Saturday, November 29, 2014

Goodbye Aspartame

As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew something was wrong; my bed was moving!

My bed was moving and strange people were there staring down at me; and I was strapped down!

I thought my heart might jump right out of my chest as I tried to figure this out.  They didn’t look like terrorists, but they had uniforms on and they were questioning me.

“Do you know what year it is?”

I suddenly realized that I was in an ambulance and the strange men talking to me were EMTs. I was calmed and pleased because I knew the answer, “2014,” I answered.

Then I panicked as a flashback to a hospital room came crashing down on me as I remembered a scene when the doctor was giving my mother a dementia test; and she couldn’t come close to the right year.

What if it wasn’t 2014?  What if I wasn’t in the right decade?

I calmed down as I could see from the EMT’s eyes that I had answered correctly.  “Who is the President,” he asked?

“Do I have to answer that,” I asked?

It ends up that I had experienced a nocturnal seizure; the first one of my life.  I eventually was released from the hospital and I felt just fine.

Weeks later, after an MRI, a sleep deprived EEG and a battery of other tests, my neurologist said that she could find no reason that caused the seizure. She recommended that other than not driving until the six month point, I could resume all normal activities.

Have you ever had one of those annoying voices in the back of your head telling you to do the right thing even though you didn’t want to? I knew what I had to do, but even then it took me a month to take charge of my life; I didn’t want to do what I knew I had to do.

My cousin, the Pharmacist, had been telling me for years that Aspartame caused seizures.  I had always replied that that was BS as I was the poster boy for Aspartame.  Now that I had actually had a seizure, what could I say?

I knew what I had to do.

I did my research trying to talk myself out of it.  Most of the websites that linked Aspartame to seizures also claimed that all vaccinations were bad for you and we probably didn’t land on the moon!  But, in the end…

I knew what I had to do.

I went from drinking about ten Coke Cherry Zero’s a day to zero; completely cutting Aspartame out of my diet.  What I didn’t count on was cutting out all that caffeine out of my life.

There are ten caffeine withdrawal symptoms; headaches, sleepiness, irritability, lethargy, constipation, depression, muscle pain, lack of concentration, flu-like symptoms and insomnia.  I got most of them.

It was the worst about five days into the withdrawal and I stayed home from work and didn’t get out of bed all day.  The headaches lasted for another week, but I was completely over the withdrawal in two weeks.

The only thing that scared me was that I read on one caffeine withdrawal blogs that one person said that after giving up caffeine, he never quite felt as energetic as he did with caffeine.

So be it.

I will survive.

I’m Aspartame free and hopefully seizure free!
If you liked this blog post I know you will love my Hating God Trilogy. Please go to Amazon where you can read for free “Hating God”, “Ignoring God”, and “Loving God” if you subscribe to Kindleunlimited.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Wisdom of Simon Birch

“Faith is not in a floor plan”

When asked by Reverend Russell what he was doing sitting in a corner, Simon replied he was thinking about God.  “In a corner,” Reverend Russell was skeptical.  Simon set him straight.

I’m sitting at my dining room table right now looking out my window at some awesome New Hampshire fall foliage.  Somehow, I’m able to see God’s hand on the universe right now much more than I do sitting in church on Sunday.  Faith truly doesn’t have a floor plan.

“I don’t know.  Sex makes people crazy.”

Simon’s reply to Reverend Russell when asked about why Simon caused the Christmas Pageant catastrophe was truly honest.  From Adam and Eve to father Abraham to King David to us, sex has consistently made us crazy.  If you don’t believe it, just watch TV for a night and pay attention to how advertisers try to sell you things.  At times in each of our lives, as much as we don’t want to admit it, sex comes before God.

“If God's made the church bake sale a priority, we're in a lot of trouble.”

I have a continual struggle with the relationship of our current churches and the word of God.  Sometimes, I totally believe that it is so important that the believers meet in one place to publically worship.  Other times I’m just like Simon Birch and the endless announcements and plans talked about in church that have nothing to do with God drive me bananas.  I just want a place to come with fellow Christians and worship God; maybe that can’t happen without church bake sales, but I hope not.

“I want to know that there's a reason for things. I used to be certain, but now I'm not so sure. I want you to tell me that God has a plan for me, a plan for all of us.”

Christ is the only person who has ever lived that didn’t have any doubt about God’s plan for him; the rest of us can only wonder.  Sometimes we catch a glimmer of God’s plan when we find out something we did years ago actually truly affected someone’s life in their quest for God.  Most of the time we throw bread out on the water and never know what happens to it.  The only thing we can be sure of is that in the end God wins.
If you liked this blog post I know you will love my Hating God Trilogy. Please go to Amazon where you can read for free “Hating God”, “Ignoring God”, and “Loving God” if you subscribe to Kindleunlimited.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Nature vs Nurture

How much of what you believe is genetic and how much comes from your environment?

If B.F. Skinner and John Bowlby were alive today, we could have a lively debate on this topic; but who wants to sit through a lecture from a couple of egg heads? 

What about personal experience?

I was raised in the bosom of Liberalism in Beverly, Massachusetts in the 1960’s.  Everyone I knew worshipped at the throne of the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port.  My family had been voting Democratic since the beginning of time.  If Nurture is right, then I should have swayed far to the left.

But, my brain was built a little different.  I remember when I was sixteen watching a debate on TV and on every topic, I agreed with Jerry Williams and not his Liberal opponent.  I can remember turning off the TV and thinking, “How could this happen? I think I’m a Conservative!”

Fast forward a few years.

I left my home on July 5th, 1971, at the height of the Viet Nam War, for boot camp at the Air Force Academy;  not necessarily the most popular thing to do in the Northeast at the time. I was a little nervous leaving my family and friends to go to Colorado.

Luckily, once I started my summer training, I didn’t have to make too many decisions. Uncle Sam is really good at telling you what to do. It was in this first year where I transformed from civilian life.

Christmas was the first time I had any time off and I traveled home for a much needed brake.  The rule at the Academy was that all 4th classmen (freshmen) must travel in uniform. I must have gotten some nasty looks retrieving my baggage in Boston, but I was so excited to be home that I didn’t notice.

I wasn’t looking forward to return to Logan airport a few weeks later!

After checking in at the gate, I was asked to by airport security, predecessors to the TSA, to accompany them.  I was led to a back room and strip searched; all the time being vilified about being in the Military.  I seem to remember the terms “military asshole” and “baby killer” being thrown around.

I’m sure this was just a couple of security punks showing off and not the official policy of Logan Airport towards our men in uniform.  If I knew then what I know now, I might have lodged a complaint; but at eighteen years old, I was just happy to get on my plane, on time.

I understand the value of frees speech; in fact, many of my friends have died defending free speech for these so called Viet Nam protestors.  What I don’t understand is why they always choose the American Military person to lodge their protests?

I believe it was Clausewitz that defined war as just the final step of diplomacy. Why weren’t these protestors surrounding their Senator’s and Congressman’s offices?  They are the ones who determined who would go to war; not the poor schmuck in uniform!

After that first year, I always tried to travel in civilian clothes. Of course, it was hard to hide my Military haircut back then.

I ended up leaving active duty after ten years only to join the Vermont National Guard after a ten year break.  Amazingly enough, even in the new millennium, wearing a uniform in Burlington Vermont was not the most popular thing to do.

Many of the full-time Guard people were briefed to change before they left work for the day.  As a part-timer Green Mountain Boy, my uniform wearing was limited to a couple of times a month.

For my Guard weekend, I would usually drive up to Burlington on Friday night and stay in a hotel. I remember one specific weekend just after 911.  On Saturday morning I dressed in my BDU’s and went down to the curtesy continental breakfast to get my bagel and cream cheese.

I was always a little uncomfortable standing in line, in uniform, and I must have flinched when the gentleman in back of me in line tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned expecting the worse and he shook my hand and thanked me for serving my country.  After that, the entire room broke into applause and everyone came up to shake my hand and pound me on the back.

I was flabbergasted! This was the first time in my entire career in the Military that anyone had ever thanked me for serving my country.  I don’t know who those people are who were in that room that morning, but I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart; it meant so much to me.

Does either behavior I encountered, good or bad, come from Nature or Nurture?  I don’t know, but I imagine that the answer is somewhere in the middle.
If you liked this blog post I know you will love my Hating God Trilogy. Please go to Amazon where you can read for free “Hating God”, “Ignoring God”, and “Loving God” if you subscribe to Kindleunlimited.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How Not to Meet Your Wife

When I was young, unmarried and extremely naïve, I often wondered:

Do I already know the woman whom I will marry?

Will I know when I meet the right woman?

Can a guy even know such things?

It had been a beautiful autumn day and I was excited as I exited my third story apartment; I was planning on meeting a couple of high school friends that I hadn’t seen for quite a while. We had intended to go down to the Old Salt Tavern in Hampton, New Hampshire for a few drinks and a few stories.

As I reached the second landing, a woman named Susan was leaving her apartment and we exchanged pleasantries.  When I heard that she was meeting a girlfriend for the evening, I suggested that they come down to the Old Salt Tavern and I would buy them a drink.

At the time, I was a pilot in the Air Force and Susan was a little more to the left of the political spectrum than I was, so, meeting me for a drink was the last thing she wanted to do.  The fact that I was her landlord I’m sure restrained her tongue and she said she would have to see what Martha wanted to do.

Great put-off!

When I picked up my second friend, he said he didn’t want to go all the way down to Hampton as his wife was almost ready to have their first child.  We changed our plans and went to The Rusty Hammer in Portsmouth; a much closer drive.

After we had been there for a while and had time to sample a fair amount of their on-tap stock, the door opened and in walked Susan and Martha.

“Glad you could make it,” I yelled showing just how many samples I had partaken.  I actually went over to their table and introduced myself.

It didn’t last long even though I thought Martha was the most beautiful woman I had ever met.  Despite the fact I was fueled by a lot of liquid courage, I was still very shy when it came to women, and I soon rejoined my high school buddies for the night.

About a week later I went down my apartment stairs again and knocked on Susan’s door to start some small talk.  After a while when it didn’t seem that I would ever get to the reason I was standing in her doorway, Susan asked, “Well, do you want her phone number or not?”

I nodded my head yes and she gave me Martha’s number.  Now, I just had to trudge back upstairs and see if my fingers would work well enough to dial the phone and whether I could make my voice even work.

I finally got up the courage to call and after I announced who I was, Martha asked, “I’m about to burn dinner.  Could you call back in twenty minutes?”

It was the longest twenty minutes of my life!

When I called back, everything went well until we tried to schedule a date.  You see, I was going on Alert down at the air Force base the next day for seven days and that next weekend my parents were flying up for my cousin’s wedding.  If Martha thought I was strange asking for a date almost two weeks in advance, she didn’t show it.

As bad luck would have it, a big no-notice inspection hit and my 7-day Alert tour turned into a 9-day Alert tour and I had to fly on the tenth day.  This caused a slight problem in that the only day I would get to see my parents was on the day of the wedding and they were scheduled to leave two days later.

I called Martha up on the phone, explained the situation to her and asked if she minded if my parents accompanied us on our first date.  When she said she didn’t mind, I knew that this was the woman I had been waiting for my whole life.

We were married five months later and are still totally in love after thirty-three years.
If you liked this blog post I know you will love my Hating God Trilogy. Please go to Amazon where you can read for free “Hating God”, “Ignoring God”, and “Loving God” if you subscribe to Kindleunlimited.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Goodbye Mom

I never thought that I would be wiping my mom's backside and changing her diapers just like she did for me when I was a baby.  But, cancer doesn't discriminate and it doesn't give any mercy.  I was privileged enough to care for her the last few weeks of her life.

My mom grew up during the depression, but I never heard her complain about her life back then.  I do remember some stories about her father throwing tomatoes at the engineers of passing trains and then picking up the coal that they threw back  at him; but these were humorous stories, not stories about how bad life was back then.
I think my mom's one big regret was that she never went to college.  She was so smart that by starting school at an early age and skipping at least one grade, she finished twelfth grade at age fifteen.  The law said she had to stay in school, so she had to go back for a thirteen grade.
I was the first person in my family to ever go to college, so my mom didn't have anyone to council her about her opportunities.  At sixteen, she went out and got a job to help support her family and college was just another dream that went up in smoke with the start of WWII.
After the war she got married, had children, became a stay at home mom and never worked again.  I would have to say that by living until she was ninety, she had a pretty good life.
Unlike my dad, who died way too early, she did get to see a Red Sox World Championship in her lifetime!
Check out this video of her 90th birthday party to see how full of life she was – nine months later she was gone.
Logically, she had a great life and was at peace with the world and was ready to go.
So, why was my first reaction to question God, "Why do you have to take her now?"
It makes no sense that I was ready to lash out at God.  Maybe, the entire puzzle that we call life seems to sometimes be so overwhelming, that God is the only one we can blame.
If you liked this blog post I know you will love my Hating God Trilogy. Please go to Amazon where you can read for free “Hating God”, “Ignoring God”, and “Loving God” if you subscribe to Kindleunlimited.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Have You Never Hated God

My daughter is a young woman now, but there still are times when she needs her mommy and daddy!

This is about one of those times.

As a kindergarten teacher she is exposed to all sorts of viruses and bacteria that little kids get and bring into the classroom; sure enough she developed a severe case of strep throat.  She came home for the week to sleep in her old room and get some of her mom's homemade chicken soup.

When I got up Friday morning she was crying; two days of the antibiotic had done nothing to help and she was worse than the night before.  Her mother, who had a full day ahead, didn't look that much better.

I quickly rearranged my day to spend driving my daughter around hoping to find a doctor who would agree to see her immediately.  At one in the afternoon we were finally able to track down an ears, nose and throat specialist; I was even allowed to accompany her into the appointment.

During the examination, the doctor asked my daughter how bad the pain was on a scale of 1 to 10.  She replied that it had been an eight this morning, but was now a ten.

I almost fell off my chair and my initial thought was that she was severely exaggerating, but on consideration I realized that in her short life she probably hadn't experienced that much pain and this sore throat probably was a ten to her.

Everything is so very relative.

Wait until she experiences child birth! She will definitely have a different scale then.

I pondered and realized that, everything being relative, that it might be hard for me to understand the pain that some parents experience.

After all …

My kids don't go to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I didn't go to see The Dark Knight Rises there in Aurora Colorado.
I wasn't near the finish line of the Boston Marathon bombing.
I don't know anyone who worked in the World Trade Center.

What do you say to parents that sent their child off to school or to the movies never to have them come back?   What do you say to a young mother who cries out to God, "Dear God, why do you hate me so?"

Do you tell them it was God's will?  

You do, only at great peril!

It is better to stay silent!

The loss of a child is so personal and the grief is so devastating that I can't blame parents for wanting to lash out at God.   The idea that their good, loving God let this terrible loss happen is overwhelming.  How could a benevolent God let this evil event happen?

 I've seen people who don't even believe in God use these times to take His name in vain.  Even Thomas Jefferson wasn't spared from these emotions.  When his wife died, he was so distraught that he questioned his faith.

The answer of course is that God gave all of us this crazy thing called free will and, some people are just plain evil; or maybe they are just evil some of the time.  When these people act on their evil impulses good people may suffer and sometimes die; they are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The sad thing is that a grieving parent is not ready to deal with this idea.  In fact, they may never be ready and they may never stop hating God.

***Blog Update ***

My daughter just had her first child and I'm sure her pain scale has now been readjusted!


If you liked this blog post I know you will love my Hating God Trilogy. Please go to Amazon where you can read for free “Hating God”, “Ignoring God”, and “Loving God” if you subscribe to Kindleunlimited.