Let’s get this out of the way::

I’m not entirely sure I want to blog, a word I’m using as a verb rather than a noun at the moment, and it’s mostly because I’m feeling content and happy and no particular pressure or impetus to reach beyond my immediate surroundings and speak. Except… except that there is something that needs said, and this is likely the best platform to say it from, which leaves me in a bit of a quandary.

And then, when I think about saying those things, I remember all the other things I haven’t said, and I feel like I must say those things first. So, this isn’t a rant about not blogging enough, nor is it a promise to blog more. I may blog exactly twice in the next month, including this current post. But the next post is important. This post just needs to be written so I can get it out of the way.

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Bordering on the Sicklands

I’ve been almost sick for a little over a week now.

It started on our anniversary weekend, when we stayed in the Walnut Street Inn for a night. We had stayed there on our wedding night, but this time we were in a different building. The air seemed dryer, and my allergies kicked into high gear. Or something. I don’t know, but I didn’t sleep well and was all phlegmy the next day. And the five days following that.

I couldn’t call in sick to work because I just had too much stuff to do. I’ve always got something important going on, something that can’t be delayed, so I made sure each evening to rest well and drink lots of fluids. I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I’ve spent lots of quality time with our Sumo Sac. Every evening I have done my best to make sure I didn’t get sick.

Finally, I began to feel better yesterday. The congestion was gone, and my nose was only a little runny. I still feel more tired than I would if I were well, but I’m getting closer. Despite that, work was a complete… well, it wasn’t the worst Monday I’ve ever had. Not even close. Relatively speaking, it was a very good Monday. But it included a surprise call to go work on the Help Desk (for the rest of the week), a major system going down, and my not having any idea what was going on because I haven’t worked in the Help Desk (our call center) in six months.

Then I came home and cooked dinner because I’m awesome. And April and I watched Friends. Now I’m going to go to bed and read.

I figured out chapter 4 of Herbert, and I’ve got theological essays piling up left and right. A couple of things clicked for me today and I know what I’m going to write now in response to a few Biblical questions that have been posed to me. But instead of doing all that, I’m going to go to bed and read about Raistlin Majere; stories that are like old friends to me and, because they are so familiar, are ones I don’t have to think too hard about.

I feel bad about not getting anything posted. Sorry! I have lots I want to share, but I’ve got to keep healthy. The Help Desk is down to two User Support Specialists, and they both have tests in a couple of weeks for their Apple certifications so they need some time to study. Drew was the only other Labs person there today, at least for the second half of the day. I’ve got projects to kick off, oversee, and guide. Health comes first.

Also, I have class tomorrow night, and the night after. And my voice was going by the end of today, so even podcasting or doing video reviews are too demanding. Bah. I’m going to bed.

A Christmas Mystery

I totally took the weekend off and did nothing but read books I like, accomplishing little of value to the wider world. I hope my promises of productivity will keep you satisfied, dear Internet, because that’s all you have forthcoming for the next week. It’s the holiday season, which means family and more family and, subsequently, no time for locking myself away in the office and writing.

I do have some goals for my week off this year, though. They are, in no particular order:

  • Read Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris and compose a review/critique
  • Work on a Christmas mystery, which is a story centered around Christmas time that is also a mystery (I actually already have this all planned out in my head and I’m quite excited about it, I just don’t have time to write it. I’ll get it done early next year and schedule it for publication the week before Christmas 2010.)
  • Write a bit about Ayn Rand, objectivism, and Christianity
  • Respond to a commenter on Reddit by way of an article about “testing” for Christians by attempting to elicit charity/donations
  • Make some progress on the fantasy story I began over a month ago, but got stalled on due to finals and term paper (I had wanted to start publishing this in January, but it doesn’t look like I’ll come anywhere near that goal)

On the plus side, I did get a winter newsletter done on Sunday, though it took much longer than I had anticipated. This will go up either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I’ll decide after I schedule this post.

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed holiday. Merry Christmas everyone!

The Writer’s Circle

Last Friday, April and I attended a reading at Borders here in Springfield. She had been invited to read a couple of poems out of the Moon City Review, a publication by Missouri State University in which she was featured last year, so we went and joined the sizable crowd as the MSU Concert Chorale sang some renaissance period songs and the readers were queued up. After the singing was complete, the first poet began his reading.

I had a class with this young man several years ago, and as he read about a road trip, I recognized some of the names and assumed they were our fellow class mates with whom he had become friends. We were all in the same poetry classes, two semesters in a row, and if I had continued down that road we may very well have become friends. A culture and a clique was formed there, but I was diverted and went elsewhere.

With a touch of a melancholy I thought about What Might Have Been. Until recently, I was a double major in Religious Studies and Creative Writing, but I dropped the latter down to a minor to graduate sooner. I don’t know that I even have a 3.0 GPA in RS–last I checked, it was a high 2, but it has been a while so it might have risen. I have a 4.0 in CW, though, and while the English department is well known for grade inflation, I feel like I have earned that grade. I honestly have enjoyed almost all of my English classes, and Creative Writing is probably where I should have spent my time.

In light of my recent academic travails, though, I thought through that path to its logical conclusion. Would I have been happy if I had pursued that degree more fully, focused on that instead of getting a job, and been in the same place academically as this young man (preparing to finish my masters degree)?

As I shared with April later, a large part of what I sought there was the community, and I am relatively confident I would have found it lacking. Not that they aren’t nice people–I like every one of the advanced Creative Writing/English students I’ve met–but there’s that pesky religion thing. It is difficult to connect deeply with a group of atheists/agnostics, and it seems that the upper echelons of academia are often inundated with such.

As Jennie observed about the graduate program in art at Wichita State, where she studied for two semesters, Christianity and work inspired by Christ wasn’t exactly welcome. She was often at odds with her peers and professors, and I would have found the same at Missouri State. It wouldn’t have led to negative relationships, just shallow ones, and that is unacceptable to me.

Perhaps I am mistaken in this perception, but it seems that the majority of the people with whom I communicate solely via the Internet are likewise non-religious, and I suspect when they view my site they consider me completely looney. I’m currently becoming even more overt about my beliefs, and I fear people’s judgment to some extent. If I were in an advanced writing program, and wrote and communicated vulnerably and honestly, I wonder what the reaction would be.

Would I have been happy pursuing that education more fully? Yes, probably, because it would have kept me writing and helped me become a better writer. As I listened to the final short story being read, a wonderful piece with descriptive language I doubt I will ever be able to match, I recognized that there were heights I would likely never reach. There was a path somewhere back there I choose to not take, and there is no going back in this life.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t cut cross country now and begin struggling for my own sake. What I need more than anything is practice. And if the degree program is inaccessible to me now (as it most assuredly is for a variety of reasons), that will not prevent me from writing. If a community of writers is part of my future goals and desires, a piece of paper will not prevent me from beginning to form one.

It will not be the same as it might have been, but what will be will be. We won’t have a future if we don’t make it, if we sit around watching TV and pining for what might have been. Instead, we must cut down the trees, stoke the fires, and begin building the future we so desire.

Criticisms of Class

Our first essay in my religion class this semester is to write some sort of response to the reading so far. We’ve gone through almost 200 pages about theories of religion and our class format is for the teacher/presenter (students are actually teaching each class, one chapter a day from a different student each day) to walk through an outline of the chapter, summarizing its key points.

The paper, however, is not supposed to be a summary. Recognizing I’ve missed 2.5+ weeks of class, I asked somewhat timidly what the professor was looking for in this paper. It’s not supposed to be a summary, but summarize is all we seem to do.

The professor screwed up his face, seeming flabbergasted that I would ask such a question. As my peers responded in kind (looking as if I’d asked what only an ignoramus would), he asked in a somewhat condescending tone, “Didn’t I put the assignment on Blackboard? Isn’t it all out there already?”

I didn’t know it was, and apologized and said I’d take a look. Opening Blackboard, I went to the assignment and read it.

In this essay, discuss the 19th century theories of Müller, Tylor, Smith, Frazer and Marx. Begin by spending about three pages summarizing the theories of each thinker concerning religion. The challenge here is to identify the essential ideas and concepts of each theory and express them accurately and concisely. Conclude your essay with a critical analysis of each theory. What do you consider to be the major strengths and weaknesses of each? Be sure that you make clear why a strength is a strength and a weakness a weakness.

Be aware that each chapter concludes with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a theory.

So… how is this not summarizing?

I hate being made to feel stupid without valid justification.

This 500-level religion class, though infinitely better, is frustratingly similar to the 100-level history class I’m dealing with this semester. In that class, the Asian instructor essentially covers nothing but names and dates. These names are occasionally given the barest context, but that context is sadly lacking. The purpose of studying history, to me, is to analyze the events, the inspirations, the motives, the whys and the hows. We’re not even getting a good timeline because he jumps around the globe and back and forth across centuries so we can’t even do a comparative analysis.

I don’t know how many thousands of dollars I’ve given this university for what essentially amounts to book recommendations. If not for reading the books, I’d have gotten no real education at all.

Long, relaxing weekend

I took a day of vacation today, so after a few morning errands and chores, I have spent most of the afternoon on the sofa reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. April and I have been renting some of the older movies (we have recently watched numbers two and three) and I was in the mood for a better quality of Harry Potter. April lay on the other sofa with a purple blanket and Ophelia upon her, and Viola was curled upon a beige blanket near my head. It was pouring down rain outside, we were warm with fresh bread baking in the kitchen, and all was right with the world.

Listening to the rain drum on the chimney cover, I realized the room we were lounging in was half the size of our old apartment. April asked if I’d like her to bake some cookies and I said no, I wanted for nothing, and I was cozy and enjoying that the two of us were sitting in the same room for such a long period of time. It’s not that we don’t have free time where we sit in the same room, but every moment is to be cherished. I will remember today.

A moment of guilt reared up for not writing as I poured my fourth cup of coffee, but I shrugged it off and returned to my book. We need these good times, and besides, what would be the fun of life without them? I know of writers whose passion drove them to write constantly, who felt a burning, pressing need to get all their words and ideas out and onto paper. They foreswore their families, friends, and health to get the ideas written.

I want to be happy and enjoy my life. Writing makes me happy, so I do it sometimes. Lying on the couch with April and our snoozing cats (for I enjoy them much more when they are snoozing) makes me happy. Playing World of Warcraft sometimes makes me happy, coffee almost always does, and being warm and dry while it is raining outside is simply blissful.

Today is a good memory. It is part of a life worth living.

Rediscovering Reading

With the state of my clavicle, my options for how I spend my free time are rather limited. I started to play World of Warcraft last night but realized it would keep me up too late, and I desperately need my rest while healing. I can’t get heavy dishes down from tall shelves, nor can I mow the lawn or clean with the exuberance I once did. Instead, I am spending most of my time sunk into the SumoSac, reading.

I haven’t read much in the last couple of years due to my rather busy schedule coupled with my pursuit of other past times. Between work and school, I’m pretty busy during the semester, and I’ve been trying to go to the gym, and trying to spend time with my wife, and trying to keep housework under control, etc. The kid who used to read 200-300+ books a year is long gone, his time filled to the brim with other activities.

The last few weeks though, I’ve been rediscovering the nature of reading. This has had two interesting affects on me.

First, I’m learning new things, which is always fun. April has me reading a lot of Diana Wynn Jones, who has a very different writing style from me, and especially the latest book I’m reading from her is quite intriguing. She almost completely ignores description, be they of setting, scenery, or characters, instead relying on plot and what the characters say to give you an idea. She uses very basic colours, images, and shape, and lets the dialogue and internal monologue drive your imagination. It’s a concept I’m excited to learn more about, but without sitting down and reading other authors, it wouldn’t happen.

Second, it really seems to slow down the passage of time for me. Before my accident, it seemed like every day, week, and month flew by. Weekends rushed up and shot by, months flew off the calendar, and every day passed quickly. Since I began spending my evenings just sitting and reading, every day seems to take forever to go… but not in a monotonous, dull way. I’m still fairly busy at work and I’m not bored, but I find myself thinking, “My goodness, it’s only Tuesday…” Two days seem to take the same amount of time as an entire week did before, and I attribute this perceived slowness to my attention.

By slowing down, reading, thinking more, and examining the world around me more due to my surplus of free time, things aren’t going by so quickly. I’m not skimming the surface of life as much, but instead resting and really taking things in. April feels like our communication has improved, and I’ve likewise begun praying and spending time in God’s presence more. Two hours goes by quickly when I’m making dinner, running to the gym, coming home and showering, and trying to get 20-30 minutes of World of Warcraft in. Two hours is a lot of time to read or pray though, and I subsequently have more time to notice things and just be.

It’s remarkable, and I’m not entirely certain how I feel about it. After I’m healed and able to return to my old schedule, will I? I suspect I probably will, because I prefer to be doing things, instead of having to leave almost all of the housework to April. I want to contribute more. But I somehow need to hold onto the lessons of this break, to slow down more often and not let life rush by. We have so little time on this world, I don’t want it to fly by and never take the time to do more than skim the surface. I want to slow down and learn a little more about… everything.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

One of the unique things about this website is the tension inherent in its design. There are things I want to do with it, committments I want to keep regarding update schedules and writing and whatnot… but there’s also the entire rest of my life. This thing is a hobby to fill in the gaps, and sometimes there aren’t any gaps… or sometimes, I just feel like filling them with something else.

When I examine my life and what I do, though, I feel like I’m right on track. It’s hard to admit this to myself, because there are so many things I feel like I want to do. I’d like to be more involved in ministry, and I’d like to write more, and I’d like to commit my life to public service, or missions, or teaching college courses on literature or Ancient Rome or something. I feel like there are people who are pulling me in all these directions, and I feel like I constantly disappoint them by not walking where they direct, by not following where they lead.

But that’s not my life, and it’s not really what I want. What I want is to be a good husband, to become a good father, to grow into a stronger servant, and to provide for my family. My priority is to make my family (April and, someday, our children) happy, to shelter and care for them, and to take care of them as best I can. The rest is just for my free time.

It’s sort of like… you know that ignorant statement where someone complains about something in the world, and another person says, “Well then, why don’t you get up and do something about it?” The question is intended to make you feel guilty for complaining without acting to correct the situation, when the truth of the matter is that we can’t all solve everything. I can’t be a doctor and a firefighter and a non-profit humanitarian aid worker. We can’t do everything.

But I can invest in my family and in my community to better help them do these things. I can raise my children right, raise them like I would have liked to be raised, to give them the opportunity to do these things. Teach them well so they can do and become anything. Support them in every endeavor so that they can save the world.

I don’t know that I could save the world, personally. I recognize my limitations, and while my personal ceiling is pretty high, I know that I can make that ceiling way higher for my children. No matter how far I could go, I know that I can enable them to go further. So, that’s what I want to do with my life.

And I’m sorry if that doesn’t fit into everyone’s preconceived role for me, but it’s my life. It’s what I’ve wanted to be since I was nine, and I think I’m finally getting ready to admit and commit to it. The tension in my life is beginning to resolve itself, and the path I need to take is becoming more clear. Where am I headed?

I’m going up. Up just as high as I can go, so I can prepare the way for my children so that they might climb higher still.

Uno momento

I’ve been busy, and during the times I haven’t been busy, I haven’t felt like writing.

That pretty much sums it up. Deal with it.

Someday, I’m going to sit down and just write and write and write. It will be a flash flood of words. Glorious beams of sunshine will flicker off the waves, igniting nearby shrubs and small animals, while you look on in awe at the destruction I have wrought.

Until that day, though, I’m reading. A lot. Mostly with April, and I have three more book reviews I need to write and I’ll probably finish a fourth book this weekend, or by the end of next week at the latest.

Tonight, grocery shopping, eating dinner, washing dishes and laundry, and then a bit of reading. Maybe I’ll take my laptop to April’s parent’s this weekend and get caught up.