Tuesday, May 31, 2011

For Better, For Worse

I grew up in church.

Church, as I have seen it, is much like any sort of subculture in that it has it's own jargon.

You know, the language that people within that group use on a regular basis. It is what defines their particular clique.

So, because I grew up in church I had a unique brand of vocabulary instilled within me from a young age on.

Words like: salvation, redemption, sacrifice, Jesus, sin, fallen, righteousness...

Perhaps, in your own subculture, you have your own unique language that you use to communicate the shared interest of the whole.

There are two things that I have noticed about subculture jargon:

One of these, is that it makes it very difficult for those who are 'outside' of the culture to understand anything a person who is 'in' the culture is saying.

This is certainly something that I've noticed is especially prominent with church-goers. They try to tell others about Jesus and God, and it is as if they are speaking Chinese in Spain.

Or Ebonics in Elm Grove for that matter.

(This particular aspect of subculture jargon is worth writing about, but is not my key focus today so I will put it aside for now and address the second observation.)

The second thing I've noticed about "church-y" language, is that the words which are instilled within the youth, growing up in a church environment, is that they are used so often the words themselves begin to lose their weight. Their depth and meaning.

Marriage is one of the words I grew up with in church.

I always assumed I would get married because...well...that's what church people do. Right?

This was the formula as I understood it from a young age on...

You find someone you are fond of, date her for awhile, give her a ring with a shiny stone on it, throw a big party and become permanent roommates.

Isn't it funny how, so often, some of the most beautiful things can be turned into the mundane?

Marriage is an absolutely beautiful thing.

As I am beginning to see it in a new light, it is one of the most singular noble and worthwhile commitments that any individual could pursue.

I started thinking about this when I was talking with my sister Becca...

We were grilling dinner for our parents on Memorial Day, and took a break from our frisbee tossing to sit down.

She started searching her iPod for a new song, as I sat and sipped an ice-cold Miller Genuine Draft. I listened to the sound of meat sizzling on the grill and felt the warm sticky heat of the day begin, ever so slowly, to subside.

We shot the shit for a bit, and the topic of marriage came up.

I asked her if, when she got married, if she'd have a super huge poofy dress or if it'd be a more modern one slim and simple...

She responded simply by saying that she would go with whatever works with her body type, but that the dress and the whole hype about the wedding being "her" day wasn't what mattered to her.

She said that she wanted a small wedding, just close friends and family, and that it would be simply a day about her and her fiance.

The sheer simplicity of that statement almost knocked me off my chair.

It was one of the most beautiful things that I have heard in a long time.

Her answer helped expose me to the reality that my thinking subtly mirrors conventional thought about weddings now.

This thinking, however one may try to phrase it, is that weddings are a production or a product. They emphasize the pageantry, and seem to assume that a great wedding day will provide a fantastic marriage. Many couples search desperately to customize their perfect, ideal, dream wedding...and, as a result, something gets lost in the process.

The wedding becomes about the dress,

Or the caliber of food which is served,

The 'perfect' ceremony,

The length of a guest list...

Have you ever encountered those who love to be the secret critic at weddings?

I've sat at tables with friends and relatives alike, who do nothing but critique elements of the wedding. How the ceremony lacked this, or the bride's dress is too much, too little...

All the while I'm screaming in my head that the dress, the candles, and the table decorations aren't the point!

The point is something far more breathtaking and altruistic.

It is the covenant (or deep commitment) that these two individuals are making before God and their loved ones.

A promise that they won't share themselves with other lovers.

A commitment that they will demonstrate the fortitude that is necessary to stand by their partner when life's storms crowd in: unemployment, sickness, loss in family...

The pledge to serve the other before serving themselves.

Marriage is the complete giving of oneself to another.

An understanding that together they compliment, and become more than one alone could ever be. The understanding that they will stay together, even through the hardest times.

This is a revolutionary concept in a society which strongly emphasizes living in the moment, and doing what feels good all the time.

Ask anyone who has been together, even in the healthiest of marriages, and they will tell you that the 'honeymoon' doesn't last...

Something does come from a lasting commitment, however, something powerful and profound.

It brings oneness.
Completion.
The deepest level of relationship possible.

It's how we were created to be.

This depth is not replicable with one night stands or open ended relationships.

This is why great physical chemistry doesn't always bring happiness in relationships.

Sex isn't something that defines a marriage.

Sex was created for marriage, but does not define marriage.

Oddly enough, all of the things that marriage is, in it's true form, reflect God's intended relationship with humanity.

That is what it all boils down to.

Which is why marriage, as it is intended, is a beautiful thing. It is completeness of relationship.

Sharing oneself fully with another. Being open, vulnerable, known.
Having trust. Being supported when life collapses...

These are all the things God wants in his relationship with us...

Realizing these things about marriage, I see now that marriage isn't just a "Christian" thing to do.
It is something special, unique and worthwhile.

Life won't always be kind, but the beauty of finding the other half is their uncanny ability to be able to reveal God to you in ways you could have never known.

To mirror a Creator whose one desire is to have a relationship that is full, complete and whole once again with his creation.

That is the beauty of marriage.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Peanuts in 25 Years

I have often caught myself pondering the fate of poor old Charlie Brown and his gang.

Young children full of dreams and hope.

The youth are, after all, the future so it seemed a legitimate question to contemplate...

So what really happened to the Peanuts gang after their primary caretaker, Mr. Charles Schultz, passed?

I hoped, beyond hope, that this small tribe of young ones had turned out well...

Yet I began to suspect that the gnawing feeling in my stomach had more to do with the memory of William Golding's literary work 'Lord of the Flies' and less to do with the pizza I had last night...

After some keen sleuthing, and some door to door work with a local grassroots political action committee, I managed to track down the leader of the pack! Mr. Charles Brown himself...and so began my adventure...

I sit down across from Chuck, who is dressed in a black rocker t-shirt, skinny jeans and (ironically enough) black and red Chuck Taylor Allstars.

From the kitchen my ears detect the painful strains of Cee Lo Green's voice bleating out of a cheap radio. The lyrical eloquence of his single "Fuck You",washes over me, and adds a warm, welcoming feeling to the apartment.

Chuck lights up a cigarette and offers me one of his. I politely decline, as I don't smoke, and discreetly cough as the secondhand smoke nearly chokes me.

I make a mental note to make my next doctor's appointment. I haven't seen that guy in awhile anyway...

So I begin to make some small talk, as I sip on the Amp Energy drink I bought from the gas station on the way over...

"So... Chuck, whatcha been up to these days?"

"Nothin' much. Just workin' and chillin' man."

Ah, a working man! Nothing better than responsible youth! Youth who go out and earn their keep, like true Americans. Youth who...

"Where you workin' man?"

"I'm a Mc-Manager."

The noble profession of food service. Love it.

I find out that shortly after Schultz passed, Chuck went to several different therapists to try to sort out his inner struggles. Soon after that he swapped the shrinks for cigs. He plays in a rock band now called "Kitty Must Die" and has never had a girlfriend.

To this day he still hasn't kicked the football.

Speaking of the football...what ever happened to darling little Lucy?

I'm glad you asked...

Lucy initially went to college to pursue clinical psychology, she
changed her major however upon the realization that there were just too many screwed up people in the world to try to 'fix.'

She instead graduated with a business degree from Michigan State, and is the co-CEO of a new product line of running shoes created by Apple, which play music while in stride.

They also have fantastic gel insoles to maximize comfort and reduce back problems. They will probably be on my future recommendation posts...

Lucy's brother Linus became a political consultant for the Republican National Committee and worked with Senator John McCain as he made his bid for President.

He has a wife and four kids and would describe himself as a 'religious' man.

His favorite holiday is the Fourth of July, and he would tell you that it's purely because "America kicks ass." Plain and simple.

Sweet Sally Brown suffered throughout high school and on with major co-dependency issues. She and Linus tried to date on and off, but it just didn't work out. Eventually Linus had to man up and tell her that she was super clingy, and it was crampin' his style.

After their breakup, Sally traversed a tumultuous sea of broken relationships. She became pregnant at age 17, but still doesn't know who the actual father is.

She named the baby Antone, and settled down with a UFC fighter named Billy Steel.

She's still waiting for a ring...

Peppermint Patti and Marcie came out of the closet their senior year of high school. They've been in a relationship ever since, and live in Iowa.

The fiery Patti is a member of Acorn and the ACLU. She also is a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign.

Marcie, on the other hand, really doesn't give a shit about politics, but instead crochets and takes care of the cats they have acquired over the years.

Beloved Pig Pen dropped out of high school his sophomore year. Motivated by his idols Dr. Dre and Slim Shady he determined that he would travel to Detroit and become a famous rapper.

He went to live with his uncle, and began dealing drugs out of the basement, all the while reppin' his hood. He ran a successful practice until about two years ago, when a snitch gave him up to avoid some jail time.

When the police came to his uncle's house to raid it, Pig Pen panicked and opened fire. He, was injured in the firefight and is currently in a rehabilitation facility, before he moves to prison to face his 25 to life.

Snoopy is still alive, despite his advanced age, and has gained rapport as a internet persona. He has his own blog and writes about a variety of topics, ranging from political scandal, anorexic celebrities, and crooked preachers. His writings have been outlawed in several different countries, due to their "offensive" nature.

He has also been known to make occasional appearances on TMZ and Tosh.0.

He is currently in the process of writing the script for Jackass 4: The Reckoning, which will be out in theaters December 2012....provided the world is still here.

There you have it friends, the fate of the Peanuts posse.

Not quite the storybook ending? Perhaps.

A bit of shameless social commentary thrown in? To be sure.

Don't like how it turned out? Blame the parents!

Have a fantastic weekend, may you find blessing in all things.

I Bake Thirty Minute Brownies In Twenty Minutes...

Baking really is an interesting thing...it's not quite cooking.

Somehow it missed the mark. Fell short.

I baked my first pan of brownies this year. I felt ridiculously fly afterward.

Somehow I traversed known territory and ended up in the wild world beyond. The world of domestication. Scared and alone.

Yet after the pan of baked brownies was brought forth from the oven, and filled my home with delicious smells, I knew I had been successful in my venture.

My friend Bryan makes better brownies than I do though...I sometimes wonder how he ended up so cultured. His mom must've been boss.

He makes chicken fajitas, and bakes cookies from scratch. They are delicious.

My friend Courtney always teases me because I practically live off Mac 'n Cheese, Frozen Pizza and cereal.

Truth be told, it is embarassing not to know how to cook or bake anything.

Home Ec class was an 'effing joke if you ask me.

However with the latest brownie adventure, I feel empowered. Liberated. I feel a strong desire to branch out, perhaps try something a little riskier...maybe a cake next time?

We shall see.

Monday, May 23, 2011

God in a Mosh Pit

I found God in a mosh pit...

In the chaos of a concert. Some would say that God could never be in a place like that. I beg to differ.

I think God is everywhere.

It's people who tend to "put" him in places, and "eliminate" him from others....

The evening is a beauty, the temperature a comfortable sixty five degrees, the sun lazily setting to the west, casts long shadows across the sidewalks.

A score of other anxious and excited concert-goers spill out onto the walkways which surround the storied venue. It's enterances open into the darkness of the building, like giant black mouths, eagerly devouring the music junkies who have come from near and far to get their fix.

As my friends and I wait in line I scrutinize those around us. Some wear black t-shirts and bondage pants, others are dressed up nice, as if to go to the club. Some girls wear heels, some wear Chucks. Many smoke. There are guys with dreads, mohawks, and shag hair...

Quite the plethora of people.

As we enter the building we travel up the stairs and, upon reaching the top, step into the cavernous ballroom. The balconies are packed and the hum of anticipation, manifested in a steady stream of chatter, fills the air. There is an energy in the room and it is beautiful.

Even as the first band begins to play I feel that energy coursing through my body. The bass shakes me and runs up through my legs. The lights flash violently. My arms tingle and shake, there is a desire within me that awakes, a craving to jump around, to dance. To be crazy. It is primal, and rooted within us to want to celebrate.

Between the sets, the smell of cigarettes and marijuana fill the air; many people drink beers and throw their empty cups on the ground.

Just in front of me I see the back of a t-shirt which catches my eye; it proclaims "God Hates Us" and I can't help but smile, because just the opposite is true. God is here.

I think Jesus would have loved this venue. It is full of people. Real, authentic individuals who do not hold back their feelings, but speak and act what is in their hearts.


When the headliner comes on the crowd erupts in cheers.
It's the moment we have all been waiting for. They launch into a ferocious opening tune that takes the listner into the lead singer's nightmare. A song about loss, and pain...

The mosh pit breaks out in all it's chaotic glory.

There are no boundaries in here. No "personal bubbles." As I watch it I realize that it is the soul coming out. All the things we repress and hold inside. The way we act so proper all the time. Our souls are wild. Our bodies feed on adrenaline. We long for adventure and the unknown. Not mediocrity. Not complacency.

It makes me think how much time we waste putting on our little "shows" in life. How much time we spend pretending things are ok for the benefit of others, or maybe for our reputation's sake, when the reality is...sometimes things just aren't ok.

The incredible paradox of this place is that, while many religious people maintain that this is a place which celebrates death, there is incredible life to be found here. For some, music is all they have, it's what keeps them waking up day after day. It gives them strength to continue that they can't find anywhere else.


This is the one place in which they are fully alive.

The brutal honesty of the singer and this band's songs resonate with people because they are true. Many have experienced these things. I think God honors honesty.

This is not a place of judgement, but of freedom.

Lost in the lights and the music, a girl with scars on her wrist can finally feel at home. She spends her days covering up her wounds in fear and shame. She doesn't need to hide here.

She raises her hands and feels the music wash over her. For the first time, in a long time, she feels free.

A guy with a red mohawk blends into the colorful tapestry of personality, which is woven here. He isn't labeled. He just is. He is himself. He is accepted, because in this place different is not frightening.

An overweight guy becomes the hero for the first time in his life. The hero of the mosh pit. As he slings his weight around and lets go he finds a happiness that is pretty damn hard to replicate outside of this place.


When the world looks at him and silently laughs each day, when girls don't take a second look because he is not the masculine caricature society projects; all of these things are lost in a night of music.

The boundaries are gone. This is a place where all are welcome. This is a place that doesn't place emphasis on saying, doing, or wearing the 'right' things. It is about passion. Love. Honesty.

I think that this is a place where God is very prominent.

As I left that night, my ears ringing from the abuse, I smiled with the revelation I now know to be true...

God is in the mosh pits.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Stories of Hope: Tony's Story

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Just the other day I had the privilege of sitting down with my coworker, Laurie, to hear the story of her nephew Tony.

Tony is an inspiration to many who are close to him, those who have known where he has come from and the story he continues to tell with his life. It is a story of hope and perseverance. The kind of story this world needs to tell more often. In the short time I was able to sit down with Laurie, Tony's story inspired me to write. To share this with you.

As I pour over the messy scribbled notes taken from our brief conversation, I become painfully conscious that no amount of words in a simple blog post can fully give this story its due, but I will try my best.

I hope that you read, and find yourself as inspired as I have been by this incredible individual.

This is Tony's story...

Tony loved baseball. From an early age on he was born with the heart of a player.

Everybody dreams of doing something big, being everything they can be. Tony was no different; a young boy, who was ready to tackle the world and ready to take anything life could possibly throw his way. A warrior. Most young boys are, but then, most young boys don't have to face the trials that lie ahead for this particular warrior.

At age six, roughly, Tony was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Cancer.

What, initially began as a trip to the doctor to examine breathing problems that Tony was having unearthed so much more. The doctors discovered a large tumor that was pressing on Tony's lungs which, in turn, was making it difficult for him to breathe.

Tony had to undergo an operation shortly thereafter, a procedure that was similar to that of open heart surgery, in the interest of removing the cancerous tumor. The operation was effective but the cancer lingered. The tumor was gone, but the affliction remained.

For the following six months Tony was subjected to chemotherapy to treat the remaining cancerous cells. As one can imagine, the process of chemical treatment is difficult to bear when being in the prime of life, but it is even more difficult to stomach when the one being treated is so young. So full of life.

Tony lost all his hair, but he wouldn't allow the chemicals and treatments to slow him down. He continued to pursue little league sports out of sheer love for the game.

It wasn't an easy road, to be sure. Laurie reminisced about one year, during a family reunion, Tony was playing baseball with other family members and had to continually run into the bushes to throw up because of the effects of the chemo. His spirit was not dampened, though, because he jumped right back into the game after each bout of vomiting.

His spirit was infectious, and he was well liked among his peers. During his little league years Tony's teammates all shaved their heads in solidarity for their teammate. A small gesture of support for the larger battle he was fighting.

It wasn't until age seventeen, nearly a decade later, that Tony was officially declared cancer free.

His senior year of high school he tried out for football and wrestling. Despite the protests of peers telling him he was too small, and that he wouldn't do well in athletics, he pursued it anyway. Soon the negative voices began to fade as Tony found himself a rising star on the football team, as a kick returner. He became a hometown hero that season, known for his speed and agility. It almost seemed like a true life David and Goliath story...but Tony had bigger ambitions.

Football and wrestling never replaced his first love, baseball.

After high school he landed a baseball scholarship to the University of North Carolina-Asheville, then transferred to the University of Cincinnati. At both schools he continued to impress many with his natural talent; he broke many school baseball records during this time. His speed presented a unique ability that many of his baseball peers didn't have, and that was that he could beat a bunt to first base. This is no small feat, and it did not go unnoticed either.

His senior year at Cincinnati he was drafted to the Minor Leagues by the Chicago Cubs franchise. He was one step closer to his dream.

Of course, making it into the minor leagues does not by any means guarantee a place in the majors. There are thousands of young athletes who are drafted in the minors who never even make it into the third level of the minors, Triple A.

Tony, however, was not daunted in the least, but rather rolled up his sleeves and got right to work. This mentality proved to be a good one to take, because during his Summer A season, while sliding to safety, his hand was shattered by another athlete's cleats. This resulted in an inability to play. He was put into rehab, but it wasn't long before he was out and, you guessed it, playing again!

After a short stint playing in Peoria, he was asked to play in the 'Advanced A' division in Daytona. Not long after that move he was recruited to 'Double A' which required yet another move, this time to Knoxville.

Throughout this time, Tony continued to work and play hard. Minor league players make very little for their pay, so off the field Tony was required to work multiple jobs to eat and pay the bills. He often lived with host families. None of this slowed him down though. He continued, not only to work dilligently off the field, but to refine his skills on the field as well.

He boasted a fantastic batting average, proof that the shattered hand was not able to slow him down. Not one bit.

In early 2011 things changed in a big way. Tony was currently
playing in Triple A division, the doorstep to the Major League. Now twenty four, all the work he had been putting in for the last three years paid off. He got his shot. Tony was signed onto the Chicago Cubs roster after roughly a month and a half of playing in Triple A.

Tony has been doing well on all the games in which he has played with the Cubs thus far, but his story is so much more than just capturing a dream. His story is one of perseverance, a story that refuses to accept the status quo.

From a young age he has been told he can't, and that it is ok to be resigned to mediocrity; from a young age his story has proven just the opposite.

I asked Laurie what Tony's driving force was, was it a need to prove the naysayers wrong?

To defy the odds?

She said that his drive didn't stem from anything like that but rather love. A pure, unadulterated love of the game. Passion. A passion that his loving and supportive family nurtured. Laurie said that two of the most influential people in Tony's life are his parents.

If I were able to, I'd thank them in person for encouraging and equipping this living 'David' to face the giants of life, and come forth victorious. It hasn't been an easy road for Tony, but because of his hard work, dedication and passion, he is finally being rewarded.

Perhaps the most special part of this story are the words that, in essence, are Tony's mantra...

He once said; "Going through cancer changes perspective. So now, instead of saying 'I can't', I say 'Why can't I?'

This world needs more Tony's.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Life and Equilibrium

Awhile ago, my friend Hailey and I had a movie night. She recommended the movie Equilibrium, which I had never seen before.

She also made me watch Made of Honor, but that is a whole new post worth of material, so I will stick to Equilibrium today...

The premise of the movie is essentially this: A remnant of humanity has survived the worst war that humanity has ever known. The remaining populace is so scarred that they seek sanctuary in a drug called Prozium, which essentially rids the individual of feeling and emotion.

It was, after all, human passions, vices, and emotion that nearly destroyed the world in the first place. The natural solution is to remove the destructive tendencies by removing emotion altogther. Another aspect of this new 'liberated' society is to destroy anything which could illicit emotion as well; this means books, artwork, music, etc.

There are still some within this culture who refuse to conform to the status quo, and they are ruthlessly hunted by the authorities who are lead by clerics. Clerics are the elite class of fighter. They are badass dudes. Trained to exterminate for the greater good. To bring peace to the nation of Libria.

Meet John Preston.

Preston (played by Christian Bale) is one of the finest clerics Libria has ever known.

As fate would have it though, Preston misses a doseage or two of his Prozium, and the remainder of the movie weaves together the events of the dutiful cleric-turned renegade.

One of the most profound moments of the movie is when a conflicted Preston enters a dialogue with one of the 'sense criminals' who were rounded up earlier...

Mary: Let me ask you something. Why are you alive?

John Preston: I'm alive... I live... to safeguard the continuity of this great society. To serve Libria.

Mary: It's circular. You exist to continue your existence. What's the point?

John Preston: What's the point of your existence?

Mary: To feel. 'Cause you've never done it, you can never know it. But it's as vital as breath. And without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock... ticking.

There have been many throughout life that I have desperately wished not to feel. Life would be so simple. So easy. These things we know as emotions present us with vast and turbulent waters through which we have to sail.

Life can be just brutal for one who has to feel.

Yet, emotions themselves are cause for us to celebrate. Even in the hardest of times, we feel deeply and it is such a beautiful thing.

I want to share just a small story with you from my own life:

As I walked to work this morning I felt the warmth of summer setting in. The warm air juxtaposed the cool breeze. It was not too hot. Not too cold. Just right.

I smelled the freshly cut grass. The clippings were sprinkled all over the sidewalk. I walked past many different yards. Some were scraggly and unkempt, some were rich and green and made me want so badly to slip off my shoes and let my feet become accquainted with the soft springy earth.

Passing by a textured brick building I saw a streak of sunlight falling on one side of the house, throughout the day it will expand until the entire house is consumed with light. The stones will greedily suck up the warmth given by the sun, and from dusk, till even after dark the stones will retain their warmth. I want to place my hand on the house. To feel the bumpy brick tickle the pads of my fingers.

I breathe in the air. Fresh. Clean.

I look at the sky. Blue. Clear.

I take it all in for today will only be so long, and then today will be gone. There will never be another one like this...

Tonight I will probably grill out. Sit back and listen to the sizzle of cooking meat. Drink a Mountain Dew and let the sugary, carbonated bubbles trickle past my tongue, down my throat. I will watch the sunset, and admire the pallet of color splashed across the sky.

It is the simple things in life.

The things we miss on a daily basis.

The things that really matter.

As I think about these things I want to shout, to dance, to laugh, to cry...tears of joy.

I've been given life. Life!
It's so beautiful.
So precious.
So fragile.
And it's been given to me.

And with this life comes feeling. Maybe not always the best feelings. It can hurt pretty bad sometimes. But to skip this and become void of feeling the warmth of the sun, the cleansing of the rain. The joy of triumph. The closeness of love. The excitement of adventure.

All these have been given to me!
Life without feeling is no life at all.
Feeling is the heart of the Creator, coarsing through our veins. Our hearts break. But his breaks more.
Our hearts burst from love, His consumes with His love.
It is our connection. Our humanity that is derived from feeling.

And it has been given to me!

And to you as well...

May we live today remembering to feel fully, to embrace the hard times and to linger in the good.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who Says Guys Can't?

I shop.

I like to think I do fairly well at it too...I mean, I've gotten compliments before on stuff I've picked out...unsolicited compliments.

It's not like that friend who asks you, 'What do you think of this on me?' and you, in that very moment, are presented with the dilemma of being honest and potentially pissing off your shopping buddy, or lying and letting them be secretly ridiculed for wearing that hideous clothing item.

Nope. The compliments I've gotten are completely unsolicited. I really, honestly don't care if people like my clothes or not, 'cause I like 'em. That's all that matters.

But the point of this is not to tell you how awesome I am at picking out cool clothes. That's irrelevant right now.

What I'm wondering is why the 'eff people think that guys are somehow mindless idiots who wouldn't know what classy was, even if it bitch-slapped them upside the head?

Is it really that hard???

I think that this issue has become a running joke between men and women. You know, one of those things comedians throw in their sketches because everyone can relate...

I think that guys have definitely played up this ignorance too. They like to pretend they're too macho to go shopping with their girlfriends. Apparently picking out something that actually looks nice to wear is not in the masculine DNA...

Well, I don't buy that.

Figuratively.

Yesterday, my roommate Rob and I went up to Neenah (a tiny town between Oshkosh and Appleton) on a quest to conquer the mysterious kingdom known as....Kohl's.

Oh yes. We were bent on conquest.

We ventured into the men's "classy wear" section, which is it's official title, and immediately went to the clearance racks. If there is one thing I've learned about Kohl's, it is that even their clearance stuff is better than regular priced stuff you'd get some places.

Sure enough, as I casually perused the 60-80% off racks I unearthed a treasure trove of goodies!

Immediately I had to restrain myself though, the inner voice that I carry with me (my conscience? Jiminy Cricket perhaps?), whispered softly... 'You only have sixty in your budget for this...'

Damn it all.

Nevertheless, I listened, and began the process of sorting through 'must haves' and 'I can get it later.'

Honestly, I think that it is at this point of shopping ventures where 99.9% of girls lose their guys. You know, when they actually have to decide on which dress-top-skirt-shirt-blouse-shoe type-etc. that they are going to keep.

Within a matter of minutes I narrowed down my options from eight ties to three. From four shirts to one, and managed to pick up a pair of dress pants on top of it.

Long story short...

It was time efficient, smart...

and I looked good.

Rob was a tad slower than I was in picking out his items, but he's not a pro, so I let it slide.

When all was said and done I settled on two ties, a new shirt and a pair of dress pants. All on sale.

Oh and did I mention that Rob brought a 30% off coupon? Yup, he did.

Our total of the day for eight items came to roughly $99 bucks, with a savings of roughly $320.

BAM.

Who says guys can't shop?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Picks

Blog/Humor: A Carp's Tale

"I once said that if 5 people asked me to start a blog I would. While waiting for those 5 people I have decided to share my thoughts here in the hopes that I can bring new ideas and laughter to humanity while growing in popularity to such a degree that I can sell out. Here goes." -Andrew Carpenter

A Carp's Tale is an immensely entertaining blog that I have been reading lately. Carpenter writes with the perfect blend of wit and sarcasm.

I'd highly recommend his post: If you're too dumb to know this is a sham, you're hired!

Disney Movie: The Emperor's New Groove

One of Disney's finest, yet most underrated films. The story of a selfish prince, an evil republican conspiracy, a kind-hearted peasant and...llamas!

I find that those who are from the "classic" Disney era have trouble embracing this flick, but give it a chance!

It's worth it!


Thing to do to recapture your youth:

Lately, I've been having nostalgia attacks. In a big way.

It's incredibly ironic that we spend most of our young lives wishing so desperately for adulthood, yet as adults we desperately wish to recapture youth...

Go figure.

Well for all you old people who want to be young again, I'd recommend climbing a tree! There is nothing quite like the rush one can get from scrambling up each limb. Hiding like a creeper in the dense leafage...throwing acorns at innocent passersby.

Who knows, maybe clambering up a healthy size tree could burn a few more calories than the TV or Xbox...

It's worth a shot.


Track: Boastin' - Lecrae ft. Anthony Evans

Lecrae is one of a movement of rappers who, while loving the music, do not agree with the message of many of their mainstream counterparts.

Instead of trashing the industry, however, he and fellow rappers Trip Lee, Tedashii and others created their own niche market.

The production on this track is outstanding, and its message always brings me encouragement, even on rough days.


Board Game: Scribblish

Not going to lie, when I first got this game as a Christmas present this past year I was seriously wondering WTF possessed the family member who got it for me.

Now I understand though.

Scribblish is a ton of fun! It is an 'artistic' version of the old school game Telephone. Yeah! Remember that one?

Well I find this version better because you don't have someone whispering in your ear, which kinda creeps me out. Especially when you get that person who whispers really...how do you say it? "Spittiley?" What I mean, is that they have as much saliva coming out of their mouth as they do words?

Anyway...

Scribblish has a ton of fun captions that you create artistic renditions of, then the little palettes are exchanged and the next person has to create a new caption to go with your picture...and so on...

It's a great game to play with family and friends. :)

Side note: Creeper girl in picture above: not included with game, neither are batteries...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Joshua

I went on an adventure to Waukesha Tattoo, and left with my first tattoo this past weekend. :)

It was one of those things that I kept talking about, but never actually set up.

When I found out recently that my name in Hebrew means 'the Lord saves' however, I knew at that moment what my first tattoo was going to be.

Every detail of this tattoo is significant, from the language it is in, the actual translation, even its place on my body.

I just asked myself, 'Why do you keep telling yourself you are going to do it, if you aren't going to do it?', and that my friends is the million dollar question. Talk is cheap.

I believe our actions are what truly define us, even the smallest of actions.

It was that very day that I set up the appointment.

As I reflect back upon my first post and the year since I'm amazed at what a journey it's been.

Through the ups, the downs, there has been one constant in my life and that is God's great love and new mercies every single day. He has been beside me from the beginning and he won't ever leave me.

For this I'm grateful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Politics of Christ

A few weeks ago, while catching up with an old friend, I was introduced to a curious thought process that I think many in spiritual circles internalize unintentionally.

Rob Bell's recent publication came up in conversation, and I mentioned that I had read, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Her response, while respectfully her opinion, bothered me;

"Yeah, but he's so liberal..."

Mind you, I'm about as conservative as they come...but I took issue with this.

Actually, if I'm honest, I still don't even quite understand the statement.

Many mainstream, prominent Christian theologians had a field day with the release of "Love Wins", because it, allegedly, contradicts the 'orthodox Christian doctrine' of Hell, as being a place of eternal torment and separation from God.

Rob Bell was branded a heretic.

A wolf in sheep's clothing.

A false prophet.

Most good men are.

What is most disappointing to me is that I have overheard several close friends of mine say things about the book, without even taking the time to read it.

And what does that even mean, that Rob Bell is too liberal?

Does it mean that he is affiliated with the DNC?

Is he pro-choice?

Is he all about social justice?

Humanitarian work?

Does it mean that when it comes to his spirituality that he doesn't present God as wrathful enough to be considered orthodox?

In my personal view, spirituality is not a product of politics.

We aren't restored to relationship with God because of our political backgrounds or affiliations.

Jesus himself was not a politician. He did not come to set up a political or religious system, which is clearly where most of his disciples missed the proverbial boat. They all thought that he was going to overthrow the oppressive Roman Empire.

But that wasn't the point...

What disturbs me most about the claim that Rob Bell is too liberal, is the fact that the story of Christianity itself is a liberal story.

I don't mean liberal as in political.

I mean liberal in the sense of generosity.

The whole premise of grace is a liberal concept. It is unmerited favor. It is an undeserved gift, given freely. God didn't have to bestow it upon us. He didn't have to bring reconciliation to humankind because of their rebellion, yet he chose to.

Why?

Well, in my view, it is because God is a god of liberation.

Deliverance.

Restoration.

Healing.

New beginnings.

Love.

God is love.

So if this is the case, then why all the debate about Hell being essential?

Is the concept of 'Hell' necessary to appreciate what Jesus did for humankind?

Some would say yes, and they are certainly entitled to that view.

I would probably disagree, because in saying that, it casts light upon a way of thinking that is prominent in Christianity today.

It is that Jesus is our "Get out of Hell free" card. This mentality can subtly bring us to believe that the reason behind loving God, and believing in Christ's sacrifice, is to prevent us from burning forever in a place of sulfur and gnashing teeth. Fire and flame. It isn't really love. It's self-preservation.

Personally, growing up in the church, I was never in love with that God.

Jesus is so much more.

I don't love Jesus because he can "get" me things such as an eternity in heaven. Nor do I love Jesus because of what he can "prevent" like, for instance, an eternity of separation from God.

I love Jesus Christ because he has saved me from myself. He took me from the lowest place I could imagine being in life, and feeling that I couldn't do it one more day, and he brought me to life. I'm not alone in this either...

Thousands upon thousands of people on this planet have experience this incredible phenomenon, the power of this man's love, and live anew because of it today.

His sacrifice was the single-most beautiful act of God that humanity has ever experienced.

It points to a God who isn't bent on destruction, but a God who wants and pursues his creation. To have relationship with them. To make a way home. He loves me and you that much.

When this realization strikes an individual, when they know it deeply to the core of themselves, I don't believe it is possible to stay the same. Hell is irrelevant, because the love for God and others will begin to spill out of that individual's life.

Jesus came to change our hearts.

To bring us back in line with the way of God.

A God who loves and pursues us.

A God who wants what is best for us.

Love doesn't, by nature, coerce. It doesn't threaten. If those who have 'faith' are using these types of methods to advance the 'kingdom of God' then, I believe, we are sadly missing what the actual purpose of Jesus was, and are inadvertently cheapening his message.

His message being simply: I love you, let me bring you back to me.

That is the beauty of Jesus. It brings a freedom and peace with God that we would have no other way.

One more thing that this fierce doctrine battle of Hell reveals is this; faith in America doesn't allow room for honest questions anymore. It is a formula.

A+B=C

This concerns me.

I think, in the end, it all boils down to control. Even the most "spiritual", or religious amongst us want it. I think that Christianity in America has actually become eerily reminiscent of the Jewish religious culture in Jesus' day. It is an establishment. It has lost sight of it's true love.

This does make some sense to me, because within humanity's rebellion we have an ingrained desire to control life. To create our own destinies. The reality is that we have no control, but since that isn't a view we want to embrace we set up systems that tell us otherwise.

This switch from Christ to the Christian establishment also makes sense in the context of American culture, which is a 'results-driven' society. It is natural to somehow take God and put him into a box. To create a checklist of what it means to be a Christian. To have God in your life. To be 'spiritual.'

It's actually called religion, and I don't believe in it.

When did the Christians in America decide that the church as we know it, (doctrines, theology, rituals, etc.) have discovered the right way to 'do life.' Over the years the church has been evolving constantly. Each new generation faces its challenges and changes. Life is progressive.

Thankfully, God is liberal in his love and blessings. He overlooks our pettiness. Our desire for control. Our sins against our brothers and sisters.

God hasn't given up on us.

I can't give the final word on heaven or hell. I'm not God.

And if there is, in fact, a standard to getting to God, or a Christian checklist that I must complete I'm sure that there are plenty of places that I have fallen short or not made the cut.

There are plenty of boxes left to be checked...

All I can do is speak from personal conviction, and what I know of the Jewish carpenter to whom I owe my life, and I can tell you this; He loves you more than you could possibly know.

He wants you back, and he was willing to lay down his life for that very reason.

He is the reason I'm here today, and can say confidently to you that love, above all else, wins.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday Picks

Non-Profit Organization: Invisible Children

A movement that has ignited in the interest of ending the practice of using child soldiers. Invisible Children seeks to raise awareness about the war crimes being committed in Africa's longest, brutal civil war.

I made a nod to Invisible Children in the post "Given to a Dream" Check them out!


Website:Despair, Inc.

Do you remember back to elementary school? Teacher's always put up those motivational posters? Yeah, those. They used to annoy the crap out of me.

Everything changed when I stumbled upon Despair, Inc.

A fantastic website, full of sarcastic statements and devoid of all hope! Once you enter, you may not leave...

I'd highly recommend their selection of "De-Motivators" but pretty much anything you find on this site is wicked sweet.



Artist/Song:Dispatch -(Hey Hey)

I first heard Dispatch in my high school photography class, and loved them.

Given that it is beginning to get warm, I can break out my "summer music" playlists now.

Dispatch is all over those playlists.

The song I am recommending today is called Hey Hey.

If you pursue listening to it though, make sure you find the official version, not the live one.

Be warned: There are a ripe plethora of covers of this song on YouTube, all by aspiring artists and stoners alike, their talents ranging from mediocrity to downright atrocious.

The official version is the one you want.

It will certainly make THAT girl who's iPod sigh in relief...


Drink of Choice:Java Monster

If you are like most Americans who are coked-up on caffeine these days, some mornings the typical coffee boost just won't cut it.

Naturally the capitalist gurus who own the energy drink company Monster thought it the opportune moment to break into a new market...coffee. This resulted in the birth of the Java Monster.

Java Monster is essentially iced coffee, but packs the punch of a regular energy drink; it's sure to leave you shaking for hours afterward.


That will wrap it up for Thursday's picks...enjoy responsibly. :)


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Passive Prince

You know the Disney movie Snow White?

She lived with the seven "little people"...

Well, there is a scene in the movie that drives me absolutely crazy, and not in a good way.

First, a tad bit of background info...

So... Snow White is living in the woods with her seven roomies and thinking she is safe.

The wood cutter guy (a subject of the Queen, who actually doubles as a hit man) saved her earlier in the movie, and lied to the Queen about knocking Snow White off.

The Queen (our antagonist in this delightful little flick) is apparently a narcissistic, egotistical bitch, who can't stand to have someone better looking than her in all the land. So the natural solution to becoming the fairest in the land is to eliminate the competition...

Can you say, pre-stages of botox abuse coupled with fascism?

Anyway, the Queen finds out from her magical mirror that she (Snow White that is), is still alive and, sadly, is still better looking then her old-middle-aged-ish self.

Apparently, good help is hard to find, even in the realm of fairy tales.

So the Queen decides, not to replenish her stock of Mary Kay concealer and satin hands set, or to hop on the treadmill a bit each day, but rather she elects to go to the woods herself and eliminate the lovely little strumpet.

Yeah, that's right, the Queen is going to take out Snow White.

By take out, I don't mean on a girls' day to Starbucks and the mall so they can share their deepest secrets and boy interests. I mean, do the job that the damn wood cutter half-assed!

I mean, hey, if you want something done right you gotta do it your own damn self!

So she whips up a poison apple.

Really?

Of all the ways to kill someone...food poisoning?

I can just go to Denny's or Taco John's anytime I'd like a heaping helping of food poisoning...

Nevertheless, it is the wicked Queen, in the forest, with...the poison apple. Good luck finding that one in the game of Clue!

The Queen then proceeds to transform herself into an old hag, probably a metaphor for her black and ugly soul, but who really reads that much into fairy tales anyway...

I find this part incredibly stupid as well, I mean, if you are going to do a sales pitch for a poisoned apple, my first disguise of choice wouldn't be the old hag, with the warty nose, creepy eyes and lack of teeth. I don't think it'd even make my top ten...

But that's just me.

She descends upon the cottage and persuades Snow White to eat the apple. Apparently she didn't use poison, but rather Lunesta because, as we find out later, Snow White is merely in a deep sleep...or maybe she just choked on the apple skin.

I won't lie, I only do the apple skin thing when I'm feeling bold and adventurous.

Some things in life you just don't mess with.

Anyway, so Snow White passes out, and her seven little men come home to find the Queen/Hag vanishing into the woods. They assess the situation, band together in an angry mob, and chase the old lady, who is apparently much more spry than one would think a 200 year old woman could be.

The only reason the dwarves manage to catch up is because she gets cornered on a rocky precipice overhanging a long drop.

And of course... there are razor sharp rocks lying below.

The lightning and thunder howl around her, and as the dwarves close the the distance between, she wedges a piece of wood under a boulder; which happens to be conveniently sitting there on the off chance that one who is being pursued might need to crush their pursuers.

In the glorious crescendo of this climactic scene a well placed bolt of lightning, I won't say from whom, strikes the cliff by the hag's feet and the ledge crumbles. She goes screaming to her death.

All because of a little bit of vanity. Shame.

Ok, that may have been a bit more than a "tad bit" of background, but honestly the ideas just kept flowing so I just went with it.

Sue me.

But the scene that drove me nuts happened right here, at the end of the movie...

The dwarves are mourning the loss of their angel, Snow White who, by the way, is in a wicked sweet casket that has a clear top, and gilded golden base...and all of a sudden...

In waltzes Prince.....what the hell is his name???

Oh, maybe we don't know because he hasn't been in the movie virtually at all!

He leans down, and plants a smacker dead on the lips of Snow White's "corpse", after all...it probably seemed the appropriate thing to do at the time. Plus, most "Prince Charmings" don't really have all that much on their resumes anyway.

Snow White's eyes flutter... could it be? Yes! The Prince's minty fresh Orbit breath has resuscitated our innocent, naive heroine. It's a miracle!

He sweeps her up in his arms and whisks her away to the castle with the setting sun framing it in a ridiculously picturesque way.

The End.

There you have it folks. Officially the worst scene in the movie. I'll tell you why...

This prince has virtually no substance to him. He was not in the thick of the adventure with Snow White and her little friends, he wasn't tracking down the evil hag, he wasn't with the dwarves as they placed her on her cold, golden slab mourning along with them.

I find him anything but dashing.

Charming is not the name I will use for said prince. I will instead dub him, Prince Absent.

Sadly, the ladies in this world and culture are becoming more accustomed to Prince Absent. The guy who uses smooth talk and cheap words to make his entrance. He is fun, witty, and always present for the good times.

When life crumbles, he is nowhere to be found. He is a deadbeat. Suddenly all the princely promises and the charm are non-existent.

I know every woman wants their own prince and, every guy wants a woman who he can treat every bit like the princess she deserves to be.

Ladies, if I could send one line of advice your way it would be this...before he whisks you away to his castle for your happily ever after, be sure he is willing to fight the dragon, climb the mountain, or protect you from life's evil queen/hags first.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Importance of Brothers

Yesterday I recieved some hard news.

You know, the kind of news that makes you sick to your core because it totally disregards everything you hope to present about yourself.

Someone placed a judgement upon me, a judgement about my character, which really crushed me. It hurt really bad.

My head is still trying to process this.

Have you ever had those moments where the truth you know about yourself is called into question, and you have to weigh what you know in your heart to be true against what another says about you?

Like it or not, the opinions of others matter to us.

Through this though, I have brothers who are in this with me. One went with me the other day to the meeting, and, let me tell you, I was so grateful that I didn't have to walk into it alone.

I texted my other brothers this morning, just telling them I was at a bad place in my head, and my brother Luis was right on it. He offered to talk, and even though I didn't really feel like talking, I called him. I was definitely glad that I did. He listened to what had happened and told me that I wasn't alone. That he didn't think of me any less and that he loved me.

Those words made all the difference.

It is why I can write this today.

I have said before that I think the only way to substantially grow, in this life, is through trial.

Through fire. Pain. Hurt.

I still believe that.

The situation yesterday was about as hurtful of a situation that I've had to deal with in quite some time. Yet through this I know I'm going to be ok, an assurance I'm confident I wouldn't have had by dealing with this on my own.

Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39 and says:

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The part that sticks out to me is the bit about fears today, and worries about tomorrow.

I don't have to worry about God loving me more or less each day. I don't have to be afraid.

This is the importance of brothers (or sisters respectively). Other people can be God's presence among us, they can lift us up and help us when we aren't strong enough to fight for ourselves. They can show us truth and love when all we know are lies.

I am so grateful for my brothers today. Because of them I choose not to lose hope, but to continue to strive to be all that I can be. All that I'm destined to be.

I won't give up. I won't stop fighting. I won't submit to lies.

There is a peace that transcends all understanding, and even today in the midst of a chaotic mind, I will choose to find and live in that.

Thanks my brothers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Man v. Nature

This past weekend brought yet another glorious tale of men braving the elements. Going forth into the wild and unknown, being tested, pushed to the limit...

The stuff legends are made of.

This time, we didn't venture to Eureka.

No, for this particular adventure, I will take you to the exotic and wild...Waukau Dam.

It was Saturday, around 12:45 pm, when I got the text from my brother Luis. He said that Mark (if you recall, he is my college-at-heart mentor from the Eureka post) wanted to go spear/bow fishing, and that I should come along.

I have had a mere two previous fishing experiences. One involving ice, snow, and a tiny little hole in a lake. The other, while warmer, involved no fishing gear whatsoever, just a bunch of crazy college guys.

So, since I'm clearly an expert fisherman I thought this was a fantastic idea.

I polished off the rest of my delicious chicken bruschetta sandwich, (I swear that Red Robin is one of God's many gifts to the humankind) and bid a fond farewell to my friends Theresa and Ashley.

Mark, Luis, Stephan and Isaac (Mark's son) were all munching on Little Ceaser's when I arrived; we headed out shortly thereafer.

We reached the dam, parked, and broke out the gear. I grabbed a spear, Stephan and Isaac had bows and Luis had the other spear. Mark forayed ahead, looking every bit like the late Steve Erwin.

Periodically he would bend over to examine the murky depths, peering intently through the nearly opaque surface, which reflected the bright clear sky above.

I kept waiting for him to yell, "Crikey! I got one 'oer here! Look at 'im! He's a ruddy big devil!"

But it never happened.


Something I never knew about carp fishing, is that some men go merely for the sport. What I mean by that is that everytime a fisherman catches a fish, he doesn't necessarily take it with him to eat. So along the banks of the river one can find the carp bodies scattered about.
Most with no eyes.

I decided to name this one Charlie the Carp.

Poor Charlie.

We traveled along the banks, stopping sporadically at different potential spots. Looking for the perfect spot...

Actually Mark looked, I couldn't see past the reflections the sun cast on the surface of the river. Clearly, I have some evolving to do before I can have a successful fishing show of my own.



After we had been hiking up and down the shore for awhile, our troop began to split up, choosing our spots carefully. Some lingering at past spots, others moving further down the bank.

I picked a shadier location, where it wasn't so damn hard to see into the water, thus giving me a better chance to search out my prey.

A little ways down I could see Mark and Luis hovering over the water in a small clearing, they were definitely onto something. Luis crouched closer to the water his spear poised just above the surface. I could see Mark giving him encouraging words and pointing out the place to strike.

Then without warning the spear pierced the surface of the water. Luis had struck, like lightning, and it had apparently paid off!

After a brief struggle I saw Mark grab the spear and lift a big sucker out of the water.

He threw it onto the land and it flopped about in shock. It was magnificent.

Isaac was the first on the scene. He is a warrior at heart, and much more prone to try gross things than I am, because he stuck his fingers right into the gills of the slimy carp, picked it up and carried it around for all of us to see.

What a stud. He is just like his dad. An adventurer at heart! Fearing nothing, the world is his to capture and conquer.

I can't remember that stage of life very well, but watching him reminded me of a simpler time that is lost in the grind of our every day lives.

After Isaac threw the carp back onto the ground, it was Luis' turn.

I looked on in envy as he held up his trophy. At that moment I found myself determined to catch a fish.

I wanted one of my own.

Yes, admittedly, they are slimy greasy fish that do not taste very good unless they are smoked, and yes I would have to stick my fingers up its gills to hold it but...what the hell. You only live once! :)


This is the great thing about spending time with my brothers, it not only encourages me, but it drives me as well. I think some guy from the Bible wrote about men sharpening each other. Like iron sharpens iron or something like that...

Maybe it was Solomon. Or one of those other wise old guys.

Anyway...

I returned to my spot bent on conquest.

I hovered above the water for a while, and then I saw it! Was it my reflection on the water? No! The light underbelly of a big fish! Probably Charlie's brother. It was as if it was meant to be! I readied my spear...took a deep breath and plunged it into the water with all my force.

I felt the blow strike home! The spear jerked, and I could just hear what the fish must've been thinking at the moment...but in the interest of maintaining a PG rating on my blog I'll refrain from sharing it.

Then something happened, the spear stopped jerking. I brought it quickly up out of the water and to my dismay the little bugger had gotten away! Naught remained but a small scale on the tip of one of the prongs.

I nearly cried.

Thank God I didn't.

That fish was mine! Little bastard.

I vowed to myself, and to nature, that this would not be the last of the fish thing.

I returned to the group slightly downcast, but wouldn't remain so for long, as I soon found out. Around this time we were preparing to leave. All of a sudden Luis asked Mark if we were going to clean his fish.

Lightbulbs went on instantly in every head.

Genius idea, that!

We found a small piece of flat wood laying under some leaves near the car, perfect size for Luis' fish, it was like it was meant to be.

Isaac the warrior was naturally the first to insist on cutting off the head of the fish. We all agreed, and he went at it. It took him several good hacks, but he got the head off, and suddenly I found myself wondering if this was such a good idea after all...

Especially after the pool of blood began accumulating on the board. My eyes, however, remained glued to the spectacle a mix of horror and fascination as the process continued.

I don't know if you've ever cleaned a fish, or watched it cleaned, but I will tell you that it is 'effing gross! It didn't help that Luis had killed a mommy fish and she had about a billion-cajillion eggs in her stomach.

Luis was awarded the honors of gutting the fish, and I threw up in my mouth a little bit as he did so.

I didn't let on though, but instead presented a calm, cool exterior, as if this sort of thing happened every day in my own home growing up.

After the cleaning process was completed. We packed up and headed back to Oshkosh.

I felt a deep sense of contentment; true, I didn't get my fish, but that fish's days are numbered. I can wait with the patience of a dormant volcano when I want to, trust me.

I guess this is the end of my story for today.

There really isn't a moral or deeper meaning to be honest.

I think what I took away from this past Saturday were two things, one being the blessing of friendship and relationship. Relationship is really what this life is all about, I think. It trumps success and accomplishment every time, and leaves lasting legacy.

The second thing I've been coming to realize is the beauty of trying new things. I've said time and time again that life is too short to hold back, and I mean it.

I may not become the avid fisherman/hunter/outdoorsy type, but why should I let that hold me back from the experience of trying?

Hmmm.

Maybe I took more away from a little fishing adventure than I thought...