Are you sure you wouldn’t rather get a tattoo?


WARNING: I'm probably going to be dropping some borderline sacrilegious stuff here before this post is finished. But I want to make it clear from the start that I have great big giant slabs of respect for the Mormon Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Assemblies of God, and all faithful practitioners thereof.


 


Adolescence is all about discovering yourself. And part of discovering yourself is trying on things that you’re pretty sure are going to freak your parents out. For me it was boxers that hung down below the end of my soccer shorts. For Corinne it was thermal long johns under her cheerleading uniform. And for Josie, evidently, it’s magic underwear.


No, I’m kidding. (They’re nowhere close to letting her wear temple garments yet.) Josie was baptized this past weekend into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


Okay, that was flippant and rude. I mean, like I said, I really do have respect for the LDS Church. I grew up with (and still hold) a reverent fear of the Catholic Church. And aside from the no booze thing, I think I'm getting along pretty well so far with the Assemblies of God.


Seriously.


I do have trouble with some of the doctrines, principles and practices of each. But each is an honest, passionate, faith-based route toward God. And, in the end, I think that’s the important thing. You gotta believe in something. As the brilliant Walter Sobchak put it, “Nihilists?! F*ck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.”


I know that makes me sound kind of theologically wishy-washy. I guess my views on structured religion are influenced by my own fallible humanity. See, I’m an idiot. And I know I’m not alone in that. To one degree or another, we’re all idiots.


Soooo, while I do believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God*…I also believe that it was transcribed by humans. Passionate, reverent, faithful humans – but humans nonetheless.


I’m confident that God has spoken to quite a few humans (and probably a few dinosaurs too). And some of those humans probably got their parts right. Others probably garbled the translations a bit. Humans mess things up.


Problem is, we don’t know which parts are which. So the safest course is to assume it’s all divinely inspired and accurate but that some parts are just a little wacky. And where there’s wacky, you’ll get “smart” people who’ll insist on explaining things. And that’s where competing theologies begin to develop.


Given that, do I worry that Josie has chosen a church other than the one her mom and I attend? Honestly, no. (At least she’s choosing a church! I would love to see Erin come to the same conclusion.)


I do worry a little about her reasoning and her timing. Is she joining the church now in a star-crossed effort to hold onto her boyfriend as he packs for his mission trip? Seems likely to me.


But so what if she is? If it doesn’t work out with her boyfriend, she’s “wasted” many hours in church developing her own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Beats the heck out of squandering that same number of hours in front of the PS3 like her brothers would.


So congratulations, Josie! Your mom and I are both proud of you for expressing an interest in exploring faith. Just a word of advice though: don’t let this youthful rebellion thing off the hook quite so simply. As youthful rebellions go, I know you can (and you should) do better.


Being 19 should mean doing some stupid, fun stuff. I’m not requesting that you start dabbling in chemicals and prancing about promiscuously. I’d love it if your stupid fun stuff happened to also be safe and legal.


Dye your hair purple. Try Jeep skiing this winter. Cut classes and road trip to Chicago with friends for a long weekend. Find something so fun that you know you’re going to get yelled at for it…but it’s still worth doing.


As Gardner Barnes so eloquently put it, “Here’s to [you], and the privileges of youth!”


 


*I have respect for faithful followers of religions outside Christianity as well. I believe what I believe – but I can’t bring myself to believe that a good person who honestly lives by another creed will be damned to eternal misery for picking wrong.




The night has a thousand eyes


People in Los Angeles really like to look at themselves, right? A lot. Does that sound terrible? That’s just a stereotype, isn’t it? Or is it?

The cameras I knew about. Between the tourists, the reality shows, TMZ, and the news choppers hovering over high-speed chases, I think every movement within a 100-mile circle of that Hollywood sign is caught on camera from some angle.

It’s the mirrors I didn’t expect. They’re everywhere. Which I suppose makes sense if you concede my point from the previous paragraph. If you figure you’re on camera all the time, you probably want to be checking your look frequently.

Now don’t get me wrong, a mirror’s a handy thing. You can use it to signal a search plane if you’re lost in the wilderness and in danger of being mauled by ravenous wolverines. You can use it to find that popcorn husk caught in your teeth that’s been driving you crazy for an hour. In college I took a J-Term class called Geometric Patterns and spent an entire January playing with mirrors to discover planes of symmetry and to attempt to see up skirts.

I’m not mirror bashing here. I’m a fan. But when they’re everywhere, they’re going to result in some unanticipated reflections.

[Hold that thought. I’ll get back to it. I need to veer off in another direction for a bit.]

Corinne, who’s your favorite Little Rascal? Is it Alfalfa? Or Spanky?

If you’re working under the assumption that someone (a camera) is always watching, and you’re a woman, you’re more likely to spend more time sucking in your gut. Spanx, Inc. is making a fortune based on this little truism.

Every woman is wearing these fantastically restrictive undergarments. Ridiculously thin women are wearing them. If you were to undress an Olsen Twin, I’ll betcha she’d be wearing Spanx. (Somebody back me up on this? Statistically speaking, approximately 3.6 of my readers should have undressed an Olsen Twin.)

Given that, I don’t feel like I should get in trouble for revealing that when my super-hot wife wore this beautiful-yet-reasonably-priced dress (thank you Herberger’s; obviously such a great deal it put an overly-enthusiastic-but-still-beautiful smile on her face) in Los Angeles, she started with a Spanky little foundation layer.


Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 9.50.10 PM

As the saying goes, “Everybody’s doin’ it.”

Evidently, however, one area of concern with Spanx is that they ride up.

Speaking as a guy, I’d say big deal. As a boxer guy, I’ve been shamelessly adjusting stuff ever since I switched out of tidy whities in 10th grade. But women are more concerned with decorum and appearances.

So as Corinne was working behind the swag table at that Hollywood book launch party (for Nancy O’Dell’s new book, Full of Love, available now through your Creative Memories Consultant or creativememories.com), when she felt the fabric start to shifting, she skillfully executed what I would categorize as a brilliant maneuver.

She gracefully bent down (at the knees) “to reach for something under the table.” And, in the process, she reached back and gave a good, swift, solid tug on her underwear. Mission accomplished. Relief achieved.

[This is me getting back to my original point. Remember the mirrors?]

When Corinne elegantly and innocently arose from behind the table she was locked eye-to-eye across the patio with Karen the Hollywood make-up stylist.


"You are totally busted!" she shouted, for many to hear. "You were just yankin' your Spanx, weren't you?!"


Corinne was, indeed, busted. And, when she turned around and noticed the 6- by 10-foot mirror positioned behind the table with her, she knew just how.

Oops.




Claudia wrote a book


Jesus, I’m a waste of a keyboard.


Here I am, walking a daily gauntlet of emasculating humiliation, bathed in shame because I’m not writing a book. And not only am I not writing a book, I haven’t even started a book. Not only have I not started a book, I can’t even consistently fill this blog.


This week has been a terrible exercise in self-flagellation. My frayed and lacerated psyche lays bare as I struggle with simple starter questions like, “Well…What kind of writer are you?”


It’s bad.


It just got worse.


Claudia: I just wrote a book!


Me: Grunph?


Claudia: Yeah, I took all my cartoons I’ve been drawing tonight and put them together into a book. Do you have a stapler?


Me: Rajfrst?


Claudia: That’s okay. I’ll staple it at school tomorrow. Check out this page. See this coconut up in the tree? He says, “How do I get down?!?!” And then this other coconut down on the ground? He says, “? I dunno, I just sat that and fell.” Isn’t that awesome?


Me: Kefnujl?


Claudia: Yeah. Okay, I’m gonna have a snack. Seeya!


And away she went. Her self-assigned book project finished. She doesn’t care that it’s currently held together with tape. She doesn’t care that no two consecutive pages make sense together. She doesn’t even care that the rest of the world will probably find it about as funny as a Pauly Shore / Carrot Top poetry slam.


She decided to do it. She did something that made her happy. She moved on.


 That is the essence of genius. That’s Claudia.





Dream on


It's going to be a long 8 weeks at church. Pastor Doug just launched a whole sermon series on dreams. And, while I'm sure it's going to be fascinating and spiritually valuable, it's going to be a pain in my ass.


See, I'm married to a dreamer. A visionary. A big-picture thinker who has the fantastic ability to see possibilities and potential.


Pick one

It's a gift I truly don't have. I really don't. I'm just not a dreamer – either literally or figuratively.


So I'll very rarely remember what I dream about at night. I know I dream. I just can't remember them – even right after I wake up. It's all gone.


But, beyond that, I'm just not that guy who latches onto a goal or an aspiration. I'm more the guy who can't get out of his own way long enough to see the possibilities.


I spend all my time dwelling on why that idea won't work. I spend way too much energy worrying about the things I don't know or the skills I don't have, rather than looking for ways to apply the assets that I do have.


I spent 10 years as an Army logistician. And even I can see the irony in the fact that, rather than being empowered by that experience, I'm more likely to be dragged down by it. "Oh, there's no way we could put together something like that. Do you have any idea all the details involved?…"


What I really should be doing is shutting my negative mouth and just doing what I do well…and let the possibilities open up from there. Just do one thing – my thing – and let that be the beginning. Don't worry about where it's going to take us. (Hell, Corinne'll figure that part out!) Just realize that nothing's going to happen till I start the ball rolling.


Wake up and start dreaming, Greg.




Bear with me


I know I just wrote about homosexuality and Christianity the other day, but I’ve got some more stuff to get off my chest, so bear with me.

First up, I’d like to thank my readers (both of you) for being either a much more tolerant or a much more apathetic lot than some of those encountered by my friend Alex.

I don’t want to go into the complications this discussion has triggered and the ways it’s hurting Alex, his wife and their kids – that’s not mine to share. But I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a swift and decisive backlash. And that backlash has come from devoutly Christian corners.

And I just don’t get it.

Maybe part of the difficulty lies in two admitted (unresearched) assumptions I’m working with.


  1. Homosexuality is a state of being, rather than simply a choice. The video in my earlier post did a great job of exploring this. But, basically, up until now, my assumption on this issue has been driven by the simple question, “Who the hell would choose to put up with this BS?” (Though I’ll admit that I do believe there are plenty of people who experiment. And I’ll admit that I totally don’t get that. So, for the sake of this discussion, I’m talking about unwavering homosexuality.)

  2. (I’m going to get in trouble on this one.) I believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God… But I also believe that each of those books was written down by some guy – some guy who was totally capable of error and failure. Twenty years of proofreading and editing have taught me how possible that is. And let’s also not forget that before the books of the Bible were books, they each spent hundreds of years as oral traditions. Oral traditions? Am I the only one who remembers the Telephone Game from elementary school? We couldn’t even get, “The grey bunny hops at midnight,” from one side of the room to the other over 15 minutes. And you’re saying that no errors, edits or transpositions were made over hundreds of years? I do remain totally open to the miraculous interpretation that God physically guided the hands and tongues of each of those early scribes and preachers. But I’m guardedly cynical.


The Bible is a big ol’ collection of books. And much of what’s in there seems (to me) arbitrary or contradictory. So as a follower of Christ, when I find something simple and understandable like in John 4:8 where the author says, “God is love,” I latch onto that.

When it comes to homosexuals within a Christian context, the more liberal pastors I’ve listened to are very welcoming – except, as with all things homosexual, there’s always a butt. (Sorry, that was juvenile. Couldn’t help myself!) When you ask if a person can be homosexual and Christian, the immediate response is, “Yes, absolutely! But…”

The fine print is, “As long as they’re repentant of their sins and on the road to fighting that temptation.”

(sigh)

Bottom line, for me, I guess is that I’m totally on board with the idea that we’re all broken and in need of grace. We all come up short. And the definition of “all” means homosexuals are included with the rest of us brokens.

But can’t they just be broken like the rest of us – by their greed, by their promiscuous lusts, by their sloth, by their pride…? If God is love, I have a tough time telling someone, “Your love damns you.”

Just doesn’t sound Christian to me.



Way to stir it up, Alex


I’m not a biblical scholar, so my personal comments aren’t going to dive too deeply into this issue. But this is such a fascinating topic to me and I’ve been following it off and on all day.

My friend Alex (who I actually think does qualify as a biblical scholar) stirred up the hornets’ nest this morning by posting this video on his Facebook page.







I thought the video was tremendously well done and it definitely made me think. Now, I know and respect many people who are in the “love the sinner, hate the sin” camp. But I’ve never been able to find a frame of mind that lets me believe that pure, monogamous love between two rational adults in a consenting, committed relationship can be categorized as a “sin.”

I wasted some time at work (time that I really shouldn’t have been wasting, since we’re neck deep in catalog production…but I know I’ll be more than making up the time) digging around doing some research. This site in particular seems to do a nice job of presenting calm, reasoned arguments. Not all of them seem totally convincing, but the author does make some really intriguing points.

But even more intriguing than any of the actual analysis of Scripture is this simple point:

Even when we believe the Scriptures are “infallible” or “without error,” it’s terribly dangerous to think that our understanding of every biblical text is also without error. We are human. We are fallible. And we can misunderstand and misinterpret these ancient words — with tragic results.

The article is really long. But, if you have some time, it’s well worth a read. A little shorter, but no less interesting, is Alex’s eventual response to the question. I’ll include a capture here along with the comments it’s generated (as of right now). This is cut from Facebook, with the names and links to individuals deleted for privacy considerations. I also want to include my respect and admiration for Alex for posting it. Kudos, Alex, for raising a perfectly legitimate question that’s often left as the elephant in the room.





Conversation




To me, telling people that it’s okay to be who you are…as long as you never act on it – EVER – seems both ridiculous and dangerous. There have GOT to be traumatic psychological consequences to simply shutting down and amputating your sexual self. Same thing goes for the Catholic Church’s commitment to the celibate priesthood… But I’m just going to leave that can of worms half cracked here. Gotta go curl up on the couch with Corinne and watch Milk.


The best things in life are… 50 cents or less


Valentine_1
 
Well, here we are. The first of our tiered gift-giving holidays. How'd it go? Initial reviews are positive. (But the long-term jury's still out.)

For those of you not familiar with our creative challenge (and too lazy to scroll down one post), Corinne and I are monitoring the price of our gifts this year. And for Valentine's Day, that means we each had a cap of $0.50. (As caps go, that's a pretty tiny one.)

What did I get?

I got a handwritten love note from Corinne and two fun-size Snickers bars. The love note part I presume is self-explanatory. The Snickers bars tie back to a running joke Corinne and I have from a few years ago when I explained to her that I love her more than Snickers. (That's a lot.) I loved getting those Snickers bars. And I love my wife!

What did I give?

I gave a 5.5×8.5 notepad. I know, it doesn't sound like much. And it sounds like even less when you factor in that I've pretty much already taken it back. I've taken it back so I can use it to finally start compiling plot and character notes to actually get started writing a book. This is a concept that scares the hell out of me. But it's an idea that really means a lot to Corinne. That's why the long-term jury's still out on this gift exchange. It's all going to depend on how well I follow through (historically, not my strong suit).

So wish me luck and keep after me so I don't start letting this project slide!