Friday, December 12, 2008

Interview with Alison Jones, Director of Advocacy at Resolve Uganda

Minutes after posting my last blog, I received and email from Resolve Uganda with an update (I am on their email list). I responded and invited them to read and comment on the post. They did and it has led to this interview. Please read and mull it over:

Alison, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. I threw out on Twitter that I would be getting the chance to talk to you and it generated a bit of good bit of buzz so I am excited.

Could you first introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
My name is Alison Jones (pictured above) and I'm one of the co-founders of Resolve Uganda, an organization that was created to protect children from being abducted and abused by a rebel army in Uganda by putting pressure on our leaders here to end the war.

I understand we are mainly talking about Uganda here, but it probably carries across into other countries too. Why the use of child soldiers? What does it accomplish?
That's a complicated question that depends largely on the country that we're talking about. While this problem is most critical in Africa, it's also occurring in Asia, Latin America and in parts of Europe and the Middle East. In the case of Uganda, the rebel Lord's Resistance Army(LRA) uses child soldiers because they had little to no support from the local population and this was the most expedient way to replenish and fill their ranks. Children make easy prey, and are also easier than adults to brainwash and indoctrinate. The LRA is a case of forcible abduction --- there are other conflicts where children choose (in as much as 11-year olds can make informed decisions) to fight, because they have no other options.

I know civil war was displaced many children in Uganda and groups like Invisible Children are trying to work in that aftermath. What is going on now with the Lord's Resistance Army?
While the war between the LRA and Ugandan government has always been commonly viewed as a civil war, there have always been regional components that complicated the situation. The LRA was used as a proxy fighting force by the Sudanese government in its fight against the South Sudanese, and the porous borders in the region allowed the LRA to move freely. The LRA and Ugandan government have been involved in peace negotiations for the past two years that brought relative stability to northern Uganda, but unfortunately this peace came at the expense of other security for other populations in the region. While the negotiations were happening, the LRA took the opportunity to move its bases to the Congo (next door to Uganda) and has recently started committing attacks there that are comparable to what they did in N. Uganda for so long -- abducting children, displacing communities, terrorizing families. This is now very much a regional crisis that the world is going to have to pay attention to and act on if children in Congo and Sudan are going to be spared the same brutal fate that so many children in N. Uganda endured.

I threw out on my last blog post that I did not see the point in legislation because the problem seems to be rebels who would not adhere to laws or proclamations. I would also argue that they would not be the ones affected by restrictions in aid. You disagreed. Could you tell me how it would help?
You make a good point that legislation aimed at rebel groups will be ineffective. But just as much as rebel armies use this tactic, so unfortunately do governments (Uganda included). Just yesterday, Congress passed the Child Soldiers Prevention Act that will limit military funding to governments that recruit and use child soldiers. This is a huge step. In the case of rebel armies, organizations like mine recognize that rebel armies will only abandon this tactic when they are forced to - aka when the conflict is ended. That's why we're doing everything we can to achieve peace for this region - it's the only way kids are going to be safe.

Why should the average person in the Western world care? How/does it affect us?
For anyone who has had the chance to listen to the story of a child soldier, whether in a news article, through a movie, or in person, there is a very human component to this. These are just little kids - and whether they live next door or across the ocean - they deserve to be protected. I wholeheartedly believe that this is an issue with no moral uncertainty - what's happening to these children is wrong, and it's no less wrong just because it's not happening right where we live. In addition to that belief though, there is the argument about failed states and what it will take to secure our world. We know that lack of education, extreme poverty, lack of any opportunity breed insecurity - and that this is where armed conflict thrives. I think 9/11 showed most Americans that we need to start paying attention to what's happening in other parts of the world - because our planet is a lot smaller than we think.

How do we get involved, is there anything else we can do besides writing to or representatives in congress?
In the case of the LRA, I would encourage people to join our campaign for peace at We were founded on the belief that these kids will be safe only when our politicians care enough to protect them - and that we can make that happen. We organize events all throughout the year that put pressure on our leaders to act for peace. I know that the political process is intimidating to some people, and that writing a letter doesn't sound like the coolest thing to do, but I can promise you that it is the best thing you can do to help these children in the long run.

How does your work differ from that of Invisible Children, another prominent group working for peace in Uganda? Do you ever work together?
We do work quite closely with Invisible Children --- As they are working to raise awareness and directly assist children in northern Uganda, we're trying to translate that awareness into political pressure. For every person who sees their film, we want them to call their Member of Congress and ask them to do something. We very much value our collaboration and friendship with their organization and hopefully will have some joint events coming up.

Alison, thank you for your time and very thought provoking answers. This is not an advocacy specific blog but advocacy is an aspect I care deeply about. I would invite you to come back and keep us updated anytime.

For more information, please visit Resolve Uganda by clicking on the logo below:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rooted Reality in 24: Redemption

Last night one of my favorite television shows returned for one night. "24" broadcast a 2-hour movie to set up the upcoming season. For those that have not tuned into the show, the premise has been that each season follows a counter terrorism agent named Jack Bauer through one significant day. So each episode is an hour long and there are 24 of them. Seasons have been spaced out so one season might actually take place 4 years later than the season before it. Because of the events that will be happening in this season, the show's creators thought it would be useful to provide us with two hour prequel to let us know how Jack ended up where he is going to be when the season starts in January

"24: Redemption" is set in the fictional African nation Sangala on the eve of a revolutionary coup. Jack is found at an American school that has taken in, what could be assumed as, orphaned children whose parents might have been killed in previous revolutions or counter-revolutions. Not too much unlike the work Invisible Children is trying to do in Uganda.

Which, brings me to the point of this entire blog (if you have been reading my writings, you knew this was not going to be all about a TV show). A lot of what occurred in and was the premise of "24: Redemption" is very much rooted in reality. I am not talking about Jack Bauer kicking ass and not caring enough to take names, that is what we have Chuck Norris for. I am talking about the conflict occurring in the troubled African country. The children on the show were being kidnapped and brainwashed into becoming child soldiers. If you are not aware, then let this be your wake up call. While many of us grew up with relatively little strife, 10-year old children in Uganda and other countries were forced to decide between killing their own parents and siblings or being killed themselves. No one should be faced with that decision especially not at 10. The brutal warlords can then guilt the children into thinking they will be forever unforgiven and their only hope in life is to fight for them or be turned in to the authorities. Other children "volunteer" as a chance to escape poverty or simply to avoid being killed by the militia. It is routinely estimated that there are between 250,000 and 300,000 soldiers under the age of 18 worldwide. I was actually a little disappointed that while Fox brought attention to what is going on, they only gave very brief mention in a commercial that provided the average viewer any indication what they watched is not only real but, minus Jack Bauer, occurs every day. And based on what happened, I imagine this will be largely ignored in January.

I really don't care how much I write here. I am never going to be able to do this topic justice. It is simply sickening to think that while a child should be enjoying days of accepted immaturity, learning new things, playing sports, etc. they are instead forced to be puppets in a war that is not theirs. Forced to kill their family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. I would really encourage you to poke around for more information on sites like this. It might not be occurring in your back yard, but visit a school during recess or look at your own children and imagine the kids who are "playing" war are actually equipped with Ak-47s. There is no laughing, no joy, no careless freedom. Only dead souless eyes who have been stripped of innocence.

I have looked at some of the work people are trying to do to prevent these atrocities. I don't see the good of any of their ideas because they are all based on the assumption the same lawless dogs that use the children would obey some sort of protocol or mandate. So what do we do? Is there anything we can do? Can we only deal with the aftermath?

Friday, November 21, 2008

19-Year Old Commits Suicide with Others Watching Online

Today I came across an article that I found frighteningly disturbing on so many levels. I will try to be brief on each point but there are so many thoughts packed in here, it is going to be tough. Abraham Biggs Jr. was teenager who was having some serious problems in life. On Wednesday November 19, 2008, he took his own life. What makes this suicide different is that it was done on a live web cam. With others not only watching, but some encouraging him to do it. 1500 people reportedly watched this kid end his own life. I actually have to pause to collect myself. This is one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever read.

11 years ago, almost to the exact day, I plotted and was prepared to carry out my own suicide. There aren't that many people that know that. If I am giving my testimony or someone finds out, I freely talk about it but I have not previously gone around pronouncing it. I am not just talking about being sad and thinking death would be better. I mean I was wrecked and had my death and the date planned out. I got lucky though. God used a classmate that I did not know so well to inadvertently bring me from the brink. I wish to God someone had been there for Abraham. [Disclaimer: I have provided a link to the note he left because I think it is important for recognizing what is going on with the people around us. This is not for kicks or entertainment. If you are using it for such, please respectfully do not click on it from my page.] Reading his note, I can identify with the pain, torment and worthlessness he felt and wonder if the people around him could see it in him. I know I was good about hiding my depression. My own parents did not know how bad I had been back then until I told them about it this year.

One of the things that I found most disturbing is that some people in that online community did not only doubt Abraham's intent, they encouraged him to end his life. Now, I am not trying to blame these people for his death. He made the final choice to end his life. But what I do want to hit on is how much people can lack in empathy that they would not only fail to provide any semblance of care and support, but would go out of their way to encourage death. I hope that you are not like that but it does remind me of the Milgram Experiment that showed almost all are capable of harming someone we don't directly know. By the time people took Abraham seriously, it was too late.

Another aspect is that we have been blessed with incredible opportunities for connecting with complete strangers because of the internet. Unfortunately, it can also rob of us of our humaneness because of the content we are exposed to. Sadly in our quest for attention and entertainment, I do not think this is the last online suicide we will read about.

If you are thinking about suicide, please stop. Go talk with someone. A friend, a parent, even a professional counselor or therapist. Life is not one we should journey in alone. And I promise you that no matter what is going wrong, no matter how bad things are, there is someone who can relate to you. There is someone that cares enough that their life would be affected by your death. But more than anything, if you end your life, you do not get to see what tomorrow holds and it might just be the day things turn around. How do I know? I was there. Hopeless. Welcoming death. In 24 hours my life did a complete 180 and I have never looked back. Come away from the edge. Someone will listen.

Please! I implore you. If you know someone that is battling depression or hear of a suicide plot online or in your community, take it seriously. Sometimes simple interaction can change things around for the person. Sometimes you need more help. Please visit the The National Institute for Mental Health and To Write Love on Her Arms for more information on suicide prevention, support, and resources.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Feeling Trapped?

As I stepped on the elevator today, I thought to myself, "I hope I make it back in time and the next session has not started yet." I was at CltWordCamp, a conference type of event that focuses squarely on everything WordPress because I am going to be starting two new blogs over the next year and wanted to learn more about We had just finished a meet and greet and were given a 15 minute break before the start of the next event. Knowing there would be some networking opportunities later, I ignored my bladder and ran to the car to grab some business cards.
On the assent to the third floor I suddenly realized my journey was taking significantly longer than it should have. None of the buttons were lit. "Ah ha!" I thought. "I had simply forgotten to press the button." After pressing all of the buttons, I realized I was not going anywhere. Prying the doors open revealed that I was lodged between the 2nd and 3rd floors as indicated by the numbers painted on the concrete slab outside the door. I could see that I had less than a foot of clearance to look out over the third floor.
After pressing the alarm button to no avail, I raised my phone to the small opening and got enough signal to text Andy Denton that I was stuck. Within a a minute or two I could hear Andy and a few others outside the door. Jason Silverstein and Steve Gunn showed up and let me know they were going to be getting help. They stuck around and provided me with a copy of the Charlotte Observer and The Eye to keep me occupied.
During my time in the elevator I spent my time whistling The Girl From Ipanema and briefly started to sing Aerosmith's "Love in an Elevator" before realizing how wildly inappropriate it was given my present company of no one. I did a few sets of push ups and joked around with the people outside the door. I think they were more nervous about my situation than I was.
As the seminar broke for lunch, the maintenance crew found they were able to pry the doors open wide enough so I could get some cooler air. I now had a one foot slot where people could stop by and take pictures (which have been contributed here). I was also fed pizza and salad through my small hole to the outside world.
I set out my business cards for Peer In Counseling Center and shouted things at passersby such as, "Do you feel trapped in life like I am trapped in this elevator? Then give me a call and let's talk!" and "Trapped in a loveless relationship is no better than being trapped in an elevator. Call me and let's get your relationship back on the tracks!"
After nearly an hour an half they were finally able to hand crank the elevator to the next floor and I was set free. I felt like a puppy that has been in the kennel all day. I didn't know who to talk to first, or if I should eat, or perhaps go pee (which, by this point I definitely regretted putting off).
I eventually gave my thanks, told a few more jokes about the situation, and went to slam back a few slices of pizza before the seminar started again. By the time I finally sat back down, my reputation had reached epic proportions. I was given a new name tag and for the rest of the day was known as "Elevator Man" or "The Elevator Guy." All in all I had a ton of fun with it, used it as an opportunity for networking and meeting some great folks, and even did a little marketing. Lisa Hoffmann would be proud.
So the next time you are "trapped," whether it be in a job, relationship, or elevator, keep in mind that it is what you make out of it and it can actually turn into a great experience.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Losing Fight

How do you fight against the will of man
When God's gift of freedom can thwart all plans?
Desire runs in tunnels deep.
What has sprung must return to sleep.

Happiness is what others hold
Fleeting from my control.
Rare as precious stone,
The pain extends to the bone.

Are God and I so far apart
Wanting different things for our shared heart?
Battles that can be won will be fought.
Solitude will remain always not.

But how do you fight against the will of man?
Seek Him first and you will understand.

To Every Season There is a Cold

I am sick today. I have a full blown cold and it makes for a less than pleasant day. I will spare you details but if Jesus ushered me into Heaven today, I would certainly think he picked a good day to spare me my misery.

I don't know about you, but when I get sick, it is easy to focus on all of the other things that are going wrong in my life because I am already discontent. Family life isn't perfectly balanced, money is tight, I am still wallowing in singleness when I feel built for marriage, etc. I am sure you have your own list of despondency.
However, I know this is just a season. In Ecclesiastes 3 Solomon reminds us that what we are going through is not only for a purpose but only for a time as well. You are probably more familiar with the The Byrds' song, but it expresses that there is a season to everything and then it passes. Some of it is good, some of it is miserable.
So while I will never promote the idea that life has the potential to be perfect, hang in there because whatever you are going through will only last for a time before it is replaced.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Misnomer of Inspiration

In a recent blog I spoke of peoples' draw to Obama being in large part due to his ability to inspire the people around him. I heard multiple times towards the end of the campaign that some were voting for Obama because he inspired them and they expected him to inspire others to be better people. I labeled this to be a misnomer for several reasons. Personally, the only thing Obama has inspired me to do is move to Ireland where they have cool accents, leprechauns, and lower taxes. But I digress.

Anybody who has taken a cursory course in Psychology has heard the terms extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Summed up, extrinsic motivation is being motivated by outside sources such as rewards or to avoid pain while intrinsic motivation is an internal process when you do something because you enjoy it or because you believe it is the right thing to do.
My contention with Obama's inspiration of motivation actually has little to do with him and has more to do with the mindset of the American people. Don't get me wrong. Obama was very wise to tap into the idea of acting as an external motivator but I think he should just as readily tap into people's evaluations of self-worth that help or hinder intrinsic growth.

The reason why Barak never inspired me is because I am very intrinsically motivated. Don't get me wrong, I love a pat on the back and to be recognized for the things I do. The difference is , I would do them even if there was not any external payoff. Now, I know a few of my psychological buddies might now be taking issue with the separation I have just made. It is an implication that those inspired by Obama were lacking in intrinsic motivation and would fail to move forward without the dangling carrot stick. Ehhh somewhat my point but not all of it. You see, intrinsic motivation has been tied to the concept of self-worth. Those with higher levels of self-worth tend to be more intrinsically motivated.

So how does one increase self-worth when their world is figuratively in the crapper? How does one move from needing someone to inspire and push them, to becoming self-motivated to institute change in their own life?

First, take a realistic determination of your value. This is best done with the help of close friends, co-workers and a counselor/therapist. Most people requiring external motivation rate their worth far lower than what it actually is and do not realize how many people actually view them.
Second: once you realize that, even if it is one person or minuscule, someone loves and depends on you, you can begin to understand your value and importance. Knowing that you are worthy in ANY capacity is foundational. Because if you find yourself worthy in one role you can expand that to others. If you have a child that sees you as a provider and nurturer, you can take that ability to less fortunate children who do not currently experience the same love and devotion. If you find you are good at building or creating things, you can expand that to help an organization like Habitat for Humanity.
Third, begin to find joy and appreciation in those areas where you are instrumental or matter.
By now I may actually have you secretly inspiring others. But, at the same time as you are increasing your self-worth you are also inspiring yourself to try new things as well as expanding your abilities in areas what you are already familiar with. The next step to take is to use that same new realization of intrinsic motivation and try utilizing it in less familiar areas. Now that you find people enjoy your ability to cook and you have started cooking for the homeless, try taking that same energy for serving and apply it to learning a new skill to better your life so you can then better others. For example learning the task of financial planning so you can create a successful budget for yourself and then teach that skill to the homeless you cook for.

You see, the misnomer of inspiration is that it must come from outside of ourselves. Each of us has the somewhere within us the inherent ability to inspire ourselves for change. The thing often missing is the understanding that we are worthy enough to create that very change.

[refrences: A Conservative's Support of President Obama; Change "You" Can Believe In]

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Conservative's Support of President Obama

Let me first tell you about my political affiliation. I am about as conservative as they come in a voting booth. I unashamedly voted for Bush twice (although there are a lot of things recently that have given me pause), I am for smaller government, less taxation or at least a fair tax, and protection of life from conception to death. I enjoy capitalism and believe people should be rewarded based on the fruits of their labor including the education it took to get them there. While I am all for helping the poor, I am not for blanket handouts (widespread not cloth). I believe our welfare system sucks and should be re-examined and revamped. I am for personal responsibility in all areas. While I am all for helping the Earth, I think people have gone too far in their ideals and demands especially when it is a world effort and China is not helping. I am against the gay agenda and its push to make itself known to children as young as five. Regardless of belief, I am against pushing the mere mention of God out of schools and every government institution.
As you can imagine, last night was a kick in the teeth to my ideals and view of what America is and what America can be. I will say that I was not a fan of McCain either, but felt he was the better option to at least stem the tide until someone else could get us back on track. I literally felt sick with dread yesterday, knowing the inevitable was coming.

With all of that being said, I am calling for the immediate support of Barak Obama from everyone. I know people are mad and upset. I would rather strap raw meat to my back and run through a pack of hyenas than to have seen this outcome. I am absolutely pissed because I think he has successfully pulled the wool over America's eyes with fancy rhetoric and speeches. However, he is the fairly elected President of the United States of America.
I think people forget, that more than anything, the President is a symbol of this great nation and a testament to the democratic process. People definitely forgot that with Bush. Dissent is okay and people who disagreed with the war had every right to raise hell. But they went to far, made it too personal, and then made sure they never agreed with him even if he was right on an issue. I believe this further fragmented and diluted the power of our great nation. I do not want to see the same thing continue.
I will pledge to continue to stand up for conservative ideals but at the same time I am going to support Barak Obama as President of the United States. When he fails with certain decisions or policies, and he will, I will fairly criticize him. However, as sharp as my dissension may be, I will not bitch and moan for the sake of it without having rational alternatives behind it. I will keep a sharp eye out for Socialistic tendencies and anything that contradicts our Constitution, including the re-distribution of wealth through taxation. We will soon see how much Barak cares about this country by the policies he makes that will either help or cripple this nation.
While conservatives should remain hopeful and confident in our position, looking forward to 2012, we should at least offer Barak a chance to better this nation. The American people have spoken. America is split. It is time for liberals and conservatives to do a little listening. If there is one thing I have learned during this election, it is that many people were magnetized to Obama because they believed he would inspire Americans to be better people (look for a future blog real soon on this misnomer). If he is halfway successful, I will consider his presidency good for this country. If not, we can boot his ass in four years.
Here is to democracy and the future of the United States of America.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Change "You" Can Believe In

We have heard a lot about "change" during this presidential election. Both candidates have committed to changing the course of this country. But let's make it personal for a second. How can you change the course of your life?
Perhaps you have a nagging habit like chewing your fingernails. Maybe you sit around all day and get nothing accomplished. There is a chance you are like me and are intent on exercising. Tomorrow, always tomorrow.
And what if you are the person who's need for change runs deeper? You need to change the way you treat your wife. You need to change the way you talk to and around your children. You need to work harder so you are not in danger of losing your job. Your overall temperament is so rotten that people can't stand to be around you for lengthy periods. You need to talk that girl you have a crush on. You need to meet new people. Any people.

Here is the change you can believe in: First, if it is something you truly desire to change, then set about to change it. I imagine that hit you as either too simplistic or too difficult. Such as our election, there is little room for middle ground by thinking, "oh, well that all makes sense now. I will get on that!" But until you get over the mental hurdle that change needs to happen and you actually want it to happen, no change will occur.
Once you have it in your mind to change, start small. It is great to realize the end goal but know that you will not jump from nothing to the end result without a little work. If it was that easy, you would have done so in the time it took to read this post. In starting small, find progressive steps. It is suggested by some that before you must implement change, you must plan out your course. I agree to an extent, but this is where most people get discouraged and bogged down. If you are finding you are getting stuck, move on. Sometimes the best course is to put one foot in front of the other and before you know it, you have reached your destination.
After you have moved beyond planning, start obtaining your goal in small increments. Try not chewing your nails for a day, run half a mile, talk to a girl you don't like. Gradually add onto this: don't chew your nails for a week at a time, add half a mile to your run every other week, say "hello" to the girl you like when passing her by. Repeat until your goal is reached.
If you slip, don't be afraid to start again or try a new way of getting there. Thomas Edison said about his light bulb invention, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Over the next few weeks, I will break down change in more detail. The change, however, starts with you.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your examples. What do you want to change? What have you tried changing? Success? Failures?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Charlotte Word Camp

Charlotte WordCamp is coming to town on November 15, 2008 and I am hoping to attend. Charlotte WordCamp is a conference type of event that focuses squarely on everything WordPress. Everyone from casual end users all the way up to core developers show up to these events. These events are usually highlighted by speeches or keynotes by various people.

So why am I telling you about this? For a few reasons. First, by posting a blog on the event, I can potentially earn a free registration to the event sponsored by Second, I would really like some input onto how I can make my blog more interactive and user friendly. Please provide input on anything you can think of. Are my posts too long? Is the font or coloring making it difficult to read? Do I make it to personal or not personal enough? Content: what would you like to read about?

My last two blog posts have had more readers and comments than my entire blog's combined history. How did you find my blog and what would keep you coming back to read it on a normal basis?
And for those observant types that notice the conference is for WordPress while my blog is on Blogspot, I will learn valuable tips for blogging in general but I also have a blog planned out for the future that will exclusively focus on counseling issues and an advice column, which will most likely end up on WordPress.
You can answer these questions and provide in feedback below.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Doom and Gloom Mentality

Currently our citizens are experiencing, what some would define as, pretty rough times. We have two politicians, which approximately the same amount of people vehemently hate, vying for our country's top political office. People who could once take pride in the fact that they had a roof over their head, may no longer experience that same comfort. Even our future is at stake as Mutual Funds, IRAs, and 401ks are being rocked by a volatile stock market. We don't trust our financial institutions, our creditors, our government or each other.
Picking up the news paper or turning on the news is like an exercise in futility as we find out about natural disasters, crooked politicians, crazy foreign leaders, gas prices and crime. It is easy to see why people are increasingly getting depressed and hopeless. This has even trickled down into some of my personal interests. For example: I am a huge Tennessee fan. We have not had a great football season. But instead of realizing that we have an inexperienced QB and a new offensive scheme, people on the message boards act like it is the end of the world. If Tennessee loses, life is lost. I am sure you can think of similar examples. Your team also sucks, gas lines that recently troubled and nearly crippled the South, the double cheeseburger being taken off the dollar menu at McDonalds, the shrink ray at the grocery store. Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, you might be affected by a feeling of loss or hopelessness as the world you knew simply seems to crumble around you.
I want to look at two things: why we buy into this feeling when it is completely unnecessary, and also how can we recover from it.

First of all, if people actually read my posts, I am sure I would receive responses such as, "you have no idea what I am going through," or "just because your life is rosy doesn't mean mine can be." I could easily counteract with the old argument that even if you were to lose everything, you would still be better off than the third world countries. But that is not my intent. I will get nowhere by slighting your feelings.
I am going to be completely transparent and say that the number one reason I do not fear any of this is because my faith in God and the promises He has made in my life. Not a Christian? Don't stop reading yet. Bear with me through the next paragraph as I explain my personal beliefs in these matters and then I will widen the net.
God has told us that there is no need for us to worry. He has promised that if He is going to provide food for the birds of the air and dress the fields with the splendor of lilies, then He is going to take care of our needs. That does not mean that we should not plan and take responsibility and initiative in these areas of our lives but it does mean that we should not have to stress over them when those plans do not work out like we had hoped. When the world seems unsteady, God's hand steadies and holds us up.

Still with me? Good. So, perhaps you have little faith or no faith at all or simply like to do things your own way. There is still hope and reason not to resort to aggressive trichotillomania. How can I claim the feeling of loss or hopelessness is unnecessary? Because, while things may be less than stellar, we are far from Armageddon. In this country we have every possible natural resource we need to survive. The only thing stopping us is regulations and I promise, if all hell broke loose, those regulations would be removed or the people of this country would forcibly rise and remove them. We have structures in places, someone will have to occupy them even if it is for pennies on the dollar. We have food sources in grains and animals. We have oil that could be obtained if need be. We have a strong military and we have some most of the most brilliant minds working on economic, technological, and innovative issues. While this might not help in immediate personal situations, it does give reason to believe that the country is not going to end up back in the stone age.

As for my second point, what can you do in these times to provide stability and ride the wave of doom and gloom? Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice and in case I have not stressed it enough yet, sacrifice. I know from my experience as a grad student that rent and utilities aside, I can survive on less than $30 a week if I am not driving. That includes groceries and other household items. It was not enjoyable but I survived. Oh yeah, that was in the dead of winter too. It was a short time but I made it work. I cut the cable, turned off the heat and bundled up, shopped at the dollar store, walked more places, gave up most forms of entertainment like movies and made my food stuff like Ramen Noodles. By the way, MSG causes me nausea so this was miserable for a few weeks. The thing is though, I made it through, got a decent job and slowly built my savings.
I am not implying that this is the preferable way to live, but if life pushes you down, hold the weight and eventually life will pull you back up. Even though I have a personal aversion to most government sponsored programs, they are there for just such occasions so you might as well utilize them. Here are some of the programs offered in North Carolina as an example. You can have rent paid for and food covered plus utility credits. Also figure out what you want versus what you need. I have enough jackets, I don't need a new one. The shoes look great but do they serve a function that a pair I already have do not? Do I need to eat out or can I plan ahead and eat cheaper at home?

With all of this said, there is good reason not to be too worried about our current state. While it might mean that we can not drive the car we want or live in the location we desire, we can survive. And ultimately life is more important than what we posses in it. If I get enough people reading and commenting with feedback, I will post a side bar with additional resources for saving money and and easy tips for being financially wise in turbulent times.

Ultimately decide what is important. Hopefully your answer by now consists of things like God, family, friends, etc. Find your enjoyment in those things alone and eventually you will no longer need to worry about the state of the world around you. Goodbye Doom and Gloom. Hello joy and contentment!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Addled Femininity

It is no secret that women baffle and confuse me. Heck, I am fairly confident that most men could attest to that statement. But more than anything else recently, I have been confused by the hearts versus the actions of women.

My personal penchant is to treat all women with as much respect as I can muster. I have on more than one occasion been accused of putting some women on a pedestal. I cannot explain exactly where it comes from, but I hearken back to a more chivalrous time. I still open the doors for women young and old, including car doors when the opportunity arises. I try to be patient with womens' thoughts and emotions. But above all, I try to take care of their hearts. I am not alone in these actions and I am certainly not above making mistakes where I am rude, hurtful, or discourteous. But in general I try to treat women with care and respect.

I have, however, noticed a trend from as early on as high school that many women allow themselves to be treated, in my opinion, with disrespect. I am not talking about the women society has slighted, who allow themselves to be in verbally or physically abusive relationships. That is to obvious of an example. I truly wish I could reach in to their lives and rescue each one of those women.

I am referring to the everyday woman who allows the men in their lives, be it co-workers, boyfriends, or friends to make dents in their esteem and leaves it unchallenged. These dents come in the form of what could be observed by many as casual flirting or joking. A comment about the large size of a woman's posterior, belittling a woman's looks or the care they have taken in their appearance and clothing, insulting a woman's intelligence, etc. I could go on but I think you are beginning to get the point. Rarely are these comments uttered with malicious intent but that does not mean it does not cut into the heart of a woman. I have talked with many women who on the surface take these comments and jests in stride but go home questioning their value, beauty, and worth.
Have you ever had a rough time with a group of male friends and gone home to discuss it with your friends Häagen and Dazs? You might be one of the women I am referring to. I have heard from women who have dwelled on a seemingly innocent comment or remark and allowed it to penetrate their heart. However, for unexplained reasons, these women go back to the same men who have hurt them and instead of letting them know of the emotional pain, they continue to receive more of the same abuse. What is more, they work harder to gain the attention of these men.

Furthermore, recently I have heard men call some women very derogatory things that I won't even post. And yet these women still try and curry favor and attention from them. I would hope for any man's sake that he should never utter such words towards my wife or daughter.

So women (men, your input is welcome too), this is the interactive part. I would simply like to know why? Why do women speak so much about finding someone to care for who they are, their heart and souls, yet allow themselves to be treated so poorly? Is it because the assumption is made that all guys will treat you in this manner so why even talk about it?
It is one thing to say in today's modern feminism that women can take the same jokes and jabs to the ego that a guy can. But I am finding in my observations, that is simply not the case. I would love some help for myself too. Is it appropriate to joke about the things a woman should still find sacred and reverent? Or, am I completely off base in all of this?
When I question my guy friends about it, they say they are just joking around and don't mean the things they say. Women, does it hurt or affect you in any way? Or, non-surprisingly, have I just misjudged and misheard women?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Protected Trouper

Lift up thy curtain
and take a peek.
Do you glimpse reality,
or view mystique?

Words chosen in order to deceive.
Not malicious, but protection received.
Veiled intention serve to hide
the character called Wounded Pride.

Look beyond words to find the truth.
Disrupt the game played since youth.
Wardrobe is cloak of mystery.
Keeps you from seeing empty.

The theater show began at Act One.
The closing curtain can't be undone.

Random Thoughts

Updated October 22, 2008
Worry is one of the biggest things that keeps people awake at night. Not me though. I have far to many other random thoughts in my head to have any room for worry at night. I have often wondered if there is some device in my pillow that is activated by the static electricity in my hair and causes my brain to start sprinting. To help me get to sleep faster I have begun jotting down some of the thoughts that enter my mind. Anything legible in the morning (I am writing in the dark) is going to start ending up in the blog. So keep up with this one because it will be constantly updated. And because I like to keep things interactive, if there are any ideas you want me to flesh out, let me know and I might create a new blog based on your suggestion.
So here are my random (good, bad, and what the...?) thoughts:

  • Hope is a tricky thing. Too much of it leaves you blind. Too little of it leaves you dead.
  • How are cockroaches suppossed to survive a nuclear blast when they can't survive the bottom of my shoe?
  • There are few things worse than somebody you haven't seen in a while asking you what you have been up to and you respond "nothing much." It is actually worse if that is true.
  • Bear cubs are one of the cutest animals alive until their mother mauls your face off.
  • Saying "sneeze" while actually sneezing is a messy idea.
  • Life would be better if people had to suck helium right before they got into an argument. I think arguments would end pretty quickly if everybody had to yell at each other while sounding like a chipmunk. Who could not laugh?
  • Never start a good book late at night just to pique your curiosity.
  • I found out I can make it out of bed, through the shower, teeth brushed and to work (which is a 10 to 15 minute drive away) in exactly 26 minutes. Better not to ask how I found out or how it was done.
  • If you are supposed to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, then where do you keep the people you sort of like?
  • It is very disturbing to me that the ice at Sonic and Zaxby's does not melt.
  • People say don't sweat the small stuff. The small stuff is the only thing I want to be sweating. My pores are too small to sweat the big and medium stuff.
  • A lot of liberals claim Fox is to biased with a conservative slant. A lot of conservatives claim CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and ABC are too biased with a liberal slant. I say both camps need to shut up because they have all been reporting about Anna Nicole Smith and Brittney Spears for three flippin' weeks straight.
  • If money grew on trees I would still be broke. Gosh darn urban sprawl.
  • Why are best friends so hard to make and/or keep after college?
  • If someone steals you identity, and you find and kill them, is it murder or suicide? I mean technically you are taking yourself of the records.
  • Am I really considering resorting to E-Harmony? Has it come to this?
  • Do vegans breast feed their babies?
  • If a donkey mated with nine kittens...ah forget it that concept is just asinine.
  • Is it sad that I learned to identify Classical music composers from my cell phone ring tones?
  • Why are bed sheets more comfortable in the morning than they are at night?
  • Why do protesters for peace always look so angry? (oooo I feel a huge rant coming on.)
  • Can/do women pee in the shower like a man can/does? (rhetorical question, don't want answers)
  • Do you ever think to yourself (or out loud) how people first decided to see if something was edible? (ex. oysters, another animal's milk, eggs, potatoes, etc.)

That is all for now, but stay tuned. Good or bad, I am sure there will be more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

After All This Time...

Oh where does the time go? I posted an indication during the start of the presidential primaries that I would respond to the idea of a Christian's obligation to a welfare state. I never completed that thought, blinked and we are three weeks out from the general election. For those scoring at home, it has been nearly eight months since my last post.
So I will quickly bring you up to speed and my absence and then pave the way for hopefully a slew of blogs including some poetry I worked on while away. (I know, who pegged me for the poetic type?) My mom is at home waving her hand in the air saying, "Pick me, pick me! I knew!"
I am still at the same job I was at working in the Ethics and Compliance field, but I have also been working on expanding my counseling practice. We re-branded, got a new logo, and increased our awesomeness with additional staff. I am really proud of all the work Kim and Laurie have put into their baby and the website looks amazing!
As you can imagine, trying to juggle two jobs is often quite taxing. I often spend an hour or two reading after my roommates have gone to bed and work in a minimum of eight hours of reading per week just to make sure I am in compliance with Licensure expectations. On top of that I am seeing a few clients and doing some marketing. But I try not to let my exhaustion show too much in my energy level thanks to a healthy diet of Red Bull and Starbucks.
Speaking of diets, I have lost some weight! When I weighed in for my physical in March, 2008 I was at a whopping 236 pounds. After a disappointing outcome to a situation, I became motivated to lose the weight starting in July. I am now loosing the weight for me though. At last weigh in I was at 210 pounds. Now granted, I was on a luggage scale at the train station. At my friends apartment, I was at 204 pounds. Being cynical in that matter, I am going for the higher of the two weights as a healthy reminder that I still have a lot of work to do to reach my goal of 185 pounds. And that gout I mentioned in a previous post? Gone. It seems a bit of weight loss combined with simply eating cherries clears it right up. I have not had an outbreak in at least six months!
Summer was absolutely amazing as I had a tremendous time hanging out with friends. We spent a couple weekends at the lake, kayaking/camping on the Pee Dee River, and taking an all guys trip to Cape Hatteras on Labor Day weekend. I have also been playing volleyball on regular basis most Sunday afternoons.
I moved three times this year. In January, Matt Jernigan and I parted ways as roommates. We were still really good friends but Matt craved the opportunity to live by himself for once and I agreed he should experience that at some point in his life. I moved in with a guy I did not know, but we shared a mutual friend. The guy was very weird and was apparently quite unprepared for a roommate as indicated by his refusal to accommodate for space. A small example was a cabinet filled with his coffee mugs leaving no room for any of my dishes or food. The guy admittedly did not even drink coffee. After three weeks we mutually decided to part ways (much to my relief). I moved in with a guy named Brandon Russell. I am not big into name dropping but I know Brandon likes to get his name out there for career purposes. Living with Brandon was much less stressful than the prior encounter. Brandon is a great guy who has a heart for children and for serving others. We were not best friends just due to our difference in proclivities, but I am honored to call him friend and hope to continue in that friendship.
In September, Matt and I found a place we liked and moved back in together since his apartment lease ran up and living by himself was not all he had desired for. We also took on a third roommate named Russell Matthews who was one of my good friends and former college roommate. The house is absolutely amazing and I hope that you will come spend some time with us as we do have an open door policy there. The deck alone is worth the trip out.
This does not adequately summarize everything that has happened in the past eight months but I have to breathe and I have to get back to work. If you would like to keep up with my daily trappings, you can follow me on Twitter at and you can check out my running commentary of the last presidential debate here (#NOPBR08 is a tag to help keep all the thoughts in one easily searchable place).

Please check back in as I have some good stuff stored up and ready to go so posts will be more frequent. I should have some posts up soon about God, Relationships, and Politics.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


It seems the latest car fashion is to affix a bumper sticker with various religious symbols managing to spell out the word "COEXIST." There are a lot of things that disturb me about this trend. I will start with the least of my worries and move to the stuff that is just driving me nuts.

It appears that these bumper stickers and their owners are taking a shot across the bow of organized religion. I do not have a problem with that. I can only speak for Christianity, but religion could use a good shake up because they have become to fastened to rules that are not explicitly spelled out while forgetting the two major rules that are: Love God, Love your neighbor. But here is my problem: These people seem to suggest that people of faith are failing to get along. I don't see the average Christian punching a Muslim while waiting in line for a movie, or a Jew keying a car that has a Jesus fish on it, or Buddhist running a cattle farm next to a Hindu temple. Don't get me wrong, I am well enlightened to the problems in the Middle East, Islamo-Fascists, wackos (I refuse to associate these pricks as Christians) protesting military funerals and other things organized religion is doing to hurt people. However, unless you want to take your little Toyota Prius and drive it around Saudi Arabia, Israel/Palestine, or Kansas, your peaceful protest is doing jack squat.

But I think the real thing that bothers me is the self-righteous hypocrisy of it all. A good percentage of these well-to-do folks seem to have other items plastered to their car that do not indicate they are willing to co-exist. I have seen so many cars with the COEXIST sticker and a Darwin fish. A daggum Darwin Fish! What is wrong with that? Well first, I admittedly think Darwin's theory has been shown to come short and should still be considered theory instead of fact (just to let you know my perspective). I think the people who have them are wrong but entitled to their beliefs just like people of every faith are. However, the Darwin fish is deliberately antagonistic. It basically is a mockery of the Jesus fish, a known Christian symbol. Now I am not one who is offended by many things or even this particular issue. I just think it is retarded to tell others to COEXIST while you are essentially deliberately giving the middle finger to Christianity specifically as well as a belief in creationism, a view widely held by many of the same religions you are telling to get along.

Other ridiculous items I have seen on the same cars as COEXIST: bumper stickers suggesting meat eaters should be confined, tortured, and shot; stickers calling for the death, yes death, of President Bush; support for Hamas - a known terrorist group openly bent on the destruction of the Jews; and a bumper sticker saying "Now that I'm born, I'm pro-choice" (I disagree with the statement but it is clever).

All I am saying is that if you are going to suggest or demand that religions get along, even though you most likely have not a taken a good look at why they theological disagree, you should at least represent yourself as one who is willing to get along with other people instead of trying to antagonize them with your other hateful, although not religious, messages.

EDIT: I understand this might come across as a bit harsh and it does not help that tone is difficult to convey in print. However, I assure you that I am not upset and would not attempt to scratch one of these silly bumper stickers off. But if you stop and think about it, you certainly have to chuckle at the irony of it all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Updated Status

So much has happened since my previous post. I fully intended to post something by the end of the year and then forgot how hectic the Christmas season can be. Since last posting, I moved out of my apartment after living there for about two-and-a-half years. Our lease ended and my roommate decided he had never lived by himself and wanted the opportunity to. Don't worry we are still great friends and may end up living together towards the end of the year. In January I moved in with this guy and it turned out to be a real hassle. It was apparent from the get go that he was not as prepared as he thought to have a roommate and after three weeks he finally disclosed this and asked me to leave. I will be out by the end of this month although as of today, I am not 100-percent where (although I have some promising leads). I think it will be for the best because I have never had a roommate who was so ignorant to his own selfishness. I don't hate the guy, he is just young and a product of his immaturity which I am confident he will grow out of, as most people do, and will develop into a great guy. I just caught him at a bad time and at this point and I am not going to extend myself to be cordial after the hassle he has created in my life at a time when I have been in great need of rest.
I am very anxious to move on in life and am having trouble being patient. I want to buy a house that I can be responsible for and do home repairs, I want to get a dog for companionship and to keep me entertained, and I would like to meet my wife (admittedly for the same reason as the dog but on a much deeper level haha). God is constantly shining insight into my life and I am struggling to keep up with all he is trying to teach me about myself, His love and grace, and what He is trying to use me for.
On another note, and the reason for my last teaser: I finally got a Counseling job! I am still working at my old job (though I was promoted to a much better position in September) but I hope to make a full transition into Counseling and teaching by the end of the year. I am working to build my clientel base but it is slow going. By the way you can find my new Counseling Center here.
Also, while I will intermingle personal tidbits on here from time to time, I want to get back to my original purpose for this blog and that is to share thoughts and discussions. So please feel free to interact with responses and ideas. Hope to here from y'all soon.