Saturday, January 25, 2014

Remembering Dean Dan

I was entering my first senior year at Bluefield College when I met Dan Bowman. He was just starting out as BC's new Dean of Students. At first, I wasn't sure what to think of this guy. But, being one of those people who somehow got involved in a lot of the student organizations, it wasn't long before I figured out exactly what to think of this guy.

I don't know who started it, or who coined the phrase, but soon after the start of that fall semester, Dean of Students Dan Bowman was known simply as Dean Dan. He was the kind of guy who wasn't afraid to get to know his students. He had an open door policy and welcomed us into his office at pretty much any time. No matter what was going on, Dean Dan could always be counted on for a Star Wars quote or a vague Karate Kid reference.

For the last few years, Dean Dan has been fighting a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Sadly, this past Thursday, he passed away after battling so hard for so long. I've been silent these last couple days, unsure what to say or how to say it. During those last two years of college, I came to think of Dean Dan as not just an administrator or a counselor or a mentor, but also as a friend.

I remember a time when I took advantage of that close relationship and really disappointed him. It was Thanksgiving of my final year at Bluefield. The campus was supposed to be shut down during the break and students weren't allowed back until a certain date. I decided to ignore those rules. At the time I was living in the dorm that had no outer security door. Because of this, I was free to come and go as I saw fit. Also, at the time, I was dealing with some family issues back home that I really didn't want to deal with. So I made the excuse that I needed to come back to Bluefield for work the day after Thanksgiving.

I wasn't very sneaky about it. It's not like I tried to hide the fact that I was staying in my dorm room two or three days before I was allowed to. But I also knew that, technically, I was breaking a rule. It wasn't a lie, I did work during that Thanksgiving break. But I didn't necessarily have to. I could have easily told my employer that I could not be in Bluefield during that time. I made a choice.

So it was no surprise that I was called into Dean Dan's office that Monday. It was the first and only time I ever had to sit across from his desk for disciplinary reasons. Honestly, I don't remember how I was reprimanded that day. What I do remember is the look of disappointment on Dean Dan's face. That hurt worse than any punishment he could have dished out. Oh, and it was thanks to that incident that students were thereafter required to turn in their room keys before leaving for any extended breaks. You're welcome, Bluefield.

Thankfully, Dean Dan wasn't the kind of man to hold a grudge. Once the air cleared, it was done. I'm grateful for the man that Dean Dan was and for the example he showed me as I was finishing my college career. I'm only sorry that I didn't take every opportunity to let him know how much I appreciated him between then and now. Our world's just a little darker now, though I'm sure Heaven is that much brighter.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Funny Things I've Found on Pinterest

Yes, I do spend time looking at Pinterest. I might be one of 5 men who will freely admit to such a thing. But I find it to be a very practical type of social network. I use it to get new ideas for work... counseling activities and what not. I also find recipes that I might be interested in trying out at some point. A few I've actually attempted and they've turned out not so bad. Every now and then I'll search for words of wisdom. But mostly, I'll get on there and look for reasons to laugh when I'm bored or can't sleep. What follows are some of the funnier things I've seen.

A perfect match, really.

For all those Star Trek fans out there.

Sacrilegious? Legitimate paraphrasing?

The reason Venn diagrams exist.

My Dad, actually.

There are actually more that I wanted to post. But I think I'll save them for another time. Because things that are funny are funny all the time. Hope something here made you laugh tonight.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2 Gals, 3 Guys and 5 Guys

I'm usually not one to get attached to people. More often than not, I use the excuse that my introverted nature just prevents me from getting close and forming lasting relationships with the people I meet. The truth of the matter is, I've become pessimistic about relationships.

See, saying goodbye is a hard thing to do. But it's not as hard if the attachment isn't that strong. Over the years, I've trained myself to hold back with friends and acquaintances. Eventually, I move on, or they do. At that point, the inevitable goodbye hurts. The pessimist in me is convinced that it won't hurt as bad if I don't get that close.

But keeping one's distance is easier said than done. Anyone who reads this blog knows I value my alone time. But that doesn't mean I want to be lonely. I enjoy being around people (in doses). And being around people leads to making connections and becoming friends and forming bonds. Since this sort of thing seems to be unavoidable, Blacksburg may have been the wrong place to live.

Blacksburg is something of a transient town. Most of its inhabitants are students at Virginia Tech. Most of the people I've met since arriving in the New River Valley are graduate students. This means it's highly likely that they will leave the area once they've earned their advanced degrees. Which means that I'm making friends with these people knowing that I'll eventually have to say goodbye all over again. Even now, I know it's coming with several friends I've met over the past year. And I know I'm not ready.

I won't let that keep me from putting myself out there. Most of the people I've met have been through Northstar Church. It's a place where I've gotten more involved than I thought I would in such a short amount of time. That's not a complaint. It's actually a huge blessing. For a lot of years, I stayed away from churches in order to avoid the same kind of pain that came from saying goodbye to people. Actually, it was a different kind of pain, but it came from a similar place. It came from a lack of faith and a lack of trust.

That said, the people of Northstar have played a large role in helping me to break down the walls that I built up to keep myself from feeling any kind of emotional pain. The problem with those walls is that they've kept me from feeling a lot of emotion of any kind, even the more positive feelings. Funny how allowing people to get close can open you up to so many possibilities. My overall acceptance by these people has been somewhat unexpected, but incredibly welcome.

This past Sunday, I was approached by the pastor, Jeff, and he asked if I'd like to have coffee or grab lunch sometime this week. Since I had MLK Day off work, I suggested Monday. Then I asked if I was in trouble. Confession: I'm not used to people just asking if I'd like to join them for lunch. I know, blows your mind, too, doesn't it? I'm kind of a big deal, so you'd think people would be asking to break bread all the time.

Anyway, I met Jeff at the church office and he suggested some of the staff coming along. That was fine by me. The more the merrier. In the end, we were joined by Jeff's wife, Carolyn, and our youth and college minister, Ryan and his wife, Karin. Oh, and we ate at Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a place which, if you've never been, you should go to as soon as you get the chance. Can't be good for you, but it's all kinds of delicious.

I can't tell you everything we talked about. I can tell you that we all laughed a lot. I can't possibly know how many of the people I come into contact with over the coming months and years will stay in my life for more than just the coming months and years. I can tell you that I want to affect those people in the most positive ways that I can. I can also tell you that the people I've already come into contact with are affecting my life in incredibly positive ways.

No matter who comes and goes, I know for certain that I'm blessed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Question of the Week: Regret

Have you ever regretted something you did not say or do?

I'd like to boldly state that I live my life with no regrets. To me, regrets are, in my opinion, a waste of time and not worth dwelling on. But just because I'd like to say that doesn't mean it's true. I have no doubt that most, if not all, people have regrets about one thing or another from time to time. I know I've had regrets. But sitting here, typing these words, I can't honestly think of any. Thinking about regrets simply causes us to play a "what if" game. It causes us to dwell on negative aspects of our past. Living in the past gets us nowhere. It's over and done and there's nothing we can do about it. If you're determined to set your mind on past events, then let them be the happy ones. Think about the people and times that have made you smile and laugh and be thankful that those people and events came into your life. Don't regret what could have happened if only you'd done this or refrained from saying that. We've got enough to worry about in the present without dredging up the worries of the past.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Tales from Old Navy: Hanging It Up

"Would you like to hold on to the hangers?"

This is a question you're likely to hear from me or any number of my coworkers if you come through our line at the store. Well, you'll hear it if you happen to be purchasing clothes that are hung and not folded. That's because we want you to have the option of keeping these hangers for yourself. After all, if you're buying something that's on a hanger, there's a good chance you'll be hanging it in your closet once you get home. Unless you're like me and the article of clothing you just purchased ends up sitting in the bag on the floor of your closet for approximately 4 weeks before you remember you actually bought something and had every intention of wearing it.

Anyway, we give you the choice because, maybe you have your own hangers. Maybe you bought the fancy 10 pack at Wal-Mart for $1.50. If that's how you roll, then we want you to keep rolling that way, you big spender.

Personally, I like for people to refuse the store's hangers. That is my preference for one reason only. It's so much easier to bag your clothes if I can fold them, rather than shove a barely flexible plastic hanger into the bag. Those hangers take up so much space and they're awkward and they tend to poke holes in things.

Granted, if you don't take the hangers home with you, I'm stuck with a tub full of unwanted hangers at the end of my shift. Those don't just disappear. At some point, I have to deal with them. But I'd still rather deal with those awkward contraptions than try to awkwardly fit them into the bag that you have to carry out of the store.

Don't let this bit of propaganda sway you, though. If you want to keep the hangers, by all mean, keep the hangers. I'll make it work. I'm just letting you know what I prefer.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Letter from the President

Remember that time I wrote a letter to the President of the United States? Late last March, that's exactly what I did. It was the first time I'd written to any elected official as a registered voter. It's a letter that I sent not only to the president, but also to the two senators from Virginia and to my local congressman. I never expected to receive a response.

A few months ago, I received what amounted to a form letter from Senator Kaine's office. I assumed that would be the end of it. In fact, I'd pretty much put the letter I originally wrote out of my mind. Yesterday, I received a response from the White House.

If you don't want to click the above link to read my original words, you don't really have to. To sum up, I voiced my concerns regarding the state of social services in this country. Particularly, I was concerned with the state of Child Protective Services and their seeming inability to effectively protect children in our community. This letter, filled with my own frustrations, was written after witnessing a family of children continually get abused while CPS did nothing. Meanwhile, I've heard of a number of situations where CPS stepped in and removed children from good homes with parents who actually cared about their kids' well being. As a counselor, it breaks my heart to see these situations on either side of that coin.

I really expected nothing to come of the letter. I figured, at best, I would receive the same kind of form letter I got from Senator Kaine's office from several other elected officials. I expected nothing from the president.

The letter I received yesterday is typed. It was done so on December 26, the day after Christmas. If memory serves, the good people on the news said that the Obama family was in Hawaii at that time. While I've heard that President Obama does read a number of letters that arrive at the White House from time to time, I can't really assume he read mine.

But someone did. Someone read my specific concerns and specifically addressed them in this response. I can't say for certain that it was a staffer that wrote the letter. I suppose there is a possibility that the president himself wrote it. The writer makes it personal by saying "as a father," the well being of America's children are a high priority.

I can say with certainty that the letter was signed with ink. It wasn't stamped. So, at the very least, the president looked over the letter and gave his approval by putting his signature on it. The postmark on the envelope is from January 6. It arrived at my old post office box on the 14th before being forwarded to my current address, where it arrived yesterday, January 16. So my assumption is that someone on the president's staff wrote the letter the day after Christmas, gave it to the president for his approval once he returned from vacation, then dropped in the mail.

Again, I could be wrong. Maybe President Obama was sitting with Michelle and the kids the day after Christmas and said, "You know, I haven't heard from Aaron in a while. I should probably drop him a line." Yeah, I'm sure that's how it happened.

Whatever the case, I'm impressed by the response. My intent in writing the original letter was not to seek a sweeping change in the system. I just wanted my voice to be heard. This response does not represent a sweeping change in the system. It just lets me know that my voice was heard. For me, that's enough.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How I Spend My Snow Day

I'm always of two minds when it comes to inclement weather. On the one hand, I love working within a school system that has a tendency to shut down whenever the sky threatens to release frozen precipitation. On the other hand, I don't get paid if there's no school. If I was the kind of person who looked at life through long-term lenses, I'd probably spend a lot of time worrying about what's gonna happen when my paycheck comes after missing a number of snow days. But that's not who I am. I've come to embrace the present and enjoy the day off for what it is. I'll deal with the ramifications of a decreased payday when it comes next month.

Today is one of those days. Floyd County (or FloCo, as my friend Sarah describes it) got dumped on yesterday evening. I received a picture message from one of the teachers with whom I work around 5:30. It was an image of her back deck. There was roughly half an inch of snow covering the grill. Just before 7, she sent another message saying it was really coming down hard. Big flakes. The accompanying picture showed about an inch on the grill. Not long after that, she claimed her family was going sledding.

I was a little jealous. See, while I work in FloCo, I live in Blacksburg. Blacksburg got nothing. The kids in my neighborhood? They're all at school today. They went on time. I slept late. If you look outside my door, you'd have to wonder why.

This is my Snow Day! Isn't it magical?!
I didn't actually sleep late. Technically. I got up at the same time I normally get up. But I didn't get out of bed. I got on the computer. I surfed Pinterest for a while. I looked at the Facebook and the Twitter. I basically just killed time. Then I realized I didn't have anything to do or anywhere to be. So I forced myself to lie back down and attempt to sleep some more. I rationalized it by telling myself that I spend a lot of nights just not getting enough sleep. I figured this was a good opportunity to catch up, if such a thing is possible.

If you count that as sleeping late, I slept late. I don't know how I would classify that. Woke up on time, took a very early nap before really starting the day?

Anyway, eventually I got up. My plan is to be at least somewhat productive today. No, I don't have to do anything for work. My paperwork is completely caught up, so I have no stress there. But I've been meaning to clean out my room since the Christmas break. I just never got around to it. I've got a stack of books that have nowhere to live, I should find a place to put them. I've got plenty of clothes in my closet that I never wear, I should decide what I don't use anymore and take it to Goodwill. I've got some books I'd like to read, I could make a dent in one or two of those. Or I could play video games.

I still like video games. I just never justify the time it takes to play them anymore. Maybe I should do that today. I have a perfectly good PlayStation sitting next to my TV that gets used mostly for Netflix and viewing Blurays. I'm sure I still have games lying around somewhere. But I'll probably have to clean my room to get to them. Maybe I could go out and catch an early movie. I'm sure there's something worth seeing at a matinee.

The world is my oyster, friends.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Finishing What I've Started

So, there are a number of things I've started that I've never continued or come close to finishing. At the moment, I can think of two.

First of all, my friend Erynn challenged me to write a story. Initially it was supposed to be a one post deal. But I realized it could turn into something a lot more involved. I wrote a part one. Several months later, I wrote a part two. I intended to continue it soon after, but as of now I still haven't gotten around to posting part three.

Next, there's the Lois Lane thing. A few months ago I set out to write my own take on Lois Lane, simply because I didn't like the way she's been handled in the comics in recent years. In thinking about how the stories would flow, I came up with a lengthy outline that could carry into 20 or more short stories. Thus far, I've written exactly one chapter.

I don't like feeling like I'm slacking on something I set out to do. I need to get on this stuff. For those of you who have enjoyed those stories or others that I haven't mentioned here, let me know about it. I'll be happy to get back to the fiction if that's what my readers want to see.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Answering Another Question with More Questions

You have no idea how happy I am to keep getting questions. This started last Thursday and I wasn't sure what kind of response I would get. It's been nice to have questions trickle in like they have. Go back and take a look at the previous questions and answers here, here and here.

Vanessa asks, "If you had one afternoon here on earth that Jesus came to meet you for coffee, etc., what would you want to ask Him or pick His brain about?"

So, basically, I've got the Creator of the universe sitting across from me at the Starbucks? And I can ask Him anything at all? Where do I begin?
  • What's the deal with black holes? Are they vortexes that lead to other dimensions or times? Do they just crush things that get pulled in?
  • What's the correct plural form of the word vortex? Was I right with vortexes or is it vorteces?
  • Can you explain how dinosaurs fit into the history of creation? If so, please explain.
  • What about the first people? Was it really just Adam and Eve to start things off? Where did Mrs. Cain come from? Was it his sister? And what about the city Cain built after he killed Abel? A city implies a large group of people that comprise a community and, if that's the case, where did that population come from? If they're all Adam & Eve's unmentioned offspring, did they have a problem living in town with a brother who killed their other brother?
  • Is it okay that I sometimes question the logistics of things I read in the Bible? I do have faith to get me through it all, but that hasn't stopped me from being a logical thinker.
  • Okay, really, what was the smoke monster from Lost?
  • Did it hurt? (I know, dumb question.)
  • Does it still hurt whenever I commit a sin?
  • Is it possible to be free of temptation here on earth? I know it's possible to resist temptation, it would just be easier if temptation wasn't a thing.
  • How many stars are there?
  • Is there intelligent life on another planet?
  • How many hairs are on my head? (I won't go behind You and count. I'll just take Your word for it.)
  • Am I gonna go bald?
  • Will I ever get married?
  • If so, do you think you could equip her with a big neon sign over her head that only I could see? I'm not so great with the striking up conversations with random people. A neon sign that said "THIS IS THE ONE" would be a nice icebreaker.
  • Are ghosts real? Or are they like I've believed for some time: demons that take the form of people's loved ones to confuse and deceive?
  • Do You wanna build a snowman?
  • What's Your favorite food?
  • What's Your favorite book of the Bible? Favorite verse? Feel free to pick of Your own quotes, I won't think it's conceited.
I should probably write these down. I will want to be buried with the list, that way I don't forget anything when I get to Heaven.

That's it for now. Keep those questions coming!

Question of the Week: Lifted Spirits

What lifts your spirits when life gets you down?

The short answer: laughter.

It doesn't matter what the problem is. Laughing can either fix the problem or make me forget about it for a while. I'll admit, there are times when I'm really upset, even pissed off at the world, and I just want to wallow in my misery. I'm not sure if that's a symptom of some kind of psychological condition or not, but in those funks I'm resistant to attempts to make me laugh. At times, I'm even a little resentful of anyone who tries to cheer me up. But if people keep at it or show me an episode of How I Met Your Mother, eventually I'll crack.

To anyone who has seen me at my worst and tried to cheer me up, I'm sorry I didn't appreciate your attempts. To those who managed to get through and make me laugh, thanks for not giving up despite my pitiful attitude.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

One More for Sunday

I said I'd keep doing this as long as more questions came in. I got one more last night. And if I get another question tonight, I'll answer that one in another post. Keep 'em coming!

Renee asks, "Assuming you have a bucket list... what would you cross off first and why?"

Of course I have a bucket list. It's pretty extensive. In fact, when I first compiled the list to post to this blog, I had 100 items on it. I later added another when I decided I wanted to learn how to sing Barenaked Ladies' "One Week" all the way through without flubbing the lyrics. So now it's at 101. But I've already crossed off five from the list. Those are: watch every Star Wars movie in one sitting; figure out what the smoke monster from Lost really was; run a 5k; go on a date; and survive 12/21/2012. So I guess, technically, that's my answer. Those are the first ones I've crossed off. Though I suppose I could go the extra mile and think about what I want to cross off next. 96 events from which to choose. I should clarify, just because I want to cross something off next doesn't mean it'll actually happen. But I'll go with owning a home with a large front porch. I'll settle with owning a home period. But the one I want definitely has a large front porch. You can click on the link to take a look at the whole listing. It's right on my way to work, so I get to see it every day. It's a beautiful home, inside and out. It sits on 9.45 acres of land. It has a pond. All for the low, low price of $350,000. Barring some miraculous windfall, I'll never own that house. Not in this lifetime, anyway. But if you, my readers, really want to help me with that, feel free to contribute to the Single Guy's PayPal account. Pretty sure I still have a place on the right where you can click. I'll let the picture below inspire you.

Yeah, that's where I want to live when I grow up. You can all come over for s'mores around the fire pit.
As for why I want to cross that off my list? Well, I just think it would be fantastic to own my own home. I used to think I would be satisfied renting forever. I guess I've grown up and matured (just a little). I want a place that I can call mine. And if owned a property that extensive, I'm pretty sure I'd name it. Stately Wayne Manor... Except I'm not Bruce Wayne. But I'd totally renovate the basement and build a Batcave. How awesome would that be?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

More Questions. More Answers.

This post is the third, and probably final, in a series. Late Thursday evening I invited folks on Facebook and Twitter to ask me questions which would be answered here in the blog. I answered two on Thursday night and two yesterday. Here are some more of my answers...

Hunter asks, "If you had five days, and money was not a problem, you could not fly nor take a train, where would you go?"

Can I take someone with me? Road trips are always more fun with a full car. Well, they're more entertaining, anyway. If money is really no object, I think I'd take some people to DisneyWorld. I haven't been there in a long time but I remember it being a lot of fun as a grown-up. More fun as an adult than when I went as a kid, actually. But I can't imagine it being much fun by oneself.

Viktor asks, "Dessert Island Movies... What 5 dessert themed movies would you bring with you to an island, or alternatively, what island themed movies would you most like to enjoy a dessert with?"

Again with the island? At least this one's a dessert island. I assume that would be a little more delicious. Dessert themed movies? I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so maybe that's why I'm not too familiar with those types of films. Which may be a little sad because I'm familiar with so many types of movies. Not sure I can name five, but we'll start with the obvious: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And just so I'm clear, I mean the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka, not Johnny Depp. Even if I can't think of five, that remake will not make the list. Speaking of Johnny Depp, I think he was in a movie called Chocolat. Pretty sure it had something to do with chocolate. Next, I'll go with Waitress. I never saw it, but apparently Keri Russell makes a lot of pie. Sarah Michelle Gellar once played a chef who made a magical dessert in Simply Irresistible. Really not a very good movie at all. Finally, crude as it is, I'll go with American Pie. After all, an apple pie did have something of a starring role. As for island themed movies, I think I'd like to watch Cast Away while eating a key lime pie.

Viktor also asks, "What do you want to be when you grow up? What would you tell your younger self if you had a chance to send a message back in time (you can pick the age/year)?"

I want to be a teacher when I grow up. And a writer. But I don't want to teach writing. I want to teach elementary school and use my summers to write. And if I could send a message back in time, I'd send it to myself in high school. Aaron... Study a little more. That extra .01 on your GPA will get you a scholarship, slacker! Don't get discouraged by the amount of work you'll have as an elementary education major. Just stick with it. Boston's gonna win the World Series in 2004. I know it sounds unbelievable, just trust me. Put a lot of money on Boston at the beginning of that season. It'll pay off. Finally, it doesn't matter who she is, don't bother. She's not interested. 

Chris asks, "What are your top five favorite TV shows of all time?"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Lost and Quantum Leap. No particular order.

Vanessa asks, "Can a woodpecker get migraines?"

Making me work for this one, huh? According to an article by Samantha Hauserman of Arizona State University, there are a few tricks up a woodpecker's sleeve that helps it avoid headaches. To avoid brain damage, woodpeckers are able to vary where their beaks hit. Their skulls are more flexible, acting like shock absorbers. Hauserman describes the woodpecker's skull as being like an internal bike helmet. So, no, a woodpecker cannot get migraines. At least, not from banging its head against a tree. I can't speak to individual woodpeckers who may have specific pollen allergies or deal with abnormal stress on the job.

Hunter also asks, "What are your favorite jokes & punchlines from TV?"

Honestly, I'm not good with jokes and punchlines. My sense of humor is far too dry to successfully land a traditional joke. I'm a big fan of the one-liner though. The best are the random, unexpected lines that come from certain characters. I like Phil's explanation of texting lingo on Modern Family: "I'm cool dad, that's my thing. I'm hip, I surf the web, I text. LOL: laugh out loud, OMG: oh my god, WTF: why the face?" A classic is when Joey, on Friends, explained a "moo" point. More recently, I like Nick's random confessions on New Girl. "I don't believe dinosaurs existed. I've seen the science, I just don't believe it." "I'm not convinced I know how to read. I've just memorized a lot of words." Also on New Girl, Winston's pretty hilarious when trying to talk to women. And, of course, there's just too much brilliance to speak of when mentioning Community, 30 Rock or How I Met Your Mother.

Well, those are all the questions I've gotten. I'm still open to receiving more questions. This is always fun.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I've Got Answers

Okay, this is a continuation of yesterday's blog. As a refresher, I put out a call for questions on Facebook and Twitter. I don't know why I bothered with Twitter. No one pays attention to me on there anyway. I only got a couple questions from folks before I clicked the publish button. Since then, I've gotten a few more. I will happily answer these questions now.

Jessica asks, "Which friend have you known the longest and why are they incredible?"

Well, Jessica, this seems like a conspicuously self serving question. As you know, you are my oldest friend. Not in age, but in the time in which we've known each other. I met a young Jessica Smith on the first day of school when we began the first grade at Raleigh Court Elementary School. I had just transferred in from East Salem. She had just transferred from Virginia Heights. Jessica's never been one to meet a stranger. I, on the other hand, was terrified, as I generally am in most new situations. Jessica exploited that fear and threatened to shave my head if I didn't pay her to be my friend. The funds were to come directly from my lunch money fund. Eventually I got the upper hand. During our 2nd grade year, I got a buzz cut, showing Jessica that I was not afraid of a shorn scalp. However, by that point, our bond was genuine and I no longer needed her to pretend to be my friend. Because she was my friend. And still is. 28 years later. And she only threatens me with physical harm occasionally.

Connie asks, "What two books would you bring with you if you were stranded on an deserted island?"

This is the second deserted island related question I've gotten. Do people want me to get stranded on an uncharted island somewhere? If Kate from Lost will be there, I'm okay with it. If it's just Wilson from Cast Away, I might lose my mind. Anyway... Two books. The Bible, 'cause I can always get something new out of that. And The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Just because it's my favorite. I read through it about once a year. Totally worth it.

It's funny, while I was answering these questions I got two more. At the moment, that means I have three left to answer. And I'd answer them all right here, right now, but I'm late for work. So I need to get going. I'll answer more tomorrow. Feel free to continue asking questions. I really don't mind it when you guys make me think.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

You've Got Questions

I asked for questions tonight on the Facebook and the Twitter. I was hoping it would go a little better than the last time I asked for questions here on the blog. Back then I received exactly one question. As I begin this post, I've only received one question. But it's a quality question, so let's get started.

Rachel asks, "Desert Island Movies... What 5 movies you'd bring with you on a deserted island and why?"

Okay, am I to assume that this island is complete with television and DVD player? Or is it VHS? Where's my power source? You know what... I'm over thinking this thing. Top five movies: Back to the Future, The Empire Strikes Back, The Matrix, Superman: The Movie and That Thing You Do.

A second question came in while I was answering Rachel's question! This one comes from the guy from whom I stole this idea...

Jeff (Notes from the Trail) asks, "Who would you eat first if you were stranded with your coworkers at Old Navy and starving?"

Okay, this could get awkward. Because not only am I friends with a lot of my Old Navy coworkers, but some of them also read my blog. And I know you're not looking for a non-committal, self-sacrificing answer like, I'd just let them eat me first. Besides, I don't want to die. I'm just gonna assume that we're trapped in the store during the zombie apocalypse and we've devoured everything in the vending machine in the break room. Now it gets hard, because there really isn't anyone I work with that I don't like, so I can't just choose someone to munch on just because I think they're annoying. Maybe we should just go with someone who's physically fit or more muscular. Maybe Matt. Pretty sure he works out. Based on that logic, I'd be totally safe.

Okay, those are the only questions I've gotten tonight. If I get more, I'll do another post another time.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

New Tales from Old Navy: The Broken Door

There are a lot of stupid people out there. Maybe stupid is the wrong word. I should probably just say ignorant. Because the people I'm talking about are probably capable of reading signs. They just choose not to because they're too lazy to do so. Even if they happen to be illiterate, certain symbols and characters should still be recognizable, warning them that something's not quite right.

It's a phenomenon I've run into in the past. People just don't know how to act around doors for some reason. You'd think we, as a species, would have it down by now. After all, we've been using doors for millennia. They open, they close... simple enough? When I worked for the bank, we had a problem with people forgetting what kind of door they had just walked through. If I had a nickel for every time someone came into the branch by manually opening the door, then think we had automatic doors not five minutes later, I'd probably have a few extra bucks to my name.

Old Navy has exactly two automatic doors. But they're not the kind with a special device that senses your presence and open as if by magic. No, they're the kind with buttons that must be pushed in order for a machine to activate, opening the door for you. These are meant for those who are physically handicapped in some way. And also for small children who can't seem to just let buttons exist without being pushed.

Several months ago, the outermost automatic door began to malfunction. I honestly don't remember what initially caused the problem. Maybe it was something to do with the motor not working properly. Whatever the case, a repair man was called to take a look at it and he had no clue how to fix it. I was there that first night when the clueless maintenance worker came and left. We taped a handwritten sign to the door letting people know it was broken and to, please, use the manual door to the left.

Not long after this, some moron decided to try the door anyway. Apparently, they thought the sign was just a hoax perpetrated by the management of the store. I'm sure if the door was really working properly and we'd taped that sign to the door for giggles, it would have been a hilarious joke. But it wasn't a joke. The door really didn't work. At all. And now we had more of a problem because morons like that guy decided to try the door anyway.

Fast forward to December of 2013. By this point, a number of stupid/ignorant people had tried to open the door manually (which always remained locked anyway) or push the button to activate the automatic machinery. Finally, the door had taken all it could take. Someone came by on a Friday afternoon and decided they would push that button. Just because.

The motor that should have opened the door turned on. And it didn't turn off. It just kept on trying to open the door. Even though the door was locked. Rather than allow the motor to continue making its annoying sound and risk burning out, the door was unlocked and allowed to fully open. Now, if the door was working properly, it would shut automatically, too. It would reach a certain point, the motor would turn off, then it would release and close. That day, it opened, the motor turned off, then it stayed open. If one were to force it closed, the motor would reactivate and fight whomever was trying to close the door.

Once again, maintenance was called. I should mention that several different people had come to attempt to fix the door, but no one could understand what was wrong with it. That night, no one was willing to come. But we had to figure something out. If we couldn't get that door closed, we couldn't lock the store, meaning we couldn't go home. This was unacceptable.

I took it upon myself to try a number of things. First, I closed and locked the door. Yes, the motor kept trying to keep the door open, but I was stronger than that stupid machine. My first plan was to find a screwdriver and disconnect the arm of the door from the motor. Unfortunately the screws were kind of stripped, so I couldn't get a screwdriver to work.

Plan B involved letting the motor fry itself. I made sure to locate the nearest fire extinguisher, just in case it was needed. But after nearly an hour of allowing the motor to run to no effect, it seemed it wouldn't simply die.

Finally, I looked around the store for the fuse box. I assumed there would be a switch that would just turn off the power to the automatic door. The only problem would be determining which switch it would be. The store, as it turns out, has three separate fuse boxes. One was labeled with detailed descriptions of lights. Another had no labels at all. The one in the middle, however, had a card attached to the door. This card had printed, in a very tiny font, what each switch would do. And there, in tiny print, were the words front door.

I used the walkie talkie to contact one of my coworkers and asked her to listen for the motor. I would flip the switch and she would let me know if it turned the motor off. I stood at the fuse box with the manager on duty. I took a deep breath and nervously flipped the switch. The whole time, I felt like I was cutting the wire to a bomb. Then the voice came over the radio saying that it worked. The motor was off.

I felt kind of like a hero. Like MacGyver. Okay, not so much. But the door was closed. It was locked. And as long as that switched remained in the off position, morons could come along all day, every day and push that stupid button. It would do nothing without power.

The signs remain on that door. The paper is bright orange. The words are typed out in bold print, all caps, "PLEASE USE THE OTHER DOOR. THIS DOOR IS BROKEN!!!!!" Yes, there are a lot of exclamation points. Despite this, when I was arriving to work the next day, I watched a man stroll right up and pull on the door. That's right, he pulled on the broken one. The one with the big honkin' sign on it that warned him it was broken. Moron.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

34 in 58

In less than two months, I'll be celebrating yet another birthday. I know, I'm excited too. I know when it is. I know what age I'll be. The only thing I'm unsure of is how to celebrate.

Last year was pretty great. The party started at Macado's. Judge all you want, but I kind of love the place. Following dinner, the party moved to Adventure World. Skating and laser tag were enjoyed by just about everyone. It was all kinds of awesome.

So I have options for Birthday Bash '14. I could repeat last year: Macado's, skating, laser tag. But, no matter how awesome it was last year, would it be lame to do the same thing two years in a row?

A second option, which was suggested by one of my teacher friends, would be to have a karaoke night. I looked into it and the Farmhouse in Christiansburg does karaoke on Friday nights at 9. This option, of course, would need to include dinner at the Farmhouse prior to the sing-off. This would require a headcount beforehand so that reservations could be made. I haven't eaten there since I was in high school, but if memory serves, it's pretty amazing.

Option three would involve postponing the celebration until Saturday. Then, it would become an all day thing in which myself and whomever chose to participate would take a look at my previously published bucket list and attempt to cross off as many items as possible. Some of those items are quite easy (build a sandcastle, shake hands with the president, fly in a helicopter). Others would be quite difficult, nigh impossible (create a life-size Chutes and Ladders game, discover time travel, kiss a girl).

So there you have it. Three choices. Of course, there are other options. I could do nothing. But life's too short to not celebrate birthdays. I could combine one of the first two options with the third option, make it a whole weekend affair. Finally, I could just be surprised. After all, being thrown a surprise party was on the bucket list as well.

I'd like to put it to a vote, though I doubt anyone will actually participate. Seems I can't have audience participation if I ask for it. But if you're feeling so inclined, I'd love to know your opinions, so the comment section is ready and waiting. So, until next time, stay warm Carp Dimers.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Question of the Whatever: Greatest Fear

Has your greatest fear ever come true?

Thankfully, no. I have never seen a random clown standing on the side of the road, staring and waving at me as I drive by. That's my nightmare. This clown is standing there, just waiting specifically for me. Aww man... why'd I have to think about that? Good thing school's been canceled tomorrow due to extreme cold because I sure won't be sleeping tonight.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Colonial Times

Not too long ago I mentioned that I wanted to buy an old theater in Bluefield. JMitch commented that she looked forward to reading that story. What follows is that story.

Once upon a time, I was living in a small city known as Bluefield. Now, it's easy to get confused as to where that may be. See, there are two Bluefields. And they exist side by side. On the Virginia side of the border, we have the town of Bluefield, home to Bluefield College, my alma mater. On the West Virginia side is the city of Bluefield, the place where I lived for a year after I graduated.

At the time, I was working for a small, local bank that was only a few blocks from my apartment. It was quite convenient when the weather got bad. And it was Bluefield, so it got bad. At the time, I knew that being a teller wasn't for me. Of course, that's a lesson I had to learn again, the hard way, later in my life. Anyway, I knew that working for that small, local bank was not going to be a long term gig. Therefore, if I wanted to stay in Bluefield beyond a year, I needed another reason to keep me there.

In all the time I spent in the Bluefields, I remember thinking it was a shame that the old Colonial theater sat in disrepair. The Colonial sat on the outskirts of downtown on the West Virginia side of the line. It was built in the early 20th century as a full theater, not just a cinema. In the 30s, the building was renovated to give the lobby an art deco style. It continued operating as a theater until 1979, at which point it closed down, never to show a film again.

I wanted to change that. Especially when I saw that the man who owned it planned to sell the place for only $35,000. In my eyes, that was kind of a steal. So I got in contact with the owner and arranged to meet and tour the ancient theater.

That's when I saw for myself exactly why he was only selling for 35 grand. This man had been using the space to house his junk. I'm sorry... He described himself as an "antiques dealer." Not having the trained eye of an Antiques Roadshow warrior, all I saw was junk. But that wasn't the real problem.

No, the true issue with the Colonial Theater was that it needed a new roof. It also needed new walls, new floors, new ceilings, new seats, a new stage, a new balcony... Basically, the place needed to be gutted and completely renovated. The antiques dealer said that he got an estimate for the repairs. To get the place in safe and working order would cost upwards of half a million dollars. $35,000 I was sure I could finance. $500,000? No way.

But I still saw so much potential in the place. My dream was to fix it all up, make it look the way it did when people actually bought tickets to sit in the dark and watch their favorite films. I wanted to transform the lobby into a coffee shop. We would have had sofas and overstuffed chairs and live music. Of course, we could have had live music for larger acts in the theater as well, once the stage was replaced with something that wouldn't collapse under more than 20 pounds of pressure.

Upstairs, behind the balcony, there was adequate room for an apartment. I could have lived there while I ran the place. It would have been amazing. But it was not meant to be.

Now, I didn't know a lot about Bluefield or its history, particularly the West Virginia side. During all my years there, even after graduation, I stuck pretty close to the college. I did go to some of the teachers in the business department to get their opinions. The overwhelming mutual opinion was that, most adults would not visit that part of downtown after dark. That would really cut into a movie theater's chances of making money if customers won't buy tickets to night shows.

Not long after, I was let go from the bank. I wasn't fired. They just decided not to keep me full-time after my annual allowance of part-time hours expired. I wasn't happy about it, but c'est la vie. I moved back to Roanoke and let the dream of owning my own movie theater die away. I still think it would be an awesome business to get into, but I don't see it happening any time in the near future. Not for me anyway.

Friday, January 03, 2014

2013: A Sort of Review

As a year, 2013 was definitely a year. Complete with 365 days. It had a beginning. It had an end. Overall I'm gonna call it a good one. Maybe not the best year ever, but it definitely falls somewhere in my top 33 years.

What follows is a series of questions that will somewhat help me to compartmentalize 2013. I stole these from Shannon over at Sitting in a Tree. If you're not already reading her blog, you should be. And now, before we look forward, let's look backward for a moment.

Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Look back at the 13 resolutions I made for 2013, I realize I should probably go over that list as its own separate blog post. Not sure if I'll actually do that or not. But, to sum up, I didn't do very well with those resolutions overall. I have no plans to make resolutions in 2014.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
My oldest friend in the world, Jessica, gave birth to her second child. She and her husband welcomed a son into the world. He may be he only newborn I've met this year.

Did anyone close to you die?
Sadly, my grandfather passed away just before Christmas. In spite of that, it was great to see so much of my family when I traveled to Nashville for his funeral and it was an incredible opportunity to celebrate his life.

What countries did you visit?
Having just read the previous answer, it should be obvious that I went to Tennessee.*

What would you like to have in 2014 that you didn't have in 2013?
A vacation.

What dates from 2013 will be etched upon your memory and why?
March 6 - It was my 33rd birthday. I had an awesome birthday party. It involved laser tag. Please contain your jealousy.
April 4 - I don't know why this date is so stuck in my head. It snowed a lot. And I think that's why it's there. We should have been beyond the big snowstorms by that point of the year. They weren't calling for it. It just suddenly came. Good times.
August 7 - I found out that The Mary Tyler Moore Show is available to watch on Hulu. Awesome.
August 21 - Remember that time I destroyed my car? It's the day that totally reinforced my whole "unbreakable" theory. I walked away with nothing broken, barely a scratch.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I didn't fall when I went roller skating for my birthday. That's a pretty good one. I didn't die when I had my car accident. I consider that a huge achievement.

What was your biggest failure?
Ha... please.

What's the best thing you ate?
I'm not sure. I ate a lot. I mean, we're talking approximately three meals a day for 365 days. I have a hard time remembering what I had for lunch yesterday. I don't know that food made that much of an impact on me this year. If it's not the best thing I ate all year, it's pretty close. And that would be Mamaw's Macaroni and Cheese. Got to eat it a couple times recently. Excellent.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I don't generally get excited. I don't generally do emotion. I even joked about it on Facebook, saying that "too excited" for me is like everyone else's "regular excited." Jen then pointed out that my "too excited" is like everyone else's "mildly amused."

Compared to this time last year, are you A) richer or poorer? B) happier or sadder? C) thinner or fatter?
A) I'd say things are about the same. I mean, my savings account is in better shape than it was a year ago, but I don't think that makes me richer by any stretch of the imagination. B) I think I'm happier. I'm definitely in a better place, emotionally, than I was last year. C) Roughly the same, which is not where I'd like to be. I quit running for a while and need to get back to it.

Did you fall in love in 2013?
Can't say that I did. That's not to say there hasn't been a crush or two that's crossed my path. But love didn't enter the equation.

What was your favorite TV program?
I really, really got into Doctor Who.

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I feel like I already answered this above. I went skating and played laser tag with a lot of new friends. I turned 33.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2013?
I don't think I have a fashion concept. I'm typically a t-shirt and jeans guy.

What kept you sane?
Not sure, really. I'm pretty laid back and don't get stressed or anxious about things. That helps a lot.

Tell me a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
I think I learned that I can be an introvert and enjoy my alone time, but it doesn't mean I have to completely close myself off from people.

*Please note, I realize the question above asked about countries. I also know that Tennessee is a state.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

New Tales from Old Navy: The Night Before Christmas

I've worked the part time gig a lot this Christmas season. That's a really good thing since I get no money from the primary job due to there not being any school. Unfortunately, it meant I needed to work a shift on Christmas Eve, which kind of cut into the time I got to spend with family. Yeah, I missed dinner. I missed the macaroni and cheese!

Thankfully, my grandmother saved some for me. Otherwise, I would have single-handedly canceled Christmas.

But this isn't about my ability to eat side dishes with my family on Christmas Eve. This is about the people I came into contact with during my shift at the store on that fateful day.

They were miserable. And that's me being nice about it.

I don't know if I've expressed how much I enjoy working at Old Navy here. I think I have, but how can I be expected to remember everything I've written on this blog? Anyway, I enjoy it. And this is coming from someone who, while working at the bank, decided that mankind was basically evil at heart. Due to that experience, I should despise customer service of all shapes and sizes. But Old Navy has turned me around. Not completely around, but enough to enjoy the time I spend there.

Christmas Eve nearly destroyed that slight illusion. It also nearly destroyed my ability to enjoy Christmas altogether.

So many of the customers were just mean. It would have been okay if only a few of them were being a pain. That's typical, law of averages kind of stuff. But, seriously, it was nearly all of them. I lost track of how many impatient customers yelled at me for pitiful reasons. Because we had a number of items on sale at 75% off, it should be understandable that some of those items were running low on size options. Funny enough, the screamers were less than understanding.

I'm certain that if I did not value my position with this store, I'd have become more vocal and less polite with some of these people. Here's my dream response to a jerk customer...

"Why are you so grouchy, ya Grinch! (only I didn't say Grinch) You chose this! You are the one who decided to wait until Christmas Eve to do your Christmas shopping! Why do you feel the need to take it out on me? If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at yourself! And don't wait 'til the last minute next year, Scrooge!"

I might would throw in something about how I had to work on Christmas Eve and really didn't have a choice about it. Oh, and by the by, I'm missing dinner with my entire family. You're welcome. Grinch.

If I ever decide to wait until the last minute to finish my Christmas shopping, I'm gonna need someone to punch me right in the face.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Top 10 Movies of 2013

Happy New Year, Carp Dimers!

Have you missed me? I'm going to give you the usual excuses. The holidays got busy, then they got lazy... in that order. Actually, it wasn't the holidays. I got busy, then lazy, in that order. I've got some stories to tell. But today isn't the day for all that.

We all know I have a tendency to see a lot of movies. What follows is my top 10. Please note: these films are my personal top 10. This list does not take into account movies that I did not see and will only include films that were released in theaters in 2013. And if you're ever interested in ranking the movies you've seen, I recommend Flickchart. But be careful, it can become an addictive activity. And now, starting with number 10...

10. Now You See Me
I caught this one over the summer and thought it was a pretty decent heist movie. Might have been a bit predictable, though. Actually, I'm a little surprised it's ranked in my top 10, but I guess Flickchart makes no mistakes.

9. Frozen
I went into Frozen with lowered expectations. I felt like Disney was trying to overhype and oversell their latest animated feature by calling it the best one since The Lion King. What about Tangled? What about Wreck-It Ralph? I thought both of those were excellent. This one was pretty good, but I sure didn't think it was in the same league as The Lion King or any of the other Disney renaissance movies from the early 90s. I definitely would have liked it better if Elsa (the Snow Queen) had been a little more developed as a character.

8. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Not a surprise that this is in my top 10. Though I'm a little surprised it's not higher. I just saw this last week and thought it was incredible. Even in 3D, which I'm rarely a fan of. Maybe it's the addition of Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly. She's kind of awesome. My problem with these movies, like with any prequel, is that I have no sense of dread for characters that I know survive to appear in The Lord of the Rings. I know I'm supposed to feel some kind of suspense when Bilbo goes toe to toe with Smaug, but I don't.

7. Saving Mr. Banks
My family traditionally sees one movie on Christmas Day. This year, it was Saving Mr. Banks. I thought it was a great behind the scenes look at what it took to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen. Beyond that, it was an interesting look at what made Mary Poppins' creator tick. My only complaint is Walt Disney. Don't get me wrong, I think that Tom Hanks is an outstanding actor, probably the best of his generation. But watching him play Disney, I only saw Tom Hanks. Walt Disney was not a role that Tom Hanks was able to disappear into. Though I did appreciate that the studio did not attempt to glorify their founder. They were willing to show the real Walt Disney, a man with flaws just like anyone else.

6. American Hustle
Director David O. Russell really impressed me with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. So now I kind of want to give him a shot with whatever he's making. American Hustle does not disappoint. It's loosely (probably very loosely) based on actual events, but they're events that took place mostly before I was born. But I did like the way the story played out as told by each of the main cast.

5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I went into this with extremely low expectations. I was unimpressed with the first installment and I don't have high hopes for Mockingjay, simply because they've chosen to split it into two films. But Catching Fire was very well done. Which is great, because it was my favorite of the books. It seemed like Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have grown into their roles and the addition of new characters was well done.

4. Iron Man 3
This is another surprise. Not because it wasn't a good movie. I just didn't think it would be as highly ranked as it is. For me, this one tops 2, but not the first.

3. Star Trek Into Darkness
Umm... wow. I thought the reboot film was excellent. This one left the reboot in the dust. At least, it did in my eyes. Not sure how I felt about the depiction of Klingons in this new continuity. Not sure why the changes that have taken place in the universe would cause such drastic changes in their appearance at that point in time. But Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of (spoiler alert) Khan was spectacular. I'm sorry if that was a secret you weren't yet privy to. JJ Abrams didn't do a very good job of keeping that a secret from the world before the film was released.

2. Man of Steel
I know! This one isn't number 1! I'm sure you're all shocked, seeing as how I'm such a huge Superman fan and all. It may not rank as my top movie of the year, but it was absolutely outstanding in my book. For my full thoughts, click here for the review. It's kind of lengthy, so settle in.

1. 12 Years a Slave
This is another one I've seen recently that I actually wrote about on here. I said before, if this doesn't receive multiple Oscars, I will be disappointed.

So that's it for 2013 in movies. What were your favorites? Do you agree with any of my rankings? Do you disagree? Let me know what your favorites of the year were in the comments below. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts as we enter 2014. And I promise, there will be more than just movies to read about.