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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 30

It's my birthday today.  I had no idea what to write for this exercise in light of that.  I suppose that I'm feeling pretty good, about a lot of things.  God has blessed me more than I possibly deserve to be.  He has brought me a very long way along life's journey and, I'm going to spend the rest of this evening being thankful for that.  Some good friends took me out to dinner earlier tonight, and much laughter and joy was had by all.

When I consider what's happened these past few years especially, I cannot but be grateful.  To God.  To the people He has put into my life.  I hope and pray that I can be a testimony of them in a way that best honors them.

How about we all enjoy some birthday cake? :-)

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 29

Watching The Chosen (see here and here) has reignited my desire to study the gospels with a historian's eye.  I started with the Book of Matthew, not just because it's the first book of the New Testament but also because... well... I like the character in the series.  He makes a really good point in the first episode of season two: he's documenting things, as even a former tax collector would.

So, I've been reading Matthew for the first time in awhile, and so far I've wound up in the seventh chapter.  Here are verses 7 and 8:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

It hit me some time ago just how much that these words are a solemn promise from God.  And it's one that, thankfully, isn't subject to my own personal biases.  The way of the world is that a person MUST find something, according to our predilections.  It has to fit our comprehension, "our way" of doing things.

Isn't that what the Pharisees ended up with?  The seeking after God became a thing to be demanded, so that it fit within the paradigm of the teachers of the law.  And the result of it was simply more law.  Jesus answered that with something radical: that ALL who have a seeking heart, regardless of their understanding, will find Him.

I think the key word in this passage is "seek".  And it's a never-ending, life-long pursuit of God.  For those in Christ, He has been found.  Yet we still seek after Him, as we become more and more Christ-like.  For those who are not in Christ but seeking Him... and maybe in ways that Christians do not realize... it is a promise that they WILL find Him.  That their searching out will not be in vain.  And though they may not fit within the mold of this denomination or that one, their finding Christ is still a thing to be respected, acknowledged, and honored.

Ask.  Seek.  Find.

It works.  Despite all human weakness, the thing works.

And that is my blog post for today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 28

Russia's invasion of Ukraine may go down as the textbook example of all the wrong ways to try to take over a neighboring country.  I'm reading the reports (whichever ones may be accurate) and it just blows my mind how unprepared Putin was in sending his forces into Ukraine.

First of all: WHY did Russia commit its forces during the winter?  The vehicles have gotten bogged down in mud and mire, just as any armchair strategist knew would happen.  But this seems to be the classic pattern for Russia.

There does not seem to be a reliable system of replenishing food, ammo and replacement artillery.

Speaking of that artillery, there are reports that the Ukrainians have more tanks now than when the war began, because they keep capturing Russian tanks and painting Ukrainian markings on them.

The Russian trucks and other vehicles in the invasion convoys have shoddy tires, and other problem parts, which can arguably be traced back to corruption among the oligarchs.  These are NOT sturdy pieces of equipment they road to war on.

The fight to take Kiev is now approximately three weeks behind schedule.

Odessa and other cities along the Black Sea coast have not been taken.

There are widespread accounts of Russian soldiers giving up.  Morale has collapsed.

The Russian army has now lost more personnel than it did during ten years of occupying Afghanistan.

 Russia continues to be ostracized by most countries.  Putin has blown thirty years of building up goodwill, for sake of a war he cannot possibly win.

All of these reasons and more, are going to be studied at great length in history books sooner than later.  Russia is NOT the great power that it claims to be or ever was.  And it's going to take decades to undoe the damage of this debacle.  The best thing to happen now is for Putin to step aside... or  be made to step aside.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 27

Day 27 of writing a blog post each day during Lent!  It's now well past the halfway mark.  It's also significant because 27 is my lucky number.  I appropriated it from "Weird Al" Yankovic but strangely enough 27 has shown up a LOT in my life.

Today, I did nothing.  Couldn't get to work 'cuz the dog and I were both under the weather (I had no idea fried chicken could carry cholera, or that's what it felt like).  So I don't have much to offer but since we've mentioned Weird Al, here's one of his greatest ever music videos: "Amish Paradise"!

Speaking of "Weird Al" Yankovic, next month he kicks off his "The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculous Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour".  And best friend Ed has secured us some tickets.  This tour will be like the previous vanity tour: no straight-up song parodies, mostly the lesser-known songs from Al's mammoth repertoire.  So there won't be "Amish Paradise" but there may be "Craigslist" and "Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota".  Want to see Al perform?  Mash down here!

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 26

Have been thinking of this song a lot lately.  Maybe because my birthday is coming this week, and everything that comes with being older.  I'm reminded of all that has come before, and all of the people who have gone on.  The lyrics are so filled with meaning.  I don't know the religious beliefs of DeVotchKa but the words really resonate with me:

Hold your grandmother's Bible to your breast

Gonna put it to the test

You wanted to be blessed...

 Maybe it also has something to do with how the song was used in the commercial for Gears of War 2.  And that game came out in a really trying period for me.  I thought the song was beautiful.  It has become an anthem in my mind, when I think back to certain things that have happened in my life.

So here it is, one of my most favorite songs: "How It Ends" by DeVotchKa...



Saturday, March 26, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 25

 They are the team I now want to see take it all:

Go Peacocks!!

(And dude with Seventies mustache for the win!)

Amazing game Saint Peters played last night against Perdue.  Now hoping they'll send North Carolina home tomorrow.  Either Saint Peters wins the tourney, or I want to see it come down to Duke and UNC... with Coach K leaving triumphant.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 24

What a week!  I was so pooped last night that I couldn't watch the Duke/Texas Tech game (GO DUKE!).  Your friend and humble narrator has transported four clients, made five drug runs (what I call getting medication to patients) and did all kinds of other stuff in the past several days.  Now it's the weekend.  Time for lots of playtime with Tammy and doing some minor tasks around the house.

But that's not much of an entry for "blogging during Lent".  I thought that since it's Friday, time for a little fun...

This spring is the fortieth (?!?) anniversary of G.I. Joe: that much beloved toy line from the Eighties.  Not just toys, but also the comic series (which was quite a serious read) and the animated series.  Lately Hasbro has been posting full episodes of G.I. Joe on YouTube and I've been relishing these little visits back to my childhood.

The other day they posted "The Invaders" and I thought this would be a good one to share.  Recall, that this episode premiered in 1985.  There was a LOT of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union in those days, and it was reflected in much of the media.  Including but not limited to children's animated series.  So in this episode the American G.I. Joe team crosses paths with their Soviet counterparts the Oktober Guard.  And if it wasn't for having a shared enemy the two teams would have totally been at each others' throats!

So lets revisit not just an animated classic but a longstanding mindset.  Here is "The Invaders":

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 23

 I've posted this cartoon before at least once.  And I think it's way past time that we watch it again.  This is from 1948 and if we had only heeded its wisdom all along.

But, I like to think that it's not too late to say "NO!" to "ism".

Courtesy of Harding College and in glorious Technicolor(tm), here is "Make Mine Freedom":

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 22

I can remember the very first time that bipolar disorder reared its ugly head.  It was the second week of January in 2000.  A very snowbound winter.  There was a storm every two or three days, it seemed.

Maybe being trapped inside by incessant snow and ice was a trigger for what came about.  Or maybe it was primed to blow up anyway, at that precise time.  What I most remember was that I became extraordinarily creative.  Inflamed with imagination.  Overwhelmed with energy.  I had received a flatbed scanner for Christmas and I found myself going full-tilt wacko finding uses for it.  Lots of mischief.  I spent two solid months in creativity overdrive.  I was writing.  I was making new images in Photoshop.  I got invited to join the staff of TheForce.net and I readily accepted.

It wasn't all fun and games though.  I was fresh out of college, looking for some sense of purpose about what to do with my life.  There were lots of resumes that went out.  Many, many jobs I applied for.  The one I recall most was with a Christian ministry in Colorado (I won't say which one but it is still one of the bigger ones).  It would have been a chance to use my writing to serve God.  I suppose I was still that "new puppy-eyed Christian wanting to further the kingdom".  I was one of two finalists for that post.  I didn't get it.  That's okay.  I wouldn't have lasted very long in light of what came next.

This was the manic phase of bipolar disorder.  All of the stuff that I was producing, the raw sense of euphoria.  I felt unstoppable.  My imagination and my drive would plow me through every challenge and obstacle.  Sometimes, I felt like I was divinely appointed and nothing would stop me.

The mania lasted through the rest of January and February, and into the first part of March.  And then spring came.

It was all that green, following months of terminal white.  It was too much life.  And suddenly I went the dire opposite of euphoric.  Without warning I became intensely sad.  Was stricken with depression, for the very first time in my life.  I couldn't look at anything without seeing uselessness and purposeless existence.  And when my grandmother passed away, and we had her funeral on my birthday and I served as one of the pallbearers...

A month later I found myself hospitalized in a mental institution for the very first time.  I spent the month of April looking at other people and seeing death reflected back at me.  And for the very first time I found myself wanting to die, so that there could be an end to the pain.

So began the agonizing flip-flop between mania and depression, that dominated my life and in many ways impacts it still.  Though today I have managed to achieve far greater control over my condition.

But I remember.  I will always remember, what it was like those first torturous months.  And I remember the person I became in the years that came after.  I don't know if I'll ever stop regretting the hurt that I inflicted on those closest to me.  Especially, the woman who became my wife and later left me.  But I don't hold that against her.  I don't hold anything against anyone.  This is my cross to bear.  No one else's.

I went public with having bipolar disorder about eleven and a half years ago.  It was an act of desperation, out of the single darkest episode I have ever had.  It lasted months and I was flailing around trying to grab hold of something, anything, that would make it stop.

Some people praised me for coming out as having a mental illness.  The ones I was most trying to impress with it though, it didn't faze them.  But the die had been cast.  I would now and forever be known as a person with bipolar disorder.  As someone whose own mind had turned against him.  With all of the baggage that such a thing carries with it.

Maybe I had to.  It had become too big, too impossible to hide.  I'm a writer.  I write what I know.  I didn't want to know manic depression.  It was a study in madness and I was an unwilling pupil.  Sometimes I tell people, like the ones I work with, that I've earned a doctorate in insanity.

More than eleven years later, and now I wonder: what would have been, had I not gone public with having a mental illness.  Would I have had some semblance of happiness?  Could I have been married by now?  Have children?  Which, has always been what I have wanted most.  And now on the cusp of forty-eight I wonder if it's too late for that.

What would Chris Knight have been, without having lost so much to manic depression?

I love my job.  I'm a peer support specialist with a mental health organization.  That means I'm supposed to use my experiences as one with mental illness, and help others who also have conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  I get to help people every day.  This evening I was an hour late getting home, because a patient needed medication and I was asked to pick it up from a pharmacy and deliver it to him.  And there was a sense of accomplishment in that.  Yesterday I found myself comforting a client, who was feeling very distraught.  She called me around noon today, and thanked me for coming to see her yesterday.  I really enjoy knowing that I've helped someone get through a rough time.

But even so... I have lived with the reality of mental illness for well over twenty years now.  As much as I have said it doesn't define me, well... it has shaped my life in too many ways.

What would have been, had I remained silent about having a brain turned against itself?

The two most potent words in the English language:

"What if...?"

And that is my blog post for today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 21

 Happy 91st Birthday to William Shatner!

For as long as I live, I will always be proud and honored to have once been retweeted by William Shatner, for a Halloween photo that some friends and I made.  That will probably be my one and only brush with the force of nature that is The Shatner.  But it's enough :-)

Monday, March 21, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 20

Wow.  Day twenty of writing a new blog post each day during Lent.  I'm starting to believe that I can actually pull off this thing.

Yesterday while looking at the blog stats, I discovered something that startled me.  Over the past 48 hours, this site has received three visits from Kiev, in Ukraine.

Someone going through tribulation that I cannot comprehend, for whatever reason thought to visit my blog.  Actually, at least two someones.  Two of the visits were repeats from the same IP address.

I really don't know what to say, about that.  Except this:

Whoever you are, I am praying for you and your fellow Ukrainians.  You are not forgotten.  You have friends out here.  And maybe someday, sooner than later, we can properly introduce ourselves to each other.  Maybe someday we will get to meet in person.

I would very much be honored to know who you are, who out of all the blogs and websites out there, you picked this one.

God bless you and be with you.



Sunday, March 20, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 19

 A week ago I wrote about watching season one of The Chosen: the crowd-funded series about the life of Jesus and His followers.  It's been on my mind a lot during the past several days, especially how magnificent the cinematography is.  Like I said earlier this is camera work that is HBO premium television quality.  The casting is excellent and the performances are endearingly genuine.  This is a show that sucks you in and makes you wanting more.

Well, I just finished watching The Chosen's second season and I continue to be amazed.  Opening up with a time jump not unlike those from Lost, volume two resumes where the first season left off.  It isn't long before new characters are introduced and we see earlier ones get fleshed out even deeper.  I think it's safe to say at this point that my favorite character has to be Matthew: the obsessive-compulsive former tax collector who seemingly documents everything.  Indeed, it's the colorful backgrounds of the disciples that is most fun to watch play out (who'da thought that Simon the Zealot was an MMA fighter?  Either that or he came straight out of the Matrix: the dude's got moves).

I can also identify much with what Mary Magdalene has gone through.  Season one's first episode made it pretty clear that she has been demonized by mental illness, and Jesus heals her of that.  Something happens in season two that triggers a "relapse" of sorts, one that Jesus forgives her for.  As one who lives with bipolar disorder, it was a reminder that my illness itself is not a sin.  Though it has led to things I regret happened.  But, His grace is sufficient, right?

Season two is just astounding.  I really hope that this show will go the full seven seasons that have been plotted.  Season three has been completely funded and Dallas Jenkins and his crew are already taking donations for season four.  Season three is bound to be a whopper: there is a character introduced in the final episode of the second season who... let's just say I guessed pretty early on who this was going to be, and I was right and it made me shriek when he said what his name is.  It's going to be VERY interesting to see how that particular character is developed.

As noted before, you have some options when it comes to watching The Chosen.  I downloaded the app from the Apple App Store and it's also on Google Play.  I've been watching it on my iPad but have streamed a few episodes to my high-def TV.  They are also selling the series on Blu-Ray, and I've decided that it deserves some space in my library.  Check out the official The Chosen website for more.  As well as for contributing to future seasons, which I have decided is worth it.

I want more now!  Oh well, there are two Christmas specials that I still haven't seen, but I'm going to wait until December to watch those.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 18

 I probably wouldn't be so fired-up ANGRY about this if I hadn't been a swimmer in high school...

Above you see a photo of Emma Weyant.  She's been a swimmer on University of Virginia's team.  She also earned silver as an individual during the Olympics.  And in a sane world she SHOULD be recognized as the top women's swimmer in America.

Instead that recognition goes to someone who was ranked 500-something last year in men's swimming.  And then "Lia Thomas" (real name William Thomas) decided that he was a woman.  Even more so, that he was eligible to compete in women's swimming.  And the University of Pennsylvania decided to indulge him that fantasy.

"Lia" proceeded to blast all competition out of the water (almost literally speaking).  With the musculature and endurance of a male biology, no woman has been able to compete with Thomas.  It has been as lopsided a competition as there has ever been.  He has become the number one ranked women's swimmer in the country.

"Lia Thomas" has made a complete joke out of the sport of swimming.  I'm not saying that Thomas shouldn't be swimming at all but he is a MAN and he should be swimming against OTHER MEN.

Thankfully, it seems that more people than not are supporting Emma Weyant and recognizing her as the one true women's swimming champion.

Mash down here for more about this travesty of college athletics.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 17

Oleksii Kyrychenko of Kiev, Ukraine took this photo of his nine-year old daughter.  He titled it "Girl with Candy":

A few days before the Russian invasion he took this photo:

Let us pray that Kyrychenko's daughter, and all of the children of Ukraine, can be brought through this present madness.  Of all the things that are lost in war, childhood innocence must be among the most tragic.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 16

Today... I ain't got nothing.  Just too wiped out already from the proverbial "day at the office".  And my mini dachshund Tammy is in my lap and REFUSES to let me get any real blogging done.

Maybe I'll have something tomorrow.

In the meantime, hot dogs for dinner!  Don't y'all worry, Tammy gets a share too :-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 15

It's been awhile since I really followed college basketball.  It's still the sport dearest to my heart, mostly because I remember cheering on the '83 "Cardiac Pack" team at North Carolina State as they won the national championship under coach Jim Valvano.  And on the twenty-fifth anniversary of that game, I paid a visit to Valvano's grave to leave flowers.  In high school I thrilled to watching Duke win back to back national titles after so many tries by Mike Krzyzewski (hey, I finally spelled his name right!!).  One of these days maybe I'll get to see my alma mater Elon University go to "the Big Dance".  And then everyone will be asking "Elon?  Where's THAT?" just like we did with Gonzaga.

One person who knows basketball... and I mean REALLY knows it... is my lifelong best friend Chad Austin.  He's been finding some good stuff lately and sharing it on Facebook and I thought it was worth passing along to all two of this blog's regular readers.  The first is an article from the News & Observer about this being Krzyzewski's final season as Duke's coach, and his relationship with legendary UNC coach Dean Smith.  Some may want to have a tissue handy.

Then today Chad posted this article about Griff Aldrich, the head coach at Longwood University.  Aldrich is 47 and made a drastic career change mid-stream, from a job paying $800,000 a year to being the coach of a small school's men's basketball program.  The Longwood Lancers tip off against Tennessee during tomorrow's opening round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  Aldrich's story is nothing short of inspirational.  It certainly is to me.

And finally, Chad turned in an article of his very own for the North Carolina Baptists website: about "Bones" McKinney, the legendary coach at Wake Forest University.  McKinney had a dual career as basketball coach and also Baptist minister.  Chad interviewed a lot of people, including basketball broadcasting giant Billy Packer, to get the story about McKinney and the impact he made on the court and in the pulpit.  It's a terrific piece and this one also, is quite inspiring.


Thanks for finding this stuff Chad.  Thanks to you I now have a school to root for this tourney: GO LONGWOOD!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 14

There was a fairly fun post I was going to compose tonight for day's "blogging during Lent".  But as it is, I haven't slept since waking up yesterday morning.  It's now 6:48 pm EST and I haven't eaten anything either.  So I'm going to take care of those two bodily functions (among others) and will put something more substantive up tomorrow.  Until then, behave y'all :-)

Monday, March 14, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 13

I'm beginning to believe that I'll get through Lent having made a blog post for each day.  Even if on some days there's nothing to blog about.

That's what today has been.  Just a fairly typical Monday.  But I had a good weekend.  I ended up writing the first short story that I've composed in almost four years.  It was me hunched over the iPad Pro and a keyboard.  All that was missing from the scene were cigarettes and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

(Like I really smoke or drink.  But it took a long time to get to the place where I could author fiction again so the tortured writer image still applies...)

I need a change, or something.  That's what I told my dog Tammy earlier.  Almost six years ago I said the same thing and the two of us ended up driving across America.  Do I need another traipsing across the landscape in search of adventure?  Ehhh, not really.  Not right now anyhoo.

On second thought, Albuquerque was nice.  Something about the desert there called out to me.  Yeah, the New Mexico desert is the happy place I discovered I had when I was doing EMDR therapy before the plague hit (and I really want to start that again since I didn't get to finish it the first time).

Got a haircut today.  Just for fun I asked the lady coiffing me how old did she think I was.  She said I was in my early to mid thirties.  Ha!!  I turn 48 at the end of this month.  But I'm always getting mistaken for much younger.  Is this arrested development?  My health is excellent.  I still watch Saturday morning cartoons (thank you MeTV!).  Every so often I'll buy a new LEGO set.  Is this what "middle age" is supposed to look like?

(I don't like saying that word.  And so far nobody has told me that I am "of a certain age".  I want to keep it that way.  "Middle age"?  Middle of WHAT exactly?  Besides fifty is the new thirty, or somesuch...)

I suppose if nothing else, today was just life.  Not "good life" or "bad life", but simply life.  To be accepted however it is that one finds it.  But that doesn't mean you don't give up trying to make it a little better.

I like to believe that I'll never stop doing that.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 12

A few years ago a movie, or whatever, started popping up in Facebook ads.  Something called The Chosen.  I looked into it.  Turns out that The Chosen is a streaming series about the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of the disciples.  Intriguingly, the entire show has been completely crowdfunded.  Season one aired in 2019 and this past year saw the release of season two.  More seasons are planned.  A few months ago saw the release of a Christmas special in theaters, and it apparently did quite well.

This past week, for a number of reasons, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided that it was finally time to check out The Chosen and see what the hype was about.  I finished season one last night.

What did I think?  In a word: WOWSERS!!


Let's talk about the cinematography first.  The Chosen may be the most beautiful attempt to depict the era of Christ, that I have ever seen.  Yes there have been more theatrical efforts, like The Passion of the Christ, but that film is in a class all its own.  The Chosen's camera work reminded me of that from Game of Thrones... and that's not a bad thing at all.  In fact, all while watching this I found myself thinking that this series wouldn't be that far removed from being an HBO quality show.  Right down to what could be considered an iconic title sequence and work of art all its own.  Part and parcel to this is the effects work: there is more than you might expect from a series like this.  The miracle of the fish is one of the better CGI-enhanced scenes that I've beheld in recent years.  I'm looking forward to seeing what else The Chosen brings in that regard as the seasons progress.

Then there is the casting.  Every role is well played, from Jesus Himself (portrayed by Jonathan Roumie) to the initially reviled Matthew (Paras Patel).  And for Nicodemus the producers were able to cast Erick Avari.  You'll know the face even if you can't recall the name.  Avari has been in a lot of good projects and his inclusion in The Chosen bode well. I think my favorite character so far has to be Simon, played by Shahar Isaac.  Watching Simon transform from punchy slick-talking fisherman into Jesus's most devoted servant is a lovely thing to behold.

Concurrent with casting, there is the chemistry at work among these characters.  Especially among the disciples, who are coming from disparate backgrounds and careers.  By the end of season one they are well on their way to being the band of thirteen (including Mary Magdalene) willing to follow Jesus unto the ends of the earth.

The writing on The Chosen is magnificent.  It is also more than a little daring.  This series depicts Jesus in ways that nobody has risked doing before and yet it ALL makes sense.  When we see Jesus making farting sounds to entertain a couple of children who have found Him, well... why not?  This Jesus is absolutely divine.  And He is also absolutely human.

Folks, I'm just gobstopped by how impressed I was with The Chosen season one.  It was NOT what I was expecting at all.  Dallas Jenkins and his crew have turned in a television series as mighty, as risk-filled, and as rewarding as any other.  And I will absolutely recommend catching it.

You have some options about that.  Seasons one and two are available on Blu-Ray and DVD.  But if you wanna watch it now (and you should) there's the official The Chosen app for iOS devices and on Google Play.  I watched season one on my iPad, except for the final episode which I streamed onto my high-def TV.  So if you've a streaming thingy like a Roku or whatever it'll work with that too.

And if you like The Chosen enough, you can also contribute to the crowdsourcing.  Season three has been fully funded and they're now onto funding season four.  I decided it was worth making a contribution toward.  And after watching a few episodes, you may decide it's worth contributing to also.  Visit the official The Chosen website for more.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 11

 It would not be at all surprising if Vladimir Putin was out of power in Russia by Easter.

And, word on the street is that his country is going to take a financial hit this coming week.

We'll see.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 10

No getting around it: this past week, from last Saturday on, was pretty craptacular.

How bad?  Something happened that has prevented me from driving for the most part, until further notice.  No, not a speeding ticket or anything like that.  I haven't had a ticket in... wow.  Over ten years now.  Not since I racked up those three in less than a month and a half (with two of them in Virginia on consecutive weekends... hey I was eager to see my girlfriend what can I say? :-).

I like... I like... to believe that things are getting better though.  Why do I say that?

My cooking skills leave much to be desired.  It's not that I'm a BAD cook per se, it's more like... well, I'm intimidated by the kitchen.  It all goes back to that Boy Scout Jamboree, and my night to cook for our troop.  I put WAY too much salt into the mashed potatoes.  So much so that it's rumored that the ground where we dumped it at is still too barren for foliage to take root (sort of a mini "Devil's Tramping Ground").

Yes, I've blogged before about some excursions into culinary experimentation.  Recently I wrote about preparing wild boar baby back ribs.   That was pretty easy though: laying the ribs on a foil-lined pan and cooking for two hours.  Very little preparation at all.  I think the most complicated dish that I've documented on this blog has been baking a pecan pie... and I got that recipe from a friend in Belgium.

Ever since then I've been a little scared to make more than a Chef Boyardee pizza.  I won't deny it: my diet has mostly consisted of frozen food, Subway sandwiches and Cocoa-Pebbles.  But with inflation hitting hard and less money to spend on "extravagant" cuisine, I'm having to learn to overcome my fear of the kitchen.

So that brings us to tonight, and what I did for dinner.

I had no idea what to make for dinner, just that I was hungry.  Tammy - my dachshund - was getting hungry too.  No, I didn't want Chicken McNuggets again.  We've had that twice already this past week.

Then I remembered that I had some spaghetti - the kind you find on the pasta aisle of any grocery store - and some sauce and parmesan cheese.  Christmas gifts from a friend who wants me to cook more for myself.  So that's what I endeavored to do.

I knew enough about cooking spaghetti to know that you break the noodles in half before you put them in the water.  And after Googling it I learned that you put the pasta in the water after it's started boiling.  Eleven minutes later the spaghetti had finished cooking.  A heapin' amount of sauce and cheese later and it was all finished.

And, I surprised myself by how good it was!  Making it myself, somehow made it even better.  It was easy-peasy Japan-esy.  And now I have another dinner to add to my (admittedly small) repertoire.

But you want to know what the best part of cooking spaghetti tonight has been?  It's been discovering that Tammy loves it too.  I had no idea that a dog could enjoy pasta, but apparently she does.  So now there is something I can whip up in the kitchen, that she and I can enjoy together.  Much healthier than sharing McNuggets too, no doubt.

So, that's today's post as part of blogging every day for Lent this season.  I have an idea of what tomorrow's post will be.  In fact, I'm about to watch another episode of it now.

More later.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 9

Longtime friend of this blog Doug Smith found something around Christmas that, I've been looking for a reason to share.  Nothing much going on today so for your culinary enjoyment, courtesy of BBQ Pit Boys, here is their video on YouTube depicting the brewing of a fine batch of Brunswick stew!

Brunswick stew is practically a staple food of the rural South where I come from (north-central North Carolina) during the autumn and winter months.  Many groups like churches and Boy Scout troops make stew to sell as fundraiser, and lots of people enjoy inviting others over for stew that they've made in pots like this one (or even much bigger).  A big stew is an all night affair, with cooking starting as early as 6 p.m. and going on through til 7 the next morning.  It's also a communal event, with people slicing onions and potatoes to put in the pot.  And taking turns stirring the pot from dusk to dawn (often with a cold wind blowing).  Nothing like a big steaming hot pot of stew to keep you warm through the night.

Anyhoo, the BBQ Pit Boys do a fine job showing how Brunswick stew is made.  This is certainly not something you'll find at McDonald's or even Texas Roadhouse.  This is, as one of the crew says in the video, "good living".

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 8

Last night I found myself enjoying the camaraderie of a local chapter of the Rotary Club.  I've never been to one before, but I have friends and family who have been Rotarians.  They do a lot of good work, like their endeavoring to eliminate polio forever.  They are probably NOT like what Peppermint Patty thinks them to be...

But anyhoo, it was quite a nice evening.  The highlight of which was special guest Bob Dotson.  He had a regular feature on NBC's Today Show called "The American Story" for forty years or so.  Last night Dotson shared some of the stories that he covered in his time crossing the country countless times.  Dotson has a book out now, and he actively maintains his website My American Stories, which is said to contain EVERY story that he has covered.  Yowza!!

Maybe if I get to be an executive type one of these days I can join Rotary.  Seriously, I was the most dressed-down person in the whole place last night.  But what can I say?  I'd just come in from the job and my particular career involves lots of field work.  But my friends insist that I could join the Rotary Club anyway.  We'll see :-P

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 7

Of all the photos that have come out of Ukraine in the past two weeks, it's the one most heart-wrenching to me.  The photo that says it all about what that evil bastitch Vladimir Putin has done to that country.

I came across it on Facebook.  On one of the many dachshund-related groups that I'm a member of there.  It was a few days ago.  And I've been thinking about it a lot.

It's a photo of a Ukrainian woman, fleeing the destruction.  In her arms, she is holding her dachshund.  Keeping it safe amid the turmoil.

I saw that photo and it damn nearly broke me.

I have a dachshund also.  Her name is Tammy.  She turns ten years old one month from today.  She and I have been through a lot together.  We look after each other.  She's been there for me through a lot that's happened in my life.  And in return, I like to believe that I've given her a good life.  I'm hoping that we have many more years together (dachshunds can sometimes live to be twenty, maybe a bit more).  Tammy sleeps in the bed next to me every night.  We curl up together.  I can't imagine my life without her, and I know that one day I'm going to hurt very much when she is no longer with me.

I saw the picture of that Ukrainian woman and her dachshund, and it broke my heart.

Why is this war happening?

I don't agree with Lindsey Graham on everything but he's right.  Someone in Russia needs to KILL Putin.  Needs to blow him away or slip some polonium into his salad or whatever.  He is a madman.  A lunatic who God only knows what he's going to do with his hand over the button that could launch three thousand nukes at the civilized world.

I don't know much.  But I know this:

In Ukraine, tonight, a woman is desperately holding onto her dachshund.

And it pisses me off, what has happened to her and her country.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 6

The price of gasoline here in South Carolina shot up twenty cents between 8 this morning and 4:30 this afternoon.  It is now $3.99.

Let's go Brandon!

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 5

I'm getting concerned.  I thought doing a post a day would kickstart my "old" writing skills back into play.  Five days into it and I'm nowhere close.

The last time I was able to channel the really inner parts of my intellect, was before I left my old home in 2016 and headed west.  I don't think that experience has anything to do with losing my writing ability in earnest.  If anything it made me a deeper, more broad person as a whole.  But as soon as I got back I had an issue with my medication and...

That's what I blame most for what happened to me.  The meds.  They keep me suppressed.  They help me hang on to some semblance of normality.  But they also rob from me a measure of spirit.

I've been trying to overcome the effect of the meds.  Have been working toward readjusting my mind around them.  But they are so pervasive, so very permeating into my neurobiology.  But little progress has been made.

So maybe with a little self discipline, and applying myself to the task, maybe that will help me where simply trying to evade the meds has failed.

What do I miss most?  Being able to write about God.  Being able to write about my relationship with Him.  I've lost that most of all.  Maybe that I lament that, is some evidence that I haven't lost it.  Maybe the fact that I'm writing about that right now, proves that I still care.  And maybe if I care about God, maybe He still cares for me, too.

See you all tomorrow.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 4

Got back a little while ago from seeing The Batman.  It may take a while to process this thoroughly.  It's definitely a change-up from what we've come to expect from Batman on film.  Director Matt Reeves has crafted what is easily the most jagged, grim and dirty Batman story we've seen on the big screen ever.  And though some of his choices to slaughter some of the mythos' most sacred cows are disconcerting, even so I found myself completely enthralled by this movie.

It's not perfect.  There will never be such a thing as the perfect Batman movie.  But I would rank it right up there with Batman Begins (2005) and Michael Keaton's Batman from 1989.

Friday, March 04, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 3

 This week I feel like I’m in a Peter Sellers movie… with me as Peter Sellers.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 2

The Russian people did not wake up pokey one morning last week and decide to invade Ukraine.  Neither did the Russian people occupy Poland and impose the Iron Curtain.  The average subject of the emperor didn’t care where Pearl Harbor was if he even knew it existed at all.  The Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland spent decades blowing each other up… why, exactly?  The typical Palestinian when pressed on the matter can not say why he wants to shove every Jewish man woman and child into the sea.

I’m reading stories now about Russian soldiers in the field crying and wanting their mothers.  They didn’t want to be there.  Many of them claim that they didn’t know they were going into Ukraine to begin with.
I’m also reading about the Ukrainians holding Russian soldiers hostage and parading them in front of cameras for social media.  And showing photos of dead Russians.  Some are claiming that doing so violates the Geneva Convention.  To quote Patrick Swayze from Red Dawn: “I’ve never heard of it!”  Swayze then answers his friend’s concern about what makes “us” different from “them”: “BECAUSE WE LIVE HERE!”
It’s hard not to sympathize with the Ukrainians.  They didn’t ask for war.  And war is hell.  Why shouldn’t they reciprocate in kind?  If someone breaks into your house, you have the right to stop them by any means necessary including acts of violence.
But I digress.
All of this and more, did not come about because entire populations simply decided to go to war and wipe out another people.  They instead came about by the machinations of a relatively small minority.  Sometimes not even that much.  Too often it comes down to one man.  One man whose sanity is questionable at best.
(Sometimes I find myself thinking that there would have been peace in the Mid-East a long time ago already, were it not for that idiot Yassir Arafat rallying his people toward hate and violence.)
There have been many such men.  Men who by accident or design have come to control the lives and deaths of millions.  I can tick off a bunch right now: Stalin, Pol Pot, Amin, Kim, and of course Adolf Hitler.
Right now, that man is Vladimir Putin.  Dictator of Russia.  And he is following right along with his predecessors.  The big difference is that Putin has it in his power to destroy the world as we know it.
So the question that’s been running through my mind, the question that has been asked by many before me and will no doubt be asked by many more to come still, is this…
Why do we allow ourselves to follow madmen?  Why do we even tolerate them?
Solzhenitsyn was right.  If the people had only resisted.  If only they had chosen to fight back.  Had decided that they would kill Stalin’s agents when they came instead of cowering in fear.  But instead they played along as the victim.
Why is it so hard to say “no” to lunatics?
When are people like the Russians going to say “enough” and topple the madman controlling their country?

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Ash Wednesday

I woke up this morning wanting to die.

I was having the most beautiful dream.  About all the people who I've ever known and loved.  Especially the ones who I've hurt along the way: so many relationships that were broken because of me.  Because of this mind that God let me have.  But in this dream, everything was okay.  The people I'd hurt, were telling me that they loved me.  That it didn't matter anymore.  We were all going to be together forever.  And I thought that was what was going to happen.  And then I woke up and until the alarm went off from its final round of snoozing I was just laying in bed... wanting to die.  Wanting to be there, where there is no hurt.  No past to be reminded of.  No brain that has turned against me.

Instead I got up, and shaved and showered, and went into the office.  There was a three hour training session done over Zoom this afternoon, about disclosure as peer support specialists.  It was a continuation from the day before yesterday, and I gained a lot from it.  But one of the exercises today triggered me.  Triggered me hard.  Reminded me that for all of my attempts to have some measure of happiness in this life, I might forever come up short.  It will always be someone else who has the things that matter most.

I never wanted much.  Just a little family.  That's all.  But would someone want to be associated with one with such a mind?  That mind destroyed a chance for family.  Hurt people I cared for and still do care for.  Poisoned me from having another shot, when it had been so close.  How close?  I was going to buy the ring the next day.

I'm tired of hurting others, and I'm tired of being hurt all of the time.  I want it to stop.

I'm tired of doubting God, more often than I really care to admit.

A few weeks ago something happened and, I told my friends that it was definitely a God thing.  My car had a breakdown coming off the loop onto Pleasantburg Drive in Greenville.  But the car had enough to coast into a friend's driveway.  They drove me to work while my car was being worked on, and in the end it was fixed.  It's the car I've had since 2007, the one that drove my dog Tammy and I across the country and back.  I want to believe it will make it to 300,000 miles.  Maybe it can now.  But how the car had just enough to make it into their driveway, and how it resolved in the end... yeah, that was "a God thing" I told people.

I can see God in the small things.  Is it wrong to hope that He will be good in bringing some big things along the way, too?

Am I going to die alone?  If I am, what difference does it make if I die tonight and get it over with?

Why am I writing this?

I asked a friend today, since it seems a lot of others are doing it, what can I do for Lent this year.  I don't really have any luxuries to give up for this period leading up to Easter.  She suggested maybe write something every day.  A gratitude journal, she said.  Something along that line of thought.

It reminded me of one time, some years back, when I gave up blogging for Lent.  It was hard, but I did it.

It would be too easy to do that again.  My blogging has become pretty lax.  I want it to make it at least until its twentieth anniversary in 2004.  But there are times when it seems I'm just ready to give it up entirely.  But I don't really want to do that either.

So the idea hit, that maybe for Lent, I could write a blog post a day, every day, until Easter.

Just writing something.  Anything.  Whether it's stream of consciousness or a book review or whatever.  Just WRITING, whatever comes to me.  I can do that.  And maybe it will help me along with some other things that have grown stale in my life.  I've lost something as a writer, I blame the meds more than anything.  Maybe writing despite them will help me find it again.

Maybe it can help me draw closer to God again.  I used to write about God... more than anything.  I used to write about Him in college, for our newspaper.  I've written essays about Him for newspapers.  Maybe writing again here will let me find my way back to Him like that.  If so, this will have been an exercise well worth undertaking.

So that's what this post is.  The first of Lent, 2022.

I'll do my best to resist the doubts.  I have to resist.  There are forty-some posts left to write and I've got to get to it...