Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: December 2007

A few thoughts…

–Last year, I wrote about my Charlie Brown Christmas and the possible end of a 30-something-year tradition in my family. Well, I’m actually quite content in reporting that it ended this year (that is, we didn’t have it), though for reasons different from what threatened it last year. It was brought about by a certain needed movement in our family life, and for that, I’m grateful. I’m also thankful that it precisely isn’t because of the issues I discussed last year. Essentially, it was caused by someone’s personal progress and not someone else’s personal tragedies.

–The 2008 OCF College Conference is coming up in two days. Wow. It seems that just yesterday I was telling some friends that I would be seeing them in 10 days. And now it will much sooner be upon us. Last year, I was a first-time attendee and was awestruck at what I experienced, being so impressed by the love and friendship and spiritual focus and unspeakable “other goodness” (for want of a better term). (Oh…and, did I mention that’s how I was introduced to Sheetz? 😀 ) This year, I’m a member of the OCF Student Advisory Board and someone who is hoping to be involved in an upcoming object called the OCF Podcast (until something catchier develops…), something I proposed to our executive director this past summer. To my knowledge, I was the first person to seriously mention it in as much detail as I did. I assume this because I didn’t hear back, “We’re already working on it,” but “Hey…that’s a great idea. Let’s talk more about this in a few days when I get back home.” For once, I’m in a place where people listen intently to the ideas I have and are brave enough to explore, rather than putting me off and assuring they’ll “get back to me.” I can’t wait to tell this to our fellow students at the conference, because it’s what our organization is built on: listening to the students and shaping OCF to serve them and the greater community to the best of everyone’s ability. If they will listen to me, they’ll listen to anyone. I hope someone is encouraged by this, has some spark of an idea, and runs with it…and ends up blowing us all away. What a joy that would be.

At any rate, we’re going to try and record as much of the talks as humanly possible, as well as gather some photos and other randomness throughout each day and and post it all either to or If we post anything, I’ll link to it here.

–I’m grateful for super cheap airfare, enabling me to jump down to Florida shortly after my return from the conference so that I can meet Tiffany’s family. Though, the idea of it being warm enough to visit the beach in January slightly weirds me out.

–For the first time in years, the grades I’ve received so far for my semester’s work do not go below a “c”. I still have an incomplete in one class, but that will be dealt with shortly, and I’ll likely do fine. Also, there are no plans whatsoever to change majors or schools anytime soon. In fact, I’m adding a minor–in journalism. 🙂 Couple that with the news I discussed about OCF and the Podcast and so on, and you’ll have an idea of where I’d like to be heading as far as career preparation.

–In semi-related computer comments: If you’re a writer of any type who is easily distracted, and your computer of choice is Mac, I highly recommend a little app called WriteRoom. It makes your entire screen black and puts a little blinking green block-style cursor in front of you, making it easy to just write. No distractions, no menubars, no Firefox windows in the background…just the appearance of typing on an old Apple //e. It’s what I used to write this and my last post on being lost in Virginia, and I’m very pleased with it.

–Speaking of writing, I want to continue to thank the people who read twelve:one, whether regularly or just passing through. And thanks to those who have put me on their blogrolls. Honestly, I am frequently surprised and humbled by the stats that show up in my dashboard when I check it. Someone from China viewed one of my entries through Google translator the other day. How cool is that?!? Also, the fact that I average roughly 20-35 hits daily for one entry alone (“To Write Love On Her Arms“) is indicative of a) the growing amount of exposure for the organization, and b) the aching need many have in our society…and communities and workplaces and households…for signs that hope and rescue can be something they can experience. If you’re one of those people, I hope you can find such signs in the joy of this season—which, I know, isn’t joyous for everyone. If you’re not one of those people, then, please, be that sign to someone. Smile, or offer a hand or an ear or your time this Christmas and into the New Year.

Anyway, back to the writing…:) Thanks for reading and for your comments made both on and off the record. It is through your encouragement that I’ve decided to look into media production for OCF and to minor in journalism. Basically, you’ve helped this writer get a slightly better handle on his future than he would have had otherwise. Thank you.

–It’s Christmas. It’s the celebration of when love and grace and redemption broke into our chaotic world. By the Incarnation—and the Resurrection—we are moved to freely love, serve, and forgive. Even if you’re not Christian, I ask that you consider allowing these things to break into your life. Let go of bitterness and malice and rage and slander and vengeance…and let go of yourself. Embrace the unspeakable wonder that is selfless love. For those who want to lengthen their days, it’s an imperative. (Research actually shows this time and again.) In fact, some say you can live forever if you desire that your life be transformed by Love. But, even if you’ve no interest in true Christianity, give love a shot. It’s amazing how much your existing world, with all its bitterness and cares and worries and vendettas, can crumble, while a new one is built up in the place of the old one. Yeah, you’ll likely still have some of those things for a while, maybe as long as you live. But you’ll be a million times better the more you can let go and forgive in love. Try to be a humble example of redemption to someone you know.

–Ill leave you with this hymn, one that we Orthodox will hear plenty over the next week:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,

Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.

For by it those who worshipped the stars,

Were taught by a star to adore Thee,

The Sun of Righteousness.

And to know Thee the Orient from on high,

O Lord, Glory to Thee!

Troparion for Christmas Day

Merry Christmas. Christ is born! Glorify him!


In my last post, I began the tale of my trip to West Virginia and Virginia with my girlfriend on a day off from all things school. When we left off, I was heading west on I-64 toward Fredericksburg from Blacksburg, all according to the directions my GPS was giving me.

Part II:

The drive down the Interstate was a very lonely one. The night sky was very dark and was seldom illuminated by anything, even lights at the exits we passed. It was nearing 1:30 a.m. when I got off at the exit we had been directed to. I had already made one mistake and had to turn around, but it was really the device’s fault….stupid thing told me to get back on the road when I had exited at the right one, then it told me to go 9 miles down to the next exit so I could turn around and go back to the one I was just at. *sigh*

Anyhow, back at the proper turn-off, we followed the directions into a dark wooded area. “Where are we going?” Tiffany asked. “I mean, yeah, Fredericksburg is kind of in the boonies, but it isn’t this bad.” At first, though, I didn’t see much wrong with it, since I’ve made similar trips involving back road entrances to towns. However…the lack of a city’s glow as I looked toward the sky ahead unnerved me a bit.

Continuing to trust the GPS, we went down some winding roads, all the time getting farther and farther from well-lit areas (if you can call them well-lit). More than lacking light, the road we were on started lacking civilization. Rickety, abandoned houses, rusted-out tractors and farm equipment, and dense woods began to swallow us. There was no “Welcome to…” sign anywhere. There wasn’t even the feeling of welcome.

But, we pressed on in hope. We finally came to the road that led to our destination of Fredericksburg. It was called Farm House Road, and, as we approached it, our eyes followed its path into a mass of black, empty forested area.

We drove past as panic started to set in.

Honestly, I didn’t panic at first. And I’m not just saying that to sound macho. Was I scared? Yeah. But panicked? Not really. Not…yet…at least. However, Tiffany—having watched her fair share of horror movies—was becoming frightened like I’ve never seen anyone become in my life. As she hyperventilated and shook from terror, I calmly said that we were okay, that nothing bad had happened, and that we were going to find our way back.

There was one big problem, though.

Since we were going to a specific destination and trying to get there quickly, and since I had enough fuel to tide me over until I got to town, I didn’t stop to fill up with gas. Even when we got off at the exit, I was still sitting above E. Besides, we were in a later model car, and I knew it had a gas light. And that wasn’t on yet, so I trudged on.

That was 45 minutes before this point.

Plus, this was our first trip in this car, having only gotten it a day before. So, I had no idea when the light would turn on. Yet, I grew more and more uneasy as the needle began to drop past the last tick on the gauge and settle upon that foreboding letter.

I found a place to turn around as quickly as I could. I traced our way back toward the main road as best I could. However, we began to see street names that we hadn’t before, and this only punctuated our growing fear. We had passed them on the way in, but we began to read the names of streets like Alone Mill Road and Belle Mead. The latter, Tiffany later said, was basically it for her, as she grew up in Nashville where there exists an old plantation of the same name that is said to be very famously haunted.

The crumbling mountain homes began to jump out at us even more, mainly because we were on the outer side of the road we had been traveling and the houses were all on that side, so they were right next to us as we drove by each one. My car stopped once, but only because we had come to a hill and I had let my clutch out too far. Still…the silence clawed at our windows for those 10 seconds. I was terrified. The woods started to remind me of the Blair Witch Project. And the needle only continued to get lower.

We saw a car coming from the opposite direction and breathed slightly easier. I did all I could to flag it down and, upon his stopping, I said to the man driving the truck, “I’m lost and I need to get to the Interstate…and I need to get there now.” He told me to stay straight and that it would spit me out at the main road where the onramp was. As I thanked him, I looked at the back window of his truck to see it being lowered by someone who, no doubt, wanted to see who was speaking in the shuttering tone of voice begging for a way out of the woods. I must have been a sight.

We continued along and came upon a fork. I followed the advice of Yogi Berra and I took it. I just picked a direction. At the same time, I was trying to find close gas stations and call them to see who was open at that time of night. But, no luck there. So, we drove and drove along the crooked way of Turkey Mill, hoping for a sign of relief.

That sign came when I looked up and saw that friendly glow from a nearby town with lights in it. Thank God. But, we still didn’t have clear directions. So, I went on my best judgement. Also, I figured that if I followed the GPS to any gas station, we would at least get out of the forest. So, that’s what I rested on.

And we eventually entered the town of Lexington, VA. Right after passing the city limits, we were flanked n both sides by the ominous granite buildings of Virginia Military Institute. They weren’t as scary as being lost in Blair Witch territory, but they weren’t that friendly-looking, either.

I pulled over and waited for cars to drive by so I could flag them down to ask for the nearest open gas station, which I figured was better than driving around and running out of gas. Two cars approached, and those same two drove right on by. But, I guess I can’t blame them. It’s 2:30 in the morning, I’m a skinny guy with long hair and a leather jacket trying to get someone’s attention in the middle of a dark city street…I guess it’s good that they follow the advice they hear on the evening news. All the same, I was still out of luck.

And, then, an angel approached.

Tiffany pointed out that a girl was walking down the opposite sidewalk. Rolling my window down, I shouted, “ALL I NEED is to find the nearest open gas station.”

“It’s right around that corner,” she said very kindly as she pointed over her right shoulder.

“God bless you. Thank you!” I said as I drove off.

Once we got there, Tiffany handed me her bank card and said, “Put 30, put 50, I don’t care. Just get us out of here.” I walked in to find out how to get to Fredericksburg…or anywhere, really…and the guy greeted me with, “Hey, man, how are you tonight?”

What I said isn’t repeatable here. But I will say it included the words “lost as.”

I talked to one of them and found out we were 2 1/2 hours away from the REAL Fredericksburg. I thanked him, pumped the fuel, and told Tiffany the sorry state of things.

“Well, how far are we from Knoxville?” she asked, offering the only alternative at this point.

“Hmmm…about 5 1/2 hours, I guess.”

“Well, it’s up to you. I just want to get somewhere safe.”

So, we called her friend and we went on to Fredericksburg. The REAL one. We got there about 5:30 or 6 in the morning. She stayed up and talked to her friend Beth for a while, and I found a place to crash. I finally woke up about 12 noon. Then we sat around and chatted, and I got to meet one of Tiff’s best friends and gain approval. I played with her pet snakes and her Nintendo Wii. Then we printed off MapQuest directions, took some silly pictures, and headed home to Knoxville.

Of course, after stopping at Sheetz to get some food…and gas.


So, here I am facing a blank entry page. And why? Do I have something to say, do I have hope or ideas to impart? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe I will speak wisdom today. Or maybe I’ll make a fool of myself. I guess we’ll have to read on and see for ourselves.

That’s right. I’m on this journey of discovery along with you. I have no idea what I’m going to say in this moment of procrastination from signing up for next semester’s classes and completing a Web Design assignment. In all honesty, I wasn’t planning on saying anything at all. But, as it happened, I was checking my blog stats and dealing with some spam comments and, voilà, I end up hitting the “Write” tab in my dashboard. So, as I said before, here I am…

I guess I’ll tell a story.

Friday, with our day off from classes and finals (and studying 🙂 ), my girlfriend Tiffany and I made the trek up to West Virginia where I attended school last year. It was fun. I gave her the three minute tour of Mountain State University an introduced her to the priest of the local Orthodox parish up there. Then we all sat around enjoying food and conversation with one another. While she took a call from a friend in need, I gave Fr. Samuel a brief rundown of where I am in life and how I’m doing this semester, etc. He was pleased to hear that I’m doing well on all fronts, and I was pleased to be able to tell him that.

Afterward, we headed back home the long way, deciding to breeze through Blacksburg, VA, to stop at a Sheetz to grab some awesome Sheetz food. (If you don’t know what I’m raving about, stop by a Sheetz convenience store sometime and order something to eat from their touchscreens, eat, enjoy, and repeat if necessary.) While there, she decides to get a Jolt Cola. God, help me. 😀 And, while hyped up on said Jolt, we both decide it’d be fun to go to Fredericksburg where she used to live. After checking the GPS and figuring out we were only 90 minutes away, we decided to go for it.

Now, there are some of you reading this who are saying, “Wait…it’s about four hours from Blacksburg to Fredericksburg…” or something of the sort. And, you’re right. However, I was ignorant of this and the GPS gave me three options, two with ZIPs and one without. I chose the one without because a) Tiff couldn’t answer my question about it soon enough for me to decide…being zippy on Jolt myself… and b) I mean…there’s only ONE Fredericksburg, right?

So we drove. And, at one point, we got on I-64…WEST…and, somehow, this failed to register, as B-town is in Southern Va, and Fredericksburg is just South of DC. But, hey…GPS is right…right?

You’ll have to find out later…my laptop’s going dead and the charger isn’t right here. But, I’ll post what I have so far anyway. So tune in when I post part 2. And, trust me…this doesn’t wrap up very smoothly. Leatherface may or may not make an appearance.