Archive | April 2013

Things I Read That Changed Me

Every now and again, there is something the you read that becomes seemingly essential to your development as a human being. Literally, the moment that you put it down, you are a different person than when you pick it up. These types of things are different for everyone. It is like if someone has this great story about being on a river in Venice and that is the day that the proposed to their wife. They needle and needle you until you get on that same river and all you have is a bumpy ride. I had always heard about the emotion connected with the Vietnam Wall Memorial. Personally, I have been twice and I was just unable to connect with it. Its different for everyone. I don’t actually expect these to have potentially to much meaning for you, but for me they were extremely transformative.

god's adventurer

God’s Adventurer was important to me for not only its message but also at the point and time in which I read it. I was in the seventh grade and had just transferred schools. I was pretty much in what could only be described as a post-traumatic shell after dealing with some really merciless bullying at my previous school. Literally, I could barely and would barely talk to people. It was shortly after that that my teacher Martha Walker assigned us a book to read. That book was God’s Adventurer by Phyllis Thompson. It told of the missionary Hudson Taylor. It told of how he decided to live by faith alone that God would in fact fulfill his promise and take care of him. Purposefully, Taylor did not remind his employer to pay him. Taylor followed that small inner voice through his whole life. He went to China. He survived disease. He survived poverty. All of it just seemed to end in one miracle after another. Quietly, the inner voice in my head started to go off. It started to say ‘You, you are going to have a life like that. You are going to be like Hudson Taylor.” Somehow, that made things start to get better. It also established a philosophy of faith (sometimes blind) that I have held to to this very day. It is like anything else. It is practiced. You have to learn to listed for that voice. It will not instantly start you out with big things. It starts out with ‘write an email.’ or ‘call someone, they need it.’ In my life, eventually it became “Work in the Philippines for a few months” and then it became “Quit your job and move to Maryland during the height of the greatest recession in 20 years.” Sometimes, you are like “really, God, did I just hear that right?” But if you are practiced in living by faith, faith will be its own reward.

zartan's brother

I was at a pharmacy (much like Walgreen’s) looking in the toy aisle for G.I.  Joe . I turned the card over for Zartan’s Brother and read the biography. I read it twice. I put the figure back. Keep in mind, I never actually owned the action figure. It was only two paragraphs. I walked away inspired. I wanted to literally be that guy. The next day at school, I purposefully sat in the back. I tried my best to not be noticed. I tried to walk behind people and not be noticed. I tried to figure out how to walk without being heard. I wanted to master … quiet. I paid attention to the character when the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero cartoon came on. I wanted to mimic the voice and how he talked without inflection. By college, I could literally walk into someone’s dorm-room and sit down and they would never even know I had entered the room. I could sneak up on people with Army training specifically to detect such things. I could sit in a hallway in broad daylight and no one would ever even know that I was there. No formal training, I just thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to one day have that written about me.

donald blake

In the comic X-Universe 1-2, there is the character of Dr. Donald Blake who never became Thor. At one point, this lame doctor manages to kill one of the most powerful mutants on Earth. Before that happens though, he makes a speech. The speech starts ‘in my dreams.’ Blake states that in his dreams, he dines with gods and goddesses in Valhalla. In his dreams, he knows that the world in which he found himself in was never meant to be. Blake was cheated in that life and he knew it. He knew that there was another world in which he had not been conquered. He knew that there was a world in which things did not go wrong. There was a world in which he could command thunder with a hammer. He wasn’t in that world. That fact made Dr. Donald Blake angry. In that anger, he found his power. I often think of that speech when people tell me that everything in ok or act like I have accomplished all that I ever will. I think of that speech when people suggest that I have fulfilled whatever potential I was supposed to have. I feel like they do not know me. I feel even more like the character of Dr. Donald Blake does. In my dreams, everything started right. Things went right from there. In this world, I can only steer towards an end. But to make it such and end that I feel like I had the beginning all along.

amazing spiderman 400

I have seen my share of people die. Honestly, I have seen too many. I have been affected by death as long back as I could remember. The Death of Aunt May in Amazing Spiderman 400 was something so beautiful that I have quoted it at funerals afterwards. When I think of death, I often go back to that issue in my mind. Aunt May tells Peter that she always knew that he was Spider-Man. She wonders what it would have been like to soar across the city skyline. The secret that Peter had kept for so long, the person closest to him had known all along and approved of it. In a lot of ways, that just meant the world to me. It opened up a world of hope. When Peter tearfully tells May that the way to Neverland is just the Second Star to the right and straight on till morning, I have never honestly been able to hear that line again after that without choking up a little bit. It was like it was written for me, on behalf of all those people whom I saw pass and could never make sense of.

the quiet american

Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is quite simply one of the best books ever written in the English language. More than that though, the journey that it takes you on if you are around a passionate group of people will really affect you. The thing about The Quiet American is to be able to see things from every point of view. How do you get to the point where you could commit and inhuman act and be absolutely convinced that you are doing the right thing? That is not only a question that was essential in Greene’s day, it is a question that is even more essential now. When I walked away from this book, it was with a greater and deeper understanding of the human condition and it was a chilling experience. It takes a certain type of person to appreciate it, and if I ever recommend it to you personally, then I not only feel that the book will speak to you but I feel like it needs to speak to you.

the fourth k

The Fourth K by Mario Puzo is absolutely the most important book a person could read in our post 911 world to truly understand the political and  cultural realities in which we find ourselves. The trick is that it was written about ten years before the events of September 11th ever took place. The Fourth K is so relevant that I think people are glad that it is largely forgotten. I don’t think I truly understood the political world before reading this book. I certainly have grown to understand it afterwards. It taught me how to look at things. It even taught me how to read news stories.

pyramid of success

John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success really showed me that to be successful, one had to be patient as well as consistent. Part of it was sweeping out driveways (literally) when I was working for my dad. There was no real point in sweeping a driveway that cars were just going to drive over again. However, if you kept at the task at hand, then even the driveway could get swept. Many of the projects that I do today (and I by no means at all consider myself to be a success) is simply plotting the next careful move that can actually be accomplished within the next day. Every night, I tweet `140 characters of the Bible. It has taken three years to get to Genesis chapter 24. It will probably take till 2016 just to get to the end of Genesis. The point is that seemingly impossible things than be done with slow steady progress. That helps me to budget time and get through days even ones that I consider to be ‘wasted.’ Maybe some day, it will actually all help me to be considered a ‘success’ in my own eyes.

different seasons stephen king

Different Seasons is honestly the best novel or novel series that Stephen King has ever done. At the very least, it was the most personally relevant one to me. Between stories like The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redmption. King manages to display a way to make sense out of the non sensical and find triumph in the cruel. Its not about doing anything with the body. Its about finding it. It is not about being in prison, it is about digging a tunnel out of it. It has nothing to do with who you were before but who you become after. Again, I am suspect of anyone who would tell me that I am fine just the way that I am. That does not mean that I am fine. That means that they personally are very comfortable with where I am and who I am in this life. I have found that comfort and misery will often go hand in hand. You accept a certain level of misery in order to maintain a certain level of comfort. The argument against the alleviation of misery is always the level of comfort that has always been achieved. Different Seasons dares to suggest that this is in essence a fallacy and that institutionalization can in fact be deadly. We are all in some sort of prison. Are we all digging out that wall each and every day?

mythology by edith hamilton

I think that I first read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology when I was in about the third grade. It was about the same time that I read the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. My mother was an elementary school teacher. She taught sixth grade, so I read the books that she took home. Mythology contributed to giving me a life long love of epic stories. I would go on to actually getting a degree in Classical Civilizations from the University of Mississippi. Classics (especially if you get through Greek and Latin) is really nothing more than an advanced study in problem solving. Problem solving is literally a skill which I have to use nearly thirty or forty times a day. I would actually grow to love comics and superhero stories after I read Mythology. In a way, it actually grounded me in a way that I would be able to appreciate the comics in context of the older stories in which they reflected.

orlando

Orlando by Virginia Woolf is a compelling book on a lot of levels, not only on the changes that the character goes through in a nearly immortal life. but also the evolution of the characters around them. Getting a destiny right is often a terrible thing for everyone around that person. It discusses the inevitability of change as well as how eventually even a universe can get things right. When you start to learn more about Woolf’s life, then it becomes not only more painful but also more essential and relevant.

the end

Its like the story of the boat ride in Venice. I cannot guarantee you that any of these works will shape you in any way or affect you. I can only say that that is what they did for me. They may mean nothing to you and that is quite honestly ok. As I try to put a Jerry Springer bow on it all, I am just giving you what affected me in order to have a deeper appreciation and understanding on me. Nothing more, Nothing less. If you want to go through and read all of them, then I would highly encourage it but I cannot guarantee that you would get anything out of it.

The Mountain Curse

mountain tunnell

The Mountain Curse

The Morning General Hospital has been locked down  in secrecy for the last two weeks. Workers at the hospital are not allowed access to the twelfth floor unless they have the highest clearance. The people who are handing out the ‘highest clearance’ have the run of the hospital, but they are not employees. They also do not seem to answer to anyone at the hospital.

Of those granting the ‘highest clearance,’ the one who seems to have seniority is Mister Steele. Mister Steele has a flat top haircut. His hair is a bright orange. Mister Steele smokes constantly (even in the hospital.) At the moment, Mister Steele is on his way to see Doctor Zenddacker. Doctor Zenddacker is one of the only doctors to have consistent ‘highest clearance’ to the twelfth floor.

Mister Steele is walking at a brisk pace to Doctor Zenddacker’s office. Mister Steele is being led to the office by Nurse Starr. Nurse Starr has dirty blonde hair and works out regularly. Nurse Starr mainly entered the medical profession to meet young doctors who might be looking for a wife. Of all the men Nurse Starr has met, Mister Steele makes her skin crawl the most. Mister Steele is even scarier than her father ever was. They way Mister Steele walks and moves makes Nurse Starr want to go back to school for a degree in elementary education. Now matter how fast she walks, Mister Steele always manages to keep pace. This is impressive considering Mister Steele is at least thirty years older than Nurse Starr.

Finally, the two reach Doctor Zenddacker’s office. Nurse Starr lets Mister Steele in. Mister Steele is wearing a black suit with a thin black tie. Steele also has thin sunglasses which he is wearing inside as well lips so thin that they almost look reptilian. With the government these days, they might very well be some sort of reptilian hybrid. That would be a lot easier to check out if there was any official record of ‘Mister Steele’ existing anywhere.

When you get to the point where you start to meet people that do not exist, then things have gone too horribly real. Doctor Zenddacker does not stand. Nurse Starr leaves without even asking if she could be of further assistance. Everyone in the room knows that she cannot.

Doctor Zenddacker is normally a very bright happy man. Zenddacker has bushy gray hair and wears horn-rimmed glasses. At the moment, the good doctor’s brow is rather unnaturally furrowed.

Doctor Zenddacker does not bother too look up. The Doctor knows who is in the room. The Doctor knows why they have come. The Doctor knows exactly what they want means.

Doctor Zenddacker looks up at Mister Steele and says barely above a whisper “I suppose if I asked you nicely to not smoke it my office, it would be considered merely a suggestion?”

The disgust was dripping from Zenddacker’s lips as he talked to this man. The fact that Zenddacker considered Steele to be the worst sort of human being was not inb question. For his part, as long as Zenddacker answered his questions, Steele could care less how far Zenddacker wanted to see him buried. Steele dismissed with the formalities assuming Steele even knew what such things were. Steele said coldly “I understand that the last of the campers is dead. Do I understand that to be correct?”

Zenddacker responded “Your concerned is touching. Yes, her name was Mary. She was the oldest of three daughters. I informed the family this morning. As with the others, I informed them that the cause was ‘unknown.’”

One of Steele’s pencil thin auburn eyelashes raised slightly. “And?”

Zenddacker continued after a short sigh “The mother threatened to sue the hospital and the government. The father tried to take a swing at me.”

Steele paused briefly. “Did he connect?”

Zenddacker paused and spoke again. “No, he had not even really made a fist.”

Steele looked genuinely displeased “Pity. We could have locked him up for a long time. I had hoped the girl would live.”

Zenddacker smirked. “Well Mister Steele, that is almost touching.”

Steele continued “At least a day. The culture on the biopsy would have been better if the body was still alive. Now, we will have to rush before things start to get cold.”

Zenddacker continued. “Well, I guess you read the report.”

Steele responded “Yes, that report has been marked as the highest level of national security. You would be advised to never discussed.”

Zenddacker chuckled slightly. “I just wrote that ‘national security document’ this morning.”

Steele grew grave. “You may be happy to know that our scientists concur with your findings right down to the use of that… ancient word.”

Zenddacker grew even more indignant. “That ancient word Mister Steele is cancer. It is not actually illegal to say.”

Steele turned towards the door. “Its not? I will have to make a few calls. I will have the bodies removed within the week. Then you can open up the floor and never mention any of this again.”

Zenddacker was now legitimately furious. “Or else? That is the implication, isn’t it? Tell me Mister Steele, will you delegate out the responsibility or would you kill me personally if I mention it again?”

Steele leaned into Zenddacker , quite uncomfortably so “Are you requesting that I do it personally Doctor Zenddacker?”

Doctor Zenndacker tried to pretend he was not afraid. It was not a very good job. The boldest thing that Zenndacker could say in response was “Mister Steele, there has not been a reported case of cancer in the last thousand years. This is a fact that I am sure you are well aware of. Now, how exactly did we have four hikers die of cancerous cells in under a week? How does that happen, Mister Steele?”

Steele was unusually cold in his response even for Steele “You part in this affair is over Doctor Zenddacker. I appreciate your work even if I am unable to personally acknowledge it. We will be out of your hospital within a week.”

With that, Steele turned to leave. Steel let the door shut behind him. Steele knew it would shut. Steele probably also knew that Zenddacker had collapsed into his chair. Zenddacker was scared and white as a sheet. Steele knew that too. Steele thought it would be of little comfort to Zenddacker that Zenddacker had actually acted about as bravely in front of him as anyone ever had. Deep down, Steele admired that Zenddacker had never once relinquished a sense of disgust or superiority when talking to him.

Steele talked with out breaking stride. “Open comm. Yes, I want Silver in office 1215 in four minutes. I will already be at the desk.”

Silver was a big burly man easily twice the size of Steele. Silver wore the same outfit. Silver knew Steele better than Zenddacker. This gave Silver reason to be twice as nervous when talking to Steele.

Steele felt the need to show even less tact with  Silver. “All four of the hikers. Three males and one female are now deceased. They all died of the same thing. Now, as to that….thing. Where do we stand on information as well as containment?”

Silver almost stammered “Containment is almost complete. We will send the materials out on a ‘satellite launch’ in the next 48 hours….”

Steele interrupted as was his custom “24 hours. I want that rocket set up and launched before sunrise.”

Silver continued “Director Stevens approved a 48 hour time frame.”

Steele retorted “I am quite sure that the order stated 48 hours or earlier. If it launches two days from now, I will personally issue you a ticket on that rocket. Understood?”

Silver had no reason to believe that Silver was anything but serious. Silver nodded. “I apologize. The containment and launch will be scheduled for tomorrow morning. This Doctor Zenddacker?”

Steele was more curt in his response than normal. “I have decided against liquidating him.”

Silver continued “But standard procedure?”

Steele responded angrily “I am standard operating procedure. Back to the hikers. How exactly did they know to go to that tunnel?”

Silver reported. “There was a local legend. Apparently, there was some truth to it. They said that the mountain was cursed. They said that there was a tunnel in there from which the curse would kill you. People would come in but would not come out. That’s what made this hiking party special. They were strong enough at the end to leave the mountain.”

Steele looked down and then back up again. “So, are you saying that the tunnel in the mountain had more bodies.”

Silver straightened up against talking to his superior “there was an  undetermined amount of casualties found near the barrels, yes. The remains were disposed of when the barrels were contained.”

For the first time since no one could remember, Steele was actually a bit reflective. “It is incredible isn’t it Silver? I mean in the 31st century that we would even find it or that it would still be lethal. Who would have known? And the markings on the barrels, can we confirm the suspected symbols?”

Silver continued. “Yes, they were faded but we are able to confirm the symbols. Apparently, it was once a common way to label the substance inside.”

Steele slid back in his chair. “Nuclear waste from a nuclear power plant. The greatest archaeological finding in centuries and now we get to blast it into space under a cloak of secrecy. Its absolutely amazing, Silver. Naturally, follow protocols.”

Silver tried his best to maintain an official air. “Yes, sir.”

Steele continued “Silver, you are dismissed.”

`Silver nodded calmly and walked out the door. Silently, he thought to himself that legends of deadly curses on ancient tombs would now go on forever.

 

 

The Current Heartache

I have reached the point yet again in my life where I find myself begging on some level. For those of you that may not know the history of this, or may not have been keeping up, here is what has been going on. In late October, I found myself in immense pain that I thought was testicular in nature. I applied for short term disability through work through Liberty Mutual. Initially, it was approved and it was determined to be epididymitis. I did what I was told, took the medicine and came back to work. I was then told that since I was out for less than five days, I would not qualify for any days with short term disability because it was less than five days.

After a week more, the pain became unbearable and I was referred to a urologist. The urologist actually did nothing more than say that the issue was not testicular in nature and that I would have to see a general surgeon. The earliest that the general surgeon would be able to see me was the beginning of January. At the beginning of January, the general surgeon determined that I was actually herniated in three places. That would require surgery. The surgery was scheduled for January 18th. In the interim, the insurance company Liberty Mutual denied my claim outright because it had been 45 days and all they had to go on was the urologist stating that the issue was not testicular in nature. Keep in mind, this denial came when I actually had surgery coming on the 18th proving that it was medical in nature. They further determine that even with as much pain I was in, that I could have been working all along. If I wanted to include the information about the surgery, that would all have to go into an appeal. What money I was bringing in during this time was brought in by either begging friends and family or writing online. Work never managed to pay a dime.

From January 18th on was the time of the surgery and the recovery. It was a terrible time and again, there was no real regular income. Most bills ended up being covered by a mixture of generosity, online writing, and the tax return coming in. Rent itself lagged about a month behind. When I finally did get back to work, Liberty Mutual said that I had exactly one appeal. I wrote out my appeal and kept calling them every day, the appeal was then denied based on their feeling that I should have been able to work and that they felt like the surgery was really after the fact. At the very least, I felt like there should have been payment for the time after the surgery through at least coming back to work. They managed to feel differently. Furthermore, work required an 8 page form filled out by my Doctor since the appeal was denied to even approve a leave of absence from work. In short, if the form was not filled out correctly, then I would still not be able to return to work.

Finally, I was allowed to return to work in the middle of February. After that, even with the tax return things struggled to get everything up to date as far as bills were concerned. I was informed by the apartment that I was about 1200 behind on rent. I figured that could make that up so I actually worked six days last week in order to get my check which deposits tomorrow up to 1200 at least. I figured beyond that I could again make it through by writing or whatever small things were needed to make it through for the next two weeks. There was an actual plan and everything seemed like it would go well. Most importantly, it did not look like I would have to beg.

Best laid plans of mice and men and all. I come home last night to a note on the door. The note says that I will be evicted on Tuesday if the amount is not paid of 1488 by Tuesday. This was actually nearly three hundred above what I had been initially told. Even with the overtime, the total amount needed to avoid eviction at this point now stands at around 342. The plan was always that if I could make it to May, then I would get paid three times because of the pay cycle on the two weeks in May. Furthermore, the beginning of May is the time in which my pay check is actually padded by a quarterly bonus and the last check is when the monthly take outs for car, home, and medical insurance do not come out. I had actually planned on mostly getting caught up on May 3rd. Then the paycheck on Mary 17th would break even and the paycheck on May 30th would actually get me ahead and all of the nightmare would finally be over. I don’t even want to discuss the medical bills. That is a special discussion in and of itself. 2013 was marked on the calendar for a long time as the time in which I was supposed to finally get out of a lot of bad stuff on my credit report. Basically from about 2003 to 2006, there was a series of defaults and damaging information. So, I have pretty much forgotten about credit after that. Starting in 2010, things started to drop off. The final negative mark was supposed to just go ahead and fall off in 2015 (which was a dispute with my apartment in Oklahoma, an entirely different discussion in and other itself). The place in Oklahoma was overtaken with bugs and they literally refused to take care off the air issue because they wanted to renovate.
So even though there was a plan and even though next month is going to be good, I have to get through this month first. All in all, the total amount is about 350 or so that I drop dead need. The problem is that I feel like I have been constantly and always begging for money, so it has been a rather serious blow to my level of human dignity and all. This is especially true because I had to make a similar plea at the beginning of January.

Honestly, I don’t actually know why. I have the most wonderful generous and consistently great friends in the world. I just don’t know how many times (even given the extreme circumstances) I am going to continue to have friends when it seems like all I ever feel like I do is in fact beg for money. I just have to believe that God has a plan for me and that God will provide for me and my family. I know that times are rough all around. I just don’t know if there is just about 350 out there to make it through this last hurdle before everything is good again.

I have no real right to ask, however I find myself in the position of asking and not having another way out of it even though I have tried so hard to avoid asking.

My pay pal is ciscell@hotmail.com if you can help out. If you are not able too, I understand completely. People have already given above and beyond so much to me that I could never even begin to repay any of them for the amount of human kindness, love, and everything else that I have received in life. If it doesn’t work out, then God simply has another path for me in life. I keep talking about how faith, family, friends, and love have saved me. I just hate that it keeps being a necessity. Thanks for taking the time.