Category Archives: It’s My Life

No Longer a Dream Pacifist

In my dreams, I’m never able to seriously hurt anybody. I don’t know why that is. I might be in a raging gun battle with Disney-themed demonic muskrats, but my bullets do no harm. I’ve certainly never killed anyone in a dream. This is sometimes a cause of aggravation, though I’ve never asked God to change this, sort of assuming that God wants it this way.

But last night, I most definitely killed a zombie.

He was a “fast” zombie (not the lumbering type), running full speed at me with a hatchet, and screaming. Yes, a zombie with a hatchet. Bet you haven’t seen that (yet) on “The Walking Dead.”

Dream Steve grabbed him and sliced off his head on a mailbox post (in the alternate universe of my dreams, mailbox posts apparently have razor-sharp edges). Even in my dream, I realized something new had just happened. I stood there looking at the severed head and thought, “Did I actually just do that?”

It seemed like a breakthrough of sorts. Or maybe it was a case of dreamstate backsliding away from pacifism. I’m not sure. We’ll have to see if it happens again.

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Out of Control


At our garage sale today, this boy wanted to buy some of my old Matchbox cars. When his mom said no, he threw a grand mal temper tantrum–yelling and crying abusively. “I WANT MY CARS!!!” he screamed at her, along with other stuff, for at least ten minutes. Meanwhile, she gently tried to explain herself to him in a calm and quiet voice…which was totally futile. The kid needed…well, that’s not very PC today.


The kid went berzerk. It went on, and on, and on. The whole neighborhood could hear the kid screaming stuff at his mom, and she just let him go. Apparently, the mom graduated from the Young Kids Respond to Reason School of Parenting.

So they’re standing beside their van, grandparents in front, probably terribly embarrassed by this huge temper tantrum, waiting for the kid to calm down and for everyone to climb in the van so they could drive away. Everyone around looking at each other with expressions that said, “Can you believe this? Why does she allow it?”

Finally, probably the only person there who didn’t have kids–ME–took action. I walked out to the van. “Hey,” I said, getting the boy’s attention. He stopped berating his mom and looked straight at me. “I’m NOT going to sell you my cars,” I told him in a firm voice.

A blank, bewildered expression spread across his face. And the temper tantrum immediately stopped. Just like that. Magic.

Was it a male voice? Or just a voice speaking to him with authority? (Mom and Pam said that if they, as women, had told the boy the same thing, it would have had no affect.)

And what was the back story with this mom and child? How did they get to that level of dysfunction? Was he one of these modern kids who, if his mom had touched him at all, would have cried, “That’s child abuse!” Was there a dad in the picture at all? Custody issues? Did the kid have some kind of medical or psychological condition? I have no idea. Hate to be too judgmental and simplistic about how to deal with a situation I know nothing about.

The whole thing was astounding and perplexing. And it reminded my parents that, because they had three boys with mild temperaments, they had it pretty easy.

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My High School Legacy, from the End of the Bench

That's me, kneeling in front on the right, next to Coach Gentry.

That’s me, kneeling in front on the right, next to Coach Gentry.

I played–actually played–on my high school basketball team in ninth and tenth grades. That was in Arizona. Then we moved to California, where I attended Tulare Union, a school twice as large. I made the junior varsity team, but that’s as far as it went. Belonging to the team and seeing action are two different things.

In our daily practices, I worked and sweated and grunted just as hard as my first-string teammates. On game days, I suited up in a uniform identical to everyone else’s, except for the number and the lack of sweat-stains. I participated in the pre-game warm-up drills–free throws, fast breaks, lay-ups, etc. Just before tip-off, I added my hand to the huddle and joined in a zealous “Let’s go!”

But after that, it was, “We’ll take it from here, Steve.” If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. I didn’t have it, and didn’t know where to find it.

So I would plop into my seat at the end of the bench, cheer my teammates to victory, dream of a never-meant-to-be-game-winning-honor-and-glory-forevermore-last-second-jumpshot, and wonder what in the world I would do if the coach actually put me in the game.

“What? You want me to go out there, onto the court? But I might accidentally touch the ball and make us lose the game. Are you sure, Coach?”

Coach Gentry was an easy-going guy in his first year as a basketball coach. To defend myself, I could claim he was too inexperienced to recognize talent when he saw it. The truth is, even a rookie coach can recognize a lack of talent. And so I collected splinters, watched, rooted, hollered, and brought home a clean uniform for Mom to wash.

Cut to Creative Writing class. There, I starred for Mrs. Harbour. I sunk half-court swishers, slugged home-runs, threw touchdown bombs, drilled aces. I think she liked me.

That semester, Mrs. Harbour assigned a writing “decathlon,” you might call it, in which we had to compose various types of writing. A rhymed poem. Free verse. Haiku (the most ridiculous thing this side of Form 10-40, don’t you agree?). An essay. A short story. An interview. A news feature. And a parody.

Ah, the parody. Only a week or so remained of the basketball season, and I didn’t plan to try out for the team my senior year. Nothing to lose. So here’s what I wrote for Mrs. Harbour.

Mr. Gentry is my basketball coach; I shall not play.
He maketh me to lie down at night with aching muscles;
He wind-sprinteth me beside cool-drinking fountains.
He restoreth my thirst.
He keepeth me off the playing floor, for his team’s sake.
Yea, though we lead by 50 points, I will fear not messing up, for I still won’t play.
In practice, thy whistle and thy slave-driving, they tireth me.
Thou anointest my body with sweat;
My pores runneth over.
Surely exhaustion, anonymity, and depression shall follow me all the days of the basketball season.
And I shall dwell at the end of the bench forever.

It was just for Creative Writing class. Mr. Gentry would never see it…would he?

A couple days later, Coach Gentry stopped me between classes.

“Mrs. Harbour showed me your poem,” he said, as all color drained from my face and I envisioned running about 5000 laps. “It was funny.”

“Uh, thanks,” I said, quickly scooting away to my locker.

Had I known Coach Gentry would read that parody, would I have written it? I doubt it.

But it gets worse. Mrs. Harbour immortalized that parody at Tulare Union High School. For years afterward, she distributed mimeographed copies to her English classes as an example of a good parody. A real live literary masterpiece by someone who attended TU. A treasure from her star pupil, who at this very moment was no doubt writing The Great American Haiku. (“Can anything good come out of…yes! And I taught him everything!”)

For all I know, that frivolous parody still makes the rounds at Tulare Union. It is my only mark on that school, my legacy. If Mr. Gentry remembers me, it’s not because of my forgettable jump shot. It’s because of that one silly little poem.

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Guitarists have the Advantage (with Women, Anyway)


Now I know why I remained single until age 33: because my parents had me take piano lessons instead of guitar lessons.

Two studies show that a guy is more attractive to women if he’s carrying a guitar. In a French study, a handsome guy approached 300 women (age 18-22), said “I think you’re pretty,” and asked for her phone number. In one-third of the encounters, he carried a guitar case; in another third, he carried a sports bag; and in the other third, he carried nothing. He got the phone number 31% of the time when carrying the guitar case, but only 9% with the sports bag and 14% when empty-handed.

That study was in France. In the other, from Israel, 100 single female college students received a Facebook friend request from a guy, along with the guy’s photo. In half of the requests, the photo showed him strumming a guitar. In the other half, it was just his mugshot. The guitar-photo request had 14 positive responses, while the guitar-less request had just 5 responses.

The Israeli study was duplicated, but this time the friend requests came from a woman to men. The presence of a guitar made no difference.

I really think they should try it with a guy sitting at a piano. I mean, THAT is sexy, isn’t it? Please tell me it is.

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Miniere’s Disease and the Barf Update

doenca2It has now been two years since I vomited. Sorry for the mental images. But that’s how we Miniere’s Disease sufferers measure progress. I’ve struggled with Miniere’s since 2004, and for much of that time, recurring vertigo would cause a vomiting episode (or more likely, a series of them) at least once a quarter.

I’d be okay for a while. And then I’d not be okay. You get so you can read your body, and know when it’s coming back in force. You wake up in the morning and just know, “Probably around noon, it’s gonna hit me hard.”

But my life changed on April 16, 2010, when I had an endolymphatic shunt surgically installed behind my left ear. The first year saw definite improvement, but a bout with acute pancreatitis threw my body off, and I still had some of the aforesaid episodes. But the last one occurred in April 2011.

April 2011 was also my last serious episode of nystagmus, where the world suddenly starts spinning and you’re nonfunctional for about ten seconds or so. For me, a vomiting episode is often a delayed reaction from a nystagmus episode. Not always, but often. I’ve had a couple minor episodes of nystagmus that stopped pretty quickly, and could usually be attributed to excessive sodium intake. But very minor.

Anyways, I give credit to the endolymphatic shunt. I can almost feel it kick in sometimes, taking in ear fluid before it triggers vertigo.

I’ve posted about the shunt surgery several times over the years, and I usually get comments or emails from other Miniere’s sufferers who are researching the surgery and discover me through a Google search. There have been a few negative reports, but most are very positive.

There are several surgical options for vertigo sufferers, and the shunt is both the lease invasive and the option with the highest success rate. During the past year I’ve heard from a couple people who have had a shunt in place for up to 20 years, and it seems the shunt was wearing out and they were having the surgery done again. I can live with that. It’s not a bad surgery.

I really feel like I’ve gotten my life back. I drive and fly without worry. I still watch my sodium and caffeine intake (moderation only). Alcohol is another trigger, but I’ve never been a drinker, so that’s not an issue for me. The fourth trigger is stress. You can’t always minimize that; I’m coming up on a period at work when there will be a higher level of stress. But I’ve learned to cope with it.

So, two years and counting.

My various posts about the surgery:

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Thank You Frank for the Lovely Picture

The whole table. Bishop Phil Whipple is at the other end of the table. Sorry about the lighting.

The whole table. Bishop Phil Whipple is at the other end of the table. Sorry about the lighting.

Bishop Phil Whipple ordered what was called a Bento Box, which had a variety of interesting things to eat.

Bishop Phil Whipple ordered what was called a Bento Box, which had a variety of interesting things to eat.

That would be our esteemed Global Ministries director on the left, and our esteemed bishop on the right. And that would be me striking a magnificent pose in the middle. A big thank-you to my colleague, Frank.

That would be our esteemed Global Ministries director on the left, and our esteemed bishop on the right. And that would be me striking a magnificent pose in the middle. A big thank-you to my colleague, Frank.

Today was our Administrative Professionals day, and we went to the Naked Tschopstix at the Village of Coventry. An uninformed reader may initially think that sounds like some kind of strip club, but said uninformed reader would be wrong. It’s an Asian place with various kinds of Asian food–Thai, Korean, Chinese, etc. I had a rice bowl with Bulgoki beef, a thinly sliced beef with a sweet marinade. It was quite delicious, but not terribly adventurous.

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The Persistent .05%


I work with lots of ministers, and ministers always have a “life verse.” I think it’s a requirement for getting a ministerial license. But, I admit, I’ve never had a life verse. It has always made me feel spiritually deficient.

However, there is one verse I apply to my work more than any other, so perhaps it qualifies as a life verse. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent” (NIV).

As a Communications Director, my career is based on churning out words. This verse tells me, “The more words, the more chance there are mistakes.” Ain’t that the truth. You can’t crank out thousands of words every day without getting something wrong.

A very nice woman called me today to point out a mistake. She was nervous and apologetic about it, and was calling because somebody else asked her to. The idea of correcting me intimidated her, I think; she didn’t know how I would respond.

But I’m long past (most of the time) being defensive. Making errors in writing–whether mere typos or, as was the case today, factual errors–is just gonna happen. It’s been happening for over 30 years. I accept my fallibility. Probably 99.95% of what I write is clean, mistake-free. But that .05% won’t go away anytime soon.

So I told this woman the mistake was entirely mine, I apologized for it, and I promptly corrected it (you can do that with stuff on the web). No sense being prickly about it. I appreciate people pointing my mistakes, as long as they aren’t jerks about it.

And keep this in mind: whenever somebody talks a lot, or write a lot, there’s a good chance that some of it is just plain wrong. It applies to your local newspaper reporters, to TV pundits…and to your own preacher.

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For Goodness Sake


This morning I ran my snowblower for only the second time this year. The snow was VERY deep. I was pooped out after doing our own driveway, but then I headed over to our elderly neighbors’ house to do their drive and walk. I don’t know the technical term for the next level beyond “pooped out,” but I was definitely there. Several levels beyond there, actually.

I think I met my “good deed” quota for the week. I realize that, by announcing my good deed before men (and women) on Facebook, I am sacrificing any heavenly reward. But I’ll settle for a few “Likes.”

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Better than Roses

Today, most husbands brought home roses for their wives. Me: I brought home a pepperoni-and-ham pizza and breadsticks with cheese sauce from Pizza Junction. Pam agreed that it was much better than flowers.

But I’m haunted by the memory of the guy in the SUV next to me at Pizza Junction, who was waiting on a carry-out pizza. He was holding a vase of roses. So obviously, there is yet another level of Good Husbandship to which I can aspire.

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The Schoolbus Conspiracy


The other day, on the way to work, I found myself behind a schoolbus which stopped at EVERY SINGLE ROAD to pick up kids–junior high and high school, by the looks. Took me forever to get out my own addition.

We’re talking entrances to culdesacs just 25 yards apart. What societal forces prevent two able-bodied kids from walking 25 yards to join the two kids from another street, so that the bus can make a single stop?

And then it hit me: It’s all a conspiracy from the oil/auto industry!

Think about it. All of those extra stops means more gas usage–more money in the pockets of Big Oil, and more money going to support terrorist sympathizers in the Middle East, Venezuela and, most insidiously, in Canada.

And then there’s the extra wear-and-tear on buses from the continuous stop-and-go. That means buses wear out more quickly–and thus, more frequent orders to Big Auto for new buses.

Wake up, America!

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