Soul Doubt: 10/2007 - 11/2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is It That Time of Year (sniff, cough..) Already?

Why does it seem like I catch every little bug that wafts remotely my direction? You'd think I had a blinking neon sign visible only to germs saying, "Come on in! Make yourselves at home! Join your buddies!"
Yes, I'm sick. Yes, I'm feeling sorry for myself. My throat is so swollen and raw, swallowing is a major ordeal, one that I actually find myself weighing the pros and cons of before doing (Hmm.. is it really worth it? It's gonna hurt- maybe I should forego all liquids and just spit out any saliva that I accumulate). Gross, I know, but these thoughts really have crossed my mind.
I'm also super achey and off-balance: I think my equilibrium bailed out on me when it realized the germs were taking over. I tried explaining this to my husband after noticing his upraised eyebrow at my staggering around like a drunken robot, but instead of the warm reassuring hug of sympathy I expected, I got, "Well, be careful not to drop Jameson if you're that dizzy, babe. Seeya later, loveyaguys," and off he went to work. Arggh.
Four Tylenol, two cups of honey-laced tea, and one hour later, I was at least in an upright position, and my son seemed happy enough rolling around on his play area, so I decided to brave checking my work email and seeing what the day may have brought as far as unavoidable duties. Luckily, there were relatively few things I couldn't put off- I had some stuff to mail, so a trip to the post office is on the agenda for this afternoon; I replied to a couple queries regarding our baking mixes (hopefully my writing was more upbeat than my present outlook); even managed to make a couple froggy-sounding phone calls. All in all, not a bad start.
Now here I sit, sharing my woes instead of my germs- isn't the 'net wonderful? But I feel this brief burst of animation fading fast, and I'm thinking perhaps a nap is in order...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My First Big Nicotine Feen!

I'm now on Day 25 of not smoking. Which I must say I'm pretty damn proud of myself for. After all, I'd done it before, true- but the decision was made for me (read: I was in jail, so I couldn't smoke). Being out in the real world, subject to all the glorious smells and sights and sounds, is wonderful.... except when some of them make me feen for a smoke.

Like the other day. Jameson and I were getting ready to go into Target, so I was strapping on the little front pack I wear him around in when we're doing stuff like that (he loves it, it's his favorite mode of transportation- it's absolutely adorable, too). Now, I've been noticing my ability to smell and taste have been improving, which normally is a good thing. Not in this case. I caught a full-fledged gust of smoke from some lady walking down the lot puffing away, and it smelled SO pungent and sweet and good, bringing with it all the positive associations I attach to smoking... I swear I was this close to running over there and asking her if I could get one of those from her, it had me wanting one so bad. AHHH!!! My first all-out craving. Here I thought I was doing just marvelously, beating this habit no sweat, then with the first good whiff of smoke I catch, it all goes out the window and I might as well be a crackhead jonesing for a hit.

But.... at least I didn't act on it. I gritted my teeth, told my son what I was experiencing (in a silly little sing-song voice which he seems to enjoy but I hope nobody overheard: "Mommy wants a ciggy-butt/ Mommy thinks she's going nuts!/ Give your Mama a nice big hug/ And help her squish that ciggybug!") Then I took a couple deep breaths, reminded myself I'd be throwing away all that hard work of getting to this point now even if I only took one single drag, and just... carried on. I mean, what else is there to do?

It's kinda nice having been in so many treatment centers and programs over the years when I was battling my other addictions, because really, the same tools can be applied to just about any problem one has. I'm a big subscriber to the "Take what you want and leave the rest" theory. Especially when it comes to 12-step programs. I think they're awesome; they're serving a very necessary purpose and giving alot of people who had just flat given up a whole new lease on life, and a method to overcome their addictions. But along with that, at least for me, came a whole lot of unnecessary crap. And unfortunately, I think quite a few newcomers pick up on that as well, and it turns them off to the whole program. When all they need to do is use that theory- listening to whatever's being said (or reading it), and applying the things they can relate to to their life, and tuning out what they can't. And if you do this extensively, picking up bits and pieces from maybe your church, your counselor, AA/NA, a self-help book or two- you end up (at least I have) with a workable mish-mash of recovery tools, theories, mottoes, ways to prevent relapse, and are able to incorporate anything new or valuable into it whenever you come across it. It's great, and seems to be working just as well for my quitting smoking as it did (has, rather- can't talk past-tense about addiction) for my drug use.

Life is pretty darn good for me these days. One day at a time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Better Late Than Never

Okay, I signed up for that "Blog Action Day" thing, the premise of which I understood to be showing one's eco-consciousness for that day, October 15th. Well, I did take action, I just am only now getting around to blogging about it. I'm slow sometimes, okay?

I've never been very good at the whole tree-hugging, eco-friendly, recycle each and every household item or go to hell thing. And to the best of my knowledge, in that respect I fit right in here in Cd'A, unfortunately. But after feeling that familiar tug of guilt when I read the call to arms posted on my Blogger Dashboard, I summoned up every ounce of goodwill toward the planet I had and vowed to do some greenie good that Monday, even if it killed me. And once I clicked on "yes, I'll participate", I knew I'd better follow through, else that little tug may turn into an all-expenses paid first class guilt trip.

Monday morning rolls around, and I'm sitting here at my desktop going through all my work emails and mentally compiling my "to-do" list for the day, and I realize I'm completely at a loss as far as my plans for an ecological coup. I mean, coming up totally blank (Not surprising when you consider that not even my thumb is green on the best of days- my husband is the one on whom even our houseplants rely). But after some serious calisthenics of my gray matter, I came up with a half-hearted plan, which although it may not count much in the grand scheme of things, I at least will know we're slowing our contribution to the eventual demise of Planet Earth.

My plan being two-part, I put part one into action by methodically stripping our house of every non-essential piece of cardboard, room by room, starting with my office. This may sound minor, but as mailing is a large part of what I do for a living, I end up with massive amounts of dismantled and yet-to-be-assembled box pieces, which I would formerly just fold into the outside trash and let the garbageman haul it away each Wednesday. Well, no longer will I fail to recycle these flattened brown tree corpses, no more will I cavalierly toss this pressboard forest away for landfill fodder. That very day I took my first cardboard-laden trip to the recycling depot at the school down the road, and will be taking as many more as quantity of said cardboard on hand dictates. So there.

Moving on to part two. This one being a little more complicated, it needed finessed. You see, my mother's household produces exorbitant amounts of aluminum cans, of both the beer and soda persuasion (although mostly the former), and I knew for a fact that nobody ever felt the slightest urge to recycle them. If I were to bring up the good it would do the environment, that would fall on deaf ears, sadly enough. There would be retaliatory arguments, and it just may get messy. So I couldn't go there. I considered proposing the financial angle ("Mom, just think of all the money you'll be getting back for every load of cans you take in to the center, for cans you'd normally just be throwing away!") but realized her response would be that it would cost more in gas to drive all the way there and back than the load of cans would be worth. Let alone what a pain it would be to have bags and bags of cans cluttering up the back porch or garage, remembering to throw the aluminum away seperately.... yep, this was gonna be tricky to persuade her, alright.

I finally settled on an old standby; one that I'd used often over the years, which relied on those old parental responsibilities of hers to kick in and bail me out of trouble. So a little subterfuge was being used- hey, it's for a good cause, right? I first went to the Wal and bought a massive Rubbermaid trash barrel, wheeled and handled and lock-lidded. The works. This was installed, with little fanfare, (not surprising as it was just me, Jameson, and their two dogs looking on) in the cramped corner of the back porch. Next I unloaded a smaller tall kitchen can which I'd had in my laundry room, and stationed it behind their inside kitchen trash, finalizing the whole deal by lining it with a bag and fishing out all the empties I could find from the regular garbage and putting them in the new one. Now all I had to do was wait for her to get home from work and notice the new additions. I quickly left and headed back to my house, knowing my phone would be ringing shortly.

And of course it did. "Kendra, what the hell is this? I come home and not only do I find a small dumpster on my back porch, I also see there's another garbage in my kitchen, as if the one I had wasn't enough I need two? This has your name written all over it. It better be good, too," she lit into me.
"Mom, check it out," I started. "You know my blog I've been telling you about? Well, they were doing this thing, like for the environment? And I kinda committed to helping out and then there wasn't anything I could really do except recycle, and you know Tony and I don't really go through cans or anything, but you guys do, so I just thought maybe please please please you wouldn't mind just throwing your cans into the new trash for awhile? I promise I'll take care of everything else, taking them to the center and all that, all you have to do is use the stuff. Please? Just try it for a month. I'm scared if I don't put down that I did what I said I was gonna do that they might cancel my blog and I really like what I got set up so please Mom, would you just give it a try?" Whew. After I got all that out, I waited.
Fingers crossed, just like in the old days.
I heard her sigh, could almost see her shaking her head the way she does when she's exasperated with me. "When are you going to stop getting yourself into these little last-minute jams?" she asked. "You're over thirty years old! So more importantly, when are you gonna stop involving me?"
"But will you do it? Please, Mom...?"
"I guess. Don't really have a choice, now, do I?"
I assured her she was the greatest mom who'd ever lived, that I would never put her in this awful position again, and she'd see, I'd make it up to her, I really would. Then I hung up the phone and sat there, feeling pleased with myself, sure that Mom would eventually come around, and knowing that in my own little way I was doing some roundabout good. For the environment, for my family, for the future. Is that corny or what? Damn, I'm getting soft!

The Cartoon Kendra

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This was actually kinda fun, creating an avatar on "Meez"/Photobucket. I dinked around with it for awhile, picking out clothes, hairstyle and color, even makeup and facial features. Obviously I have waaay too much time on my hands...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

My Sweet-Smelling Clean Slate of a Son

I just went in to check on Jameson, something I do quite often now that he sleeps in his own room on the other side of the house, and ending up standing there for the better part of an hour, I think, lost in thought while I gazed down at this amazing little being my husband and I (with a whole lotta help from you-know-Who) created.

Not only is the creation itself such a miraculous process, one I remember marveling at continuously throughout my pregnancy as I caressed my swelling midsection with one hand and scrolled through page after page of gestational information with the other, obsessed with what the little guy was up to at any given moment throughout those trimesters... not only that, or as the living miracle continues to grow, and mature, and amaze me- but the awesome weight of responsibility for this child is beginning to settle upon my shoulders, bringing with it a whole new set of wonders and worries and joy.

It's a welcome weight, to be sure- one I'd wished for often for perhaps a decade or so; especially when I was in the depths of addiction and despair, I'd think, "If only I could have a baby, I know that would solve all my problems. That would straighten me up, give me something to live right for." And the ironic thing is, I had given up hope for the magical event to occur, and ended up straightening up on my own, the only way possible: with hard work, devotion and dedication. Only then, after a couple years of clearing away the wreckage of my past and slowly beginning to rebuild a sweeter, simpler life for Tony and myself, only then were we blessed with the amazing news that at the age of thirty I was finally pregnant. God knew when we were ready.

So back to what I was contemplating so deeply earlier this evening as I stared down at the downy fuzz on my son's perfectly molded skull: the duty I have as this boy's mother to raise him right; to instill in him both integrity and morality, and to show him the love and respect he'll need to be able to believe in himself, hold those values close and therefore be able to show love and respect to others; to provide him with whatever he needs to become whatever he wants to be, wherever he wants or needs to go, whomever he's destined to become.

Wow. I can't believe how cavalierly some people can be about the responsibilities of parenthood, how some women just pop out kid after kid, doing nothing except spending the welfare check on crack and farming their offspring out to first Grandma and Grandpa, and once they can't or won't take care of them anymore, allowing the State to step in and take their babies away, not even putting up a half-hearted fight, just signing their rights away and never looking back. I mean, I've met a lot of these women, usually in jail, who speak so casually about the whole thing it just turns my stomach. I know a lot of it is that they're under the spell of whatever their drug of choice is so thoroughly that whatever love they have for their kids has been drowned along with their self-respect, but c'mon! What about maternal instinct, that awesome force we hear about that causes 105 pound women to lift 2 tons of wrecked car off their child in order to save its life, or single mothers who work double shifts and attend college at night just so their babies won't ever have to do the same... I just don't get it. Or rather, they just don't get it.
The power of love has to be stronger than the power of addiction. I wish I could explain to these poor lost women, these failed mothers, that with determination and God's help, they can straighten up. They've been blessed with motherhood, an awesome power that can give them the strength to move mountains if they only let it. They need to succeed and get their babies back, and in doing so, will end up giving themselves something to succeed for. Instead of the vicious circle of addiction, they will have a wonderful one of love and success.

I think my son and all that comes with him has done so much for my self-esteem, my relationship with Christ, my character in general... I couldn't even fathom trading all of that for the sick, twisted world of dope. There's just no way. The jolt of love I feel when I look down at this innocent, sweet-smelling precious child, and this piece of chalk I'm holding which will be used to mark his clean slate, what powerful, wonderful tools in which to navigate the path of parenthood. How incredibly sad that there are other mothers out there who don't or can't feel the same.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Adding 27 Hours to My Life So Far by These 11 Days of Not Smoking

Now that I've rejoined the human race, no longer having the face of a cheeky chipmunk, I'm assuming that the massive doses of penicillin have begun to do their job. Not a moment too soon, as far as I'm concerned- it was awful to look so ridiculous, be a little grumpy still from having quit smoking, be in that much pain, and have the resentment towards Dr. Jerk for screwing my mouth up to begin with. However, I've tried very hard these days to eliminate needless resentment from my life- like the saying goes, Resenting someone is like swallowing poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die. Well, I've poisoned myself enough over the years, and these days I'd rather work on healing instead of falling into the same ole patterns. Especially since the guy's a jerk, why should I waste my thoughts and emotion on him? If I was a better Christian, I'd devote some more time on praying for the idiot, but instead I've managed to only pray for his other patients- both past and future. But I'm sure that as well as drunks and small children, God pays special attention to unwitting patients under the drill- or the knife- of the not-so-skilled practicioners of medicine. Perhaps they're the ones who're the reason for the term practicing, as they haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet.

Hey, how 'bout some good news... I've now been smoke-free for eleven days! My lungs are already feeling better, I've gone on a couple afternoon strolls (walks, actually, pushing Jameson in his stroller) and my usual route, which is around a mile and a half, hasn't made me feel winded at all, even when I've purposely picked up the pace a bit. I know it's probably too soon to really be reaping all the benefits, but I'm pretty proud of myself just the same.

Some of the tools I've been using are the Idaho QuitNet website, which is pretty cool- they have all kinds of little support groups, chats, options to calculate how much money you've saved so far by quitting, how much time you've added to your life, stuff like that. But mainly I just read the emails they send me, which have all the little snippets of congratulatory inspiration, mediocre comics, and comments from other quitters. It really does help me to reaffirm what I'm up to every day, not lose sight of how important this is to me. I intend to watch my son grow up, and not while I wheel an oxygen tank behind me.

Other stuff which has helped have been stocking up on an industrial size canister of Red Vines licorice, which I dip into regularly, as does Tony. He quit too, I'm not sure if I mentioned that previously, but also deserves major kudos as he smoked WAY more than I did and is also on Day 11, with the help of the patch. We both have been chewing lots of gum, too (not Nicorette, just regular old Trident) and I carry a dozen or so Dum-Dum suckers around with me in my purse for when I get the urge while I'm out and about. I hate smelling other people puffing- for some sick reason, it smells SO good! Talk about a trigger.

I've also been cleaning house like a madwoman. Not that it really needed it, but mainly just to stay occupied. The not smoking thing, coupled with my banishment from public view due to my horrible facial disfigurement, led to me attacking kitchen, foyer and bathroom floors- on my hands and knees, no less!- with hot buckets of water redolent with the smells of Pine-Sol and my old- fashioned scrub brush. Next were the carpets and rugs, vacuumed and beat within an inch of their lives, respectively. Hanging the latest (and possibly cutest!) pictures on The Wall of Jameson followed (with no help from the tall member of our family- that lazy bum just sat on the recliner and said stuff like, "A little to the left, babe. Oops, I mean my left." Laundry, plant-watering, cat and fish and son feeding, then homemade french bread pizza for us grownups finished off the afternoon. A few hours of interweb, both work-related and surfing thru my favorite sites, was next. I'm savoring these last few days? weeks? before Jameson is actually crawling- right now I can just plop him down on his blankie on the floor of my office and scatter some toys around him and he's happy. He may roll around the room, but I only have to rescue him when he gets stuck between a bookcase or something and wails. But I know that all too soon I'll be having to follow him everywhere, as he tries to explore, eat, or topple over anything he can find. Ah, the joys of parenthood- I wouldn't trade it for anything.

So, it's late, I'm tired, and have rambled long enough. This was a day in the life of a newly non-smoking mommy and wife who is grateful for what health she has and the many, many blessings she all too often takes for granted. Are we all not guilty of such at times? If you think you may have been overlooking the blessings in your life lately, take a moment and compile a mental gratitude list. You'll be surprised at how it puts all your petty gripes and bickerings in perspective when you weigh out how rich you are in what truly matters.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Incompetent Quacks Masquerading as Dentists

Let me tell you a story. A brief one to be sure, as my lower jaw is throbbing in counterpoint to my tapping of the keys. I feel the need to share this, however, as you may be the next unwitting victim to this overpaid, underschooled charlatan.
Several years ago, in the midst of my legal nightmare (completely of my own doing, to be sure) I had the luck to be warehoused in our local State hold for IDOC inmates, up in the lovely town of Wallace. My stay there was fairly uneventful, and due to it being such a small facility- really just an underpopulated jail, which because of needed funds, they'd volunteered to house state prisoners as well as their own local miscreants.
The food was pretty decent, the rules were relaxed; the jail employees even encouraged us to refer to them by their first names, which lent an air of casualness to the whole thing. And as far as doctor and dental visits went, the inmates merely filled out a request, and when the time came, were escorted on foot down the Main Street of town- wearing the jail jumpsuit and shackled, of course, with two deputies on either side- to the office a few blocks up, pretending to think nothing of the numerous traffic and pedestrians casting us strange looks.
So after a month or two of residence in this laid-back little two-horse town, I decided to fill out a request to get a back tooth refilled- partly because I knew the work needed done eventually, mostly because I looked forward to the little field trip. Not too many days later, I heard my name hollered out down the cellblock, telling me to suit up and be ready to roll out in a few minutes.
We made the journey uneventfully- walking in shackles can be a painful ordeal, but my short legged stride and the fact I'd learned to prepare for such trips with two pairs of socks on to lend padding made the journey bearable. And let me tell you, after months of virtual isolation, people watching was a complete thrill. The sounds of traffic, the children at play... all the chaotic jumple of sounds, sights, smells and colors of a small town in action was quenching a thirst I'd not realized I had.
The dentist's office was like any other at first glance- magazines months out of date, fake plants, brochures from pharmaceutical companies littering every spare surface. We got some raised eyebrows from the duo of law-enforcement escorts and my inmate duds, but the receptionist was expecting us and ushered us back to the room where the drills and what-not would soon begin their humming. I sat gingerly in the too-large chair, testing out the arms that I knew I'd soon be white-knuckling.
When the D.D.S deigned to grace us with his presence an interminable amount of time later, I tempered my irritation with rationalizing that, a) he's a busy guy, all dentists are. b) I'm near or at the bottom of the totem pole due to my latest housing assignment I'd gotten myself into. c) my lil 'ol filling has to be one of the doc's more mundane procedures, nothing like caps an implants and root canals.
Introductions were made, injections were administered, and the tools began to buzz. I'd managed to distance myself from the whole distasteful ordeal, lost somewhere in la-la land (and not from nitrous, either- lowly prisoners are afforded no such luxuries) when my reverie was rudely disturbed by a resounding crack! I happened to be looking up at the dentist's face at the time, the part unobscured by his mask, and there was an unmistakable look of dismay which darkened his brow. This did not inspire confidence on my part, let me tell you.
At that point, everything came to a screeching halt. The tools were withdrawn, the spit-sucker turned off, my mouth allowed to close. After a hushed conversation with the assistant, the dentist rearranged his expression to reflect a grave, hesitant yet caring demeanor as he hunkered down to the side of my chair.
"Ms... Goodrick, is it?" he asked, referring to my chart, "We seem to have run into a problem. You see, as I was sanding away the previous filling to make space for the new, my drill skipped and unfortunately cracked the tooth quite badly. Now, normally this wouldn't be much of a problem, because most insurance would cover the cost of the additional repair work. However, because of your being incarcerated, you're under the policies of the Dept of Correction, who only cover extractions or necesssary fillings." He looked away at this point, I doubt it was because of embarrasment at his mistake, probably just to sneak a look at his watch. "So you see, I'll have to extract the molar instead- let me prepare a few more lidocaine injections, and we'll get started!"
Groggy from the procedure thus far, confused at what had just happened, and intimidated by this blustering buffoon, I'm ashamed I didn't speak up, just let the guy jerk out a perfectly good tooth (well, before his ineptness busted the damn thing in half, the only thing wrong with it was a need for a surface filling.) And of course once I had a mouth full of bloody gauze, I couldn't complain if I wanted to.
Fast forward a few years. This dentist, who I'll perhaps nickname Dr. Jerk, apparently caused more damage than I had originally thought. Now that I have the freedom to visit my own choice of practicioners, I've found a great guy, who after consulting my ex-rays informed me that there was a large fragment of broken jaw bone embedded in that lower socket, most likely from an overzealous extraction by you-know-who. At the time, we decided to hold off on slicing me open and removing it, as at that point it wasn't interfering with anything.
Last night I noticed some sensitivity on my lower left cheek, and upon prodding and poking, realized it was the exact site of the ex-tooth! I grouched about it to my husband, reminding him of the awful Dr. Jerk, but went to bed without giving it another thought.
The baby started hollering for his middle of the night bottle feeding around three-ish, and upon staggering out of bed and into the kitchen, I realized the sensitive little lump had become a full-fledged agonizing golf ball of pulsing swollen heat. After feeding the little guy and getting him back to dreamland, I peered into the living room mirror, and with a sinking feeling, saw my familiar visage had been replaced by one of the chipmunk families'.
Of course it's Sunday. I didn't make it to church, had to call off a dinner I was planning to invite four of our family members to, and the baby duties have fallen on Tony so far today (thank God he was home to help, and not out of town). And my dentist is closed, so hopefully tomorrow they'll be able to fit me in.
I'm not sure what the moral of this story is. I do know, as a former meth user, I'm very fortunate not to suffer from extensive dental problems. I guess the everyday problems, however, I should have held off on addressing until I could go to a dentist of my choosing, rather than a cut-rate hack who views inmates as second-class citizens, unworthy of decent care.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Other Face of Muslims

There was a guest speaker at my church the other night, a doctor slash Middle Eastern traveler who, because of security reasons, did not give his full name. I'll refer to him as Dr. John throughout this writing.
At the morning service, our pastor urged us to show up that night to hear this guy speak, as he was purported to be very good, very powerful. I knew my husband was going to be on his way out of town by then, and my mother had already offered to watch the baby that night, so I figured, 'why not? should be interesting.'
The Other Face of Muslims was what was written on my program, so I thought, 'okay, a missionary? a sociology guy? a convert? what's he gonna be?' And it wasn't exactly a huge crowd that showed up to hear him speak, either- maybe fifty or sixty people all told.
I took a seat near the front by some folks I knew, and pulled out my pen and scratch paper in case I wanted to take notes (old habits die hard: in college I must've taken my weight in notes; it's the only way I know I'll retain information). I'm very glad I was prepared, as once Dr. John began to get going I was scribbling furiously, not wanting to miss a thing.
He was introduced as being a star in his field of study, one who could've had all the fame and fortune he wanted, but after finding Christ forsook it all and set off to teach English in the most difficult, dangerous countries there are: Iran, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern Muslim-populated states, finally settling in Azherbazhan (sp?) where he's resided the last ten years or so.
A quiet speaker with an open, kind face, I immediately liked him, sensing his innate dignity and heartfelt desire to convey what he'd learned about the Islamic culture. The Muslim people to us, an audience of North Idaho Christians, were so foreign and far away... most of us considered ourselves fairly open-minded and well educated, but as Dr. John continued to speak, I for one realized just how ignorant I truly was in regards to this faith, one that I rarely even thought about, although he informed us it was the largest growing religion in the United States today.
He explained to us that it would be almost impossible for a culture like ours to really understand how their religion and traditions are so intertwined, practically inseparable. It was difficult to distinguish who truly believed, though, as it was considered dishonorable to one's family (a major no-no) to profess to be anything besides a follower of Islam. There was a lot of disenchanted people- youth in particular- but the social stigma for speaking out was so great that most kept it to themselves and became the equivalent of Christmas and Easter churchgoers. Even taking that into consideration, the Muslim people have by far the highest number of atheist/agnostics in the world: about 1/3 of the population. With those statistics, you'd think the missionaries would be flocking to spread the Word and convert all those unbelievers to Christianity, right? Well, think again. Because of the past dangers (Christians being beheaded and all that), the fact that they seem to always be at war, and the unattractiveness to your average missionary (the land of Osama bin Laden and his ilk!) Muslims are by far the least ministered people in all of Christiandom. There are one to two missionaries for every one million Muslims. One percent of all the money collected for mission work, foreign-language Bibles, etc- probably millions- goes to Muslim/ Middle Eastern people. Eighty-nine percent stays right in the United States! Now, just to clarify this statistic, I'm not referring to general collection plate money. I'm talking about money specifically donated in the name of people leaving the U.S. and traveling overseas to try to bring people to Christ. The other amazing thing Dr. John said in regards to this unbalance was the fact that there are more missionaries sent to Alaska than those sent to the entire Muslim world. Wow.
Okay, I thought all that was pretty sad stuff, but in order for it to really hit home, Dr. John began to give us some background on the Islamic faith: Muhammed, the Quran, and the many parallels between our beliefs and theirs.
Apparently the Quran, their holy book, was written entirely by Muhammed, a man from Mecca- a great one, to be sure, but still just a man- around 600 A.D. In doing so, he managed to unite and bring prosperity to the Arab people, who were going through great upheavals at the time. So not only was he a godly prophet and author, he was also a political animal and military man. This is reflected in his writings, especially the later parts of the holy book.
What's too bad, however, is that the devout followers insist that every single word of the Quran is absolutely true and must be obeyed, although Muhammed himself had denounced certain parts of his book as untrue, claiming to have been possessed by an evil spirit while writing (ever heard of the Satanic Verses? those are the ones). I think that the bin Ladens of the world are using angry, violent later portions of the book to fuel their fires of aggression, and in doing so, alienating us from all Muslims, although most are pacifist and hold values similar to ours.
The parallels are startlingly similar to ours, really. It's a monotheistic religion, the Quran and the Old Testament of the Bible having many of the same historical events, as well as directives. Dr. John quoted quite a few suras in which Jesus was mentioned, up to and including His birth (from a virgin) in 3:38, and death (in which Allah raised Him up to Himself) in 4:158. Isaac, Abraham and Ishmael are all mentioned as being prophets as well. There was a lot more, but I just wanted to touch upon a few of the big ones.
So the bottom line was this- there's a lot of good stuff in the Quran, and that's what almost all of the Muslim people have been taught. On the whole, they're a peace-loving people, just looking to improve their quality of life. Aren't we all? And back to the statistics, as far as quality of life goes, almost all of the top thirty countries rated as having the best were predominantly Christian nations. I think the exception was Japan. And at the other end of the spectrum, those thirty countries with the lowest quality of life were ALL Muslim. Now that's sad.
I'm sure there's other factors besides religion- political upheaval, poverty, disease, government or lack thereof... but it's no wonder these guys are losing their faith. With that low of a level of general happiness, wouldn't you doubt the religion of your parents (and their parents) after awhile? Especially if all they ever did was go through the motions, too.
It's too bad that most of America lumps all these good people in with the extremists, the suicide bombers and the hate-mongers. Especially when, according to Dr. John, the Muslims he's met are the exact opposite: considerate, open to new ideas, generous and caring. He's had the opportunity that we have not- to discuss things with them face to face, be invited into their homes and introduced to their families, and share his beliefs.
So he left us with an entreaty: to keep an open mind, to pray for those less fortunate than we, and to remember that Muslims are this- reasonable, relational and reachable. Are we?

By the way, I'm still not smoking! Day 4 and counting... hooray!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Exorcising the NicoDemon

Today's the day. The BIG day. The first day in I-don't-know-how-long that I voluntarily will absolutely not smoke one nasty cigarette all day.
Yep, I'm quitting. No more butt-sucking for me. (Sounds pretty disgusting when you put it that way, huh?) Well, it is disgusting, and I'm sick of it. No more yellowing fingers, no more mouth tasting like an ashtray, no more spending over a thousand dollars a year on a slow form of suicide. Nope, I've decided I would like to see my son grow up, and for him to not have to see me puffing away while we're at it.
I think I have a slight edge on the average quitter, as I only sucked down 9 or 10 cancer sticks a day. There's no smoking in our house, either, so I'd already eliminated the "comfort of my own home" element. The smoking while driving thing will be pretty easy, too- although I used to love to smoke while I drove, since I've had my son he's usually in the car with me, so that's out.
So the toughies are going to be after meals (or sex, for that matter), while in stressful situations, or while around other smokers. But I think I'll be able to combat the urge by reminding myself why I'm doing it, and use the little tricks recommended by others who've succeeded. You know, hard candies, staying busy, that kind of thing.
What really ticks me off is the fact that I'd quit (although not of my own volition) for a little over a month, but caved at the first whiff of secondhand smoke, and have been at it ever since- for about six weeks now. And I've hated it! It hasn't tasted good, nor has it satisfied my neurotic oral-fixation tendencies, for quite awhile now. All the more reason to kick the habit.
I can do this. God's already helped me get rid of a lot of nasty habits in my life... I'm sure He won't mind me bugging Him for help with one more.