Friday, December 31, 2004

New Years Eve Day

I'm excited for New Years tonight. It's a bit more domestic than some years have been, but I'm happy anyway.

I'm watching Ty tonight and he's learned an awesome new trick. If you make kissing sounds and say "Ty, do you want me to give you kisses?" he'll shake his head and go "No, no, no, no, no!" It's pretty sophisticated for a six-and-a-half month old. Maybe I'll be able to get a video of it tonight and post it.

My brother, his wife and the baby are coming over too. We're going to play Euchre and Catchphrase and eat junk food all night. You can't ask for anything better than that, really. It's a very good way to start a new year.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Uncle Tom's Funeral.

Calling hours last night and funeral today. They went okay. It's hard to say that these things go either well or poorly. How can a funeral go well? And, for that matter, it seems like a funeral could always go more poorly than they do. Nobody shot anybody in a drunken rage. No bodies fell out of their coffins without notice or anything.

It's a funny thing belonging to a family that you don't see much. On the one hand, you feel almost singularly left out. They all know each other, and talk and play and fight with one another, and you're just not like them. You're not one of them. On the other hand, you're standing smack dab in the midst of people who are freakishly just like you in all the weirdest of ways.

For example, my cousin Joey was giving his dad's eulogy today. He was talking about how he was never the kind of son that his dad would have chosen, given his druthers that is, but that his dad had always favored him anyway. He told a story about how his sister had been picking on him one day, and he threw a toy at her. She ducked, it missed and the toy shattered the window. My Uncle Tom knew that Julie had been antagonizing Joe, so he punished her. For ducking.

The reason that's so funny to me is that I've been hearing that story all my life, with a little different twist. Namely, when my father was a boy, his older brother Tommy had been picking on him. Dad threw a block at him, which Tom successfully ducked, and the block went through the glass-cabinet holding all of the family china. When my grandfather was getting ready to punish dad, dad said: "It was Tommy's fault! He ducked!" Grandpa figured out that Uncle Tom had been antagonizing my dad; and apparently worse than usual since my dad then, as now, was the most laid back character on Earth. So Grandpa punished Tom instead. For ducking.

I don't know my cousins all that well, but somehow we share these things. I've told that story to people before and nobody really gets it the way we do. "Why didn't they just punish both boys?" My cousins and I know why instinctually and it would never occur to us to ask that question ourselves.

We're family, all right. It can't be helped. It feels good to know that these family stories, living examples of our ancestral eccentricities, will carry on into future generations. Even if I'm not around enough to see it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Mother Teresa

What Famous Leader Are You?
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Monday, December 27, 2004

I really don't feel like sitting around the house right now. I don't know that any family deals with death well, but there are sectors of my family that don't do very well at all.

My dad is doing okay. He said that he was surprised because he fell right to sleep last night. He woke up at 4am, but that was more tolerable than tossing and turning all night. He's in relatively good spirits today. He's thinking that he should get a stress test, which is probably a good thing.

My mother is doing less well. She's been in a rotten mood anyway and was fighting with my dad before we heard about my uncle. She's so damn irritating about some things. When my dad told her that Tom died, she said: "Oh my God!" She was silent for half a minute, then followed it up with pronouncements about how she wasn't going to calling hours or the funeral. This morning she came right out and said in front of my dad: "I'm not enough of a hypocrite to go to that man's funeral." She didn't like my uncle or his family.

I couldn't care less whether she goes to the funeral or not or whether or not she liked my uncle. She would do well though, to stop ranting about it all to my dad, who adored his older brother and whose feelings are noticably hurt. She doesn't mean to be awful. She just doesn't deal well with death.

As a matter of fact, I've heard that she dated my uncle before she took up with my dad. She might not like him now, but she did once upon a time. Even very old and shallow loves are hard to lose forever. I already know how scary it is to grow older; I know it must grow even scarier over time.

The mood around my house today is, for very understandable reasons, heavy as hell. The only release we've had is watching my dog watch these crazy crows outside the window. My dog got a hambone today and was chewing it in the driveway; when she stripped the last shred of meat off it, she wanted to come inside out of the cold. As soon as she did, the crows moved in.

I've rarely seen crows get this close to the house. Crows are pretty smart birds, though. They post sentries, and I guess they can see that the danger's gone inside. Tess is watching them out the window. When they get too close to her bone she lets out a series of tremendous whelps that, so far at least, have sent the crows scattering.

I think the crows will figure out the ruse soon enough. When they do, old Tess will have to go outside and teach them a lesson. No nasty old crow is going to pick at her hambone.

Those crows have a hard life though. Yesterday my dad and I watched a hawk harassing them. Crows and hawks don't usually compete for food, so my dad figured that he was trying to pick off a crow for his dinner. I don't think he got one; I really sort of hope he didn't. I like the crows, though I guess I've come to understand that a hawk has to eat too.

Winter lets you know how harsh nature can be. When I was little, I used to like to follow deer and rabbit tracks. I would ask my dad how the deer and rabbits could eat when the snow covered up and killed all the grass. He was a good dad and very gentle, and told me that they always found a way. He said that their instincts always led them to the right places, and that millions of years of looking for food had taught them the best places to go and the best ways of getting food when they got there.

When I was much older and getting squeamish about hunters, he told me that hunting helped to keep the deer from overpopulating and starving. I learned then that winter is a very hard thing. I still don't much like hunters. And when I follow the little deer and rabbit tracks these days, I hope that they're the sort of deer or rabbit that has the right instincts and the right luck to find enough food to last the season.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Goodbye Uncle Tom.

We just got a phone call from my cousin.

My Uncle Tommy had a heart attack today and died.

This hurts. I wasn't terribly close to him.

But my poor dad. That's his big brother. He looked up to him. He loves him. He spent his childhood fighting with Tom and trying to be with Tom and trying to be just like Tom. And now Tom's gone.

My dad's pacing around the house trying to be a man and not cry. He keeps saying that people should be sick first. You should have time to prepare.

At my grandfather's funeral, I heard a phrase from the Book of Common Prayer: "In the midst of life we are in death."

And we are. It can happen in an instant. No warning.

"In the midst of life we are in death;
from whom can we seek help?
From you alone, O Lord,
who by our sins are justly angered.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death."

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas all and sorry for my recent lack of updates. Like a lot of folks, the holidays have been hectic and have kept me running all week. Actually, our first good snow storm of the year has done worse to me than the holiday proper.

The snow started coming down pretty hard Tuesday night. I went to Jasmin's Wednesday morning to drop off a present she'd been stowing at my house for Matt. I was afraid if I waited any longer, the weather would be too bad to make the drop off before Christmas . The trip over was so hard that I decided to stay the night there. The snow kept coming hard and heavy, and I just drive a little Ford Focus, and I'm damn paranoid about black ice since my wreck last year, so I didn't want to take any chances.

I'm still debating how wise my decision was. On the one hand, I guess I didn't wreck on the way home Wednesday night. On the other, however, my car has been stuck at Jasmin's house since I got there on Tuesday. My brother with his mighty all-wheel drive picked me up Wednesday evening, and between the holiday rush and the fact that my car was buried up to the windows in snow, I hadn't been able to retrieve it until an hour and a half or so ago.

It's funny how life works sometimes though.

On Wednesday I helped Jasmin shovel snow for a couple of hours. We cleared it off her steps, off her car and we cleared a space for Matt's truck too. Then we did the same for her eighty-year old neighbor across the street and again for her seventy-year old neighbor next door. We even did it for her neighbors on the other side who are perfectly healthy and youthful and capable of doing it themselves. Jasmin was worried because they've never been good at keeping up that sort of thing and they have a little baby now, and she didn't want them to slip and fall with the kid in tow. She's a saint like that.

I actually kind of like physical work like that sometimes, and I didn't mind helping out her elderly neighbors. But I did sort of feel like a chump when the perfectly healthy fourteen-year old neighbor boy came home, saw me working on his steps and just sort of grinned at me and went inside. I tried to be positive about it and think about how it's good to be a servant and love your neighbor and all that, but I was still irritated as hell.

Well, tonight when my dad and I went to get my car from Jasmin's, his truck got stuck in the road (don't get me started on how our godforsaken city has decided not to plow/salt the roads this year). We were about to give up and call for a tow when who shows up but the perfectly-healthy-family-next-door. The dad and son managed to give my dad's truck a hard enough shove to get him moving again. Then they helped to dislodge my car from the snow too. They even helped shovel the snow that had my car blocked in. It was sort of a lesson in humility for me. The "little bastard" I spent all my time muttering over the other day helped my dad and I out of a frustrating situation tonight.

Next time I start to feel like a chump for doing something nice for somebody, I'm going to try to remember this. It's a good thing that people push me to do nice things sometimes for "little bastards" who don't deserve it. After all, much of the time, I am a little bastard who doesn't deserve any help, but some kind chump or another always seems to stop to help me out. Life is funny that way.

Christmas was very good this year. I gave some nice presents to my family and I received some nice presents from them. I realized tonight that I have a chance to do something nice for someone who very much needs it, and I learned the nice way exactly what "doing unto others" means in practice. It was a gentle lesson this time, and I'm grateful for it. Especially the gentle part because usually I'm so damn stubborn and shortsighted that it takes something really painful and jarring to make me realize anything important at all.

In any case, Merry Christmas. I hope everyone got everything they wanted, and more important, everything that they needed.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Excuse to Post Ty Pics.

This weekend has been largely horrible, what with my throbbing foot, trips all over the state of Ohio, and ridiculous amounts of fighting with my family. Top it all off with last minute Christmas shopping, and I've been damn miserable.

With one exception.

I had Ty yesterday and he was in a delightfully good mood, in spite of the fact that he doesn't seem able to shake his cold. His reports from the specialists in Columbus were largely good. They can't find anything wrong with his lungs and are assuming his nasty cough is only due to acid reflux. I wish he wouldn't have the cough at all, but I'm glad it's not caused by anything terribly serious.

Friday, December 17, 2004

This day sucks.

This day has sucked.

I was so tired yesterday after the day at the hospital, and getting up at 3:00AM and everything, and I didn't manage to get to sleep until after midnight because I got into a little fight with my mother. It wasn't so much a fight as it was just some overdue griping. Things are much better now.

I started having nightmares at 3:00AM though. Really bad ones. Night terror-y dreams that you're afraid of even after you wake up. The kind where you think: "If I don't move a muscle, a single muscle, they won't be able to see me and hurt me" even though you're 22 now and way too old for that logical process. I actually left my tv on all night while I slept after that because I couldn't stand the silence. I was freaked.

When I got out of bed today, I was confronted with a number of annoyances. First I stepped on a broken shard of glass, bled everywhere and had to limp around cleaning it up. It took forever to get it stopped bleeding and now I have an annoying bandage on my foot that rubs on my shoe. Irritating, but not so bad still, as my sister's day.

Donna thought she was having laproscopic surgery. Turns out she didn't. She doesn't know if she screwed up, or if the hospital did. Either way, she's very frustrated. She can't find anyone who knows anything about when she'll be released. I'm calling the hospital every half hour or so getting updates. Living hours away totally sucks. If I had a choice, I'd be sticking my nose in every single detail.

Anyway, it's only 10:30AM. The day has the potential to go either way. Let's just hope that these first few hours aren't indicative of the day as a whole. Must run.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Short blog today. I'm exhausted. I had to take my sister to Cleveland for surgery. She's doing okay. There were no complications and the doctor said that everything went just as it should have. She is in quite a bit of pain though, so I feel bad for her.

It's been a long day. I couldn't sleep last night until after midnight, and I had to leave for Cleveland at 3:00 this morning. I'm pretty much beat. Hospitals are draining anyway. I'm not going to complain about it though, because my sister will be released tomorrow or the next day, and our troubles (for the time being) will be over. A large percentage of the people I shared a lobby with today will not share our good fortune.

I met the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic today. That is to say, I said hello to him, and when he asked if my experience was going well, I was polite and responded that my experience had been a good one. Today actually was a good day. I was kept well-informed of my sister's status all along, and we were very fortunate in that she was given a room assignment only three hours after she hit the recovery floor. Many people were kept waiting all day for a room; some patients will be kept on the recovery floor all night because of hospital overcrowding. The last time we went to the Cleveland Clinic, they put my sister to sleep, then forgot about her and didn't notice she was still laying in pre-OP until hours after her procedure should have been done. It was wonderful. Today went much more smoothely than that.

The CEO of the Clinic had had a meeting with McDonald's today. Apparently, the CEO is one of the world's leading cardiac specialists, and he has a (pardon the pun) beef with McDonald's. He doesn't like that so much fast food is made so readily available to patients and visitors at the hospital, and he's trying to boot all the fast food restaurants out. McDonald's isn't having any of it.

In this case, I'm all for corporate America. Go McD's! While I understand that a grease burger is damn tempting when compared with the bland gruel hospitals serve their patients, it seems like the answer to the problem should be improving the hospital's food and not blaming the availability of (relatively) edible fast food. I guess I'm still a bit of a Libertarian at heart; I think that people have the right to make their own choices on fundamental, personal matters such as these. I know that you have to draw the line sometimes, but I just don't like people who try to nanny grown people into submission.

My parents bought me Greek food tonight. Have I mentioned lately how great my parents are? My dad took my sister to Cleveland for me yesterday, so I wouldn't have to be there for sixteen hours both days. He's picking her up for me tomorrow too, so that I don't have to drive up to Cleveland in the morning and then down to Columbus in the afternoon.

Jasmin is also great; she's going keep Ty for me tomorrow so the baby doesn't have to go all the way down to the Deaf School with me and back. It's especially nice since the poor little guy has been so sick lately. He went to the specialist in Columbus today, but I haven't been able to find out yet what the doctor said.

Anyway, I'm very sleepy. I'm going to make some calls and then hopefully sleep. Sleep would be heavenly.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Still Freaking Out.

For being a very unbold girl from middle-of-nowhere Ohio, I am a very unsqueamish driver. I know folks who are much bolder than me, but I’m not related to any them. Most of my family members freak out about snow, and traffic, and heaven forbid we ever have to drive on an interstate with semis.

I didn’t start out being very bold. I was actually nearly seventeen before I got my license at all, and I would have waited even longer had driving not held for me the promise of the liberation from 6:45AM school bus pick ups.

A series of oddities improved my temper on the issue, however. It all started driving back and forth to Columbus while my mother was hospitalized, an exercise repeated frequently enough and miserably enough that I get sort of nauseous thinking about it. It dragged through thrice-weekly trips to the dialysis center up in Norwalk. The whole thing really picked up steam when I started driving my niece back and forth to the Deaf School twice each week, and it’s been crowned by monthly to bi-monthly hospital treks with my sister up to the Cleveland Clinic.

I do a lot of driving and I’m not very squeamish about it. I’ve cut off truck drivers, and flipped off grandmas who’ve flipped me off first, and I’ve driven down an interstate shoulder to get unstuck from a traffic jam – though, perhaps no one should tell my mother about any of that, as it might spawn a fresh ulcer.

Since my accident last year, however, I’ve become noticeably more squeamish about snow driving. Last year’s wreck was a freak incident. It wasn’t a snowy day, and it was spring, and there was very little ice on the ground at all. I hit a patch of black ice on a bridge, lost control of my truck, and nearly killed myself, and all the while my speedometer had never broken 25mph.
The highway patrolman told me I was very lucky to have gotten out safely. I was inches away from smashing into the side of the bridge; inches away from smashing into a telephone poll on the other side of the road - facing the wrong direction, mind you; and they really didn’t understand how I managed to avoid flipping my truck when I jumped the ditch. The passenger-side door handle was actually filled with mud from impact with the ground, and the imprint in the dirt was an eerily clear mirror image of the truck.

It was incredibly fortunate that I had been feeling unusually nervous that day since I hadn’t been driving the truck that long, especially with no weight in the back. When I saw the bridge coming, I actually eased down into second gear because I was afraid of possible black ice, even though it was a warm day and it was unlikely for there to be any. Had I been going any faster – assuming, of course that I still would have caught the black ice – I would have been finished in one of three equally undesirable ways, and very easily might not have been here writing this lovely blog today. And let me emphasize, I am always driving more than 25mph. I go faster than that, backward, down my nearly un-navigable driveway each day. And goodness knows that I've hit that bridge a hundred times doing 50 or 60mph.

This week has been the first week of real snow on the roads. I’ve slipped a little a few times, and I’ve totally freaked over it. I used to merrily slide past my driveway each day after school, and it didn’t bother me a bit. I used to not mind a little 360 action so long as it didn’t result in a collision or a call to the tow truck company. Now I freak when I feel myself getting pulled into someone else’s tire ruts on the road. I don’t like losing that much control.

It didn’t help that I had baby Ty today. I would sooner chop off both my legs than cause the little man any unnecessary pain or suffering. I don’t know if I could live with myself if anything bad ever happened to him while he was in my care. The idea of losing control of my car with him inside quite literally gives me nightmares.

I used to like Ohio winters, but as I age, they just seem to be more and more a hassle. I’m too lazy to scrape my car in the morning. My chest hurts when my menopausal mother turns down the heat too low at night, and I spend hours sucking down ice-cold air. I’m terrified of sliding on the ice in my car, or – almost worse – slipping myself while I’m carrying the baby into the house. I don’t like how my socks and pant-legs are always soaking wet, and how the salt from the road always gets splashed up onto my windshield when my little water squirter thing is too frozen to squirt anything clean again.

I don’t like beaches very much, or heat, or the idea of Santa wearing shorts to make his Christmas rounds. But today I was very much wishing I was in California, or some other state with central heating.

I guess there's a lesson in all of it. We're never really in control of our destiny, nor can we ever master our fate, though the consequences of screwing up matters of such vital importance are devastatingly high. It's nice to know that we're not alone in this thing. Someone has already made straight our paths, and is guiding us, careless and clumsy creatures though we all are, safely to our destination. It's a good thing not to be alone. It's a good thing to have Someone to be grateful to when you finally make it home at last.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Wasting My Time

I definitely have a martyr complex. It's never clearer than when I sit down, write a reasoned response to a ridiculous, leading question, and actually post it, just to see what the mob will do with it. I won't lie and say that I didn't know it was a wasted effort. I knew before I typed the first word that it would be the equivalent of mental masturbation; pleasing for the sake of the exercise, perhaps, but rather unlikely to yield fruit.

For example, last night I responded on "Sisters Talk," self-described as "one of the most popular lesbian blogs in the blogosphere." It is "progressive," "outspoken," and "straight from the hip." In other words, it's another one of those very socially left-wing blogs primarily aimed at insulting Jesus, President Bush and Stay-at-Home Moms, approximately in that order.

The blog entry that I was responding to was basically a strawman post. To quote the entry, the author asked "Examining the Pro-Life argument and measuring it against their support for the Iraq war, explain to me what's going on here. Do Pro-Lifers really care about protecting human life? And if they do care about protecting human life, how do they go about assigning value to a particular human life?"

This actually is a partially valid question. A true pacifist might argue that it's wrong to take human life, whether that life is an innocental fetal life or the life of a murderer, robber, rapist or terrorist, engaged in the very act of their crimes. Of course, the poster is not actually such a pacifist. She's just trying to corner the pro-life movement by totally mischaracterizing their arguments and screaming that they’re hypocrites for the contradictions she actually created herself.

I pointed out in my response that pro-lifers are actually a very diverse group. She was using a highly stereotyped caricature of “pro-lifers.” She was really trying to pick on conservatives as a whole; particularly evangelical pro-lifers, who vote Republican, support the President and the war, accept the death penalty, and happily wave the flag on the fourth of July.

However, that’s hardly representative of the pro-life movement as a whole. In my own personal experience, the most substantial bloc of pro-lifers are actually Catholic and not evangelical or fundamentalist. There are a variety of viewpoints from faithful pro-life Catholics on all of these issues.

Some Catholics oppose the President because, in their view, the Republican Party is more interested in economics than social justice. Many of these same Catholics do not believe that the war on Iraq satisfies the conditions necessary for a Just War, and they oppose it on those grounds. Many Catholics oppose the death penalty, quoting recent encyclicals from Pope John Paul II, who is clearly uncomfortable with capital punishment in the modern, Western world.

By contrast, other Catholics support the President because he defends traditional values and fights against the secularization of society. They support the war on Iraq because they consider it a Just War; a war in which a brutal, dangerous dictator was removed from power and replaced by a democratic system of government. Some of these Catholics will support the death penalty, pointing out that the church has supported and utilized capital punishment throughout the centuries, noting that there is no official church dogma banning it.

The reasoning of a Catholic on all of these issues is really very different than the reasoning of an evangelical. And that’s just one small set of examples of how the pro-life movement is really very diverse and impossible to generalize charitably. I haven’t even brought up the substantial number of people who don’t fall into the large category of religious objection at all.

In any case, from there I went on to argue from the viewpoint of the stereotypical conservative evangelical, pro-life, pro-death penalty position. I am not a conservative evangelical in favor of the death penalty, but I can empathize with their arguments.

My main point was that, while all human lives have equal and infinite worth and value in the eyes of God, that worth doesn’t abridge the right of an individual to protect their own life or the lives of their loved ones. A fetus and a serial killer are both beloved by God, but a fetus threatens no one, whereas a serial killer is a direct threat to everyone around him.

A pro-lifer does, of course, value human life and would vastly prefer that no one be killed ever, but they are not naïve enough to think that pacifism is the best way to secure peace, order, and a life-giving society. If serial murderers are left unchecked, the resulting effect is not more life, it’s less. A pro-lifer is aware of this, and in the interest of protecting life, they may resort even to the ultimate punishment to secure the greater good for the mass of innocent citizens.

It is understandable that some people might disagree with this view. But if one is being charitable, it is not difficult to, at the very least, empathize with it. After all, very few people could watch a rapist attack their two-year old daughter and do nothing to stop him because his life has infinite worth and dignity. Some people might maintain their pacifism because of a deeply-held conviction; I can applaud them for their strength of conviction, but my goodness, I know that every fiber of their being wants to kill the bastard raping their innocent child.

If the author had been looking for an honest answer, this would have been sufficient. If they had been seeking to understand, this should have been enough. Anyone can sympathize with self-defense and the need to protect one’s loved ones. But the author wasn’t really looking for an honest answer, or an understanding of the issue.

Her response included phrases like: “Now, I have children -- two of them exact. My children are no more important than anybody else's children, if that's the question you are asking me. Is it Sarah? I would not start a war in Iraq for no good reason, killing innocent people, just to save my own children.”

I, of course, never asked if her kids were more important than anyone else’s kids, though I should hope she sort of feels in her heart like they are. I certainly never asked if she would “start a war…for no good reason, killing innocent people, just to save [her] children.” What I asked is if she understood why someone would be aggressive in protecting themselves, their children, their families, neighbors, their nation and their way of life.

She goes on to say “Now, that wouldn't be so hard to accept -- if it were not coming from the same people who scream "oooh, Jesus says it's a life! Save the unborn child." That's bullshit and you know it. Aaah, but you won't admit it. Because to admit it means to admit hypocrisy.” Now mind you, she’d stated in her blog entry: “This isn't a debate about when life begins, or why women have abortions. Can we try to stay on topic?”

I had never brought Jesus into the conversation, nor had I insisted that life begins at conception or any such thing. She was once again stereotyping me, and my argument, largely because she refused to pay any attention to either one.She went on to state: “And yes, Sarah, it is fair to compare an unborn child to people in Iraq and people on deathrow. Why? Because using the same logic the bible bangers use: a life is a life is a life and God doesn't know the difference.”

Of course, that isn’t true. God does know the difference between a fetus and a terrorist and a murderer on death row. And someday, God will judge each one individually. He loves us all more than we can ever imagine, but He is neither stupid nor blind, and He is certainly capable of discerning the difference between a life terminated simply for convenience’s sake, and a life taken in self-defense. God will judge those who take life; and we must contritely and humbly prepare ourselves for that inevitable judgment day. He knows our hearts, wicked though they often are. May God have mercy on us all!

In any case, I was not surprised by the response I was given. I knew before I posted my very reasonable response that I was not likely to receive one in return. You shouldn’t throw your pearls before swine, but I keep posting, half in hope that someone will take what I have to say to heart, and half in simple recognition of the fact that writing all of these arguments out helps me to better understand them and the issues surrounding them.

Nevertheless, I don’t think I should go back to that blog and post again. I do not believe that I am of any real use there, and perhaps there is somewhere out in cyber space where I can actually serve someone in some real and substantial way.

Building on last night's post: I am not a coffee drinker. I realize that I tread on thin ice with this post because coffee drinkers are a wired and angry people.

Here's an example of why coffee drinkers scare me: Coffee Dealer's Website. The author has ten reasons you should start using coffee, and boy, if it were marijuana this guy was selling, we would've learned to recognize these arguments in fifth grade D.A.R.E. class.

Coffee, the author tells us in bold, "makes you more aware." It gives you "heightened senses." You're going to feel more connected to the world, man. And it's a good thing that you will, because coffee drinking gives you a new "personality and identity." Coffee drinkers are "cultured." Coffee is an image builder; after all, it's all about being cool and fitting in, and all the cool kids are drinking it! Coffee, the author tells us, will get you girls. Coffee is what adults drink, and "you'd better get used to it now," because someday you'll have to ask yourself: "Dare [I] say no to what may be frowned upon by the person offering it?"

If you don't drink coffee, you're disconnected. You're a nobody; you're not a mature adult and you definitely don't have a cool, college-age persona. You're never going to get a date, and you're going to look totally lame all the days of your youth unless you start brewing a pot right now.

I am not a coffee drinker. I do not enjoy the taste of coffee, I know perfectly well that it's addictive, and I have no need to fit in with the coffee drinking mafia. I will not spend my hard-earned pittance (and I mean the pittance part literally) at some corporate drug cartel like Starbucks. I just don't need it. There are better sources of caffeine (Mt. Dew, notably), and if I really want to get out of bed in the morning, I can drink the much healthier and effective orange juice.

And I have a residual bitterness against coffee drinking from my childhood. My parents are hooked on this stuff. Neither my mom or dad can get out of the house in the morning without a half a pot of the nasty stuff in them. Well, at least, they believe they can't. Last month when my dad had to get some blood work run, he twitched and moaned so long about having to leave without his morning coffee, I briefly considered letting his veins for him the hard way, to save him a trip to town. We both would have been happier; as he breathed his dying breath, he would have asked me to refill his Cleveland Browns memorial coffee mug.

By far the most insidious manifestation of their coffee addiction, however, is their need to wake everyone up early to facilitate their consumption of coffee. An example: this morning I have to take my car to the shop. My father told me that we had to get up at 7 to get the car there on time. So I roll out of bed at 6:45 so I won't be late, my dad finally gets up at 7. I'm assuming that we need to get there about 7:30. No, turns out it only takes five minutes to get there, and we had to get up at 7, to get the car there at 8, because otherwise: "How would we have time to drink our coffee?"

I hate waking up early. I hate coffee.

Damn you Orange Juice.

I can drink gallons of caffeine and it will have no discernable effect on me whatsoever, except perhaps, for a general calming down of my life-long addicted nerves. Even those super-loaded caffeine pills don't do much for me. My mother pretty justifiably freaked out on me once when I was in high school because I downed three of them in sitting to help keep me up while I was trying to write a paper; for all her worries, I nodded off an hour later, only on the second of a required five pages about the history of the American Red Cross.

The only substance I've found with the power to give me any energy whatsoever is Orange Juice. I don't what it is, but a single shot of the orange stuff is more effective at kicking me out the door in the morning than most folks' full pot of coffee.

I made a mistake tonight that's coming back to bite me. I'm feeling pretty generally under the weather, and my dad suggested Vitamin C to pick me up. He figured that I'm probably in the early stages of fighting off a cold or even maybe the flu or something. I've been unusually thirsty lately, probably because the onset of winter has made the air awfully dry, so around eight I had a glass of orange juice.

Bad move. Five hours later I'm still up pacing the halls. I'm actually pacing whilst trolling Blog Explosion. It's ridiculous really. I've gotten up and sat back down three times just while writing this blog. If I see sleep again any time this week, I'll be very grateful indeed.

Did I mention I have to get up early tomorrow?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Merry Christmas.

I haven't been able to come up with a decent Christmas list this year. I don't really want much. The only thing I can really use is some extra cash, but since it's Christmas, that isn't bloody likely. Bank accounts empty in December, not fill up.

More damning, perhaps, I can't really think of a single good present to get anyone for Christmas. I don't care very much for Christmas when I don't have anything very much to give anyone.

It may be that this year, the pleasure of my admittedly mediocre company will have to suffice for a Christmas present for most of my dear ones. When I graduated from college, they took my creativity out back and shot it.

Sorry guys, I miss it, too.

Happy Holidays, though.

Playing the Martyr

Today's post, much like my consciousness, will be rather haphazard and poorly constructed.

I'm really under a lot of pressure right now. I used to be the sort of person who liked variables. I used to be flexible, and enjoyed new challenges and changes in routines. I liked to think about the possibilities of any situation. I liked to be idealistic.

No more.

If I'm given a schedule, I want to keep it. When I have no routine, I want to create one. I don't want to work with anyone, because that means having to wait around on them. It means having to bail them out of situations that, had they not been with me, I never would have found myself in.

I get tired of always coming in third place. I get tired of being dependable. I get tired of being the one always cleaning up the messes while everyone else is out having a good time making more messes.

I'm only just now starting to realize the weakness of my position. It's an ironic thing because I worked very hard to ensure that I was given so little power. My good will towards men will always ensure that, ultimately, I never get what I most earnestly desire in life.

It may well be that when I die, I'll have been a very good person and I'll have lived a meaningful, useful and, in many ways, enviable and exemplary life. I will also have died rather glumly and unsatisfied; I will have been entrenched in mediocrity.

I will have been indispensible. I will have dried many tears. I will have been the first one called at the first sign of trouble, or when there's a lot of work to do that no one else is interested in. And I'll still be second runner up.

Reasonable, boring, stable as hell, second runner up. So it has always been, and so it shall always be. And being the epitome of long suffering, I will eventually take solace in that fact, too. I will be always be content on less. I will never be content unless I have less.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Go to Joseph, II.

Yesterday sucked. My little great-nephew started having seizures after his immunizations. It's a relatively common, yet still incredibly terrifying, reaction.

Today is much better. He was seizure-free through the night and seems to be in a good mood this morning. Babies are awesome: screams and tears one minute; smiles so big you'd think nothing bad had ever happened to them in their whole lives the next.

More blogs soon. Have been rather busy with the family the past few days.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Go to Joseph.

One of the hardest things for me in life right now is learning how not to be alone. I've been so lonely and isolated for such a long time that I managed to forget much of what it requires to live in common.

Lessons that you learn when your very little are still relevant when you're older. Lessons like how to love someone with your entire heart and soul without becoming possessive of them. How not to be jealous. How to not behave maliciously even when you are feeling jealous.

Loneliness is a terrible thing, but it is not without its benefits. A solitary person, left to himself, is burdened only by his own problems. Even one person's burdens are sometimes intolerable, but how can we survive, crushed under the weight of the burdens of mankind?

I figured out a while ago that life is not worth living if it is lived entirely alone. Material things - the riches of this world - will not sustain you without love. Even the meanest souls I've ever met have craved affection sometimes.

The problem comes in deciding how, then, to live. If love is the goal, how and who do we love? Every soul on Earth is lovable in some ways; and in a certain way, we must begin to love all men before we can find peace and joy. But there are relatively few people who share so much in common with us that we can really find mutual understanding. All men share some traits in common, but very few will share nearly everything in common.

Very few people will share enough with us to really justify the English use of the word "love." After all, to fall mindlessly, passionately in love with just anyone and everyone is a form of self-abuse. For love to be truly satisfying - for it to be truly edifying - it must be perfectly reciprocated. Joy is certainly not the trepid surrendering of ones soul to ones beloved only to have it ignored, discarded or outright mangled.

We mortals are far from perfect. It may be that, within the bonds of our human understanding, we may never be fully satisfied with a mortal love on Earth. Nevertheless, there remain some few, rare individuals whose souls so mirror our own that some real resonance can occur. It is in our relationships with these few, select people that our lives first begin to manifest their true meaning.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Brett and Games

Excerpt from a conversation with my brother the other day:

Brett: Tell Jesse not to bother with a Gameboy SP, that's a waste! He needs the new Playstation system.
Me: Yeah, but I think a lot of his friends use Gameboy, so he'll probably stick to that.
Brett: Bah! No way. A Gameboy is just a Gameboy, this is going to be a Game-man!
Me: hahaha, I don't think the best way to sell a gaming system to an eight year-old boy is to associate it with a Gay Man.
Brett: ::thoughtful silence:: Okay, so maybe you could use some different wording...

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Tickle: Tests, Matchmaking and Social Networking

The Inkblot Test: Everybody's Doing It

Your subconscious mind is driven most by Love.
Everyone has a desire to love. But your desire is rooted very deeply in your unconscious and affects many of the decisions you make in life — whether you are aware of it or not.

You have an energy about you that inspires people to experience their true feelings of love and act kindly towards others. In this way, you and your drive for loving relationships start a chain reaction of positive experiences.

The reason you are driven by love, may be because your unconscious is trying to avoid the opposite of love — hate. You, more than others, may be afraid of experiencing severe discord with others. That may, in turn, heavily influence your choices about relationships and the way you communicate your ideas, wants, and desires to others.

With such a strong orientation towards loving others, your relationships hold a very special place in your life. Your capacity to love may be greater than those around you, and therefore you may have more to give in relationships than your romantic partner does. Remember that this is a gift you have and one most others don't possess.

Though your unconscious mind is driven most strongly by Love, there is much more to who you are at your core.

Saturday, December 04, 2004 music, links, related artists music, links, related artists

I just found this whilst surfing BlogExplosion. I wish I would've taken note of which blog it was on, but I didn't. Sorry, whomever deserved a reference, and didn't get one!

Anyway, MusicPlasma is an interesting, visual web connecting artists. Say, for instance, you like Radiohead. You type in "Radiohead" and it'll be linked to Coldplay, the White Stripes, Travis, the Flaming Lips, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, and more. Connected to Coldplay is Kings of Leon, Grandaddy, and Thrills. If you click on, say, Grandaddy, you'll see everyone from the New Pornographers, to Joseph Arthur, to Ed Harcourt, to Fountains of Wayne.

It's sort of like those brainstorming webs irritating English teachers used to force us to draw when we were kids. Except, this one doesn't suck.

I used to be up on every new Indie release on the market, and some that weren't. But having grown up, I have more meaningful, if less cool-sounding activities to pursue these days. So tools like this are useful in helping me to find fresh new music that just so happens not to be playing on Top 40 Radio.

BlogExplosion is awesome.

I like my family.

I like my family a lot. Now, you don't need a particularly valid logical reason to like your family. You naturally love them of course, just because they're yours. And you shouldn't only like people for the things they do for you anyway. So, all of that being said, and gotten out of the way, my family really is great.

Example #1: For the last year or so, my laptop has had a serious overheating problem. It's really irritating; you can't use it comfortably for more than 20 minutes without it shutting itself off. The design of my computer isn't great. The fan pushes air out the bottom, which, of course, gets trapped if it's sitting on anything. That, combined with the general weakness of the fan in the last year, has created quite a problem.

So I was researching ways to cool computers about six months ago, and I found this grease which was supposed to cool a computer down, but it cost an arm and a leg for an ounce. My brother and I weren't sure about it, and life has been very busy lately, what with Brett's wife being pregnant and my finishing school and yada yada yada. Well, the baby was keeping Brett up the other night, and he started to think about my overheating problem.

He researched and figured out how to take my laptop apart and clean the fan. Then he got some special kind of grease for me and lathered the processor. And now, I no longer have an overheating problem! My temperature hasn't been over 110, even using all of my system resources for an extended period, since he fixed it. By contrast, a week ago, I expected to always be running between 148 and 170.

My brother is awesome.

Example #2: My mom bought me a winter coat. She had no very good reason to do it, since I'm an adult and perfectly capable of recognizing the changing of the seasons. But she saw a coat, got very excited because she thought it looked like something I'd like, and bought it for me just because. Truth be told, it's not the coat I'd probably choose had I been looking on my own (as I've been meaning to do for...oh, years now), but the fact that she was thinking about me, and wanting me to warm and happy and whatnot, makes me very happy indeed. I'm happy with my new coat because it's the coat my mother didn't have to buy me.

My mother is awesome.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Jasmin, the Cat, and Dr. Stanley Milgram

Aww, damn it all to hell. I just had the longest freaking blog ready to post. I was smart and had typed it out in notepad first, so just in case Blogger screwed up, I wouldn't lose what I felt was a pretty witty, intelligent and meaningful post. So what happens? Oh, massive computer error. My laptop shut itself off, and I lost everything. Now I know I should’ve been typing in Word or something with autosave, but my Word has been acting up lately and taking forever to load. And who expects massive computer errors?

Yeah, well, anyway, now you’re going to miss out on my brilliance. I know that that sort of thing just can’t be reproduced. So now you’re going to get a different, much less pretentious post about my friend Jasmin.

Today, I went with Jasmin to pick her son up from school. When we got there, we saw this cat. Jasmin had seen the cat there before and thought that it might be a stray, so we got out to investigate. It turned out to be a really friendly cat, so we were petting it and discussing the signs to determine whether or not he belonged to anybody. We stood around talking about it so long that the crossing guard yelled to us: “Take him home with you!”

Jasmin went over to the crossing guard and found out that the cat had been abandoned a while ago. The people in the house across the street had moved suddenly, and had just left him behind. Meanwhile, he’d been hanging out and trying to beg scraps off the kids walking home from school.

He was on the skinny side, so apparently he hadn’t been that successful. The crossing guard said that she’d seen a lot of kids harassing him. They’d throw things at him, and chase him.

Well, that’s all it took. Jasmin decided to take the cat to the Humane Society. They don’t put cats down there unless they’re terminally ill, so it’s a pretty good place to take a stray cat. We drove over, found out that they couldn’t take him in until Tuesday, and Jasmin decided to take him home.

The problem with that last bit was a) her husband was going to be seriously unhappy that she’d brought home another stray; and b) she already has two cats and two dogs who are extremely territorial and not shy about displaying the fact. So she basically signed up to get yelled at whilst cleaning up an ocean of dog and cat waste for the next five days, and likely longer.

She knew all that, but it didn’t phase her. She didn’t hesitate for a second. If she knows that something’s right, she’ll do it no matter what. No amount of suffering can turn her from a good deed once she’s settled on it, and no consequence is so strong as to make her compromise her convictions.

Jasmin is a rare breed. Her son had only transferred into this school on Tuesday, and Jasmin could only have seen the cat twice before. But presumably, all of the other parents would have seen him for weeks, perhaps even months. None of them had bothered to check the cat’s story out; or, if they had, none had bothered to do anything about him.

I have to admit that I don’t know if I would have done anything either had Jasmin not been there to help me. If I’d known the cat’s story, you can bet that I would have. But I’m so timid that I probably wouldn’t have checked him out for a long time. My fear of getting in somebody’s way would probably have prevented me from getting out to pet the cat in the first place. I would have done it eventually, but I never could have pulled off Jasmin’s two-day record.

The whole thing reminds of the Milgram Experiments. I can’t remember all of the specifics, and I’m too lazy now to bother looking it all up. But the principle thrust of the thing went something like:

A bunch of ordinary folks signed up to take part in this study which they were told would be about the effects of electric shocks on learning. Two participants at a time would be led into the laboratory, they would draw straws (or do something else seemingly random), and one would be declared the teacher and the other the learner. The teacher would deliver a lesson via intercom and ask the learner questions. When the learner missed a question, the teacher would deliver an electric shock to give the learner an incentive to perform better.

But the trick was, the study wasn’t really about the learners at all. The learner was a collaborator in the real study; he was a paid actor. The actor was actually hooked up to a fake machine, and instructed to deliver increasingly painful and desperate screams as the “shocks” increased. Eventually he would begin to complain about a heart condition, and by the end, he would appear to be completely unconscious. Another collaborator, dressed as a doctor, reassured the “teachers” if they started to get squeamish about the experiment, telling them that the shocks were harmless and had no lasting effects.

The study was about obedience and conformity in society, and the results were shocking. Psychologists had estimated that maybe 1 in a 1000 people would complete the experiment. Those that did complete the experiment, they thought, would be mentally unbalanced. In reality, something like 2 out of every 3 participants finished the study. The vast majority of ordinary people will follow orders, no matter what, if they come from an authority figure that they think they can trust.

It’s a pretty scary thing when you think about it. But the point of bringing all that up is that I like Jasmin so much because she’s so that tiny portion of the population who would never, ever shock someone just because some wiseass in a lab coat told her to. She’ll do what’s right, come hell or high water, and the so-called authorities be damned!

It can be a very irritating personality trait to those of us who, in the name of urbanity and sophistication, try to convince Jasmin that she’s just being a dork. But no manner of argument will budge her if she knows she’s right. She’ll be a dork; she’ll be an honest dork with a clean conscience, and you can take your inflated opinion of yourself and shove it.

It can be very irritating. But it’s also very comforting to know that someone out there really believes in what they say. It’s good to know that I have a friend who’ll stick by me no matter what. Even if it isn’t popular. Even if it’s downright dorky. Even if nobody else will do it because it’s hard. She’s just that kind of person. And that’s a really rare thing.

That being said, her Shrek impression totally sucks. Also, I’m the best “writter,” not her. I’m the best history student of the millennia, not her. While her GPA was slightly higher than mine, I took much more difficult classes than she ever did; and Lord knows, I helped her with her homework enough. And perhaps, most importantly of all, I’m much prettier than she is, and have a far superior fashion sense.

You know, just to make things fair and balanced and all.

Too mean to die.

I wrote this really long post yesterday, about love and identity and the meaning of life, and all that other pretentious crap that keeps my mind churning all night if I let it. I stuck it in the draft folder by accident, and I think I'll keep it there, because I don't know if I really mean any of it yet. It's a lot of lofty words, but, hey, talk is cheap.

I've had a good week this week. Pretty busy on the whole. I've watched Jesse a few times this week, and I helped Jasmin out with her three year-old twin neices today. The twins were a lot of fun, but I have so much newfound respect for my mom now. She was only fifteen when her twin girls were born, and no more than eighteen when my brother Tony was born. If my sisters had half the energy the twins I babysat today have, my mom must've been going out of her head 99.999% of the time. And since Tony, even as a baby, was the anti-christ, she really MUST have had things rough.

I'm reminded of a comment my brother made once when my mom was really sick. He said: "Mom will be fine; she's too mean to die." Suddenly I see exactly how it was that she got to be so damn tough. Anyone who could survive twins AND Tony really is too mean to die.