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12/01 Direct Link
Psychologists call it SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. So now there’s an “official” term for being depressed around the holidays. For most people suffering this “disorder” the holidays remind them of how lonely they are. Holidays are for spending time and exchanging gifts with loved ones, and if you have no loved ones, well, I can understand why you’d be depressed.

But I have loved ones. Then why do the holidays sometimes depress me?

Maybe because I’m reminded that I didn’t always have it so good. And so I know how SAD people feel – only without the hopelessness, because I’m cured.
12/02 Direct Link
People rarely discuss politics or religion because of the uncomfortableness of the arguments that might ensue. For me, the other topic that is difficult to talk about is poverty – specifically the poverty my family had when I was younger. A lot of people think it makes them seem more real to admit they used to be poor -- look at how far I’ve come, they’ll crow.

I don’t think you ever feel comfortable talking about how poor you used to be, if you were ever truly poor. Unless you have amnesia, you can NOT escape the discomfort of poverty. Ever.
12/03 Direct Link
Poverty is like drowning or being on fire; as it (the water or fire) overwhelms you, you fight to escape it, flailing and flailing and flailing away. Or it’s like growing up in a town in North Dakota with a population of 75; you want to run away somewhere, farther and farther and farther away. In both analogies, the memories of the former state scar you, mold you, affect you. No subsequent action can be defined in any light without also the glare of the memory, of your past state, of how you used to be.

Poverty is like that.
12/04 Direct Link
We were never so poor that we struggled to put food on the table. Food was the only thing we ever spent money on. We always had chicken and rice to eat (in fact, that’s all we ever ate). While food was a necessity, it was clear that nothing else was: clothing, vacations, Christmas presents of any kind.

We never celebrated Christmas before I was six years old (when my cousins took pity on us). After that, it was a sporadic celebration until I was twelve or thirteen and we were less poor.

Less poor feels no different from poor.
12/05 Direct Link
Every school makes children complete free/reduced price lunch forms. Having to ask for them the first day of every school year embarrassed me to no end. The embarrassment never left me -- how could it since I stood in line every day dispensing my number in exchange for food?

One day was different. I was starting fourth grade and brought home the form. My dad filled it out, smiled, and showed it to my mom who also smiled. We no longer qualified for free lunch. We’d moved to reduced price.

We were finally getting somewhere in this world: less poor.
12/06 Direct Link
I don’t know how many times my poverty (I use “my” instead of “our” to describe poverty because I experienced the rising heat of shame every time we lacked something, every time) made me cringe. Makes me cringe even today. Makes me try to avoid those memories. Makes me avoid thinking about those instances, though they rise with regularity. Makes me buy things to prove to them (to whom? To me?) that I have escaped. That they no longer ensnare me. That that state no longer defines me. That I am no longer there. I am not.

I AM NOT.
12/07 Direct Link
Several Christmases ago, my siblings and I bought my folks a big-screen television ($200/person). That was the same Christmas they got me an mp3 player ($150). We got my youngest brother a second computer ($300). My family alone fueled the economy that Christmas. Making up for every one missed.

Is it buying love to lavish gifts, or is it a show of love never before able to be shown? Is it stupidity to live beyond your means, or is it compensation for a life never lived?

Is it wrong to spend and spend or is it an escape, an escape?
12/08 Direct Link
Today is my youngest brother’s birthday. So these 100 words are for him.

I can’t find a good adjective to describe him, really.

He’s not compulsive like me – he’s neat when he chooses. He’s not ambitious like our other brother – he has goals but not outlandish ones. He’s not responsible like my older sister – he gets done what he needs to though. He’s not bipolar like my mother – but he does have the quick temper we all do. He’s not utterly self-sacrificing like my father – though he hasn’t had to ever try to be so.

I got it: He’s normal.
12/09 Direct Link
I’m in London today -- actually, Chelmsford.

Things that have caught my attention:
- When you order bacon and eggs, they actually serve you HAM
- The London Sun (equivalent to USA Today) is basically mainstream porn
- This whole backward-side of the street driving actually makes sense
- They really do say “cheeky bastard” a lot
- Tea is actually an established religion here

Listen here, Chelmsford, the correct pronunciation of schedule is “SKED yool” not “SHED yool”, you tea-drinking, backward-driving, porn-loving cheeky bastards. And when I want ham, I’ll order HAM.

Sorry, it was a VERY long flight.
12/10 Direct Link
So I’m on a British Airways jet that seats around three hundred. It’s divided into three sections:

- a luxurious first class with seats that can recline into full beds without touching other seats
- business class with wider aisles and fewer seats next to each other
- coach class with cramped nine-seat rows

There were maybe fifty people on the plane. I had a whole row to myself in coach. They could have moved everybody to first class and had room to spare. Of course they didn’t.

What would make them do that except hatred for their fellow man?
12/11 Direct Link
Dear Zachary,

No matter what anyone else believes, I know THIS is your first Christmas. I don’t care that you’re still womb-enclosed, or that the only external signs of you are the sporadic shudders of mommy’s belly, or the sonar-like whooshing of the heart monitor during our monthly doctor’s visits.

To me, you’re God’s-hands-enclosed, and the internal signs are the constant flutters of joy in my stomach, and the ever-pounding beating of my heart that echoes your name, letting me know I could not die happy without seeing you outside the womb, outside God’s hands, within my own.

Love,
Poppy
12/12 Direct Link
I’m flying today. This is not largely unfamiliar considering the 40,000 miles I’ve already flown this year. But every single time I fly, I go into worst-case scenario mode. That got me thinking today.

Why is it that the fear of dying in an accident (like a flight) hits people/me so much harder than does the fear of dying in something more pedestrian?

The statistics are clear: more likely to die in a car crash than a plane, etc. But statistics don’t change the emotional response.

Is it fear of flying masking itself as fear of death, or vice versa?
12/13 Direct Link
Friday the 13th. The perfect day to talk about superstitions.

I don’t have any.

I’m not afraid of black cats. I don’t fear the number 13 (I actually like it). Stepping on cracks, spilling salt, opening umbrellas inside houses – nothing.

Not being superstitious surprises me because I’m obsessive-compulsive. I think having superstitions and being obsessive-compulsive are somehow intricately related. Superstitious people believe that if they do or miss one of their superstitions, bad things will happen.

But isn’t that what my compulsions are all about? If I don’t check (and recheck and recheck and recheck) the locks we’ll get robbed?
12/14 Direct Link
SUPREME COURT FINDS MAN GUILTY OF LOVING HIS WIFE WASHINGTON (AP) – In a unanimous ruling Friday, the Supreme Court upheld several lower court rulings and found that Tung Le, 28, loves his wife Debra Le, 29, with “all his heart and soul.” The 9-0 vote affirmed what legal experts across the country had expected. Writing the opinion for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that “the defendant has been crazy about his wife since 1991, and the evidence is beyond mere reasonable doubt.” Mr. Le responded “Why is this in court? I never appealed, and plead guilty from the beginning.”
12/15 Direct Link
I’m alone today. My family and I flew home to Washington a few days ago for the holidays. I had to return to NY without them to work for a few days.

I’m alone today. I got off the plane at 6:30 am, was home by 7:00. I didn’t feel like sleeping by myself so I made myself breakfast and silently watched TV.

I’m alone today. I played Spades online like I do every weekend – but missed the joyous background sounds of wife and daughter.

I’m alone today, and so the hundred words across my page speak silently like friends.
12/16 Direct Link
Today I lost a hero.

This year, Sports Illustrated selected Lance Armstrong as their Sportsman of the Year. Lance, as everyone knows, recovered from brain cancer to win four Tour de Frances in a row. He is an inspiration to millions worldwide. And he was one of my personal heroes. The article informed me of something contrary to what I had always believed: Lance doesn’t believe God had anything to do with his recovery.

I’m not disappointed because I believe everyone should believe in God. I’m disappointed because I do believe that everyone who’s been given a miracle definitely should.
12/17 Direct Link
This is completely ridiculous.

Tomorrow is opening night for the movie I’ve been waiting years for: The Two Towers. I say years and not merely a year, because I’ve looked forward to the second movie from the start – the second being my favorite of the books.

But tomorrow night, I’ll be returning to WA from NY in the evening. And I need to spend time with my wife and my daughter and my son. And hug them. And kiss them. And end the dreadful rending of my heart that occurs whenever we’re apart.

This is completely ridiculous, but not really.
12/18 Direct Link
Today is the opening of The Two Towers, so Tolkien is on my mind (although I’m sure after I see the movie, this will be a common occurrence).

Of the many characters in the Rings trilogy, there is one I identify with. Not the oft-chosen Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, or Saruman. No -- Bill the packhorse.

Similarities twixt Bill and me:
1. Removed from home and displaced far away
2. Strong desire to head home when possible
2. Loyal to the point of danger
3. Supportive of others in subtle ways
4. Both thoroughbreds raised in Bree

Sorry, carried away again.
12/19 Direct Link
Holy CRAP. Now that’s a good movie.

Did I see The Two Towers? Yes
Did I see it twice in one day? Yes
Did I spend seven hours at the same theater, six of them with my jaw wide open, thrilled to my very core? Yes

Is this the greatest movie of all time? Hard to say with only two viewings under my belt. I need at least a third.

This much I know. I was incomplete August and October 12th. Here is the new breakdown:
1a – The Two Towers
1b – Fellowship of the Rings
1c – Attack of the Clones
12/20 Direct Link
So here’s the more in-depth critique for The Two Towers.

Cons:
- Character development is weaker in this movie than the first, due primarily to Peter Jackson assuming you saw the first and didn’t need as much character development.
- Fewer truly emotional moments than the first (I cried less often, yes)

Pros:
- More coherently driven plot focused toward a better climax
- Less redundancy than Fellowship (no more walk, fight, walk, fight)
- The fight at Helm’s Deep? Holy COW.
- The opening sequence – BEST OPENING SEQUENCE EVER
- Did I mention Helm’s Deep? Shadowfax, Rohirrim, Holy COW.
12/21 Direct Link
I have a perfect daughter.

She is sweet beyond belief and smarter than seemingly possible for a toddler. She’s completely well-behaved. And before you chalk up these observations as mere fatherly pride, note that the ENTIRE WORLD agrees with me. If you disagree, well, that’s not my business. That’s like saying you dislike The Two Towers. You might as well say you dislike the oxygen you breathe. Your position is well beyond sanity’s understanding.

Because my daughter is so perfect, I often feel driven to treating her strictly. I am harder on her than anyone else.

And why is that?
12/22 Direct Link
I am strict with my daughter because she is so well-behaved and perfect.

On one hand, I could pamper her completely and let her grow up spoiled. She’d be happier in the short-term, but it might stunt her growth if I didn’t push her to reach her potential (which is vast).

Conversely, I could be strict with her to instill discipline in her, allowing her to develop quickly and fully. But it might make her rebel against me at the first opportunity.

Don’t say whatever makes her happy is all that matters. Live in this world for a change, dreamer.
12/23 Direct Link
On September 11th, I wondered if there was a more endearing image of God than of Him weeping over us. I don’t know if there’s a MORE endearing image, but there’s certainly one AS endearing – and that’s of Him lying in a manger, just come unto the world.

I find it difficult to leave the comfort of my warm house to buy groceries. What must it have been like for God to leave the indescribable majesty of Heaven for the coarseness of hay and frozen animal feed?

Christ made sacrifices twice – once on the cross and once in the manger.
12/24 Direct Link
Not my words – the Word of God:

{Luke 2:6-9}

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”
12/25 Direct Link
{Luke 2:10-14}

”And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

Merry Christmas, WORLD.
12/26 Direct Link
My favorite Christmas memory:

It’s 1995, and I’m in Tacoma, WA. I didn’t sleep at all on Christmas Eve and felt generally miserable. The next morning, on Christmas day, I couldn’t focus on anything all day -- couldn’t enjoy myself, or the time with my family. I couldn’t eat or drink anything, and that night I didn’t sleep well either.

Finally, I gave myself a pep talk, buckled up my courage, and 7 years ago today I finally fought off my nervousness and asked my girlfriend Debbie to marry me.

Best present ever: eternal love till death do us part.
12/27 Direct Link
We’re headed back to New Jersey tomorrow after two weeks in Washington for the holidays. Maybe that’s why NJ is on my mind. On CNN.com this morning, there was an article about two kids in Bergenfield, NJ who found “porn” in a Barney book.

My thoughts:
- Just confirms that Barney is from the devil
- Why didn’t I ever find porn when I was a kid?
- Dumbest quote by a lawyer in 2002: "They want some sort of apology and maybe reassurance for the children that Barney is pure."
- Seriously, why didn’t I ever find any porn?
12/28 Direct Link
Earlier this month, I flew to Boston on business. When I saw the spire at Park Street Church, I felt like I was returning home.

On the 10th, I landed in NYC returning from London. The customs agent said “Welcome home, Mr. Le” and I felt like I really was.

Two weeks ago, I flew to Washington for the holidays, and deplaning at Sea-Tac Airport felt like returning home.

Today, we got back to New Jersey, and driving home from the airport felt like returning home.

Do I have multiple homes – or none that is truly and uniquely my home?
12/29 Direct Link
My daughter’s sick, so she stayed home from church this morning with my wife. While driving, I found myself speeding. I generally speed 7-9 mph above the limit. When driving alone, I might go 11-13 mph above the limit. What’s the reason for the additional speeding?

Is it because I want to drive safer with others in the car? But shouldn’t I want to keep myself safe for their sake even when alone?

Or is it because I don’t want to be the cause of their deaths – but don’t mind so much when it’s just my own life at stake?
12/30 Direct Link
Questions:

Mom, what has changed you from the ever-yelling force of my youth to the spoiling grandmother of the present – just age?

Siblings, when did things change for us from ever-insecure and pressured children to self-confident adulthood – if it has changed at all?

Cousins, how did we swap external status; weren’t we always looking up to you rather than down our judgmental noses?

Dad, where did your sternness of my childhood flee to that you coo and cuddle my daughter without pause?

Self, who do you think you are asking all these questions, seeking answers you don’t deserve?

God, why?
12/31 Direct Link
Here are my New Year’s resolutions:
- Love my wife more than I did this past year
- Love my daughter more as well
- Love my son every bit as much as I do my daughter
- Travel for work for fewer miles this year than I did last year
- Travel enough to maintain elite status, however
- Read fewer videogame magazines and more serious literature
- Convince myself that Official Playstation Magazine IS serious literature
- Write 100 words a month for at least seven more months to complete a 100-word year. Then go on from there.