Friday, March 31, 2006


Back when I was ten years old, a bit over a year after I had been diagnosed with diabetes, a friend of mine from church invited me to stay a few days with his family at Camp Dearborn. This was one of those places where they have a neighborhood of large tents big enough for a family of six or eight, plus buildings with showers and restroom facilities. It was more or less a recreational camp, with swimming, horseback riding, etc.

My parents let me go, and so I spent several days there having the time of my life. My poor mother, on the other hand...well, she had to drive out to the camp every day at seven in the morning to give me my insulin. Why? Because by this time I still hadn't learned to do it myself. Of course, as a ten-year-old who lived in his own little world, I never realized how much of a problem this was for her. Not until just recently, when I happened to drive past Camp Dearborn and realized just how far my mother had to go. Thirty minutes each way. Thanks, Mom!

I guess we don't always realize how our own health issues might be annoyances for others, as well. Like the time I worked at Little Caesars, and was asking why there were sausages on the wall because my BGLs had dropped so incredibly low. I was out of it, and I needed four people to get me safely to a friends house and treated.

Then there are the teachers throughout my school years who under normal circumstances wouldn't have to interrupt their flow for anything, yet had to make exceptions for me. "I'm having an insulin reaction" meant a trip down to the office, and thirty minutes of classtime missed, often straddling two hours, meaning I would have to go interrupt the next class to pick up my books before heading off to interrupt yet another class, arriving late and having to explain myself.

There are annoyances today, as well. I can pretty much treat myself for everything now. But I can't tell you how many times I walk in the door with pizza, go to sit down with the family to eat, only to remember I have a total of 2 units left in my insulin pump. So, I have to abandon the family and put in the new infusion set with 180 units of fresh insulin. They are done before I ever sit down.

Diabetes can be annoying. Like right now. I have this Medic Alert bracelet. As I type, it dangles from my wrist and rattles against the keyboard. But you learn to just live with it. I suppose it is a choice. Do I let myself see these as annoyances? Can I do anything to minimize these annoyances for other people?

Back in junior high school, we had support meetings with the five of us in the school with Type 1 diabetes. Once a month, we'd get together and discuss what bothered us, encouraged one another, even educated one another. There was one boy, however, who was angry. He didn't at all like how diabetes had interfered with his life. The annoyances it brought also brought depression and denial. The school nurse appointed me his mentor, and I tried to keep in touch with him throughout the school year. But at one point, he just decided he didn't have diabetes. He wasn't going to do it. He wasn't going to give himself the shots anymore. He wasn't going to watch what he ate. He was going to be normal.

Fortunately, he was still experiencing a bit of honeymoon period, so he didn't end up in the hospital immediately or anything. But I met with him and tried to make him see that denying it wouldn't make it go away. It was part of who he was, annoyances and all, and he needed to accept that or else he was going to kill himself.

I wish I knew what happened to him. While he ended up going back to taking insulin, and sort of eating okay, he was still depressed. Once I moved on to high school, I never saw him again.

But annoyances are a part of life, with or without diabetes. We can't let them interfere or get in the way of accomplishing the things in life we want.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

These Shoes Rock

The frequency of shoe-buying for me is rather low. Once every two years, I trade in my old pair of work shoes and my old pair of sneakers (or "tennis shoes" as we call them in Michigan, despite the fact they have nothing to do with playing tennis) for two new pair. And, I'm quite picky about my shoes. Not so much about how they look, but how they feel. And, once I find what I like, I don't stray. I'm very dependable that way.

So, last week, I traded in my white Nike Air walking shoes for a pair of--you guessed it--white Nike Air walking shoes. Once, I tried running shoes, and another time cross trainers. But neither come as close to the comfort as walking shoes. After all, I neither run nor cross train.

Then, in the same store on the same day, I traded in my brown Rockport work shoes for a pair of brown Rockport work shoes. For those who haven't tried them, let me say that Rockports rock! I've never found a work shoe that is more comfortable. They feel as good, or better, than my sneakers.

I'm a firm believer that good footwear is important (especially for diabetics, since foot problems can grow to be quite serious). I would rather spend $100 on a single pair of shoes to last me three years, than spend $25 for shoes to last me a year. In this case, I spent about $60, since they were on sale. (Of course, when are shoes not on sale? You tear off the little "Sale!" tag, and find that the price, sans-sale, is the same as the current sale price, both of which is about 20% less than the listed retail price.)

I also buy shoes much the same way as I buy cards. You know how it is. You walk up to the Hallmark display (or, more commonly, the American Greetings display as you are dropping into Kroger to pick up a gallon of milk, suddenly realizing that your wife's birthday is today), and find there are exactly one million three hundred thousand "Happy Birthday Wife" cards. So, do you spend hours reading each and every one, only to find out that the first one you looked at is the best? Nope. I read one. If I like it, I buy it. No matter that it is $7. No matter that there might very well be another, better card two rows down. The card fits. It fits well. So you buy it. Although, I've had to be more careful recently, since my wife once pointed out that I bought her the exact same card two years in a row. (See? I told you I'm dependable that way.)

So that's my life with shoes. Spend the big bucks on shoes, but be happy with them. My wife, she'll sacrifice comfort for looks, which I have had to step in and put a stop to. (Uh, no pun intended.) I told her that I'd rather she spend $100 on a pair of sandals that she can wear all day, rather than buy a $20 pair that has cute criss-crossies, but she can't stand in them for more than an hour.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Into a War Zone

Last night, my wife and I watched a Lifetime television movie together. Yes, I know. Lifetime is television for women. But I'm proud to admit that I like a great many of the movies they produce. Sometimes they go over-the-top, throwing in every angle to a given social issue they possibly can until all believabiliy is thrown out the door...but still, the movie last night was enlightening.

Odd One Out is very similar to the theatrical movie Mean Girls (starring Lindsay Lohan). It chronicles just how cruel girls can be during the teen years with no really good reason. The movie really did a great job of portraying the helplessness the main character and victim of the cruelty would feel, and how even her mother was unable to do a whole lot to stop it.

To my wife and I, the cruelty in both movies seems totally implausible. For me, I think it is because I am a guy. Sure, I grew up in a public school, but I had a very close peer group, and while there was definitely picking that went on, I managed to avoid it most of the time. (Not always, though. I was a prime target for being picked on since I was a top honor student, aka geek, as well as strong in my faith.)

My wife spent her junior high and high school years in a Christian private school, which likely saved her life. She was already experiencing a lot of cruelty in the public schools during the elementary years, so it was so good for her to get out of that environment.

So, are girls really that mean? Well, according to my wife's good friend, yes. In fact, the type of meanness portrayed in those movies was very similar to her own high school life.

The thought is scary, frankly. You might has well throw your kids into a war zone. Literally. I think they would have a better chance of coming out unharmed.

There was a point in the movie where the principal was approached by the girl's mother. She said, basically, that this is normal and that her daughter needs to learn to deal with this to prepare for life.

Big flaw in that, however. Life isn't like that. High school is. I grew up in a public school, and I've been in the "real world" for some time now, and there is just no comparison. The ways people picked on me and were mean to me in high school are downright horrific compared to anything I've experienced since, and what I experienced in high school was rather tame to what some of these girls are experiencing.

Right now, we're safe. We homeschool. But that won't last forever. My wife and I would like to have our children enrolled in a school starting in the ninth grade. But this movie shows us just how dangerous that could turn out to be. We are trying to plan ahead, hoping to enroll them in private school instead where this type of behavior is not tolerated. At least not to the extent it is in public schools.

I'll admit, however, that locking them up in our house until they are, oh, twenty-one sounds awfully appealing at the moment. Of course, that can't happen. But as parents, we are responsible to ensure our children grow up not only well-educated, but emotionally secure and strong, ready to face the world. I'm not sure that requires throwing them into a war zone.

Note: This post is not intended to suggest that public school systems are bad. I mean, I came out relatively unscathed. It is more a point of awareness. If you have children in any school, public or private, be involved. Be an advocate for your child. Don't brush off the social issues they are facing. Make sure they are hooked into a strong and supportive peer group. Were it not for my peers, my high school experience could have been entirely different.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sick...or Something

This morning, I woke up, then threw up, then went back to bed. A little later, I threw up again. Then, a little bit after that, my wife threw up.

I'm not sure why, but my wife and I seem to be linked together. I'm not talking about our marriage, either. It seems when one of us is sick, or something else, we both get it at the same time. Two weeks ago, my wife's back went out on her. The next morning. Wham! Mine went out as well. When we get sick, we're both sick, which means neither of us are in any mood to doctor each other, let alone take care of four kids. We have to kind of tag team it. The only who feels the least awful at any given moment is it.

At this point, I'm not entirely sure we are even sick. It could very well be food poisoning. It seems odd that we both come down with it, and our kids have not, especially since the sweet and sour pork I made two days ago was barely touched by our kids. So, perhaps it was the pork. Hard to say, of course.

Anyhow, due to my illness, this post makes no attempt whatsoever and providing anything useful or interesting or funny today. Come back when I'm feeling fine. Hopefully tomorrow.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Story Behind the Story

Mindburst, the story and novel I'm currently seeking an agent for, began just about two years ago now. I had been working on another novel at the time, which, frankly, wasn't going too well, when I got this idea. What if all the kids in some town were locked away and not allowed to be with their parents?

So began Mindburst.

But not really. Because ultimately, Mindburst is based on something considerably older than two years. In fact, in a way, it goes all the way back to when I was just six. Because that's when my obsession for superheroes began. At first it was episodes of the Superfriends. Then it was watching Wonder Woman, and reruns of Batman. And by the time I was seven, my neighbor and best friend, Shelley Koski, and I decided it was time to create our own superheroes.

And we did, too. Not just special powers and funky names, but whole histories. For several years we grew these superheroes. Then, we branched out, including the "twins" on the other side of my house, and the R-Team was born.

The R-Team was a simple concept. Each person (five of us in total, once Shelley's little sister joined in) picked a name that began with R. (And, for the record, I didn't pick Ryan. I was Rashio!) Then, you picked an age. And whatever age your character was, you then got to pick one power for every five years of age.

The R-Team persisted for years, although when we were tired of R names, we decided to play the M-Team or the S-Team instead. Same concept, different names. We had many high-flying adventures (sometimes literally, as our base of operations was on the twins' swingset).

And it is the R-Team that played a huge influence on Mindburst. I drew many ideas from those childhood games of superheroes. So I have a bunch of kids (locked away, of course...although not all kids, as I originally envisioned) with special powers.

Writing Mindburst was a lot of fun, because it felt as though I were recreating my childhood, but at a whole new level. Sure, I'd look silly running around the yard with a towel pinned around my neck today. But I can certainly fly around in my imagination. And that is where Mindburst persists, today.

Disturbing (lack of) E-mail

Each morning, I rise to the grand and glorious notion that at some point that day I'm going to open up my e-mail and find numerous messages from people I don't even know, telling me how thoughtful they are to share the secret they wish they had known about sooner. You know, how to make her happier in bed, or, perhaps, how to make millions by transferring funds from Nigeria, or even the latest stock that is guaranteed to quadruple my money in jus six months.

(It's a shame I don't actually have any money to invest...)

But this morning, it has been very disturbing. A situation that I don't think has ever happened to me. I opened up my e-mail, and there was nothing. Not a single on-line pharmacy pushing the lowest prices on Viagra. Not even a message from those who really do know me, love me, or at least pretend to love me.

It is a little disconcerting, and of course my first thought is that my e-mail must not be working. I mean, by this time, I should have received at least one legitimate e-mail, and perhaps fifteen to twenty illegitimate ones.

So what e-mails am I missing? Maybe an agent has requested my full manuscript? Maybe they requested it last night, and now, because my e-mail isn't working, I didn't see it, and I won't be able to send it to them until tonight, which means it will take the weekend before it even really goes out, and in the meantime the agent will read another full, and decide to represent them, filling up their plate with enough clients to satisfy them so that when they receive mine, they just sort of glance at it, stamp a big, fat, red REJECTED across the cover page, and send it back.

Granted, that's a worst case scenario.

So, I keep hitting "Reload" on my e-mail, hoping that at least the daily Publisher's Lunch e-mail arrives soon, setting my mind at ease. Except that I just remembered that in yesterday's Publisher's Lunch, they announced there would be no Publisher's Lunch today.

And suddenly I have the lyrics to that song playing in my head:

Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don't they know it's the end of he world?
'Cause there's no e-mail any more.

That is how the song goes, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Forty More Minutes

What if it were possible to be given more hours in the day? Or, even, forty minutes? What would you do with that extra time?

Some ideas that have crossed my mind are:
  1. Spend more time with the family.
  2. Spend more time reading or writing.
  3. Spend more time exercising. (Yeah, right.)
  4. Spend more time in Bible study and prayer.
And why, you may ask, am I thinking about this? Because this week is has happened to me. I have been given forty more minutes every day of the week (not including weekends). My drive time to my new work location is twenty minutes shorter each way, which means I was given the gift of time. Only, I don't know, yet, exactly what to do with it.

Last night, it was number one from that list. I spent at least forty minutes on the floor building spaceships out of Legos, and then proceeded to play a bad guy, attempting to destroy the city my two oldest boys had built out of blocks. I managed to knock out two of their buildings before they shot down my ship in a spectacular crash. My little Lego man managed to survive a bit longer by defending himself with not one, but two light sabers at the same time a la Darth Maul, only to lose an arm, and eventually forced to retreat.

Tonight is a writing night, so it means I'll have forty extra minutes before I head out. Some of that time, however, will be spent cutting the hair of my kids. (Have I mentioned that I absolutely love the FlowBee? I've saved literally thousands of dollars in haircuts with that thing, given I use it for myself as well as my three boys.)

Where was I? Oh, right. More time.

There really is only one downside to this. I typically use my drive time to read a book. I've gotten really good at balancing the pages precariously atop the steering wheel while still able to see the road with my peripheral vision.

Okay, not really. Instead, I listen to a lot of audiobooks. (I just finished listening to one of the Charlie Bone audiobooks by Jenny Nimmo, in fact, and before that, I listened to Holes by Louis Sachar.) This means that I'll have forty minutes less time per day "reading" one of these audiobooks.

Aside from that, though, I'm anxious to see what I can do with forty minutes. And I'm curious to know what you would do with an extra forty minutes a day. And be realistic, here. What do you really think you would do? Not what do you think you should do, but most likely wouldn't.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Science is an Art

I'm an engineer by profession. And engineering relies heavily on science. In fact, one definition of engineering is the application of science.

I'm also a scientist by personality, at least according to the personality book, Please Understand Me, which labels any INTJ a scientist.

Yet, I have a lot of issues with science. And what it comes down to is this: science is an art. At least, that's what it seems. Because for all the scientific discoveries made in the past few centuries, it is amazing to me just how wrong they often turn out being.

Look at the news almost everyday, and you'll begin to see what I mean. It amazes me how a new study comes out that essentially disproves what was thought of as truth in the scientific community. And this isn't isolated to just one area of science, such as medicine, but the whole gamut. It has gotten to the point where you simply can't trust science anymore.

When I was a kid, I would visit my endocronologist at the University of Michigan Hospital. They had one of the best programs for juvenile diabetes around. During the exam, they would make you hold up your hands together, and they would look at the curvature of your pinkies. This supposedly told them something about my self care or something, though I don't know what.

Years later, they stopped doing this test because, as it turns out, it told them absolutely nothing. Yet, at some point, someone decided it did mean something, and they probably even had some scientific evidence to base this on. But they were wrong. (The downside of this is that I've been self-conscious of the curvature of my pinkies ever since.)

Or take something more geological, like the Grand Canyon. Thousands, millions of years to form, right? At least that's what we were told. The Colorado slowing carving it away. But, guess what? They were wrong. Turns out it happened very quickly in some massive, cataclysmic event. I watched some program on The Learning Channel about another similar area of the United States. (Sorry, I'm suddenly blanking on the name.) After years and years and years of scientists balking at the idea that it was formed in a rapid event, they finally discovered...can you guess?...that it formed in about the span of 1 or 2 days after a massive ice dam broke, flooding hundreds of square miles very suddenly.

And now, we have the problem with vitamins. Namely, that they really don't do people a whole lot of good. Yep, sorry to break it to you, but taking vitamins is no substitute for healthy eating.

I'm barely scratching the surface here. The point is, I fear there is a over-dependence on science. We seem to see it as the answer to everything. Sure, plenty is done to advance science. I work in an industry that depends upon it. But there is no getting around the fact that science is an art. Which kind of makes me an artist, I suppose.

I think I'm going to head off now and clone myself, because, as we all know, some scientist in Korea managed to do it. Didn't he???

Monday, March 20, 2006

Much Ado About Nothing

Today is another day of miscellaneous meanderings of my mind, so be forewarned.

First off, in my endeavor to be a world-famous, multi-million-dollar-earning author, I had an interesting week. I mentioned the acceptance of my short story for publication, which is a first for me. But that was soon followed up with a rejection letter for another short story, two rejections from agents I had sent query letters to, and then a rejection on one of the four partials I had out for my book. Lesson learned? The next time I receive an acceptance for something, I'll expect another series of mass rejections! But, I'm an altogether positive person. Chin up, keep smiling, and move on. I guess.

Second, this morning, I unpacked all the boxes in my new office and moved in. My work decided to move me (well, and about 200 other employees) to a new building in a new location. It's nice, actually. My drive time to work was cut from forty plus minutes to seventeen. It's a newly built, state-of-the-art building with VOIP phone lines and windows. Yes, windows. My old building...actually, the past two buildings I've worked in...I could only tell you what the weather was like outside by heading over to Here, however, I can see the sky from where I sit. If I stand, I get a lovely view of the wall of the adjacent building in one direction, and an even lovelier view of the parking lot in the other direction.

But not everything is all rosy. You see, the move was a trick. Another cost-savings technique. Because we have considerably smaller cubes now. Actually, you can't call them cubes. Perhaps hexes would be better. Or semi-hexes, because they sort of have this honeycomb shape to them. I think, however, I'll continue calling them cubicles since I fear I would get funny looks if I told people I worked in a hex.

Third...well, as it turns out, I don't have a third thing to say today. Or rather, I can't remember what the third thing I wanted to say was, so I guess you're safe from having to read more. For now.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I'm About to Become an Author

I have this little rule. I don't really like to call myself an author unless I actually, you know, publish something. Thus far, it hasn't happened. Although, until recently, I haven't put a whole lot of effort into that. At least not directly. I've written, and therefore call myself a writer, but aside from a few short-story submissions (and the queries for my novel), I just haven't done much.

Starting this year, I sent out a few more short stories for consideration, then focused on my current WIP (which, if I haven't spilled the beans about it yet, is tentatively titled The Dream Pool and roughly 1/3 complete).

But I'm proud to announce that a couple of days ago, my short story Half Moon Tree was accepted for publication. That is why, for the moment, it is no longer available on my website. (The link is still there, but it won't actually open the story to read.)

Publication is scheduled for April, and I'll provide more details later on that. Still, in a small way, I feel legitimized. Although, it isn't just this one thing (though, it makes a big step), but all the little steps, like sending out queries for Mindburst, receiving requests for partials, the waiting, the waiting, and of course, the waiting. Plus the other short stories I've written and sent out, plus the rejections. Rejections for the query letter, plus the rejections for the short stories. It is all part of the process...a process even Stephen King, who I'm pretty sure is one of the most published authors alive today, had to go through.

There is danger in becoming an author, however. I fear my hopes are growing. Take the partials. Who knows what the agents will think. After all, they requested the partials based on a query letter that really tells them little more than the basic premise of the story. They could read the first page and start gagging for all I know. They haven't read my writing yet. Still, I can't help but hope that a request for a full is just around the corner (figuratively speaking, of course). And if that doesn't happen?

At least I'll have one publishing credit under my belt. Time to rack up some more!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Breaking It to Them

My children were believers, as most children are. A belief so ingrained, that I dreaded the day I would have to tell them to the truth. I mean, after all, they can't go on believing in such mythological creatures forever, and sooner is better than later, I always say. (Well, no, I don't, actually.)

He is the man every child longs for, bearing the most delightful of gifts. He has many names, and I'm sure by now you know who I'm referring to.

Yep. Willy Wonka. The Candy Man. The one who can take a rainbow and mix it up with love.

You see, as I've blogged before, my children have been obsessed with good ol' Willy for some time. Actually, every since they watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the theater last year, not to mention the umpteen million times they've watched it, and it's counterpart Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder.

But yesterday, they were talking about how they wish they could meet Willy Wonka, and how Willy Wonka must be really cool, and I got scared. In our family, while we encourage the use of the imagination, the idea of believing that a fictional character of mythic proportions is actually real...well, I have to draw the line somewhere. So, I had to sit them down and express to them the story of a struggling candy maker looking for a way to boost sales, and so rushed the Gene Wilder version into production, then slapped the name Willy Wonka all over their candy bars. The tactic worked. But, I was sad to tell them, the man of Willy Wonka was simply the name of a character from a book by Dahl.

They took it rather well, actually, which goes to show you that it seems the parents have a harder time with such revelations than the children. Strangely enough, they were intrigued with it all. And, the result of this can be summarized in the comment made by my six-year-old.

"I still like the candy, though."

Ah, yes. As do we all. To paraphrase the great William Shakespeare via Juliet, a candy bar by any other name would taste as sweet.

And I have proof. Sort of.

Two years ago, my wife discovered a new candy bar. Snickers Almond. It is just like a Snickers bar, except instead of peanuts they use--and you'll never guess this, so I'll just tell you straight up--almonds! The taste was suprisingly good, perhaps even better than the original Snickers.

But then I noticed something. The packaging was the same tannish-brown color of another candy bar. The Mars Bar. And, the Snickers Almond bar happens to be made by Mars candies. Then, you compare the ingredients. Milk chocolate, nouget (whatever that is), caramel, and almonds. Identical.

Well, I put two and two together. I'm smart that way. It turns out, the Mars Bar wasn't selling so hot, so they decided to repackage it as a Snickers Almond bar, and voila! Sales shot up.

So, there you have it. A candy bar by any other name.

In the meantime, my children decided to mourn the loss of the figure known as Willy Wonka by doing the most reasonable thing they could think of...go out and buy themselves a box of Nerds.

Next, I'm going to have to break the news that there really isn't any such thing as a Great Glass Elevator. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

What's Up With Your Fingers?

I've been told that blogging about the stats of those viewing your own blog is really dredging the bottom of the barrel of topics to cover. But I'll admit, I'm fascinated with the stats. I'm fascinated to find out that the moment I make a post, several complete strangers happen to find my blog with blogs of their own which are nothing but advertisements. (This, I've read, is affectionally called splogs, or spam blogs.) I'm fascinated to find out which areas of the world people think I actually have something interesting to blog about. (As it turns out, not many.) And right now, I'm fascinated at how much of an epidemic, apparently, numb fingertips are.

In the past two or three weeks, I think I've had more people find my blog because they were searching for "numb fingertips" than any other reason. You see, I had blogged about the fact that I had numb fingertips a couple months ago. It was a short-lived ailment. I woke up one morning unable to feel the fingers on my left hand. It lasted through the day, and into the next day. By the time the weekend was over, they were fine again, and I haven't had a problem since.

I had discussed the matter with a colleague and friend of mine, who said that what can happen is if you lay on your arm wrong, it can cause inflammation that temporarily pinches the nerve. The condition is, well, temporary. And was certainly the case for me.

But there are times it isn't. Numb fingertips can be the sign of something more serious, including, but not limited to, various repetitive strain injuries. So, the fact that so many people are reading my blog entry on numb fingertips does have me concerned. Nor for myself, but at just how prevalent the problem apparently has become. And why now? Why in the past few weeks? Before now, there was an occasional search on "numb fingertips". But today, I'm getting several hits per day.

I have no answers. But it is an example of the kind of thing I think about when looking at my blog stats. And, of course, now that I'm writing this next entry on the same topic, I expect even more hits.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What's On Your Bumper?

Driving along the freeway yesterday, I noticed something new on the back-end of a Honda Civic. You know the little Christian fish symbol that many people have? It's called an Icthus. Anyhow, I've seen variations on this, including the versions that silently tackle the evolution/creation debate with the Darwinized fish, and the rebuttal version...the Icthus eating the Darwinized version.

But yesterday I saw one that was an Icthus with what appeared to be an "X" (as in X marks the spot) and a sword. I didn't know what to make of it. Is this a Christian pirate? Or, is this someone who feels like stabbing Christians in the fish? No clue, actually.

This trend bothers me. And I'm not simply talking about the Christian Icthus, but the whole bumper sticker wars that take place. It seems people honestly believe they can change the world by what they stick on their bumper. In the meantime, it is often disrespectful to others.

Granted, there are many uses of the bumper sticker. Some just try to lighten the mood by offering something humorous. Other times it is a declaration of a belief or personal philosophy. And there are those which are declaring something important, in the hope to cause people to consider their stance on an issue. Such uses don't bother me. Though, the whole political advertising use does bother me...but not because I care so much about which side you are voting on, but because as soon as the election is over, it is no longer applicable. Please take off the sticker declaring your support for Kerry or "W" (Bush) now, if you don't mind.

But it is those times when a bumper sticker is a mockery or attack on someone else. In no other context would such behavior be tolerated...yet, we can state openly with our cars what we wouldn't otherwise.

There was one, many years ago, that was popular. "Visualize World Peace." I was somewhat drawn to this, because it was something that caused you to think. And the outcome of that visualization may have been wildly different for each person. Regardless, it revealed something of the driver.

Then came the attack. "Visualize Whirled Peas." Perhaps funny, but after the initial humor wears off, it really is a slap in the face to those who came up with and proudly display the "Visualize World Peace" bumper sticker. I suppose it reveals something about the driver as well: bad taste. It is, in some passive-aggressive manner, a personal insult.

There are also those who can't seem to make up their mind about what they want to say. The entire backside of their car appears to be held together with every bumper sticker imaginable. I remember seeing one car that seemed to declare support for two completely opposing positions. I'm guessing they must have run out of duct tape or something.

So when did it become so acceptable to be controversial in the medium of bumpers? I'm not against controversy. Believe me. While I try to avoid it here on this blog, I could incite a riot pretty quickly if I wanted. But the bumper? Is there any evidence that anyone has ever convinced anyone else of anything via a bumper sticker? I doubt it. Yet, in a day and age where road rage can become deadly, I frankly would want to avoid anything that could upset a fellow driver, no matter how strongly I believe in a position.

I suppose it comes down to this: when I "visualize world peace", it doesn't include bumper stickers.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Time For Change

I lost the last of my grandparents about ten years ago, and my grandfather on my father's side I never knew. He died before I was ever born.

So, since I've been married, my wife's grandparents have served as a replacement. As of yesterday, at approximately 11:00 am, only one remains. Because at that time, my wife's grandmother, on her mother's side, passed away after 95 years. She lived a long life. But mostly, she was a woman who served others. A woman who could brighten the room with her smile. And a woman who loved the Lord.

My wife had the privilege of being by her side in the end. She watched as her grandmother's soul passed from this world to the arms of her Lord. There is an odd mixture of emotions at the death of someone who was so close and so intimately involved in my wife's life. The person is gone--no more visits, no more of her jokes, no more phone calls. Yet, the person isn't gone--memories persist, and will never leave.

There is sadness because it is like saying good-bye to someone that's been such an integral part of your life, with no way to send them a letter, call them up, or the hope of seeing them again. But then there is hope...knowing that she lives on in heaven, and her broken and failing body has been replaced with one that will never again know pain, reunited with the ones who left her behind.

This got me thinking to how I might feel if I should lose someone so incredibly close to me. My children, my parents, my wife. How could life continue? If I lost my wife today, how would I manage alone? It is a thought that I sometimes can't think about too long. It is like my brain shuts down, and I have to think that we'll live the rest of our lives together until the ripe old age of 90, when we both will lie down and enter heaven together, hand-in-hand.

But it rarely works out that way, doesn't it? So, I prefer not to think of it at all.

Death is a part of life. Loss something that causes us to hope. It's a time for change. But sometimes, we just wish things would stay the same.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Promotional Effort

I'm in a unique position. I'm an unpublished author who knows a great many published authors personally, which can incite jealousy and depression at times, but for the most part has been a source of inspiration and learning. As such, I thought I would do them (those who actually have books on the shelves of some bookstore, virtual or otherwise) a favor and make some promotional efforts on their behalf. (Secretly, I'm doing this because I expect them to do the same when the times comes that I have a published book, but don't tell them that. It might hurt their feelings.)
  1. Kurt Bruner. Okay, so he's my brother. All the more reason to mention him. He's a non-fiction writer, though, so be advised. Not just non-fiction, but Christian non-fiction. Which makes sense, considering he's a Christian. So am I for that matter. In fact, I wish everyone would embrace Christianity...but alas, that hasn't happened. So, if you like Christian non-fiction, he's your man. If you don't, move along, you're blocking traffic.
  2. Melanie Lynne Hauser. I interviewed her a few months back, which you can find in these blog archives. Author of Confessions of Super Mom, as well as a witty blogger.
  3. J.A. Konrath. He's wonderfully helpful (and a bit insane). Author of the Lt. Jack Daniels series, including Whiskey Sour.
  4. Martha O'Connor. Author of The Bitch Posse, as well as mother of a diabetic son.
  5. Ally Carter. Author of Cheating at Solitaire and I'd Tell You I Love you But then I'd have to Kill you.
  6. Ty Drago. Author of science fiction novel, Phobos.
  7. Lynn Sinclair. Author of young-adult fantasy, Key to Aten, and sequel, Return to Aten. \
  8. Elizabeth Letts. Author of Family Planning and Quality of Care.
  9. Sara Gruen. Author of Riding Lessons, Flying Changes, and the upcoming Water For Elephants.
Oh, there are more, but this is enough for now. Get out and support these authors. (And by the way, buying a book used may save you money, but in no way supports the author, so keep that in mind.) And remember, by supporting them, you're supporting me. Sort of. Okay, not really, but it sounds cool to say so.

Enjoy a book, enjoy life! A book is a terrible thing to waste. I love what you do for me: a good book! (Sorry, I'm just in a promotional mood. Don't confuse my witty sayings as actually being meaningful!)

Monday, March 06, 2006

When We Will Learn?

So an article on reports that the United States is nearing the credit limit set by congress. A staggering $8.18 trillion. Frankly, I see this as inexcusable. But before you jump to point fingers at any particular political party, I'm afraid the ones I blame are the American people.

We're a spoiled bunch, us Americans. We expect the latest and greatest, and we are willing to go into tens of thousands of dollars in debt, only to be bailed out with tax cuts, bankruptcy, and anything else that will help us maintain our current lifestyle. But when we will learn? This country can no longer survive this way. I'm afraid things are going to have to go.

What is true for the American people is true of the government. It is a simple concept. We spend more than we earn, and it's a difficult habit to break. We enjoy having the latest cell phones, broadband in the home, two cars, expensive houses, or just a lifestyle of eating out a little too often.

I am perplexed when we hear about the budget deficit in the government. The article pointed out that the current administration says we will halve the budget deficit by the end of his term in office. Halve the deficit? That's not good enough, expecially considering it doesn't include the unexpected costs of the war and Katrina. Halving the deficit just means we are going into greater debt--just a tad slower.

I'm afraid it is time for some drastic measures. Measures that people won't like, such as cutting programs that are otherwise good programs. Everyone is used to getting everything, but it can't happen. Some difficult decisions need to be made. What isn't necessary? Or, perhaps, what is necessary? Because I'm sure there are people everywhere who think a given program is necessary.

What must go? Do we, for example, really need a manned mission to Mars? Ask the NASA scientist, and you have a resounding "yes". But let's face it, when choosing between basic healthcare for the elderly and the poor, and the bragging rights to say we made it to Mars first, guess what? Even this guy who once considered becoming an aerospace engineer knows what choice to make.

What about New Orleans? What happened there is any politician's worst nightmare. You have a city devestated by mother nature. And, as inspiring as it is to say that the city will once again rise to the greatness it once was, you have to ask: does it justify the expense?

Frankly, I don't know the answer. If I had to guess, I would say the answer is No, as much as I hate to admit it. Instead, we need to relocate people, get them set up in properous cities, and save the country more money. More deficit. More debt.

But even if I'm wrong, I think this illustrates the kind of decisions that must be made. We have to start cutting programs. Take D.A.R.E. This was a great idea, but guess what? It didn't work. It doesn't work, but no politician is willing to take money away from a program that on the outside seems to be a beneficial thing. What does that say about his (or her) stance on the war on drugs? But, it is money being thrown away. Or how about No Child Left Behind. Another program that seems great on the surface, but just costs money with little to show for it.

Yet, it is the American people who need to step up to the plate here. They need to be the ones that are willing to say, "Hey, as much as I agree this program is doing some good, it just costs too much and we're going to have do without."

I'm afraid most of us are far too quick to place blame on the government. But Democrats and Republicans alike have made decisions that led to where we are...and now it is time for the American people to accept the reality. Political parties have done this to appease us, the people.

$8.18 trillion. The amount is staggering. Insurmountable, it would seem. And it is, unless something is done. Raising the debt limit isn't the answer. Reducing government spending is. It's that simple.

The Web We Weave

Well, I managed to finish my website redesign. I'm not sure if I'll make these blog pages match the look of my website. Perhaps eventually, but as of right now, I'll leave the blog page alone.

I am curious to know what you think of the new look, and if you experience any oddities. (While I tested this on a few browsers, I'm concerned about compatibility across all of them.)

Also, now's a good opportunity to let me know what information you would like to see on such a website. It is by no means "complete". Just the start of the new look.

In other news, I just crossed over into the 10,000 word mark of my current Work-In-Progress. Only about 35,000 to go! Still waiting for responses on my requests for partials, as well a few queries and some short stories I sent out. Basically, I'm waiting around, twiddling my thumbs, which is what led me to work on my website revamp. And come to think of it, it is just about time to send out a new set of queries.

Hopefully, I'll have altogether more interesting blog tomorrow.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

March Story of the Month...sort of

This month, I am not providing a story of the month...but a song. In this case, an experimental song I wrote a few years ago while preparing to write a choir program. It isn't particularly long, nor one of the better songs, but it is only that I just like listening to every now and again. Instrumental (piano, actually) only.

So, go check out There and Back from my website.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Nice Cold Milk

Have you ever thought back to some rather arbitrary moment in your childhood and wondered what all the fuss was about?

Yesterday, for whatever reason, this scene played in my mind from my childhood. We were on a family vacation, most likely in Niagara Falls, eating at some rather nice restaurant. I know this for two reasons. First, I remember the lights were rather dim...and for whatever reason, nice restaurants require that you can't actually see your food when you eat. Second, we only ever went out to eat at nice restaurants when we were on vacation.

Anyhow, I remember being frustrated, because every time we would eat, I would order a glass of milk, and invariably the milk would be warm. Now, I'm a big milk drinker, but you've gotta give it to me cold! So, I thought I would take preventative measures, the clever chap I was, and so when I placed my order in this fine establishment, I told the waiter, "I want come nice cold milk!"

Now, I remember nothing else about this family dining event until I went to take a sip of the milk. To my horror, shock, and dismay (and any other synonym you can think up), the milk was full of ice! And not those big chunks of ice that you find in most places. This was "fancy" ice, shredded into thousands of tiny pieces. Oh, the milk was nice and cold, all right. But the ice watered down the milk, and I couldn't take a drink without tiny ice cubes filling my mouth.

So, what did I do? I burst into tears.

I'm not sure my age. Maybe seven or eight? But this must have been one traumatic moment in my life. I mean, it was only a glass of milk! And when the waiter came over, distraught at my sudden catharsis, I told him, "I wanted nice cold milk, not ice cold milk!"

And that is where my memory fails. I don't know what happened after that. And I don't know why this memory even came to me at all yesterday. But I got to wondering what it was all about.

Then I thought about my own kids. You know, I used to be a very patient man. Extraordinarily patient, in fact. Too patient at times. Yet, children seem to have a way to whittle away at that patience rather quickly. And there are times when I find myself irritated at the sudden burst of tears that can come to a seven- or six-year-old over something that seems entirely silly.

Yet, to them, it isn't silly. To them, in their limited world, what seems insignificant to the adult is of utmost importance. And then I wonder how many times have to shot down their spirits over something silly to me, but important to them?

For whatever reason, that nice cold milk was important to me. I guess I need to be more mindful of those times my children wanted nice cold milk, as well...but got ice cold milk instead.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Diabetes is Great!

Here is an abbreviated version of an essay that I wrote a few years back. I had forgotton all about it, but just recently found it again. I figured I would share it here.

In a World Full of Pain...Diabetes is Great!

"...for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and
sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. "

The world is full of pain. There is so much disease in the world that nearly everyone is touched in some way by its hand in their lifetime. Each person afflicted by some disease must learn to accept and deal with that disease. Hating it will not make it go away. In some cases, a disease means certain death...sometimes in a matter of days, other times, months, and sometimes, years. In other cases, a disease may simply mean living a lifetime without "normalcy".

What is "normal"?

When the sun shines, is that good or bad? When the rain falls, is that good or bad? It is a matter of perspective. To the farmer living in a hot, dry climate, rain is a blessing. The rain isn't seen as something to drive people indoors, or ruin a picnic...but it is seen as the provider of life...bringing precious water to starving plants. To that same farmer, another day of sun is another possibility of losing his crops, and his very livelihood.

To another farmer living in a wet climate, another day of rain may threaten his crops, and his very livelihood. That same water may wash away the soil, flood the plants, and lead to rotting. So, the sun nor the rain are bad nor good by themselves. They are simply facts of life that must be accepted and prepared for.

What is "normal"?

It's a matter of perspective. To me--a person living with diabetes--someone is "normal" if they do not have diabetes. But, the same person I call "normal" may look at me and consider me "normal" because I, perhaps, am able to face the future without worrying about whether HIV will lead to AIDS. How about the person living (or dying!) with cancer? Is that normal? I would imagine such a cancer patient would give anything to trade in their tumor for finger pokes and insulin pumps.

Every day each person must wake to the life we are given--with thankfulness. Sure, I can wish I didn't have diabetes and not have to deal with the ups and downs it brings. But, how can I know that my life would actually be better as a result? Perhaps the choices I've made and the directions I've headed in life have been influenced by my disease more than I realize. Perhaps I am where I am today, in other aspects of my life, because when I was nine I was told that I couldn't eat sugar anymore.

For every story that someone can tell of a loved one suffering from diabetes--or even dying--there are so many more untold about those who are not. I think of how blessed I am to live today. Had I been born 100 years ago...where would I have been by the time I reached 30? I would have been buried in the ground, having died probably by the time I was 10 or 11. We've come a long way. Today, I can tell you stories of being able to go to Chili's and eat a hot-fudge covered brownie with ice cream, or eating a candy bar with my children. That is something to celebrate!

What is so bad about diabetes? I will admit, it isn't an easy disease, nor can I lie and say I don't have to be concerned about complications. But, when I think about the world, and what other tragedies may lie in store...diabetes is really just fine! My son has to live a life worried about reacting to people carelessly eating peanuts and touching him...or that he might misread a label, and eat one himself. Is that normal? Is that, somehow, better than diabetes?

Or, what about the millions of people in Africa (and around the world) who are contracting or dying from AIDS every single year? What about the epileptic who can't legally drive a car due to fears of seizures? Perhaps you would rather be the person who suffers a debilitating stroke? Or, how about the perfectly healthy individual who has a chemical imbalance that makes them live in depression 24 hours a day?

Diabetes is no picnic. But in a world full of pain...diabetes is great!

"God Bless You..."

Yesterday evening, while my wife was out with a girlfriend (uh, her girlfriend, not mine), I needed to run a few errands. And so, while my four kids and I were standing in the Kroger candy aisle waiting patiently (or, trying to, at least) for my son to pick out which of the million varieties of sweets he wanted to spend his dollar on, a lady walked past. As she did, I heard her say, "God bless you. Four children. How wonderful!"

Now, I wasn't actually sure she was talking to me. It was more like she was talking to herself about me, because when I turned around, she was already halfway down the aisle. But it got me thinking about sizes of family. Or, rather, the impression family size has on people.

I have never really thought our family is a "large family". We have several friends who have four children. I came from a family with five brothers and a sister, and my wife had three brothers. To me, four kids is just, well, average.

Of course, it isn't. We passed the 2.5 kids mark a few years back. Still, I'm amazed that people see having four kids as some heroic (or, perhaps, insane) event. Is it a lot of work? Sure. Especially when you, once again, find that your two-year-old has smeared poop on the walls, and your three-year-old has taken it upon himself to completely disassemble the bedroom, curtains and all, and your older two are arguing over who gets to use the computer next. But, honestly, I wouldn't want anything less. (In fact, we want more.)

Don't get me wife and I revel in the moments we have alone together, where either the kids are with the babysitter, or sleeping. And there have been times where our oldest son has expressed his dissatisfaction with having a brother and sister who like to destroy the Lego creation he just spent three hours building. In fact, my wife once asked him what he thought about the idea of us having a fifth child. He looked around and said, "Count the doors, mom. There isn't enough room!"

(And that's true, actually. We need a larger house.)

We have also talked to him about the advantages he has. Family is important. And he has two brothers and a sister that will always be his friends. No matter what happens in life, that bond will never disappear, even when other friendships do. His best friend is his brother. Friends for life, we like to say. (A quote we picked up from watching Supernanny.)

It is true that we will never be able to provide for our kids, physically, in the same way we could have with two kids. But that just isn't an area of strong importance. So we buy clothes at resale instead of retail, and I do my grocery shopping at Save-A-Lot most of the time. And my kids don't have a Nintendo, Playstation, or X-Box. Amazingly, they're surviving rather well.

God has blessed us.