Thursday, November 13, 2014

What I Actually Am Having Trouble Understanding (AKA The Reason for The Previous Post)

If there's any topic I've heard more about than any other, it's love.  Growing up in the church, I often heard Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 13 or Romans 5:8 read during services or Bible classes.  I also watched as couples went from merely dating to engaged to married to having children...or, at least partially.  I've also seen many onscreen romances:
  • Mork tried everything to get Mindy to marry him, but, it wasn't until his last ditch effort that she said yes.
  • Gordo liked Lizzie as more than a best friend, but, he didn't reveal it until the final episode.
  • Prince Edward chased Princess Giselle to our world, believing her to be his one true love...only for both of them to step aside when they found romance with someone else.
  • Ella of Frell went from despising the infamous Prince Char to falling in love with him and saving him from certain death.
  • Peter Parker was afraid that he was losing his significant other when she prepared to move to England...only for something much worse to happen to her.
  • Teddy couldn't decide whether Spencer or Beau was the right one for her.
However, love isn't just about romance; love is something we're supposed to show our fellow man.  Though I have yet to find a significant other, I have experienced love; just of the non-romantic variety.  Friends of mine--of all ages, I should add--have given me gifts, helped me out in tough situations, taken me out to dinner, wished me well, etc.  You could say, for that, I am thankful.

Still, I can't fight the feeling that love isn't all it should be at times.  I'd think most if not all of you reading this know the Scriptures about love, especially 1 Corinthians 13.  We often hear them read during weddings or other romantic celebrations...but, actually, most of the oft-quoted ones are not merely talking about our spouses or other significant others.  When Paul wrote, "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it keeps no record of wrongs...", he had bigger things on his mind than just romance.  We are instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that means pretty much everyone, not just the person who lives next to us.  More to the point, I've heard that a Scripture often read at weddings is Ruth 1:16b-17:
Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.
However, when you look at the entire first chapter of Ruth, it isn't actually about someone getting married; it's what Ruth tells her mother-in-law.  To me, reading that at a wedding smacks of taking the verse out of context.  Maybe that's just proof of how little the Bible actually talks about romantic love.

As someone with Asperger Syndrome, I tend to think in logical terms.  It's why I've always had an affinity for technology; it thinks in logic, just like I do.  There have been times in the past where I was thinking in logic, but didn't even realize that was the basis of my figuring until well after the fact.  Still, most humans aren't logical, much to the chagrin of people with A.S. I remember reading a poem from a fellow sufferer that said, "Humans are the most illogical race.  Nothing they do, nothing they say, makes any sense.  Oh, why can't humans be logical?" Though the lack of logic is present in many areas of human life, it seems to be more prevalent in the world of love--not just romantic love, but love in general--than anywhere else.

Have you ever been asked, "Do you love me?" Peter got asked that three times by Jesus in the last chapter of John.  Still, I've heard of cases where family members asked each other that after incidents where one didn't seem to care about the other.  Most of the time, I only hear love openly discussed when it comes to significant others and/or family members; still, the second greatest commandment says we are to love everyone, no matter who they are or what they've done to us.  Jesus displayed that kind of love by dying and shedding blood for everyone, even those who despised him.  It's up to us to show that kind of love to everyone else.

Unfortunately, sometimes the "love" that people are showing me feels more like bullying.  Years ago, I had trouble with a guy in my youth group who often told me, "I don't like you!" I believed it to be true; after all, a guy in my sixth grade homeroom said the same thing, and he wasn't joking.  However, I was shocked when, in an e-mail after an incident I won't delve into here, the youth leader said of the guy who kept saying he didn't like me, "[He] likes you and you don't even know it!" was I supposed to know he liked me? If he says that he doesn't, and the rest of the group acts like he means what he is saying...what else do I have to go on? That guy and I have become friends and put all that mess behind us; still, that only goes to show how tricky friendship--which is a type of love--can be.  More recently, I've dealt with people who have made unnecessary comments, sometimes in a public area, which makes it embarrassing.  True, they may mean it as a joke...but, if it offends me--and it usually does, even if I don't say anything--it doesn't matter what their intentions are.  Just a few years ago, I lost a once-good friend after making a comment on her Facebook status that she didn't appreciate.  I tried to explain to her that I was merely trying to make her laugh, something I had never been able to do; stories of mine that had made other literally laugh out loud only got a nonchalant "yeah" from her.  Telling her that just made her even more upset; she believed there was no reason for me to say such a thing.  Looking back, she was right; I messed up, and trying to justify it only hurt my case.  Still, when others say or do things I don't appreciate, the fact that I feel that way is on me; instead of an apology, which is what I deserve, all I get is justification.  It shouldn't be that way--after all, you don't see Jesus harassing anybody out of "love"--but it is.

Such actions make it hard to get along with people who do them.  Most of you probably know that my relationship with my sister has been strained for ages; try as we might, we just can't get along.  Part of that is because we're equally strong-willed, but hardly ever agree on anything; the number of times we've ever been in agreement can be counted on two fingers.  Another part of that is because, even though pretty much everyone who knows or has known her--and even some who haven't--insists that she loves and cares about me...there were times when I just didn't see it.  I won't go into detail, as not to embarrass her, but I will say that those incidents were very emotionally painful.  Why'd she do what she did? It's hard to say.  Maybe her intentions were good, and I just didn't understand them; maybe she was having a bad day, or was in a bad mood; or maybe it was merely a mistake that she learned from later on.  Whatever the reason, such actions made it hard to believe that she meant well in other cases; some time later, when she asked me a question about a rather personal situation, I answered it, then added, "Why is that any of your business?" I do regret reacting that way...but, I don't think I would have if it hadn't been for our checkered past.  It's not just her, though; countless others have acted in ways I didn't appreciate, only to wonder why I later had negative feelings towards them.  If only they'd followed Romans 12:18--"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone"--instead of saying whatever they wanted with supposedly good intentions, it wouldn't have been that way.

So, suffice it to say: I don't really understand love.  Oh, sure, I understand what the Bible says about it; still, many humans' expressions of it--even when I'm not the intended target of it--seem to be not in line with God's Word.  You have no idea the kinds of things I've heard people say to or about the person they married; if I were in their spouse's situation, I wouldn't stand for such treatment!  Though I agree criticism is necessary at times--after all, I am an amateur entertainment critic--there's times where it just borders on meanness, if it isn't already downright ugly.  Of course, there are times when we all need to hear something we don't want to hear...but, more often than not, the comments I hear are simply unnecessary.

I was raised on an old-school sense of morality; when you do or say something, you are responsible, regardless of what anybody else did, and you should apologize to someone you've hurt, even if you did mean well.  Though my mom was the main one who instilled that any me, other adults--even my teachers--would be quick to tell me when something was "unnecessary" or "not very nice".  Once, when I was in third grade, I nearly got written up because, when the teacher told us, "Y'all are the most talkative class I have ever had!", the kid sitting next to me said, "Yeah, right!", and the teacher thought I had said it.  The kid responsible admitted that she said it, but claimed she was saying it in response to what another classmate said; still, if I had said it, I could have been in serious trouble.  Some of you may have been raised on similar morals...but, unfortunately, in my generation and among most of the people I know, they're largely dead.  People can say whatever they want; if it makes someone else feel bad, it's not the fault of the person who said it.  I've never agreed with that, and neither does the Bible; Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37, "But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Do you think that, on Judgment Day, Jesus will accept, "But...I meant really well!", as an excuse? I doubt it.  Instead of trying to justify yourself, you should be big enough to apologize.

I will conclude by saying this: Like many words in the English language, the word "love" is tossed around a bit too easily.  We say we "love" pizza or Star Wars, yet we also say we love our significant other and our kids, or whatever family members we have, even if they're not human.  I'm not sure how you can feel the same way about your spouse as you can about a TV series; honestly, I'd have to agree with those who say that the English language is rubbish when it comes to expressing love.  Still, love isn't about what you say; it's what you do.  You may tell your wife you love her...but, do you express it in the way you treat her? If you do, great; I'm not trying to condemn anyone here.  Still, when it comes to the love I have experienced--entirely of the non-romantic variety--I often have trouble seeing the many ways it's expressed.  Some of it smacks too much of bullying for my tastes.  I understand that love causes pain; when you love someone, you hurt when they hurt.  Most of you probably have struggled yourselves when a loved one went through a physically and/or emotionally difficult time.  Still, there are times when I want to tell people, "If you loved me, you wouldn't talk to me that way!" I realize that sounds kind of like Samson's wife in Judges 14:16--"You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer."--but, seriously, I can't help but feel like I deserve better.  Not because I have a condition; not because I'm superior to anyone else; not because I got bullied when I was in school...but because I'm a human being, and your job is to love your fellow man.  What part of "Love your neighbor as yourself" don't you understand?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why I Have Trouble Taking Marriage Seriously

NOTE: Actual Mrs. Russo not pictured.
When I was a junior in high school, I had a very attractive English teacher named Mrs. Russo.  (Okay, that wasn't her real name, but I don't want to give that away, so, that will be her name for this post.)  A pretty young blonde fresh out of college, and easily mistakable for a student, guys throughout the school were simply gaga for her...and me probably most of all.  I couldn't stop talking about how "hot" she was, to the point where it was driving others bonkers; one guy at my lunch table said, "What is it with you and Ms. Russo?" However, there was a problem with our infatuation: Mrs. Russo was just that; a Mrs., aka a married woman.  In fact, her husband was Coach Russo, a longtime teacher at our school; word among my friends was that Mrs. Russo was Coach's student, and that they had gotten married just before she became our teacher.  I actually got into a bit of trouble with Coach Russo; when one of my other teachers notified him about what I was saying about his bride, he saw me in the hallway and said, "I heard you were talking about my wife!"

However, as serious as Coach was, I honestly laugh every time I think about that incident.  Why? Simply because, less than four years after they said, "I do," the Russos divorced.  I don't know all of the details--frankly, they're none of my business--but, for Coach to go from telling me not to talk about his wife to no longer having a wife in well under half a decade's time is simply laughable.  Of course, divorces happen; they were happening even back in Bible times.  Still, it's incidents like that and others--mostly involving friends or other people I've personally known--that make it difficult to take marriage seriously.  Another couple I knew got married when I was in middle school, only to be separated well before I finished high school and eventually ended up--you guessed it!--divorced.  Other couples I've known have done everything from split up once their kids moved out, to go from leaving their spouses to having new fiancees in a mere year or two, surprising right many of their friends.  It just seems to be happening left and right, and not just in Tinseltown.

Those of you who are around my age or older probably remember when Pokémon came on the scene in the late 90's.  I actually was late to the party; I was one of the last kids I knew to have any of the cards and especially the original Game Boy games.  When I heard people talk about the games, I tried to imagine what they were like...but, when I actually got one, it was nothing like what I had pictured.  Eventually, many kids ended up giving up on the franchise; an article in the local paper titled "Interest in Pokémon is waning" blamed Nintendo's pokiness in bringing the "next generation" of games to American shores, and Wizards of the Coast's doing the same with the newer cards, which led to many kids actually catching all of the monsters, both in card and video game form, which made them bored with it.  Some kids even became seriously critical of other kids who still were fans; I knew a guy once who went from wanting to name his family's new cat Pikachu to making fun of me for playing the games within a mere two years.  Not only that, but...many adults made fun of the franchise itself, mostly because they didn't understand it.  As one article I read said, "Kids everywhere know about Pokémon.  Most adults just scratch their heads."

I mention that because many grown-ups attitudes towards Pokémon echo my feelings about marriage.  Though I know what I've heard people say about the topic, I'm pretty much an outsider, and don't really know what it's like to be married or even in a serious relationship; it's hard for me to understand what romantically involved folks go through on a daily basis.  When I see people's marriages turning out to be fads--that is, they're short-lived--it makes me wonder why they even got involved in the first place.  It's easy for me to criticize what those in relationships do, because I don't ever find myself in such situations, and the writing on the wall says I may never at all.  There's been a recent meme on Facebook that uses the mishaps of celebrities ranging from Elizabeth Taylor to Larry King to Britney Spears to Tiger Woods as an argument against the sanctity of marriage; I can agree that, despite its divine institution, it has become a very big joke.  The splits of countless couples I personally know or have known only augments the point.  Even when couples don't split up, marriage is still poked fun at; how many times have we seen movies or TV shows--especially sitcoms--that focus on problems between spouses? I'll tell you right now that I have seen married couples fight in real life, and it is not the least bit funny...yet, that didn't stop Tim and Jill Taylor's disagreements from being punctuated by a laugh track!  Other sources--including non-entertainment ones--liken marriage to being a punishment or an otherwise not good thing.  With all of on earth can I take it seriously? Half of the people involved in it don't seem to!

I will conclude by saying this: I know that many of you reading this probably are married or otherwise romantically involved.  I don't want you to think that I look down on you because of your relationship status; I don't feel that way at all.  In fact, I did a post about a year ago that talked about how entertainment was my significant other, because I talk about it often, spend most of my spare time with it, and even work with it at my job; one I specifically chose, that is.  Still, for most people, that's hard to understand; they've never had a "relationship" with an abstract entity.  Well, guess what? I've never had a romance with another human being; I have just as much trouble understanding your romantic situation as you do mine!  It's difficult to understand a situation that's not your own; when my oldest sister--who was severely disabled, mind you--was alive, people used to wonder why my mom was doing what she did.  When my mother started a day care in her own house after being unable to find reliable care for my eldest sibling, people would ask questions such as, "Why don't you get a job as a substitute nurse?" They didn't understand what it was like to have a kid like my oldest sister; those of you who have kids or other family members with disabilities probably feel her pain.  When it comes to marriage, I'm just as much of an outsider; part of me just doesn't get it, whereas another part of me just says to let the married folks do what they're going to do.  Maybe I'll understand someday...but, these days, I'm doubting that more than ever.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What REALLY Makes Me Different

Most of you reading this probably already know about my condition, known as Asperger Syndrome.  It used to be that I blamed all of my problems on it, and used it as an excuse to get out of anything I didn't want to do, such as housework or yard work.  Now that I'm more mature, I realize that doing so was merely laziness; there was no reason why I couldn't have mowed the lawn, fed the dog, or kept my room clean.  I just was trying to find a way out of it, which wasn't the right thing to do.  Still, the fact that I am different from most people remains.  Some folks love it; others despise me for it.  You may think the latter isn't true, but...there has to be a reason why I've been unfriended as many times as I have.  I'm not going to worry about those who can't handle someone who is different, though; I'll just be grateful for those who have stuck around all this time.

Some of you may be inclined to think that it's my condition that makes me the way I am, but, honestly, I think I've recovered from it.  Most of the traits that led to my original diagnosis are gone, and those supposedly "autistic" traits that I still have--bad handwriting, talking out loud to myself--are ones I've seen in plenty of people without such a condition.  Besides which, most of you wouldn't know about my poor penmanship or my tendency to think out loud if I didn't discuss them.  In years past, I was told that, since I was "high-functioning", I could do anything I wanted to; I didn't believe them back then, but, now, I know they were right.  Many people have told me that I have the mildest case of A.S. they've ever seen.  After meeting others with it, I'd say they were right.

So, if it isn't my condition, then, what is it? I've boiled it down to two personality traits, based on what I've seen in myself versus what I see others do and say.  Maybe those traits are a product of my condition; I'd say they're just who I am.  If you know me, you'll probably recognize what I'm talking about when you read each description.

First off: Most people like certain things; I become ardently enthused about them.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but...who among you doesn't like to be entertained? Can any of you reading this say you've never watched television, seen a movie, read a book, or listened to a song only for fun? Of course you have; it's a natural desire to want to be entertained.  However, while everyone else likes entertainment, I have a passion for it, and one that seems to exceed others'.  Though many of you like your television shows, movies, tunes, and novels, they're not your usual topic of discussion; instead, you talk about your job, your children, your relationship, etc.  Not only am I single and childless, but my job--working at a library--involves entertainment, as I spend many an hour shelving fiction books, CDs, and, to a lesser degree, DVDs. Even some of the non-fiction books there relate to entertainment, such as biographies of singers and actors.  It's my choice to work at a library; in fact, my plan is to further my education in that field and one day become a true librarian.  It's no surprise that I consider entertainment my significant other; it seems to take place of an actual relationship...but I'm fine with that.  Most other people--especially ones my age--have spouses and children to worry about, which leaves them little time for celluloid and literary diversions; I have plenty of time for entertainment, only because it's very important to me.

Second off: When it comes to what most people do...I just don't understand it.  Most of you probably have a circle of friends you often do things with, right? You, your spouse, and some other married couples get together for...well, whatever it is y'all do together; as a lifelong single, I wouldn't know.  Well, I haven't had a group to hang out with in years; even though I was a member of certain groups, my different tendencies made me an outcast, which led to serious problems.  It just seemed like I couldn't really get along with anyone.

That tendency has continued, even in recent years.  A few years ago, I was discussing something with an older friend, and I told him I wanted to make a "Team TORi" shirt in support of my then-favorite celebrity, Victoria Justice.  He thought that was a bad idea, and told me that other young adults were getting involved in a "cause"--i.e., saving the environment--and that I should do the same.  To a degree, I can understand "going green"; in fact, I often try to take steps to save energy, and I throw any acceptable materials into the recycling bin, whether they be soda cans or old library receipts.  Still, that's something I'm just going to do on my own; I'm not going to attend meetings and rallies about it, because...well, how would I get to them? You probably wouldn't even know about my tendency to recycle or attempts to save energy if I didn't tell you, because I never talk about them; while I believe in such a cause, I'm just not overly enthused about it.  Plus, how much could you say about such a topic?

That also applies to other areas of entertainment.  When I was a junior in high school, I had an English teacher who was fresh out of college and rather attractive.  Many guys--even outside of her classes--thought she was "hot"; I'll admit to being one of them.  However, my best friend at the time did not think of her that way, because she was married to another teacher at our high school; to my friend, that made her unattractive.  Most of the male population of my high school disagreed with him, but he didn't care.  I mention that because that's how I feel about other people's definition of "fun" at times.  I know many of you find theme parks, sports, activities involving large bodies of water, and owning pets fun; that's great for you...but I don't feel that way.  I simply can't wrap my head around why going to Busch Gardens or spending an evening watching a bunch of guys throw a ball around is anything about which to get excited.  If you want to get involved in that...good for you; go do it...just don't try and involve me.  I realize that such opinions have led to me having many solitary pursuits, but, I'm not going to spend my own time, effort, and money on something I can't stand just because it would help me "fit in" with other people; those who truly know me know that being "one of the many" just isn't my thing.

I will end by saying this: Throughout my life, I have often gotten special recognition for being different.  One such case involved an eighth grade science project where we had to find elements from the periodic table in everyday items; many kids used pencil lead, thinking it was the element lead.  However, I knew from an old science encyclopedia we had that the lead used in a pencil is actually graphite, which is a type of carbon.  I put that on my project, and the teacher said, "You're the only one who had that right."  Others have commended me on everything from media discernment to Bible knowledge to simply being unique.  Though I appreciate such encouragement, I can't let it go to my head; being different and doing/knowing what others don't doesn't make me superior to them.  Sometimes, I feel like I've lost friends not because of my different traits, but because I was so proud of everything I did, it verged on bragging, and they'd just had enough, so they severed ties.  You may disagree; unless you're a former friend of mine, though, I don't think you could say for sure.  We are told to be humble, and even secular morality says that it's wrong to be conceited; even though I am a different person, I am still a person, and, as the Declaration of Independence says, everyone was created equal.

Any comments?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Me and Bragging: The REAL Story

Years ago, I was a big fan of the Disney Channel sitcom That's So Raven, which starred The Cosby Show alumni Raven-Symoné as Raven Baxter, a teenage girl who often got visions of the future.  One of the early episodes had Raven getting a visit from her cousin Andrea, whose father was in the military; as a result, Andrea had lived in various countries in Europe, of which she constantly reminded Raven.  To fight fire with fire, Raven makes up stuff about her life, such as being head cheerleader and head of the volleyball squad, and that her friend Eddie is actually her significant other.  When the truth finally comes out, Andrea confesses that she overstated the positives about her life and even made some "details" up in an effort to impress Raven.  Whereas Raven thought Andrea had a better life, Andrea thought just the opposite; Andrea tells Raven that she would trade living in Rome and shopping in Paris for not having to constantly change homes and make new friends.  By the time the credits roll, they both learn the error of their ways and decide to make up and become friends.

Why do I bring that up? Simple: Humans have a tendency to be braggarts, especially when they want to impress others.  Some folks I've known have gone as far as making up achievements or exaggerating to the point of deceit to one-up somebody else.  Of course, there are times when you should want to impress others; a job interview, for example.  Though bragging and boasting has been around forever, it seems to have risen in recent years, with self-centric ways being on the rise, especially among people of my generation.  I'll admit that I'm not the most modest individual on the planet; I remember making a prayer request during a youth group meeting for a state-wide standardized test that was simply a knowledge exam.  When one of the other kids reminded me of that, I just said I wanted to do well so I "could have bragging rights." So, I was essentially asking God for a reason to boast; that's just not right.

However, some of what appears to be bragging really isn't.  Most of you who are on Facebook--whether you're my friend or just a random Internet user--probably have posted some happy news about your relationship.  Maybe you shared photos of you and your spouse's wedding, or maybe you celebrated a big anniversary; unless you're like me and never been in a serious relationship, you've most likely done it.  Did you do it as a slap in the face those who are sans significant other or have had marriages that ended in tragedy? Of course not; you did it because you wanted your friends and family to rejoice with you! Such a feeling is normal, even when it comes to matters other than romance; what about graduation parties or massive birthday celebrations? Those aren't meant to rub anything in anyone's face; they're meant to let those who care about you celebrate the occasion with you!

About 2.5 years ago, I went through a very stressful time, partly because of a lost library book that I was afraid I was going to have to shell out thirty bucks to replace.  Right at the last minute, I found it in a place that I should have thought to look early on, and was quite happy with my discovery.  When I posted about it on Facebook, a longtime friend commented, "Now you know the feeling expressed in the parable of the lost coin." I knew exactly what she was talking about; in Luke 15:8-9, Jesus says, "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'" I'm sure all of my friends who knew about the problem were happy that I'd found it, because they knew how stressed I was about it.

To me, that concept goes beyond finding lost items.  Most of you know that I'm an avid bargain hunter; I search garage sales, thrift stores, library sales, and used book and movie stores for good deals on entertainment.  At least once a week, I post a picture of my latest finds for my friends to see.  Am I doing it to rub it in anyone's face? No; I'm doing it because bargain hunting makes me happy, and I want my friends to share in my happiness! I know most of my friends don't shop like I do; they have jobs, families, classes, etc., that take precedence over finding deals on books and DVDs.  If they do find a good deal on something, it's because they were looking specifically for it, not because they randomly came across it.  Still, those who care about me know what I like, and, if I have a good day of bargain hunting, they'll be happy for me.

I also talked about other achievements as well...but, not for the purpose of bragging.  Some of you may remember when I had my picture in the paper--for something good, mind you--about three years ago, and mentioned it to nearly everyone.  Why did I do it? Was I trying to look and sound superior to everyone around me? Not at all. Here's the real reason why I did it: During my lifetime, I had many friends and acquaintances who were featured--not for anything wrong they did!--in the newspaper or on the local news.  It was everyone from fellow church members to classmates to even former fellow Boy Scouts.  After years of seeing that, one of the things on my "bucket list"--not that I actually have it written down anywhere--was to be featured in the local paper.  Of course, I wasn't going to do anything illegal; everyone knows that's not my style.  Still, I had a longtime desire to do it, and, when I saw a columnist's request on Facebook, I knew I had my chance.  I knew it didn't make me a better bargain hunter than anyone else; I was just happy that I fulfilled a dream of mine, and figured others would be, too...but, some people didn't see it that way.

So, here's my message to you: Anything I say--on Facebook, in person, or via any other medium--is not meant to rub anything in anyone's face, nor is it an attempt to feel superior.  If you're my friend, I would expect you to be happy for me when good things happen, even when it's something as simple as finding good deals at a garage sale.  Not only is that the friendly thing to do--even secular morality would say so--but it's also a Biblical commandment; check Romans 12:15 if you don't believe me.  My posts about such matters are not meant as bragging any more than your "big news" about engagements, marriages, graduations, or having children; just like you, I want my friends and family to share in my happiness.  I have never meant anything else by what I've said in recent years; those who have unfriended me because of such posts really weren't even my friends in the first place.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Having Trouble Understanding Me? You're Not Alone!

All the way back in 2002, we had a new addition to our household.  Was it a younger sibling? was a dog; a collie/husky mix named Sparky.  Though intended for the whole family, my mom put his crate next to my bed, because she wanted him to be my dog.  My sister and brother-in-law even came over and brought some snacks for both me and our new canine companion as a gift.  Sounds like a joyous occasion, right? For them, maybe...but not for me.  Instead of being eager to play with and train the new family pet, I was infuriated by the fact that he was there and wanted him gone...pronto! Throughout the four years we had him--and even well after he was gone--I picked on him every chance I got, even doing so when the topic of discussion had nothing to do with pets.  One such incident was when my mom was talking about renovating our house, and I said, "Sell Sparky and put the money you get towards the renovation." I didn't care about funding the renovation; I just wanted the dog gone! My mom also constantly asked me, "Why don't you love him?", and told several people--mostly extended family members--about it, saying, "He doesn't love his dog! Have you ever heard of a boy not loving his dog?" I actually had; a few years prior, a coeval former fellow church member complained about how "annoying" his family's dog was because of his constant barking.  I knew that dog, and I defended him...but, my unfortunate experience with Sparky made me want to eat my words.  Eventually, after four years, my mom took Sparky back to the SPCA, which is what I'd said she needed to do from day one.  She thought it was tragic; I considered it a personal victory.  She never seemed to understand why I didn't appreciate him, even though I had made it clear well before we got Sparky that I loathed the canine kind.

That right there should tell you something: If my own mother can't understand why I feel the way I feel about can I expect anyone else to? I'd imagine most of you reading this would be overjoyed at the prospect of a new pet, and most of your friends would be as well...but, it only enraged me.  It's more than just pets, though; it's nearly everything.  In recent years, some people have been bothered enough by it to unfriend me on Facebook; that's their choice, but, I would hope that people would have the decency to try and understand why I feel the way I do about whoever or whatever instead of just considering me an idiot or a jerk and essentially abandoning me.

One of the many definitions of the word "freak" is "an ardent enthusiast".  What does that mean? Well, "ardent" is defined as "characterized by warmth of feeling typically expressed in eager zealous support or activity," and, I'm pretty sure we all know what an enthusiast is.  Though I wouldn't go around calling myself a freak--that word also has many negative connotations--I consider myself an ardent enthusiast of many things: the Disney Channel, Christian music, family-friendly entertainment, Apple products, the Bible, garage sales, bargain hunting, libraries, etc.  I've always been that way; when I was about six or seven, I told my sister I didn't like a daycare program I had to attend during spring break, and my reason was, "They don't have computers there." My sister quickly replied, "It can't be bad just because they don't have computers there; what's the real reason?" The "real reason" was what I had just told her; seriously, if it didn't have to do with computers, television, or reading, it just wasn't fun.  Though my tastes have broadened since then--just look at the above list!--I'm still just as ardently enthused about what I like as I always have been.  About a year ago, when I made Demi Lovato my number one celebrity crush, I practically shouted it from the rooftops; I told my friends first chance I got.  No matter how long you've known me, my topic(s) of interest were likely one of the first things you found out about me...and, when it/they changed, you found out about it rather quickly.  That may sound like a Facebook thing, but, it was happening well before the dawn of social networking.

The same is true when it comes to what I don't like; seriously, how many of you reading this don't already know how I feel about sports, theme parks, pets, "R" films, and anything to do with large bodies of water? For some people, that's unthinkable: What guy doesn't like sports? Who wouldn't want to attend a theme park? Unless someone is allergic or has had a traumatic experience with one, why would he or she not want to own a member of the canine kind? Who can honestly say they've never willingly watched a film that was branded with the "Restricted" label? What kind of person doesn't enjoy beaches, pools, or water parks? Despite the drubbing I've gotten over the years, I've stuck to my guns and outright refused to participate in such activities...and, at times, it's been hard.  In 2004, the high school group at my church was taking a trip to a nearby beach, and all of my fellow members as well as all of the adult leaders/sponsors really wanted me to attend.  I tried to decline politely, but, they became rather insistent; some of them, rudely so.  They asked me why, and I tried to explain my reasons to them, but all they did was refute everything I said.  What they didn't seem to understand was that my dislike for anything involving large bodies of water--including beaches!--was so strong that I did everything possible to avoid such outings.  That actually had to do with why I left Boy Scouting; when my brother-in-law insisted that I earn the swimming merit badge, even though the official handbook said I didn't have to, it became one of the many factors behind my departure after a mere thirteen months.  Even in recent years, the downtown bus route I used to take to work passed by the YMCA where I was forced to take swimming lessons nearly two decades ago, and the mere sight of it made me cringe.  I was thankful when I was so immersed in the pages of a book or a movie or TV show on my iPad that I didn't see it.  When it comes to my dislikes, you could say that I'm ardently non-enthused; I avoid them like the plague.

Regardless of who you are--friend, enemy, random Internet user, or anyone else--I don't expect you to feel the same way I do about anything.  If you don't like the Disney Channel...fine! If you love the beach...that's okay! You are entitled to your own opinion just as much as I am entitled to mine, and I'm not going to debate the issue with you.  In 2 Timothy 2, Paul warned, "Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights." (MSG) Debating the good and bad aspects of garage sales or owning a dog won't get us anywhere, so, it's best that we avoid it.  It would only turn into a debate if you tried to make me give up what I like, or attempted to get me to join in an activity that isn't my thing; if I say I like or don't like something, that's my final answer, and nothing you can say can convince me otherwise.  If I do decide to give whatever a chance--or give whatever up, as the case may be--it has to be my choice, not anyone else's.  Instead of branding me as a loser or a doofus, try asking why I feel the way I do about it; you might find that my reasoning actually makes perfect sense!

Any comments?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Final Answer to the Relationship Issue

Most of you probably remember when Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? made, "Is that your final answer?", a national catchphrase.  I had an older friend once tell me that, when her kids would ask permission to do something she didn't approve of, she told them, "No...and that's my final answer."  She even joked, "I said that before Regis!"; I have a feeling she wasn't the only parent who could make such a claim.  Still, it's good to stand your ground; as the old saying goes, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." Over the past several years, I've gone back and forth on the relationship issue; I've done everything from bemoan my lack of a significant other to proudly proclaim not having one to ask what I'm doing wrong on the relationship front to assert that one (probably) isn't in my future.  You've probably seen more posts from me about that than anything else save for entertainment.  Well, unless my life takes a surprising turn, this is going to be my last post--of any kind--on the matter.  I may reply to your comments or messages on this post, but, I'm not going to make such a declaration again.  This isn't really something I need to focus on; there are situations in my life and all over the world that deserve more attention than whether or not I'm married.  Before I start this, I want to warn you: This is going to deal with some adult topics, so, if you're not mature enough to handle them, don't read any further.  Still with me? Then, here we go.

During my elementary school years, it was all about "all the other kids."  Any time I wanted something that my mother wouldn't let me have, I'd say, "All the other kids have this!"; if I had to do something I didn't want to do, I'd tell my mom, "Other kids don't have to do this!" I didn't mean that every coeval individual on the planet had what I wanted; what I meant was, the kids that I knew--my classmates, those in my Sunday school class, my fellow Cub Scouts, the kids in my neighborhood, etc.--had whatever.  The reality was that, while some of my friends did have whatever, not all of them did, and more of them didn't have it than did.  One kid might say he had what I wanted, and was likely telling the truth, but just because Classmate X had it didn't mean that everyone else did.

Though I've since done away with desiring the material things others have--only because I have a job, which means I can buy what I want!--part of me still wants something others have, but it's something money can't buy: a relationship.  Since I joined Facebook back in 2006, I have been bombarded with photos, statuses, and other posts detailing courtships, engagements, and weddings.  It would seem that everyone else has been married for quite a while now...but, when you really check out my friends list, you'll find that right many of my friends--of all ages, I should add--not only aren't married, but don't even have a significant other.  The only reason it's not as noticeable is because people in relationships talk about them, whereas single folks mostly talk about other subjects.  Plus, most romance-related statuses and photo albums get tons of comments and likes, especially when related to weddings.  I'm not knocking that; I completely understand why that's the case.  Still, one look at the statistics shows that I'm not alone in lacking a significant other.

If there's two things our culture is obsessed with, it's love and sex.  Seriously, think about how many movies, TV shows, books, and songs from the past several decades have dealt with one or both of those subjects!  Unfortunately, most people have the wrong idea about both of them; they believe in the latter minus the former, and they also believe that the latter is the best way to express the former.  My NIV Study Bible said it best in a note on 1 John 4:8:
John says, "God is love," not, "Love is God."  Our world, with its shallow and selfish view of love, has turned these words around and has contaminated our understanding of love.  The world thinks that love is what makes a person feel good, and that it is all right to sacrifice moral principles and others' rights in order to obtain such "love"...but that isn't real love; it is the exact opposite: selfishness, and God is not that kind of "love."  Real love is like God, who is holy, just, and perfect.  If we truly know God, we will love as He does.
It's more than just the wrong idea of what love is, though; people often think there's something wrong when someone well into his or her adult years lacks a relationship.  My high school health teacher shared with us that, when she started teaching there, her co-workers assumed she was a lesbian because of her lack of a significant other...but she never was one.  Another time, I was in a courtroom because my mom was called as a witness when someone sued one of our neighbors, and said neighbor was made fun of by the judge for being divorced.  I honestly think that's part of the reason many people I meet don't want to be friends with me on Facebook; they apparently think that, if I'm well into my twenties and completely single...something must be seriously wrong! If you ask me, making such a judgmental assumption makes them the wrong ones, but, they'll never realize that.

When I think about it, those are really the only two reasons I've desired a relationship: everybody else seems to have one, and people think something is wrong with me for not having one.  Of course, there's the old parenting adage: "So, if everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" Seriously, I don't need to let peer pressure or the decisions of my friends influence me; I have to do what's best for me, not what "everybody else" thinks I should do.  I'm pretty sure that my true friends want me to be happy; if that means no significant other, that's fine with them...and it should be fine with me.

So, from now on, I will not be pursuing any relationships.  I won't ask any girls out; I won't accept any offers to join any singles clubs or online dating sites, even ones for the Christian community; I won't follow some young lady around, like I've done at least twice in the past; and, I don't want any of you reading this to try to fix me up with a single female friend of yours.  Trust me: It's better this way.

As usual for my blog posts, I have a few points I'd like to make.  Some of them may be rehashes of old blogs, but, by now, many of you have probably forgotten my old writings, if you even saw them in the first place.  First off: You've probably heard someone say that relationships aren't all they're cracked up to be...and it's true, regardless of whether he/she meant it or not.  Statistics show that the divorce rate is at record highs, and it's even higher among Christians than non-Christians.  I know many of you reading this are married, and I sincerely hope that saying, "I do," to your spouse is God's will for your life.  However, more and more marriages are ending in shambles, leaving both halves of the couple, as well as their friends, heartbroken.  The Bible does give a Scriptural reason for divorce: "marital unfaithfulness," as the NIV says it.  Sure, it's a problem when divorces aren't Scriptural...but, it's still a problem when they are.  Think about it: Marital unfaithfulness--also known as adultery or an affair--is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments! So, even if marriages are ending for Scriptural reasons, that still means somebody messed up big time!

Even outside of the realm of adultery, people--including Christians--still do things they're not really supposed to do.  I'm reminded of the incident when The Legend of Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto showed some lo-fi video of an upcoming Zelda game, and asked the members of the gaming press not to show any photos or video of it.  Of course and Nintendo Power followed his instructions; as part of the Big "N," they had to.  Still, pretty much every other website and magazine disregarded his request and had screenshots for all their readers to see.  If the guy said not to do it...why would they? The same is true for Christians: Most of them know they shouldn't leave their spouse for any other reason besides marital unfaithfulness...but they do anyway.  It happens in all areas, especially entertainment.  I've sat through Bible classes where clips from trashy movies were used to illustrate points; if Jesus had been in there, he'd have overturned the TV cart!  If you know you're not supposed to do it, then you shouldn't...but, people give in to temptation and do such things anyway.  If I get married and never cheat on my wife...who's to say she won't walk out on me regardless? It's happened to plenty of others!

Second off: The relationships I've had in the past are not the kind a potential significant other would want.  Most of you probably have heard about--or, maybe, seen--the recent movie Her, about a guy who falls in love with a female-voiced computer operating system.  I don't want to see it--the "R" rating is enough to keep me away--but, I can kind of identify with the title character.  Even before I started giving my technological devices names such as Victoria or Bridgit, they were my best friends.  For most of my life--especially during my teenage years--I spent a lot of time alone or essentially alone, making my computer, Game Boy, DVD player, and/or TV set my sole companion(s).  I became kind of attached to them; in the past two years, I lost two different faithful devices--an eMac and an Epson printer--and couldn't help but feel saddened by their departure.  I didn't cry, but, I sure wasn't indifferent about it.  I also felt terrible when mishaps involving Danielle, my iPod touch--dropping her on the cement and cracking her screen, as well as inadvertently washing her--happened; after "she" came back from getting her screen repaired on February 14, I said, "Today is the best Valentine's Day ever."  It thrilled me that she mostly recovered from her washing machine encounter, too.  Most people know: My technology is important to me.

The problem there is: You can't treat another human being--including a significant other--like an iPad or Nintendo GameCube.  Technology only exists to serve its user; if it doesn't do what you tell it to do, something is wrong.  Human beings, however, have free will.  If I want someone to go to a movie with me, he or she has every right to decline, and the reasons aren't for me to refute; that would just lead to an argument that wouldn't get us anywhere.  That's something I know from experience, as I have been on both ends.  Other people don't exist just to serve me; they have their own needs and wants, too, and it's wrong for me to think that they have no purpose except to obey my beck and call.  I can sit there and say that...but, can I put it into practice? Doubtful.

Lastly: Celebrity crushes are rather pointless, and don't really serve as a substitute for a relationship.  Most of you know how far back I go with having a thing for various actresses; in many cases, I told anyone who would listen about my latest "woman".  Still, it's rather immature to do such a thing; it was fine back when I was in high school, but, at the age of twenty-six, I can see why some people find it to be off-putting.  It's one thing to admire someone's acting ability or vocal prowess, but, to bandy about some famous girl's name as if she is your best friend is just wrong.  Part of the reason I did it was because each actress--as far as I knew, anyway--was what I liked in celebrities: talented, clean-cut, beautiful, etc.  She also served as the "icon" for my tastes in entertainment.  However, I realized long ago that focusing only on one entity makes you miss out on nearly everything else, which is why I've broadened my tastes.  I still do "Woman Crush Wednesday" every week on Facebook, but, that's to admire various famous ladies, not just one; in the future, I'm planning on featuring some women that are known for something other than physical attractiveness.

Here's my conclusion, and it's going to be brief: This may likely be the last blog post I'll write for a while; don't hold your breath for an update.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Whose Opinion Is It Anyway?

Before I start, I'll say this: I have realized that blogging itself is not a waste of time; what is a waste of time is writing essentially the same thing again and again, as well as badgering people to read what I've written.  So, from now on, I'll stick to writing about something once, and that's least, for a while.  I can't promise that I'll never write about the same topic twice, but what I can promise you is that it won't be five posts in a row about the exact same thing.  Still with me? All right, here we go.

Consider these situations:
1. You're fourteen years old, and your mother just adopted a new dog.  In an attempt to help you and the dog become friends, she puts his crate in your bedroom.  Do you:
A. Fall asleep with a big smile on your face.
B. Spend half the night trying to come up with a name for your new canine companion.
C. Become so upset that you can't even sleep.

2. Your older sister and her husband bring your niece and nephew over for your parents to baby-sit; they're taking a trip to Busch Gardens, but don't want to spend all their time on the "kiddie" rides.  They come over, drop their kids off, and leave before you know it.  What do you think to yourself?
A. "Why couldn't they have brought me along?"
B. "Oh, well; maybe some other time."
C. "Whew! Boy, am I glad they didn't ask me to come along!"

3. One of your favorite singers is doing a local concert.  You enter into a contest to win tickets, but end up losing.  What do you do?
A. See if your parents will take you anyway.
B. Ask your local Facebook friends if they'll attend it with you.
C. Realize it's not that big of a deal; said singer has no idea who you are, and wouldn't even remember you if she met you, so, you'll stick to listening to her on your iPod.

Most of you probably answered A or B to all of those questions, right? Well, those stories aren't just hypothetical; they really happened to me, and, in every case, my response was C.  To most people, though, that would sound odd: Who wouldn't want a new dog? Why would someone be glad to not go to Busch Gardens? What kind of reason is that to not see one of your favorite singers in concert?  That's just it, though; I'm not them, and my preferences are usually contrary to popular opinion.

Conventional advice says that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, right? Well, you wouldn't know it from some of the people I've unfortunately known.  One former friend once said to me, "You are very rigid about your opinions, and it seems that if one does not agree with you, they are persecuting you, or just wrong." That's not even close to being true; in recent years, I've known people whose opinions were totally contrary to mine...but I just let it go, because their opinion wasn't going to affect me.  There are times when it does smack of persecution, but only in these cases:
  • Is the person's opinion preventing me from doing what I want or need to do?
  • Is the person's opinion based on "facts" which he/she thinks are true, but I know they're not?
  • Is the person even understanding what I am saying?
  • Is the person refusing to keep their mouth shut about their opinion?
It's no surprise that said former friend is good friends with a high school teacher of mine who annoyingly tried to pressure me into taking a trip to Busch Gardens; said instructor insisted that I'd have a blast if I went...but that wasn't her decision.  It'd be one thing if she just mentioned it once or twice, but, that woman was pretty much rubbing it in my face.  It's not just those two, though; throughout my life, various people have insisted that I do what they want instead of what I know would be better for me.

There lies the rub, however: If someone is going to be my friend, he/she must be respectful of my opinions.  Think of it this way: How would you like it if you had a so-called friend who criticized your life decisions--i.e., "You shouldn't have married _________!", "Why did you take a job in ______?", or, "Why aren't you into ______? Everyone else is!"--every chance he/she got? Wouldn't that drive you crazy, and make you want to literally unfriend that person after a while? Well, I can't stand it when people say the same things about anything I choose to do, from working at a library to bargain hunting to watching the Disney Channel.  If someone chooses to spend their time doing something else, that's their choice; I don't mind if someone says, "I'm not a fan of ______", or, "I watched ______, but I couldn't get into it."  What I mind is if someone says, "You shouldn't be watching ______," or, "You're into ________? That's stupid!" That right there smacks of harassment; instead of expressing their opinion of a show, book series, or hobby, they're insulting me.

In conclusion, I will say this: A longtime friend recently told me, "You assume Christian maturity in all Christians." Actually, what I expect is maturity from not only all Christians, but people in general.  It's true that most of the people I interact with frequently are Christians; I attend church three times a week, and even a few of my co-workers have told me of their Christian beliefs.  Still, I do have friends who call themselves agnostics, "modern heathens," or, in one case, a solipsist.  Why do I expect maturity from everyone? Simply put, the majority of people I am in contact with are around my age--that is, well into their twenties--or older, and the time for immature, childish behavior is past.  Unfortunately, as many of us are well aware, immaturity is rampant in today's society; too often, adults--of all ages, I should add--act like they're in middle school.  It does no good to tell them that, though; when my high school Physics teacher--who had previously taught eighth grade science--accused her class of acting like middle schoolers, a friend who was part of that class was rather upset, and he probably wasn't the only one.  What makes it even worse is that it seems that those who admit to not being Christians oftentimes are more mature than those who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  It's as Jesus said in Matthew 21:31c: "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." It shouldn't be that way, but it is.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What Has the Internet Done to Me?

You make for a lousy pastime!
I'm going to try and keep this short, but you know how long-winded I can be: Earlier this week, I was watching the audition episodes of the current season of The Voice, a singing competition show on NBC.  One of the contestants sang the song "Can't You See" by the Marshall Tucker Band, which I had heard previously, but had never really thought about what the lyrics were saying.  When I heard the chorus--"Can't you see what that woman, Lord, she been doin' to me?"--I realized that it was a prayer of sorts; the singer's significant other was driving him crazy, so, he was calling out to God in desperation.  I may not be dating or married, but, I feel the same way about a "relationship" of sorts with a certain entity that has been going on for over a decade and a half.  What is it? Entertainment? No; that'll probably always be my thing.  Celebrities? Honestly, the whole "celebrity crush" thing has been phased out for a while; I became able to admire the works, abilities, and looks of various famous people--of both genders, I should add--without bandying their names about as if they're my best friends.  Facebook? I just ended that "relationship" recently, but it hasn't been going on that long.  The answer is...the Internet.

"What is the Internet doing to me?" It's an interesting question that those of us who use it often should ask.  For me, my "relationship" with the Internet started back in 1998, when I used the school's computers to research my favorite topics: Scooby-Doo, Growing Pains, the Disney Channel, Garfield, Ty Beanie Babies, etc.  It didn't take long for me to learn how to copy images and store them on the computers' hard drives; some of my classmates even once used a picture of the Mystery, Inc. gang that I had stored on the Scrapbook desktop application for a project.  In 1999, we got our second Mac, which happened to be the first computer we ever hooked up to the Internet.  Though I wasn't allowed to have instant messaging or attachments in my e-mails--which was a smart decision on my mom's part, as I had too many distractions and got into enough trouble as it was--I spent plenty of time looking up information about my new favorite topics: Pokémon, Nintendo, Christian music, and the like.  I didn't start using the Internet for communication until 2002, though, when I found my way to a online forum about the Christian band dc Talk.  It didn't take long for me to become addicted, though I still spent plenty of time reading as much as I could about whatever I was obsessed with at the time.  In 2006, I joined Facebook, and we all know what happened after that.

However, I feel that, even without Facebook, the Internet is simply a time-waster.  It's one thing to use it to find information: the phone number of a local business, what the critics are saying about the newest blockbuster, how to fix a Samsung dishwasher...whatever.  However, sometimes, even without Facebook, the Internet can be information overload.  True, there's plenty of gossip online, but it doesn't even have to be that.  Last night, just randomly, I went on the Internet Movie Database page for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and ended up reading the entire trivia section, even though there was nothing in there that I really needed to know.  I then proceeded to do the same for the theatrical tie-in movie, and got the same results.  Prior to that, I had just gotten out of the shower, and I had wanted to watch some shows on my DVR before turning in for the night...but, instead, I wasted my time with something pointless.  It wouldn't have happened if it weren't for the Internet.

Many years ago, before I knew the nature of my condition, my mom mentioned something about being "autistic" while driving me somewhere.  I had no idea what that term meant, so I asked her, and she explained to me by fiddling with the keys on her key chain, and explained that, for someone autistic, "a bomb could go off," and he/she would still be sitting there, fiddling with whatever.  Some of you may know someone who is severely autistic, and does just that; though my condition is much milder than that, I still have a problem with misusing time.  One my my friends once defined "doing nothing" as "expending your energy on something that gives nothing or almost nothing back," and I think that's what I've spent right much time doing, not only on Facebook, but online and on the computer in general.

What does that mean for me? Well, pretty much, it means that I'm going to put a stop to this blog.  Most of the time, all I do is vent about my problems with whoever or whatever, speaking in generic terms so I won't offend anyone.  Even many of my "parodies" were attacks on people, which lost me friends at times.  I've wasted many an hour on posts on here, not realizing that not only did it not get me anywhere, but I had plenty of other, better things I could be doing.  As I said in my final Facebook note: If people wanted to keep in touch with me, they'd find a way to do it.  I bet most of my friends wouldn't even know about this blog if it weren't for Facebook, and I probably wouldn't even have started it in the first place.

I will end on this note: Last year, my church did a Bible trivia competition based on the book of James.  An old teen Bible of mine said the whole point of said book is: Don't just talk about it; DO IT! I've wasted way too much time talking about what I'm going to do; I need to just do it...and that's what I'm going to do!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I'm the Only Person I Can Be

This time of year, love is in the air.  The holiday smack-dab in the middle of this short month causes couples everywhere to spend money on their significant others...or friends whom they wish were their significant others.  It's not just Valentine's Day; I've gotten wind of people who had abstained from dating for a while, only to just recently find a relationship.  They might not come out and say, "I'm dating _____," but the signs are there.  Despite that, I find myself just as unattached as I've always been.  Of course, we all already know about how my technological devices are my "best friends" and that entertainment is my "significant other," but, that's more of a metaphor for a relationship.  If you didn't know me, and you heard me say that I'm "in a relationship" with an abstract entity...well, you'd likely think I'm a weirdo.

When I get bombarded with news of new relationships, engagements, and/or marriages, I often begin to wonder: Am I ever going to have a significant other, besides some abstract entity? Yes, I realize that I have mostly female friends, which means that I interact with more women than most married guys do; still, I can't have a close relationship with a married woman, because that's just asking for trouble.  Even if it never turns sexual, getting emotionally involved causes problems of which I want no part.  So, that leaves me to stick with friendship, and I'm likely going to be doing that for a while.

Do I now hold his former title?
Many people have tried to come up with various reasons as to why I'm sans a significant other right now, some of which are either no longer true or never were.  I've heard everything from, "No job," which hasn't been the case for over two years, to "You need to find someone with like interests," which is what I did in the past, and those ladies still turned me down, to the ever-popular "You don't love you, so, how can you expect someone else to?" Even I myself have attempted to come up with ideas, such as saying that my female friends only like me as a friend because they subconsciously see me as one of their "girlfriends," only because I lack the usual "guy" interests, to the fact that I treat people like technological devices, expecting them to give me exactly what I want, when I want it, and getting upset when they don't.  Still, I think the main reason is something completely different, and it's a bit complicated: Most of the people who are reading this are old enough to remember Dick Clark before he suffered a stroke, and how he was called "America's Oldest Teenager," only because he managed to always look quite young, despite being advanced in age.  That was probably at least partly thanks to lighting and/or stage makeup, but it was something that was the fodder of many a joke during his heyday.  You probably know someone--or are someone--who others erroneously believe is older or younger than he/she really is.  A high school teacher friend who is several years older than me once got mistaken for a student; a former friend was asked if she was a teen mom at her daughter's high school graduation, because people just didn't think she looked old enough to have a kid that old at a legitimate age; a misinterpretation of a friend's license plate led some random guy to think said friend was eighty years old, when he wasn't; and, there are countless other similar stories.  Some people can't help the fact that they look younger; that's just the way it is.  However, in right many cases, it seems like people's misconceptions of age are because of the way the person is question comports himself/herself.  I know that's the case with me; I'm nearly twenty-six years old, and, for years, people have thought I was much younger than I actually was.  Even when walking past a high school on the way to the library where I currently work, the school's resource officer thought that I was leaving school early.  I was thankful I didn't have to pull out my ID to prove who I really was.  It's to be expected, though, when my favorite topic of conversation is media that is generally intended for and/or popular with the younger set.

It's not just my favorite shows, movies, music, and books, though; there's yet another detail that many of you may not know.  The condition I have--which we all know isn't a disability!--falls under the category of developmental delays, which, in a nutshell, means that I am behind in some ways for my age.  That doesn't mean that I'm behind in every way; I was the only kid in my third grade class to be reading at an eighth grade reading level.  Still, socially, I have always been behind.  It's hard to say what my exact social age is; the last assessment I got on that was my mom telling me some years ago, "You don't act like you're nineteen; you act like you're nine!" Yes, I was nineteen at the time; still, if my social age was roughly half of my actual age, that means that I'm only about thirteen years old socially at the moment.  Yes, I have shown some recent maturity, but it still seems that I have a lot of growing to do, mostly based on some things most of you know nothing about.

Just before my "best friend" Emily and I called it quits, we had a discussion about me potentially dating a female friend who was about two decades my senior.  Prior to asking Emily about it, I'd had an overwhelmingly positive response from my other friends, so, I expected her to agree with them.  Instead, she called it an "absolutely horrible idea" for multiple reasons, one of which was, "You are so far apart socially, it'd be like her dating a child!" I wasn't very happy with her when she said that, but, now, I realize what she was saying.  I remember reading an advice column in the Christian magazine Guideposts for Teens where a sixteen-year-old guy asked the columnist what she thought about him dating a thirteen-year-old girl, and the columnist replied by talking about how, at those ages, the difference in priorities is so big, it could cause serious problems.  Sure, when one becomes an adult, three years is no big deal; I'm sure many of you married folks who are reading this have at least that much of an age difference with your spouse.  Still, when someone is as behind socially as I am, the priorities are completely different than others my age.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that trying to find a date wouldn't even be a concern if it weren't for this romance-obsessed world in which we live.  Honestly, even if I were to date a coeval young lady--or, for that matter, one a few years younger--she would probably end up feeling as if she were dating a child, because, socially, I'm just not at that level.

You may think that I can simply choose to be older socially, but, it doesn't work that way.  It's kind of like an old computer trying to run a new piece of software; if it even can start the application, it runs sluggishly most of the time, and eventually ends up crashing.  Unless I die young or Jesus returns in the next decade or so, I'll likely reach psychological maturity at some point...but it's something that's going to come on its own, not something that can be forced by anyone.  The only thing I can do is embrace the way I am.  Does that mean I have an excuse to act recklessly or do what I know I shouldn't? Of course not! Still, it does mean that, for the time being, relationships are a no-no for me.

As usual, I have a few points I would like to make.  First off: When someone has different priorities--like I do--you have to work with him/her, not try to convince him/her of what you feel is "important".  From 2002 to 2006, our household had a dog named Sparky, who I despised from day one.  Even before we got him, I had said how much I didn't like dogs--and, therefore, didn't want one--but he was still there nonetheless, and I told anyone who would listen, as well as the dog himself, how much I didn't appreciate him being there.  When my mom would hear me call him names and otherwise insult him, she always asked, "Why don't you love him?" Maybe that was just different than my sister, who never met an animal she didn't like, but, it should have been obvious why I didn't care for that dog: I just didn't like dogs in general, and no amount of pleading or defenses from my mom or anyone else was going to change my feelings.  Most people who have dogs adore them, and would be rather upset if they lost their canine companion; when my mom finally did take Sparky back to the SPCA--which I knew all along she would have to do--I was happy, and considered it a personal victory.  The dog just wasn't important to me, despite the feelings of others.

It isn't just about pets, though; it's everything.  Most people around my age--at least, in my experience--have jobs, relationships, classes, and/or kids to worry about.  They may not have all four, but their time is dominated by at least one or two.  Sure, I do have a job, but I only work nineteen hours a week, and I almost always have Mondays and Wednesdays off.  Without a significant other nor any classes or kids, I have much more time on my hands than most coeval folks.  That's why I can read five books in a week's time, or watch at least one television episode every day; I don't have a girlfriend, a son/daughter, or loads of homework to take up all my spare waking hours.  Honestly, it's better that way; it makes it easier to get done what I need and/or want to get done.

Second off: Just because my "way" is different doesn't make me any better than anyone else.  I used to have a edutainment computer game called Math Workshop, which had a young lady named Poly Gonzalez as its main character.  The game's manual described Poly as a wunderkind and mathematical genius, and talked about her graduating from a school where the motto was: "No one is greater than or less than...everyone is equal to...each other." It's a true statement; the Declaration of Independence, as well as Galatians 3:28, say the same thing.  Still, I've always had a tendency to look down--often unintentionally--on those who didn't know something that I did, or who did the "common" thing: watch/play sports, go to school dances, etc.  That usually meant I was looking down on everyone but myself, even if I had no intention of doing that.  There's been times where people have accused me of thinking I was "better than" they were, when I wasn't even trying to imply any such thing.  Of course, I want to stand for what I believe in, and I don't want to completely avoid conversation, but discussing my "way" without an air of superiority has proven rather difficult, and likely always will.

My final point, which sort of ties in with the previous one: There's a very good reason why I appear to lack confidence.  Back in 2008, I posted a note on Facebook--some of you will remember those--that discussed the reasons I didn't have a driver's license in brutally honest detail.  I started off by saying that driving was an issue where "I am right and pretty much everyone else is wrong." I got a bunch of comments, one from an old friend, who said, "Driving is not the issue, [Siobhan]; a lot of people don't drive.  The real issue is pride: 'I am right and pretty much everyone else is wrong.'"  I was rather offended by his comment; if I was sure of something I knew to be true, regardless of what everyone else thought, did that make me prideful? Not only that, hadn't been all that long since said friend and some people associated with him were rather critical of me for putting myself down.  So, I'm self-deprecating, yet...I'm problematically exhibiting pride? Those two seem to seriously contradict.

One of the things I have noticed about myself is that I tend to work in extremes.  I either adore something, or I despise it; I either do something too much, or don't do it enough; I either go too far, or don't go far enough.  In most cases, there's no middle ground, and that's true of my self-esteem.  Either I go around thinking I'm better than everyone else, or I think of myself in a negative way.  Since Proverbs 16:18 tells of the folly of pride, I choose the lesser of two evils, and have low self-esteem.  You may be quick to quote David's exclamation in Psalm 139:14, but, I counter with Paul calling himself "the worst" (NIV) of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15.  Seriously, who would want to be known as "the worst of sinners"? Isn't that a rather negative thing to call yourself? Yet, the Apostle Paul did just that, because he wasn't going to sit there and act like his sinful past never happened.  It's the same way with me; I know most of you do things that I could never do.  Yes, I know; all it would take is practice, but, to succeed at pretty much anything, you have to have the willpower to keep at it...and, for most of what you all are talented at, I just don't.  Therefore, thinking of myself as a wonderful, amazing person just isn't right.  I may have my great tendencies, but, I can't gloss over or ignore my faults.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Is There ANY Future in the Past? Oh, Yes...And More Than You Might Think.

When I was in school, I always considered history my worst subject.  I just couldn't wrap my head around Jamestown, the Declaration of Independence, or the Civil War the way I could the nine planets, multiplication, or English grammar.  Sure, I was good enough at it to get honor roll almost every marking period of elementary school from third grade onward, and here and there in middle and high school, but history just wasn't my thing.  All of the high school students in my state have to take standardized tests on world geography, world history, and US history, along with English and various maths and sciences.  I ended up surprising even myself by doing better on the social studies ones than the ones on any other subject, save for the two English ones, on one of which I got the highest possible score.  To this day, I'm not sure how I did that, or even how I managed a grade higher than a "C" in fourth grade history class.  My mom and brother-in-law are both big fans of history--in fact, my brother-in-law studied it in college--which kind of puts me at odds with them.  Once, he and I were debating whether or not I should study history, and I quoted an old Vince Gill song in my defense: "There ain't no future in the past." He countered with an age-old George Santayana maxim: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There was no way I could argue with that logic.

Even though social studies wasn't my best thing in school--well, okay, only in some ways!--my own past is one thing that I seem to know better than anybody else.  I often surprise people when I tell them of things that I saw them do and/or heard them say a while back; the responses I've gotten have ranged from the usual, "I don't remember that!", to even calling me "the one who remembers everything I ever did." (I'm not the only one who has ever had someone tell him that; see John 4:28-29 for proof.) Sometimes, people even don't believe me, saying that not only did what I spoke of not occur, it couldn't have, for whatever reason(s).  They don't seem to realize that, if I didn't know it to be true, I wouldn't say it.

You've probably noticed from my previous posts that I tend to look backwards to find the solutions to my problems.  Almost every time something happens, I'll say it's similar to something that happened in the past; it's to be expected from someone who can recall instances from years ago as clearly as if they happened last week.  My sister and I were meeting with someone back in 2003, and I brought up an instance that took place in 1999, to which my sister replied, "[Siobhan], I don't even remember that!" I quickly countered with, "I don't know how you can't; it wasn't even half a decade ago!" She and the individual whom we were meeting with laughed, but, to me, it wasn't a joke; the feelings I had about said instance when it happened didn't just remain with me for four years, but are still there today.  More recently, a Facebook friend had this to say:
I understand you have a great memory, and often look to the past for understanding and such, but I am blessed to not have a great memory and look only to the future.  I do not spend time on the past.  There is no point in looking on it, for there is nothing you can do about it.  So, though your posts are good, I cannot relate for that reason.  Sometimes, I feel sorry for you; that you cannot let go of the past and move on.
It's true that looking back on "the good old days" is unwise--Ecclesiastes 7:10 even says so!--but, it seems like I do it quite often, probably way too much.  If I'm going to spend time looking back--and we all know I will--then, the least I could do is apply that knowledge.  I can look back at what I and others did right, and emulate those actions; when I remember that someone--whether me, a family member, a friend, or even a famous person--messed up, I can ask myself, "Why did _____ mess up? What did _____ do wrong?" That can serve as what I call a Tim Taylor example: it shows me what not to do.  Not only have I had teachers show my entire class--or just tell us--the mistakes that previous students have made, but the Bible is full of mistakes of people just like us:
  • Two people's desire for what they couldn't have brought sin into the world. (Genesis 3)
  • The wisest earthly king who ever lived was led astray by a thousand women, and his mistakes led the nation he ruled astray. (1 Kings 3:3)
  • A man promises his friend he will never betray him, only to do just that and not realize it until it's too late. (Matthew 26:69-75)
With the mistakes of anybody, we can't let them just be a simple story, and just say, "It happened." We must learn from those mistakes, as mentioned in the George Santayana quotation above: If we don't learn from history, we're doomed to repeat it.  It doesn't matter if it's Biblical history, family history, American history, world history, or our own personal history; if we don't learn from it, it's useless.  James 1:22-24 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." (NIV) The same is true of history of any kind; knowing what happened at a certain time and place doesn't do you any good if you don't understand the meaning.

Monday, February 3, 2014

...But In the End, You Could Not Deliver

More like Super Dull, from what I hear!
I'll be honest: I didn't watch the Super Bowl this year.  After my church's Super Bowl party was canceled--which I was going to attend--I had planned to watch some movies and/or read some books the night it was on, but, ended up calling it a night early; after eating dinner and doing a movie review, I hit the hay, and ended up being out of bed before 6 AM, over an hour before my iPod alarm was set to go off.  From what I hear, though, other than the cute puppy/pony commercial, I wasn't missing anything; the game was a shut-out, and, therefore, not all that exciting.  Sure, it was great that the Seattle Seahawks won the first Super Bowl they ever made it to, but who wants to sit through an insanely long game where one team is the obvious winner almost from the outset?

You may think that I'm going to scoff at you sports fans for eagerly anticipating a game that allegedly ended up being dull.  Various Super Bowls have had their missteps, from the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" to a certain singer forgetting the lyrics to the national anthem, but I understand that faithful fans will stick to your sport(s), team(s), and/or player(s) no matter what.  In fact, I think most people who have a vested interest in some sort of entertainment--whether it be sports, video/computer games, television shows, movies, books, or whatever else--will tell you of much-hyped entities that ended up being big disappointments to most fans.  An old gamer friend told me of the mess that was the video game Superman 64, and how the fact that developer Titus had promoted it heavily before it came out made gamers everywhere all the more upset.  Superhero fans will likely point to the example of Batman & Robin, the fourth movie in Tim Burton's film series about the Caped Crusader.  It actually was a financial success when it released--it made $42,872,605 in its first week--but theater attendance quickly dropped, because word got out about what dreck the movie really was.  I myself have been disappointed in various Disney Channel and Nickelodeon "big events," ranging from the iCarly/VICTORiOUS crossover "iParty with VICTORiOUS," which even featured All That's Kenan Thompson to You Wish!, a Disney Channel Original Movie that starred A.J. Trauth (Even Stevens) and Lalaine (Lizzie McGuire).  Though they garnered much hubbub, they ended up being big-time duds, and I likely won't be sitting through them ever again.  Even some regular episodes were terrible; one iCarly episode was mostly sans Carly--the title character!--and the "Brain Squeezers" episode of VICTORiOUS was just too weird to be funny.  Still, that didn't mean I gave up on the shows or their stars; it would take a big mess-up, like what they did on The X Factor this past season, to cause me to do that.  That right there is why I completely respect those who stay true to their favorite sport(s), team(s), or player(s), no matter what; I've done the same thing with my favorite shows over the years, despite their missteps!

Any comments?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Life, Love, and the Movies This is part of the "Life, Love, and the Movies" blogathon, which you can find out more about by clicking on the image to the right. Anyway, here are my answers to their questions:


1. What was the first movie you saw in the cinema and what do you remember about that visit?
The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Dennis the Menace.  All I remember is the hilarious copy machine scene during the credits and that I had to go to the bathroom more than once during the film, much to my mom's chagrin.

2. Are there any movies you have very strong memories of which are not because of the movie (for example, something which happened at the time you were watching it)?
Yes, both in the cinema, at home, and elsewhere; that's what happens when you have strong memories about almost everything.  Probably the earliest case of that was back in 1995, when I went to see Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie with two friends of mine; we arrived at the theater late, which is the only time I've ever walked into a movie at a theater after it already started.  In 1997, there were two incidences I remember vividly, and both of them around the same time.  One was trying to watch Flubber at the theater, but my oldest sister--who was severely disabled, mind you--didn't do very well, and we never went to the theater after that; the other was going to see Home Alone 3 a theater an hour away because my brother-in-law had won tickets via a radio contest.  Later on, I remember trying to watch the first Harry Potter movie twice, but had to turn it off, because the scene where the face jumps out of the book scared the daylights out of my sister (yes, the same one I already mentioned).  She was also petrified by Jim Carrey's live-action Grinch and the toy soldiers in The Santa Clause 2.  When I went to see Attack of the Clones in IMAX, I lost concentration and missed part of it; to this day, I don't even remember what I was thinking that caused me to not see something on a mega-sized screen.  Probably the funniest memory was seeing Cheaper By the Dozen, and nearly falling in the floor laughing at the scene where all the dogs chase Ashton Kutcher's character because his underwear was soaked in meat.  My mom joked that she was going to do that to me, and leave me in the backyard with our dog.

3. Which movies had a big impact on you and changed a (small) part of your view on life?
The Star Wars movies woke me up to a whole part of entertainment and pop culture that I'd be missing otherwise.

4. Do you have any comfort movies which you return to because you are in a specific mood (for example if you are feeling down/nursing a heartbreak)?
Not really; when I'm down, I don't feel like doing much of anything.

5. If a movie would be made about your life, what type of movie would it be and who would you like to portray you?
It would definitely be a drama; there's many things about my life where there's nothing at which to laugh.  As for who would play me, I'm a bigger fan of actresses than actors, but, since I don't want a woman playing me, I'd say Ross Lynch, Kirk Cameron, Adam Lamberg, or Nathan Kress.

6. Which existing movie best represents you?
Inception.  I'm complicated, and sometimes insane, but people like me anyway.

7. If you knew you would die tomorrow, what would be the last movie you would want to see?

Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars.  It's my all-time favorite.

8. If you can spend your life working in the film industry, what would you be and why? (You know: Director, producer, actor, cinematographer, costume designer, sound designer, etc.?)
Definitely not an actor, as I've always been camera shy.  I'd like to be a writer; I have lots of ideas in my head that I'd love to see on a big screen featuring lovely Hollywood ladies such as Victoria Justice, Jennifer Stone, Demi Lovato, Andrea Logan White, Valerie Bertinelli... (I could name a hundred more!)


1. Did you ever have a first kiss with someone while at the cinema and if so which movie was playing?
No. (That's all I'll say.)

2. What is your favorite movie relationship and why?
It might be more of a TV relationship, but, I'd say Lizzie and Gordo.  To have someone as your best friend for a long time, only for them to become your partner for life...what's sweeter than that?

3. When did your love for movies start and how has it grown?
Honestly, I used to not be much for movies; as a kid, I mostly spent my time with computer games and television shows.  However, Lizzie McGuire and Star Wars--what a combination!--woke me up to a whole world of entertainment, movies included, that I'd be missing otherwise.

4. If you have to choose one film to watch with your loved one, what would it be and why?

Any of the good Disney Channel movies, such as Brink!, Good Luck Charlie: It's Christmas!, Let It Shine, Lemonade Mouth, or, especially, Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars.  If she can't appreciate it...she and I are splitsville! (That's how important it is to me!)

5. If you can choose one character from a movie to be your significant other who would it be and why?
Lizzie McGuire, and not just because she was played by the über cute Hilary Duff.  I have always seen a lot of myself in Gordo, and, to have a supportive best friend like her as my mate for life...what could be better than that?

6. What was the first movie that made you fall in love with film and cinema?

Star Wars, as mentioned above.

7. How did your passion for movies turn you into a movie blogger?
Well, I'm more of an entertainment blogger than a "movie blogger," but...when Facebook added the now-defunct LivingSocial apps, I started posting reviews of books and movies...and people loved them.  After the shutdown of those apps, I tried others, but they just didn't work as, I used my Blogger account to make an entertainment review blog, where I have reviewed plenty of movies, as well as books, TV seasons/volumes, and an album here and there.

8. What is your favorite date from a movie?
December 25! I like Christmas movies! (Hey, you said "date"!)