Friday, June 22, 2012


Sometimes asking for help gets you nothing but more heartache. I’ve been flying my white flag for a few weeks now. Somehow I got myself into a game where white towels thrown into the ring are just thrown back. I keep looking for a referee. I’ve tried like hell to just walk out of bounds, but it’s like I’m inside some kind of indoor soccer hell where there are no out of bounds lines. Just walls –– thick concrete walls covered in a shiny pearlescent white that smells of hospital and iodine. But there ain’t no healing going on, at least not round these parts.

My day of helping others –– rather than doing my own work, which is heaping up in a mound of muck and mire –– got me yelled at for doing what I was asked in the first place, followed up later with a nice kick to the balls.

My entire world is leaning on me right now. I understand and most of the time I just do what my mother says: “suck it up and move on”. But sometimes it can be a bit much. A bit. A smidge. A dump truck. Did I type that out loud? 

I spent the entire day on someone else's work. When finished I headed to my place of employment to do the job I've been asked to do there. Something for me. Alas, the workday took too long and the doors were locked. Now I get to think about all that work I can't do all weekend. Yeah me.

I made my last stop today. I asked, ever so nicely, this one person who depends entirely upon me for nearly everything now, if she could, just possibly, maybe, ask this one other person for some assistance. Just this once. The response was curt and quick:

“Oh I can’t ask him for help. He works long, hard hours.”


It’s entirely possible I won’t answer the phone anymore. In fact, I very much mean not to. Every time I do it doesn’t bode well for my family or me. Email and texting is much easier to ignore or put on hold. Not responding is like saying no without all the arguments and guilt and insistence and guilt. If I can’t get help, then I may just have to not be around.

I don’t know who I think I’m kidding. I’m not good at crap like that. I can’t shake the guilt that someone really needs help and I’m ignoring them. I was raised to never turn your back on family and friends. When people need you, you must be there. But a fella can dream, can’t he?

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I am a possibilian. Grammatically, that should be an uppercase “P” but somehow the very idea of the capitalization brings back the memories of dogma and black-and-white of ideology. I am a possibilian with a lowercase “p”. Damn your eyes.

For some, I am a church-hater and God-basher, an atheist with a bent on ridding the world of church and religion and anything related to goodness. An abortion-loving, commie rising, baby eater, mayhaps. I am none of those things, mind you, but perception is a funny thing.

I am a Christian reject, a throw-away from grace; I am Satan’s cabana boy. I spent my life among the Christian faithful. I’ve prayed. I’ve volunteered. I’ve worked on mission trips. I’ve defended the gospel to heathens. I’ve read the Bible and studied. I did what I could as often as I could. Deep down inside I never believed. That’s not entirely true, actually. In my kid and early teen years I believed with my heart and soul. I prayed twice a day –– mostly for the salvation of my soul and to stop my sinning –– and was a good church boy. I really tried hard, especially in my youth until I hit my late teen years. My sin didn’t stop and my prayers were never answered. It wasn’t long until I stopped praying. It was so confusing. I felt, to use a religious analogy, like the lone, silent human in a crowd of people talking and dancing in tongues. Everyone else got it and felt it and knew it. It seemed there were all crying and shaking and understanding and the metaphorical speaking of tonuges never happened to me. Of course, I internalized all of that, thinking the issue was me. And so I tried harder.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I let go of my fear. Fear, you see, is what kept me going. A good Dad, I took my family to church and we taught the kid to pray to a thing I didn’t believe in or pray to myself. I bowed my head, but I just thought about things and waited the silence out. But I kept it going because I was a good boy or at least I was damned-well going to try to be. After I released my fear I understood I could no longer fake it. I couldn’t go to church and pretend to believe in a myth. I was being a big fat fake and I could not abide it.

I left.

My first inkling was to lie to my kid and tell her I still believed. My reason for doing so was to save her soul … save it from a thing I didn’t believe in. The dogma and fear, you see, was deeply entrenched. I didn’t lie. I told her the truth, my truth anyway. We changed churches. I didn’t even want to go to church, but my wife felt a foundation in something was important. So we went to the Unitarian Universalist church on a whim and discovered all kinds of people who believe in all kinds of things. The unifying themes being: a rejection of dogma and a strong belief in the need for social justice for all.

I am a possibilian. That is to say, I don’t accept church dogma but neither do I accept the certainty of atheism. I believe there are many possibilities and things we do not understand or conceive. Is there a divine being or many divine beings? I don’t know; it’s possible. The evidence and my life experience tell me that the dogma of the churches are deeply flawed and misguided and false, but that does not mean there are not life-beings beyond our understanding. It also doesn’t mean there are. Aliens? Possibly. No alien life forms in the universe? Possibly. Great catfish under the earth creating earthquakes. Uh, no. Science tells me otherwise. Spirits or ghosts? Possibly. We can’t yet determine for sure, can we? I don’t believe in everything. I just believe in the possibility of things that have not otherwise been ruled out by science and experience.

Despite the fact that I don’t believe in the God of Abraham as described in the Christian bible, Islam or Judiasm, does not mean that I give up my right or interest in those entities. Religions, whether I believe in the ideology or not, drive our worldwide culture. Churches influence every aspect of our lives from politics to education to war, economics and health care. Religion permeates our daily lives. Furthermore, I find religion as interesting from a literary perspective as I find Greek mythology. It is something I spent years of my life exploring. Since the beginning of this blog, I have talked about religion –– Christianity specifically –– questioning dogma, criticizing policies and voicing a point of view that sought to make religion better.

I have criticized the public portrayals of good Christianship and pointed out how such public displays of overweening prayer, like Tim Tebow, is rebuked on the Bible. I was harshly attacked for that. I have questioned how the flagship AG church can spend thousands of dollars on a 4th of July fireworks display rather than using that money for those featured in the Beattitudes. I have questioned strongly how Christian churches can attack gays, making laws against them, while accepting people who have divorced and re-married openly in the church, even allowing those people to be leaders and governors of the church. Christ said nothing of homosexuals but he did specifically abominate divorce and remarriage as a sin. All of these things, and more, I openly discussed when I was a Christian and continue to do after I left the church.

When I was a Christian, these views were met with discussion. Most of the time, it was civil, sometimes heated, discussion and disagreement, but almost always civil. Once I left the church, the same discussions have been met with hostility, sarcasm, name-calling, absent friends, and questions about why I care. I care because I am human and I care about my world and my community. I care because I believe in good and right and justice and love. I care for the right reasons, but I should not have to defend why I care. My arguments, whether one agrees or not, are valid, are based on biblical scripture. It doesn’t matter if I believe in that scripture or not. I am no longer shackled to the precepts of the Bible. Christians are and so is the church. It serves us all to have our views, ideas, thoughts, beliefs, policies, procedures and philosophies challenged. After all, how are any of us supposed to change if someone does not challenge us? People would still be paying the church for absolution if it weren’t for Luther. Women would not be able to vote if it weren’t for questions. African Americans would still drink from colored water fountains if it weren’t for MLK, Jr.

Oh look. He thinks he’s Martin Luther. Don’t be an asshole. I think nothing of the kind. I am, myself, a tiny little man in a big body with no power. But I do have a big voice, passion, and a desire to good with my time and energy. I may make people mad by challenging their beliefs. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m an asshole and I question every goddamned thing in my life. I always have. I spend as much time inspecting my own soul as I do the dogma outside me. I constantly evaluate my beliefs, tear down preconceptions and bigotry and work toward being better. I’m still an asshole. I don’t look for that to change but I do try to make myself better as well as the world around me.

My first college class –– 8 am freshman creative writing –– the professor sat his things on the desk and wrote on the chalkboard: “Everything Matters!” Why do I care? Why do I question? Why do I challenge your beliefs as well as seek out those who intelligently question mine? Because. Everything Matters. Everything.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Bride and her Pride-Wagon

Quentin Tarantino is in my opinion -- an opinion which is rarely humble and I'm told quite self-righteous at times –– the greatest film maker of my generation. His brilliance is lost because he is misunderstood and brilliant beyond his time. 

The Pussy Wagon scene came to me while reading the Red Devil today, hit me like a rotten-toothed  orderly having his way with my limp comatose body. At some point The Bride bit his face off, stole his keys and drug her own limp-legged body through the halls, down the elevator and into the parking lot where the Pussy Wagon awaited. She got in, she moved, she got up, she got on. 

Now that's where the metaphor falls apart. I'm not interested in revenge and have no one to excise it on even if I was. But I do have some anger that needs displacement along with pent-up frustration and a serious amount of weighty masses hanging around the shoulders. Knife fights with the Black Mamba need not occur. I'm perfectly fine with a motorcycle ride, some time to write, a few books, D&D, time with friends, time with Cub and the spouse, and some yard work to get it out all healthy like. 

But first I have to get into my own Pussy Wagon and drive that damn thing off into the sunset. If I can just find the orderly and get his keys from him. He and I may have cuswords-cuswords but I'm hoping that's all. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I’ve cried thrice in the last month. That's three times. I don’t think I’ve ever done such a thing my entire adult life. Between one destination and an intended other, I woke to find myself 38 miles away from the city, pulling into my parent’s driveway, sobbing and wanting nothing more than my mom.

I want so bad to say I have no idea what is wrong with me. But that is a lie. I know exactly what’s wrong. If it weren’t for one red devil and his constantly blathering about his own pile of hot steaming life, I doubt I would say a thing. He’s a badass you see. A badass with a mask, whose life is unraveling.

I get that.

I am a goddamned pillar of badassery. I play that part and have deep nasty scars to prove it. Like the red one, I have a mask, too. My mask is a wicked skull with flames and crossbones and shit like that. On the front of it are three words in classic tattoo lettering: “I am fine.” I like that mask. It works for me and gets me through the good times, tough times and scary times. I have suddenly found myself in a place where I am not fine. I’m not fine at all, but no one really knows that. How could they? I’m a pillar remember? Well, that is until the last couple of weeks. And now. I don’t know what I am.

I have few boundaries. If I want to know something, I ask. I say embarrassing things and shocking things and even uncomfortable things. I have no problems asking hard questions or saying hard things and pressing for the deep dark secrets until we dig deep enough to hit the release valve … of others. Me, I’m not so much on sharing this depth. Even I have my limits or so I thought. No limits. Not today. Not right now. Not anymore, it seems. My mask fell off and I’m trying like hell to glue it together. I have staples, nails, brads. Shit, I even have the blessed Arkansas chrome, but it seems that even duct tape won’t fix my mask and that means it won’t fix me.

To whit, I am a babbling, blathering, crybaby and I can’t seem to stop the waterworks. There’s no crying in baseball, but apparently there are tears in life whether I want them or not. I choose not, but I am not in the charge of the choosing.

“That’s it. I can’t take any more.”

I told my wife this very statement a couple of weeks ago. I have endured my father battling cancer, my mom having what we thought was septic arthritis (life threatening) followed by emergency surgery and another dear love with a mysterious cancer surgery. It all ended with my wife having serious but quite treatable emergency gallbladder surgery. Like everyone, we have bills we can’t pay and a new hospital one on the way.

Individually, these would have been nothing more than steams of droplets off the metaphorical duck’s back, but they all happened together and the support team I rely upon during tough times were all fighting their own battles and that left me feeling alone, fighting dragons and demons and crazy all by my lonesome.

It wasn’t until it was all over that I recognized I didn’t sleep, had only 1 or maybe 2 meals a day and was in charge of taking care of everyone around me. That wasn’t the root of the problem.

The demands of these people and those who depend on them fell to me and it all became too great a burden. The worse part was I recognized, for the first time, how lonely I would be without my parents, my wife, my kid, any of them, all of them in my life. I was not ready for these people to die. They weren’t dying anymore; everyone was in the clear path to recovery. It wasn’t until it was over I felt anything about any of it. When I did, it was an unstoppable brick shit house on the run.

No. Freaking. More. Thank you very much.

I’m still having tremors, nasty little aftershocks of fear and burden that crack me. Not the gelatinous puddle cracks that I had a week or so ago, but enough to make my arms tingle and my chest feel hot and my emotions to be sensitive and blustery. Give it time, I guess.


It was just a few weeks ago when I was sitting on a fallen log at a crossroads along a county dirt road. The sun was hot –– real goddamned hot –– sizzling my skin like bacon in a cast iron skillet even through my too-thin white cotton shirt. I’d been walking a long time trying to figure out how I was going to make it to the little store less than a mile down the road and, once there, how I was going to pay for a cool drink of water. My pockets were pretty empty. My feet hurt from standing and walking for what I think was several hours. My arms were tingling and my chest was oddly stretched like those wedges they put in shoes to stretch the toes out and give your piggies more wiggle room. I just couldn’t do it, walk another step. I was too tired and hungry and covered in silt to walk another step. I saw the log on the side of the road and plopped down.

I don’t really know how long I sat there as I dozed in and out of a wafer-thin sleep breathing in dust that still makes me cough sometimes. I need to get that looked at. A thin man eventually came walking by for his daily stroll. It took effort for him to walk but he managed well enough. The red-haired man looked tired, too, and burned. More than me.

I invited him to sit next to me for a little while. He couldn’t stay long. He had to go West; I was heading North to take the Black, or what seemed like my version of it, anyway. He never said where he was heading but I got the impression he had an idea for a destination but not a specific destination in mind. He turned his head toward me ever so slightly and told me his story, all the while twisting a bobby pin in his hand. It was sad, or rather he was sad. Sadder than I by a long shot with good reason to be.

He was sick but recovering slowly. Some recoveries are not miraculous or speedy or even full and the tremor in his voice made me think he was hoping but was terrified of the non-recovery. It was something he said –– more offhand than anything –– that resonated with me. He lost friends, people he thought were golden ended up leaving him when the shit piled on and world got real slow. 

He was talking my language because I am experiencing the same. Not all friends are, indeed, real friends who are there when you need them or even when they promise to be. He winced as he mentioned those people in the midst of the bigger story and I could tell it injured him. Injured him so deeply, in fact, I think any more mention of it would have overcome him. He played it well, kept his hat on and his face shaded fro the sun, and me, and moved on. But I saw it, the twinge of soul that was crushed.  

I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what to say. I just sat and listened and shook his hand as he left, thanking him for the company. It meant a lot. I’ve been hurt, too. Not like him in the recovery sense, but definitely in the friend sense. It’s only getting worse, the wound deepening every day with nothing but a cavalier mention and words. Lots of empty, action-less words. I don’t know how to fix it and I’m not convinced everyone wants to. I’d ask Kenny Rogers but I’m not sure I’m ready for his answer. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I don’t think he’s a bad guy –– Dr. Wesley Scroggins –– when he advocates for the banning of books in Republic High School’s library and language arts curriculum, and his objections to teaching children about their bodies.

He’s simply another member of a small but vocal Christian conservative movement who is given too large a podium and too much credence for the insignificant minority his represents. Fundamentalism makes for headlines and controversies and dollars but it does not represent the average viewpoint.

I think Dr. Scroggins’ biggest problem is his perspective. The blinders of some factions of Christian conservatism and the ivory tower of academia can hide the real world from those with good but misguided intentions. He does not mean harm. In fact, I suspect Dr. Scroggins means to do good by trying to ban what he considers obscene from all persons, despite what might be in their very best interests.

For context, read Dr. Scroggins’ opinion in the Springfield News-Leader (which is only available for seven days because the News-Leader fails miserably as a news organization.

As an educator, I see everyday the words, deeds and thoughts of youth. My perspective is based on my real life experiences with young children, tweens and teens.

Fourth Grade Sex Education
Dr. Scroggins was aghast to discover that students in fourth grade are taught about reproduction. Students (pre-puberty and older) are not only aware of sexual intercourse and other sex acts, but some are actively engaging in the practice. This includes fourth graders. The reasons are varied but here are a few reasons that kids engage in various sex acts:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Peer pressure from older siblings or friends
  • Need to feel like and act like an adult brought on by a need for control
  • Early puberty
  • Curiosity

It is the intention of educators, many of whom in this area are Christian, is to educate children so they make good decisions. What we want from our fourth graders is for them not to have sex or engage in sex acts. Teachers, understanding students behaviors first hand, know this cannot be the only approach because children do, much to our chagrin, have sex or sex-like activities. Our goal is to educate students so if they choose to engage in sexual activity, they can at least do so to avoid pregnancy and diseases.

A decade ago, I read an article in a magazine for Christian youth minsters about the increase of oral and anal sex among middle school Christians. The kids, you see, felt that because they had not had traditional sexual intercourse, they were not having “sex”. They were just goofing around. No one could get pregnant, therefore the parents would not find out. They were free to do what they wished. Since that time, the idea of indiscriminate oral or anal sex has only increased among our youth.

One is unaware of such trends, even among Christian youth, unless they work directly with real-world children in real-world settings. Kids do not talk about such things are church. These are very real issues facing kids. For those with harsh criticisms of kids and their feelings will not be privy to real conversations even if they associate with teens. Kids are smart and can detect judgmental adults. They will avoid real talk with those adults at all costs.

Middle School Sex Education
Dr. Scroggins is quite upset over the fact that high school sexuality discussions include: homosexuality, sexual intercourse, sex acts and prevention. I am not privy to Republic’s sex education curricula so I cannot adequately discuss the accuracy of his statements as to what is and is not taught. However, the editors noted that the school district’s primary focus is on abstinence. I can speak about schools in a general sense.

As state above, educators understand the real world of teens and act accordingly. It should not come as a surprise to Dr. Scroggins or anyone else that middle school and high school students are trying to come to grips with their own sexuality (straight, gay, transgendered). Teens are well aware of homosexuality and the discussion is nothing new to them. If this is a surprise to adults, then those adults are grossly out of touch with kids and teens.

When my wife worked at a mental health facility, she encountered a young, sexually active teen. The girl did not have the information she needed to make good choices. While we would hope she would choose to be abstinent, she disagreed. However, she tried to take steps to protect herself. Unfortunately, the teen was not adequately educated due in large part to people like Dr. Scroggins. The teen mistaken used grape jelly in the place of contraceptive jelly and her body had serious medical complications. If children and teens are taught appropriately, then they can make safer decisions even if they are not the decisions we would wish for them to take. Dr. Scroggins must be aware that even devout Christian teens sometimes have sex; use drugs, alcohol and tobacco; and use profanity.

Book Banning
Dr. Scroggins is on a crusade to ban books he deems inappropriate for high schoolers based on the language use or subject material. Slaughterhouse Five, Twenty Boy Summer and Speak are three he wants banned.

Christian, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist or undefined persons have all heard the f-bomb. It is not a new word and it is not outside the common lexicon of teens of any faith. The fact is, its exposure is not uncommon among tweens and children let alone it’s use. I have heard the female c-bomb screamed loudly in elementary. Tenured elementary teachers and principals are not at all shocked to hear a 7-year-old use such words, although we deal with it appropriately. It is sad, I agree, but not unusual or shocking.

As for his objections of the mention of the rape of a character as pornography, I can only shudder at his thoughts that rape be seen as sexually gratifying to anyone.

The fact is, too many students are disconnected from literature and reading because much of the canon does not engage them, connect with them, or resonate with them. Books that deal with human atrocities, while scary, powerful and emotional, are a part of our daily news cycle and life in general. We cannot, despite our good intentions, shelter teenagers from the world if we want to prepare them to work and live independently in the world.

Rape of teens and rape by teens occurs more often than I think Dr. Scroggins is aware. Real world teachers, juvenile officers, social workers, therapists and physicians are aware of the great harm that teens undergo at the hands of adults and other teens. Teens are also aware. It is of utmost importance to teach our young adults how to appropriately deal with and address the world around us. Literature is a safe way to engage students, teach students and cultivate empathy and ethics.

To that point, I offer this video by Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak. In it she reads a poem that uses the real words of teens who have been uplifted and helped by her book.

This poem by Laurie Halse Anderson was created using actual letters sent to her by readers. The impact of the story on students is obviously positive and powerful. The literary and emotional significance far outweigh any negatives.

I understand Dr. Scroggin’s attempt to make this a better world by sheltering our children from things. However, this approach does not work with real children. It simply makes students incapable of handling the events of the world when they encounter them. Banning books and refraining from teaching students authentically only serves to harm the greater society. I know it is hard for him because he is trying to purify our culture. It is a fruitless endeavor in so far as you cannot mandate purity or innocence. Life is what it is. Educators act and react to society and prepare children and teens to live in that society as healthy adults.

That is my perspective.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Damn. I am so mad that I missed the big announcements made by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Thankfully, due to the intersection of tubes and whatnot, I am able to stream them at my convenience. The boys, who in my opinion provide the best news coverage anywhere (although I like Rachel Maddow, too), use comedy to tell it like it is and shoot us straight in the irrational ass.

If you have not already, you should watch these videos:
Here are some suggested rally signs/posters, thanks to Stewart:
  • I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler.
  • 9/11 was an outside job.
  • I am not afraid of Muslisms, Tea Partiers, socialists, immigrants, gun owners, gays.

If you have ever called, labeled,  implied, suggested or even mentioned Hitler in the same paragraph as a given political party or it's leader(s) then you are in need of rational thought. Not that you are a bad person. It's okay. Everyone freaks. As Stewart said: "take it down a notch."

I've noticed liberals and conservatives linking to these videos (or news stories about these rally videos) all over Facebook and it gives me great comfort to know that there are people aplenty who desire rational thought above emotional and illogical hate-mongering.

A little peace does the soul a lot of good, whether it's given by God or your own intelligent mind.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Yong Zhao, Professor at Michigan State's College of Education, offers a thoughtful, respectful, well-crafted defense to the opposition toward No Child Left Behind. Anyone interested in America's educational system will find this engaging. Whether America agrees or not is left to be seen.

No Child Left Behind and Global Competitiveness from New Learning Institute on Vimeo.