Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ten Years Ago...

Ladies. Gentlemen. Carp Dimers of all ages. Welcome to my tenth anniversary blog post.

Ten years ago today, I wrote my very first blog post on what used to be called "The Single Guy." That very first blog post was called Self-Titled Debut and it was about my life at that point, as a single man at age 24. I guess, in the last decade, not much has changed. Then again, maybe a lot has changed.

I'm not sure how to go about writing this anniversary post. In fact, as sporadic as my blogging has been in recent months, I almost missed it. I've known all year that December would represent 10 years of blogging, but I didn't realize the exact date until I happened to look yesterday when I went on a rant after a difficult day at work.

So I ask you to forgive me for not knowing how to properly celebrate 10 years as a completely non-famous internet personality. 10 years in review could get monotonous and boring. Making plans for the future of Carp Dime would probably be filled with empty promises that I might not keep. And giveaways could become expensive. Maybe I could cover all the bases...

Like I said, not much has changed. I'm still single. And if you're a long-time reader, you probably know why. If you're a long-time reader and are at all insightful, it's possible you know better than I do why I'm still single. I'd almost like to say that I've loved and lost, but we all know that's not the truth. But a lot is different, too. My dad passed away. I moved to North Carolina. I began and dropped out of seminary. I worked for a bank in a job that I hated with the fiery vengeance of a thousand suns. I dropped out of church. I moved back to Virginia. I found a job that I could actually love that I ended up hating. I found a job that I had no idea I could love as much as I do. I dropped back into church. I've been to weddings. I've witnessed divorces. I've attended funerals. I've seen friends become parents. If my life were written into a novel, I could question my character's growth over time, but I certainly can't say that I haven't experienced a lot in the last decade.

Ah, yes... promises I don't intend to keep. I've done it before. "I'll blog every single day!" Well, I did keep that promise for a while. For maybe a year or two, I blogged each day. It wasn't always literary awesomeness, but it was at least something. Lately, I'm not sure I could follow through with posting something once a week if I made that claim. "I'm gonna start a video blog!" Yeah, that never happened. I thought it would be a good idea to utilize the webcam on my laptop and start making videos for the blog. I went so far as to buy some decent editing software which, as it turned out, was not compatible with recordings made on a webcam. Should've read the fine print on that one. So that idea fizzled. Just another YouTube channel with nothing on. "I'm gonna move my blog from Blogger to WordPress." Okay, that might still happen at some point. Jeff has been trying to get me to make that switch for as long as he's known I had this blog. There's really no reason for me not to do it, other than just taking the time to do it. I'll have some time off during Christmas, so maybe that's something I can finally get around to. No promises. But if I were to do such a thing, I think I might just start a new blog. I'd keep the old Carp Dime running, maybe get back to writing some of that fiction that I used to enjoy. And I'd probably use the new blog to rehash some of the old things I've written about on here. I don't know, we'll see.

I look at that word and almost think, What's the point? The last giveaway I did had hardly any real participation from people. I think a handful of readers actually made an effort to get involved with the contest. Which is usually the case when I try to do something fun like that. I'm lucky if I can have 10 people take part in something on the blog. Usually it's more like 5. Or less. And since one of my friends is the one that actually won that last giveaway, I've completely slacked on getting his prizes to him. Not that he's mentioned it, even though I've seen him twice since he won. Though I was really thinking it could be fun to have a 10 Year Anniversary Giveaway. The prizes would be things from 10 years ago. Shrek 2 was the highest grossing film that year, I could give that away on DVD or Bluray. In music, Usher had a big year, spending 28 out of 52 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, I could give away his "Confessions" CD, assuming anyone still has a device with which they can play a CD. Likewise, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code spent 28 weeks at the top of the New York Times Best-Seller List in 2004, I could give away a copy of that. Maybe I could give away all three to one lucky individual. Anyone interested in that? Tell you what, if 10 people leave comments on this page, not Facebook or Google+, but tacked to the bottom of this very blog post, letting me know that you want me to do a giveaway like this, then I'll do it. Otherwise, we'll let the tenth anniversary go by as if it was just another day.

So here's to 10 years. Feel free to peruse any of my 2,067 previous posts at your leisure. Stay tuned for more to come in the next 10 years. Maybe not on a daily basis, but you'll still get some stuff every now and then.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Rant Against Can't

I think that the word "can't" may be one of the most damaging words in the English language.* Every single day, while I'm wearing my counselor hat, I find myself surrounded by small children who make the claim that they can't do something. 99.9% of the time, the issue isn't that they can't. It's that they don't want to.

Say there's a math review worksheet that an entire class has completed, save for one kid. The operative word there is review. That means it's something that's not only been taught, but it's something that these kids have practiced repeatedly for weeks. And then that one kid claims he can't do the work. He keeps up the act so long that he misses out on his recess time, then he pouts because all his friends are having fun but he's not. Yet he still refuses to finish his review, still claiming he can't do it.

Can't should be removed from our vocabulary. So many times people state unequivocally that they can't do something when they don't even try. Not trying could stem from a number of things. Could be laziness. Could be boredom with the task. Could simply be that they just don't care. Whatever the case, don't tell me you can't do it. Tell me you don't want to do it. That, at least, would be honest.

I know that can't is a very helpful descriptor of things we aren't allowed to do. "You can't play in the middle of the road!" "You can't fly if you jump off the balcony!" "You can't watch TV for 24 hours straight!" Parents use it all the time and with good reason. They want to teach their children what is acceptable behavior. But in using the contraction of cannot, those kids are learning a quick and easy way to get out of doing things they don't want to do.

I suggest a simple rewording. "Sure, you can play in the middle of the road. If you want to get hit by a car." "You can jump off the balcony if you want to get hurt, but human flight without machinery is physically impossible." "Look, you aren't allowed to watch TV for 24 hours straight. Because I said so, that's why."

On the flip side, I've known parents who tell kids they can't do something because they blatantly want to hold them back from experiencing something profound. I'm not saying that a parent that does this is either a good parent or a bad parent. But I present you with a line from Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness: "Don't ever let somebody tell you you can't do something... You got a dream, you've gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want something, go get it. Period."

We can't simply remove can't from our language. It's not that easy. It's just a frustrating thing to deal with day after day when potentially brilliant children stifle themselves by claiming that they can't do things. I say potentially because there's no way of knowing exactly how brilliant these kids are if they aren't willing to do anything in the first place. If you're a parent or have a job having anything to do with children on a regular basis, please, do not allow them to hold themselves back with can't. And do not allow others to hold them back with can't either.

*I'll admit that there are possibly a great many other words in the English language that are as bad or worse than "can't," but I'm kind of angry about it right now, so that's what we're dealing with. Deal with it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

New Tales from Old Navy: A Missed Opportunity

If you've ever worked retail, you've probably had that fantasy of telling a particularly difficult customer exactly what you were thinking. In real life and in civilized society, it just isn't logical to let fly all of our honest opinions. The person at the cash register often needs to hold his or her tongue in favor of holding down a job. But there are rare occasions where one has the opportunity to say what needs to be said without fear of retaliation or job loss.

A few weeks ago, I got a message from one of my former managers at Old Navy. She was asking if I would be willing to come around and help out on Black Friday. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last 20 years, Black Friday is the annual sales event that takes place the day after Thanksgiving. It's that magical day where stores slash prices and people become the absolute worst versions of themselves in order to get a good deal. Its origins are mythic. No one truly knows when Black Friday first began. My theory is that it began when a panicked single mother beat a frantic father of three with the last Tickle Me Elmo in existence.

Anyway, Black Friday is, traditionally, a crazy busy day in retail. Everyone who forgot that you can still walk into buildings and buy things comes out of the woodwork and decides to spend money. Old Navy is not immune to this phenomenon. I don't want to say that my former employers were desperate for extra help, but they made it difficult for me to say no. "We won't make you go back through orientation," they said. "You can have whatever shift you want," they said. "You can do whatever job you want while you're here," they said. "If you just want to stand around and sing Christmas carols, you can," they said. Who could turn that down?

The way I figured, there wasn't a whole lot going on for my personal Thanksgiving weekend. Now, I had entertained the notion of doing nothing on Black Friday for the first time in years. After all, I quit working at Old Navy back in May. That meant I was no longer in retail. But they seemed to think I did a decent job when I was working there and I seem to have been missed. I had no plans for Friday, so I thought, why not? It's nine hours of my day and I'll get some extra money out of it. Oh, and the powers that be provided free food and beverage for the break times. Not too shabby.

I woke up early Friday morning and got ready to head over to the mall area. I wasn't due in until 9am, but figured I should leave earlier than necessary, what with the Black Friday traffic and all. Turns out that was an unnecessary precaution. All those early bird shoppers must have gotten started on Thursday evening, which is apparently when Black Friday officially begins these days. I assumed I would need to park pretty far away from Old Navy's main entrance. Turns out I was able to park in the same place I used to park on a usual evening of work.

When I walked into the store, I looked around and questioned if it was even Black Friday. It was no busier in there than it would be on a typical Saturday. Granted, it was Friday, so it was busy for a Friday morning at 8:30. But it was atypical for Black Friday. I found out that there were a lot of customers when the store opened Thursday evening, but was fairly dead overnight. I would later find out that the people would come in waves.

I spent my day moving between the sales floor and the cash register. Mostly, it seemed that I was there to cover lunch breaks for people at the registers. At first I was a little nervous that I wouldn't remember everything I needed to know to work the system. Turns out it was like falling off a bike. While I certainly didn't mind running a register from time to time throughout the day (constantly checking people out made the time fly), I was a little surprised I wasn't put in the fitting room. In my Old Navy days, I was the King of the Fitting Room. I know, I gave myself that title, but that doesn't mean it wasn't true.

You come across some interesting people when you're working a cash register on Black Friday. And remember how I mentioned at the start of this post that it would be nice to say what you're really thinking to customers as you're working retail? Well, I'd like to tell you that I unbridled my tongue and spewed forth my brand of brutal honesty. It would have been a perfect opportunity, right? Could I have been fired for offending a couple of customers when I was only hired to work one day? Probably, but would it have really mattered? The way I saw it, they came to me about working on Friday. Sure seemed like they needed me more than I needed them.

Sidebar: I say that, but I really do like the people I worked for and with at Old Navy. Which is probably why I didn't offer my honest opinion to the few customers that may have deserved a dose of truth.

I made small talk with a woman who talked about starting her shopping on Thursday evening. Then she complained about stores opening on Thanksgiving. "I hate that you all open on Thanksgiving now!" The response in my mind: "Then why do you go shopping on Thanksgiving?! If you morons would stop showing up at the stores that open on Thanksgiving, guess what? They'd stop opening on Thanksgiving! Supply and demand!" I smiled and nodded while ringing up her jeans.

Then there was the elderly man who was making several returns. I thought it odd that he wasn't buying anything. He just made a special trip to Old Navy on Black Friday to return two shirts and a pair of slacks. So picture it, he waited in a long line, just to return these clothes. When he finally got to the front of the line, he was lucky enough to find me without a customer. Maybe I was the lucky one. He was ill prepared for anything that was going on. He handed me a bag with the items to be returned. Also in the bag was an invoice for an online purchase... from another store. Meanwhile, he's digging through an envelope full of various receipts. He finally hands me a receipt and it doesn't contain any of the three items he's brought to return. He raises his voice and begins telling me that he bought these things around the same time that he bought what was on the receipt. Also, he used his Old Navy credit card, so the account number should be on the receipt too. He must not be aware that account numbers are blocked out, aside from the last four numbers, for the customer's financial protection. But knowing how irate he was becoming, I thought it best not to point out his stupidity.

I called a manager over to help me out with the situation. I knew I could look up his credit card information and I even remembered how to do this after all these months. I guess I just wanted a witness to make sure I wasn't doing anything that would be construed as inappropriate when it comes to customer service. It's best to have witnesses when dealing with difficult customers. Anyway, we asked this old-timer to input his social security number so we could look up his account. He typed it in wrong. We asked again, politely, failing to mention that the number he previously entered was invalid, and he yelled that he already did. He finally figured out how to work the keypad and we got everything figured out for him. He left in a huff with the money back on his credit card and the clothes in our possession. I don't know why he was so angry. Maybe he was mad because he forgot it was Black Friday. Maybe he was mad because he had to wait in line too long and his adult diaper was full because he crapped in his pants. Maybe his ancient status had nothing to do with it because some people are jerks from childhood on. Who knows? The point is, I again held my tongue. I was polite to this guy, but I pointed out to the manager that I really didn't have to be. And I'm sure she was thinking a lot of the same unpleasant thoughts that I was thinking.

I could go on and on about the Black Friday customers. But this post has already become a lot longer than I intended for it to be. Guess I'm making up for not writing anything on here for the last month. I end with this advice: be kind to your customer service representatives, no matter what they call themselves or what store they work for. I can almost guarantee that, if you're not, they'll be thinking some not so nice things and talking about you behind your back once you're gone.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Title: Cujo 
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1981

Judging by the last time I used the "Read Anything Good Lately" tag on the blog, one would assume I had not picked up a book since December of 2012. Maybe I figured, if the Mayans were right about the end of the world, why read anymore?

Let me assure you, I have continued to read. I'm still literate. There are many books that I've read in the last two years that I just haven't chosen to share on the blog. Not that I'm ashamed of having read those books. Except maybe for Pride & Prejudice. Try as I might, I can't erase that one from my memory. You can keep your Jane Austen.

I was willing to continue keeping my thoughts to myself when it comes to what I've read. But then I came across the Cujo book. As I've mentioned before, one of my bucket list items is to read everything written by Stephen King. Kind of a tall order since the guy's written about 90 thousand books. And he's not stopping. People have talked a lot about Under the Dome, which was published just a few years ago. Keep your pants on, people! I'm still a long way from that one. Because my plan is to read his novels in publication order.

So anyway, Cujo... Being first published in 1981, it's a little dated. For those of you who are unaware, the book is about a dog who is bitten by a rabid bat and, therefore, becomes rabid himself. Due to a series of unfortunate events, Cujo goes on something of a mad killing spree. There are a lot of tiny little coincidences that seem to happen which place the main characters, Donna Trenton and her son Tad, in a stalled car in Cujo's front yard. They end up trapped there for several of the hottest days on record while Cujo waits for them to exit their nonworking vehicle.

As I made my way through the book, I couldn't help but wonder, could something like this still happen? Now, I'm not aware of anything like this actually happening in real life. I don't recall ever hearing any news stories growing up about a rabid dog that killed several people while leaving a mother and child to starve and dehydrate in their car. But that doesn't mean that Stephen King did not paint a realistic picture of a monstrous St. Bernard and the circumstances which allowed for Donna and Tad to be trapped in the summer of 1981. But could King write the same story set in a modern world?

Here we are, 33 years later, and a lot has changed. Cars still have problems. That's not something that's likely to ever change. In 1981, Vic, Donna's husband, suggested taking the car to a local guy who could fix the carburetor for a reasonable price. Joe Camber lived just outside of town, not too far away when compared to the dealership that was the next town over. In 2014, I have no doubt that there are still guys like that. Guys that set up shop in their own personal garages outside the town limits and cut deals with people to fix up their cars for them. So, yeah, that could still happen.

In 1981, Vic left his wife and son to go on an emergency business trip. He was traveling from their home in Maine down to Boston and then to New York City to try and save his small advertising firm when their one big account has some serious PR issues. In 2014, emergency business trips come up all the time, I'm sure. But back then, Vic had to worry about long distance charges when he wanted to call and check up on his family. And when you're worried that your business is about to go under, you're watching every dime you spend. These days, no one deals with long distance, unless you're talking about calling another country. In the book, when Vic waited a few days to call Donna, it was understandable. In 2014, he'd have called as soon as his plane touched down, just to let her know he arrived in Boston all right.

That brings me to another advance in technology: cell phones. Everyone's got one now. I'm sure 4-year-old Tad would even have one, if only to play Angry Birds to keep him occupied once in a while. But even in 2014, you can't always find a signal for your phone. If Donna takes her car out to some guy's personal garage, there's no guarantee she'll have good reception. And then, once her car is completely dead, she has no way to recharge her phone once the battery dies.

You don't often hear about cases of rabies these days. But when they occur, it's usually serious enough to make the local news. I think the events of Cujo would be less likely to happen at this point in the 21st century than they were in the early 80s, but they could still happen. The only real difference would be the long distance thing. Vic would have called and become somewhat panicked a little sooner. He would have gotten the police involved more quickly and it's very likely that Tad wouldn't have died of dehydration. I'm kidding, Stephen King wouldn't kill off a 4-year-old kid. Or would he?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Legends of the Bank Customer

Before I get into the meat of this here blog post, I'd like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to the corporate powers that be at Bank of America. You have proven the ability to run your business like a great lot of morons.

Look, I've been out of the banking game for a few years now. I am extremely grateful for that turn of events, by the way. That said, I'm not completely sure just how things are going with the larger banks in America. Sure, I watch the news, but I kind of tune out when they talk about financial things. The economy kind of sucks. That's about all I feel I need to know about it.

I've been a customer of Bank of America for nearly 10 years. When I left Bluefield after college, I decided it would be a good idea to have my accounts with a bank that could be found just about anywhere in the country. After all, at the time, I had no idea where I would land on my feet. At the time, I was in Roanoke, but I was fairly certain that's not where I would plant my roots. Here we are, all these years later, and I'm still not sure where those roots will take root.

I seem to recall the Bank of America taking a government bailout back when all those other ginormous corporations were taking bailouts. It was a trendy thing to do toward the end of the last decade. Or was it the beginning of this decade? I can't keep up. The economy sucks. It's sucked for a while. That's about all I feel I need to know about it.

From what I gather, Bank of America isn't doing so swell these days. Locally, they sold off many of their branches to other, smaller banks. On the plus side, they made this move to save the jobs of countless tellers and branch managers, probably all over the country. It's good that these hardworking people are not forced to find new jobs. If they enjoy their banking positions, I hope they continue to enjoy them with their new employers and that their transition is smooth.

But there hasn't been much of a plus side for me. The switch from a large, national bank to a smallish, community bank has been rocky at best. I want to be optimistic, I really do. But voluntarily switching banks is a pain. Doing it involuntarily is more so.

Several weeks ago, I was provided with information letting me know that yesterday would be the final day for me to use my Bank of America account. To my understanding, this meant that October 24 would be the end of online banking, debit card, checking account, and savings account as I knew them. And then, a few days ago, I received more information letting me know that I would have full access to the new bank's online system on Monday, October 27. So what do I do in the meantime? Well, it's a safe bet that I won't have to worry about any fluctuations in my account balances during this weekend, because I have no access to my money.

Earlier this week, I received my new debit card in the mail. In a separate envelope, I received my new PIN. Yesterday, knowing that my Bank of America account would no longer exist, I thought it would be a good idea to activate my new card, in the hopes that I would still have access to my money, in case I needed it for frivolous purchases like gas or food. But then I noticed the sticker on the card. You know, the one that usually has a number to call for activation? Yeah, it informed me that I needed to use the ATM and enter my new PIN in order to activate my new card. No big deal, right? I just planned to go by the newly rebranded local branch to use the newly rebranded ATM. But as I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that a number of very official men were busy installing those newly rebranded ATMs.

So much for activating my new card to have access to my money. Then I thought I'd just go inside the branch to see if I could make a withdrawal. If I can't use my card, maybe I can just have some extra cash on hand for frivolous purchases like gas or food. As I parked the car, I noticed the hand written sign that said they would reopen on Monday at 9. Awesome.

As of this afternoon, I had not cut up my old debit card yet. I thought it would be worth a shot to see if I could still use the old thing. Just in case I needed to access my money for frivolous purchases like gas or food. But I quickly discovered in the self checkout line at the Kroger that my card is no longer active. So I drove home empty handed, with no gas or food.

On a different day than the arrival of my brand new, useless debit card, I received a very large package full of personal checks. Like a lot of people of my generation, I very rarely write a check. On a regular basis, I write two checks per month. My new bank sent me approximately 3,262 checks with name and current address in the upper left hand corner. I never asked for these checks, but I assume they were free. I'll never use them all, but here they are. I assumed that a personal check would be my last good chance at having access to the money that's lost in some limbo between two banks.

I grabbed the first of my 3,262 checks and went back to Kroger. I waited in line at the customer service desk and finally got my chance to ask if I could cash a personal check. "I'm sorry," said the customer service lady, "We can only cash preprinted payroll checks." Again... awesome. And if my experience working in retail is any indicator, a lot of places don't accept personal checks anymore anyway. So why try?

Are you keeping track of this epic banking failure? I cannot access online banking. I cannot use my debit card to make purchases. I cannot activate my new debit card because the new ATM at my new bank is not yet working. I cannot cash a personal check. I'm not broke, but I'm kind of broke. Until Monday at 9am.

I'm so glad I'm able to embark on this banking adventure. I'm hoping the excitement will continue with some random emails from companies that normally receive regular payments that come automatically from my checking account letting me know that they did not receive their regular payments this month and that I'll be expected to give them a little extra because I missed my payments. A bonus would be if I have to call those companies to let them know I still can't access my accounts via the internet, debit card, or personal check.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three Shades of Gray

I guess I need to come up with new aliases for my friends when I write about them on the blog. The Charlatan hasn't lived in Charlotte for years. Subway hasn't actually been a sandwich artist for will over a decade. And, as of this past weekend, the Other Single Guy isn't single anymore

Mark married Peyton in the sanctuary of Second Baptist Church on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Candles were lit, songs were sung, vows were spoken... spake? Spoken... yeah. The happy couple got hitched without a hitch. The only obvious hiccup involved several suits worn by the groomsmen.

All the suits fit just fine, so that's probably the most important thing. However, mine was two shades darker than Mark's. Andy's was somewhere in the middle. I'm not sure what the big deal about having multiple shades of gray is. Maybe it's more exciting when you have fifty instead of just three.

Thankfully, it turned out to be not so big a deal. None of the guests laughed or made inappropriate comments when the groomsmen walked in. The bride didn't call off the whole thing when she saw darker suits thrown in amongst the guys.

No, it was a beautiful ceremony and I only nearly passed out twice. I knew not to lock my knees, but that didn't stop me from swaying. I'm sure the swaying wasn't too noticeable, but I felt like a skyscraper moving back and forth in strong sustained winds. If I'm ever in another wedding, remind me not to wear brand new shoes. By the time the groom was given permission to kiss the bride, I had so many multiple blisters.

"You know, it's gonna be coming at you from all sides now," said Andy as we drove around Richmond the morning before the wedding. He was referring to the increased possibility that my friends would try to set me up with a plethora of single women. This is the obvious result of being the last remaining single guy among our circle of friends. Personally, I'm banking on the fact that these guys have been all talk over the last ten years and have still not attempted to start playing "Have You Met Aaron?"

Mark, Brandon, and Andy all collectively talked to me about the virtues of one of Peyton's bridesmaids. I'm not a big fan of the set up, so I tried to talk them down. Knowing my friends' tenacity once they've made up their minds, I was prepared for some clever move on their part. Yet I find it interesting that none of them so much as introduced me to the woman in question. See? All talk.

I'm okay with that. I can't lie and say that the thought of being the last single guy didn't loom over my thoughts a bit throughout the weekend. But here's the thing, I keep busy. I may not see these fellow Bluefield alumni as often as I'd like, but that doesn't mean I don't have other friends. Shocking, I know. I have two jobs that keep me pretty well occupied and am about to start taking classes toward becoming a teacher. So maybe dating just shouldn't be an option right now.

Aw... who am I kidding?

Monday, September 29, 2014

The First Blog Post of the Rest of My Life

Well, Internet, it's been 17 days since my last post here at Carp Dime. And the posts were sporadic for a while before that. The reasons for my lack of writing have varied and I apologize to the multitude of cyber stalkers that have, no doubt, been waiting on the edge of their seats to find out what I had to say next.

First, let me assure you that I am alive and well. I've been living happily these past eight months in the year 1885. I kid. Life and work have actually been keeping me very busy. Not necessarily in that order.

Recall that I have two jobs. Both of which I (mostly) love, but they do keep me on my toes. By day I'm a counselor. By later in the day I'm the Children's Ministry Assistant at my church. It's the counseling gig that seems to take up most of my time, though I wish it was the other way around.

I will say the kids' ministry thing is pretty awesome. When I first thought about applying for that position, the Charlatan told me, without hesitation, to do it. He said it would change my life. I'm not sure that it's changed my life yet, but it's certainly changed the way I see things and the way I approach ministry. The kids at my church are pretty amazing, but I could be biased.

Counseling is great and it can be incredibly frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Honestly, if the entire job was about spending time helping kids, I'd probably be happy to do it for the rest of my life. But they throw in that pesky paperwork. It piles up. It's overwhelming. It basically leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding this line of work.

After weeks of feeling overwhelmed and getting tired of feeling tired so much of the time, I've decided to make some changes. I've taken the first steps toward earning a license to teach history on the high school level. I'm gonna be a teacher when I grow up.

It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. But, for some reason, I've never felt motivated enough to make the change and take action. In a few weeks I'll take some required exams. I'll apply to an accredited university to take some required classes. And by the end of next summer, I will be ready to have my own classroom.

Now, I realize that, in the past, I had two jobs and still made it a point to post regularly. But back then I was working at a bank and delivering pizza. I hated it. Both of those jobs gave me plenty of things to write about. Blogging became therapeutic for me. For reasons of confidentiality, I'm unable to share about my days at school. You'll just have to trust me when I say that they're usually pretty entertaining. Until the paperwork starts. That part isn't so much fun.

So changes are coming. I'm pretty excited about it. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Straight Flush

It's been a while since I did one of these posts in which I, a non-parent, dish out some parenting advice. Really, I've only done two such posts. The first was concerned with how parents should be involved in their children's schools. The other involved the legendary nap time. Today's topic? Poker.

Just kidding.

There is a time honored rite of passage in the lives of every child. It's a period that usually occurs during the toddler stage of development and can be extremely traumatic for both parent and child. I am, of course, referring to potty training.

But I don't really want to address the issues that are directly related to potty training. No, this post is about the years that follow. Parents, as you look ahead to your child's elementary school years, I implore you, teach them to flush.

Strolling into a bathroom stall, finding clear water in a toilet should be the norm, not a bonus. All too often I'll walk into the school's restroom and find things left behind by previous users. It's gross.

Sure, there's a bathroom that's designated for the grown-ups that work in the school. But it's not always unoccupied. Sometimes it's just more convenient to hit a restroom with more than one stall.

the thing is, my using the teachers' bathroom doesn't really fix the problem at hand. Sure, I don't have to see what some kid has left behind, but does that stop the next child from having to deal with it? If your kid isn't flushing at school, do you think they're flushing in other public places? Are they flushing at home?

Just ask yourself this question: Do I like walking into a bathroom to find the deuce floating in the toilet? If you answered yes to that, please contact me so I can point you in the direction of a very helpful psychiatrist. If you answered no, assume that no one else likes that either. Do us all a favor and teach your child to pull that little lever and flush it down.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Fast Food Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a Burger King. 
This king fell in love with a Dairy Queen. 
Both having royal blood, this called for a lavish ceremony. 
The only appropriate venue, of course, was beneath the legendary Golden Arches. 
The wedding was officiated by none other than Long John Silver, who, as a ship's captain, was legally able to marry the king and queen. 
Standing next to the king as best man was the incomparable Colonel Sanders. 
Once the bride and groom completed their vows and said, "I do," the Taco Bells rang in celebration throughout the land. 
The happy couple waved good-bye as they boarded the Subway. 
With a Sonic boom, they traveled to their honeymoon destination. 
A year later, their royal couple made headlines when they adopted a little red-head named Wendy. 
The princess received many gifts from the kingdom's subjects, including a Jack-in-the-Box and Checkers.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The True Story of a Persistent Spider

Over the last few weeks, I noticed something creepy on our front porch. The title should give it away, but I won't beat around the bush. It was a big honkin' spider web.

Now, we don't have much of a porch. It's not the kind of thing that you can set rocking chairs on and relax the day away on with a tall glass of iced tea. No, it's just a set of stairs that lead to a small landing where we enter our townhouse. Nothing fancy.

So there isn't a lot of space there. A couple weeks ago, I noticed that an unseen spider had built a massive web that stretched from just under our mailbox (which is located right next to the storm door) all the way to the end of the railing at the top of the stairs. As webs go, this must have taken a spider quite a bit of time to build.

The only logical thing to do was destroy it.

But, without getting rid of the spider that built the web, it was likely that a new web would take its place the next day. And the cycle of building and destroying went on for several days.

One evening, I got home after the sun had set. And there, in the center of another massive web, awaiting its insect prey, was our nocturnal friend. And the size of the spider made complete sense when considering the size of the web. It was huge.

I didn't want to mess with the thing while it was on its home turf. But I'm considering my options. I think there's only one course of action left to take.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Top 10 Robin Williams Movies

With school starting tomorrow, today's been something of a busy day. I've managed to steer clear of a lot of social media for most of the afternoon and evening. And then I got home a while ago and was shocked to read about the apparent suicide of Robin Williams. I'm not one to often gasp, but I literally gasped when I saw the headline.

It's sad to hear news that anyone has taken his or her own life. But for some reason, it seems to really affect people when it's news of an entertainer who is beloved by so many. Robin Williams played a lot of roles throughout his career, both serious and hilarious. What follows is my personal top 10 list of Robin Williams' films. Like most of my top movie lists, these are gleaned from Flickchart.

10. Bicentennial Man - What's not to love about an android who endeavors to become more human? If Data can do it on board the Enterprise, why can't Robin Williams?
9. Night at the Museum - Has anyone ever portrayed Teddy Roosevelt in such a believable manner? Has anyone else ever portrayed Teddy Roosevelt?
8. Jumanji - This one hasn't really aged well. It's still a fun movie with a good story. But the CGI is kind of pathetic when you compare it to today's technology.
7. Dead Poets Society - Why didn't this one rank higher on my list? Fantastic movie. I'm gonna have to write a strongly worded letter to the Flickchart people about this. Or maybe I should just go in and re-rank it myself.
6. Mrs. Doubtfire - This is probably the one most people think of when they think of Robin Williams. There was talk recently of a sequel. Guess that's off the table now.
5. Good Will Hunting - Another of his more serious roles. Another fantastic movie.
4. Aladdin - This is probably the other one that most people think of when they think of Robin Williams. Remember how they tried to replace him with someone else as the genie in the direct to video sequel? Couldn't hold a candle to the original Genie.
3. August Rush - If memory serves, he played a pretty big jerk in this one, right? It's been a long time since I saw this movie. But I really liked it.
2. Hook - I'm a little surprised this wasn't my number one. As I compile this list, Hook is the movie I've chosen to watch in memory of Robin Williams. Bangarang!
1. Patch Adams - I'm not complaining about this ending up as number one. This is actually a very good movie, but I have a really hard time watching it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Welcome Guests: Nicole Holden

Welcome back to the Carp Dime Guest Blogger series. Today's post comes from The Most Awesome Person I Know. At least, that's how I've referred to her on this blog in the past. Nicole Holden is the mother of five pretty outstanding kids. Her favorite movies are A Knight's Tale and Terms of Endearment. Her favorite books are The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and A Scandalous Freedom by Steve Brown. Nicole keeps her own blog over at All Things New... Go by and say hi to her!

Faith Renewed

Initially, when I received Aaron's email, my response was no. Writing on the fly is not my forte. I don't have the uncanny ability to pull a post out of the air like my friend Aaron. However, I decided to give it a try when I noticed there was a writing prompt. A life experience and the way it changed me. Aaron knows my story all too well as he walked it with me playing a large role in what has become THE life experience that forever changed my life.

The full story takes days to tell, but it includes a horrific divorce, being cast aside and rejected by a church and an excruciating custody battle. The journey I walked sent me on a discovery leading me to dig deep into my faith. It was a roller coaster of events in which Jesus got a hold of me and changed me from the inside out. He took a broken-hearted, faith-doubting girl and totally transformed her. I have become desperate for Him and it has changed my world and who I am in every way.

The part of my story I would like to share started back in 2008 when I prayed a prayer that led me on a journey I was unprepared for. It began when I was reading the story of Abraham and Isaac. I was overwhelmed by the enormous faith of Abraham when asked by God to sacrifice his only son. I remember that morning very clearly. I wanted to trust God for all things. I wanted to know Him the way in which Abraham knew Him. I yearned for that kind of faith. In fact, this was the prayer in my journal that day...
Father, help me to relinquish the hold I have over my own life, the lives of my children and the things that I do. Let me not doubt when You speak or move in my life. Make me Your servant, righteous and faithful, ready to say "Here I am" when You call.
Never would I have imagined the course my life would take over the next four years. In 2009, the battle began. The nastiness of divorce entered my life, but that situation alone was only the beginning. Divorce is nasty and ugly, but not as ugly as the custody battle that ensued. It was a battle full of fear and devastation. But God had a purpose and a plan for it all and because I trusted His word completely I was able to treat water without drowning.

In January of 2011, my pastor preached a sermon that changed the course of the path I was traveling. In his sermon, he used the verse, "Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable." (Romans 12:17) My heart was heavy. As I sat listening, God was tugging and asking me to trust Him. After several years of lawyers and multiple court appearances, I knew it had to end and I had to walk away. God was leading me to depend solely on Him and nothing else. As I read and reread Romans 12:17 I could not ignore the words, "do not repay evil for evil" but even more so the words that followed: "Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable." There is NOTHING honorable in the throes of a custody battle. Nothing. It is one parent doing everything in their power to destroy the other parent. No attorney, if doing their job correctly, can help you win without you doing something that is not honorable. I could not escape that truth. I had prayed a prayer in 2008 for a faith like Abraham and God was now asking me to trust Him completely to fight on my behalf. This was a scary step to take and those around me did not understand my choice but I knew God was a big God. I knew He loved me. I knew that He not only cared about me, but even more so for my innocent children. I knew I had to trust Him.

I was scared. I was so very afraid. These were my children. There was no one standing by me with the ability to communicate physically or verbally with another attorney. The opposing side had no concern for the well-being of my children. For this attorney it was the sheer thrill of victory. The day we entered the courtroom was terrifying. I walked in with only my mom and a young girl who had spent years babysitting my children. It was the three of us against at least a dozen people. As I walked in and sat down at the table a Bible sat before me. I opened the Bible to Exodus and found chapter 14, verse 14. "The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm." I claimed it. It was mine. I just needed to be still. For the next few hours I sat and listened as each person placed their hand upon the Bible swearing to tell the truth but chose to lie. I remember thinking this is not honorable. I will not repay evil for evil. God will handle it. Those are two days of my life I will never forget. They were scary, but at the same time, I felt the presence of God in such a way that, to this day, I shake in awe of His incredible faithfulness. I never felt alone. It was as if He was sitting next to me throughout the entire process. I left, not thinking I had won the battle, but instead knowing I had glorified my God and He was pleased.

The next month my world was shattered. On October 31, 2011, I received the document that stated that my children were no longer mine. In a matter of seconds, the time it took to open a document, my world ended. I remember the phone calls with my mom and now husband as they both sat in disbelief at what was happening. It did not make sense. None of it made sense. That same evening I also remember the different people God placed in my path and around me to love and minister to both my children and me. He continually made Himself known. He was there. He was in control.

So remember the prayer I prayed in 2008? Surprisingly enough, it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was not thinking in that direction. Instead, I was on my tiptoes searching for any sight of God I could find. Then the moment came. I received a phone call in which I was told a family member had stated that "she had to have done something wrong in order for a judge to take away her children," and it began. The crushing wave of hurt and rejection was the motivation I needed in that moment. I no longer had to stand on my tiptoes looking for God because He walked into the room and revealed Himself in the most majestic way. Suddenly my prayer from 2008 resurfaced. I had asked for this moment. I had prayed for this moment. I wanted the faith of Abraham and God was going to answer my prayer. One of the hardest things a mother can endure is being separated from her children and that is what had to happen. I came to realize throughout the course of my divorce and custody battle I had trusted God for many things. I had relied on Him and listened to Him but still held back a piece of myself. Part of my heart was His but the rest belonged to my children. The fear of losing my children kept Christ for sitting completely on the throne of my life. My children had become my idol. Much like Isaac had become for Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his only son. God was in control. He knew my prayer and He knew my heart. God knew what I needed. I needed Him. I was desperate for Him. I had been holding back, but the time had come to turn it all over. He had to take my children. Peace came to rest in my heart.

In 2012, things in my life began to take a turn. On a Sunday in January, I felt God clearly calling me to become part of a church plant. There was a moment of hesitation and doubt, but I knew I had to follow. A couple weeks later, God placed an incredible young couple in my life who were also part of this church plant. The husband was a young attorney who had just passed the bar and after sharing some of my story he took on my case pro bono. This was the second time God sent someone to be a physical reminder that He was there and fighting for me. Now I am sure you are wondering why the attorney now? This situation was different. This attorney followed Jesus. He sought direction through prayer from a God who controls all things. For him, it was not about winning. We were fighting for the safety and welfare of my children. This attorney became my "guardian" and my brother. His purpose was to deflect the evil that came my way, to pray with me and to help strengthen me in weak moments with the truth of God's word.

Throughout our times in court, my case was never heard. It was continued repeatedly as, behind the scenes, God worked out the details. As He continued to shape my character, heal my heart and grow my faith, I became stronger. Wonderful things started happening in my life. In August of 2012, my now husband proposed to me on the beach in South Carolina. It was magical! The tide began shifting. Less than four months later, we were married in the sweetest of ceremonies. On that same day, as we celebrated our marriage with family, I learned that I would be an aunt for the first time. By Christmas, I was greeted with the exciting news that I would be an aunt of twins. But the greatest of all events occurred less than two months later, when my children were back home... for good.

You see, sometimes in the darkness of our storm we cannot see God or feel His presence. His plan is unclear. We doubt and worry with fear, forgetting He has everything under control. His plan is perfect. I never thought the pain would end. But it did. God allowed the wounds that cut so deep into my heart to break me into a million pieces. His purpose: for me to become so desperate for Him that He alone could make me whole and heal my every hurt. And He did. He took all the broken pieces and turned them into an amazing tapestry of His love and grace. It is amazing. But not only did He heal me, He restored to me not just the things that had been taken through the pain but He gave me back even more. More love, more grace, more knowledge and understanding of who He is, a longing to be more like Him and a desire to share more of Him with others.

I now have a life I would never have dreamed possible. It is not perfect, but it is a life full of blessings. My life is full. It only took thirty-eight years and a lot of heartache, but God has now given me more than I could have ever asked. I am a living example that no matter how many wrong turns your life may take, there is a "happy ending." All you have to do is choose to surrender your broken pieces, your life, to the only One who can turn it into a beautiful masterpiece of His amazing grace for His glory!

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Monday, July 28, 2014

Welcome Guests: Mark Hipes

Welcome back to the Carp Dime Guest Blogger series. Today's entry is from a guy I've known just as long as I've known Brandon. Mark Hipes is the Director of Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund at Bluefield College. He earned an Associate's Degree in General Studies from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College and a B.A. in Christian Studies from Bluefield. His favorite movies are National Treasure and Rudy. His favorite book is The Last Amateurs by John Feinstein. Mark is a Christ-follower, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and a fiance. He used to be The Other Single Guy, but in a few months he will marry the love of his life, Peyton Mawyer.

Sharing Christ Through Sportsball

Normally, I am excited knowing I will be mentioned on Carp Dime, but it’s a little nerve-wracking when you are writing the blog. I don’t know how you do this every day, Aaron – well almost every day… he has slowed up a little in his old age. I would like to mention that I was present for the actual “Carp Dime” moment… good times.

The question The Single Guy posed was “one experience you’ve had that helped shape the person you are today.” Thankfully the question posed was “one experience” and not “the one experience” because there are multiple people and events that have made an impact on my future.

With that being said, I am going to pick one – it was my first summer after starting College. I had applied to serve as a BSU summer missionary and had been appointed to serve on the Sports Ministry Team. There were 5 of us on the team. After two weeks of training under the tutelage of Kendal Shuler, we would travel the state of Virginia and use sports to tell kids about Christ. Since I was attending community college, at that time, this was the first time I had been away for home for an extended period of time. It was an amazing summer. It was tough at times. We didn’t always get along and I was normally the cause for that tension – I was pretty immature back in those days. It was a season of shaping for me. While I knew it to a degree at that time, I came to see the fruit of that phase of life in the coming years. That summer the Lord began a work in my life. I was learning who I was in relationship with Him apart from my family, my church and everything that was comfortable. I am grateful for that summer and those experiences.

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Friday, July 25, 2014

Welcome Guests: Jennifer Mitchell

Welcome back to the Carp Dime Guest Writer series. Today's blogger is someone I've connected with through a mutual love for our mutual alma mater. And, to be honest, I felt a little strange typing in her full name into the title. To me, she's JMitch. JMitch works as the Administrative Coordinator for Student and Family Ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, Virginia. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sport Science with a concentration in Sport Management and a minor in Business and Coaching. Her favorite movies are Remember the Titans and Varsity Blues. Her favorite book is Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. Her favorite TV series are Friday Night Lights and Grey's Anatomy. Her favorite college football teams (aside from the Bluefield College Rams, obvi) are the Hokies and Buckeyes. JMitch blogs over at jmitchloves, so go say hi to her!

Changing Plans, Changing Dreams

Some say they made the decision of where they were going to attend college for themselves. My decision was made for me (indirectly) by someone else. I don't think I ever really thanked them for that. It's so funny that all of this took place over 10 years ago, but in sitting down to recount it all, I'm so grateful that it did.

I was best friends with a boy in high school, who meant more to me than a friend at many moments in the course of our friendship. It never amounted to anything more than many, many, late night conversations on the hood of his car, and lots of other random memories that have since left my brain. We spent a lot of time together despite attending different high schools in different counties. He was fun, but not fun enough to spend the next four years of my life with in college. You see, I had the desire to start fresh. To not go to school with a boy, or with friends at all for that matter. I wanted to get out on my own--start the next chapter of my life's story without any ties to anyone else from my past--and I was very adamant about it. I knew this would be best for me, and thank goodness it was.

I had my heart set on Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia. If you asked anyone, it's where I was going to college. I had the t-shirts and the desire for a 6 hour drive to my campus in the mountains. I loved the idea of being far enough away from home that mom and dad couldn't just come and drop in and say hi, but close enough that I could get home if I needed or wanted to. I loved rural Southwest Virginia, and I absolutely loved the campus at E&H. I envisioned myself with a painted face cheering on the Wasps in football and rushing a sorority and adventuring to Bristol for nights out in the big city. It was quite the set up I had in my head. I'd applied and was waiting to see if I'd been accepted. And it all changed with a phone call.

My guy friend called me one afternoon and left me a voicemail saying I had to call him as soon as I could. I called him after I got out of school and remember the excitement emitting from his voice as soon as he picked up the phone.

Hey! Wanna go to Emory together??

Nope. Sure don't. Don't you remember my longing to start fresh? To be in a place where no one else is? To go away and to be me without you. Remember?

He must have forgotten. And I must have forgot my manners because I was so mean to him. It was as if he was taking my dream away from me. He'd received a full ride on a scholarship in his major, and he was going. And it didn't matter what my acceptance letter said--whether I was in or not, I wasn't going.

So, this forced me into re-evaluating my plans for college. I didn't visit anywhere else--I just applied to 3 other schools and got into all of them--even Emory and Henry. But it was not where I ended up.

It didn't take long for my heart to find its way to Bluefield College. I'd been going to Bluefield all of my life, as my dad was born and raised there, and my grandparents still live there. I'd brushed it off several times before, but now it was different. At this point, it seemed more appealing to me, and it turns out it was one of the best decisions I've made in my entire life. The experiences I had on that hill and the people I met there have changed my life. I grew up on that mountain. I learned really hard lessons, made a whole slew of mistakes, I figured out how to be an adult there, and I made friends with people who truly are pinnacles of faith and friendship. It's incredible how some buildings on a piece of land in Southwest Virginia really can change a life--and I'm a testament to that.

The experience of having a dream and then realizing that the dream isn't where you're supposed to be has really helped shape the person I am today in so many ways. I would not have had so many of the same experiences I had at Bluefield had I attended Emory and Henry. I certainly would not have the same friends or the same love for a town that I do now that I'm not living there. Life would be so different for me right now, and I'm so blessed that God knows better than I do, and that all thing work together for good for those that love Him. I am a Bluefield Ram, through and through, and I would not have it any other way.
Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Welcome Guests: Jeff Noble

Welcome back to the Carp Dime Guest Writer series. Today's blogger is someone I've only known for about a year and a half. But he's also someone who's made a pretty substantial impact on my life since I started attending Northstar Church. In fact, he's the guy that has graciously allowed me to steal his idea of having guest bloggers take over here. Jeff Noble is the pastor at Northstar. He is married to Carolyn (met in college), Dad to Sam (17) and Adelyn (14). He's the author of Super Center Savior (It's good, I've read it. You should check it out). He earned his M. Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a B.A. from Ouachita Baptist University. His favorite movie is Fletch and his favorite book is Desiring God by John Piper. He's a regular blogger over at Notes from the Trail. Stop by and say hey!

Living the Fantasy

I'm honored to be a guest blogger here at Carp Dime. The assignment was to write about "one experience you've had that helped shape the person you are today." There are so many angles I could go on this, but I think I'll choose the most profound, fulfilling and friendship-begetting activity known to man: fantasy football.

Aaron probably had no idea who he was asking to write on his blog, but in the fantasy football world, I'm kinda a big deal. You see, I've been playing fantasy football since 1992. That's right, you whipper snappers! That's 22 years of experience. Those of you who think you're a baller just because you drafted Robert Griffin III? Consider this. I drafted Brett Favre as a rookie in 1993. Boom.

So here's how I got involved. I had just gotten married in May 1992 and started as a youth intern at First Baptist Church of Garland, Texas. I had been a seminary student for a year already in a four year program in Fort Worth. The youth minister was a friend and now my boss--Kevin Wieser--and he invited me to fill a vacancy in his league mid-season. So the 1993 season was the first time I participated in a draft.

Here's my roster for those of you who are NFL fans:

  • Chris Miller, Falcons
  • Brett Favre, Packers
  • Jim McMahon, Eagles
  • Christian Okoye, Chiefs
  • Ronnie Harmon, Chargers
  • Kevin Mack, Browns
  • Heath Sherman, Eagles
  • Darrell Thompson, Packers
  • Jerome Bettis
  • Natrone Means
  • Marvin Jones
  • Keith Jackson, Dolphins
  • Webster Slaughter, Oilers
  • Mark Duper, Dolphins
  • Mark Jackson, Giants
  • Don Beebe, Bills
  • Sterling Sharpe, Packers
  • Tommy Kane, Seahawks
  • Lin Elliot, Cowboys
  • Steelers
  • Bills
  • Packers
At any rate, those were the glory days of fantasy football. There weren't magazines about it, nor were there TV shows. When I told people I played fantasy football, I quickly had to explain that it wasn't raunchy or porn-related. Apparently the word "fantasy" conjured up all kinds of sordid thoughts among my Baptist friends.

Our "commissioner" was in California. He ran what we figured out was a pretty profitable enterprise. We'd send him $30, and he'd send us--in the mail--our weekly results and reports. We had to drop our starting lineups in the mail on a Tuesday in order for them to arrive in time. As a rookie coach, I remember the snickers on our live draft conference call when I drafted Marvin Jones (the top draft pick that year... unfortunately, he was a defensive player). The commissioner--probably as a joke--still put him on my roster, and I had to endure snide comments for several drafts after that.

When we finally moved to the internet for fantasy football, I was able to talk Carolyn into being our league's commissioner one year. We named the league Fantasy Queen Sports, which really gave my Baptist friends an eyebrow-raising.

Monday morning almost always found me with a copy of the sports page of the Dallas Morning News, poring over the boxscores, and adding up my team and my opponent's team scores. I'd repeat the process for a close game on Tuesday morning, to get the Monday Night Football game boxscore. Occasionally, I'd celebrate for a couple of days prematurely, only to find out when the official reports came in that I'd miscalculated and actually lost.

Those were the days before internet, and I remember spending a lot of time during the season, actually on the phone with other owners, trying to manipulate, cajole, and coerce them into making trades in a way that would benefit my upstart team.

Kevin and I were pretty competitive. We both kept notebooks of our teams, stats, and research. In a particularly weak moment one hot fall in Dallas, I remember he caught me with my hand in the trunk. I knew he kept his notebook in the trunk of his car, and when he ran in to the church to grab something, I popped the hood, jumped out of the car, and was in process of stealing trade secrets when he reappeared sooner than I accounted for. I fumbled around for an excuse, but no hail mary materialized to save my honor.

What has fantasy football done for me over the years? It's kept a group of long-time friends together in leagues who now live across the country. It's provided hours of enjoyment, taunting, and Sunday afternoon TV intrigue. It's made me knowledgeable of players across the league. It's also given me fodder for conversations with an increasing amount of guys over the years that I would have nothing in common with otherwise.

These days, it seems everyone is in a fantasy football league. Even gals have fallen in love with it, although 22 years ago, they were calling us sports nerds. One of the greatest joys has been the last several years when my son got in a league with me and fell in love with it. He actually won our league last year.

I was surprised to discover a hobby that I enjoy so much out of the blue. I've won several Super Bowls over the years (three in a row during one remarkable stretch). There have also been some not-so-proud moments.

I'll confess there have been some lazy mental moments in church on a Sunday where my mind has drifted to wondering whether I should change my lineup (and a few occasions where I actually did via my iPhone). To a group of college guys, I've even shamelessly compared my careful study of players in preparation for a fantasy draft to the preparation of Jesus in selecting his disciples, in a weak attempt to be relevant. Then there was the time Kevin figured out my login password (after we went high tech) and changed the score of my Super Bowl game, giving me a loss. I was devastated and moped around the house for 30 minutes until I realized that the scores had been tampered with.

This probably wasn't the post most would expect. I'd be happy to give it another shot, and I have blogged about my story here. However, fantasy football has been a part of my life for a long time, and it's definitely helped shape who I am today. By the way, it's about that time for fall prep!

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Welcome Guests: Landon Metts

Welcome to the Carp Dime Guest Blogger series. Today's post comes from my friend and cousin. Growing up, this guy was the closest thing I had to a brother. We played like brothers. We fought like brothers. Childhood and adolescence wouldn't have been the same without cutting up with him at our grandparents' dinner table. Landon Metts is a Christian Writer residing in Raleigh, North Carolina. His first non-fiction book Pursuing Wisdom: Unmasking Theology presents an analysis of the difference between secular and Christian motivations for behavior. It is a resource for Christians to examine motivations and ensure genuine and unmasked foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. His second book The Vapors: A Short Story Thriller & Selected Poetry features an exciting allegorical portrayal of a man in a desperate situation with few options for survival. The poetry is a collection of introspective thoughts on life and relatable encouragement. Landon has recently completed a full length Adult Christian Supernatural Thriller and is currently making presentations for representation. His passion is to see the revitalization of genuine, vulnerable, and in touch Christian behavior.

An Unlikely Performance

The song ended and I felt the exhilaration mixed with anticipation devour any remnant of sanity I had previously mustered. Was I really doing this? What would possess a man to even consider such a thing? I dared not break my statuesque pose as I strived to remain in character. I was amongst the professionals, people trained for this sort of thing. They knew I was a novice. They knew I was an outsider.

Once the applause ended, the onstage cast released from their positions and resumed the busybody nature assigned to them. It was time. There would be no going back now. I wondered where she was watching from as my right foot led forward by sheer habit at the silent prompt. I moved past the cover of curtain and the stage lights hit me. I was exposed to the eyes of the audience. In a feverish half a second, I became petrified. I don't know my lines! I thought. Then my mouth opened and the character came forth quite undeterred by my petulant fretting. It was quite an odd moment. I felt myself split into two people: the engaged actor and the frantic spectator. Previous practices and dress rehearsals had taken my full consciousness and there was no room for any split-mindedness. And yet here I was performing in front of all of these people, a Business Major who realistically had no place in such a role.

I thought back to the tryouts. It was a shot in the dark. I had only hoped to get a side role to get closer to her. She was so out of my league. My name had been called and I headed to the middle of the stage and there she was, right in front of me with a clipboard in hand. Her name was Daphne and she had undertaken with a friend to direct what would be the highest grossing play in our college's history. She was gorgeous. Without her hopeful and encouraging expression, I don't think I would have been able to do it. I remember finishing my rehearsed song, thinking that there was no way I could have made the cut. Days later, I had to check the list twice when I read that I had been cast as a lead. And here I was, two months later, daring to become the character on opening night.

I had no idea if Daphne would ever share the feelings I had for her. With each line, song, and dance I hoped that despite my inexperience, she might give me the time of day. But this night was what it all came down to. All of her hard work, the endless hours amidst classes, and the strain of trying to negotiate with different academic departments to pull it all together was enough to keep her busy. Too busy to notice me. It was then that a thought occurred to me that momentarily interrupted the flow of my performance. Whether she noticed me or not, here I was, standing in front of hundreds of people doing something that I had never had the opportunity to do before. All because of her. And my heart changed. For, no longer was my heart held hostage on what might be but rather I was released by the realization that she had given me something, given all of us something, that we would never forget. It didn't matter who we were or where we came from. It didn't matter if we were seasoned drama veterans or stammering novices, either way we were the show. And in that amazing moment all of the fear, all of the anticipation, drained from me. I was the character but beyond that, I was hers.

Now, twelve years later, as I watch our two children vivaciously play in their imaginative world I can't help but feel that it was in that opening night that I truly fell in love with my wife, Daphne. It was that day that I learned about the true character of love. It is something we do not negotiate with but rather something that we give ourselves over to in the greatest form of submission.

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Welcome Guests: Vanessa

Welcome to the Carp Dime Guest Blogger series. Today's blogger is someone who I've recently become friends with through various ministries at Northstar Church. And in proof of how small our world is, I actually went to high school with her husband. Vanessa is a stay-at-home/foster mom who earned her Bachelor of Arts from Virginia Tech in Interdisciplinary Studies (with minors in K-8 English, K-8 Math, and Psychology). Her favorite movie is Ever After and her favorite book is The Shoemaker's Dream by Mildred Schell & Masahiro Kasuya. Her favorite passage of scripture comes from Isaiah 40:11, which says, "He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs to his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young." You can find her regular posts over at Butterfly Reflections. Stop by and say hi. It should be noted that Vanessa is the only fellow blogger who attempted to participate in the 30 Day Blog Challenge I recently did, and for that, I am grateful. And so, without further ado...

Finding Hope

Hello, faithful readers of Carp Dime. I'm today's guest blogger though I'm still quite shocked I was asked. After today's read, you will more fully appreciate the great writing Aaron provides, but I thank him all the same for this opportunity. I've been asked to share with you an experience that has shaped who I am today, so I'll tell you about the day that my son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

My son, E, is 9 years old and was diagnosed almost 2 years ago. A teacher, and college friend, was the one to mention that perhaps we might consider testing him for Asperger's Syndrome. I believe my husband said those words felt a bit like a punch in the gut while images of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man came to his mind. I, on the other hand, felt something akin to hope...

Several months passed as we traversed the proper channels to get him tested. That September day finally arrived and we took him in for observation with specialists. During that time, my husband and I spent a couple hours confirming, quantifying, and more clearly defining the endless questionnaire answers we had submitted weeks before. By the afternoon's end, we were told E quite definitely fit the qualifications of Asperger's (which is on the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum Disorder). I thought I would feel defeated or hopeless, but I didn't.

Instead, I encountered relief. The years of difficulty in communicating with and disciplining my child had a reason beyond those of my failings as a mother. Until that day, I felt entirely responsible for all the problems we had experienced. Since that day, I have seen purpose.

I felt encouraged. The unknown is difficult to work with, but a diagnosis gave me a starting point from which to obtain solutions. A peace washed over me knowing that we could now work at finding solutions to help E, and I developed greater patience.

I was hopeful. My husband and I had intended to foster children but until that day we were unsure that could be a possibility. Learning about the lesser emotional attachment our son has gave us hope that we could receive children into our home, care for and love them, then reunite them to their families--all without too grately affecting the emotionality of E. The hubs and I will be a wreck, but there is a peace and hopefulness in knowing that our son will get through it better than us.

I felt reassurance. God always had His hand in every aspect of our lives, but that day I felt reassured that He knows what He is doing and He was simply preparing us for things to come that we could never have imagined. He was growing my trust in Him without me knowing it, and that is a formidable emotion for me. He revealed to me my lack of trust and faith in Him.

Lastly, our marriage was strengthened. The diagnosis pulled back the wedge that had been pushing my husband and me apart. As a couple, we are far from perfect (I mean, we're totes amazing, but not 100% perfect), but having the frustration removed of not knowing why we were failing so miserably at that parenting thing enabled us to finally grow closer.

So there you have it--an experience that has shaped who I am today. I hope it provided encouragement for you, or at the very least didn't bore you to tears. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me. Have a fabulous day and thanks for reading!

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell 
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden