Picking Up Where We Left Off Last Time: Going Back to the Future After “To Be Continued”

The phrase “to be continued…” is a way of life for me.

In the summer of 1988 one of the things I remember most is watching reruns of The Incredible Hulk with my mom.  So many of the episodes ended with “to be continued…” flashed up on the screen.  For some reason, that really excited me.  Even to this day, if a TV show ends with that phrase I like it more than a regular episode.

Yes, closure is an important part of life.  But in my mind, the door is never really closed just because time separates me from another person.  (Obviously, I’m not including the given exception of ex-girlfriends. Instead, I’m referring to everyone else.) Childhood classmates and guys from my college dorm.  Anyone I’ve ever met in my life- I don’t forget them.  I may not remember many details about them- but at least in the smallest of ways, I remember them.

Therefore, something I have to remind myself of is this- my way of thinking and exceptionally good memory are not necessarily the norm.  Just because I can remember specific quotes from something someone said in 5th grade, it doesn’t mean they do, or necessarily even care.  The file folder in my head for that person reads “last seen: May 1998- to be continued…”  Theirs for me reads “last seen- sometime in high school- relationship terminated/cancelled”.

When I am reacquainted with a person I haven’t heard from in years or decades, I have this habit of immediately bringing up the first positive memory I have of that person.  For me, it’s like time never passed.  Interestingly, that’s how I think it will be after we die and are reunited with people in eternity.  Since time doesn’t really exist in the afterlife, we just pick up where we left off.

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An Untamed Lust to See the World

Visiting the Epcot Center at Walt Disney World back in 1990 must have really left an impression on me.  Because now I want to travel the world,  for real.

Yesterday as I was driving home from work, “Who’s Says” by John Mayer came on the radio, and while it’s been in my head ever since then, there’s a particular line that I keep dwelling on: “plan a trip to Japan”.

It opens up this can of worms for me, one that I try to keep out of mind and out of sight: The realization that I will never be able to travel and see the entire world, in all its beauty and mystique. 

To see the ancient and modern wonders of the world.  To meet the people who live in those countries.  To eat their food and drink their wine.  To publish a photo album on facebook from my travels to these places.

I have seen a few countries of the world: Ecuador in 1998, Trinidad and Tobago in 2002, Thailand in 2003 and 2004, Korea in 2004, and New Zealand in 2007.  But that only made me thirst for more.

Best case scenario: I would have to earn or win millions of dollars and retire early in order to be able to see all the parts of the world I want to.

Like Norway and Switzerland and Italy and Croatia.  So basically Europe. 

So since it would be disappointing to assume I’ll end up a millionaire and be able to travel the world in this lifetime, I should consider my next best option:

That when we get to Heaven, in the likeness of a glorified Epcot Center, there will be portal we can step into and instantly see any part of the world we want to. 

Even better, in any year.  Sweden 1983, here I come!

Paul Maley, whom I’ve never met and just happened to randomly find your website, I envy you and your 30 plus years of world travel…

Click below for enlightenment:

http://www.eclipsetours.com/ptravel.html

healthnutshell: The Extremes of Being a Meat Head Vs. Being a Vegetarian

What kind of meat did Jesus eat?

In 1990 as a skinny 9 year-old boy weighing well under 100 pounds, I was so proud of the fact that I could eat an entire Double Whopper combo meal at Burger King.  I impressed my parents and Italian grandfather every Friday night when, by tradition, we either went there for dinner, or the now extinct Quincy’s- “Home of the Big Fat Yeast Roll”, and I ate more than any of them.

In fact, one of my childhood catch phrases was “I need more meat.  If there’s no meat, it’s just like eating air”.  I was one extreme carnivore.

Much has changed since then.  As I’ve slowly slipped down the slippery slope of eating organically, it only seemed natural that I would eventually become a vegetarian, or at least go through a vegetarian phase.

Oddly enough, the deciding factor in whether or not I should attempt vegetarianism was based a question derived from a tacky 1998 bracelet craze: “What would Jesus do?”  I asked myself, “What did Jesus eat?”

Jesus ate meat.  He absolutely ate fish- he was a fisherman and even performed miracles which involved multiplying fish to feed thousands of his followers.  In fact, every time I’ve read about Jesus eating any kind of meat in the Bible, it’s always been fish.  Of course, knowing that Jesus was Jewish meant that by religious tradition he also ate some lamb and beef.

It’s safe to assume that Jesus ate a lot of fish and just a little red meat.  (But of course, he didn’t eat pork, being a law observing Jew.)   And that’s the basis of the standard I go by: The less legs, the better. 

Zero legs: Fish have no legs, meaning they’re the healthiest kind of meat to eat.  Except predator fish (like sharks), bottom feeders (like catfish, shrimp, crawfish), and shellfish (scallops, clams). 

Two legs: Chickens and turkeys.  They eat seeds, worms, and sometimes small mice.  They aren’t as healthy eaters as salmon and tuna and tilapia, but they’re better four-legged animals.

Four legs: Cows.  They should be fed grass, because feeding them corn causes health problems for them.  But even when we eat organic, grass-fed beef, our intestines aren’t long enough to fully digest the meat.  On the other hand, a true carnivore, like a wolf, has long enough intestines to properly digest the meat for all its nutrients.  As for pigs, they are scavengers, just like a possum or a vulture, so that’s why I am so adamant on not eating pork whatsoever (healthnutshell: No Pork on My Fork).

The less legs, the better.  Except for predators, carnivores, bottom feeders, and shellfish, which all feed on other animals they killed and ate, or the remains of dead animals they found along the way.

I am not a vegetarian, but I only eat animals that are.  Eating animals that are carnivores and scavengers is the problem.  Meat is not a bad thing or unhealthy at all as long as it’s the right kind of meat.  And the right amount of it.

Recently, studies have been popping up that show that Seventh Day Adventists live longer than the rest of us: Their men live 9.5 years longer and their women live 6 years longer.  Aside of limiting alcohol intake, exercising regularly, eating a health amount of good fats (nuts), most Seventh Day Adventists are either vegetarians or near-vegetarians.

http://lifetwo.com/production/node/20070107-longevity-seventh-day-adventists-life-expectancy

http://www.islandpacket.com/2009/05/16/846639/study-finds-seventh-day-adventists.html

While I will not convert my faith, I have converted to the Seventh Day Adventist  lifestyle of limited meat consumption.  Typically, only one of the meals I eat in any given day actually has meat in it.  And even then, it’s tuna, salmon, tilapia, chicken, turkey, and a few times a month, beef. 

But that’s only so good.  Because what good is it to only eat meat once a day if the portion size is too big?  I look at my hand and visualize the size of my hand without fingers.  That’s around 4 ounces of meat, a quarter of a pound.  That is the proper portion size of meat that I will allow myself to eat per day.  Not per meal.

Because if nothing else, by eating more than a fingerless hand’s worth of meat in a day, I am consuming too much sodium.  Because meat equals sodium.  And too much sodium equals heart disease and high blood pressure, which equals heart attack.

Was it easy to become this way? No.  But not because I go around hungry.  Because it takes more deliberate planning of my meals to make a health meal without meat.  But I’m getting it figured out.

I only eat meat at dinner.  For lunch, sometimes I pack a salad, or a rice and been burrito, or even some homemade, whole wheat English muffin pizzas with low-fat cheese.  All with a generous portion of fruit on the side (which I’ll be writing more about soon: Fruit by the Foot.)

For several months now, I’ve been doing this.  And I’m not hungry in between meals because I eat fruit.  And then of course at dinner, I eat meat with green vegetables. 

If I can add 9.5 healthy years onto my life by not being a meat head, it’s worth it to me.

Here’s a post from one of my writer friends that she just posted this morning, which I highly endorse:  http://www.meetmissjones.com/2010/04/real-food-wednesday-journey-to-real-food/

Russian Roulette with a Made in China Cap Gun

I’ve heard the phrase “we’re not promised tomorrow” enough throughout my lifetime that it’s become a cliché. And what else can I really do to truly “live my life” and “make the most of it”? My issue is that I’m too aware of how short and precious life is.

During the summer of 1998, right before my senior year of high school, I spent a few weeks at a music camp in which us kids stayed overnight in the dorms of the college at Snead State in Gadsden, AL. I wasn’t the kind of kid who looked for trouble when not supervised. So instead of sneaking out at night, one of the things us teenage boys did in that dorm was play Russian Roulette, with a toy cap gun that was made in China.

Because, what else would we do?

In other words, the seven of us staying in that hall gathered in one room around a toy gun that we loaded with its accompanying ammunition, the equivalent of Snap and Pops. It had a barrel just like a real gun and we would only place one “bullet” in at a time. Meaning that there was only a one-in-six chance that the toy gun would make a big “POP!” when the trigger was pulled.

We all took a turn, passing the toy gun to the next guy after we pressed it to our own temple and pulled the trigger. If it was just a “blank”, we stayed in the game. If it went off, we were out.

It was a very entertaining game. Actually addicting.

But at the same time, it made us nervous. Our hearts would speed up in the anticipation. All over a popping sound from a toy gun bought at a gas station.

Just a dumb game we played that summer. But for me, it brought some reality to the fact of how true that analogy is in every day life. I do everything possible to eat and drink healthy, to exercise regularly, and to reduce stress. Preventing disease and cancer is a lifestyle to me.

Yet, as people who smoke cigarettes and who regularly eat fast food and who don’t make an effort to exercise daily all tell me, “we all gotta go sometime”.

There are still car accidents. There are still those random deaths like an unexpected brain aneurisms, and I don’t even know that that is.

I am completely over-aware that every morning I wake up, it’s a game of Russian roulette. Maybe not a one-in-six chance of life ending. Maybe more like one-in-a-half-a-million.

But to me, I’m only alive another day because God let it happen. So really, it’s not a matter of any chances. Not one-in-an-anything.

And that truth is one of the most sobering, frightful, and yet grace-filled thoughts I can think of.

Funny Church Signs or Just Holy Smoke?

Not cool, Zeus.

The 13 mile drive from work to home every day is a 38 minute trip either way; whether I a) join the Mad Max battle on the Interstate or b) tailgate the grannies and mini-vans driving down the rural two-lane backroads which are annoyingly equipped with stop signs every couple of miles. For the last couple of months, I have made the backroads scenic route my new default. It’s more relaxing and the scenery is bit better. And sometimes more entertaining.

A landmark I have begun to love to hate each day as I drive by is this small brick church with its marquee sign easily readable from the road. The messages on the sign are consistently weird. For Mother’s Day, it said: “Dear Mom, you did the best you could.” That sounds more like it should be the title of a Lifetime movie starring Cybill Shepherd.

The annoying thing about their obscure messages is that they often seem to alienate passers-by that aren’t already believers. Prime example, last week their sign said: “Choose the Bread of Life or you’re toast!”

I try to imagine myself not believing in God or Jesus or eternal life. I try to imagine myself never having stepped inside of a church. I try to imagine not understanding that God loves me and has a plan for my life.

Why would I want to even consider going to that church? I question whether a non-believer would even understand the Bread of Life reference anyway. The message on the sign is a “cute” inside joke from the church to the church. And the people outside the church aren’t laughing.

I’ve always been leery of Christianized memorabilia that is intended to convert. Like the WWJD craze of 1998. And Christian movies in general (the horrible acting itself is enough to run off a good portion of possible converts). And if only words can express how badly I loathe Christian e-mail forwards that tell me if I’m really not ashamed of Jesus then I will pass the e-mail along to all of my contacts.

The problem is that it all just comes across as irrelevant. When I see a man wearing a brown t-shirt tucked into his jeans that says “Real Men Love Jesus”, I have to wonder which recent research shows that the actual reason men aren’t converting to Christianity is because they think Christian men aren’t manly enough.

I want to be associated with a God who loves people, who is inviting and inclusive. The marketing executives from holy huddles sometimes miss the point: All that holy smoke must be getting in the way of seeing a church through the eyes of an outsider.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on church signs, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

 

Pickles Make for Good Reading Material- Episode 3

At some point in most people’s lives, they receive an unlabeled manila envelope in the mail.  They open the envelope only to find an unmarked VHS tape.  Then they struggle to find their VHS player underneath a bunch of stuff in the junk closet.  They play the tape.


 

A sophisticated man in a tweed jacket with a pipe tucked in the pocket introduces himself.  He explains to the viewer that also in the envelope is a check for $50,000.  The catch is that the money has to be spent within one month and it can’t be used for charity, vehicles, electronics, clothing, Internet investments, advertising for the intent of profit, food, home repairs or upgrades, education, medical bills, or gifts for other people.  The man in the video admits that he really liked the 1985 movie Brewster’s Millions which he is basically stealing the concept from, just on a smaller budget.


 

When that day comes in my own life, I have already decided how I will spend the $50,000.  Though the rules clearly stated I can’t use the money for advertising with the intent of profit, it didn’t mention advertising with no intentions of profit.  I would purchase “deep thinking” billboard signs.  The content of the sign would be designed to encourage deep thinking and healthy conversation for passers-by.


 

The first idea I have for a billboard would be one that said, “There are 3 words in the English language that end in ‘gry’.  ‘Hungry’ and ‘angry’ are the first 2.  What is the third one?”  This is a riddle someone got from an e-mail forward back in 1998 that they read to me.  After several years of trying to figure it out, I realized that there must be no 3rd word.  So that would probably make a pretty good billboard to keep people’s minds going.


 

I have mentioned before that I want to punch teenage boys in the face that wear those annoying, pointless, attention-grabbing t-shirts that can be found in the $9 section at Wal-Mart.  Smart Alec comments like “I’m out of my mind.  Be back tomorrow.”  Or the shirt that has a camouflage design but has neon orange letters that say “You can’t see me”.  However, there are some I made up that would work pretty well on a billboard.  To be driving down the interstate, and see a billboard that reads “What?”  Or “You tell me.”  That would be alright.


 

But my favorite billboard to try out would be one with a giant pickle where the middle had been hollowed out with a knife.  The caption would read:  “Welcome to Pickle Holler.”  This would cause people to engage in a healthy debate with others in the car.  Some would say it means that they are passing through a country neighborhood called Pickle Hollow but because of the cultural language difference the word “hollow” is pronounced “holler”.  Others would realize that the picture is a play on words because the pickle has been hollowed out.


pickle-sickle