(Hardly) The Last Star-Crossed Lovers

One of my favorite movies when I was growing up was The Last Starfighter. The film tells the tale of a teenager living in a trailer park in the middle of nowhere, who has dreams of going farther than life than to community college and a meager job (and existence) thus forevermore. One day, he beats the top score on an arcade machine at the corner store, and is soon whisked away to a war-torn alien world where he ultimately chooses to offer his skills to help defend the oppressed people from an evil emperor wanting to conquer the galaxy.

My favorite quote from this film comes from the scene just before Alex breaks the record on the arcade machine, setting his destiny in motion. Alex is complaining to Otis, the man running the store, that he is never able to enjoy himself, and Otis’ response is “Things change. Always do. You’ll get your chance! Important thing is, when it comes, you gotta grab it with both hands and hold on tight!”

“…when it comes, you gotta grab it with both hands and hold on tight!”

Those are words that have always stuck with me throughout my life, for better or for worse. I was always waiting for that one life-changing event that would be “it” for me, whether a career calling, or a relationship that would be my ticket to a perfect, peaceful existence. A greater part of me has always applied that quote to relationships than anything else. I couldn’t bear the thought of spending my life without my high school girlfriend, so sure that she was my one chance that I had to “grab with both hands”, so I threw everything I had into that relationship. Unfortunately, that resulted in me going overboard, being broken up with, and being heartbroken for over a year afterwards. Getting over her was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

Fast forward several years later, to 2008 when I began chatting with an old friend from community college. We hit it off instantaneously, and were officially dating within weeks. And after we were an official couple for a month or so, that is when I realized that she is my one chance for a relationship that is the best that it could be. She is whom I needed to grab with both hands and to whom I needed to hold on tightly. I knew I couldn’t bear to live through another breakup of someone that I was so close to, but more than that, I knew that it was time to throw away all the “what-if”s and “aren’t-you-worried-about”s and simply enjoy the ride.

Ashley and I were married the following summer, just 15 months after we began talking again.

Sure, we could have spent more time planning our lives. And sure, our lack of planning has on occasion been stressful and made us angry at ourselves that we didn’t plan better. But in the end, even amidst the desire to be more stable, (especially financially), I have enjoyed the uncertainty. And I sure as hell know that there is absolutely no one on this planet who I would rather share my uncertain existence with. We’ve learned so much that so many others who live comfortable lives simply can’t, because they are not challenged enough to see things from other angles, or to compromise as much, or live unconventionally.

I’m glad, for once in my life, that I listened to advice given from a movie character.

Because for once, it was good advice.

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Home Alone Tonight

 

A holiday parody of “Home Alone Tonight” by Luke Bryan
If you aren’t familiar with the original, please check it out here. It will make the parody much more enjoyable. Trust me. (And please don’t take this post as a plug for the original song. The tune is annoyingly catchy, and the lyrics FAR too simplistic, but the content itself is awful. It’s still hard to get out of your head, though.)

Verse 1:

Why’s it quiet in this place?

I coulda sworn it’d be airport racing time.

Maybe they’ll come back for me?

I’m sure they miss me, oh, wait, I’m a disease.

So, let’s party by myself,

I think I’ll jump on the bed.

Eating popcorn and ice cream,

Daring them to stop me.

Chorus 1:

I won’t be scared, I’ll bathe, I’ll shop

And then I’ll do some laundry,

Hey, I saw that guy last night! He’s not a cop!

And now he’s chasing me.

‘Need to go home, throw my defenses up,

Get the house ready, and when those two show back up,

I’ll have the lights on, shadows dancing as well,

Confuse ’em both to hell.

Make ’em think that I’m not home alone tonight,

‘Cuz there’s no way that I’d be home alone tonight.

Verse 2:

Slow Christmas song by the Drifters,

Aftershave burns, but at least I’m becoming a man.

The crooks came by; caught me by myself,

They say they’ll be back tonight,

I gotta go…

Chorus 2:

I won’t be scared, I’ll scheme, I’ll plot,

And then I’ll decorate the tree.

Hey, I saw that guy last night! He’s not a cop!

And now he’s onto me.

Get my plan down, throw my defenses up,

I’ll have the house ready, so when those two show back up,

I’ll have all the traps set, so they’ll regret that I’m

home alone tonight.

They’ll be so sorry that I’m home alone tonight.

Bridge:

It feels too good to bust them both right here,

(I love being home alone tonight)

Oh, no, they caught me, please don’t let it end right here,

(I wish I wasn’t home alone tonight).

Chorus 3:

I’m so scared, but wait, who’s that?

It’s Old Man Marley.

I talked to him last night! He’s not so bad!

And now he’s saving me.

Took ’em both out; shovel hit to the face,

Picked me up in his arms, and helped me to escape,

He helped me call the cops; walked me back to my home,

And now I regret that I’m home alone tonight.

I shouldn’t have to be home alone tonight.

It’s not fair that I’m home alone tonight.

Inside Out, Upside-Down, and Every Which Way but…Happy.

My wife and I saw “Inside Out” for the first time tonight. I’d heard very good reviews from everyone I know who has seen it, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. The film is indeed absolutely incredible, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I cannot recommend it enough. And even though this post is strongly connected to the film, I don’t want to bore you with a lengthy plot synopsis, neither do I want to ruin the experience of the film. Please be warned that some sparing spoilers are likely ahead, but rest assured that it is nowhere near enough of them to warrant watching this masterpiece of a film “pointlessly unwatchable.”

Instead of the usual cliché that says that “our lives are not filled with only joyous things because if they were, if there was no sadness to balance them out, we wouldn’t appreciate them as much,” Inside Out delves deeper in order to help audiences (and even characters) understand that sadness is not simply a thing that must exist to make joy look and feel better by comparison. Rather, it is in and of itself, perfectly healthy thing to be acknowledged, accepted, and embraced. To let it be a part of not only your memories but who you are as a person, and how you live your life.

This seemingly backwards mix of emotions is something that stared me dead in the face this year. Its gaze penetrated to the furthest, darkest depths of my most deepest, darkest fears, and left me completely broken, terrified to my very soul, and feeling more alone than I ever have before in my entire life.

In the midst of my wife and my darkest hour, stressed out from an utter lack of finances, an overabundance of unbridled toddler energy in our apartment (we currently have a 3-year-old and a 16-month-old), me disliking my job and being terrified of never being able to climb out of the hole of debt that we have found ourselves in, something happened to me one night that put the cherry on top of my cake made of pure stress.

On the night of my birthday, I came home late from working to find my wife curled up on our half-broken rocking chair, and acting quite a bit more antsy than usual. Instinctually I realized what was bothering her.

Are you pregnant?” I asked her, just in case my guess was wrong. She slowly nodded, and then I knelt beside her as we both sobbed.

We both wished that we could have been happier about the coming of a new baby, but we were just too overcome with stress and worry to be joyous about it. We felt trapped and hopeless, and burdened, not blessed, with this news.

And we both felt absolutely and utterly ashamed, powerless to look at our current situation in any different light than we were at the moment.

I think what I felt more strongly than anything else in the ensuing days and weeks past that night was guilt. Guilt that I didn’t have my life more under control. Guilt that I was 31 and still had no clue what in the fuck my life had in store for me. Guilt that knowing when my future son or daughter asks about when we first found out we were expecting them, I can’t honestly say “I was so happy!”

I was broken.

My wife and I are in a much better place now, in all areas of our life, and the more time passes the more excited we are finding ourselves about the birth of our third (and FINAL) child.

But even through my sadness, my guilt, my hurt, my brokenness, I tried as hard as I could not to make myself feel guilty that I wasn’t forcing happiness in the “fake-it-till-you-make-it” vein that I had heard so much growing up. My wife helped me accept that the happiness would come with time, but for the moment we needed to focus on ourselves, to wind down from the simply awful year that we had had thus far, and to mentally and emotionally cleanse ourselves for what was yet to come in our lives.

And watching Inside Out the other day helped me do just that. It reassured me that my sad, scared feelings about growing our family were perfectly acceptable, and that rather than push them out of my mind with everything I could muster, I needed to embrace them. Even though my memories of first learning that we were going to have a new baby are colored blue, and no amount of remembering or re-imagining will ever change that, it doesn’t have to dictate how I feel about the situation overall.

I can learn from it.

I can grow from it.

I can let my experience change the man that I am today, and have a healthier, rounder, more dynamic way of looking at things than I ever did before.

I am forever grateful for this film and the message inside.

Depression is difficult to work though.

But you are never alone.

Free Will For All…Not Just for Christians

I am a Christian.

But I don’t talk about it anymore with those who don’t really know me.

Especially not at work.

I shy away from religious conversations not because I don’t want to debate things, or because I’m “ashamed of Jesus” ←(an ever-popular, guilt-inducing, false reason for not shoving your religion down someone else’s throat), or even because I don’t want others to come to belief in God and His Son because I think that they “don’t deserve it.”

The reason that I don’t talk about my religion with acquaintances rather than friends IS, however, because I am growing ever weary of popular opinion dictating what I need to believe in order to be a Christian “worthy” of the title.

I need to believe that evolution is a “lie” or a “scam” and that 100% hand-made, instantaneous Creationism is the ONLY way that the entire knowable Universe came into being.

I need to believe that climate change is a scam just so that the government can make money…somehow. (I’ll never understand the reasoning behind that one.)

I need to believe that Planned Parenthood provides NO good services and as a result, I need to believe that they must be punished.

I need to believe that every legal entity who disagrees with my moral stance must be kept in check by the government, and that by forcing my religious views (many of which I don’t even hold to, myself) on them in a legalistic manner, that I am, CLEARLY, doing “God’s work”, and that He is pleased by my closedmindedness and insistence on doing things my way.

The fact remains that the secular community has not signed up for our belief system (though “system” is a terrible term for the myriad of differences in religious stances between different denominations)…and they shouldn’t be forced to.

We Christians love to talk about how free will is SUCH a blessing in our lives, and how only when we have the choice to disobey God in our lives but choose to live by His rules anyway are we proving our true love for Him…but we refuse to allow anyone else the same freedom.

Why does it feel like I’m the only one who sees through this insane dichotomy?

Whatever happened to 1 Peter 2:11? “Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires which wage war against your soul,” – Lexham English Bible

And I fully understand that the context of this verse is speaking more to sinful actions we partake in (yet shouldn’t), it is undeniably also referring to the fact that as Christians, this world is not where we need to set up camp, plant our flag, and claim all rights to.

We.

Are.

Foreigners.

We do not belong here.

And when we act like we do, when we forget our higher calling, when we fail to act as though we are only temporary residents in this land, we are little more than bullies, trying to force the rest of the world (or at LEAST this Country) to live as we do.

I see NO evidence in the Bible that we have the freedom to revoke the free will of those of other cultures, other religions, other countries, and force them to behave in ways that WE see fit.

I will close this post with something that I recently posted on Facebook. I worded it wonderfully, and I can’t find a better way to put it:

As Christians, this world is NOT OUR HOME. This is a fact overlooked, or even flat-out ignored SO often. Christianity should be spread in lives touched, not laws passed. Nor is it our job to force the rest of the world to behave as we do. Look at ancient Rome, in New Testament times. Were the early Christians afraid that everything going on around them meant the end of the world? No! They understood that the government was NOT Christian, and they dealt with it, learning to work underground, to flourish by touching lives, not passing laws. I have heard it said before that Christianity is more real and important to people in places where it is forced to be an underground practice. I am growing weary of all the complaining and apocalyptic terror whenever Christianity loses footholds in the legal system (a system it had no place in to begin with). 

It is not our job as Christians to force everyone else to live like we do, but to uphold that lifestyle as good and pure and praiseworthy IN OUR OWN LIVES. It is ONLY though that example that our religion becomes desirable, and wanted by others.

When we start living a 1 Peter 2:12 life, we can change the world from the inside out—the way we’re supposed to do it in the first place.

Live honourable lives among the Gentiles, in order that, although they now speak against you as evil-doers, they may yet witness your good conduct, and may glorify God on the day of reward and retribution. “ – 1912 Weymouth New Testament

Live honourable lives among the Gentiles, in order that, although they now speak against you as evil-doers, they may yet witness your good conduct, and may glorify God on the day of reward and retribution. “ – 1912 Weymouth New Testament

Confessions of a Second-Rate Firstborn

One of my wife and my favorite television shows of all time is Friends. We own all the seasons on DVD, and quote the show constantly to each other. Our sons are even named Chandler and Joey (the former, our oldest, on purpose. Joey is actually named after my grandfather—a happy accident.)

Ross is, quite honestly, my least favorite character on the show, probably because I can identify with him the least.

Joey, in the words of his best friend Chandler, “chose to go into the out-of-work actor business.” and as a direct result, is quite often found to be without any source of income. I do have a job, but being broke is one thing I understand quite well.

Chandler is, for the majority of the series, the anti-ladies’ man, awkward in social situations and the kind of guy who, completely unintentionally, sends women running for the hills whenever he expresses his feelings for them—something that has plagued me for years, both in adolescence and early adulthood.

Ross, on the other hand, is financially successful, possesses a doctorate in paleontology, and *spoiler alert* ends up with his high-school crush—the woman of his dreams1.

The nail in the coffin, the final clincher for why Ross’ character is completely foreign to me is because he is, most obviously, the family favorite. A “medical marvel” so his parents claim, as before he was conceived they thought that his mother could not bear children. He is the golden child in their eyes, and can do no wrong. They trust him implicitly, sometimes without adequate reason, and even when faced with infallible proof that he has done wrong, they blind themselves to that fact and choose instead to focus blame on another party involved—often his sister Monica.

I, however, am the anti-Ross of my family.

Little that I accomplished or strived for in life was ever good enough. I realized a while back that every single major life decision I have ever made has received major push-back from my parents, primarily my mother. My first LDR (“Long-Distance Relationship.” I clarify that because I am unsure if LDR is a term in its own right, or just something I have been using on my own all these years) with a girl I met at church camp one year.2 My decision to grow my beard out when I was 17. Piercing my ear when I was 22. Attending college in Georgia. Getting married. Having our first child. Each and every one of these events was directly opposed by my wonderfully supportive family.

It wasn’t just that I made poor decisions in my family’s eyes. I was also supposedly untrustworthy for some unknown reason. See, I grew up in a town that is the very definition of “small town” with an in-town population (and I’m not exaggerating; this is honest-to-God truth here) of one-hundred people, and where within, according to Buzz from Home Alone, we lived “on the most boring street in the whole United States of America, where nothing even remotely dangerous will ever happen. Period.” And yet, despite this fact, I was inexplicably forced to wait until I was fifteen years old before I could stay home alone for any length of time.

While Ross was viewed as the golden child, “the prince,” according to Monica, I was the golden child. I was the most helpful, honest, trustworthy, innocent, kid that any parent could hope to have, and yet I wasn’t trusted to do much of…anything. Stay home alone. Browse the internet without permission. (Mom kept our dial-up connection password-protected until I moved out of the house at 22). Talk to my friends on the phone with any semblance of privacy.

My mom was, to quote Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: Nemesis “A Tyrannical Martinet,” and I try as hard as I can to model my parenting style as differently from hers as possible.

I try to actually respect my children and their individuality instead of throwing out “because I said so”s like magic pills, capable of solving any situation regardless of anyone’s feelings or situational context. My boys are not just children who have no rights because of their age or familial status. They are individuals worthy of my respect.

Should I watch out for them and do my best as a parent to keep them safe? Absolutely! But I should lead them to deeper, independent thinking, encourage problem-solving skills, and teach them how to correctly utilize logic instead of discouraging it telling them that they “think too much” when they dare to think deep thoughts, and/or wrestle with difficult concepts.3

Controlling the lives of my children is hardly what’s best for them. If they can’t think for themselves later in life, then I have done them NO favors in preparing them for adulthood. I want intelligent children that I can dialogue with, both about important issues and the small ones. I want to encourage that intelligence along in any way that I can. And I want to respect their character, their intelligence, their personhood in ways that I never experienced and beyond.

I may have a Chandler and a Joey, but I am trying as hard as I can to allow them to be the Ross that I never could be. My little Princes deserve the absolute best. And it starts with me.

1 I’m not saying that my wife is not the woman of my dreams. I just haven’t longed to be with her for years upon years. We found each other much later in life than high-school.

2 Mom’s contention with this relationship wasn’t just a word or two of caution about how difficult maintaining an LDR is, but literally asking me “Isn’t there anyone around here you can date?” Thanks, mom. Your encouragement is overwhelming.

3 Yes, I’m speaking from personal experience.

Public Breastfeeding: A Woman’s Civil Right

My wife and I recently declined to stay at someone’s home overnight because, if we had, she would have been forced to either cover up or go into another room to breastfeed our 1-year-old son.

That may not sound unreasonable to you, but keep in mind that he’s 1. A full year old. Active. Alert. Walking, babbling, yelling, etc., etc., etc. Covering up is just not gonna happen. And as for the other option? Well, let’s just say that there is no damn reason why my wife has to be relegated from the rest of the house just because my son is hungry. (Or crying. Or misses mom. Or is sad. Or is teething1) Any reason, really.

This ultimatum in question, which once laid upon us was fully expected that we adhere to it, came not from a bed-and-breakfast locale, or even a friends’ home, but from a member of my own family. He would not allow my wife to openly breastfeed because, according to my mother, “That’s not how he was raised.”

Now, I’ve heard that phrase before, and I understand it insofar as it means “This behavior/activity/whatever is foreign to me because I was not brought up in a home that understood it.” But when used as reasoning for why a behavior can no longer be permitted, I can only believe that it means, in essence, “I’m too closed-minded to even conceive of any other way of behavior that my parents taught me, nevermind the fact that I’ve been on my own for 3 times as long as I was ever under their roof.”

Openly breastfeeding IS perfectly morally acceptable, and it angers me to no end that we were encouraged to bend this truth in order to appease someone far too bull-headed and stuck in their ways to accept it.

While recounting this story to a friend last week, looking for support in this situation, she admitted to me that she would never breastfeed in public because of all the people who feel uncomfortable about it. I was saddened by her response, because it meant that the mentality of “public breastfeeding is…icky” has permeated American culture so completely, that we’re willing to walk on eggshells (…”breastfeed on eggshells…”?) to appease those who don’t agree. But this is a very dangerous way of thinking, because it lends itself to nearly every other civil rights movement in history, discouraging anyone from rocking the boat of the status quo. “Excuse me, ma’am? Can you please use a cover, or leave the room to feed your son? You’re making me feel uncomfortable.” = “Excuse me, Ms. Parks? Can you please sit in the back of the bus instead of the front? You’re making me feel uncomfortable.” It’s the exact same argument!

If we choose to “stand by” nursing mothers by believing that they should be able to openly breastfeed in public, but cringing when we see it ourselves, or being too afraid of what people will say or think, then we are hardly—if at all—different from the opponents of its practice. I know. I used to be there. I am someone who is often overly-concerned with what others think of me, and that spilled over into how my wife interacted with our children. When my own wife would openly breastfeed our sons in church, I would feel uncomfortable. I, too, “was raised” that women should at LEAST cover up when breastfeeding…but I wasn’t stupid enough to ask that of my wife. I like my teeth the way they are, thank you very much. I have, thankfully, come around and see things 100% from her point-of-view now, and I understand that it may take some time to get there. But her refraining from breastfeeding in public just so that I could feel more at ease would not have helped the situation in the slightest. I would only have taken longer to be ok with it, (assuming I ever would have been.), and by dealing with my uneasiness, I was able to work through it and realize that it isn’t about me. It’s about her and our sons. Which is what all men, how everybody, who witnesses a woman breastfeeding in public need to realize.

The views that Americans have about breastfeeding in public have got to change. Now. Because the longer we sit on the sidelines and choose to be silent about a woman’s civil right to openly breastfeed, we are only perpetuating the cycle that it is a dirty thing only to be done in private.

Please, please, please, please, please take the time to read this article that my wife found a few weeks ago. It puts to rest many-a-tired argument against openly breastfeeding, and gives a very eye-opening account of the surprisingly recent history to the American paradigm shift of “breastfeeding” becoming a dirty word.

http://doublethink.us.com/paala/2012/02/03/read-it-every-argument-against-nip-debunked/

1Her absolute favorite reason! *eyeroll*

To Boldly Go

“To Boldly Go.”

Growing up a fan of the Star Trek franchise, I heard this phrase on a weekly basis for most of my childhood. And it perplexed me for years thereafter. Not because of its confusing meaning, or because the word “boldly” is foreign to me. Instead, it befuddled me because of the very definition of the phrase itself; “To boldly go” is a split infinitive, a phrase with a word inserted in between the preposition “to” and a verb.

“To awkwardly dance.” “To quickly make a sandwich.” “To brightly shine.”

“To Boldly Go.”

It grieves me to say that on April 14th, 2015, Catherine Doris Scott boldly went were no one had gone before—present company excluded, of course.

There are things about Catherine we will all remember. Her ferocious and vociferous love for the color purple. Her adamant claims that mom and dad haven’t come to see her or Richard in 3 weeks—nevermind the fact that they had just been there last week…

..or yesterday…

…or an hour ago

Her incessant demands to drive out to get a hamburger with a car that she did not only no longer own, but also no longer functioned—not that we were stupid enough to inform her that we broke her car.

“To Boldly Go.”

Or, perhaps, “To split infinity.” To have two separate and distinct parts of your life each live on forever in their own right. To spend an eternity both here with us and There with Him. To live on forever in both places.

Catherine will most certainly live on in the eternity of our memories. I recall how kind she was when we first met, even though I was the unknown boy from Ohio who was dating her precious granddaughter…and even had the audacity to propose the next day.

Catherine certainly lives on in my wife, who is just as full of piss and vinegar as her grandmother is. Which is a most definite bonus, especially when she is dealing with our firstborn son, who gets it from his mother…and her father.

So, we will remain here and do our best to hold on to the split infinity of Catherine that still resides within us. For we will all one day, boldly go where no one has gone before. I can only hope that I am able to do so as boldly as she.

– Fin