Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Giving of Thanks

In the off chance that you missed the interminable cavalcade of parades, Peanuts specials, Christmas music formatted radio stations, garland streamed shopping malls adorned with "95% Off" sales signs, and the smell of pine, cinnamon, poultry, and electricity induced house fires, we've officially entered the annual holiday season. As is requisite for the last several years, I indulged in Thanksgiving dinner with my uncle and his girlfriend. It should be noted that my uncle is the only Republican in my family (not including my aunt's husband, though he is only related by marriage, not blood, so he doesn't really count). Thankfully, he doesn't vote (neither does my aunt's husband, interestingly). It should also be noted that, like me, he has an annoying tendency to believe he is right about certain things and that thinking in a way other than he does is, by sheer force of logic, wrong!

It should come as no surprise, then, that I usually find myself keeping my mouth shut around dinner every year. My uncle tries to be peaceful, and so do I; his girlfriend acts as a pleasant referee, typically taking my side, if not always on the issues, at least in the understanding that my uncle's way isn't typically the only way.

This year I had to sit through a lecture about how Chris, my friend from algebra class, and I didn't do a thorough enough job when we replaced the spark plugs on my car (I didn't even mention to him about the oil in the cylinders, or the cross threaded plug). My uncle can't even commend me for taking initiative on my car, something he has chronically lectured me about for the last dozen years whenever I am forced to run to him for help when my car dies on the side of the road. But that wasn't the worst part. No, I had to sit through a lecture about how Obama is the Antichrist, and how my uncle can't believe that so many people were brainwashed into voting for a black, one term senator with "no experience"! He asked if I had voted for Obama, to which I replied, "Of course! I even contributed $250 to his campaign, and got a campaign t-shirt!" I went on to inform him that Lincoln was a one term Illinois senator before becoming President, and look how he turned out! I'll save you from my uncle's decidedly non-PC response, but when I've said that I'm not the most racially sensitive person in the world, it would be fair to say that my uncle makes me seem like one time NAACP President Kweisi Mfume (I've ALWAYS loved that guy's name, for some reason).

One thing we don't do for Thanksgiving is announce what we're thankful for this year. Chances are good we'd be thankful for things which were diametrically opposed, anyway. But, as I've listened to NPR and watched news clips online, I've been barraged by messages of thanks for everything from having a job, to having a family, to having legs! That last one came from a little girl who was skating at Rockefeller Center in New York.

My grandmother is always encouraging me to be more thankful for things. She says that it helps you to see what you have instead of fretting over the things that you don't. So, aside from having an opportunity to go to college, having a roof over my head, food in my stomach (most of the time), a car that gets me where I need to go (most of the time), and medications which keep me from attempting suicide every other Thursday, what do I have to be thankful for? I don't know... But I guess having legs seems like a good place to start!

Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

If This is Wrong, I Don't Want to be Right

I went to the grocery store this evening because I had a craving. Now, I wasn't craving broccoli, or apples, or kale. Frankly, if you have EVER had a craving for kale you need to see a therapist because there is something psychologically wrong with you! No, I was craving cake frosting! And not just any cake frosting. I wanted brightly colored, day-glo, all sugar and vegetable shortening, fat in a cup, cake frosting! The kind they decorate cakes with at the grocery store. That stuff is GOOOOOD!

In case you're curious, I bought the bright orange one at the top left of the picture. No, it didn't taste like orange, although I did notice, after eating half the container in one sitting (it was a one pound container, by the way!), that I began to experience a slight placebo effect that made me start to THINK that there was orange flavoring in the frosting. Perhaps my mind was trying to convince me that eating half a pound of highly sweetened fat in one sitting might actually be somewhat less unhealthy for me than logic would require. Well, at least for 30 seconds I was convinced!

I've mentioned before that part of being a Lifer requires you to live your live with enthusiasm, to make even the small moments enjoyable for what they are, and to not just sit still and be oblivious while the rest of the world goes on around you. So, why then does being a Lifer sometimes require us to do things that we KNOW are totally unhealthy for us? Let's face it, at 5'7" and 200+ pounds I didn't really NEED that cake frosting. But something inside of me COMPELLED me to the frosting! I had to experience the childlike satisfaction of eating something too sweet and too pretty for my own good. I mean, I could have bought chocolate cake frosting for half the price of the orange, and it would have tasted like something besides sugar. No, I wanted something that took me back to childhood birthday parties that I never had, with neon colored piles of kiddy jet fuel, otherwise known as cake. Except, now I don't need the damn cake. Actually I never needed the cake. Let's get something straight... Cake is nothing more than a vehicle for frosting! Why waste $12 on a cake when all I REALLY wanted was the $4 of frosting?

But back to my question. Why do we sometimes need to experience things which aren't good for us, and which we know aren't good for us, in order to experience life to the fullest? Maybe it has something to do with testing boundaries. Sure, we can all drive under 55 MPH and get safely where we are going, but eventually we just have to haul ass and see if we can get our cars up to 80 (or more) simply to prove to ourselves that we can. Granted, we may end up having to deal with consequences of breaking accepted boundaries. But even if we don't have to pay consequences, breaking those boundaries teaches us something about ourselves and the world around us. Breaking boundaries allows us to see things from a new perspective -- instead of always being on the inside looking out we get to be on the outside looking in. Breaking boundaries allows us to learn for ourselves whether or not the accepted wisdom for how we should live our lives is truly a good fit for us, or if we should try to push through and remake the map to fit our own needs and expectations.

I'm not recommending you go out and start hunting people as sport. That's probably one of the few boundaries that needs to stay in place for a reason. But, short of that, go out and find a boundary to test and push through it. However, while you do it, think about why the boundary exists: does it make us safer, does it make our relationships better, does it keep life flowing smoothly? Then, while you are breaking the boundary think about how you feel, and how does what you're doing make others feel, if applicable. Then, when you're done, take some time to think about what you learned, if anything. Do you understand better why the boundary exists, or should we all start to rethink our need for it?

So, what did I learn from eating $4 of neon orange cake frosting? Well, I learned that people are probably correct in saying that you should avoid eating out of boredom or to satisy some emotional need. I learned that, while the frosting did fill me with a temporary comfort, a momentary vacation to a time and place that never really existed (though I wish it had), it didn't really give me anything permanent; it didn't satisfy the overarching need. Instead of eating the frosting, I would have probably been better served calling a friend, or playing a game, or going for a walk. The frosting provided a temporary high, which is always followed by a requisite low, where human contact, intellectual stimulation, or physical activity would have produced the same (or better) high with none of the guilt associated with wasting money or not looking out for my health.

There's always a lesson to be learned in life if you are just mindful enough to stop and pay attention to it.

Have fun and keep living life... But don't forget to test a boundary every now and then!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Force is Lame in This One

I apologize for leaving things in the lurch, but the good news is that I have finally been getting into my school work a bit. I at least got around to writing some papers, so hopefully I'll be able to pull out some decent grades for the semester. I've already registered for classes for next semester, as well. Hopefully, next semester will be the final semester for me at the community college before I head to NC State, but I may end up having to take one more semester in order to retake a few courses and see if I can raise my grades.

By the way, I wanted to share my precious with you! When I got home from school last Thursday night, my lightsaber was waiting on my doorstep! It is a working (okay, it doesn't slice people in half, but you have make compromises in life sometimes!) replica of Obi Wan Kenobi's lightsaber from Revenge of the Sith. I've spent a great deal of time practicing my saber twirling techniques with it. There are a few videos online with instruction for saber spinning that I have used for the basics, but I've strung a few of the moves together to form my own little battle move that I like. It's hard to explain, and since I don't have a way of shooting video I can't show you, not that I would, really. The last thing I need is to be the next "Lightsaber Kid". My self-esteem is already in repair, as it is! It would be nice if I could find a few other people with lightsabers in town who would like to start up a club, or something. There used to be a Jedi Club in Raleigh, but their website doesn't seem to have had any visitors in over a year, so I'm guessing they don't exist any longer.

My financial experiment is in great pain as of today! I should have about $2500 right now, instead it is hanging at around $1200. A couple of the stocks I chose tanked severely, for no good reason. Each of the companies had press releases showing that good things were happening to their business and then the next few days their stock value dropped like the Republicans numbers in the the US Senate! I'm not real happy about it, but I'm committed to holding onto those stocks until they go back up in value, and I'm fairly confident that they will. It's just a matter of how long it will take for that to happen!

I just got back from Pittsboro, where the NC Zen Center is located. My Humanities 220 class had a field trip there. It was a fascinating place. It is a small facility tucked back into the woods. We enjoyed a small lecture from the attending Master before engaging in a brief sitting, then a led walk, and a chant. I enjoy meditating. I had never really done it before taking this course. The professors hold a weekly meditation on Thursdays after school that I have been attending for the last month or so. It is cool to be aware of my thoughts and to actively try to clear my mind. According to the Master, the ultimate goal of meditation is allow yourself to lose your sense of self, at least temporarily, and be mindful of the moment. I can manage to do that for a few seconds at a time, but otherwise my mind is a seemingly neverending jumble of random thoughts. Maybe with time I'll be able to focus my thoughts a little better. Still, it is nice to be able to get away from the problems of the world, if only for a few seconds at a time.

Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proud to Be an American... Kind Of

I stayed up all night watching the election coverage on In case you've been in a cave in Afghanistan for the last week, Barack Obama is our 44th President of the United States of America! It even looks as though North Carolina will go for Obama by around 13,000 votes. Unfortunately, that is a far smaller margin that Bev Perdue's victory for the governorship, or Kay Hagan's senatorial victory over Elizabeth Dole. That means that alot of democratic voters in my state either chose McCain for President or simply abstained from voting for President, all together.

This really pisses me off! I suppose I expected that North Carolina had come farther than it really has with regard to race. Don't get me wrong: I'm no paragon of racial equality. I still get nervous if I'm surrounded by blacks on a Saturday night at Waffle House. And I'm still prone to call a black person "nigger" under my breath if they cut me off in traffic or come to a stoplight with their car stereo blasting so loud that MY car shakes.

Barack Obama, though, is so much greater than that. He exemplifies the very best that America has to offer, regardless of race or gender. Obama inspires our brightest angels rather than appealing to our darkest demons. He makes people want to be their best. This is what I've been wanting out of a leader my entire life. But now that we finally have that, I can't enjoy it fully thanks to all the damn rednecks!

I found out that my friends from algebra class voted for McCain. That's not what bothered me. The fact that they used words like terrorist and Muslim to describe Barack Obama, and claimed that he would work against Israel is what bothered me. I expected better of them. This sort of thing makes them seem less intelligent and less informed than I would have thought. I know it is elitist of me to say this, but I guess I expect better of anyone who is going to college. Still, they are both freshman, so perhaps they will learn with time, but I somehow doubt it.

I've never been more proud of America than I am now that Obama is our President-elect, but I'm not nearly as proud of America as I would like to be. Until we figure out a way to exorcise ourselves of those for whom racial stereotypes of ALL varieties are borne, I fear that we will always be held back as a society. We are capable of so much more than what history has given witness. At least, that's what I'd like to think.

Have fun, and keep living life... It's getting better all the time!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Just Call Me The Procrastination Sensation!!!

I swear to God I have like four or five blog posts just sitting in my notebook waiting to be transcribed. I'll get to them soon, I PROMISE! I'll back date them, so I'm not sure how Blogger is going to handle that, if they'll post before or after this, but you're smart, you'll figure it out! Until then:


And while I would certainly prefer that you vote for Obama, just get your ass to the polls and do your civic duty! Don't pretend that you give a damn about America if you're just going to sit at home and masturbate on Election Day, pulling on your own lever instead of the one that will actually communicate your choice for the nation!

In the mean time... Here's a LOL Cat:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sick Days

I've been getting sick for the last few days. My throat was sore at first, then I started getting congested. Now my nose is running and I'm coughing up phlegm as if I were being paid by the pint! Add to that the periodic sneezing that erupts with so much force that my whole body feels weak for five minutes and you can guess I'm not feeling all that peppy.

On the bright side, I finally got around to doing my Abnormal Psych paper on the safety and efficacy of SSRI-based antidepressants. I made a 90 on it, an A, even with the 10 point deduction for it being over a week late. I also made an 88, a B, on my last psych test despite not reading the book!

I wish I had a working TV. I'm afraid of missing the election results this Tuesday night. Hopefully, I'll be able to find live video coverage online somewhere. I'm still all a tizzy about the prospect that North Carolina may go blue this time. The Real Clear Politics average right now is Obama by 2.5, with poll data ranging from a tie to as much as a 6 point lead for Obama.

I don't talk alot about my grandmother, but I was just thinking about things she used to do for me when I wasn't feeling well as a kid. I remember the familiar smells of Vicks Vaporub and Resinol that permeated sick days in her home. If you couldn't be cured by one, the other would never be far away. Toothaches were held at bay with the pungent, acidic, and somewhat alcoholic taste of Anbesol and the feel of a hot, baked in the oven, wash cloth pressed against my cheek. Spells of vomiting were always met with sips of Coke and Captain's Wafers. I miss Captain's Wafers. It's hard to find them in stores these days. There's something very comforting about those old home remedies that just gets lost in today's "there's a pill for that" mentality to sickness. Maybe I don't want to get better in six hours by taking Cure-Tex Pharmaceuticals "Healz-All Gel Capsules, Now in Minty Green Flavor". Maybe I'd like to ride out the cold for just a little while longer with a salve, a Coke, a puke bucket, and a pile of warm wash cloths. Screw you modern health care system!

One good thing about colds, though, is you just don't want to eat a whole lot. Food doesn't smell or taste as good when you're congested, and swallowing can be a real chore when your throat seems so swollen that you think someone must have installed a rusty sliding door that food has to open and close in order to go down. At any rate, I can now fit into a pair of 36" pants I couldn't button before.

I was trying to come up with some nifty lesson to all this, but I don't guess life ALWAYS has to have a point to it. Although, if I had to pick one thing that I've learned from this experience it would be that I find it annoying how completely out of touch I am with my body until something goes wrong with it. But, then, that's how I am with my car, and it's still alive... sort of.

Have fun, and keep living life... And bring me some more Kleenex while you're at it!
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