Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Ghosts of You and Me

Sallie and I love this psychic named Chip Coffey. He has his own television show where he teaches psychic children how to handle their abilities and not to fear them called Psychic Children and often appears on another show called Paranormal Activity. Don't get me wrong, it's total trash TV, but Chip does appear to be legit.

About a month ago, Chip Coffey did a personal reading and ghost hunt at the Lemp Mansion. For $100, you got to hang with Chip all night. If you had deceased loved ones come through to talk to you, Chip was going to let it happen. If the Lemps were roaming the grounds, Chip was going to let you know about it.

I wanted to go, but money and a ride prevented it from happening.

There have been several times in the past few weeks where I have had very vivid dreams of me wandering around with Chip in the Lemp mansion. He always freezes at one point and turns slowly to me and says, "There's someone that wants to talk to you." Always at that point I wake up.

I've started to wonder if someone was supposed to deliver a message to me. What if I was supposed to be there?

It's really been nagging me. I don't feel like I can go to any psychic and get this rectified. I feel like it has to be Chip for some reason.

My family has an abnormal sensitivity to this sort of stuff. Probably why I'm so drawn to ghost hunting. There have been countless stories of relatives getting messages from beyond the grave. I never really got one of those messages (unless you count the picture of Larry's Tin Man from Christmas) and was always a little jealous. Ghost hunting seemed like a natural substitute.

The next time he comes anywhere close to St. Louis, I think I'm going to have to go.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mountains and Plains Five States Away

I was looking through my old blog on My Space and found this little gem. It was from when Sal moved to Myrtle Beach without me. I'm impressed by my past self. Really need to get writing again.

January 2nd, 2008
Mountains and Plains Five States Away

The clock struck new year
I'm alone in this place
Fireworks exploded
And I type away

Everyone else is drunk on delight

The lights are out
The mood is in
For writing what burns
Circles in my head

Everyone else toasts the world

Four states in between
Seems so far away
Plains and a mountain range
Tears me from you

Confetti and fireworks fall for them

This one can't compare with before
Drinks in hand, dance on the floor
Exactly one year ago
Was when I said "I love you"

Expressions don't express how much I miss you

The End of Circuitjerk

Circuitjerk was born on September 9th, 2008 out of my ego for seeing my own written words out on the internet and for a deep seeded love of informing people about things I know a lot about.

Media Whore was the interim name for the blog that was going to be me discussing technology, videogames, comics, movies, television, podcasts, etc. Basically anything I would love to discuss with people.

Within a day I had emails coming from multiple friends wanting in on the blog. I think at the beginning we had something like five regular writers.

It spent only about three weeks as a super low budget, side-blog to this one. Neil and I decided to go legit. We purchased the Circuitjerk domain and for the next two and a half years, we were pretty good about getting at least three days worth of content a week on the internet.

We had months where there were 70 people going to the site a day and months were we only had 12-15. But we had fun doing it.

We had guest writers to fill gaps for a while, but eventually everyone faded away. It always seem to come back to me and Neil. Fans wanted to read more and more, and we felt our duty to the fans was to fill that content.

Professional videogame journalists say that its hard to hit deadlines, specially with some games taking 40-60 hours to complete. We didn't have the luxury of getting paid for eight hours a day to play and write about games. God I wish I did though.

We probably should've killed the site long before, but it's like when you have that really intense romance with someone that eventually fades. You don't hate the person, but you know its not the same. You're more in love with the memory. As with the song below, its the remorse of the loss of a feeling.

Neil wrote me tonight saying what we both sort of already knew. He could no longer continue the shame. We would end it on the Game of the Year 2010 list. The perfect punctuation of what has been a great memory in my life. It'll be something I never forget.

It's still incredibly hard to walk away. Sometime I've poured so much time and heart into. I've shamelessly promoted for years now. I guess my mind didn't want to grow up. I guess I thought I could always been a part of one of those sites that seemingly comes out of nowhere and is an internet sensation for just a blink of an eye. That's all I wanted was that recognition for that one millisecond in internet time.

So I guess all that there is to say is, "It's not you, its me. Maybe if we were in different places, with more support, this could've worked. But Circuitjerk, I still want to remain friends and hope that we can. With all my love..."


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hope for James

Today snowed too heavy for Sallie or I to go to work. (In fact, as I write this, our street is a sheet of ice and almost not navigable.) We called in, but then realized we didn't really have any food. Rather than try to traverse via car, we walked to the grocery store.

We decided to stop by Subway and have a sandwich to stave off that awful empty stomach grocery shopping. You know, the kind where you come back home with Strawberry Banana nectar and a dozen clearance baking goods.

On the way, we passed a guy that asked for a quarter. He had his sob story about how his parents just died and he recently moved to St. Louis and was homeless. I shrugged my shoulders and explained I don't carry any money on me. (Which is true, it has to be tough to be homeless nowadays. With debit cards, I rarely have cash.)

He then looked Sallie and I in the face, with one of the most desperate glances, and asked if we could buy him a sandwich since we were going to subway and he hadn't eaten in a few days. Neither of us even hesitated. We invited him into Subway.

He introduced himself as James and shook both of our hands. It wasn't a creepy handshake like he was sizing us up or tweeking out on drugs. It was a handshake between on human and another.

In the florescent hum of the Subway lights highlighted James' shame. He said he would eat whatever we wanted to get him. He offered to get a 6" vegetable, which is the cheapest sandwich on the menu.

"James, I want you to get anything you want. If you want a 12", double meat sandwich with chips and a drink, you get it." He looked like he was going to have tears in his eyes. We ended up getting him a gift certificate for a few more sandwiches too. That way, at least for the time being, he wouldn't have to worry about where his next meal would come from.

James sat at the table next to us, chatting a little, asking if we knew of anyone hiring. He asked multiple times if we could give him our phone numbers so he could send us money when he did have a job. We refused, telling James that this meal was on us. He asked us to pray with him, and he asked God to bless us, and take care of him, Sallie, and me.

Sallie and I know how it is to have rough times. We've never been homeless, but we've been jobless. We know at a much lesser level than James, that fear of survival. Other people's charity is what kept us a float. To both of us, this simple gesture to a guy down on his luck, was us paying it forward for all those who helped us.

When James asked one last time if he could do anything to repay us, I just told James, just make sure when you're on your feet, you pay the favor to someone else in need.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2011 - A Year in Preview

2010 is behind us and I have yet to talk about it.

Resolutions aren't a bad idea. A little cliche, but not a bad idea. Gyms are probably already filled with well meaning health nuts that will quit in 3 weeks and smokers have that one last cigarette.

I would love to say that this year I'm going to lose weight and get healthy, but I was already doing that last year. That's like saying, "This year, I'm going to have $1,000 in savings" when you already have $800 saved up. It's cheating.

So here's my resolution: Don't sweat the small stuff, you'll get through anything.

This year, we're hopefully going to get our finances in order. For the three years we've been married, we've been hit with financial disaster, year after year.

1st year: Sallie and I move to Myrtle Beach only to both get laid off 5 months later in the same week. We rack up a ton of debt moving back to Missouri and find that the job market has gone to hell. There are a few months where we don't have jobs, where the debt builds some more. We spend every cent we got for our wedding on paying bills. We start to recover toward the end of the year.

2nd year: As we start feeling better about our finances, Sallie gets bounced around between all sorts of shady jobs. We soon find out that companies really don't have to pay you much or play by the rules when the economy is crap. The debt stays stagnant. We aren't able to pay anything off, but even with buying a car and a scooter, we are able to keep it from building much.

3rd year: Because of some shady job Sallie had, we are in financial ruin thanks to some tax issues. After working overtime from January- March, we are able to get a house. We spend the entire tax credit on our taxes and again get to see a large amount of money disappear. Sallie soon falls ill, and we again fall deep into debt.
Even through all of that though, we've had it pretty good. We aren't rich, but well off. Most importantly, we're happy. (For the most part, everyone has a bad day) This is the year to start doing it smart. We're not going to buy stuff we don't need. We're going to kill half of our short term debt. And for every $100 worth of debt we pay, I want to put $50 into savings.

I looked at the budget, and even with the few trips we plan on taking this year, we can make it to happen with money leftover.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Has God Gone Online?

A topic that has been coming up very often lately in my life is, "Is going to church relevant to everyone, anymore?" I know many people find comfort in the brick and mortar grace, but like (and this might be mildly blasphemous) most retailers, do we need physical building anymore? Specifically, this is something I've wrestled with since going to college.

I guess a little background.

I always hated going to church, but it used to be boredom. It was just a matter of spending an hour a week going through the motions and every now and then there were donuts.

Then I started showing physical symptoms of not liking going to church around 8th grade or so. (There was once, after standing and kneeling during the stations of the cross that the incense literally made me run outside and vomit) I think I can attribute this to my school at the time. Church was used as punishment.

I was in advanced Algebra (I think this is also why I don't like math or science) and it happened to be taught by the religious coordinator of our church. She was basically a sister, just without the formal training. Anytime I questioned God, or the church, or the Bible, I wouldn't get a conversation or an answer from her. Instead, I would get an answer like, "Because that's how it is." And she would see my question as a slight against God. My punishment would be to read that Wednesday's bible passage in front of church. (I was very good at this, which is another reason I think I was "in trouble" so often.)

I don't remember it ever bothering me then. It was more of an annoyance. But I think any psychiatrist would say that's an open and closed case of why now when I go to church I get so tense.

It's a weird tenseness too. Its only during the opening of the service, all the way up to the Bible reading. Which nowadays, most churches spend a good 3-5 songs at the beginning just rocking out and slide a greeting somewhere in there. I'm sure that it eases some people into the church, and that its done good things for Christianity, but its like nails on a chalkboard to me. (I get a similar reaction when I hear the birthday song.)

I also don't like the greeting part. I know its supposed to breed some sort of community with the church goers, but mostly what I see is people shaking hands with a customer service smile, then quickly leaving at the end of the service, only to scream at the same person as they leave the parking lot. I'm guilty too. I shook Sallie's hand today and one guy that had a sweet beard. I can't remember his name. That's one guy. ONE GUY'S NAME! What good has that hand shake done for us?

I don't like the community part of worship. I would love to volunteer with the church and do good in my community, but unless I"m going to be building a house for the poor on Sunday after service, I need to get out of church and get to the grocery store while I still have time.

I tense up to the point where my neck is stiff and I have a terrible headache by the time we're back in the car. I love the sermon, I love the Bible verses, but that music and the greetings... I just can't do it. I've tried taking deep breaths. I've tried spacing out. I've tried not giving my mind any warning. Nothing seems to stop this reaction.

So this week, in one of those classic moments where the movie protagonist stares into heaven and asks God "why!", I stared at my shower head and asked, "If church makes me so uncomfortable and tense, should I be going there? Should I be doing something else? How do I know there's not some evil influence trying to pull me from church?"

I've heard the argument for both sides, "Yes church is important" and "Sometimes God has different plans for your time." It seems to be an argument that changes from person to person. Some say the Bible says church is absolutely necessary. Other's say, "God will let you know what you're supposed to do. Trust in him." Then the retort, "All we know is what's written in the Bible." And then, "Well Paul didn't do anything Christian until God gave him a sign, so maybe you should listen to your body." It seems to go back and forth depending on which camp you're in.

Honestly neither side has convinced me yet. Every time I start leaning one way, the other side brings up a good point.

I didn't think much of it until today. I figured God would give me my answer in one of those ingenious, "A-ha" moments that only someone more wily than you can cause.

You see, I feel like I can get the same message listening to the sermon digitally and reading the bible on my own time.

This eliminates the music quandary I have.

This eliminates touching strangers.

But I figure if the sign I'm supposed to feel is at church, there's only one way for me to see that sign. I must go. So today Sallie and I went.

Please weigh in on this. Here's the answer I got.

The church was packed. We were forced to sit some close to strangers that not even Sallie that is half my size was comfortable.

We got to church a little late today and missed most of the music. Only heard about a song and a half. It was a good amount for me to tolerate. My tenseness was at a minimum. Besides being incredibly tired, I was feeling good today.

We went through the greeting that I described above and then someone came out and read a few passages from Job.

...Then, here's the weird thing (in two parts)

1) The sermon was about asking God questions and letting him answer. Don't just re-phrase the question until you feel like you got an answer you like. So exactly what I've been going through.

but then...

2) As to almost affirm that yes, in today's digital world, Jesus can be as affective online as seeing a live person, the pastor didn't present the sermon live. In fact, I don't think he was in the building. We watched on the 10 or so television screens, the taped sermon from the night before. A full church of a few hundred people, sat in uncomfortable chairs, staring at a television screen to get our message for the week. No one seemed weirded out about this. Everyone responded when the taped message asked for us to read along. Everyone laughed at all the jokes. I swear, there could've been a laugh track involved.

So here's the question I have:

1) Can I get the same sweet amount of savior per week by downloading the podcast of the sermon at the church I go to? I know this sounds like I'm being lazy, but it seems that all of the other parts of the service aren't for me. At least this way, I can reflect, rewind, read along with what's going on. I tend to take in more of the message and retain it for the week instead of just a few hours.

2) OR is this just a case of me asking this question so many times in so many different ways that I finally got the answer I was searching for?

Its something that I have to reflect on. Like with most divine question and answer sessions, there might not be one answer for everyone. I doubt I've gotten even part of the answer by now. That's the thing about God, we're not going to totally know him until we meet him after our Earthly suffering has ended.