Friday, April 25, 2014

Yet Another Anniversary

It seems that as I get older, I have more anniversaries of dubious significance.

Today marks 21 years since I joined the Navy. If I hadn't been fat and lazy, I would have retired on this date last year.


Offensive (?) But Funny

I was at work tonight, doing lab tech things, and I accidentally hit the wrong button, which called up the result for a negative rotavirus test, which has mnemonic that caused a good deal of laughter, and not just because we were horribly tired.

What was the mnemonic?

Well, it was for a NEGative ROtavirus. I repeat, a NEGative ROtavirus.

That wouldn't have been offensive 50 years ago, but nowadays, in the Days of Constant Outrage? FUNNY!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bad Poetry Theatre

I went to look at some of the old bad poetry I had published, but it seems Very Bad Poetry dot org is no longer functioning.

So, when the urge to write really bad poetry strikes, I will have to inflict it upon those unlucky enough to stumble upon it here.

So, here goes:

Roses are gray.
Violets are also gray.
Pretty much everything is gray.
Being colorblind really sucks.


Another Anniversary

Today marks 17 years since I had a cigarette.

Well, a TOBACCO cigarette, anyway.

I was thinking of celebrating by shooting smack.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A True Story

This story is true.

My daughter threw a tantrum the other day. She's a little old for the kicking and screaming type tantrums, but she likes to argue with us, which I suppose is pretty normal. So, for forty-five minutes, we were treated to her arguments as to why she absolutely MUST have a hamster.

It started out simply enough: "Mom, dad, can I have a hamster?" To which we replied, of course, "No." (I say "of course" because, obviously, if we had said "yes," well: no story.)

We got crying, we got shouting, we got "I'm going to my room because you don't love me!" Of course, when you hear that, you know  the last place the kid is going to stay is in her room. She popped out and stood on the stairs just a few minutes later.

"Why can't I have a hamster?"

Well, you know, as I get older, I find that all the things that my parents did that annoyed the heck out of me are now things that I do that annoy the heck out of my kids. I don't know if my parents did them purposely to annoy me, like their parents did to them, but I know I do it a good portion of the time just to annoy my kids.

"Because I said so."

Well, that set off quite a storm. She asked my wife, "Why do you hate animals?" Of course, my wife DOESN'T hate animals and she noted that she had volunteered at an animal shelter when she was in school as proof. The reply: "Well, then you hate FUN! You're a FUN-HATING ANIMAL-HATER!"

How does one respond to that? One way NOT to is to break out in laughter, which is , of course, exactly what we did.

Never laugh at an angry 10-year-old girl.


"We don't need a hamster."

"We don't NEED a dog, but we HAVE a dog."

"Well, we already have her and we're not going to get rid of her."

"Well then, lets get a hamster, put in in a cage and put it in my room. Then I'll ask if I can have a hamster, you can say 'no' and I'll say 'But WE ALREADY HAVE ONE!'"

It's hard to refute that sort of argument and harder still to stop laughing, especially once you've already started.

So, like I said, this went on for about forty-five minutes. It was all highly entertaining. But it didn't end there. Oh, no.

The next morning, when I got up to go to work, there was a note taped to the bathroom door: "Buy me a hamster. OR ELSE." Which is a lot funnier than it sounds, because in her case, "OR ELSE" usually means "Or I will nag you incessantly until you give in." And she does, in entertaining ways.

So, when I finished in the bathroom, I went to collect my cell phone off the charger and when I checked to make sure it was fully charges, I saw the wallpaper had been changed to a screen shot of a Google search for "Hamster Pictures." So, every time I use my cell phone, she nags me for a hamster.

Then, yesterday, she said, "I can't wait for Easter." I asked her why. "Because that's when the Easter Bunny is bringing my hamster." This time, I looked her straight in the eye and told her "Ain't Happening." She looked a little sad, but then said. "Then maybe he could bring me a guitar." Which made me happy. Because that was, in fact, EXACTLY what the Easter Bunny was bringing her. Also because she's going to learn to play it, write her own songs and become rich and famous and take care of me in my old(er) age.

Anyway, a happy aside to the story is that the day after she argued so forcefully for a hamster, she came home with a report card that had 5 As out of 8 grades, which is pretty good. The other three were A-plusses, which are very hard to get (99-100%). Almost all her grades have gone up over the course of the year, including her math grade (98%), and she is reading 6 years ahead of her grade level.

I don't claim to be able to see the future, but something tells me that there might be a hamster in hers.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Cursing of the Fig Tree

I wrote an essay on this lesser known Gospel story, and thought I would share it here.

Now, I know that this weekend everybody is going to be talking about the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Atonement, but I thought I would talk about a much lesser known incident from that week that really doesn't get talked about all that much. In fact, I don't recall hearing about it until I actually sat down and read the Gospels myself, and then I was a little confused by it. I thought I might introduce it here, describe it briefly, introduce a couple explanations I think are...inelegant, if you will, then supply what I feel to be the most logical and satisfying reasoning.

There is, in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, an incident that really confused me, because it seemed out of place: While in Jerusalem during his last week, Christ is looking for some food when he comes upon a fig tree which has no fruit. He then proceeds to curse the fig tree and in short order, it withers and dies.

Now I don't know much about fig trees, but it seemed to me that this was a rather petulant response to not getting fed, especially since the tree was apparently out of season at the time. It didn't seem very Christ-like. So I proceeded to do a little research.

I found a number of things about fig trees, a number of rather unsatisfying answers, and one that feels just right.

Let's start with the fig trees. Apparently, fig trees put out little edible "pre-fruit" when the tree is in leaf, which this tree was. In addition, there is often edible fruit left hanging on the tree from the prior season, especially since figs are generally eaten dried, like raisins, only better. This tree had leaves, but no pre-fruit, nor did it have any of the last year's fruit still hanging. This indicates the tree was barren, giving no fruit the prior season, nor the season to come.

Now, I know that trees are pretty, and they give shade, and they release oxygen into the air, but in the context of this story, this particular tree was useless, unnecessary, except for the larger point for which Christ was going to use it.

The first of the unsatisfying answers has to do with the tree being a a warning to the Nation of Israel. You can find many of these online, most of which have to do with the warnings that Christ gave to the Pharisees earlier in His ministry. The idea is that since Israel had failed to follow Him, it was doomed to wither and die. The problem with this is that there is nothing in the syurrounding text that would support this as the reason He had in mind at the time. It's inelegant and unsatisfying.

The second answer that I found unsatisfying is that this was a warning to the Apostles that THEY should be fruitful or face His wrath. I think this one doesn't hold up under any sort of smell test. It just doesn't FEEL right, does it? Christ threatening the Apostles to bear fruit or He'd wither them? At this point, it seems that, even if they weren't sure of the details, the Apostles were pretty set as far as what they would be doing and how they would be doing it. In addition, they did what they did out of love for Christ, not because they had been threatened to or else.

Like I said, not very satisfying.

In the end, the real answer came, once again, almost as a throwaway in Talmadge's Jesus the Christ. He really didn't spend a whole lot of time on it, but a little reflection and prayer will allow one to see how monumental this Truth really is.

Throughout all the Gospels, in His earthly ministry, Christ performed many miracles, each and every one BUT ONE an act of healing or other benefit, such as turning water to wine. The Cursing of the Fig Tree is the one miracle that had a negative outcome for the subject it was performed on.  Why?

We see numerous occasions of Christ laying on hands to heal the sick, the crippled, the blind, the lame. There is more than one occasion on which He raised the dead, the most notable being His friend Lazarus, who was restored to life after three days in the grave.

On this one occasion, Christ showed that He not only held the power to bestow good health and life in His hands, but the power to destroy and cause death.

Why is this important? Because in the context of the story of His life, this comes right at the end. almost immediately prior to all the bad stuff. Everything that comes after: The Betrayal, The Trials, The Scourging, The Humiliation, The Crucifixion, all of it could have been stopped by Him at any point. He could have looked at Herod: DEAD. Pilate: DEAD, the Pharisees: DEAD, Judas Iscariot: DEAD. Yet he chose to allow them to do what they did to Him. Nothing that was done to Him was done without His consent. It doesn't make the actions of those involved any less terrible, but He allowed to happen that which had to happen, in order to further the plan of His Heavenly Father.

So, this weekend, as you consider the events of nearly 2000 years ago, reflect on the fact that the Man who suffered and died for your sins could have stopped the proceedings at any time. This was not a stone set in motion, rolling downhill, picking up speed to become unstoppable: It was a preplanned, preordained, foretold occurrence that could nonetheless have been stopped at any moment by the Subject at the center of the storm.

Why did He do it? To pay the ransom for the sins of all those who would believe in Him. It is humbling to believe that He cares enough about me to do that. Do you believe you are worthy of His sacrifice? In all honesty, I don't understand how I could be, but He believes I am, and that is all that matters.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Six Months

Six months to the day since the worst day of my life.

I'd had plenty of bad days prior, but nothing that hit me with the same force and power, and nothing that has ever wounded me so deeply.

It would be no exaggeration to say I have not had a good day since. I have had some good moments, but I can't point to any stretch of more than a couple of hours that I have felt good, nor can I say that, even during those times, I was happy.

I hurt now even worse than I did then. The pain is not as sharp, but it is pervasive and consuming. It's an open, festering wound for which I have no treatment or painkiller.

I have tried counseling. I have tried medication. I have tried prayer.

I have fallen into despair and feel no hope that I will ever come back out. I have said it before, I am convinced that this is the new normal for me. There is no getting better: From here on out, this IS better.

Nothing I used to do is any help. Reading is hard. It's difficult to write. I can barely even walk anymore.

I thought I was going to die that day. I think my doctor thought so, too. Of course, lying there twitching on his office floor might have give him that impression.

I wish I had.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Song for Passover

At Sunset tonight, Passover week begins. It's the holiest week of both the Jewish and Christian calendars.
All that notwithstanding, I thought I'd share a song about the original Passover, told from the point of view of the Angel of Death.

You have to wonder how many of those metalheads know they're thrashing to a Bible story.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Not all that long ago, I considered myself to be someone whose "Faith circuit" was "broken." I knew all the words, I understood the concepts, I even sort of believed them to be true, but I couldn't FEEL that truth. I could see people all around me who had that assurance with them, that knowledge that something they couldn't prove was nonetheless true. I didn't understand how to get from where I was to where they were. But I wanted to get there.

Then, last Easter, I was at a Catholic Mass with my family, and I actually had a little epiphany during the homily, which is not something that had really ever happened before. I don't recall the point that was being made, but I do recall the point that I received. The topic was the Resurrection, when the women went to the tomb of Christ to anoint His body.

It struck me like a bolt of lightning: THEY WERE THERE TO ANOINT HIS BODY! The women who had followed him for years and who were as close as almost anyone EXPECTED TO FIND HIM DEAD!

A little more research shows that the Apostles themselves were stunned to find the body gone. They had traveled with Him, learned from Him, were expected to carry His church to the people. He had TOLD them that He would rise from the dead. But they didn't comprehend and had trouble believing it even when it happened. They didn't have faith in His words, those who had been closest to Him.

I wasn't broken, I was NORMAL!

So, about that time, I started studying the Book of Mormon. I was a bit incredulous to the idea that God could perform miracle after miracle for the family of Lehi, and then his descendants, and a short time later, they were back to their old, sinful ways. It seemed that the turn-around time between sinful to saintly to sinful was WAY too short. On their ocean voyage alone, it seemed they rebelled against God about a hundred times. How could He save them again and again, and yet they turn their backs on Him every time?

It cast a doubt over the whole Book of Mormon for me.

Then I read the Bible. Ever read it? It's jammed full of stories of people who have seen miracles and yet can't seem to stay faithful. Don't believe it? Let's start with Adam and Eve: They walked and talked with God in the Garden, and yet still managed to disobey and eat the forbidden fruit. (And that's actually a good thing, but that's a topic for another day).

Within just a few generations, the people of the world turned to idolatry and sin. The Book of Genesis is packed with this. Then we get to Moses and the Hebrews in Egypt. The people saw the works of God employed to free them from 400 years of slavery, saw the Angel of Death Pass Over their houses on the way to kill the firstborn of Egypt, followed a COLUMN OF FIRE through the desert, saw the Red Sea parted, ate Manna from Heaven...Need I go on? So, Moses goes up onto the mountain and within a few days, they're all, "You know what could really help us now? A golden calf to worship!"


All through the historical books of the Bible, the Kings of Israel and Judea fall far from perfection. They are told what to do and how they should do it, and yet, despite being Chosen of God, they fail and fail again. These are people who should have known better, who witnessed miracles, who spoke to God Himself, in ways that have been mostly lost to us. What possible chance do we have? If they couldn't keep faith, how could it possibly be expected of us?

Then we get to the New Testament.

The New Testament is all about faith and finding our way back to our Heavenly Father. There is an analogy used numerous times throughout the Gospels of having "Faith as a mustard seed." The mustard seed, apparently, though quite small, produces a tree that is quite out of proportion when considering the size of other seeds to the respective trees they produce. The generally accepted interpretations of this analogy are that 1). If you start with a little faith, it will grow larger, and 2). That even a little faith will allow you to move mountains.

I think this there's a somewhat deeper interpretation as well.

Let me first note that faith is often referred to as a "Gift from God," which seems a little odd. In order to believe in God, I first have to receive a gift from Him? One sort of presupposes the other, doesn't it? I mean, if you don't believe in God, then how are you going to believe a gift is from Him?

I think we could combine these two concepts and expand them into a larger analogy, say a garden, or gardening, anyway. We, as Mormons, believe the Law of Christ is written on the hearts of men. This is the little voice, the conscience that we all hear that tells us when we're transgressing. It's also that need that pretty much everybody feels to find some larger meaning, to have, as the song says, "Something to Believe In."

This is the Mustard Seed, and it is a gift from God, whether we choose to accept that or not. But it's not the only gift.

With that seed comes a contract from our Heavenly Father: If you plant that seed, he will cause it to sprout and grow. In return, we need to feed the plant that springs from it, actively care for it and nurture it. As we tend to our seedling, he will cause it to grow into a tree that will bear fruit that will not only sustain us, but help to nourish those around us. But we need to take care of that seed, lest it wilt or be taken by weeds.

How do we plant the seed? It's really simple: We pray. We ask Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, to give us faith, to show us His mercy and love. And He will. It is His promise to us.

There is a story in the one of the Gospels, where a man asks Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus says that all he has to do is BELIEVE. The man says, "I believe, Lord. Help me with my unbelief." This sounds like he's contradicting himself, but it's really pretty simple: He had planted that seed, and was asking for growth. He was saying that he, essentially, believed that Jesus was who He said He was, but that he needed assistance to allow that seedling to take root and grow.

I know from experience how hard it is to pray to a God you're not really sure you believe in. I spent better than forty years being one step up from an agnostic. I believed in a Creator, intelligent design, call it what you will, (the idea of a universe springing into existence by happenstance was and is too far-fetched for me to take seriously) but the idea of a Father in Heaven who cared for me personally and listened to my words was just not something I could accept as true.

I had prayed a number of times before, in a way. I had memorized a bunch of prayers from growing up Catholic, and who hasn't asked for help in some tight spot or another? But the idea of an actual conversation taking place between God and myself was just asking too much. But then, last year, I started receiving responses. And not just vague impressions days later: I would pray for enlightenment on a particular passage in Scripture, and the answer would come to me almost immediately. And when I would ask others about that response, it turned out they were getting the same answers, as well.

I opened my mind little by little to the possibilities and knowledge and information started flooding in. And the more I learned, the more I read and studied, which is the tending of that little seedling of faith. We read Scriptures and study the teachings of those who have gone before us in order to water that sprout and make it grow strong. The combination of reading and praying allows us to grow our tree tall and fruitful, with deep roots.

But just because we have faith doesn't mean we won't falter at times. Life is hard, even with faith. And we see through Scriptures that the faith of some of the wisest and most favored of God has failed time and again. We learn through the Parable of the Prodigal Son that God KNOWS that we will waver and fall, but that if we come back to him in a spirit of true repentance, with honest intention to make amends, He will welcome us back with honor and grace. We also learn from the faithful older brother that we should welcome our fallen brothers and sisters back in the same manner.

And here is a promise that I feel absolutely confident in making: Find a Mormon meetinghouse, attend a Sacrament meeting. The people there WILL welcome as a lost brother or sister. Talk with them, talk with the missionaries. It will be a rewarding and enlightening experience, if you open your heart to it.

Here's a mind-blowing thought: When the father in the parable speaks of his son returning from the dead, he's speaking in hyperbole. But when the symbolism is stripped away and the example is applied to the reality of Heavenly Father, it is the literal Truth.

So, we can see that faith isn't just something that you either have or don't, or even something that is constant in our lives. Everybody, even those who grow up in the church, even those who are in the highest positions of leadership, that everybody else looks to for guidance, ALL of them have moments of doubt. Bu we persevere and with the aid and comfort of the Holy Ghost, we come out on the other side stronger and wiser.

If you feel like you're lacking something, if your life needs meaning, if you want to know WHY, you're not alone. But there's a way out, a way to gain insight and knowledge, a way to find purpose.

All you have to do is ask.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Day It Died

Today is another one of those new anniversaries that have come to symbolize the disaster my life has become. It's been one year since my marriage died. I know that it's not officially over, but in realiry, most of what has occurred over the past year has been like the the final twitches of someone newly deceased, where the some parts of the bidy haven't quite realized that the others have ceased functioning.

A year ago, today, my wife pushed me away and told me she needed some space. We had both been in a downward spiral and I was trying to take advantage of a manic moment in my emotions to help bring her to a better place, where we could maybe stabilize each other in a better place.

She thought I was simply acting out of guilt.

Over the course of the next couple days, what had been a gentle nudge for space became a figurative slap in the face, then a punch in the gut. She treated me as though I was a disgusting worm, worthy of no more consideration than would be afforded such. Our counseling sessions deteriorated to shoutiung matches before ending entirely.

I can count the number of times we've touched, even just a hug, on my fingers. The few attempts at anything more have felt more like teenagers groping in the back seat of the old man's car than a married couple with respect and feelings for each other. They just felt WRONG.

And for the life of me, I can't see any way back to where we were. I don't see how it can ever be or feel right again. And after all the venom and hatred that have been thrown at me over the past year, in all honesty, I can't really say that I want to go back.

Just the other day she decided we needed to "talk." She talked about how the DVD on our anniversary was an "olive branch" and that she was disappointed that I hadn't really responded to it. My only reply to that was that my letter of five months ago was an olive branch as well, and the response to that was pretty much apathy. She said she didn't know what she wanted at that point and I said I had waited for months and then moved on.

My marriage is dead. It just hasn't been interred yet.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Recommended Reading

I think I stated a while back that when I first saw a picture of my friend Abby, she looked exactly like the mental picture I had of the heroine of a book I was reading, called The Hangman's Daughter.

Well, that book and it's three sequels, which are all worth a read, are on sale at $1.99 each for the Kindle at Amazon. They are set in mid-17th century Bavaria and are highly entertaining. They aren't exactly historical fiction, but they are set in real places and the main characters were real people; Ancestors of the author, in fact, though the stories themselves are entirely fictional.

So read up!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I spoke with my oldest son on Sunday for the first time in 14 years. He'll be 21 this fall.

It seemed to go well and I sent him a Facebook friend request.

If my recent history is any indication, tomorrow is the day I should hear from the police, telling me never to speak with him again.

So, failing that, I should be okay.