Oodles and bunches and tons of eons

Warning: this post has yet another Top Ten List. Only readers over a certain height will be allowed on.

So now I have a second friend in China. How many do you have?

I joined Facebook about an eon ago. (To be precise, an eon in Charlie years = somewhere between nine and ten years.) I have collected oodles and oodles of friends over that time period. (To be precise, oodles and oodles in Charlie’s numbering system = bunches of bunches.) My FB friends list contains people from every nook and cranny of my life. Friends from grade school and high school, current and past work associates,”old” family who I haven’t seen since I was in junior high and new relatives from my wife’s family who I see a couple times a year, people I’ve done theatre with, girls I have dated (I am nothing if not brave), people whose house I can walk into without ringing the doorbell and, other people who I have known very well for decades even though I’ve never met them in person. Despite the widespread collection of people who could be called Members of YIATBORAOKCDTROPR ( aka Yes I Am Willing To Be On Record As Officially Knowing Charlie Despite The Risk Of Public Ridicule), there was one time in my life that was totally blank, online-wise: college. Maybe it was because of my lack of Google-Fu, maybe it was because I killed tons and tons of brain cells back then. (To be precise, this joke is getting old and predictable.) No matter what the reason the results were the same: College Friends on my Facebook list = zero.

Well it was zero, until I brought in an expert.  For online searches, I know only one person who does online searches like Rain Man juggles numbers. The lucky thing for me is that I am married to her. The short version of this story is that, after I grumbled one final time about not being to find any of my college friends, she said to me “Just give me one name.”

After a few hours of extensive research on her computer,…

Well, maybe after about an hour on a tablet,…

Okay, after less than five minutes on her smartphone, she found who I told her to look for. (At least she didn’t whistle into a payphone while wiggling her Etch-A-Sketch’s knobs really quickly. That would have been showing off.) I checked his friend’s list and found two more friends. And luckily enough, all three are really good people who I have incredibly found memories of. Once again, it is proven that I am a lucky and blessed man.

And now, after just a couple weeks of catching up, one of them just flew out to China today to live for somewhere from six months to two years. I hope I can keep in touch with him even though he will be behind the Great Firewall of China. I know I will still do my best to keep contact with the other two. Billy, Maria, Don, thank you all for being my “friend” again.

And now…

Top 10 Uses for My New Spaceship

10. Freak out the stoner who works late night at the local Taco Bell drive-thru window (“Dude, Han Solo ordered a Chalupa!”)

9. Tricking it out with chrome rims to impress my bros as I cruise down Main Street

8. Making extra money flying banners over stadiums (Note to self: buy friction-proof banners due to potential issues with warp drive)

7. Buy red suit and grow white beard. Mission: freak out Santa doubters.

6. Hang out in the parking lot of Science Fiction conventions and brag about how “shiny” my ship is.

5. Put ship on blocks and roast weenies in exhaust blast.

4. Revolutionize pizza delivery (“When it absolutely, positively has to be in Australia in 30 minutes or less…”)

3. Stadium is sold out? Who cares? Hovering over the 50 yard line is a Much better view anyway!

2. Travel to the planet Logicum where common sense and rational thought is plentiful. See if they are willing to help with our current shortages.

and the number 1 thing I will use my new spaceship for

1.Two words: Super Uber

Coming Soon: An exposeThe Snuggles Fabric Softener Bear: Cute and Giggly Commercial Icon, or Demon Spawn?

 

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How better to support the “coffee closet” industry?

Warning – I am resurrecting this blog. Any of you who don’t enjoy my writings won’t like this fact. Some of you might. The only path to true happiness for is for everyone to go back and read all previous posts. (Ok, honestly, the true happiness would be mine but that counts, right?)

A brief and timely synopsis of my history here – I started this blog years ago. I really enjoyed every moment of pouring out my thoughts into a cup for people’s enjoyment, but physical exhaustion and a crazy busy life sunk in. No excuses, I am the one who didn’t glue his tailbone to the chair in front of his writing desk. I have been doing some work on a book potentially titled “A Twisted Path” but it’s been a pace that would allow a snail to lap me around the track. As time ticked away, I have missed doing this more and more. Recently, the need to write has been burning even hotter than ever before, so here I am. My goal is to post Something at least once a week. Feel free to encourage the muse that whispers in the ear of this easily discouraged guy.

I have to give full disclosure. The wifetastic one came up with the very inspired idea for the two of us to work on a top ten list together. Consider this a collaborative effort. In my opinion, she is a much better writer than me. If there’s anything you don’t like on this list or about this list, it’s not only okay to blame me, it’s logical to do so.

With no further ado, here we go.

[Drumroll please]

[I said please]

[Pretty please]

[Ok just pat your hands rhythmically on the nearest hard surface]

Top 12 reasons to drink coffee (I love it so much that 10 wasn’t enough)
12. The Hills Brothers, Juan Valdez, Mr. Maxwell House, and all of those who consider themselves Seattle’s Best need the money.
11. Drinking creamer straight from the bottle is frowned upon.
10. How better to enjoy a luxurious and tasty bean broth?
9. When I drink all I want, 97 coffee farmers can feed their families for the year.(When others drink “all I want”, they can stay awake for the whole month of February.)
8. If I own 189 mugs, I might as well use them.
7. How better to pump enough caffeine to a brain so that it can work like a supercomputer? (By the way, 2 to the 24th power is 16,777,216. Who needs a calculator?)
6. Tea is a drink the Chinese enjoy, you know, and I love my country! #MERICA!
5. When I am almost to the top of my caloric intake for the day, coffee only adds two calories per cup. (“Eleven cups to my tipping point, I can make it!”)
4. If I am going to put fake sugar in my mouth, I might as well have something to wash it down with.
3. Used coffee grounds can be used as fertilizer and I have 40 acres to nourish before sunset.
2. It’s kosher! It’s gluten-free!! It’s vegan friendly!!! It makes me use a bunch of exclamation points!!!!!!!!
1. These 700 K-cups I have in my brand new coffee closet aren’t going to drink themselves.

See you all soon, I hope.

Oh and by the way…

Here,  a history and timely synopsis of my briefs – Used to wear boxers, now I have a bunch of tagless Hanes and I really enjoy them

Coming Soon – A review of the science documentary Belly Lint: Biological Annoyance or America’s Future Superfabric

 

 

 

 

 

Are we not men? We are devotional!

Warning: this post will be discussing writing and religion. Therefore, reading this will probably not interesting to anyone at all. Go and read a good book instead.

“By the way, Susan wants you to do the devotion tomorrow.”

“…oh…kay.”

Basic recap time for those who have just randomly found this blog: I am a hubby, step-daddy, coffee addict, customer service rep, Jedi master of all that is surreal and sarcastic, local minister (aka unpaid minister in training), and co-operations manager for my church’s food bank (Living Waters). I also don a cape and fight crime in the big city, but that’s not important right now. If you want to know more about me, you can either read some other entries in this blog, contact me somehow through the interwebs, or send me a list of questions through the mail written on the back of the registration and title for a 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe (candy apple red, if I have a choice).

So where was I? Oh yes I have a story to tell about telling a story.

Every Wednesday, before we distributing food, we do a group devotion followed by prayer. On a Friday, Susan (Living Waters’ Grand Poobah) sent a text to my wifey (my Supreme Grandest Poobah) asking her to ask me if I would be willing to do the devotional the following Wednesday. The problem is that Susan’s Blue cellphone company is known for not sending messages well to our Pink company’s phones, so we didn’t get that message in a timely manner. So on Tuesday, Valerie got the “follow-up” text (“You never answered me. Can Charlie do the devotional tomorrow?”)

     When I finally heard about this, I felt honored/nervous (honvous?). After getting past a childhood filled with awkwardness bad enough to hold a telethon for and overcoming a speech impediment (which sounded “weawwy, weawwy” bad), I do get a certain amount of joy from being able to speak competently in front of a group. Of course, if I bungee jump over a pool of rabid piranhas (piranhi?) I might get a certain of pleasure out of that act as well. That doesn’t mean I won’t be scared stupid both before and during the act.
     I hit the computers that night, trying to get some idea of what to say. The blank page is doing what blank pages do. I am a little overwhelmed and a lot intimidated. Every word and idea I throw at this project looks and feels like the only languages I am fluent in are Babblese and Stupidarian. I type this and I delete that; I Google this and Bing that. I finally do what has always worked best for me when I’ve got a next morning deadline. I spray enough words at the page so that it doesn’t look completely empty, I pray about it, and then I sleep on it.
     Of course, I did consider going with a devotional that someone else had written. There were two reasons I didn’t go that way. First of all, that would have been the rational and logical course of action.
Done chuckling at that idea yet? Ok, I’ll wait.
.
.
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Seriously? sigh…
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     Ok, then. Secondly, I liked the challenge. As frustrating as the process can be, I do love the sense of accomplishment when I do manage to get it Just Right. There’s something almost magical about it. It’s like solving an jigsaw puzzle with an almost infinite choice of pieces that you have to discard most of, and then put the rest together to make a picture that you’ve never seen before. And this is about a subject that I love, so that part of it makes it fun…eventually. I’ve had tougher assignments, including writing the valedictory speech for a prison inmate (seriously, yes I’ll tell that story another day), so this is nothing compared to that.
So I woke up the next morning, I shuffled around the ideas in the direction that my sleeping subconscious suggested to me, and I finally got the devotional finished.
How well did I do? You judge for yourself.

Today’s devotional is inspired by Matthew 18:19-20. Let me start by reading Matthew 18:19. “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” This is the passage that is always used in reference to prayer, where the prayers of many are multiplied. We certainly saw an example of that last week with the food we got from the postal carriers’ food drive. Many people said small prayers, and food pantries across the city received an incredible amount of food to feed those in need. But I want to take a different look on what prayer is. Prayers can be our actions and they can be the best way to communicate with those who don’t speak our language.

To be clear, I’m not referring to those who don’t speak English.

I’m also not referring to those who don’t speak Spanish.

I’m talking about those who don’t understand the language of Christianity, the love language of Jesus and His followers. There are people out there who just have no idea what we mean when we talk about Jesus, no idea what His unconditional love is like. For them, Christianity is a bunch of phrases with no real meaning because they Just Don’t Know what our message truly means. Those of you who have studied other languages know what the process is like in those initial learning stages. You catch a little bit here, you grasp a few slivers of meaning over there. Slowly you start to piece together what others are saying, you start to more fully comprehend the meanings and messages of what they are expressing. I’ve heard it said more than once that the best way to truly learn a language, to really be totally fluent, you have to be immersed yourself in that culture. Learning about Christianity can be the same way.

Studies show that when two people communicate, 60-90% of their communication is non-verbal, and I believe that this is all part of God’s Plan for us. After the Tower of Babel, we lost one way to get through to those who are different from us, but God’s Wisdom left us many more ways. All we have to do is do as Jesus would do and learn how to share that Ultimate love language. The actions we take, the things we do speak greater volumes than the words we speak. It’s not the words of love we say, it’s the love we show. It’s not about the passages we can point at in our Bibles, it’s about the unselfish acts of generosity and compassion that can be pointed out in our lives.
 
I pray that every day, especially when I am here at Living Waters, that somehow, someway I can help others learn more about a love that is like none other. Let me finish with my thoughts on Matthew 18:20. “ For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” We all work together to touch the people who walk in here, we’ve already seen our efforts multiply just as He has promised. Let our actions be the kind of prayers that can speak most directly to their hearts. May what we do here, as a group of believers, show them that God is with us in this place.  Whether I get to hand them their food for the week, or if I speak directly to someone and let them share some part of their life with me, or even if I have no direct contact beyond a smile but I’ve helped the process of what we do run smoother, I pray that my actions help to bring them closer to understanding God’s Love.
P.S. Yes, in this post, I exaggerated in an silly, over the top kind of way just because I thought it sounded cute and kind of funny and I apologize for being so absurd.
I would never “Bing”.
Coming Soon: a memoir from my youth – D&D, Dandruff, and Dorkiness: My Secrets to Being a Teenager Without a Date

Oddly, no one there was dressed as an police officer

Warning: Following the life example in this posting can cause a variety of ailments, from dandruff and ingrown toenails to both premature and immature senility. Read only under a doctor’s supervision.

Ok so after having that heart attack which led the doctor to implant a stent somewhere in my amazingly manly chest, I laid in that hospital bed and made many vows to myself. I swore I would exercise more. I swore I would eat healthier. I vowed that I would do many things to transform me into a different person, rebuilding my life and my body, replacing the old me with a leaner, meaner Charlie machine. Goodbye, cardiac victim; hello, paragon of humanity. Farewell, aging chunky funky dude; greetings, male model with superhero-esque capabilities.
And then I woke up.
More to the point, I went back to the real world. And in that place waiting for me were my old habits. Sure, I was a little better about things. My portions were slightly smaller, I used steps instead of elevators…occasionally. Looking back, all I was doing was taking a longer way around back to the cardiac ward instead of the shortcut I was on before. I didn’t think of it that way then.  Denial and self-delusion was my favorite comfort foods.
So what changed me? I hate to admit what the initial trigger was, but…well, brace yourself.
At first, it was about money.
If you know me, you know I am not really driven by money.The wifetastic one will tell that I don’t care what things cost if they are a good value, There’s only one monetary thing that makes me go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and that’s when money is wasted.
Guess whose family really, really, really wanted a Y membership?
Guess who decided there was no way in the world that he was going to give that kind of money to a place with a free pool, a weight room, and most importantly to this toddler chasing fifty year old, daily access to two hours of their Kids Zone(aka “someone else trying to lasso that 3 year old varmint”)and NOT use it?
I could babble out a long list of reasons that going there regularly is a good thing, but there’s one exceptionally great reason to be there: my wife. SInce the very first time we walked in the door with our brand new sweats, she is feeling stronger, healthier and happier. She doesn’t get winded so easy, she can walk around a grocery store without wishing they had an oxygen tank at the exit. Most of all, she finally has something in her wellness portfolio that she never had before. She has hope She knows that she can lose weight and with enough work she can live a longer, healthier life. She is starting to believe in herself like never before. I feel that maybe, just maybe she can be a success story that might just inspire others.
I wouldn’t bet against her.
Coming Soon:  a study on cures for insomnia called Warm Milk, Calculus Textbooks and C-SPAN

And It’s A 4 Letter Word, Too!

Warning: This blog is extremely dusty from long term lack of use, so protect your lungs while reading it by wearing some kind of breathing device (HEPA filters are preferred).

Ok here I am, playing hooky from church. I feel like such a wimp for staying home. Really, what kind of guy stays home when he has pink eye, bronchitis, and two ear infections? A smart guy? Ok so why am I home then? Oh that’s right, I have a wife who is a lot smarter than me, so that explains a lot.

Ahhh, this feels good. I’ve missed flailing away at the keyboard. I could come up with lots o’ excuses as to why I haven’t been writing. I could try to sound realistic and claim that I have been a combination of too weak and too busy. I could craft a story wherein I was kept away from my keyboard for national security purposes, . As likely as a second career as a international super-spy is for me, there’s only one reason I haven’t been writing more.

You see, I came down with a debilitating condition. It saps a person’s energy and leaves them unable to focus. Some of the symptoms include shortness of breath, shaking, and tightness in the chest. In extreme cases, it can lead to death.

What “disease” did I come down with? I’ve been suffering with a case of “fear”.

I’m not talking about those more obvious fears like acrophobia (fear of heights),  agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), or even that incredibly widespread omphalophobia (fear of belly buttons). What I am speaking of is a subtle set of fears that sneak into the corners of your mind. These fears can slowly eat away at the kind of life you want to build for yourself.

“I’m afraid that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done!”
“I’m afraid that I’ll never be good enough!”
“I’m afraid that what I write won’t be good enough!” (yes this one always hits me hard)
“I’m afraid that people won’t like me for who I am!”
“I’m afraid that I really don’t deserve to be loved!”

I’ve suffered (literally) from each of these thoughts at different times. No, not in a paralyzing obvious way. For me, my fears are much more insidious, They are like a small chisel, chipping away at the foundations of the person I want to be. Think these thoughts once or twice, no real damage occurs. Think them repeatedly over a lifetime without taking time to fix the damage, and the results that occur are obvious and predictable…and sad.

So what’s the cure for this condition? Well, I don’t want to get too preachy here (not enough energy or time to do it justice) but to me,I use the opposite of fear. No, not “courage”. To me, fear’s opposite is “faith”. Whether it be in a church (my preferred way), a synagogue, the pages of a self-help book, or even in a good hard look in the mirror of life,  there are ways to find truths that can help a person heal from the scars that lies can leave on our souls.

Believe in yourself, don’t believe the lies that fear tries to feed you.

[Good advice, Charlie, you going to take it? You are? Ok then, prove it in the most obvious way you can. Write more, even if it isn’t “perfect”, I’m sure it will be good enough…and more importantly, it will be good for you.]

Coming Soon: Tuesday nights on Food Network – Iron Chef, Bachelor’s Edition (first episode – Battle: Last Night’s Cold Pizza)

Yes. Yes he is.

Warning: this post will be discussing both politics and religion. Charlie is aware that he is going to offend some people out there. He really doesn’t care. He is also aware that some people will ask if he is crazy.

For those who have been following my blog, I apologize for my time off. My lack of writing is not so much about the heart attack I had. What it has to do with is the reaction to taking about 343 pills every day. Ok, honestly, it’s 17 pills for 11 different prescriptions, but it truly feels like triple digits.(“Ok, so I take the blue pills for blood pressure, the red pills for blood sugar. What do I take the green pills for? To remind me to take the orange pills!”)

For anyone who has never read anything I’ve written before, please know that I am rarely totally serious but I do tend to be honest. I write from the heart with a certain amount of freshly brewed whimsy and sarcasm. If you want to know more about what goes on in my head, check out Part Uno, Dos, and Tres wherein I tell some details about my little hospital visit. (If you like it, tell your friends. If you don’t like it, still tell your friends, I’d like the exposure.)

Yes, this post is about politics as I promised the last time I wrote something here. I’ve been juggling different versions of what exactly I wanted to say here for a very long time. I considered being totally serious, filling this post with link after link supporting my opinion. I was going to do two simultaneous posts, each of them attacking a different party. I even thought about bringing back Interviewer Guy. I was going to have him ask me questions about my Robo-Candidate, created in my Blogotorium Laboratory.

When it comes down to it, I don’t have the energy. I am sick and I am tired. I am sick and tired and that’s the core of my political opinion. You might ask what I am sick and tired of exactly. (You might not ask me any of this, because by now you might be on another page checking out a video of a dancing cat, but I digress.)

I am sick of a lot of things in the process, but you can sum up most of what I hate in three words.

Ego, lies, ignorance.

When I see a politician talking, all I hear is “I’m smarter than the people I am talking to, so they will buy what I am saying. They will buy it so much that they won’t do any research to find out about my deceit.”

Side A lies, side B lies. Too many voters say “well, if someone that belongs to my favorite party say something it just Has to be true!”. The same people say “well, everything that my least favorite party does is evil and wrong!!”

It just makes me sad. There is just so much animosity.

“I hate that guy, he is nothing but a socialist!”
“I hate that guy, he is nothing but a fascist!”

No. Not really. It’s easy to paint the other side as capital-E E-v-i-l, but it’s just not true. Neither side sits around their lair in the middle of a volcano planning world domination. There are no twirling mustaches, no death traps for the heroes, no sharks with laser beams. I think both sides are too much about winning instead of actually serving the people, but that’s not evil, it’s just stupid and misguided.

There is one other major gripe I have about politics as they exist in America today. Ok let’s get out the white board.

There are basically two sides right now.

Conservative Republican          Liberal Democrat

So let me describe two different people here. First let me talk about my father. Back to the white board.

Conservative Republican          Liberal Democrat

Raised in poverty(Depression)

Strong Christian beliefs

Now let’s talk about a friend of mine.

Conservative Republican            Liberal Democrat

Raised in poverty(Depression)   Raised in time of prosperity, had it relatively easy

Strong Christian beliefs               Atheist, hates God

Ok, so do you know who you would vote for? I do. When you look at what I have here, you can s… oops. I made a mistake. I got the right-wing and left-wing backwards. Let me fix it.

Liberal Democrat                       Conservative Republican

Raised in poverty(Depression)   Raised in time of prosperity, had it relatively easy

Strong Christian beliefs               Atheist, hates God

Yes, my Christian father who was very well educated was a liberal. Yes, I know an atheist conservative. I know several. Unfortunately, too many people think and claim that because they vote for a particular party that they are being more “Godly”. I go to a fantastic church, but I have sat quietly when people have insulted “those liberals”. In short, they insulted all Christians who have a different political bent. These insults come out of ego and willful ignorance. I’m not a confrontational person, but sometimes I wish I was.

It just makes me sad when Christians focus on being something else besides Christian.

More levity next post, I promise!

Coming Soon: a preview to a movie about superheroes who have sex changes – Ex-men X-Men!

My Guess Was That He Just Can’t Shut Up

Warning: This post is all about a trip inside my mind, so please wear your seat belts at all times. In case of a water landing, your seats can be used as a flotation device.

So here I am, a blank page in front of me. I still don’t have all my physical strength back (I believe in order to be classified as a healthy food, the government requires to contain a certain percentage of kryptonite), and I’m more than a little wiped out mentally. Thank God for the spiritual rechargings I’ve been receiving.

So the question I have to ask my self is why do I write? Why am I considering putting forth the effort to bleed out some of myself on this page? And yes for me, writing IS an effort. Ask my wifey, I write so very Very S-L-O-W-L-Y. Wouldn’t it more fun to lay on the couch with remote in hand?

No.

Well, maybe if the Steelers were on…

Honestly, no. I do write for the pleasure. That has to be part of it. The amazingly quotable Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, I love having written”. I can’t quite say that, because I do find enjoyment from the process, despite the struggle. The closest analogy I can make is to compare what I do to solving a jigsaw puzzle. The framework of an idea or topic is the picture on the outside of the box and the words are the puzzle pieces. The difficulty is not so much the fact that sometimes I only have a fuzzy out-of-focus snapshot as my framework to get started. It’s those words. Those amazing words with all their nuanced meanings, the ways they sound, the way they look on the page, the feel of them in my mind as I ease them into place. I juggle them between sentences. I’ll change almost every over word in a whole sentence so I can use the perfect word that’s aching to get out of my head onto the page. I shift, slide, take out, put back in, do whatever it takes to get those puzzle pieces to fit Just Right.

Yes, I have OCD tendencies, why do you ask?

But this whole need to write is more than that. I learned to read at a crazy early age. Naturally the go-to choice for a Charlie gift was a book. I had no issue with that. I loved reading everything. Marvel and DC comics, Bradbury short stories; old poetry books; Asimovian science fiction novels; the Bible itself; mystery novels featuring a variety of heroes from Encyclopedia Brown to Travis McGee, from Hardy Boys to Sherlock Holmes, books that featured Try This With Your Parents’ Permission science experiments; etc, etc, muy etc.

I was voracious. I dug into the stories and ate them all up. I began to recognize that there was multi-layered magic on those pages. Sentences could paint tapestries of emotions. Heroes would be heroic, villains would be evil, and both could excite the imagination. Plots would twist and turn and surprise and excite and and and….

When it comes down to it, I write because I love it. I write because I love what happens when that empty page is filled with magic. Words, raw emotions, ideas, plot structures, all dancing together with the power to transport the reader to a special place.

I know most of my writing here has been primarily about me and my life. Consider it as if I am doing my mental warm-up exercises. This blog will always continue to be a lighter look at life, even when I deal with more serious subjects. (Next up: politics. That’s right, I’m going there). I do have another poetry blog in the on-deck circle that I will be starting soon. It won’t be as light in tone and I probably won’t promote it as much. I just have that need to do a workout with those writing muscles that I don’t get to use here.

I want to thank everyone who has been so incredibly supportive of my writing. It means a lot. As I told a friend recently, I write primarily for myself, so any sliver of positive response I get is always semi-surprising to me. That’s all for now, so good night all and I wish you all w…

Oops I almost forgot!

Coming Soon – a historical documentary, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and Its Effect on Vending Machines