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"!)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Supercharging My February

February is a unique month.  Not only does its number of days vary depending on what year it is, but is also the only month on the calendar to be less than thirty days in length.  People's opinions vary greatly; some people--like me--love it, while it is hated by others, such as Hadley, the protagonist/narrator in Mary Rodgers and Heather Hach's book Freaky Monday, a quasi-sequel to the book-turned-movie-series Freaky Friday.  How you feel about February probably depends on your past experiences with it.  I actually lost two family members during that second month--one last year, the other in 2005--but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want me to sit around and mope; they'd want me to be out living my life and blessing those I come into contact with while I still can.  There's plenty in February to celebrate, also; not only do we have Valentine's Day right in the middle, but the Super Bowl occurs the first Sunday of that month, and plenty of people have birthdays sometime during those mere four of which is me. (Now you know why I love that month!)

However, I have decided that this February will be unlike any other February I've ever had.  Of course I'm still going to celebrate my birthday; that's not going to change.  What will change is that I'm going to get a lot more done in February than I do in a month's time, including the longer months.  That means applying some rules about things that are important to me.  What are my rules? I'll tell you:
  • Continue following the One Year Bible plan, as I already have been doing.
  • Watch at least one TV episode--whether streaming, on demand, via my DVR, on a DVD, or live--every day. (Watching two or more episodes in one day does not excuse me from watching one on the following days!)
  • Read five books a week, every week. (If I don't complete the book, it doesn't count.)
    Watch three movies a week, every week. (Same rule applies: it doesn't count unless I complete it.)
  • When I complete a book, movie, or season/volume of a TV show, I must post a review of it.
  • Set my alarm clock for no later than 7:00 every day, whether I work or not.
  • After the clock strikes noon, Facebook is off limits. (Unless I am asked to sign on or need to go on there for urgent reasons, that is.)
So, here's to a supercharged February! I look forward to sharing my accomplishments with you!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

All That...And, For What?

In 1995, my life was changed forever when I got my first Mac as a gift for my seventh birthday.  Though it had its share of issues--as all pre-OS-X Macs did--it was mostly great for what I needed it for: homework, playing games, etc.  However, like most pieces of technology, it started to show its age after a while, and, in 1998, the printer we had gotten with it stopped working.  The tech specialist at my school said to re-install the printer driver, but it gave us an error message, so, we called a friend of ours who owned a Mac, and he spent a long time installing a system upgrade...but not only did it not take, he later discovered that there was a mechanical problem with the printer itself, and no software upgrade or re-installation would fix that.  I felt bad about it, especially since the guy was dead less than two years later because of pancreatic cancer; he wasted all that time and effort, and nobody benefited from it.

I bring that up for just one reason: You've probably noticed that, for quite a while, I've been adamant about how my shows, movies, music, and books are superior to most people's favorite pastime: sports.  You've probably seen some of the images, statuses, and posts that decry everything from the Super Bowl to the Olympics.  Even if I don't outright insult others who are participating, I'll proudly tell others that I'm watching a movie instead of the "big game," almost making myself sound superior because I'm not doing what "they" are.  Instead of trying to understand something that is quite important to millions of people across the country, I go off in a corner and look down on those who aren't doing what I'm doing, which is pretty much everybody.

You may ask: Why is that? What is the need for such a rivalry? Well, I admit that it's wrong--did you hear that?--but here's the reasoning behind it, anyway: Over the years, I have had people tell me that I shouldn't be watching the shows that I do or did.  It didn't seem to matter whether it was Austin & Ally, Mork & Mindy, or even Monk; somebody always had some problem with it, usually because it wasn't "normal".  It was the same way with video games, music, and even books.  It's one thing for somebody to say that he/she didn't like what I did; that was fine.  The problem was when people told me that it was wrong for me to be into whatever, and personally insulted me for it, usually desiring to take it away.  You may think that there weren't that many people who did that, and you'd be right; still, those who were of that opinion almost always couldn't keep their food holes shut about the matter.  Since they were quite insistent that I do what "everyone else" was doing--which, many times, involved watching or playing sports--I became just as insistent that I not do it, and criticized others who had such interests, whether or not they had any desire to replace what I liked to do with what I refused to do.  It infuriated me once when an older friend attempted to teach me how to throw a football; didn't he realize that all I wanted to do to that piece of pigskin was shove a sharp knife into it?  It also got to the point where I considered all sports fans to be fanatics; if you got upset when your team lost...well, that was just stupid.  Though I now realize how wrong it was, it would never have happened if it weren't for those few people--especially one in particular--who couldn't stop popping their chops.

Okay, so, now that I realize that there's no need for a rivalry between me and sports fans...what's to be done? I'm not going to start watching or caring about sports; why should I spend my time involved in or researching something about which I couldn't care less?  Still, one thing I do need to do is refrain from bashing sports or their fans; you all have just as much right to like the Philadelphia Eagles or the Houston Astros as I do to like Laura Marano and Kevin Max.  People generally don't like other people who have an air of superiority about them; to get the feeling that one feels he/she is better than you...well, nobody likes that.  If I don't like sports, that's fine; nobody is forcing me to participate in them.  Still, to think less of people because they do like them isn't good.

I want to make a few things very clear.  First off: My definition of "entertainment" probably isn't the same as yours.  For those who watch sports, they're a source of entertainment; if people didn't enjoy them, why would they be watching or participating in them? Yet, when I talk about "entertainment," it's just a shorter way of saying "books, music, movies, and television." My world geography teacher in high school regularly got irritated with TV news commentators because of their mispronunciations of geographical locations--i.e., pronouncing the Middle East nation of Qatar as "cutter" instead of "ka-tar"--and their misapplications of longitude and latitude, using numbers such as 35.6 North and 26.2 West instead of the proper measurements: degrees, then minutes, then seconds.  Despite that, she understood when reporters and other TV personalities referred to the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina--one country, not two--as simply Bosnia, because she knew they were trying to refrain from getting tongue-tied.  It's the same with me: The term "entertainment" rolls off the tongue easier than saying "books, music, movies, and television," and it's also easier to type.  Sure, to the right people, sports are entertaining...but not only are they not to me, there are other types of entertainment besides them and books, music, movies, and television.  What about computer games? Video games? Stage plays? Live concerts? Certain websites? You might even know people who you'd consider entertaining, or have seen random people who entertained you in a train wreck kind of way.  Still, that's not what I mean by entertainment; I simply mean books, music, movies, and television.  If you bandied the names of such pastimes about as much as I do, you'd see why I do that.

Second off: Even if my true friends know why I don't do sports, and are completely okay with it, there will always be others who think it's just plain weird.  When I was in high school, I had a classmate who supposedly thought she was a vampire.  I never spoke a word to her--in fact, most of what I know about her came from my yearbooks--but, her purse was a coffin; she wore powder on her face; and, even her backpack was all black and had the word "SPOOKY" embroidered on it.  In the back one of those aforementioned yearbooks, someone--her parents, one would guess--did an ad dedicated to her that had a quotation, apparently from her, that talked about being original.  Of course, all of you who know me that I don't do vampires or spooky stuff; I was even hesitant to watch the Disney Channel series My Babysitter's a Vampire, because...well, you know.  Still, I mention her because it seems they way many people likely saw her is how some people see me: a freak, and I don't mean an "ardent enthusiast." I'm sure that many people talked about that girl behind her back, and said all kinds of ugly things; they're probably doing the same thing to me.  It's funny when you think about it: Most of the people who have unfriended me since I joined Facebook in September 2006 were people who didn't know me at all--or, at least, not that well--prior to joining my friend list.  I think it was because people just didn't expect to be bombarded with artwork, song parodies, and other posts about "abnormal" pastimes such as bargain hunting, libraries, and, yes, kiddie shows and movies.  They probably got weirded out, which is why they disappeared from my friends list; however, those who knew me completely understood it, and that's why they stayed aboard.  Of course, that's not true in every case, but it is in more than you'd believe; even if people didn't say they unfriended me because of what I was posting, it was still likely part of it.  I don't know if the sermon topic was just dull, or the preacher was having an off day, but, one Sunday several years ago, my brother-in-law mentioned on the way home from church services that people were falling asleep all around him during the sermon...but the preacher still had to keep going for those who were still listening.  It's the same with me: If folks choose to consider me a freak because of what I like, that's on them; I'll just keep going for the people who do still care about me.  I can't let the actions and words of a few unfortunate individuals ruin what I have with my many true friends.

Lastly: Whether it's sports, celebrities, or anything else, having an addiction is a problem.  In American society, sports fans are expected to do it up and do it big; you've probably seen people with automobiles, notebooks, tech gear, or other items decked out with logos and insignia of their favorite team(s)/player(s).  If you saw a car or truck with such decals, most of you would just think, "Well, that person's a big fan"...yet, if you saw the same vehicle with images and logos related to Demi Lovato, Bridgit Mendler, and Laura Marano, you'd automatically assume that the guy driving it is a weirdo, and not someone you'd want to be around.  Part of that is because the modern mentality assumes that, when a guy has a crush on a famous woman, all he wants to do is undress her and get in bed with her...but those of you who know me know I'm not that way at all.  That's one of the reasons why I choose the innocent, modest, morally decent girls; seriously, when was the last time you heard me talk about how much I like Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, or Christina Aguilera? I like the Disney girls because they're not sultry!  However, the bigger problem is that, because obsessing over sports has become socially acceptable, some people could be committing the sin of idolatry without even knowing it.  Don't think that I'm pointing fingers; I'm likely more guilty of that sin than any of you.  I spent years essentially bowing down at the altars of Pokémon, Hilary Duff, and the personal computer in general--that's not even half of my previous idols--and feel that it was a tremendous mistake.  Only those who know you inside and out can judge whether or not you currently have any idols, and I'm not going to make that judgment on anyone but myself.  Whether socially acceptable or not, being addicted to something--which is the same as idolizing it--is not okay to God, as I'm sure you all already know.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Patiently Waiting...Only to Be Disappointed

Of all the shows I've been a fan of over the years, few have had even close to as much influence on me as Growing Pains.  Though it may have aired its final episode when I was only four years old, reruns on the Disney Channel during the late 90's made me a die-hard fan of the show.  I even saw parts of myself in the three older kids--Mike, Carol, and Ben--and talked about the show to anyone who would listen, even driving my immediate family members nuts by rambling incessantly about it.  I originally became a fan of it back in 1997, but moved on from it in 1998 because I thought I'd seen all of the episodes; there was a resurgence of my fandom in 2002 thanks to reruns being on ABC Family, though that was short-lived, only because it got replaced with 7th Heaven, much to my chagrin.  In 2005, I received exciting news from Growing Pains was going to be released on DVD.  It was actually quite odd: The first news of it came from a Dallas Cowboys website, where they talked about Alan Thicke visiting the team during training for the upcoming season, and made a passing reference to the show's upcoming release. confirmed it with Warner Home Video, and, in February 2006, the first season was released on DVD.

As you'd expect, I got my hands on that season set as soon as I could...only to be disappointed in what I got.  Maybe the sitcom was undergoing its own growing pains, but the first season wasn't as innocent or as funny as I remembered it being on the Disney Channel.  That was likely because most of the ones I remembered them showing were ones much later in the series, but, I found it difficult to get through, and ended up trading it in to MovieStop when I was done.  I still kept tabs on the series, and figured Warner would release the later seasons soon after...but, when 2007, 2008, and 2009 came and went without any word, I doubted they'd release any further seasons.  I was actually a bit surprised when I came home from church one night in 2010 to an announcement that they were releasing the second season of GP...but I had still lost interest, and never put it on my Christmas lists or even attempted to purchase it on eBay after its release.  In 2012, Amazon's Video on Demand service made the two reunion movies available, and Warner themselves released the third season in 2013; still, I have my doubts that the studio will get around to releasing the remaining seasons--five in all--before the DVD ends up becoming obsolete, not that it matters much to me anyway, as I have moved on with my life.

Okay, so...what does all that have to do with anything? I'll tell you: You probably know that, for quite a while, I have been lamenting my lack of a relationship.  Most of you also likely know that many people around my age--including most of my friends--are already married or soon will be, which is a direct contrast to my lifelong single status.  People have suggested all kinds of things, but none of them brought any change on that front:
  • One high school teacher told me that I'd likely find a date in college...but all of the friends I made there were guys! (Sounds unlike me, but it's true.)
  • In order to encourage me to go to a school I didn't want to go to, a friend who was formerly in the military told me that she was hesitant to get deployed to Korea...but that was where she met her husband.  However, when I went to said school, though I made friends, most of them ended up unfriending me eventually, and one girl was making romantic advances on me, even though her Facebook clearly said she already had a significant other. (Even I knew that was a red flag!)
  • When I lamented about the loss of my "best friend" Emily, another friend told me about a nearby church that had a small group for young adults, and I attended for a while...but, even though I made friends, a few of them unfriended me, and one who took a special liking to me now lives on the other side of the country, whereas the other one was already engaged before we met.  Not only that, but, my lack of a driver's license made it inconvenient for me to get there, so, I had to stop attending after a while.
Frankly, I'm doubting that a relationship is in my future; it seems to me that, just like the release of the entire series of Growing Pains, if it was going to happen, it would have done so by now.  So, that means that--for the time being, anyway--I'm going to be flying solo, though I have plenty of other people to help me out, such as those who are reading this.

However, there is another way to look at the analogy: It's obvious I waited for a while for Growing Pains to be released, right? Yet, I couldn't have been more disappointed in the first season! So, even if one day, I do end up in a relationship...who's to say I'll like it? When you think of a "bad" relationship, your mind probably immediately goes to one that is abusive or adulterous...but it can still be unenjoyable even if it's neither of those.  If both parties aren't enjoying the relationship, then, frankly, it shouldn't exist.

Regardless of all that, a life without romance is--for me, anyway--quite hard to accept.  You may think that's a product of Facebook, but, honestly, I first asked a girl out in 2003, before Zuckerberg's website even existed.  Sure, when I think about it, I can think of all sorts of advantages of being single: being able to have more female friends, not having someone tag along with me everywhere, not worrying about making anyone jealous when I interact with random ladies, the freedom to do what I want whenever I want without worrying about how someone else feels, etc.  Still, I think it's partly because of the well-meaning words of friends and other encouragers.  Many times--even going back to high school--I was told that I definitely would have a significant other at some point.  One girl even told me that just after rejecting me.  Another friend said, "You deserve a great girl, and I promise that one day you'll have one!" There's plenty more of that where those came from...but, they all turned up for naught, as every girl I asked out rejected me, and the ones who took a liking to me had some reason why I couldn't date them: they were already taken, their religious beliefs contradicted mine, there was too much physical distance between us, or, they just weren't interested.  Honestly, I think those "encouraging words" ended up being harmful, as they ended up giving me hope for something that likely isn't going to happen.

What I wonder is: Why am I focusing on this? There was a time--okay, back in high school, but it still happened--when I didn't need a relationship to be happy; if I spent most evenings with the television set and my computer as my sole companions, that was fine.  Sure, I knew that there were friends of mine who went out and did things with each other, and that I wasn't invited, but I didn't let it get to me; I just stayed home and watched the Disney Channel without any qualms.  Where is that now? What happened to that? My mom said it this way: "You used to be fine doing your own thing; now, you're obsessed with getting other people's opinions about what you're doing." What changed? Why am I sitting around wanting to do what others are doing, instead of doing what I myself want to do? Honestly, I'm not sure.

I have a few points I would like to make.  First off: I know that change won't happen instantly...but I don't want to tune out my future.  When I get to a point where I desire change, I usually respond by sitting down and watching the Disney Channel, or reading a book, or doing another one of my favorite pastimes instead of something that would bring about change.  Sometimes, I feel like I'm just "tuning out" my future...but, if no opportunities to make big changes in my life are present at the moment, what am I supposed to do? That doesn't mean that I should refuse opportunities to bring about change if they do come along...but they don't grow on trees, if you know what I mean.

Second off: I think some of you have the wrong idea about the whole celebrity crush deal. When I first started crushing on celebrities that were relatively coeval to me, it's true that I actually wanted to date and marry them.  I told anyone who would listen that I was going to marry Hilary Duff one day...but, I ended up realizing that was folly.  It ended up becoming just something to tide me over until I actually found a significant other, much like one would eat a light snack, such as cheese and crackers, to satiate his/her hunger before consuming a full square meal.  Unfortunately, that period ended up lasting a long time, as it has been well over a decade since the whole thing started, and there's been no dates for me in sight.  Whether the whole celebrity crush thing is still going, however, is subject to interpretation.

That said, however, I do realize that obsessing over famous people was likely not the answer to my problem.  Some years ago, on the dc Talk message board I've mentioned previously, I told everyone on there that I was giving up the celebrity crushes.  I even took their advice and deleted all the pictures of Anne Hathaway and friends from my hard drive.  They told me that, even if the girl I was trying to pursue rejected me, I still didn't need a bunch of famous young ladies; what I needed was to spend time getting closer to God, and becoming more ready to be in a relationship, should one come along.  Unfortunately, I felt they didn't know what they were talking about, and, when I got rejected, I went on a quest to find all the photos I'd previously deleted.  My problem was--and still is--that I didn't--and still don't--understand what they meant by "getting closer to God and being more ready to be in a relationship".  Sure, I believe in God, and I'm much better versed in the Word than I was during my school years...but I still don't feel that peace that such faith seems to bring to millions of others worldwide.  Even reading the Bible every day for over two years hasn't changed much.  Inner peace, it would seem, is just another abstract human concept which I will never understand.

Third off: Right now, I shouldn't be pursuing a relationship anyway. When I was a sophomore in high school, my English teacher wanted to show us a video of Julius Caesar, which we were studying at the time...but there were some technical issues with the tape.  In an attempt to fix it, he turned the closed captioning on, which did absolutely nothing to stop the skipping.  To this day, I'm not really sure why he thought turning the "CC" mode on would fix anything; if the tape was messed up, the captions would be, too.  He needed to either get a new copy of the movie, or try it on another VCR.  I bring that up for one reason: With all the problems I have, adding a significant other to the mix would be just like turning the closed captions on helped that Shakespeare videotape: no help at all.  My aforementioned former "best friend" Emily was once in a relationship with a guy who was constantly down in the dumps, and she confessed to me that she spent much of her life savings buying him things to make him happy, before realizing the relationship was headed nowhere and calling it quits.  The last thing I need is to foul up some young lady's life by dating her when I myself am chronically unhappy; until I get my own issues worked out--which could take a while--I need to not worry about dating.

My last point before my conclusion: Though I understand--and will hopefully soon accept--my lack of a relationship, I still fear loneliness.  Since graduating from high school in 2006, I have lost--or lost contact with--friends of all ages, as well as extended family members whom I loved like friends.  Though some of that may have been a product of unfriending, quite of few of those folks died, left Facebook, or moved away without any way for me to keep in contact with them.  Even for those friends who do have Facebook and didn't unfriend me, talking through instant messages or over the phone just isn't the same as face-to-face conversation.  Some of you may be quick to mention video chat, but, not only will no one do that with me--and you have no idea what a blow to my self-esteem that is!--you also can't hug someone, or shake his/her hand, or pat him/her on the back with such technology.  When it comes to those people who I do see face to face, there likely will come a time when I won't anymore.  Many of the people I talk to regularly at church are much older than me, ranging from a few years difference to old enough to be my grandparents.  Though there's nothing wrong with having a diverse set of friends--I like it that way!--they're not getting any younger, and they could easily pass away or leave town, no matter how old they are or their claims to the contrary.  The area in which I live in is very military-heavy, which means that many people--including at my church--live here for a mere few years, and then move on to another location, sometimes outside of the country.  Even those who aren't military end up leaving quite quickly at times; the young couple who hosted the high school group at my old church moved to this area in 2003, and, at one of the meetings, I made a passing reference to the fact that they'd likely be moving soon, because everybody at that church did.  One of them said, "We're not military; you're going to be dealing with us for quite a while,"...but, they went back to their home state in 2007.  Whether by death, relocation, or other circumstances, I don't want to lose my friends.  Even in the past few years, friends have invited me to social events, made me crafts, given me special birthday gifts and greetings, etc., and, for that, I salute them; still, there's the nagging feeling that, at any time, it could end, even by circumstances that are outside my control.

All right, here's my short conclusion: In order to deal with this chronic unhappiness and frustration, my psychologist is trying me on a different dosage of my medication.  If you don't mind, pray that it will be for the better.  Now, I'm done.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"I'm Not Lying!" "No, But You ARE Misinformed!"

If you learned math when you were in school--who didn't?--you probably remember learning about graphs.  Bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts...they came in all different varieties, shapes, and colors.  When I was in sixth grade, my math teacher assigned us to take a poll of our class on an assigned subject--mine was, "What is your favorite candy bar?"--and draw the results onto a bar graph, much like the one seen to the right.  Previously, due to my condition, I had been allowed to do assignments that involved drawing on some sort of desktop publishing software--usually ClarisWorks--and I tried to tell my teacher that year that I should be allowed to do that again...but she wouldn't allow it.  Her exact words were, "I don't want you to just push a button and have it made for you!" This teacher wasn't elderly--in fact, she was pregnant the year I had her--but her assumption that computers were magical, mind-reading machines made her sound like someone who didn't know the first thing about them.  I ended up with a "D" on the assignment, and was the only one in my class who got a grade below a "C"; however, that was actually because I had misplaced the chart that was supposed to accompany it thanks to my ever-present disorganization.  Regardless, I couldn't believe that a relatively young teacher would assume such a thing about PCs and Macs; when she was using a computer during a related arts computer class, the first thought I had was, "Wow! You actually know how to use one!" I'd never have thought such a thing if she hadn't assumed my printer would spit out a properly labeled graph with just the push of one key.

Unfortunately, such incidents happen fairly often, and more so now than back in 1999, when the above story took place.  I came across a quotation from Paul McCartney in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview where he said, "I just saw some Beatles program the other night, and in the first five minutes were four mistakes.  This is why we don't know who Shakespeare was, or what really happened at the Battle of Hastings." One would think that TV documentaries would be more reliable than random websites or even Wikipedia, but that Beatle's response to what he saw on the telly says that's not so.  It isn't just with rock legends; misinformation is everywhere, and there are plenty of people who are misinformed, but don't know that they are.

I'm pretty sure all of you reading this have gotten into an argument with someone.  Whether it was your spouse/significant other, your son/daughter, a co-worker, an friend or acquaintance, or anyone else, it was likely a result of two disagreeing parties, and it may have been that one or both of them believed something that wasn't actually true, but refused to see the error of his/her/their ways.  In the case of my sixth grade teacher, I didn't defend my case for fear of getting into trouble; in cases where that wasn't an issue, I fought long and hard to defend what I believed.  You may think that a smart guy like me would be in the right about most things, but there were many times where I was seriously wrong.  On the way back from church camp in 1998, my sister and I got into an argument because I had responded with insults to kids who had insulted me.  She mentioned the Golden Rule, and I said that it called for revenge; if they had called me names, didn't that "rule" give me the right to call them names as well? Later on, I realized that I'd sorely misunderstood it; when they said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," I heard, "Do unto others as they have done unto you."  It took me years to realize that, though, and it wasn't the last time I would get into an argument over something about which I was mistaken.

You all probably know that I talk about how being different is among my signature traits.  It's true that I'm unique...but, sometimes, that causes a problem.  When I look at others who are following the "traditional" way, I've been known to look down on them, thinking that my way is better than theirs.  It's true that people have praised my unique traits--my dedication to morally correct entertainment, my knowledge of the Bible, my ability to remember years-old stories in such detail, etc.--but that does not give me a right to feel that I'm superior to anyone else, because I'm sure most of you reading this can do things I myself can't.  Plus, that attitude is not conducive to making friends...or winning people over for Christ.  Though I realize that now, such a habit will be insanely hard to break.  Not only that, but, everyone talks about my lack of confidence being a problem...without realizing that such a habit is my attempt at having confidence! It may come off as pride, but, honestly, pride is nothing more than hyper-confidence, and we all know what the Bible says about pride!

I think the key here--for me, at least--is to not assume that I have all of the answers.  Even if I have information right from the source, sitting there trying to get someone else to believe me doesn't do me any good.  I'm reminded of a friend who once told me about an incident where a kid was complaining that her daughter wouldn't stop chasing him; her exact words were, "I told him: If he didn't run, she couldn't chase." Instead of trying to convince somebody else that he/she is wrong, it's best to just let it go; as the old Billy Joel song says, "You may be right; I may be crazy! You may be wrong, for all I know, but you may be right!" (What, you thought classic rock didn't have any merit?) It's one thing if it's a big deal, but, when it comes to trivial matters...why push it? There are enough problems on our planet without adding paltry affairs into the mix!

Any comments?

Friday, January 17, 2014

On Being Social...And NOT Being Social

It was the summer of 1995.  Bill Clinton was in the White House, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was insanely popular with kids all over America, and I was only seven years old.  My sister, however--the one who is still living, that is--was graduating from high school.  To celebrate the end of her twelve years of school, my family had a graduation party for her.  It was quite the big affair; we had it at my aunt's house, because ours was too small, and many of our immediate and extended family members, as well as my sister's friends, came and had a grand old time.  Even though it wasn't my party, I was allowed to bring my best friend at the time.  I don't remember much about it, but, from what I do recall, it seems like a blast was had by all.

Fast forward eleven years to 2006, the year I graduated from high school.  After what you just read, you'd probably expect that my graduation party was also an extravaganza of sorts, right? Well, you'd be wrong.  Instead of having friends and extended family over, I was given a "surprise" party where no one was in attendance other than me and my immediate family members.  (I said "surprise" in quotes because I figured out what they were up to, albeit only a few minutes before the surprise was revealed.)  No extended family members nor any of my friends from anywhere--church, school, etc.--even knew about it until it was over and done.  Just last year, upon thinking about that, I asked myself a rather disturbing question: Why did I have more of my friends at someone else's graduation party--that is, my sister's, which is the only other one I've ever attended--than at my own?

Since I wasn't the one who planned that party--it was supposed to be a surprise, after all--I asked my mother about that, and she had no idea why my graduation party lacked friends.  My brother-in-law probably doesn't remember either--he and my mom both worked nights during that time, which makes one forgetful--and I'd rather not ask my sister, so, that means I can only make guesses as to why.  Did they just want it to be a family thing? Possibly.  Would inviting all of the people I considered friends require more space than my sister and brother-in-law had? Maybe.  However, I think the most likely reason was even more disturbing: Despite what I might have believed at the time, I really didn't have any true friends.

You may be thinking, "What? You not having any friends? Siobhan, that's crazy! You had so many friends in high school and at your church, it's not even funny!" Well...that depends on what your definition of friend is.  Of course I had plenty of people I talked to often, but, when it came to actually "hanging out" with a crowd, that never really happened.  Even during lunch period at high school, I often ended up going to the school's library to go check the sole online forum where I was a member, and then waited in the classroom all by myself until everyone else arrived.  My junior English teacher understood that I did so because I didn't "have anywhere else to go."  When it came to doing things with my friends outside of school, church, or wherever I knew them from...that pretty much stopped after a while.  There were two kids in my neighborhood who liked to play Nintendo GameCube with me, but they ended up moving.  Another kid my mom was taking care of stopped coming over just as my freshman year ended.  If I did do something with people outside my family, it was either a pre-planned outing with a general invite--i.e., "We're having a game night, and the whole church is invited!"--or it was with older friends, not people my own age; even the latter didn't happen all that often.  Even in the years since high school, people who had previously invited me to social outings now won't even talk to me anymore, only because of my incorrect actions towards them, and, after what I did, I doubt I will ever be friends with those people again, which just breaks my heart.

It's no surprise that I spent most nights with the computer and television as my only companions.  It's not that I didn't get invites; even in the past half-decade, I've had people ask if I wanted to go somewhere and do something, and I sometimes had some dumb excuse: "I already saw that movie." "I'd rather not." "I'm not in the mood right now." "You know I don't like theme parks." Sometimes, people got really offended by my refusal, as polite as it was; they were trying to do something nice, and I declined without really any good reason.  There were several incidents where I realized afterwards that I shouldn't have refused; even if I'd already seen the movie or the activity was something I didn't think I'd like, going somewhere with friends and/or family sure beat sitting by myself doing essentially nothing, whether at home or elsewhere.

Even when I did attend "social" events, I acted in a way that prevented socializing.  I was once at a game night at my church, and chose to sit there with headphones on my ears and my face in a book.  My sister and brother-in-law reprimanded me for doing that, saying that I could sit and read a book at home; I countered with the fact that, at the first game night at our church, some people did nothing but sit and read the paper.  For a while after that, I still believed I was right...but, today, I realized what those immediate family members of mine were saying: If you attend a social event, but send off signals that you don't want to interact with anyone, that makes people feel like you don't want to be friends with them, which could be potentially offensive and upsetting.

So, what's the lesson to be learned from all of that? If I want more social interaction with people, I have to act in a way that shows that I want it.  That means that I have to be interested in what other people have to say, instead of just dominating the conversation; I can't just hole up and refuse to talk to anyone; if someone invites me to something, I shouldn't refuse without a good reason; and, I can't use the actions or excuses of others to defend my own missteps.  Maybe that way, I will make more friends and spend less time feeling lonely and despondent.

I do want to make three things very clear.  First off: I do realize that I need to branch out.  Most of you probably think that, if you invited me to a sporting event or a theme park, the answer would be a solid, strong, non-negotiable "NO!" However, you might be surprised to know that I actually have attended sporting events with friends, ranging from a hockey match featuring a local team to a high school football game, albeit not one where my high school was playing.  Even with theme parks, there was a time where I couldn't shut up about going to the ones in my area, but, I later claimed that my tastes had changed, and I "hated" such places, which made it sound like I had some traumatic incident at one...but I didn't; in all honesty, it was easier just to not care about such places, plus it made me different, if only for the sake of being different.  As for my other well-known dislike: Just as much as I've always liked computers, celebrities, and entertainment--in various forms, anyway--I've always strongly disliked beaches, pools, and similar places.  At first, I attended outings to such places just because others were doing so...but, after a while, I'd had enough, and decided I just couldn't do it anymore.  I even got mad at my mom for buying me a pair of swimming shorts, because I couldn't believe she would expect me to ever participate in such an activity.  Over the years, I've used everything from a phobia to a religious conviction to supposedly being uncomfortable with the exposure required as the reasoning behind why I wouldn't do it...when, really, the only reason was just my attitude.  Of course I'm not going to like something if I go into it thinking it's going to be horrible! My mom told me that I just needed to give swimming a chance, and then, I might like it; though I thought that claim was ridiculous when I first heard it, now that I think about it, she is actually right.  That said, the refusal to consume morally offensive entertainment is part of a religious conviction, and, therefore, won't change.

Second off: I realize that the situation I am currently in can hurt my chances for being invited to social events.  It's not just the previous actions described above; the fact that I lack a car or a driver's license also causes problems, because who wants to go well out of his/her way just to pick up someone? I'll make efforts to change that in the future, though I still have my doubts.  Beyond that: Believe it or not, being single also has the same effect.  You may be thinking, "But...if you don't constantly have someone tagging along with you, doesn't that make it easier?" Not exactly.  Let me explain it to you this way: In the southern US--where I live--it's a tradition to get married young.  Many of my friends, friends of friends, and family members, whether coeval, elderly, or anywhere in between, got married well before they were my age, sometimes even when they were still technically teenagers.  Though it's not that big of a problem when hanging out with significantly older folks--who tend to see me as one of their kids--it is when I try to befriend young couples, because I can be and have been a "third wheel" at times.  Some years ago, at my church's annual fall picnic, I spent most of the time hanging out with my fellow young adults, all of whom were married.  Well after the fact, another church member told me that someone told her during that outing, "[Siobhan] won't leave the young people alone!" Though I probably will never know who said it, I have two problems with that person's statement: One, am I not included in "the young people"? Does my lack of a wedding ring exclude me from being considered a young adult? I think not! Two, I'd always thought that one was supposed to hang out with coeval people.  Of course, I have friends of all ages; I know people in high school and others who are old enough to be my parents that are still just as much my friends as those around my age.  Still, during a social outing, I thought the unwritten rule is that one hangs out with those with whom one has things in common, and usually age is first and foremost.  If I can't hang out with those around my age just because I have no wife...that's actually quite disturbing to think about, given my likely romance-less future.  Still, lacking wheels and a significant other is a double hindrance to social interaction.

Third off: I can't let my social life take over everything else.  I once heard about a young lady who botched an interview for an internship somewhere because she told the interviewer that she was afraid getting hired there was going to negatively impact her social life.  No doubt you've heard similar stories of other interview mishaps; still, my point in mentioning that is such a mistake is an example of mismatched priorities.  Even beyond the working world, time by ourselves is something we all need.  You've probably heard the old story about a married couple who have children not long after saying, "I do," and, when the kids move out, the husband and wife don't even know each other anymore, because they spent most of their spare time with their children.  It's true that married people--whether they don't have any kids or have a whole dozen of them--need their alone time.  However, I would wager a guess--and this is just me--that even married folks need time to fly completely solo, without their constant co-pilot.  Jesus was very much a people person; the crowds followed Him around (Matthew 4:25), and He never seemed to mind.  The kids even liked Him (Luke 18:16), and they wouldn't have if He weren't sociable and personable.  However, even He needed time by Himself, and he got that while wandering in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2).  He also sought time to be alone after the murder of His cousin and friend John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13).  If the only perfect and sinless person who has ever lived needed time on His own...why wouldn't we?

In conclusion, I will say this: Back in 2009, my father wanted me to come along with him and a family friend to go see the Star Trek reboot in theaters.  I declined, telling him that I'd already seen it in IMAX with some other friends--which he already knew--and told him I'd rather go volunteer at my local library instead.  He was not too happy with me, and neither was my mother; even an employee at said library criticized me for not joining in, saying that she herself had seen it in the cinema more than once already.  For a while after that, I couldn't see why I was in the wrong; how could that not be a valid excuse? That way of thinking actually was because of multiple past incidents, at least one of which I may have been remembering subconsciously:
  • In 2005, a college kid who always hung out with the high school group at my church was invited to see Revenge of the Sith at the theater with us, but declined, saying he had already seen it.
  • In 1997, I was on an outing with a friend, and we were talking about Flubber, which he and I had recently seen at the theater, albeit not together.  We both liked it, and I talked about getting the movie on video, but he wanted no part of that, saying, "If I already saw it, why would I want to see it again?"
  • In 1995, I was in the now-defunct store Hills with my sister, when I saw that they had Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie on video, and wanted to get it.  My sister said I didn't need it because I had already seen it. (It was true; I had.)
However, really, none of that should have mattered, because I'm sure my father's feelings were hurt when I said I'd rather sit around and process discarded books than do something fun with him.  Other people--including some of you who are reading this--have likely felt the same way towards me at times; how could your friend or family member decline an offer to do something special with you, only to sit at home and do the same stuff he can do anytime? I can't do that anymore; such actions have done nothing but made others feel bad and lessened my chances of those people inviting me to do something with them again.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"What Do You Think?" Well, Does It Really Matter?

When I was younger, I considered myself a rebel.  I don't mean someone who flagrantly breaks laws or defies rules; anyone who knows me knows that never has been my style.  What I mean is: I was someone who did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, and didn't really care what anyone else had to say about it.  In fact, there were some cases where people saying that I shouldn't do whatever made me all the more inclined to do it, usually because that person was either a middle school bully or just as immature and mouthy as you'd expect one to be.  I had my favorite shows, video games, books, movies, celebrities, etc., and I displayed them on my binder regardless of what anyone else had to say about them.  I also wasn't one for social events; though I rarely missed church and/or related events--and, if I did, it was almost always because of something that couldn't be helped, such as sickness or not being able to find a ride--I knew that friends of mine were doing activities with other friends...but it didn't bother me in the slightest.  In fact, it seemed to cause more problems when I didn't want to attend an activity than when I did; in 2004, I had an altercation with the associate minister/youth leader at my church at the time only because everybody--not only him and the other "sponsors", but all of the other members of the group--wanted me to attend a beach outing.  When I tried to politely refuse, all they did was refute my reasoning, and the leader and I had a discussion about it afterwards that did little more than make me realize that I was better off staying home and watching Lizzie McGuire instead.  I didn't seem to mind very much that I didn't have others--that is, other than immediate family members--to join me on my usual activities; I had fun and enjoyed what I did, regardless.

In recent times, that seems to have changed.  Instead of doing what I think/know is right, I ask anyone who will listen, "What do you think I should do?" Since I have a wide range of friends--male and female, younger and older, Christian and non-religious, liberal and conservative, etc.--it's to be expected that I would get a broad range of responses.  While one group of friends might tell me not to do something, another group might say, "No; go ahead and do it!", which only leads to indecisiveness; I can't take both parties' advice! It's one thing to ask for help from someone more knowledgeable about some topic--parenting, technology, etc.--but to know what to do and still ask every friend or acquaintance you can about which course of action to take doesn't help anybody.

So, what's to be done? I think the answer is simple; instead of going around asking people what course of action to take, I should just go back to my old ways and do what I know is best, regardless of what whoever or whatever--other than God and my parents, that is--has to say about it.  Of course I'm going to have my naysayers; who doesn't? Still, as long as I'm not violating Biblical commandments or flagrantly disobeying my parents, who's to say I'm wrong?

I want to make three things very clear.  (Yes, I know; the whole "three points" is a usual sermon thing, but, hey...I was raised in the church!) First off: Regardless of how strong my preferences are, they are not to apply to anyone else.  Most if not all of you know what my likes are--family-friendly entertainment, Apple technology, libraries, and the like--and what my dislikes are: sports, pets, theme parks, anything morally offensive, anything to do with large bodies of water, and...well, you know.  In the past, I believed that anything I disliked should be banned from the entire country, if not the entire planet.  I used to say that if the federal government banned sports, it'd be cause for celebration.  So what if there were millions of sports fans worldwide? In my opinion--at the time, anyway--they were all fanatics, and, therefore, sports should be taken away.  Now, I realize that such a belief was wrong for two reasons: Not only do I not have any right to call others "fanatics"--pot and kettle!--but just because one person--anyone, really--doesn't like something doesn't mean that it should be taken away from the millions who do.  If some random person somewhere can't stand the Disney Channel, does that mean that every cable and satellite provider worldwide should remove it from their lineup? Of course not! You people--friends, enemies, random Internet users, whoever--can go do whatever you want, whenever you want; that's not for me to control.  If you want to include me, fine; the only thing I ask is that you don't push it if I politely refuse.

Second off: I do need to keep others' preferences in mind.  Let's face it: We all have at least something--or, maybe, someone--we can't stand.  Regardless of what or who it is, it's something or someone that you probably do your best to avoid.  You probably wouldn't be too happy if said item or person was shoved in your face, right? Well, that's how some people feel about the things I like! As popular as Disney Channel is, I've known people who have said that they hated it.  What's the proper response? Try to convince them of how great the network is? No! What I should do is refrain from talking with them about it, and try to find something else we might have in common.  Sure, I can still talk about it...but with other people.  Thrusting my favorite things into people's faces doesn't really win me any friends.

Lastly: That said, I can't worry about people's opinions when they're flat-out ridiculous.  Some years ago, a friend from church's parents were in town, and they came to church services with her.  That particular Sunday happened to be a "teen takeover," and the sermon was done by a teenaged boy, not a professional preacher.  Despite the kid's best efforts--and, in my opinion, he did a wonderful job--said friend's parents complained to other members of the church for multiple reasons, one being that the sermon didn't include the steps to salvation.  The whole thing caused a bit of a ruckus, and it could have been avoided if my friend's parents had just remained quiet about the matter.  So what if they were used to hearing the steps to salvation in every sermon? If they wanted that, they should have gone to their own church! It was nothing more than personal preference, and I imagine the teens' feelings were hurt by someone who walked in to another church and demanded that it be just like their own.  The moral of the story: Believe it or not, some people have some ridiculous opinions.  Of course, that's subjective, but, seriously...treating Growing Pains reruns as if they're pornography, or "Na nu, na nu!" as if it's a dirty word, is just insane.  (Yes, I did know someone who held such beliefs, and was even more shocked when other people defended that individual for expressing said opinions.) I know I'll never please such people, so, I'll just let them shoot off at the mouth, and keep doing what it is I'm doing.  Those folks are the "middle school bully" kind of people I mentioned earlier; why do I need to listen to them?

In conclusion, I will say this: There are some people who are quick to dispense with their opinions.  I knew a person once who complained to someone else about a boy whose separation anxiety was so bad, he sat with his mother during a ladies' class at church.  Said complainer felt--rather strongly, I should add--that the kid should go to the class for his own age, not be glued to his mother.  However, when I heard that, I immediately had this thought: Regardless of the complainer's opinion, it was not his/her decision to make! His/her complaint was merely a waste of breath, as the person he/she complained to was just as powerless to make a change.  I'm sure you've known people just like that; when they've got an opinion, you know you'll hear it.  However, as my mom has always said, "Opinions are a dime a dozen!" If there's one thing I've learned in my life, it's that people are going to find fault no matter what I do; therefore, why worry about it? If others want to judge me...well, that's on them.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Me and Hugging: The REAL Story

If you've been around me whenever I see one of my female friends--or, if you are one of them--you no doubt have seen me hug someone, if you haven't received one yourself.  It's not just friends I haven't seen in months; almost every time I'm at church, I hug every female friend I see, even though I just saw them last week.  Most of the ladies don't seem to mind; if they did, I wouldn't do it.  Still, the question that begs to be asked is: How did it start? How did I become such a hugger?

Like any little kid, I hugged certain adults when I was younger.  However, the first memorable hug I remember was actually in a dream, where I hugged a female fictional character.  After I had it, I couldn't shut up about it, not realizing that I was embarrassing myself by talking about it.  My mom thought that I had a crush on said woman, but that actually wasn't the case; the only reasons I remarked about it as much as I did was because not only was it the first "lucid dream"--that is, one where I could choose what I did instead of simply watching what happened--I remember having, but it was also the only one up to that point where I actually felt something physically.  Up to that point, all my dreams had been like television shows or movies; even when I was "in" the dream, I still had no way to say or do what I wanted (that I remembered, anyway), and I could only see or hear what was going on.

After that, I got occasional hugs from friends--usually older, but sometimes coeval--but the hugs really started when I was a junior in high school.  Unfortunately, that was because of my sister's death; when people heard of what happened, that was their immediate response.  Even a classmate I barely knew opened up her arms when she heard of the tragic incident.  Some months later, a friend I'd known since seventh grade gave me a quick hug every time she saw me, and it wasn't long after that when other lady friends started to follow suit.  Sometimes, giving a lady a hug was a product of a crush; I did just that to my junior English teacher, whom everyone knew I had a thing for, and I always said that, if I met Hilary Duff or Anne Hathaway, that's the first thing I would do.  Over time, though, it eventually evolved into a friendly gesture, which I still do quite often to this day.

My concluding point: I understand that guys don't generally hug, except for family members and elderly people.  Still, even some ladies have had a problem with it; one former coeval member of my church told me that she'd rather I give her a handshake, though she made an exception when I wanted to congratulate her on being pregnant.  Another time, a teenage girl I'd just met--just last year, that is--seemed to be uncomfortable with me hugging her.  In those cases, I should refrain from hugging them ever again; however, since the vast majority of my female friends have no problem with it, I'll go ahead and keep doing it to them.  (If you've got a problem with it, you've got to tell me.)  For me, a handshake is just too formal; I remember hearing a lady talking about how she was disappointed with a guy she'd met online only because, when she met him in person, he merely shook her hand.  Of course, I must live at peace with everyone--Romans 12:18, remember?--and, if it truly bothers someone, then I must put a stop to it.  Still, I can't worry about others' judgmental opinions.  You'd be surprised at what people say about guys like me who mostly hang out with people of the opposite gender.  Not only are there the standard accusations of being a "womanizer" or "skirt-chaser," but some people even assume that such a guy is homosexual.  A random commentator on the now-defunct website Jump the Shark said, "Is Gordo gay? Doesn't he have any guy friends he can hang out with?" Yes, he was talking about Lizzie McGuire; still, what guy wouldn't want a gorgeous blonde and a lovely Latina as his best friends? My point is: I can't be held accountable for those who want to jump to conclusions; such people need to realize that they themselves will be judged accordingly.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Who Can I Trust?

When I was a sophomore in high school, it became apparent that, in order for me to graduate on time and complete the classes I needed, I would have to take a class during the following summer.  The lead special ed teacher wanted me to take an Outdoor P.E. class, but I wanted to take chemistry instead.  When I first told her that, she simply said, "I don't think that's a good idea," but, I continued to press her, and she later said, "They don't even offer it." Though the former statement may have been her own opinion--which she is entitled to--the latter one was actually a lie, as I saw a list of students taking chemistry the first day of summer school, which just infuriated me.  As usual, I vented my frustrations to anyone who would listen, and told people that the teacher had lied to me.  My mom said I was mistaken, because she believed that said teacher had never said they didn't offer it; my sister and brother-in-law, as well as at least one other person, said that my teacher must have been mistaken, because, as they put it, "A teacher's not going to tell a flat-out lie to a student." I wasn't convinced of either defense, though; I knew that woman said what I quoted her as saying, and she was too smart to be mistaken about such a thing.  Instead, she probably just lied so that I wouldn't keep pressing her about taking chemistry instead.  Thanks to her little fib, I sustained the worst injury I've ever had in my life.  Not only that, but...previous teachers--as early as kindergarten; no joke!--said or did things to me or others in my class that many of you older folks would consider unthinkable...but most of my coeval friends would not be the least bit surprised by.  That's not to say all teachers were that way; some of them were wonderful, even going out of their way to look out for me, and those who fall into that category would likely find the misdeeds of their colleagues/co-workers a besmirching of their profession.

It isn't just teachers, though; I often find that people who are in a position where there is some sort of propriety and/or decorum expected fail miserably.  No doubt you've seen or heard stories about police officers, politicians, actors/actresses from kids' shows, and even preachers who have messed up big time.  True, some of them realize their mistake(s) and make an honest apology; however, it seems like, in many cases, you can't tell someone not to do or say whatever, because that's judging.  Such people fail to realize the meaning of Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (NIV) Still, whether it's unbusinesslike conduct while on the job or "twerking" in front of the entire planet, it seems like caring about others' feelings has gone by the wayside.

I'll be honest: One of my biggest problems throughout my life has been paranoia.  If anyone said something that turned out not to be true, I automatically assumed he/she was lying; I was afraid to open packages of uncertain origin because I thought one of my enemies might be sending me a bomb; when I misplaced something, I almost always believed it was stolen; I refused to do certain things--Relay for Life, for example--solely because I was afraid of what my peers might do.  I've even gone as far as making enemies out of people who meant me no harm.  A friend replied to a blog post about tolerance with this statement: "One thing to keep in mind is that tolerance goes both ways.  I know some people don't tolerate you very well, myself included sometimes.  But it also appears that you don't tolerate some people at some times either.  Something to think about." Though I may not have realized it at the time, she was exactly right; when you go as far as changing your seat to avoid even seeing someone's face, even though that person had never done anything to you, that is intolerance for sure.

It's no secret that there are plenty of people out there who don't mind taking advantage of others.  People will sell items that they say are in working condition, even when they know that's not the case; others will be given money to purchase permits in order for a festival to be legally held, only to take the cash with no intention of actually using it for its intended purpose, which hurts thousands of would-be attendees; still others will get new release DVDs through likely illegal means and trade them in at MovieStop or elsewhere only because they know that they're worth top dollar credit, even though a simple background check shows there's a warrant for their arrest.  Those of you who use the Internet regularly know about secure and non-secure websites, and how to tell on your browser of choice which is which.  Unfortunately, when it comes to people you encounter in real life, it's much more difficult to tell.  Some people have a rule that starts with, "Never trust anybody who..." Some years ago, when I was asked what my version of that rule was, I said, "Never trust anybody who isn't God." The people in the room with me were offended, because that implied that I didn't trust any of them.  Honestly, there are some people I trust, such as family members and longtime friends; in fact, there are times when I've been too trusting.  I once asked a somewhat older female Facebook friend for advice about a situation she knew nothing about previously, only because she had just added me that day, and never has met me in person.  When I was explaining the details, she asked, "Why in the world are you telling me this?" I trusted her--and, therefore, was "telling" her that--for several reasons, actually: She was a woman, a Christian, somewhat older, and there was no one else online at the time who I trusted to give me advice for such a situation.  Unsurprisingly, she unfriended me a mere few weeks later.

One thing I do not want to do--but seem to end up doing nonetheless--is to question a true friend's intentions.  I say that because of what happened with my former best friend, Emily.  Before you get all up in arms, I'm not going to bash her, because I now realize that she did absolutely nothing wrong.  The problems we had were all my doing, because my attitude was completely wrong.  All we did was talk about my problems, whereas I couldn't have cared less about hers; when she was invited to a social outing by another alumni from our high school, I got offended by the fact that I wasn't invited, even though I didn't really hang out with Emily, the one who invited her, or really anyone when I was in high school; when everybody else was happy for her upon her engagement, I was furious, especially since I'd had a premonition of sorts about it, but hoped it was wrong; and, some of her statements seemed to contradict each other, even though the only reason I found any contradictions was because I was looking for them.  Unfortunately, though it'd be easy to say that I'd learned my lesson on that, I honestly haven't; I've despised people who never meant me any harm, usually out of jealousy: Why is he/she married, and I'm still just as single as I always have been? Why is he/she awesome at everything he/she tries, yet I fail miserably at almost everything? Why does he/she get to travel the world, when I've never even been outside of my own time zone? Not only did I say that I wasn't going to do that anymore, but...when you really stop and think about it, it sounds silly, right? Still, such feelings eat away at me so badly at times that it's tempting to just scream, "I don't like you; get away from me!" right in said individuals' faces, at the top of my lungs.  The only thing that stops me is knowing that doing so would get me unfriended, and not just in the Facebook sense.

I remember watching an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray meets his cousin Gerard, who annoys Ray quite badly.  That night, Ray vents his feelings to his wife Debra as they're getting ready for bed, and she says that his cousin is just like him.  When Ray talks to his parents, they admit that he is annoying, but they love him anyway.  The writers probably didn't realize it, but that actually serves as an illustration of Matthew 7:1-5, which talks about not judging others, and the speck in your brother's eye versus the plank in your own.  My NIV Study Bible has this to say about said passage: "The traits that bother us in others are often the habits we dislike in ourselves." When it comes to questioning others' motives and wondering if they actually have a dark side, it's probably rooted in the fact that I was completely different person at home than I was anywhere else.  I was once discussing an issue about a then-friend supposedly lying to me with a high school teacher, and she told me that, because of the way my mind works, I have a black and white sense of morality--that is, it's right or it's wrong--and, for people without my condition, who she herself called "slobs," lying would fall into a gray area.  When I think about that, I realize that she apparently didn't know how I behaved at home.  At school and elsewhere, I may have been the innocent kid who loved the Disney Channel and Christian music, but at home, I treated everyone with disrespect, and, if something didn't go my way, I'd cry and scream, sometimes even turning violent.  No one who knew me at school would have believed that was the case.  It's true that I did have the kind of sense of morality that my teacher talked about; yet, it seemed that, at home, I did what I knew I wasn't supposed to do.  Yes, my behavior has improved since; still, the influence of my past causes me to doubt others.

I will end by saying this: One of my longtime fears is loneliness; in fact, the ever-present habit of me talking to myself is a product of being lonely, as my own voice was the only one I'd hear that didn't come out of a speaker or headphone.  When I was younger, I feared that, when I got in high school, I wouldn't have any friends...yet, when that time actually did come, I had plenty of friends.  Though I have lost some of those friends in the years since we graduated--and, in right many cases, I have no clue why--the friends I have at church and elsewhere more than make up for those unfortunate unfrienders.  Still, if I mess up--and we all know I can and have!--I could stand to lose those friends.  If I continue to doubt everyone's intentions and try to find their mistakes and self-contradictions, it'll likely end up that everyone except for my family members will abandon me.  I can't let that happen...but I also don't want to naively assume that everyone I encounter is my friend and is telling me the 100% truth.  That's the kind of attitude that gets your wallet, and maybe even your identity, stolen.  During the aforementioned problem with Emily, one friend said that wondering why my then-best friend added me on Facebook was "looking a gift horse in the mouth".  I understand that's a figure of speech; still, if I press my other friends as for details why they're even my friends in the first place, I'm asking for trouble.  People generally like me, and it's not right for me to assume that they're doing me wrong.  Now, if only I could stop doing so...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What I Learned and Discovered in 2013

So, 2013 is history.  Usually, around this time, I go back and talk about everything that happened the previous year...but that almost always proves to be difficult, as I seem to end up looking through my Facebook profile history to see exactly what happened when.  Instead, I will give a list of what I learned--and what I discovered--in 2013.  Neither of these lists are in any particular order.

What I Learned in 2013
  1. You never know when the conversation you're having with someone might be your last.  This past February, one of my aunts died quite suddenly, shocking my entire family, especially her own children and her husband.  Though she and I hadn't had too much interaction over the past few years, losing her was heartbreaking, and emotionally impacted me in ways I've never felt before.  That's why I cherish my loved ones while they're still around.
  2. Don't let the rules you've made for yourself keep you from doing what you want or need to do.  Some years ago, when I got a tremendous load of sci-fi/fantasy novels, I set a rule for myself that I would alternate by reading one book in that genre, and one book not in that genre.  I did that so I wouldn't get burned out on science fiction and fantasy.  When I got my iPad, I put that rule into place for my TV shows as well.  However, what ended up happening quite often was that I'd get halfway through a series and abandon it for so long that I'd end up forgetting what happened up to that point.  This past October, I got a DVD from the library of the first season of Home Improvement, and surprised myself by finishing it in a mere three or four days just by watching the episodes one after another.  I am currently applying that same strategy to Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?...or, at least, trying to.
  3. Celebrity crushes are not really a necessary part of life.  In summer of 2001, I became obsessed with a celebrity who I won't name...and, since then, I had it just as bad if not worse for Hilary Duff, Anne Hathaway, Victoria Justice, and Demi Lovato.  As a product of my fixation on the latter singer/actress, I bent over backwards to make sure I saw every episode of The X Factor, where she was a judge.  Though I liked watching the auditions, both the judges--yes, including Ms. Lovato!--and the American public didn't seem to know what they were doing, as the best acts--Danie Geimer, Victoria Carriger, and all-girl group Sweet Suspense--were eliminated early on, leaving only the inane acts, like the annoying couple/duo Alex & Sierra.  After a while, I realized that I didn't want to watch the show anymore...and that I didn't need a celebrity to focus on in the first place.  When an obsession is present, not only is it sinful--it's idolatry--but it's also, I chose to be done with it.
  4. Good things come to those who wait.  In October 2011, after just over 2.5 years of being a volunteer at my local library, I was hired as a library a library all the way across town.  Since I've never had my driver's license, I had to take the bus every time, which was a bit of a pain.  However, this past summer, that library closed down, and I was transferred to the library closest to me; that is, the one where I'd previously volunteered! I'd started to doubt it would ever happen, but it did, and I couldn't be happier about it!
  5. Don't spend your money on something you really don't need, regardless of how cheap it is.  Everybody who knows me knows that I love bargain hunting, whether at garage sales, thrift stores, or even regular stores such as MovieStop or LifeWay.  However, over the past few years, my tendency has been to buy items in excess, as my Facebook friends have seen in the photos.  That's why, this year, though I still plan on bargain hunting, I will tone it down so that I don't get stuck with way more books than can fit in the space I have.
  6. I am loved.  Simple statement, yes, but it's true; I have friends and family who love me, as well as a God who loves me unconditionally.  That's all I need to say about that.
What I Discovered in 2013 
  1. Blu-Rays. For Christmas in 2012, my parents got me a home theater system, complete with surround sound speakers and a Blu-Ray player.  Since said device was backwards compatible with DVDs, and I didn't have any Blu-Rays on hand, I watched only DVDs on it.  When I found October Baby--one of my favorite movies--on Blu-Ray at a thrift store, I bought it, but traded it in soon after because I already had the DVD, and didn't think the newer format would make it any better.  Later on, I got the History Channel's The Bible mini-series on Blu-Ray...and was floored by the quality as soon as I put it in, so much so that I regretted trading in my copy of October Baby.  I look forward to watching more movies on the newer format in the years to come.
  2. The Disney Channel. This was more of a rediscovery, but, I have loved the Disney Channel shows I've watched this year.  I used to be really big into that channel, but, iCarly and VICTORiOUS made me a big fan of rival network Nickelodeon.  However, those two shows ended around the start of last year, and I wasn't sure what to do...until I watched the Disney Channel, and loved it just as much as I did previously.
  3. Tricia. No, I don't have a significant other; Tricia Brock--formerly of Superchic[k]--is a Christian singer with a wonderful message and great musicality.  If you haven't heard her need to check her out!
  4. 1 Girl Nation. Who is 1 Girl Nation, you ask? They are a all-girl Christian group that have quite a few great songs.  Though they have only released one album so far, I look forward to their future releases.  I was able to get their entire album via Freegal.
  5. 90's Nickelodeon. When I was very young, I used to watch the same shows that many people my age watched on Nick; however, some time later, I gave up on the network, saying Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and PBS were better because one had Growing Pains, another had Scooby-Doo, and the other one had educational shows.  Despite my bias against Nickelodeon, I didn't seem to mind seeing Good Burger in theaters; still, more recently, I've realized that I missed out by refusing to watch the orange network.  Thankfully, I've been able to watch some episodes via my DVR, and iTunes has plenty of seasons/volumes of those shows.  I look forward to watching plenty more of said shows in 2014.
  6. Time away from the Internet.  For far too long, the Internet has been taking up way too much of my time, even getting in the way of my favorite shows.  That's why I've been limiting my time online, especially on Facebook.  It's one thing to use the Internet to look up information; it's another to spend time on it doing pointless things that don't help anyone.
Here's to 2014!