Sunday, January 26

Live Epically

I felt the cold coming on about Tuesday. I was in denial until Wednesday. I spent the day unconscious on Thursday. Worked on Friday, but accomplished less that I should have...

When I get a cold (or pretty much any sickness, but that is my most common ailment) I feel like the world is dialed down. Everything seems subdued. Or maybe I just care less... But food doesn't taste as intense, sounds seem muffled, I can see okay...but it all seems surreal and dulled. I think that is all pretty normal.

While I was in the midst of this 75% reality - I saw this meme on Facebook from George Takei: The picture made me chuckle. I can imagine if I was a kid passenger in a passing vehicle that I would LOVE seeing Buzz and Woody in a "real life" adventure. My imagination would run wild playing out the scenario that placed them on that bumper...and what would happen next.

Mr. Takei just had two words to say about the picture: Live Epically.


What a great idea.

And I'm not sure if it had special appeal to me because I was in the midst of living in a dulled state of mind, but it really spoke to me. I know that when I'm sick or overwhelmed or depressed, I am about as far from living epically as you can get. I'm just surviving. I'm tolerating the daily activities that take me from waking to sleeping...

Imagine not just surviving - but making it EPIC!

It doesn't necessarily mean that you need to be running from bad guys and leaping onto moving vehicles to escape (like Buzz and Woody). It DOES mean that you embrace the who, what and where you are at any given moment. Eating lunch? Savor it. Having a conversation? Be intent on being part of that conversation - listening, responding, contributing and learning. Don't be figuring out where you need to be next or who you'd rather be chatting up.

Break out of the rut - embrace the place that you are. Having a flat tire? Look around and see the piece of the world that you would usually just drive past at 55. In a boring meeting? Focus on the people around you and the gifts that they bring to the group - you'll probably find a diverse gathering each making a contribution that only they can make. Folding clothes? Spend a minute with your head buried in the warm and softly scented pile of laundry and be glad that you didn't have to beat them on rocks.

I find that I don't live epically very often. But I'm going to try to do it more.

Even when battling Sleestak - you can stop and watch the three moons rise.

Friday, January 17

Escaping to Another Place

About a week ago I was feeling somewhat stressed and decided to relax by watching something light and fluffy. In the past couple of weeks I had watched the first episode of MacGyver but found myself underwhelmed. What had enchanted me years ago - the resourceful and highly intelligent adventurer - seemed like a smarmy egomaniac. I only watched the first episode and it probably gets better...but that wasn't what I was in the mood for.

I had also recently watched the first episode of Tabitha - which was a Bewitched spin-off. Cute young magical Tabitha all grown up and working as a TV producer. But it not only seemed dated (think WKRP in Cincinnati) and syrupy sweet...I was horrified to see how blatant the sexual harassment from her boss was! It made me cringe whenever they were on screen together.

So - I was pondering what to watch. I wanted something "classic" (read: old) and nothing that would be too heavy or violent. Finally my mind wandered to H.R. Pufnstuf. My Google search brought up a brief interview with Sid and Marty Krofft, the creators of the series. In the interview they denied being on drugs while creating the show (concept, writing, filming, etc...they claim that they were not under the influence). Once that interview was done, YouTube suggested several more similar interviews where Sid and Marty Krofft discussed some of their other creations: The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monster, The Brady Bunch Hour and much more.

Then I saw it. The Land of the Lost. And I was transported back to Saturday mornings...

It was like pulling on that pair of sneakers that fits just right...they may look like hell, but the comfort level is off the charts. Yes, the opening sequence - which is a tremendous 1 minute and 8 seconds - looks like it was shot in somebody's bathtub. Yes, the stop motion of the dinosaurs is so jerky in the first episodes...heck, it doesn't really get feel bad for the dinos. And yes, the green screen effects are downright pathetic. But I was surprised to find that the stories and performances still held up after all these years.

The weakest link in acting is the youngest of the Marshall family - Holly. Kathy Coleman pretty much has only this series in her listing on the Internet Movie Database. Looks like she did a guest spot on Adam 12. And the first year of the series she gets pretty whiny...but if you were suddenly snatched from your middle class life and dumped in a world that is a cross between Jurassic Park and the original Star'd probably be pretty whiny too. Holly reminds me of me at that age - I feel sure that I would have made friends with the monkey-people (Pakuni) and the dinosaurs who didn't want to eat me.

The Dad, forest ranger Rick Marshall, portrayed by Spencer Milligan doesn't have many more credits in his IMDB list. Looks like he was on General Hospital for a bit, the movie Sleeper and a long string of guest spots on various shows. But his performance is very enjoyable. In fact, the series is largely produced like a stage performance...there are long scenes without a lot of cuts between camera angles which allows the scene to unfold like a play. I love the way that Rick Marshall is portrayed as a really good Dad (with lots of homespun advice to his kids) who enjoys the adventure of the great outdoors (he and his kids spend a lot of time methodically mapping out this strange world they find themselves in) but has his flaws. Sometimes he gets short tempered, but he is more likely to yell at a dinosaur than his kids...until their bickering makes him say "Hey! That's enough."

Will Marshall, played by the stunning Wesley Eure (credited in the opening sequence as "Wesley" - maybe he was trying to be like "Cher" or "Sting"), was the most awesome brother ever. He pulled his weight with chores around the cave, was smart enough to save their hides a few times, and even though he picked on Holly, in the knew he loved her. Strangely, when they went over the waterfall and through the time doorway - it seems that all the buttons on his shirts fell off. His shirt is always open to his navel. Not that I'm complaining - just an observation.

The show ranges from campy fun - getting to know the Pakuni, dealing with who does chores like cooking, and running from dinosaurs; to other-worldly encounters with beings from other times and other worlds, like the Zarn who just wants to repair his spaceship and escape. The most memorable creatures that the Marshalls have to survive are the Sleestack. And they are just as terrifying as I remember them being in my childhood. The lizard-people live in caves and try many times to capture the Marshalls to feed to their god who lives in a pit full of smoke/fog. They have great bulbous eyes which helps them see in the caves but keeps them from being able to tolerate the light. They go into hibernation during cold periods - but invariably awake and attack as soon as the Marshalls go into their caves searching for something...

There is a Sleestack in the Land of the Lost that is from another time period - when the race has evolved into deep thinkers. Enik wants to return to his own time. Evolution has not increased his sense of compassion or empathy though...when Holly and Will ask for his help when their Dad is captured, Enik has to be convinced to give them any assistance at all - and the help that he gives is minimal. The further along in the series you watch, the bigger jerk Enik becomes.

I've watched all of Season 1 and 2 - and last night started watching Season 3. I know I'll finish all of the episodes, but Season 3 is a tremendous letdown. Apparently Spencer Milligan couldn't come to an agreement on salary because in the opening scenes of the new season he either dies or goes home - you're never really sure. Almost immediately, Holly and Will's uncle Jack arrives. It isn't that Ron Harper does a bad really DO want to like Uncle Jack. But the whole series is lacking...suddenly the Pakuni Cha-Ka is able to speak broken English, the plots seem to swing wildly between the pedantic happenings around their home base to incredibly far-fetched Sleestack stories. It's like they suddenly wanted to out-Star Trek the original Star Trek series. Maybe Season 3 will get better. The reviews of the series don't give me much hope...but I'm going to enjoy the rest of the ride.

Sometime...when you need to escape the perils of your day-to-day life...pull up the series on YouTube (all 43 episodes are out there) and remember that no matter how bad your day is - at least you didn't have to battle Sleestacks.

Friday, January 10

They'll Know

They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.

Or they'll know about our Christ by the way we show love. To the world. To each other.

This is what I have been pondering...

On February 16, I will have the privilege of bringing the morning message to the congregation of Centenary United Methodist Church. It is not something I take lightly. Since the invitation was offered, I have been trying to decide what God wants me to convey.

I have reviewed the Revised Common Lectionary. It is the connected worship of many denominations. A great many pastors look to those four weekly scriptures to determine their message topic for the week. Of course, there are also a great many who choose other topics to "preach on."

If you think about it though...if even 1% of the Christian congregations in the world preach on the same set of scriptures...that is 37,000 congregations all focusing on a particular aspect of our relationship with God and with each other. That can be very powerful, especially if we are intentional in the way we communicate with God - and with each other.

They'll know we are Christians by our love.

I noticed at choir practice last night that the choir would be singing that song as the anthem. And tonight, the first pieces clicked. I know that my "sermon" (not sure if I'm allowed to call it a sermon...Methodists are mighty particular about these things. Let's call it a message.) I know what the topic will be.

They'll know we are Christians by our love.

The World...
Out there - those people who we were instructed to reach out to? Remember those guys? I'm gonna let you in on a little secret...they are hurting. They need us to get our act together. We have got to make sure that they'll know we are Christians by the love we put out there to them. At least a kind word to the people you encounter...

Love to them.

And from another angle - they are going to know what kind of Christians we the love we show to each other. In the church. We have got to get our act together. We can't have visitors and seekers come in to find our congregations not showing love to each other. Because they'll know - they'll see how much they can trust our "love" if we can't even show it to each other.

Mahatma Ghandi said "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Let's make sure we love and support each other.

And then for the final point ( know me...don't pin me down.) - they will know we are christian by our love, the love we show to our Heavenly Father. (however you connect to him) (and yes, I know I'll get push back on that...) (and I still think it needs to be said - Christ met people where. they. were. Seriously.) Are we serious about wanting a relationship with him?

It is still in the development stage. I'll continue to listen and study and pray and listen some more. But I think that I know what my sermon title is. "They'll know."

And the choir had better bring it - pull out all the stops...

You were my inspiration.

(no pictures tonight kids...just focus on the words.)

Tuesday, January 7

I'm in Jeopardy...of feeling stupid...

Just signed up for the Jeopardy online test. I'll take it Thursday evening at 10pm local time. I have taken the test several times in the past. It generally sends me to bed sucking my thumb feeling like the stupidest human on Earth. And I KNOW that I'm smarter than a lot of people...even a lot of the people who I've seen appear on Jeopardy.

The test is not multiple choice - you actually have to type in your answers in the allotted time (although you don't have to phrase in the form of a question). It is 50 questions from various topics. Some of them I will do well with - others I will go with my favorite "I don't know" answer...Alex Trebek. "The third czar of Russia." "Who is Alex Trebek?" "He invented shaving cream." "Who is Alex Trebek?" Personally, I don't know why more contestants don't throw that
                                                          out there instead of "I don't know."

You only have 15 seconds to answer. I am one of those people who can get brain-lock. Throw a question at me and most times you get an answer. It is what I believe to be the correct answer and is offered as definitive truth. "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?" "87" But then there will be a question that I KNOW the answer to, but can't pull it out of my frozen head. "What is your brother's name?" "umm....I know this one...Susan? - no, brother....I got this...." BUZZZZZ. Gordon! His name is Gordon! Like the fishsticks!!

So, hoping for no brain-lock and no categories like "Russian Royalty" or "Nobel Prize Winners" (unless it happens to be Richard Feynman. I'm reading his "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" book for the third or fourth time. I love Richard Feynman.) Everyone is encouraged to pray for categories that include Potent Potables (because I love liquor), Foods of All Nations (because I love multi-cultural food), Spices (alright, I know I'm getting silly), Old Testament People, the 12 Disciples, the Bill of Rights and maybe State Capitals.

Reading a couple old posts that reference Jeopardy - I remembered posing the question "What would your Jeopardy moment be?" In other words, when Alex gives you that minute to share something memorable - what would it be? I have a few possibilities - if I make the show, I'll let you guys vote on the best one.

- "I once inadvertently hung myself from a tree." After all, it is an impressive scar and very few people would have that story. It turns out it is just something stupid that I did to myself, I was swinging on a rope to jump in the river and I got caught in the rope. But it usually makes people's eyebrows raise. And little old ladies like to tell me how lucky I was that I didn't pull my whole arm off (because their uncle/cousin/neighbor had their arm ripped off in some horrific way).

- "I write a blog called The Beaten Hamster." That never fails to get a raised eyebrow. And then people want to know what I have against hamsters. Hey, as long as they stay on their side of the room, I have no reason to beat them. Just kidding. Love hamsters. Had a hamster as a kid. Recently held the guinea pig of my friend Jennifer. It squeaks and chirps and is all kinds of cute. I would not beat it - unless it pooped in my hand. Because that is just nasty.

- "I once found a beer in a frozen lake in Western Canada. I believe that it is proof that God loves us." That really did happen. I was with a group of three or four friends and they were showing me the Spray Lakes near Canmore in Alberta. We were sliding around on the ice and we saw this spot - with very little effort we removed the full and sealed beer from the ice. We passed it around our small group. It was cold and delicious and on a perfect sunny day in the middle of nowhere - it did indeed seem that God smiled down.

There are more. Let's see how the online test goes. Still time to register - join me!!

Thursday, January 2

A Post on a Post

Recently I discovered that I had not been posting often enough. About 4 months worth of not posting. That discovery was stunning to me (read about it here). So, in the interest of continuing to post on a regular basis - here is a new post. One of my many posts about nothing.

Hmm...what to write...what to write...



Large family gatherings




Okay...the stream of consciousness isn't very conscious tonight. Must be because of this headache. I shall go to the random topic generator for a random topic. BRB (that's "Be Right Back" if you didn't know)

First question: What is your morning routine? Well, I wake up about 2 hours early, do 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups, run for 5 miles, read a chapter in the Old Testament and the New Testament, journal and clean my room. Kidding!! I roll out of bed about 20 minutes before I should be at work, watch the end of an old Charmed or Fresh Prince episode, pull back my hair and get dressed. Not so much a routine as the least amount of effort required to exit the house without being arrested for indecent exposure. Next question!

What is your biggest pet peeve? Oh...I have SO many to choose from...improper use of apostrophes, people must think that turn signals and headlights burn more fuel, graffiti (destruction of property in any form really...), non-recyclers, hypocrites...injustice, inhumanity, nSync? My biggest pet peeve? Wastefulness. I think a lot of my little pet peeves all add up to the big one...wastefulness. I don't like it when people waste food or landfill space or things. I really hate it when people waste time - that doesn't mean that people shouldn't have time to just relax with their favorite time waster (TV, Solitaire, Candy Crush, People magazine, etc.). But just burning other people's time with useless nonsense like gossip and whining or making people wait while they check their phone for one more email, text or snapchat... That is a big pet peeve. It always makes me shake my head (SMH) when I see a table of people in a restaurant checking their phones instead of being with the people they are actually with. I am not immune to the temptation to check my phone - my family will be happy to inform you that I am imperfect in that regard! Some times it is because I'm waiting for something important that is work-related. But a lot of the time it is just a bad habit. I'll try to do a lot better with that. Next question!

Where do you currently live? ummm....inappropriate... I've been stalked once in my life and I'm not looking to be stalked again. And most of you know where I live anyway. To be very un-specific: I live in Central Virginia where the snow always turns to ice and the humidity in the summer makes it hard to breathe. My house is not perfect, but it is cozy and I like my housemates. My cat is refusing to kill the mouse that is sharing the basement with us - but if it stays out of sight, I will ignore it. I wish my hot tub wasn't broken (again) but I'm content. One more question!

Describe your perfect day. I think that the line from Miss Congeniality was "April 25. Because it's not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket." I've actually had a lot of perfect days. Images pass through my mind...relaxing on a couch in the shadow of the Canadian Rockies...paddling down the James River one April (until somebody tipped the canoe over...)...hiking and laughing with a great friend in the Blue Ridge Mountains...having a wonderful lunch that lasted about 5 hours....driving on the north beaches of the Outer Banks...sitting in a natural hot spring by a beautiful river in British Columbia. When I'm in the midst of one of these experiences I try to be completely immersed in the moment - I try to commit the details to memory. I don't want to mundane part of the day to overtake the wonderful part. And generally it works - my recollections start with the beautiful instead of the harsher reality. So I forget that after relaxing on the couch, I cooked dinner...that we had to haul the canoe up a hill and over a railroad track...that the sun set before we got back to the car and had to crawl part of the time to find the trail...that Dan was almost late for work that evening...that we spent part of the next day (unsuccessfully) searching for the license plate that got knocked off up on the north beaches...or that I was mostly thawing out in the hot spring because the night before I nearly froze to death sleeping on the hard floor of the van (or that we had TWO flat tires on the way home). All that fades away and I can still feel the sun on my face and my hand in a stronger one that pulled me up the hill...lots of days can be perfect, if you let them...

Hamster beaten...

I think I smell meatballs.