Reality? TV.

I’m tired of TV.  Night after night I flip through the channels in hopes of stumbling across something decent to watch, but I have yet to find anything worthwhile.

The reality tv thing isn’t for me – it never has been. 16 & Pregnant, 19 Kids and Counting, A Double Shot of Love, Ace of Cakes, Addicted, The Amazing Race, America’s Best Dance Crew, America’s Got Talent (I especially dislike this one because I don’t like the word ‘got’), America’s Next Top Model, American Chopper, American Idol, American Gladiators, American Pickers, The Apprentice, Anthony Bourdain…the list goes on and on and on.

I don’t like the idea of sitting down and watching people do something I wouldn’t do.  Why would I want to watch a bunch of people in Louisiana catch alligators?  There’s nothing to the show.  People go out, bait hooks, go back out and bring in alligators.  As a career it sounds really boring, why make a tv show about it?  I doubt people would be interested in watching me on tv as I delivered mail day in and day out.

Granted, some shows were good to watch once or twice.  Ace of Cakes was a good watch – it’s astonishing to see some of the things they make out of cake.  But season after season of cakes?  Unless you’re in the field, or really like cake, I doubt the show has much of an appeal to the average viewer.

And I’m tired of the fighting.  It seems like every episode of every reality show has to have some conflict in it.  Girls slapping and pulling hair.  Guys chest bumping and yelling at one another.  Fathers and sons feuding over money.  Couples crying.  There’s enough real fighting in the real world that I try to avoid (shootings, bombings, massacres), so why would I want to watch it in my spare time?

I can’t stand the cut-aways, either.  Where the show reaches a high tension, and just before it’s shown the show goes to commercial, leaving the viewer in suspense.  But it’s been done so many times it’s not suspenseful anymore – it’s annoying.  The best example of this is the storage auction shows where people bid on abandoned storage sheds hoping to cash in on the winnings.  Two or three times we are left hanging before a commercial: The box is opened and Joe peers inside, “Oh…my…”  Commercial.  Then we are shown what’s in the box, and it’s usually nothing big – just an Elvis record or some statue that has value to one guy on the other side of the country.

What disturbs me is that reality show gives us a false view on the world in which we live.  These shows portray extremes, and occasionally the things of which we want no part.  Reality TV has given us false hopes, false expectations, heightened extremes.  It’s saying that it’s okay to punch another guy just because he said something stupid.  It says that dating can be done with multiple partners in a short amount of time and that love will develop quickly, eventually ending in marriage.  It shows us that with a few household items we can cook a fabulous dinner in 24 minutes.  It pits people against one another – doing almost anything to one another – for money.

I’m tired of TV.

much love. sheth.

Five Part Race.

Note: There are parts of this essay which have non-politically correct language, and to be honest, some racial slurs.  I feel it’s necessary to put them in and I hope you understand the context in which they are used.

I grew up in the suburbs of Denver, which isn’t exactly as diverse or exciting as LA or Chicago, but a lot of races were well represented.  My school was a microcosm of the larger neighborhood itself: the majority was white, but we also had a good number of blacks, Asians, and Hispanics (we didn’t have the politically correct nomenclature that’s been used in recent history).  We had a nicely varied classroom and learned a lot from one another.

We were doing a study on immigration in fifth grade – learning about Ellis Island, the potato famine, and the large influx of immigrants during the early 1900’s. I was excited about the whole thing because I liked learning about my own family history.  I had classmates who could trace their lineage back to George Washington or Daniel Boone – the best I could do was talk about my great-grandmother being raised in Nebraska.

One of my classmates was Asian-American, and I was curious as to which part of Asia he belonged.  So I asked him, “Are you Chinese?”

“No, I’m American.”

“Haha, I know, but, like where are your parents from?”


“Yeah, okay.  So what are your grandparents?”

“They’re American.”

I got frustrated at this point and asked the teacher for David to tell me what he was.  She asked, “David, what’s your heritage?”

He answered the same way he answered me, “American.”

She nodded her head and said, “There you have it.  He’s American.”  She went about her business and I sat there frustrated.  I knew by looking at him that he was Asian, and I understood that he was American.  But I couldn’t understand why he didn’t identify himself as Chinese, or Japanese, or Korean, or Vietnamese, or Thai.


My family and I moved to Salida the summer before I entered 7th grade – I turned 13 that year.  At that age it’s difficult to make and keep friends, fit in, and not be awkward – it’s even more difficult when you have to do it in an entirely new environment.

I was shocked by how white the town and school was – there was one Hispanic in my grade, and one black in the grade ahead of me (his brother was two grades below me).  Walking around town all you saw was white people.  You went grocery shopping and there were white people.  You went to the park and there were white people.  You went to church and there were white people.  It was like a really, really weird Twilight Zone episode.

I came to discover that the town was really quite racist in its past and the residual effects of that still lingered.  I heard stories of families being run out of town, kids tormented until they quit going to school, and that the KKK was still around, lurking in the shadows.

But even stranger to me was the racism that occurred between the whites themselves.  There was a hierarchy between descendants of the Italians, the Germans, the English, the Irish, and other Anglos.  Each group seemed to gather together at lunch or in the classroom.  If you didn’t know a few words in Italian, couldn’t be angry like a German, or watch soccer like an Englishman then you didn’t belong in that group.

Being thirteen and trying to fit in, but also being of a varied background of Irish, English, Prussian, German, and whatever else you could throw in, I found it difficult to find a group that I felt comfortable with.  It was a weird feeling being a white kid in a group of white kids and still not fitting in.  I fit in better at my old school where the diversity seemed to erase the races.  Racism wasn’t an issue for us – in that school we weren’t white, or black, or Asian, or Hispanic – we were just kids.


In the late 1990’s the fashionable thing was for guys to wear their hats backwards, and wanting to fit in any way that I could I jumped on that bandwagon and rode it for as long as I could.  My brain told me it was a stupid thing to do – the whole point of the hat was for the bill to keep the sun out of your eyes.  But I did it anyways for fear of being uncool.

We had a family reunion in the summer of 1998.  I had just graduated high school, was looking forward to college, and was having a great summer and feeling really good about myself and my backwards hat.  All the usuals were at the reunion – aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, people that were somehow related to me but not sure how, or why.

In talking with other people I’ve come to understand that each family has one member who takes the cake for being the weirdest, oddest, most eccentric person in the whole family.  I’ve had numerous competitions with people pitting my uncle up against their family member, and I usually always win.  Now don’t get me wrong – I think the world of my uncle.  He’s very intelligent, funny, and very opinionated (which I am not, so that’s something I can respect).

So there I am at the reunion, sporting a backwards hat, newly graduated, and strutting around like I owned the place.  As I’m walking around I pass my uncle sitting outside by the pool and I say, “Hey Uncle Chuck, what do you think?”  It was a polite, but still edgy and cool thing to say.

He sat back in his chair and pulled a long drag from his cigarette, “I think you look like a God damn nigger.”  Needless to say, his comment was a lot edgier than mine.

This was the first time I had heard the word nigger in real life.  I’d heard it in the movies, both as an insult and a compliment.  I knew immediately which way my uncle wanted me to take it.  I was shocked to say the least, not because he called me a nigger (or used the phrase God damn which is a big no-no in my family), but because he used the word.  I knew it was not to be used.  I would get uncomfortable hearing it when I rented a movie, and now here I was hearing it in real life and I felt unbelievably uncomfortable.

I know the word has hate attached to it – I experienced that for myself.  But what I experienced doesn’t come close to the power it has when it is said with hate attached to it and directed at an African-American.  As bad as I felt for hearing it I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel it, to experience it in its fullness as an African-American.


In 2004, while going to college in Greeley, I worked at Wal-Mart with a guy named Luis who always had the radio we kept in the storeroom tuned to “El Tigre”.  There were a few radio stations in the area that played mariachi, salsas, sambas, reggaeton, etc, but El Tigre played the newest, hottest hits.  I fell in love with reggaeton – the beat, the timbre of the voices, the way the songs brought in so many different genres to make a great sound.  I’d drive to school or to work blaring the radio as the DJ would say the usual radio stuff, but in Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish.  I can say ‘si’ and inquire about the restroom, I can say good, and count to ten.  But that’s it.  Listening to the station I picked up on words like ‘aqui’ and ‘ahora’, and phrases like, ‘es no bueno!”  And while I figured out what ‘es no bueno’ meant I had no idea as to what ‘aqui’ signifies.  I’d listen to ‘Ciento Dos punto Uno…El Tigre!’ but have absolutely no idea what was going on or what they were talking about.

Part of me felt a little embarrassed to be listening to ‘Ciento Dos punto Uno…El Tigre!’  Not because I was white, but because I wasn’t Hispanic.  Something inside of me tried to say that the radio station was theirs and I shouldn’t be listening to it.  I could have the other seventeen stations, but El Tigre was off limits.

My embarrassment went so far that when I would pull to a stop sign or stop light I would turn the volume way, way down so no one would know that I was listening to Ciento Dos punto Uno…El Tigre!  I imagined listening to Daddy Yankee and rolling up to a stop light, but forgetting to turn the volume down.  A group of Hispanics would pull up next to me and catch me head-bobbing and doing all the humiliating things that white people do when we listen to music.  After I’d inadvertently managed to get the attention of the entire vehicle next to me, they’d yell at me, “Hey gringo, that’s our music!”  Then they’d jump me.


It’s hard for me to understand intolerance when it comes to race.  I’ve seen both sides and I don’t get why it’s even an issue at times.  I’ve lived in both tolerant and intolerant places.  I’ve lived in integrated and all-white towns.  I’ve worshiped with stiff whites and hand-clapping-shouting-praise-Jesus-African Americans.  I’ve been in classes with immigrants, descendants of slaves, bilingual kids; I’ve been in all white classes where Martin Luther King Jr. was nothing more than a blip in history.

I suppose what bothers me is that I didn’t stand up to my uncle when he used the word nigger.  And it bothers me that I’m embarrassed about listening to reggaeton, because, truthfully, it’s not ‘their’ music – it’s everyone’s music (if I had to listen to my German heritage music, it’d be Lawrence Welk…heaven help me).  It bothers me that I think that people of different races want to be identified as Asian, Hispanic, black or whatever instead of American (how racist is that?).  Maybe, unknowingly… somehow…deep down inside I don’t understand how to love and respect all races.  I was taught to be very tolerant of all races – no one was better or worse than another, least of all because of their skin color.  I truly believe it.

But perhaps I should work on doing what I believe.

If you hear Tito el Bambino playing loudly on a car stereo, don’t get angry – be thankful that I’m working on improving myself.

.much love. sheth.

Q&A For Realsies.

Every church has its ‘meet and greet’ session, usually somewhere towards the beginning.  The pastor will get up and say a few words, maybe make an announcement or two, then say something like, “Now will you take a moment to greet those around you”.  And there are hands being shook, friends talking, and gossip flowing (yup, even in church).

It’s kind of fun being the new-ish guy in a church (even though I’ve been there a while) and seeing how people tend to stick to those they know.  I’ve been approached by a few people, but by and large I’m ignored, or at least not noticed.  Part of me completely understands – it’s difficult and sometimes scary introducing yourself to someone new (I usually never go out of my way to make new friends).

Discussions in church usually go like this: name, how I am doing, what I do, how the weather is today.  That’s the good, American, superficial way to make small talk.  There’s never anything brought up in the conversation that’s too hard to deal with or handle.  This kind of conversation is easy to be in – it’s simple, on the surface stuff.

There are times when I like to throw things for a loop with people and I’ll drop in something serious just to make the conversation uncomfortable.  The other person, being polite, will ask how I’m doing, and I will answer with something about my mom’s cancer still being in remission, or my dad struggling with work, or how we all worry about how we’re going to take care of each other with less and less money, or that I’m feeling lonely; sometimes I’ll throw in some stuff about my bankruptcy or divorce or son that I know nothing about.

And I do this because, frankly, it’s stuff I want to talk about.  It’s stuff that needs to be talked about.  We all have this kind of stuff in our lives that we want to talk about.  Serious stuff, life stuff.  Divorces, bad relationships, cheating spouses, abuse, issues with raising kids, money problems, medical issues, aging parents, work problems.  There’s so many things in our lives that we desperately want to talk about, but we never really feel like we have the opportunity to talk about them with other people.  A lot of times I think that people don’t want to know the dirty stuff in my life, the real stuff, so why should I even bother
them with it?  Sadly, I’m sure that’s what a lot of other people feel and that’s why they don’t open up to me.

We’re all a little closed off from one another.  We ask them how they are, they say fine, and we say good.  Then we move on to the next outstretched hand to shake and repeat the process.  We need to look for the hurting, the broken, and the weary that are in our own homes, our own churches, our own neighborhoods.  It’s great that we send out missionaries to other countries, but sometimes I really think we need to get our own people taken care of first.  We need to feed the hungry family that sits next to us in church.  We need to visit with our elderly neighbor.  We need to pay for a tank of gas for the single mom struggling to make ends meet.  But we don’t do this stuff because a lot of times we just don’t know that people have these needs.

I can’t find it anywhere in the bible where Jesus asks people how they are doing.  He never has a casual conversation with anyone:
“And the Lord sayeth to John, ‘How’s it going?’
And John answereth, ‘I’m alright.  Just fishin’ and what not.’
The Lord smileth with gladness and went about his day.”

Jesus is portrayed in the bible as going out and looking for people to help, he asks what’s troubling people, what’s wrong, and what he can do to fix it.  We need to be asking more of the hard questions, the real questions that people want to be asked.  Look around – there are people dying to talk, people that need help, people that want a shoulder to cry on.

.much love. sheth.

A Dilly of a Pickle.

I have a tv.  It’s 13 inches diagonal.  Not flatscreen.  Not HD.  Aftermarket remote that has ‘up’ and ‘down’ for the channels and volume (if I’m on channel 45 and want to go to channel 9, I get to flip all the way through to channel 9).  Truth be told, the tv isn’t even mine – it’s my parents’.

Over the past few years I’ve been whittling away at the stuff I own.  I have gotten rid of countless textbooks that I thought I would use in my career (which never panned out).  I have given away dozens of other books on youth ministry, books I loved, books I hated, books I’d been given but never read.  I’ve thrown out old letters, old school reports, half-used journals.  I’ve tossed a lot of stuff, too.  I don’t even know how to even describe it, but it’s just stuff.  Gag gifts, gifts from past girlfriends, past friends, acquaintences, things I’ve found, collections, clothes, shoes, tools, things I’ve been wanting to fix, or take apart, or couldn’t get up the nerve to throw away.

There’s been a lot of reasons why I’ve narrowed down what I own to two boxes and some clothes – part of it was because of my many moves, part of it was because I just got tired of actually having it.  I think about our worldly possessions and how attached we can be to them, and how important some ‘stuff’ can be to us.  I have a small model canoe made of birch bark from the village elders in Alaska; a glass from a restaurant I ate at in Austria; a piece of pottery from an artist in Mexico.  I have a pocket knife that my great-grandfather used; a piece off of the Jeep that I wrecked twice; a few old books that my grandfather used when studying the Bible.  I don’t know why these things are important to me – if I got rid of them I’m sure I’d still have the memories.  But that glass from Austria represented more than just a restaurant – it was from the first mission trip I ever went on and learned about true poverty.  The birch bark canoe was a gift made just for me from people who distrust outsiders.  The hood latch from the Jeep helps me to remember to drive safely and don’t be in a rush, because it’s not worth it.

So what’s really troubling me is this: I don’t want to keep stuff in my life.  The less I have, the better I feel.  But honestly, I really want a fancy tv.  One that I can watch movies on.  And be blown away by the HD 1080p 120hz refresh-rate goodness that comes along with it.  Am I content with my little tv?  Yeah, I am.  But part of me, part of me wants the big, the better, the nicer.  Part of me wants the fancy tv, the 2004 Porsche Carrera GT, the house, the woodshop.  Part of me wants it all.

But thankfully, the part that doesn’t want any of this stuff is still winning.

much love. sheth.

Josh Ate Boogers.

Josh ate boogers. I remember watching him in class as Mrs. Downes would teach us how to classify animals into various genus and species, and why the animals are classified the way they are. Josh would sit on the right side of the classroom, digging deep in his nose for a little gold. Sure, Mrs. Downes would pose a question for us to chew on, “What genus would a deer fit into?”, but this wasn’t enough for Josh – he needed something more substantial. He liked his boogers. And who was I to judge anyway? I am sure that at one time in my life I made a nasal-oral transfer, so I didn’t think too much of it.

Ann had red hair. Trevor smelled funny. Nick’s parents were separated. I was the fat kid. And Josh, he ate boogers.

We’ve all been called names at one time or another, and I know that most of these names wore off in time. The nerds made their way through high school and college dominating the computers, and now many of them are quite rich working in the network systems and information technology fields. Their nerdiness propelled them into a successful career. Ann and her red hair moved beyond the stiff natural curls that haunted her through her childhood, and now she has sexy, long flowing locks that continually catch the opposite sex’s attention. The boys couldn’t stand her when she was in elementary school, but now all the men want a fiery red-head. Trevor, it turns out, was simply more ‘mature’ than the rest of us, and the smell was covered up the next year with the application of a little deodorant. And Nick wasn’t the only one in class whose parents were separated – Amy, the prettiest girl in the class, watched her parents’ marriage slowly dissolve, and now Nick (and Amy) isn’t alone because a lot of marriages end in divorce.

But being the fat kid, it kind of sticks with you. I can’t capitalize off my fatness like the nerds did with their smarts; there’s no roll-on for my waist that will gently cover up the sight (while releasing a pleasant musk aroma at the same time). Being fat doesn’t just fade away over time like my friends’ problems did; instead it tends to hang on for quite some time.

Abundant. Ample. Beefy. Big. Big-boned. Blimp. Broad. Built. Bulky. Burly. Butterball. Chubby. Chunky. Considerable. Cumbersome. Dense. Disgusting. Elephantine. Excessive. Fat. Fatso. Fatty. Flabby. Fleshy. Gargantuan. Great. Gross. Heavy. Heavyset. Heavy-built. Hefty. Huge. Hulking. Husky. Insulated. Immense. Jelly-belly. Jolly. Jumbo. King-sized. Laden. Lard-ass. Large. Lead-footed. Lumbering. Mammoth. Massive. Nasty. Neglected. Obese. Obtuse. Outsized. Overfed. Overweight. Padded. Paunchy. Plump. Podgy. Portly. Potbellied. Pudgy. Robust. Rotund. Round. Sizeable. Solid. Squat. Stocky. Stout. Stubby. Substantial. Thick. Tubby. Ugly. Unhealthy. Unpleasant. Vast. Vertically-challenged. Volumous. Weighty. Whopping.

These are some of the names given to me by former classmates, close friends, strangers, pastors, teachers, physicians, and family. I admit that I have earned them – I’m a big guy. I don’t deny that I’m not overweight or fat or whatever else you want to label it as. I haven’t always been this way, and I probably won’t be, but until that time comes when I am able to shed some of this excess baggage I will remain fat.

When I was a kid I was normal for my age in the way of size. Looking back at the pictures of my youth, you could see my ribs sticking through my skin as I posed for a picture in the summer sun. It wasn’t until I was about nine or ten that things started to shift. I continued my activities as always – playing baseball in the summers, hiking and fishing, hunting, and playing on the playground. My physical activities never died down, my body just grew a lot. As I entered the fifth grade I was the fat kid in class, and I endured all the angst that came along with it – the name calling, the staring, being the butt of many a joke, and being forced to live in a shell that my classmates had created for me.

The thing that always bothered me was that I made fun of Josh, too. And I was the fat kid. Now, if the fat kid is making fun of you from time to time, you know that your life isn’t all that great. I really regret that I poked fun at him, because I was no better than he was – none of us were; and yet, we still made fun of him just because he ate his boogers.

I suppose it’s difficult to understand our own faults, so we point out those we find in others. Josh’s was easy to find, so we all jumped on it. But there were a lot of kids we could have picked on just as easily. Perhaps that’s why we did it – because his fault was visible. But why didn’t we pick on Ellen because she was dark-skinned, or Traci because she developed faster than the other girls (the guys actually fell over one another to see her, which I could say is a form of harassment. We only liked her because of those marvelous bumps on her chest that none of the other girls had). It can be said that everyone has a fault of their own – everyone has a reason to be made fun of, to be picked on and be the butt of a joke. It’s not that we don’t have faults that we make fun of others, it’s because we do, and therefore have to cover them up by pointing out someone a little worse than ourselves.

Traci had braces, the shiny metal ones many kids suffer with, and thick oversized glasses. That was many years ago, and the last time I saw her she was very beautiful – she had contacts, and the braces left her smile radiant. It seems the things that she struggled with in her youth turned her into a beautiful woman. These things we go through as children make us into the people who we are – either better or worse. It’s what we do with the words, the lifes, the actions of others that determines who we are as adults.

much love. sheth.