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I Open At The Close

I open at the close.

Advice given to Harry Potter in Deathly Hallows now has a new meaning to my family.

We are closing on a house!image

This has been a long journey from us actually deciding to look into houses in earnest. We found this house after looking at quite a few other options. Most were simply not viable. This one was the best option and it sort of clicked when we walked in that this was the place.

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We first signed a contract for the house in December but found out a few days later that it couldn’t be sold. Apparently there is a rule about getting a mortgage on a property that had been bought less than three months ago. Three months ago, you ask? Yep, it’s a flip house.

The previous owners bought the property and put some work into it, including a roof, windows, and general cosmetics, in order to turn it around and sell it for a profit. I’m completely comfortable with this because I simply wouldn’t be able to do that kind of work nor be able to finance it.

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It’s a 3br/1ba house, about 1100 sqft, a couple mature trees in the front yard (tire swing? yup!) and, one of my leading requirements, a nice flat front yard for playing around.

Going into a nice new house we were going to get newer furniture and will need a washer and dryer but we’ve already graciously been gifted some pieces by friends and family! Thank you all! We don’t really need much but if you want to contribute something small a gift card to Lowe’s or Target or Walmart (or anywhere you want) wouldn’t be turned away, but please don’t feel like we expect anyone to contribute anything! Just a message of good luck and any experiential advice will be welcome.

Keep an eye out for new posts about the house because we have plans to make this a home. I want to craft a loft bed for Sariah, we are planning a cool paint treatment for Sophia, and the kitchen will need some shelving and maybe a desk area. So much to do now. Keep an eye out on my Facebook page and YouTube channel too for videos from us!

 

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So, we have a new part of our life opening at the close of this deal Monday Feb. 22. Wish us well. Thank you for your part in getting us to this point in our lives!

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My Awe-mazing Life

Do you never wonder about the immaterial things like, why you have a conscience? Why you think some things are right and others are wrong? All the knowledge you hold about the human body and at the cellular level and the intricate detail involved in development and sustaining the metabolic process, you don’t ever wonder if their is an intelligent mind behind that design?  When you see you children conceived, developed in utero and then born thru this amazing process, it doesn’t make you wonder about the mind behind such a design?

 These are comments that were sent to me recently in an email, they reflect questions that many atheists are asked every day. I don’t think I’ve ever done a post about this particular stuff so here it is. I’m going to break down the quote into each question and address each one individually.

Do you never wonder about the immaterial things like, why you have a conscience?

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Of course I do, who wouldn’t!? I just don’t feel the need to answer every question with ‘god did it’. I can’t explain the exact parts that make us have higher brain functions than other animals but I am confident that it is something like Aristotle described it “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

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We don’t know exactly how much ‘feeling’ other primates or other animals have. It has been shown that mice will stop pressing the button that gives them food if they find out it is causing another mouse pain. Sharing and apparent caring have been observed in gorillas. To deny that animals have morality is some sort of special pleading and denial that we aren’t completely unique in this world.

More immaterial concepts exist; love, hate, etc. These are usually brought up so I will address them beforehand. Some people claim that the skeptic can’t be sure of love because there isn’t evidence for it. There is evidence if the love is there. In the little looks and caresses you and your partner share. A kiss feels much different when the feelings aren’t there to motivate it. Hate is much the same, except for the kiss part. A lovely post I came across recently on Imgur.com recounts children’s answers to the question ‘What is love?’

I’ll link this video by Tim Minchin here and the most relevant lyrics below.

But the human body is a mystery!
Science just falls in a hole
When it tries to explain the the nature of the soul.
….
Life is full of mysteries, yeah,
But there are answers out there
And they won’t be found
By people sitting around
Looking serious
And saying isn’t life mysterious?
Let’s sit here and hope
….
Does the idea that there might be knowledge
Frighten you?
Does the idea that one afternoon
On Wiki-fucking-pedia might enlighten you
Frighten you?
Does the notion that there may not be a supernatural
So blow your hippy noodle
That you’d rather just stand in the fog
Of your inability to Google?
….
Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable, natural world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?

A Note to Family and Friends

Family and Friends,

Please read this message, you needn’t read anything else on my blog, I know some past posts haven’t been the most friendly but this is different. This one is from Crystal and I both. With Sariah’s birthday rounding the corner, Crystal and I would like to take this opportunity to share an exciting idea we have had.

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This year gave us a monumental surprise, when, on May 4 our dear Sariah was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It has been a significant change in lifestyle for not only Sariah but also for all of us, including you, as her support system. Please don’t diminish your contribution to the system, we all work together to ensure her safety and wise choices not only in relation to the disease but to growing up and becoming the smart and beautiful young lady we all know she will be. From performing finger-sticks and calculating the required insulin after meals to her classmates at school walking with her to the nurses office; everyone has their role in this.

With Sariah’s consent we would like to ask, that for her upcoming birthday, in lieu of gifts you make a donation to either the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) or to the Monroe Carroll Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Links will be at the bottom of this letter. Please don’t go out of your way to make a larger donation than what a gift would have cost, any amount will help the cause. If you weren’t aware, the JDRF and the Children’s Hospital were the organizations that donated much of the information, supplies, and gifts that we received in the hours and months since diagnosis.

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The mission of JDRF: JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, policy influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D. If you would like to donate to JDRF you may do so at JDRF.org, under the “Get Involved” tab, then click “Ways to Donate”. If you choose to do a “Tribute Donation” we ask that you select the Middle Tennessee Chapter in honor of Sariah.

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Who hasn’t heard of Vanderbilt? They are a committed and focused team of medical persons devoted to delivering the highest quality care to children, creating a special environment for children and their families, and to serve as a resource that is responsive to the children, the families, and to the community. If you would like to donate to Vanderbilt you may do so at ChildrensHospital.Vanderbilt.org. Near the bottom of the page is a link called “Giving”, and then on the right side of the page you select “Give Now”.

While we have your attention, we would like to tell you about something more fun. Each of the girls has an email address that they will gain access to when they are older. It seemed like a fun idea to send an email to them as a sort of time capsule from past versions of ourselves. You can send messages to SariahDarks2008@gmail.com and SophiaDarks2014@gmail.com. On our honor, we won’t read your messages, I log in routinely to ensure they aren’t overrun by spam but I don’t read messages, I want the girls to be able to be the first to read those words.

Thank you for your continued support. With love; Matt, Crystal, Sariah, and Sophia.

100th Post, Already?

Believe it guys, I’ve hit 100 posts already.

I wasn’t sure when I started this blog if I would keep up with it, I know I said I would, but you know we say things sometimes that we want to be true but we can’t actually KNOW are true. Amazingly that statement has come to mind a lot over the last few months in my dealings with coming to terms with my dissension from religion. I’ve met and talked to many people who say so many things that they just can’t have the knowledge they claim to have. I have had very few successes in getting those people to admit they can’t know that but I have also had a few victories getting people to listen to reason.

I do not say victory in that I have made them reject the premise of god and religion I say it because they admitted that they say some things just because you have to say that to remain a faithful follower. Making these few people actually look at what they are claiming to know and they realize it is just recitation and not actual knowledge is uplifting for me. That has been my goal from the beginning; not to make everyone I know become atheists, but to make everyone I know actually think about what they hold so dear.

I’ve started a read through of the bible, following a podcast/blog I found called Bible Skeptic Podcast, to ensure that when I come into a conversation or debate that I have the knowledge that is necessary to refute claims that are being made. Already I have come across verses that I thought I knew but I learn now that they actually say what I thought they did, and I’m only into Exodus. Its going to be fun but its going to take time. I’m keeping my blog and my website up to date on my progress as much as I can if you want to read along and we can discuss as we go.

Christmas is coming up too. With this being my first year out as an atheist, I am sure my family is confused about my position on Christmas. Knowing this I am debating composing a letter to explain my position, which is basically that I don’t (and haven’t for a long time) expect any gifts but I will celebrate the time of year with family and friends and food. The holiday was originally not associated with Christianity and that can easily be brought back.

I am not going to waste this momentous post completely on my ramblings about religion, I’ll waste a little on my dear family too, I guess, lol.

Sariah has gotten a haircut and is doing great in her preschool at Little Country School House. She’s made good friends with a little girl, Liya, and potentially two little boys have crushes, Gabe and Colton, guess its time to get a gun and a cleaning kit. She’s growing up so fast and I’m so proud of what she knows and how much she likes to learn. I try my hardest to teach her everything I know when she asks questions but I know I have to reign it in to not overwhelm her. I’m so glad that we got the opportunity to enroll her though I wish it had come a different way than Crystal losing her job with CMCSS.

We had a rough patch personally and financially and I don’t think we’re completely out of either one but we’re on our way. As I typed that last sentence the song “If we make it through December” came to mind. I can take some creative license and change some parts of the song to coincide with our lives recently. Like he says, this is meant to be a happy time (this post, not just this time of year).

Sariah has had so much fun playing with one of our neighbors, Jr, but sadly this week they will be moving away. We’ll miss you Tiffany, Brandon, and Jr! Thanks for the memories.

Sometimes when we are at home I think Sariah is acting bad but then we go to Monkey Joes or Kids-N-Play and I just feel bad about ever thinking it. I am so proud of her and how she acts that I can’t put it into words; it’s awesome. I just can’t understand how some of these parents can just let their children go crazy and destroy everything and be mean or aggravating to everyone else around. I don’t like Sariah being mean but when one of those kids are around I just tell her she won’t be getting in trouble if she does the same thing to them that they do to her. Took your toy? Take it back! Push you? Push them back! Don’t be mean but don’t let them take advantage of you.

In other news, the lab I work at is having a rough patch too. A weekend coworker of mine quit, the hematology section leader quit, our director quit, our quality lady quit, all in all i think we’re down about 15 positions. Melinda our assistant director, now interim director, has had to take on the responsibilities of at least 4 positions in the absences and it doesn’t look like help is coming soon. I feel so bad for her and everyone seems to get mad at her but when you have to think about the whole lab and there are 10 people out on injury or pregnant, s#!ts gotta get done somehow. I’m on her side and will back up her decisions most of the time.

We’re in the process of getting an automated blood bank instrument to help with the workload and I really hope it turns out better than most people think it will. I like the idea and I think it will help for the off shifts but I just don’t know if day shift really needs it. I know it will come in handy if we are still down so many positions by the time it is correlated, but we’ve still got work to do before then.

Speaking of creative license (i know that was a bad transition but whatever) have you seen the movie City of Bones? If you haven’t yet, DON’T! Don’t waste your money on the theater version, wait until it shows up on torrent or something, its not worth paying for anyways. I cannot believe that I urged Crystal to read that series and then wanted to go see the movie so bad that I went after a 14 hour work day and it turned out that bad. I’m sure lots of people have given some good points but they are so few and far between that they aren’t worth mentioning. I do still urge people to read the books because the book is great.

Well, this is it 100 posts, Its hard to realize that I’ve actually kept at it this long, usually I give up on projects; you should see our crafting stuff at our house. With crystal being a teacher, Sariah being a child, and me wanting to do so much cool stuff but giving up…we’ve got a lot!

Sariah is constantly changing her mind on what she wants to dress up as for Halloween and is really excited about her 5th birthday coming up. I’ve decided to be Ralph and one of Sariah’s potentials is Vanellope, but she quickly turns to mermaid or princess too.

Well, that’s about it. That is a recap of our lives recently though I’m sure you are aware much more has happened that I have not written about and even more that I’ve just forgotten. Lots of love from the Darks house to you and yours. Thanks for reading and keep following along.

Road Trip 2013 Is In The Books

I must regretfully write that our trip has come to its end. We are at Grammy and Grampy’s house for dinner and the night, thanks you guys. Yes, I know I missed my post last night, I will incorporate it in to this one, though, you really didn’t miss much.
Monday morning I posted a great picture of my breakfast at the beach, awesome. After everyone else got up we spent an hour or so before a storm rolled in though we also had to check out by 11. We said our goodbyes to GGMA and GGPA and drove up the eastern coast to fill the gas tank and our bellies in St. Augustine. If you happen to be going through there and need a fill up, Casa Maria’s will do the trick. Before days end we made our way up near Atlanta to be nearer to The Center for Puppetry Arts.
Tuesday morning we checked out of the EconoLodge and made our way to Atlanta. We had a fun time first finding then riding on the MARTA. After a short walk, we made it to the Center. This is a great show for the kids and for the parents. The kids love it because its one of their stories acted out by puppets right in front of them; the parents, at least Crystal and I, like it because they add sounds and extra dialogue to the story from the book. After the show the puppeteers unmask themselves and explain how they move and use the puppets during the show, very good idea for the older kids who understand that it’s not a tv show and something extra is going on. If we were closer wed definitely get a season pass and make it back to some other shows. On our way back home to middle Tennessee I stopped just before the border to get some peaches because you get the best from where it grows best and nothing beats Georgia peaches.
We’re back home to Tennessee and none of us are ready to be back. I have learned that the next time we get a beach vacation we will not spend it driving the whole time. Although driving was fun, it turned out to be more expensive and time consuming than I thought it would be. Choosing a single hotel and staying there and spending our time at the beach or pool will be a much better use of time and money.
Pensacola Beach, Clearwater Beach, and Daytona Beach are the main beaches we visited and I can’t recommend them enough. The EconoLodge at Daytona was great; great price for being directly on the beach and clean, updated rooms. We only visited Pensacola and Clearwater beaches for a short time so no recommends for hotels in those areas, but the beaches themselves deserve to be visited. Hopefully in the future we’ll get the chance to return and I’ll get a recommend for you. Another thing I hope we get another chance to try is Aunt Catfish’s On The River in Daytona Beach. We tried to get dinner there on Sunday night but the wait was an hour and forty five minutes! Recommends on food from the trip include Casa Maria’s which I’ve already mentioned, Earl of Sandwich, and Sloppy Joes.
Sariah says her favorite part was finding shells; she’s come home with a bag full of them and either a tooth or nail.Crystal’s favorite part was Clearwater because the beach was clean and the waves were negligible. My favorite part was staying at a hotel on the beach, not having to get up and drive to and from the beach. Potentially our next trip could be staying at a hotel on the beach at Clearwater and spend the dusk and dawn searching for shells; the best of all three.
This experience has been great, and I am glad to have spent so much good times with my family in the beautiful locations we visited. I hope that you have been entertained reading about our escapades the last week or so and keep up with me for more info on the family. See ya!

Cumulative Punch Bug Leaderboard (last two days)
Crystal……25.5
Daddy…….22.5
Sariah…….11

The .5 wasn’t half a bug, though I’d like to see that, it was a bug that crystal and I got pretty much the same time.

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This morning GGMA and I had a conversation about an article in the paper covering the over usage of the word awesome. The article urged us to think about the true meaning of the word; inspiring awe. I have in my life used the word, like many of us do, to describe my dinner, my experience at a store, or even my day when someone asks ‘how’ve you been?” I didn’t really understand the importance of the correct usage until we arrived here at the beach this afternoon.
Our arrival at the beach has, luckily, coincided with my finishing Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins. This book spends a portion of each chapter explaining the myths from around the world concerning natural phenomena. Where rainbows come from, what causes earthquakes, and how we were created are all touched on in this book but I don’t think he touched on the grace and power the ocean.
I have been to the beach many times in my life, but this is the first trip after coming to terms with ‘life, the universe, and everything’. Sitting here I can understand how the ancients attributed the power and majesty of the oceans to Poseidon, or Neptune if you prefer the roman pantheon. Looking up at the wonders of the universe seeing the infinite space stretching out above and around us is awe inspiring. Feeling the power of the water and the ability of the waves to form and calm in mere minutes can lead you believe there is an intelligence behind it, but if we look closely and examine the actual causes we find reason and science far better explain how these things occur.
Crystal, Sariah, and I had fun earlier today playing in the surf and sand. We built a sand castle, as best we could, but it was promptly destroyed by the smallest of waves. After searching for shells and possibly picking up every single one on our stretch of beach, Sariah was ready to head to lunch, cool off in the room for a while, and return later to check out the hotel pool. GGMA and GGPA hung out by the pool with us and GGPA even took a dip and helped Sariah overcome her fear of jumping off the side of the pool. GGPA says he doesn’t like to speak in public because of his stutter but I’ll tell you now, with all the strangers he spoke with today on the boardwalk and at the pool, it’s just an excuse he uses. These two are another set of awe inspiring people in my life.
I vow to restrain my use of the word awesome to those items that are truly awe inspiring and I hope you will too. I know I will still use the word but that is only because my life is, as everyone’s is, full of inspiring events and people; we need only concentrate on the correct ones.

Punch Bug Leaderboard
Sariah…….2
Daddy……..2
Mommy…..1

Here’s To You Captain Bob

Captain Bob thank you for making our trip to Silver Springs worthwhile, well at least close to.
We took a glass bottom boat ride today with Captain Bob. He explained the history and geography of the silver springs area. The park itself was kind of sad. In its hay day it was nice and well worth the entry fee; it has a lush history with famous concerts and more than a few movies, most notably The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The boat ride was fun and I’d advise everyone to go on one, but your chances for the Silver Springs trip is fading. The Silver Springs park is going to be handed over to the state of Florida in September and turned into a state park so, I presume, no more boat rides.
Other than Silver Springs we have had a day at home, the food has been much better than anything we’ve eaten so far on our trip, thank you GGMA!

Punch Bug Leaderboard
Mommy…….1
Daddy…….0
Sariah……..0

A Dry Day

Well it was dry except for the waterpark, underwater mermaids, and all the rain but we didn’t get to swim any today. We’ve finally arrived at GGMA and PA! Ocala, FL it’s good to see ya.
Weeki Wachee was the big item for today and it did not disappoint. The mermaids were pretty good acting out Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. The best part of the show was most likely not planned; a turtle in the water was constantly trying to get close to the performers and actually bumped into them a couple of times. I loved seeing all of the kids using their minds being skeptics, constantly asking if they were real and where their legs were and why they needed air if they were mermaids. Being a skeptic is ingrained in us and we need to keep that in our kids for a better future. The park was cool, walking around with us were peacock and peahens. The waterpark that is connected was closed off and on because of nearby storms, so no pool time today. Lunch was great at Perkins, apparently a local restaurant chain, wish we had some up north; the food was good, service was good, and the baked sweets looked yummy.
A funny thing from last night, we were watching AFV and one of the final movies was a wedding scene with the pastor’s cell phone ringing in the middle of the service, he answers a call from god, haha yeah I know but the best part is that the pastor I recognized the instant he said hello on the phone….Kent Hovind. Another story? Well, ok.
Remember those Heavens Gate folks, yeah Nikes and Kool-aid. Story is that they bought a telescope to look for their spaceship behind Hale-Bop but were unable to find it….what did they do; use that lack of evidence to turn from their beliefs? Nope they returned it stating it didn’t work correctly. Insane right? I think this is a good story for everyone, if you hold a belief and find direct counter evidence for that belief you need to let go of that belief, there is no reason to hold on.

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Yet another great day with my ladies. Got up late this morning and had to leave the Hilton Garden Inn. We didn’t make it to Weeki Wachee so our plans have been adjusted. WW is tomorrow, GGs tomorrow night, and another day at the beach.
Before leaving Orlando we visited the most unique McDonalds in the world, I think. This is not like any MickeyDs you’ve ever been to; it has the regular menu and a play place but it also has an arcade and sells pizza, pastas, waffles, panini, and the like….insane. Sorry to say I didn’t have a great experience with the lady who took our order being rude when I asked for no lettuce on my breakfast sandwich and an unexpected spread only croissant. Crystal, however, had a good Belgian Waffle with strawberries and whipped cream, and of course Sariah picked at a sausage biscuit and had fun in the arcade and play place. On our way out we hit up the Bass Pro Shop Orlando; Sariah got a new mermaid doll and a net to take to the beach to catch fish or crabs, I got some fun Christmas gifts for some of you guys, and Crystal wouldn’t let us leave without some fudge (pretty good idea though I think).
Since we changed our plans for GGs and Weeki Wachee we had an extra night to stay somewhere and some time that we could easily fill with some beach time so we drove over towards Weeki Wachee to be closer for when we go. We’re now bunkered down in the HoJo in Port Richie and just got back from the beach. We drove down to Clearwater Beach and it was well worth the drive. Sariah got in and was loved swimming and looking for shells. I’m so glad she likes the beach, I was worried that she wouldn’t want to go in and we’d have to stay on the beach the whole time.
Looking forward to seeing the mermaids tomorrow but more so for GGMA and PA!

Punch Bug Leaderboard
Crystal……5
Sariah…….2
Daddy…….1

Good Food, Good Times….O’Charley’s?

No, not O’Charley’s, the Browns; Madey, Mickey, Jay, and Angela! We had such a great time with these old library friends today. We all met up at Downtown Disney and strolled, shopped, and ate. Madey and Sariah were quite excited to see each other, as were the adults, but Mickey could have cared less; good ole Mickey. I haven’t talked with J much before but I like him; he got two small references I made that I doubted anyone would get (one about Family Guy and the other about Julian Smith), I knew at least my wife wouldn’t but I like to think passers-by hear and appreciate them.
Downtown Disney is great. We were able to spend a few hours walking around and didn’t have to pay admission or anything. We walked through the largest Disney store, in the world I think. Sariah actually did come out with a set of 10 princess dolls but for only $30! Score! We would have spent a few dollars at the Giradelli store if it hadn’t had a line out the door, better luck next time ladies.
We ate at Earl of Sandwich, it was great and actually cost less than our lunch at Denny’s. I had the Cannonballer (meatball sub), Crystal had the Caprese’, and Sariah stuck with her old favorite of Mac and Cheese. The mac is pretty darn good but still comes in second to Panera’s.
At The sandwich shop is a splash pad or interactive fountain the kids can play in, and of course, Madey and Sariah had to get all in. They both came out SOAKED and exhausted.
Depending on the weather we may have to change our Weeki Wachi plans but I hope they hold out. Excited to get to see GGMA and GGPA soon, Ocala here we come, soon.

Punch Bug Leaderboard
Daddy…..5
Sariah…..2
Mommy…..ZERO! Aww tough luck 🙂

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