the end of the third 9 week period! So get to studying those spelling words.

Excited yet? There's more.

Every week, Mrs. Caldwell will introduce new vocabulary words. To help you learn definitions, she'll have the class play Concentration. It's a lot like Memory. You pick a number on one board, which has the word, and try to find its matching definition under a number on the second board. Mrs. Caldwell will split the class into teams of boys vs. girls. The winners get to eat popcorn the next day.

This is also the year when you join the Roanoke Valley Boys Choir. You know Justin? He'll be in the choir too. And you're both in Mrs. Caldwell's class. You guys haven't hit BFF status yet, but this year you kind of will. Sorry, you don't know what BFF means. It's short for "Best Friends Forever." It's something that will become popular in 15 or 20 years. Start using it early. Kids will think you're super cool.

Oh, and here's a fun event to look forward to... You know how there's a PTA fundraiser where you try to sell wrapping paper each year? Your friend Chad is gonna sell the most. He usually does. Anyway, he's gonna pick you and Justin to go with him to Showbiz Pizza to share in his first place prize. You'll get to ride there in a limo. Yeah, wrap your brain around that!

And I almost forgot one more thing that Mrs. Caldwell will do for the class that will make you love her just a little more. She shows movies periodically throughout the school year. She'll show E.T. at some point, which you've seen before. You'll also get to see The Princess Bride for the first time ever. Trust me when I say that movie will change your life for the better. Enjoy it. There are few things more satisfying than seeing a great movie for the first time. You can watch it a hundred times over, but you can never recapture that first viewing.

So don't be nervous. Third grade's gonna be awesome!

33-Year-Old Aaron

PS - Give Dad a hug for me. You'll understand why in about 18 years.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Single Guy Versus the First Day of School

The first day of school can cause kids to have a lot of anxiety. Will I be able to reconnect with my friends from last year? Will I make new friends? Are my clothes cool enough? Did I get my parents to buy the right pair of shoes? Will I like my new teacher?

The Single guy wasn't so worried about all these questions in particular, but there was still a certain amount of anxiety that accompanied the first day of school. Even for an adult.

Back to school means back to work for the Single Guy. He now has to give up sleeping late and daily viewings of The Price Is Right for the security of a paycheck. It's a pretty fair trade.

The Single Guy's first day of school turned out to be just fine, but that's not what he expected based on the previous evening. He went to bed at a decent hour and had set his alarm for 5:30am. With an hour commute, the early wake up call was necessary. Normally, 5:30 isn't a problem. But, it turned out, getting to sleep was.

He closed his eyes and sleep wouldn't come. So the Single Guy turned the TV on to catch the 11:00 news. After catching up on the events of the day, he turned the TV back off and laid back down.

Still no luck.

At a little after midnight, the Single Guy sat up and searched Netflix for something that might put him to sleep. He landed on the 80s classic Teen Wolf. This did not do the trick. The Single Guy was still wide awake as Michael J. Fox made that final basket to win in the end.

By this time it was 2:00am. Way too late to consider finding some Ny-Quil. However, after an episode or two of How I Met Your Mother, the Single Guy was out like a light.

But 5:30 came quickly. The Single Guy put himself on autopilot, got ready and packed a lunch in a blur, then made the long drive to school.

He was met with the excited faces of kids who are still young enough to look forward to school. That excitement is something the Single Guy vividly remembers feeling as a child, but it's a feeling he hasn't recaptured since he was in elementary school.

The Single Guy bounced from class to class, checking in on students and catching up with teachers. All in all, not a bad day. Only 179 school days 'til summer!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Question of the Week: Stealing

Is stealing to feed a starving child wrong?

That's an interesting question that I feel was answered in large part by Les Miserables. Jean Valjean spent nearly 20 years in prison because he stole a loaf of bread because his nephew was starving to death. While the law says that it's wrong to steal for any reason, we don't exactly live in a black and white world. There are so many shades of gray. And there are other colors, as well. The point is, in a black and white kind of situation, wrong is wrong. But it's also wrong for an innocent child to suffer of starvation, right? If I was on a jury tasked with determining the guilt or innocence of a thief who did the deed in order to feed a starving kid, I'd probably have to vote not guilty. Then I'd go all 12 Angry Men on the rest of the jury 'til they came around to my way of thinking.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


This summer, the small group that I've been involved with through church has gone from meeting weekly to roughly every other week. Typically, small groups that meet throughout the semester don't get together during the summer because there are fewer people around Blacksburg during these months, so the church does a Big/Small Group thing each week. But we all decided it would be beneficial to continue meeting every two weeks or so to help us all stay caught up. See, we're reading through the entire Bible in a year. Without the support of others in the group, I find it difficult to stay caught up. But that's not what this post is about at all.

Part of what we've done during our summer meetings is share testimonies. Each time we've met, someone has shared a piece of their life story and what God has done in their lives. For some reason, I volunteered to share at our next get together. Which was last night. What follows is not what I shared verbatim, but it's as close as I could get it.

I had two weeks to prepare. I knew it was coming and I knew I would be expected to talk to a room full of people about some intimate detail of my life and how my relationship with Christ has affected me. And I wasn't sure where to begin.

A lot of times, when people in the church mention that someone is sharing their testimony, they picture someone who is sharing about how dark their lives were before they came to know Christ. I don't have a dark story. I became a follower of Christ at the age of 7.

We were the kind of family that was always at church. There was Sunday school and the morning worship service every week. We were one of a handful of families that regularly attended the less popular Sunday evening service. Wednesday evenings meant family dinners at church followed by choir practice for us kids while the parents went to a prayer meeting or a monthly business meeting. Thursday night, we were right back in those doors so the parents could attend the grown-up choir rehearsal. And then there were lots of random special events that we were expected to attend.

So I was raised surrounded by the trappings of the Baptist church. It was kind of a no-brainer that I would come to know Christ. I say that, but I'm sure there are lots of kids who grew up in church who never know Jesus at all. Personally, I think it's sad to say that, but I'm sure it's a real fact.

The thing is, I don't remember a whole lot about my childhood. I remember the big moments. I remember walking down the aisle at church and shaking hands with a bigger guy and then being baptized a few months later. In preparation for sharing my story, I called my mom. I was hoping she could fill in the gaps.

"Hey, mom... Was I heavy into drugs or gang activity when I was a kid?" I asked, fishing for some kind of dramatic past that would inspire anyone listening to my life story.

"No, you were a very good kid. You were respectful. You were very protective of your sister. You hardly ever did anything that could be considered wrong because you were very conscious of not wanting to disappoint your dad or me."

When she stopped singing my praises, I had to take a breath. That's not very interesting at all, right? I was a good kid who stayed good all the time? So then I asked, "Would you say that Jesus had something to do with that?"

"I think that the fact that you were raised the way you were, raised in the church and learning about Jesus, I'm sure that had a lot to do with the kind of kid you were."

But a testimony doesn't necessarily have to be about the events that led to accepting Christ. Although, it's an exciting story, no matter how boring it may be labeled. The fact of the matter is, it didn't matter how good I was or how much I hated disappointing my parents, I was going to hell until that night I walked that aisle at the age of seven.

The story I want to share, though, doesn't take place in my childhood. It takes place now. And last year. And a few years before that. It's kind of backwards.

I am incredibly blessed. And that's something I've had a hard time seeing until recently. And part of that is because, in this season of my life, it's very evident how blessed I am. That, or I'm just looking at my life through a different set of eyes than the ones I've used for much of my adulthood. I'm involved in a church that I love. I have a job that I thoroughly enjoy, something I've never been able to say before. I have friends that not only provide support when times get hard, but encourage and challenge me to do better in so many aspects of life.

But what led to these blessings? So many things. Let's start with my new church home. I made a conscious decision to get back into church after a very long absence. January 13 was my first visit to Northstar Church and I've only missed one Sunday since then. I'm not saying that near perfect attendance is that path to joy, I think it just means I've enjoyed being there enough to keep me coming back for more week after week. If I hadn't decided to randomly pull into the parking lot that cold January morning, I'd have never gotten involved in the small group that I've been a part of and never would have met the friends that have welcomed me into their circles over the last few months.

But it goes back farther than that. During the summer of last year, I got the idea in my head to try church. So I decided to check out a place that a friend had told me about. The problem was, I couldn't find it. I drove around one Sunday morning last August and got a little lost. In the process, I passed by Blacksburg High Middle School, where Northstar meets. I saw their banner outside. I didn't pull in that day, obviously, but the name and image stuck with me. If I hadn't gotten lost, I may have gotten involved in a different church. I never would have put church back on hold for the next few months. I never would have made the decision to check out Northstar that cold January morning.

But why was I even looking for a church last summer? It's because I was living in a new place. I didn't know anyone and was surrounded by people that I didn't really care to get to know. It's not that they were bad people or anything, I just knew I wouldn't have much in common with them. I was living, basically, in off-campus dorms in Radford. So I wanted to surround myself with people I could grow to trust that would influence me for the better. Church seemed like the kind of place I could find that. It had been a long time since I'd regularly attended church anywhere, so I thought I'd give this new place a chance.

But why was I living in a new place? That comes back to the job that I currently love so much. I was working as a counselor at a small elementary school in the middle of nowhere. At the time I was hired, I was living in Roanoke and commuting. It was a long commute. Very long. So logic dictated that I find a place closer to the middle of nowhere, just to save money on gas. So I moved to Radford.

But why was I in a new job? At the age of 31, wouldn't I be into a decent career by that point? Well, that's what I thought, too. I had been working what I believed would be my dream job prior to becoming a counselor. The fact that the dream was shattered only a couple months after accepting the dream job caused me to look elsewhere for employment, leading to the counseling position, which turned out to be the best job I've ever had.

But I took that dream job to get out of another job that I despised. I had worked for a bank for four years. I hated it. I tried for so long to get out of that job, I would have left for just about anything, dream job or not. I thought that a promotion that brought me back to Virginia from North Carolina would help. It didn't.

But why was I ever in North Carolina? I initially moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina to attend seminary. I was a student there for three semesters and came to understand that it just wasn't the place for me. I ended up living in North Carolina for a couple more years after dropping out of seminary and worked for the bank as a way to make ends meet.

But why would I go to seminary if I knew it wasn't the place for me? Well, I didn't know that, at first. I thought I was following a call on my life. Turns out I made the decision to leave Roanoke and go to seminary based on emotion and grief.

But what would cause me, a basically emotionless automaton, to make such an extreme move? My dad passed away. I'd been living with him for the last couple years of his life. I was trying to help him in any way I could since his health was steadily declining. When he died, he wasn't just my dad, but he was my best friend as well. I lost a lot when I lost him. So I ran away from home.

I'd go back farther than that, but then I'd be telling his story, not mine. The point of all this rambling and traveling back in time? It's to show that things always happen for a reason. We may not see the reason at the time, but God wants to bless us through every circumstance in our lives. We just have to let Him.

When I was in college, our campus minister, Dr. Lyle, once led a devotion about our circumstances. He said that a lot of people go around answering the question, "How are you?" with "I'm okay, under the circumstances." He argued that, as Christians, our circumstances should not dictate our joy. For a long time, I didn't get that. Sure, I understood what he was saying, but I didn't let it sink in.

For a long time, I allowed my circumstances to dictate my joy. If we look at our lives through our circumstances, it can be really depressing. Even in the wealthiest nation in the world, we can always find something to complain about. We can always find misery. We don't even have to try that hard. But for followers of Christ, it should be even easier to find the joy in our lives. We should look for the ways that God is working in us and through us.

There's a part of me that wishes I could go back and have a talk with myself in October of 2006. He's depressed and grieving the loss of his father. I'd like to tell him to just hang on. It's gonna be rough for a few years, but it's totally gonna be worth it.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Dumbing It Down

Over the last 6 months or so, I've been developing a lot of problems with my smartphone. Chief among these problems is an issue involving the inability to keep the thing charged for more than a few hours at a time.

Back in February, I thought the phone was about to die on a permanent basis. I couldn't get it to do anything properly. And then it shut down and rebooted on its own. Twice. Within an hour. I'm not one to really believe that our technology can become possessed by evil spirits, but I was a little concerned about the Droid X2 that I hadn't even owned for two years.

That's the thing. I'd had the thing for less than two years. And two years is how long I needed to hold on to it before I could make an upgrade, according to my contract with my wireless carrier. My target for phone survival was mid-July. You may have noticed that mid-July has come and gone.

I'm currently eligible for a phone upgrade. Friends have convinced me that it's time to make the switch to the iPhone. And if I want the iPhone 5, I'll have to come up with approximately $300 to get the phone and all the necessary accessories. I don't have $300. Summer is a rough time financially, so the iPhone 5 isn't an option at the moment.

But it's kind of what I want. And I can wait for what I want. But, in the meantime, I can't keep dealing with a smartphone that stops working every time I try to look at Facebook for more than 30 seconds. And taking a picture to post on Instagram is like committing a felony offense.

In my recent move, I unboxed the cell phone I used before getting the Droid. It's an old LG phone with the slide out keyboard. It looked like it was still in pretty good shape, so I plugged it in to see if I could still get it to work. When it powered up, I decided that it would probably be a good idea to downgrade back to the dumbphone for a few months while I save up for the iPhone.

The Droid has been deactivated. Well, I can't make phone calls or use the 3G network to check Twitter feeds on the go. The data plan is gone. So I should save some money on my cell bill for a while. But the dumbest smartphone in the world will still work when I connect to WiFi. Not sure where or why I'll use it that way. At home, I use the computer on the WiFi. I'm not allowed to connect to WiFi at school. And I'm not gonna carry the Droid with me when I'm out and about and happen to be in a public place that offers free WiFi. Why would I carry two cell phones?

So it's just me and the LG. And it's brought back classic ringtones such as "Don't Stop Believin'," "We Built This City," the theme from Superman and "The Imperial March" from Star Wars. That last one, you know, is the music they play whenever Darth Vader enters the room. I used it on the old cell phone as a ringtone for people I didn't want to talk to but kept in my contact list so that I'd know it was them calling.

I went through both my phones today, updating my contacts. I added new contacts that I'd put into my new phone since deactivating the dumbphone a couple years ago. I also eliminated people that I've had in my contact list for a decade but probably haven't contacted outside of Facebook in more than five years. Why do I need the number for a place where I worked back in 2004? Short answer: I don't.

One thing that may be a problem is that I'm used to the touch screen now. I sent some texts to a few people today and realize that I have to readjust to using the keypad to compose messages. I know, it has the slide out keyboard, but I was never a big fan of that thing. Even though I'm used to the fact that my touch screen friendly smartphone had an onscreen keyboard that I've grown accustomed to. My only fear is that I'll forget the dumbphone doesn't have touch screen capability and try to touch a contact's name on the screen to make a call. I've only done that once today. I really thought I'd do it more.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Last Day of Summer

Tomorrow is my last day of summer vacation.

On Thursday, I'll make the drive to Christiansburg so that I can sit through the first of three days of training. Next Tuesday, I'll make the drive to Floyd County, where I'll join the faculty and staff of my favorite elementary school in welcoming students back for a new year.

I thought school was supposed to start in the fall. This isn't fall! We are still in midsummer. I know because I just had a midsummer night's dream last night. I was in a huge open field with tall grass that cam up to my waist. It was night time and it was the kind of place where you could look up and see the entire galaxy of stars, unobstructed by the lights of the city. The stars were so numerous and so bright that they lit up the world around me. And I was chasing lightning bugs. I might have been seven years old in this dream. I don't know.

I digress...

So I put it out there, what should I do with my last day off? I know that I'm putting a lot of pressure on you, America. Most of you are having a hard enough time trying to figure out what you're going to do with your day tomorrow. The only thing I have planned is to go to the office in the apartment complex across the street and get mine and my roommates' names put on the approved list for the swimming pool. I was gonna do it today but, when I went, the office was closed. What are the odds that they would be gone for the one hour that I decided to go over there.

I could have walked back over there after 2, when the sign on the door said they'd be back. But, let's be honest, once I got home and took my shoes off, well, I just knew I was done for the day.

You're reading this and I hope you're seriously considering my options for my final day of summer vacation. But you may be asking, "What is there to do in Blacksburg?" I'm actually hoping you can answer that question for me. 'Cause I'm kind of new here. Sure, I've been hanging out with friends in Blacksburg for the last 8 months or so. But I actually just moved into the town last week. Finding new things to do has been difficult for me because, well, I haven't really tried.

I'm kind of a home body. Please don't assume that I don't enjoy going out. I do. I just don't do it that often for one reason or another.

So I'm looking for suggestions. Please leave yours in the comments below. I look forward to trying all your ideas, assuming they're cost effective and will not result in any kind of serious bodily harm.

Under Pressure

Do you ever feel pressured into doing something? A lot of times that pressure can come from family or friends and can involve something you don't necessarily want to do. More often, at least in my personal experience, that pressure comes from myself.

There are times when I make excuses for myself and falsely claim that the pressure I'm feeling has come from an external force. But the truth is, I'm pressuring myself more often than not. That's how I was when I was a kid. I was kind of a perfectionist. Some of that still lingers, though not as strongly. During my elementary school years I pushed myself to do well and get good grades. My parents never pressured me to come home with straight A's on my report card.

I haven't written anything substantial here in a long while. In fact, I've spent most of the summer on something of a hiatus. Sure, I've posted a question of the week here and there, but that's about it. I really don't have an excuse for why I'm not writing these days, I just haven't been.

I spent some time with my friend Jessica yesterday and in our conversation I began to speculate as to why I've neglected this blog for so long. Of course, there are the typical excuses... I've been busy. I've moved into a new place. I've moved into a new town. I've been keeping myself occupied with other things.

Then there was a not-so-typical excuse that occurred to me. Maybe I've been a little depressed.

The thought came as something of a surprise to me. I haven't felt depressed. At least, I don't think I have. I haven't been overly emotional, sad or angry in recent weeks. I've experienced depression before and, in the past, the symptoms that have accompanied my change in demeanor have ranged from loss of appetite to an extreme desire to be alone.

I know, I like to be alone a lot of the time anyway. But that's just regular introvert stuff. I haven't found myself longing to be away from people because I just don't want to deal with things lately. I've actually sought opportunities to do things with people and I feel like I've done this more often than usual. And as for a loss of appetite, well, that just hasn't happened at all this summer.

Depression, as an excuse not to write, kind of makes sense now that I think on it. There have been some issues and situations that I've been dealing with this summer that have been difficult. They've been nothing that I can't handle, but I guess they've taken more of a toll than I've let on. People would probably look at me and assume I'm okay. I've even looked in the mirror and assumed I'm okay. And maybe I am. I'm okay. But maybe, just being okay isn't good enough. At least, it's not good enough to keep me motivated to post something new to this blog on a daily basis.

I've felt pressure from other areas of my life this summer. So I've taken the pressure off of myself to come up with new and exciting material for Carp Dime for a while. But today I decided to put the pressure back on myself.

What makes today so special? Well, I read another blog. My pastor, Jeff Noble keeps a blog called Notes from the Trail. Today, his post was titled, "Some blogs to follow." Mine was one of the blogs he listed. No pressure, right?

I remember being excited a few months back when he tweeted a link to something I'd written and called my blog one of his "new favorites." If I'd been a cartoon character, I'm pretty sure my head would have grown to three times its normal size in representation of my over inflated ego. I don't get a lot of attention for things that I write, so I allowed myself to bask for a moment few weeks.

And I know I've picked up other new readers from among my new friends whom I've met through my new church. I just hope I haven't disappointed anyone by neglecting this space for so long. And there I go, pressuring myself all over again.

There should be no pressure in this. The only reason I started this blog way back in December of 2004 was because I like to write. That hasn't changed. I love to write. I love to make little observations about life in general. I love to convey my thoughts in a mildly sarcastic way that may or may not always be recognizable through the written word.

So if you've surfed over from Jeff's blog today, thanks for visiting. I hope you aren't too disappointed by my lack of fresh content. I can't promise a daily thing right off the bat. I feel like I may need to work my way back to that kind of pace. But, for now, stay tuned. I've been on this thing for nearly 9 years and I'm just getting warmed up.

Oh, and if the title of this post has gotten an old Queen song stuck in your head, you're welcome.