Excerpts Continued

With 5 days left to go until I hear the answer, I've been reviewing some of the things I've done to apply, including my autobiography I wrote. In place of another post, I thought I'd add page three of that autobiography: my life with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is something I rarely talk about here, partially because I feel my condition is controlled enough that it doesn't affect my life. The other reason is because I consciously ignore it. It is my one weakness, my Achilles Heel, and it's the one thing about my life I wish I could change. As I continue to find my place, I continue to find a place for my seizure condition in my life.

There are times in my life where I feel I’m looking at the world through a plastic bag. The view is distorted, hazy, and I am not quite sure where I am or even who I am. My body is sore as if I’d run a marathon. I see faces surrounding me; I feel like I’m inside a huddle and everyone is discussing the next play. I’m asked such questions as “Do you know where you are?” and “Tell me your home address.” It takes a while before I can answer. I have to re-learn how to talk. I want to answer, but that veneer fogs up my memory, and I can’t answer with any certainty.
It’s not a dream, nor is it a drug-induced experience. It’s me after I wake up from having a seizure.
When I was 15 years old, I experienced my first seizure. As my doctor tried to explain it to me, I was still in a form of shock. What did it all mean? I was now some sort of handicapped person? Was there a cure? Mom and I were clueless about the condition. To this day, she feels bad for going out and buying a tongue depressor, believing the old myth that a person having a seizure can swallow their tongue.
While my mother handled it in her own way (starting the Epilepsy Support Group of West Michigan, becoming Volunteer of the Year from the Epilepsy Center of Michigan, and receiving an award from President Bill Clinton), I realized I had to handle this in my own way. I was no good at talking about my feelings; I had no desire to “share” how Epilepsy had changed my life. I was a teenage boy with rebellion and testosterone raging through his body, now living with a condition that would restrict what I could do. I decided to put myself to the test.
I was told not to drink, not to stay up late, not to do all the things teenage boys like to do…yet I did them all and with much gusto. I was on a path to prove to the world I didn’t need to conform to any doctor’s recommendations. This condition wouldn’t keep me down. Every bad situation for a person with Epilepsy, whether it was high at 6AM in the middle of a cornfield or driving 90mph down the freeway, I’ve done it. I wanted to prove something to myself. In the end, I think I proved myself wrong.
While I did succeed in breaking many of those risks, I began to have breakthrough seizures in the most embarrassing places. At work, in school, in front of friends and family…the people I was trying to show I could not be beaten experienced the first hand witnessing of an epileptic seizure. It scared a lot of them. It scared them so much; I could see how they felt bad for me. I didn’t want to be pitied, so I rebelled even more.
As I grew, I realized life wasn’t about how others perceived me. Whether I was the popular guy or just the quiet guy, I’m just another guy that has Epilepsy. Perhaps that’s why I don’t worry about any “stigma” of pursuing a vocation. I’ve already learned that the best way to handle a huge change in life is not to lash out and let your ego vindicate you in the eyes of others, but to look inside of yourself and deal with what you fear. For me, it was the loss of control. Because of the seizures, I can lose control when my meds aren’t taken. This is a part of my life, and something I have come to terms with. Most people don’t even know I have the condition because of my rarity of seizures.
I continue to take Dilantin for my condition, and will do so for the rest of my life. As a kid, I dreaded the idea of having to do something to prevent severe bodily harm or even death. Today I’m happy that science has a remedy for Epilepsy, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to experience as much of life as I did.

Expelled: A Movie Review

After seeing the ads for Ben Stein's movie Expelled, I was intrigued and had to check this movie out. Rather than wait until the video came out on DVD, I went to the movie theater for the first time in years. I grabbed a bucket of popcorn and a box of Junior Mints and plopped down in my seat just as the previews ended.

The basic theme of the movie is to show a divide that exists in modern science: the split created by the idea of Intelligent Design. Ben Stein meets with scientists from different colleges and different academic backgrounds who have been ostracized, lost tenure, and even lost their job for referencing Intelligent Design as a plausible alternative to the creation of life.

I really expected more out of the movie, not in the way of apologetic debate, but in presenting arguments as to why these scientists felt that Darwin's Theory of Evolution was not the "perfect answer" that all the other scientists had accepted. In my experience, knowledge is the greatest tool when discussing philosophy, science, and religion; and when an argument is presented without bias, without insult, and without redundancies, most people will listen. However Mr. Stein makes it known that he is Jewish, and while he doesn't pro port one religion over the other, he makes his case for the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible.

Attention: Spoiler Alert!!!

The movie is filled with information as well as good-natured humor. The Berlin Wall is the common symbol used throughout the movie. It's a parallel with the divide that has been erected in science regarding the subject of how life began on this planet. He starts by interviewing various professors and academics at the Smithsonian, Cornell, and various other colleges in the U.S. None of the scientists make a full-blown argument for creationism, however they each state that Darwin's Theory has become outdated and it is now lacking. By taking this position, either in the classroom or in their respective published journals, action has been taken against these professors for their opinions.

I felt the movie set the stage for the ultimate in scientific hypocrisy, and had it stayed on topic, the message would have been far more forceful. They even referenced the movie "Inherit the Wind" where a Southern court is the stage for the topic of teaching evolution in the classrooms. Expelled touches on the backlash of the scientific community refusing to listen to opposing arguments when not long ago science was under fire for the same thing: attacking the status quo thinking.

Unfortunately the movie does not elaborate the particular issues that some scientists have with Darwin's Theory, nor does it go into any great detail regarding the argument for Intelligent Design. At first, I thought it even more intriguing; they were trying to be unbiased. Some arguments were brought up, such as how the possibility for 250 proteins (the minimal amount needed to sustain the simplest form of life) to "just come into being" are about 1 in a trillion trillion, or 1 in 10e36. Another argument comes from the discovery of genome, and being able to decode the information held in complex DNA strains.

However after these two arguments, which were briefly discussed, the movie takes a drastic turn for the gutter, or for the gut. "What's wrong the harm in accepting Darwin's Theory of Evolution?" Ben Stein asks rhetorically during the film. The next thirty minutes is spent on Hitler, the Nazis, and World War 2 where Ben compares the atrocities committed during the Holocaust to the application of Darwin's Theory. I find this second act both amusing and annoying. The comparison that is made completes my argument that throughout history it is not religion that causes people to kill or go to war, but ideology which is used to motivate or incite a group to rise against another. Before finishing the assault on Darwinism, they also brought up the subject of eugenics and Margaret Sanger, the founder of planned parenthood. Again, I think Hitler was evil and Ms. Sanger had some pretty screwed up ideas about why birth control should be used, but what does it have to do with intelligent design???

The final part of the movie includes a one-on-one with Ben and the "leader of darkness" Richard Dawkins. In a bit of wordplay Ben gets Dawkins to admit that some theories regarding Intelligent Design are plausible, such as the idea that life may have been planted here by another race.

The movie ends rather anti-climatically with sound bites of Reagan saying "Tear down this wall." in reference to the Berlin parallel used during the movie. Most people clapped when the movie was over, as if they'd just watched something informative or self-affirming. I left immediately, feeling I'd wasted 7 bucks in the hopes of seeing something that would actually present a plausible idea to the scientific community. I agree with most of the ideas presented by Ben Stien and the scientists he interviewed, but I didn't go see a movie to hear things I already believed in; I expected actual discourse on the topic. Perhaps I simply expected something different than a Michael Moore'ish presentation of a scientific debate. While I learned a few things from the movie, I'd be reluctant to ever watch it again.

Day 118: Awaiting the Final Answer

On May 1, the Admissions Board for the Capuchin Franciscans will convene to review the applications of me and 8 other applicants to this fall's Postulancy class. For everything I've done to get this far in life, I still await the final letter of acceptance. I've known the Capuchins for over a year now, and after all the papers I retrieved and all the forms I've filled out, I have another 10 days to wait and hear the decision of the board.

There's little more I can say about this, other than I am still worried. I know I'm a "shoe in" yet perhaps out of past experience or a need to worry, I'm preparing myself for the good as well as the bad.

10 days until I know about the rest of my life. Honestly I try not to think about it during the day.

God, grant me the strength to accept whatever this life gives me.

Capuchin Vocations Update

Things are still going well for me at the car dealership. Just yesterday, I was here until 10PM. A customer drove from Madison, Wisconsin to Grand Rapids in order to purchase a 1999 Mazda Millenia S.

Last week I wrote about finishing the Vocations Update that the Capuchins have asked the candidates to write for the Order. It was a way for guys like us to introduce ourselves to the rest of the brothers, but a way to express our expectations and desires of why we are applying.

Not only is mine finished, but it has been typed up and is now available at the Capuchin Franciscans web page: http://www.capuchinfranciscans.org

On May 1, the Admissions Board for the Capuchin Franciscans will convene, and I will finally have the last word on my application. 14 days left to worry, hope, and pray.

All Debts Are Off!

Lately I feel like a millionaire: I make more money than I know what to do with, and I always have that urge to go out and just spend. Ever since coming back to the car business, I've been extremely busy selling cars. My commission check have been monstrous, my bank account is fat, and all day at work, they hear me singing to Rick Ross: "Everyday I'm hustlin'!"

Last week I got a check for over $2000. This week I didn't make as much...only $1500. I don't mean to brag about the money I'm making, but last month I was dealing cards for $50 a day. It took a week's worth of work to make $250. Yesterday I made $350 in less than an hour.

The dynamic of the car business is that this is my chosen profession. Were I to continue to work for Bossman at his dealership, my income would continue to grow as the dealership grows. I could easily make $50,000 in 9 months of work, have plenty of vacation time, a company vehicle, and wake up everyday feeling like a pimp. Who in their right mind would turn away from such a promising career?

Even if my paychecks double from where they are now, money is no longer a factor in my life. I think it's hard for some people to understand, and people think I'm lying when I tell them money doesn't matter to me. I've already lived the high life, I've grabbed the American Dream. Even at $100,000 a year, I'd still walk away without regrets. It sounds crazy, but it feels wonderful.

Last week I finished paying off my entire debt. One check did it. As I continue to make money for Elvis and myself, I've started "ear-marking" charities and organizations for sizable donations.
I've donated to my church, National Public Radio, The Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan, and several others. My church's food pantry is in need of food; I told them to make me a list - a big list. I have a charity golf event next month to attend, and I want to help my mom pay off her car before I leave for Chicago. I buy myself clothes or shoes when I need them, but after paying off $18,000 in debt, it's hard for me to "go nuts" at the mall anymore.

My friends find it unreal that I can make so much money and not let it affect who I am or who I want to become. It's my greatest method of testimony, to show people that money and objects are not the source of happiness, that no matter how big your paycheck is or how many rooms your house has, if you can't find that inner peace you will never be happy.

I'm happy working in the car business, but I know I can be so much more. That greater desire in my heart, that calling, is what brings me peace.

I would happily walk away from this job for a chance to follow my dream.

Meme: Stuff About Me

After being tagged by Alice at Catholic Me (I Am Blessed), I am passing on a little more info about myself. I've picked up a few new readers along the way, and sometimes I wonder if people truly understand the irony of someone like me being called to a religious vocation.

I've changed a few of the initial questions, but I'm sure it won't be any less informative.

What I was doing ten years ago:

At 23 I was working for an entertainment company, traveling to different college campuses from New Hampshire to Arizona...making music videos for college students. It was my first "great-paying" job, and I soon learned how I could spend retarded amounts of money without actually buying anything. Between drugs, women (well, college girls), and the superficial clothes/jewelry/shoes I bought, I managed to retain nothing after all these years.

5 Snacks I Enjoy:

1. Pizza Rolls
2. Cottage Cheese with Canned Peaches
3. Ramen Noodles w/ Parmesan Cheese and Jalapenos
4. Beef Jerky
5. Monster Energy Drink

Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionaire:

1. Throw a massive party, inviting everyone I know, and pay their way to get there.
2. Some donations.
3. Create several foundations so I can continue to help people after the billion dollars runs out.
4. Buy a Gibson Les Paul Custom
5. Put $1 million in a Swiss bank account, and happily live off of 10%.

Five Jobs I've Had:

1. Bouncer
2. Database Administrator
3. Car Sales Manager
4. Music Video Director
5. Poker Dealer/Pitboss

Three Of My Bad Habits:

1. "I'll get to it tomorrow."
2. "I am the greatest salesman ALIVE!!!"
3. "It's all about me."

Five Song I Must Sing Along To:

1. Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against the Machine
2. Falsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash
3. Where You There? performed by anyone
4. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
5. Mo' Money, Mo' Problems by The Notorious B.I.G.

Five People I Want To Learn More About:

1. Tim at The Cakery.
2. Alan at Thoughts On A Journey.
3. David at The Coffee Shop.
4. Anyone that read this post.

It's a pretty easy meme, which is OK by me. I'm fighting through another cold, so it's an easy to follow. I need to get rid of this cold so I can start on my ultra-amazing surprise, something I can't discuss, until I get the letter from the Capuchins ensuring my acceptance as a Postulant for the fall. I guarantee you, it will be the perfect climax to this wonderful blog!!!

Easter Triduum Retreat Weekend (At Last)

I know it took a week in the making, but pictures can often tell a better story than simple words, and I patiently awaited pictures of the event to share with everyone else. Thanks a lot to Brother Vince for sending me the whole DVD of pics.

Friday afternoon I left Grand Rapids and headed around the lake to Burlington, Wisconsin. Ironically enough, I never got lost once on the freeways or driving through Chicago; upon entering Burlington, I drove around for 20 minutes, unable to find the Novitiate house.

It was good to see some of my fellow brothers-to-be once again, but it was nice to meet so many new faces that were interested in learning more about the Order. The number that I'd been told these past few months was 8: out of 14 applications, they were "pretty sure" 8 would actually be a Postulant this year: myself, Parker, Rich, Dan, Stan, Quang, Quan, and Kyle. However we're still 4 months away, and many more people could come and go between that time.

After catching up and getting some food inside of us, Mass was held for the last summer: the official start of the Triduum Retreat. Jeff, the Novice Director, was the celebrant for the Holy Thursday Mass.

One thing I never participated in with Holy Thursday: the washing of the feet. However since this was a religious brotherhood and not a parish, we each took turns as our feet were washed, and we then had the opportunity to wash each other's feet. Again, it was ironic how I was washing the feet of Bill Hugo, the Vocations Director, when a year ago I couldn't believe that I would ever be worthy enough for a religious vocation.

After Mass, we all had a great time in the common room: talking, sharing stories, playing games. I had to remind myself that I was on retreat since I was having so much fun. My idea of a retreat was being silent, solemn, and introspective...not laughing and spending time with others.

After morning prayer, we had a seminar lead by Helmut Rakowski, O.F.M. Cap. (Yes, you pronounce his name how it sounds; yes, he knows what it means in English.) A great guy with a great sense of humor, Helmut is the Director for Capuchin Solidarity - an interesting title to hold.

Helmut explained his role in the Order as he talked about Franciscan spirituality and the idea of sister-brotherhood held by all Franciscans. He talked on how Jesus did not just bring a new covenant, rather He gave the established religion something radically different: the inclusion of women, preaching to the Samaritans, care for the poor and those disassociated with society. He challenged the idea of "chosen people" by showing how all people were children of God.

That afternoon, we returned to the chapel for Good Friday services.

That night after evening prayer, we did what any group of guys would ordinarily do: released pent-up testosterone in a show of competition! One of the large halls had been gutted out, carpeted, and was now used as an indoor soccer/volleyball/football field. Pitting the home-team novitiates against the Postulants/Candidates, we spent hours playing soccer that night. I wow'ed the crowd with my Dominic Hasek style of goal-keeping, however seasoned pros like Tony from the Australian province made quick work of me when isolated 1-on-1.

Saturday we spent in seminars again, listening as Helmut talked more about the Franciscan Spirituality as well as the mission of the Order. Much of what he talked on Friday and Saturday connected with what I was feeling with regards to the Capuchins. With the main charism being Fraternity, I understood the mission to treat everyone, family, friends, professed brothers, people I hated, all as my brothers and sisters - a task easier talked about than lived. Yet that was exactly what Jesus spoke of.

Long have I talked about this idea of becoming a hero, but I never was sure how I was going to be someone important when it came to a religious vocation. What I learned and what I pondered on that day was the that by choosing to live the Capuchin life, I was already affecting change in the world.

That evening, I helped the choir for the Easter Vigil. It was a magnificent ceremony, and I hardly noticed the 3.5 hours that passed. I felt at home with my brothers; content in the understanding that if this is where God was leading me, I could happily live this life.

Parker and Stan participate as Lectors during the Easter Vigil.

Dan Anholzer, the Provincial for the St. Joseph province, was the celebrant for the Easter Vigil ceremony. I think he kinda looks like Drew Carey with the crew cut and glasses, but don't tell him I said so...I don't want to get kicked out of the Capuchins before I even get in!

More news, highlights, and zany fun as my days continue to count down until August 17. Stay tuned!