Medic!!!

When you watch the old war movies every time someone is shot or is otherwise injured, someone near them yells MEDIC. We joke around our house when someone falls or gets a scrape to yell ‘medic!’ for a kiss of the boo boo. As much as this is a running joke in our family-recently there has been a more real and serious side in our house.

Our house is sick. I don’t mean the hundred year old house itself but those inside its solid walls. Last year it was the Elliana scare that finally came to an end with a Celiac diagnosis and after numerous rounds of iron infusions, an iron count worthy of a princess. Praise God for that news. The hematology discharge news cane while my son Josiah, who has dealt with bowel issues since his birth, was in the hospital for the third time. Since then he has been in the hospital for a fourth time and we have finally after years of testing got somewhat of a diagnosis. His colon functionality is non-existent naturally and with medication it is reduced from where it should be.

So what exactly does that mean exactly??? Surgery to place a cecostomy tube. The tube will allow medications to be delivered directly to the colon. IF his function comes back over time it can be removed but that remains to be seen.

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While this last hospitalization for Josiah was going on I am having to work, because all of my vacation and medical time off has already been spent up with previous hospitalizations for both Ellianna and Josiah. While wrapping up the day my foot gets caught and I twist my knee. I am injured and have to go see my company’s Workers Compensation doctor who promptly puts me on a immobilizing brace and crutches. I go back today, after being on the isolation brace/crutches for two weeks, to see if a MRI is necessary to see if I tore anything.

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Just when you think things can’t get any crazier my Beloved goes to the doctor last week about an issue with her nose and the doctors find 3 masses in her sinus cavity. Today she has a CT scan to see the extent of these masses and surgery to remove them is imminent. They, of course, are concerned that they possibly could be cancerous considering the history of melanoma in her family. So 2 surgeries for definite and 1 maybe (my knee) are in our future.

Sooooo…yeaaaaa…MEDIC…UNCLE….TRUCE…. Can someone stop the bus we want to get off. This makes the 4th time we’ve stared cancer in the face in our lives since 2006. (Me in 2006, Ellianna in 2014, Josiah in 2014/15, and now my wife.) The waiting for those results is excruciating and terrifying. I sat down the other day to map out the medical history alone and figured out we have been in medical crisis constantly since 2008…and that doesn’t take into account anything else during that time.

I know we will get through this. I know somehow we will see the other side but right now the tunnel is really dark for us both, and honestly I am squeamish about the light that everyone talks about ’cause so far all the lights have turned out to be another train. These years of roller-coaster and constant crisis have taken their toll on our health (ironically), financially, and honestly spiritually. I know this is not the plan that God has and He is the Great Physician. This will eventually stop…the question is when and what will the toll be to our family, our relationships, and our finances. Your prayers would be appreciated. (A dear friend has helped set up a Go Fund Me page if you feel so led.)

Anger: A Lenten Reflection

I have this hanging on my desk as a reminder.
I have this hanging on my desk as a reminder*

The Ukrainian crisis, ISIS, Israel / Palestine conflict, race relations, sexual orientation relations, etc. is all you hear about in the news. I listen to NPR or the BBC, or watch the PBS News Hour, and the news is filled with violence and hatred and all around bad and evil things of this world. We, as humans, are drawn to the bad news and gossip of this world. I am not sure exactly why but I am not immune; let me make that point perfectly clear.

With this being the Lenten season I have been reflecting on anger, specifically my own, and the causes and ways to reduce anger but today as I was driving I heard a piece on the BBC radio about social memory and it really sparked my interest. During a discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro’s newest book the interesting fact of social memory came up and when it is best to remember or best to forget.** During this discussion Kazuo Ishiguro talks about his book and how the main characters are elderly and trying to remember events in the past but are worried what it will do if they did remember. He mentions how at times social memory is invoked and used as a weapon for political purposes. He mentions examples where in places like Yugoslavia and Rwanda where relative peace had been observed then sudden violence broke out. He pointed out that weaponized social memory was a major cause of this new violence.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often. All too often past offenses by groups are intentionally remembered to rouse up and stir hate and discontent. The fact is that every nation and social group has its dark moments. Americans have slavery and the atomic bomb, Germans have the holocaust and WWII, and the British have the wars and land conquests of Scotland and Ireland, and the list goes on ad nauseum.

Kazuo Ishiguro mentions the question of when is it best to remember and when is it best to forget; I think the question is more complex however. It isn’t the act of remembering, or by extension forgetting, that is the issue it is the anger that is felt and what we as people choose to do with it. It is not wrong to remember, I would argue that it is good to remember and honor those victims and events to prevent them from occurring again, however if you allow anger to well up inside it is dangerous.  It is good to remember the holocaust, 9/11, etc. and honor those that died but to have hatred and anger toward the Germans or Muslims because of this is perpetuating violence and hatred and continuing the cycle. Not every German is a Nazi and not every Muslim is a terrorist; in fact most aren’t.

It is sad that all too often the actions of a few are generalized on the populous. It is up to us as individuals to keep our own anger in check and to reject any propaganda. How do we do this? That is the real question. I feel that the answer is different for every person. For me quiet time, prayer, and putting myself in another’s shoes helps but I am by no means mastered anything. I’m just thankful for the forgiveness and mercy shown to us by God and pray I am going the right direction.

 

* http://crosscardscom.tumblr.com/image/89773146376

** http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/newshour (Podcast for 3/4/15 @ 15:00 minutes in)

Connected Disconnection – Technology and Health Pt. 2

We all lead stressful lives in one form or another. There is no escaping stress…it is one of the few equalizing aspects of everyone’s life. I have heard in conversations with those many years my senior that people today are more stressed than they were when they were my age (some 30-40 earlier). Several studies have been done that have shown this.* Studies are also looking at the links between technology use and stress.

A recent Huffington Post article looked at how social networking is affecting us.** Looking at research by the Pew Research Foundation they found that those who actively use Social Media are 14% more likely to say their lives are “Somewhat Stressful”. The article gives a few reasons for this including the pressure to keep up with others and the drive to put our best self forward. How many of us are truly honest about who we are online?

Admittedly, I have found myself being affected by Social Media Stress. For myself it hasn’t been the desire to keep up with the Jones’s or to show my best face but instead had manifested in self degradation. I have found myself beating me up for being a bad husband/father because I’m not doing all these things my “friends” are doing with their spouses or kids. This of course in not healthy and when I recognize it I log off of Social Media for a while. ***

While I have mainly focused on the physical health aspects in this short series there is also a much bigger and more insidious side…the emotional and relational. In this connected society it has amazed he as to how less connected we have become. When I go out in town I see it all the time…the vast majority on a phone, tablet, or other technology and not actively engaging with the world around them. I have to admit I too have been guilty of this. It seems to be happening more and more but what could possibly be the issue with this use?

It isn’t hard to imagine the possible physical issues that could arise from a distracted person. One could walk into a wall, a hole, or even traffic. In fact these technology distracted injuries are becoming more and more problematic.**** This distraction can cause us to be disconnected from those around us too. Who know what we have missed while looking at our tech…we may have walked past an old friend we hadn’t seen in years.

This distraction can be especially harmful if those being distracted are parents. Besides the obvious lack of supervision that could lead to injury or worse. But what about the emotional aspects? A recent Boston Medical study observed 55 groups of children at fast-food restaurants. They observed that 40 of the 55 caregivers “primary engagement was with the device, rather than the child.”***** I have to admit I have been guilty of this at times and I admit it wasn’t even important use of tech.

Much of my reading and pondering has been admittedly uncomfortable. I have become convicted and ashamed of my actions. I have taken steps to remedy my stumbles but I am a long way from where I want and should to be. It is a long road and a difficult one. I have found for myself the lure of technology can be an all too tempting one. Lord willing I will reach that point. I hope this short series might help someone.

 

 

* http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx

** http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dick/social-networks-and-stress_b_3534170.html

*** http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/08/19/213568763/researchers-facebook-makes-us-sadder-and-less-satisfied

**** http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/17/cell-phone-walking-injuries-rise/2824515/

***** http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/parents-put-down-the-cellphones/2014/08/08/0fb48ba4-1db8-11e4-82f9-2cd6fa8da5c4_story.html

 

 

Blue Light Special ~ Technology and Health Pt. 1

I am going to start a small series on technology and health. It is something that has peaked my interest for several months now and I am going to share my thoughts and research here. I started thinking about this when my eyes began to burn and throb and I lost feeling in 3 of my fingers on my left hand. I went to the optometrist who said my glasses were good but that my eyes were really strained and coupled with my allergies was causing the discomfort in my eyes. As far as my hand goes I’ve not been to the doctor yet but I suspect it is carpel tunnel or something similar.

As an IT professional technology is a major part of my life and I can see the many good things it has brought us but I can also see the bad things as well. In this series I am going to show what I have learned and give some advice on how to counteract those negative effects. Admittedly these posts will focus more on the negative side of technology, mainly because the positive is obvious to us all. Please don’t take these posts as a negative rant or manifesto against technology only as an awareness of the dangers and ways to mitigate those dangers while improving our lives for the better. I am definitely no anti-technology luddite…without computers I wouldn’t have a job.

No one, especially parents of young children, can deny that sleep is vital to a healthy life and most of those I know say they don’t get enough of it (including myself). We all know that consuming caffeine or sugary food and drink late at night can cause us to not sleep well. More and more research is showing that our use of technology is affecting our sleep as well.

When the sun goes down and it gets time for our bodies to sleep the brain releases a chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that decreases our alertness and signals us that bedtime is near. The pineal gland releases this hormone a few hours before bedtime and begins the process of our body preparing for regenerative sleep. This hormone helps regulate our circadian rhythm that dominates our sleep/awake pattern.

This rhythm is vital to us getting the correct amount of sleep and our bodies be regenerated and us be alert during the day. With the proliferation of the use of modern technology this cycle has become compromised. According to one study the average U.S. adult spends an average of 11 hours a day with digital media*. All of these devices (TV’s, computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, etc.) emit light…more specifically blue light. This blue light is tricking our bodies into thinking it is daytime.

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http://mashable.com/2014/03/05/american-digital-media-hours/

Many studies have been done that show that blue light is inhibiting out brains from releasing the melatonin that we need to begin the sleep process. This leaves us to stay awake later and sleep less. This has helped attribute to the statistic that 30% if employed US adults reporting that they get less than 6 hours of sleep a night**. This coupled with our fast paced modern society of early work times and long days has caused sever detriments to our health.

This blue light affects adults negatively but the affect is multiplied exponentially with children and teenagers. It is during these years that we establish our circadian rhythm and during these years we are more sensitive to blue light interruption. In one study I read the melatonin levels were measured in adults and teenagers during the use of blue light emitting electronics. The study found that even when teens were exposed to a level of blue light 1/10th less than the adults in the study they actually suppressed more melatonin than the adults in the study***.

Sleep deprivation affects us negatively in more ways than just being tired during the day. The decreased alertness causes us be less productive and increases our chances of mistakes and injury. I know personally when I am tired I make poorer food choices and eat out more because I am too tired to cook. This negatively affects my health and my finances. It is during sleep that our bodies regenerate and heal. Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer****.

The blue light also affects our eyes. This may seem like a duh statement but the effects are serious on our eyes, especially for kids and teens. Cases of digital eyes strain, or Computer Vision Syndrome as it is professionally referred to, is on the rise. Symptoms include the short term effects of burning eyes and headaches but there are long lasting affects as well. Blue light is a high frequency light and it can cause cells in the eyes to die off at a faster rate causing macular degeneration*****. These affects are worst for kids and teens because the pigment that the eye uses to filter the blue light doesn’t develop in the human eye until about age 25*****.

So now the real question is what can we do to help combat these negative effects.  Technology is all around us and it is very useful to our lives. Technology and blue light is inescapable nor do I believe we should escape totally but everything in moderation. The ideal would to begin by discontinuing use of TV’s, computers, smartphones, etc. as soon as possible to the setting of the sun. That would be the ideal but of course there are those of us who can’t. I would personally be one of those people and what I do may help you.

First thing I do is to stop using technology as soon as possible in the evenings. Some nights that is 6 o’clock some nights it is 11 o’clock depending on the circumstances. Ideally it would be at least 3-4 hours before my bedtime to allow my brain to send those melatonin inspired commands to prepare for sleep. When I can’t do that I try to stick to using my smartphone where I have a blue light filter program that filters out a great deal of the blue spectrum light. I also use a filter on my work computer to help alleviate the eye strain called f.lux.

This program coupled with the change in habits has helped me. My headaches are fewer and my eyes burn less plus I do sleep better. The change was anything but instant or overnight. It takes weeks to reset that circadian rhythm clock. A bonus has been that I have been able to wind down in the evenings and have a calmer end to the day with less stress. I was personally surprised at the stress looking at the news, Facebook, etc caused. I encourage you to read for yourself and discover yourself what researchers are discovering.

* http://mashable.com/2014/03/05/american-digital-media-hours/

** http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038%2F497s13a

*** http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/blue-light-from-electronics-disturbs-sleep-especially-for-teenagers/2014/08/29/3edd2726-27a7-11e4-958c-268a320a60ce_story.html

**** http://www.brighamandwomens.org/about_bwh/publicaffairs/news/pressreleases/PressRelease.aspx?sub=0&PageID=1962

***** http://www.techrepublic.com/article/digital-eye-strain-understanding-the-condition-and-how-to-fight-it/?tag=nl.e101&s_cid=e101&ttag=e101&ftag=TRE684d531

 

Welcome 2015

Well this post is a few days late but our 2014 ended in a whirlwind of sickness and 2015 started very similarly. As I look back on the year I see the impact of the crazy sickness that plagued our family. The year started with Elliana going into the hospital with some mysterious illness that turned out to be Celiac Disease. Everyone else in the house was sick off and on all year with some bug or another. I haven’t totaled all the hospital and doctor visits but I know there was a lot of them judging by all the bills I kept getting.

2014 ended much in the way it began…we went home to Tennessee to spend Christmas with my family and that week ended with my father in the hospital with heart issues and a mommy with bronchitis and 6 sick kiddos fighting this winters lovely bug (thankfully not the flu though). We rang in 2015 with an early bed time and some NyQuil and DoTerra essential oils. We slept in on the first and the day was spent taking down Christmas decorations and nursing ourselves trying to recover. On the second however we found that Elliana’s iron had not gone back up and they began the process if IV iron/platelet transfusions. She will have to have several transfusions over the course of months at the hospital.

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Biggest goal for this year is get healthy :). Mommy is still fighting the bronchitis and had been to the doctor 3 times now over it but at least the kids are feeling a bit better. I don’t make resolutions at New Years but I look forward to this new year and what it brings. Hopefully that will be improved health and sanity but regardless of what life throws at us we are together as a family and as a family we will weather the storms.

Memory Eternal

memorial

 

6 years ago today a tragedy struck our family. While away at a dear friends wedding a baby we didn’t even know we were going to be blessed with passed away. In the days past that we almost lost a wonderful wife and mother as well. Thankfully a very skilled and loving OB surgeon was able to save my wife’s life but there was no saving our precious child we never knew. We erected a simple memorial in a hidden spot on our property in the mountains a few weeks later and that is what you see above.

To this day that grief and pain is still there.Yes God has seen fit to bless us with 6 wonderful children and we a eternally thankful for that, but that does not change the loss we feel for the one we never knew.There isn’t a day that goes by that it doesn’t cross my mind. I have caught myself many times freaking out because it feels like I am missing a child and I count the heads and come up with 6 but that feeling of missing a child doesn’t go away…because there is one missing.

Summer Fun 2014

It’s been a fun and crazy summer here. Haven’t had a lot of time to post but I’ve got a few in my head to put down. In the meantime enjoy these pictures from our Summer.

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Pascha 2014

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Pascha* (Easter) this year was an especially busy but good one. Holy week started with my children’s teachers being put on notice that homework would not be turned in this week and that the kids would not be in class on Good Friday…and the drama that that caused. Every night of the week we would leave for services and inevitably would hit traffic and show up 15+ minutes late (most services last 2-3 hours this week though). The services are beautiful and painful all at the same time. This time more than any other we face the sinful nature of ourselves and the reality of the cross.

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The services culminated in the Paschal Nocturnes and Liturgy Saturday night / Sunday morning (starting at 11:40 PM Saturday and going till 3:00 AM Sunday). This service has always been one of my favorites. Reverent and joyous this service celebrates the resurrection of Christ in a way no passion play ever could. It is hard to describe…it is something you have to experience.

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We started attending the Orthodox Church during the season of Lent over 3 years ago. A lot has happened in those 3 years…many changes have occurred. Through everything Christ has been there with us… even in the times I was more like Thomas. The Pascha season was a time of remembrance and renewed energy. Christ is Risen…

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http://orthodoxwiki.org/Pascha

** Photos taken by my wife @ http://memoriaarts.com

Long Days and Short Nights

It has been a month+ since I last posted. Admittedly that is not particularly unusual, however we have had several things collide into a perfect storm on us. I still can’t put to words my thoughts so here are some pictures and quotes in the interim.

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My dear sweet girl (3) hospitalized for a week with a yet to be really determined illness. 

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Traffic….lots of tunnel traffic back and forth from home to hospital to work.

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The extremely long lasting vigil candle lit for my family….Has been going for over a month now (LED)

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Resilient goofy kids 

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Setting of the old day and onto a new one. 

Hopefully things are going to clam down and I can put words together…but right now I have no words. I leave you with a quote from a book I am struggling to get through.

I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out pursue his own way, and not his fathers or his mothers or his neighbor’s instead.

Henry David Thoreau ~ Walden

Let us spend one day as dileberately as nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails.

Henry David Thoreau ~ Walden 

Stewardship Pt.3

 

Dropdown_Paradigm~ Image from http://www.thwink.org/sustain/resources/images/menu/Dropdown_Paradigm.png

I’ve been talking and thinking about Stewardship a great deal recently. Stewardship is truly a work in progress. It is not something that is automatic. I believe at one point in time it was automatic but somewhere along the way the thought was not passed down from one generation to another. I know this is certainly not the case for me. My wife sent me a link to a blog post over at Charming the Birds from the Trees that I found both inspiring and a bit convicting. I have found Stewardship to be a difficult row to hoe. The thing is those things that are truly worth it are difficult and take investment. We are in a society of mass production and instant gratification. If we want something chances are it is out there had can be had quickly and cheaply. On the surface this appears like it is a wonderful thing… who wouldn’t want to have everything at their fingertips and cheaply at that. The problem is that the value of something is tied to the resources spent on it. Be that time or money. This is why things are cheap…we have perfected the manufacturing process decades ago then we add cheap materials and cheap labor and we have a product we can send out quickly to the masses cheaply. Problem is because it was made cheaply with cheap materials and labor it breaks easily or is not really usable as advertised. The company doesn’t care that just means you’ll go buy another one and they will make more money. This is actually an economic concept called planned obsolescence; where a product is designed to break or wear out after a set time…usually quickly. This low quality combined with the consumerism culture is taking its toll on us. If we want to admit it or not we are damaging ourselves and the earth.  According to the EPA in 1960 88.1 Million Tons of garbage was produced… in 2011 that number was 250.4 Million Tons.* (to be fair thanks to concerted recycling efforts that number is slightly on the decline) Not including the environmental toll of manufacturing and shipping that alone is a huge increase in strain.

What is the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on. ~Henry David Thoreau

The environmental impact is an easy one to see but what about the silent erosion of ourselves…this is harder to see. As we diverge from the quality things in life and into the cheap (and I am not just speaking of materialistic things here) we lose the sense of value these things have. Speaking materialistically if we elect for cheap tools we will care for them less and less. They will be left out in the weather, fail to keep up proper maintenance, or maybe even become lost forever because what is the point…I can always get another “new” one for cheap. It is here, in this mindset, we loose the stewardship of the things we have. I can tell you from experience it is easier to take care of a $80 ax than it is a $20 one…it is worth so much more and is less replaceable (especially when you have to run all over town to find it).

Another unfortunate side effect has been we are exchanging real quality experiences for fake virtual ones. It was only a natural progression really…once we started replacing quality for quantity and real for artificial it was only a matter of time that we did the same with our relationships. With the invention of the internet and social media we have replaced meaningful deep relationships with shallow ones. Face to face relationships are becoming fewer and fewer with the majority occurring with our coworkers or other in our church. We have lost the connection to our neighbor. Social media is not all bad…I enjoy using it too (all be it sparingly)..it has allowed us to keep in touch with those that we are geographically separated from but it also has handicapped our relationships we are not geographically separated from. Think about it this way what is the point in asking that Facebook “friend” at church how their week has been if you already know. They may need someone to take the time to ask because they would never put in writing how their week really went for the world to see but the question never comes because it is already known or at least assumed. It also can lead us into a state of envy and discontent. If we are always concentrating on what everyone else has and dreaming of another life it plants that seed. (again speaking from experience)

Whereas social media is not all bad there is one cheapening of relationships that is. Intimate relationships are being replaced by their cheapened counterparts. Anyone in a real intimate, caring and loving relationship knows how hard it is. It takes work and vulnerability. So many are making the decision to forgo the difficulty and chose instead the “instant gratification” of pornography. Pornography has been there for years but with the technological revolution it has gotten so much easier to get…and secretly. No more is there a person checking the ID’s at the smut store it is an automated “I Agree I’m 18” button. Sadly more and more children are seeing porn even before they understand what it is. I am sad to say I was one of those children. I was 11 when I found the “stash” of dad’s dirty magazines. That would have been in 1993 today the average age is 8….8 years old. **

Porn is a drug with the same addictive properties (once again I speak from experience). It is a synthetic method to release chemicals like dopamine into our body and with the more that is released this way the more addictive it becomes. And like drug users it takes more and more to keep getting high. This often leads the person to change their behaviors and they begin seeking increasing more hardcore and taboo fixes. This spreads out into society and the addict stops seeing the women and men around them as humans and only sees them as pathways to pleasure. Pornography has the ability to destroy a marriage with its effects. ***

All of these things..from one extreme to another…have a similar theme and cause. They all stem from the disconnect from the value of the item…relationship…etc. The second we allow ourselves to see something or someone for less than what they are worth we begin to loose stewardship of that person, place, or thing. Sadly by the time we realize the importance and true worth it is often too late. Cue the Passenger music.

So what to do??? How to change??? I hate to say I haven’t figured that all out yet. I can tell you it requires a reboot. A reboot of thought. A reboot of the heart. I started with prayer honest vulnerable conversations with my wife and priest. I walked away from social media and really the internet (as much as an IT professional can) for a while, and when I feel that pull to look at my Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest I walk away for a while again. The smartphone makes that harder but I found the trick is to uninstall the apps and not take it to the bathroom…but make sure you carry a good book or you’ll be reading the shampoo bottle. I will tell you though all jokes aside it isn’t easy and the only way to change is through Gods grace. Trust me I’ve tried doing it on my own only to be left angry and frustrated. It boils down to where we direct our energies…as the old Cherokee story says:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.

“One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

One final note to anyone struggling with pornography addiction there are places and people to help. A good start is Fight The New Drug or XXX Church. It isn’t easy but it is worth it.

 

*http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/MSWcharacterization_508_053113_fs.pdf

**http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/love_and_sex/pornography/how_to_confront_children_using_pornography.aspx

*** http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts