Birth Certificates Cost $7 More Than Death Certificates, and other things I Learned Last Thursday…

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I enrolled my oldest in Pre-K today. It was much more exciting than it sounds. I started by taking what I thought was the correct paperwork to the elementary school on my lunch break. I was informed that I was missing a few key components of my son’s packet, namely his birth certificate. Apparently those are important.

So, being the proactive OCD person I am I decided that there’s no time like the present. I went back to work and devised a plan. Got off at 2:45, made it to my children’s school by 3:15, FINALLY got them in the car and buckled in by 3:40. Now here’s where it gets fun.

The Civic Center in Santa Ana closes at 4:30. I am 20 minutes away (without traffic). No such luck in Orange County.

I Google Maped my way to the Civic Center (which conveniently has NO signage). Parked. Wrangled my boys out of the car. It was now 4:10.

Holding one wriggling two-year-old and dragging my four-year-old around the building (which is in a LOVELY part of downtown Santa Ana) we made it into the building.

I find the records office and get in line. It’s 4:17.

Then as I relax (as best I can while being kicked in the gut by Lincoln as he tries to escape my grasp) and look around the room my eyes land on a hand-written sign penned in Sharpie “No Credit or Debt accepted. Cash only”. Seriously?

I had six dollars in my wallet.

Deep, slow, frustrated breath. Eye roll. And, go!

I grab Nixon’s hand and tell him we get to go for a run. I sprint to the curb and look franticllay for anywhere where I could get cash. Bodega, nope. Laundry mat, nope. Boarded up scary looking abandoned building, probably not. Oh thank The Lord… Chase.

We run (I run holding them) across the street. The homeless man with no shoes in the middle of the crosswalk yells at me. I nod.

Inside the bank my boys wait until I’m at the ATM and then execute operation “Divide and Conquer”. They go in different directions. The machine is taking longer than normal, on-purpose. I hate the machine.

I grab Nixon mid deposit-slip throw. Lincoln is army crawling in a circle nearby.

It’s 4:25.

I scoop them up. Smile and wave at the people giving me “knowing” “amused” looks and bolt out the double doors.

Homeless / shoeless tells me that the windows are dirty in a very aggressive tone. I smile and say thank you as we clip through the crosswalk.

In the doors, to the office, and the clerk has started to latch the top (This office is closed) latch. We slide in like Indy before he reaches back and grabs his whip.

No joke 4:27.

The large angry looking man behind the glass says, “Hey man, we’re closing what did you need?”

I look at him exasperated, “A babysitter.”

He looks up from his paperwork, sees my face, sees Lincoln pulling my hair, laughs and says, “Me too brother. I only get one when my Moms in town. What can I get you?”

Bless you! Dad love! 10 minutes later I had two birth certificates in hand and was headed to the parking lot.

A day later Nixon would be enrolled. We celebrated with an In-N-Out feast. God is good ya’ll!

Oh, and a record of birth is seven dollars more expensive than a record of death. Go figure.

DIY: Backyard Bar

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So this summer as I was going through my wallet I noticed that my man-card had expired. When did that happen?

Not being okay with that I decided to get my man on. I took apart the dryer, annndd, put it back together. Did outdoor solar lighting, hung pictures, TV’s, started making beer mugs out of old craft beer bottles, and then I got really ambitious and decided I wanted a rustic backyard cooler/bar.

Well, my journey was as follows.


I went to Home Depot and bought a cooler, what I thought was enough wood (so very, very wrong), a T-Square, a Circular Saw, Orbital Sander, Jigsaw, nails, and Wood Glue.

I then sketched out the basic design I wanted (which I later flipped and altered as I progressed).

First I set the cooler on the 3/4 inch thick plywood sheet I had and measured out how wide I wanted the cooler compartment to be. I didn’t want the cooler to be permanently fixed into the bar so I left about and inch and quarter clearance on all sides.

Once I had the measurements set I cut the plywood and started to frame the cooler.


I kept the cooler side about two inches below the top of the box.


My carpenters appreciate operated by the tried and true axiom, “Measure 32 times, hit things with a hammer, and unplug everything.


Once the frame was done I cut 5.25 x 0.75 inch boards to cover the outside.


With the cooler done I moved onto the bar.


I was going to add an upper level to the bar per my original design, but I then realized that I am not 7 feet tall and it would be extremely inconvenient to try to do anything except hang from the top and do pull ups. So I nixed the second level. I made the bar top two inches lower than the cooler top for some aesthetic contrast.

Same procedure. Once framed, I covered the outside.


Mind you no nail gun here folks. I’d say about 200 nails were hammered into this bad-boy by Your’s Truly. I did put liquid nails between each connection as I went as well.

I put a flat-top edge around the cooler so that people could set drinks on it, and I just thought it looked cool. After that I framed and built the lid.



Legs. Oh the legs. Stupid… Stupid legs. Finding the right height was a process that required setting the now 100 pound bar on anything I could find to get a sense of where I wanted it to rest. I am also very OCD and indecisive/second guessy so it took a while for me to feel satisfied.


Cut the legs to the height I wanted and attached one side then used the workout bench (which was the height I agreed on) to prop up the other side to attach the other two.


Once the legs were on I got to sanding. I used my orbital sander and course grain paper and went to town. Evened out the rough spots (and to be honest the spots where my measurements mayyyy have been a little bit off). I also added accent pieces to completely frame the bar top and sides.

Then I started the polyurethane varnish process. 4 coats for me. I liked the natural color of the wood so I didn’t stain it.


Finally I put on my hardware, knobs, hinges, etc. Lightly sanded it with fine grain paper, put one more UV protectant coat of varnish, and that’s a bar.


1.5 weeks, three smashed fingers, 20 splinters, about $150 in, and four trips to Home Depot. But I have a cool bar that is sturdy, quality made, and a conversation piece.

Hope you like it. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below. Also feel free to share this post.

Cheers!

http://www.vnicholasgerasimou.com

Get out of the boat: Faith, Courage, & Belief.

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In the Bible, the Apostle Peter walked on water. Most people automatically connect that talent with Jesus Christ, but in the fourteenth chapter of Matthew, we read about how Jesus was out for a leisurely stroll on the Sea of Galilee, in a gale no less, and told Peter to walk out to him. No big deal. We read that Peter got out of the boat and started to walk on water toward The Lord. But then poor Peter falters. He takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins focusing on the wind, and the waves, and the fact that he is, oh… I don’t know, WALKING ON WATER! Fear and doubt overtake him and he begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus for help and The Lord reaches out and catches his hand. Poor Peter. He failed. He floundered. He almost fell flat.

They look at each other, Peter trying to catch his breath, blinking away the sea-spray, and Jesus patiently waiting for him to collect himself. With chaos all around them and a boat full of onlookers marveling in wonder from behind them, Jesus calmly leans in and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

What did Peter feel in that moment? Guilt? Shame? Relief he didn’t drown? Maybe gratitude for being saved? What we do know for sure is that he had just proved his lack of faith in God. He fell. Jesus had to lift him up. How embarrassing. And in front of his friends too.

I fear some of us may be missing an important point about this event. What I mean is there is more than one message to learn from this passage.

What does it mean to have faith? I guess that would be dependent on what you have faith in. For example, I had faith that the chair I’m sitting in would support my weight. I didn’t even think about it. I just sat down. No debate or fear. I had faith. It’s easy to have faith in things I can see. Things I can test. Things that can empirically prove to me over a protracted duration of trial and error that they won’t let me down.

What about things I can’t see? How about… air? I can’t see it (that’s not entirely true, high pressure system, Southern-California smog begs to differ). I can’t hold it in my hand. I can’t smell it (I refer back to my aside on smog). But I know it’s there. I trust it will keep me alive, nourish my tissues, and I can feel it caress my skin when the Santa Ana’s whip it out to sea. I believe in air.

Faith is typically defined as a complete trust or confidence in something or someone. Faith in love, humanity, in God. Faith in the hope that everything is going to work out. Faith in faith. Even atheists have faith. They have faith and believe that there is no God.

But I think that people paint Old Peter with a very broad stroke. What we are missing is that faith can ebb and flow. Faith can be dented, or hidden, or momentarily overshadowed by tragedy or trauma. We can get lost and take our eyes off the prize.

Peter took his eyes off of God and started focusing on the storm around him. He let the chaos he found himself in get in the way of his faith in the Lord, who happened to be standing directly in front of him. He was human, and like all of us flawed, weak, and afraid.

Yes Peter failed one test of faith, but what many miss is that moments prior he passed a test that I personally admire and hold in very high esteem.

He got out of the boat.

Peter got out of the boat. He did something that went against every rational impulse that a mortal, person governed by the laws of physics should have done.

He took his faith in God and put it into practical action, He had faith that God would support him on the water. He got out of the boat! That’s crazy when you really think about it.

We just accept it all because it’s in the Bible but really take a minute and think about it. You’re Peter. You’ve had a really long day. It was hot. Muggy. Dusty. You just received word that Jesus’s cousin John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod. Throngs of people from across Judea flocked to Jesus for healing and blessing and prayer and encouragement. You did your best to facilitate some type of order.

Crowd control was a lost cause. You were pushed, stepped on, shoved, bumped, complained to, and possibly yelled at. People get grumpy when they’re hungry. Later that evening you tell Jesus, “Hey Lord, it’s getting late and we’re kind of out in the middle of nowhere. We should probably send these people home to get a bite to eat and get some shuteye.” The Lord shakes His head and says (I’m paraphrasing), “No, we’ll feed them, bring me what we have.” You look around at the thousands of people and then down at the measly five loaves of bread and two scrawny fish you’ve managed to scrounge up. “Uhh, Lord. I think we may have a problem.” Jesus smiles a knowing smile and blesses the food, hands it to you and your companions and tells you to feed the crowd. The bread is never ending. It simply regenerates out of the basket as do the fish. You watch in amazement as a feast is seemingly created from nothing. Is there nothing this guy can’t do?

It’s night. Jesus tells you and the other disciples to go ahead of him on the boat and he’ll catch up. Catch up? Is he going to swim over? But you do as you’re told. As soon as you cast off the beach a storm picks up. Wind gusts whip up seven foot swells. Waves crash against the hull of your small fishing boat. Worry tugs at your heart. This is bad. Where is God when you need Him? Hours pass. Maybe you doze off, maybe not. Then someone sees a ghost. A cry goes out on the boat and everyone looks port. A hazy form looks to be approaching where you’re floating. Cries of fear escape your lips.

Then from the water you hear a familiar voice, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” It can’t be. Could it? Is that Jesus? Walking on the water? Am I hallucinating? Well, I have seen him do some pretty amazing things, you think to yourself. I have faith in him. I trust him. So when he tells you to get out of the boat and defy every natural, rational survival impulse you have… you do it.

Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make all that much sense to us at the time. Things that scare us. Things that push us out of our comfort zone. Things we could get ridiculed for, or looked down at for, or lose Earthly position or possessions for.

He asks us to do these things with no more than His word, and a promise that He is in control and has our best interests in mind.

Share the gospel with that stranger (What if they don’t listen?). Share the gospel with your family (What if they reject me?). Give your money to the poor (What if I don’t have enough left for me?). Volunteer, serve, and help (What if I don’t have the time or don’t get compensated?) Give that up (But I like it.) Stop spending time with them (But I’ll miss them.)

The point I’m trying to make is Peter deserves more credit for this story than he gets. God ultimately gets all the glory, but from a human standpoint wherein we can take a valuable lesson away from an event, I feel that taking that first step was courageous.

God calls us to step away from this world and into what He has planned for us. We will all falter. We will all fail. We will all constantly sin (unfortunately). Those facts are a given. What’s most important is that we stay faithful and step out in faith toward what God has called us to do.

Get out of the boat.

Nick Gerasimou is a father of two, author, blogger, and educator based out of South Orange County, Ca.

http://www.vnicholasgerasimou.com

What do you think is happening here? Finish his story… Or at least tell me what you think is going on.

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I wrote this a while back as a beginning to a story. I liked the imagery. What do you think is happening here because I still have no idea? Let me know what you think about it.

The screaming made his teeth burn. It was an odd sensation. They actually felt like they were on fire, and he could have sworn he tasted metal. He registered this input in a deep, rarely used part of his brain that was somehow removed from the frantic terror that had jumped into the driver’s seat. Nothing mattered except breaking free. Nothing. Not the sting of stomach acid biting at the inside of his nostrils. Or the way the vomit had made the front of his shirt feel thick and heavy like wet plaster as he ran. Nothing.

The fact that he still couldn’t breathe, or see very well for that matter didn’t concern him in the least. He had to get away. Everything had gone white. The world was running away. His mouth clapped shut when his knees hit the ground. A coughing spasm forced it back open moments later. It was hard to breathe. Fat ropes of spittle and mucus hung from his lips and nose, and the dust in the air had combined with his tears to create a crusty paste that had effectively sealed his eyes shut.

Chest heaving. Everything was still white. There was nothing but now. No reason he could consciously articulate for the fear, there was just fear. That’s all there was. Pure animal-brain fear.

Sensations chipped away at the adrenaline like a pick-axe through thin ice. Beams of light broke through his lashes. His eyelids were made of sandpaper. Falling forward. His right hand began screaming at him. It rolled sideways off the rock pile it had landed on leaving a thin blood spot where his wrist buckled. His shirt was cold against his skin. There were flashes of purple and red. The ringing in his ears was beginning to make his nose run again. There were voices. Now hands. Hands grabbing him. Holding him. Turning him. It had all gone from white to clear. The world was clear, non-existent. Then there was nothing.”

Nick Gerasimou is an author and educator. His works are available on AMAZON. Take a moment and visit his website:

http://www.nicholasgerasimou.com

Purchase his latest novel on AMAZON:

http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Steps-Behind-The-Veil/dp/0692235159/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1YJ03XJJ5TD85M99NE05

Angels, Demons, and the Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled.

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The Bible says that at some point in time, there was a civil war in heaven. It was waged between two opposing factions spawned out of an eternal race of spiritual beings that The Lord God created before He breathed life into His ultimate creation… humans. These angelic beings were divided by a violation of a loyalty ideology which ultimately tore them apart.

There was a particular angelic being whom we have a number of names for. Lucifer, Satan, the Devil, the Great Dragon, the Crafty Serpent, the Deceiver, the Father of Lies, the Destroyer… the list goes on and on. What we do know based on scripture is that he was an angel of light. God created him to be one of the leaders of the angelic forces. He was powerful and beautiful; on par with Michael the general of God’s armies. God elevated him to a lofty position in heaven and unfortunately it began to go to his head.

Then one day back in time immemorial, Lucifer made a proclamation. He declared that he was his own god. He bought into his own hype and demanded the same praise and worship that he was originally created to give to God. He was apparently also a gifted motivational speaker, much in the way Hitler was gifted at getting people to think what he wanted them to (I’m assuming Lucifer had something to do with that). He convinced one third of the angelic beings to adhere to his new personal life philosophy and doom themselves to damnation by rebelling against the One True God who created them.

So they fought. How fierce the battle was, how long it raged, the actual violence or literal logistical combat that occurred we unfortunately aren’t privy to. The Bible is silent on this epic event. What we do know is that Lucifer and his rebels were cast out of heaven and now roam the Earth. Again, the literal, day-to-day logistics of this existence is a mystery to us. But we are told that they are here.

We also know that God’s holy angelic forces are among us, working on His behalf for the benefit of His kingdom. The word angel loosely translates to messenger. Those holy beings have appeared to humans in physical form over the eons. We have a number of documented accounts in the Bible. They have delivered messages, given prophecy, and even supernaturally and physically saved people from harm or death.

This reality has always fascinated me. The fact that an unseen world is thriving in a plane of existence that we aren’t able to see, but which we are at the same time intimately involved in hurts my head. The fact that a legion of powerful spiritual beings that literally hate the fact I exist are locked in combat with others who are dedicated to my protection and salvation through Jesus Christ captivates my imagination.

As I write this, could there be an angelic protector standing behind me, looking over my shoulder? Could there be another being, filled with hate and rage at the fact that God loves me and chose me over him, standing on the other side of my desk screaming blasphemies and lies at me that I perceive as doubt, or negative thoughts, or sinful desires? Does the evil voice flying out of that ancient mouth sound like my own in my head? Can they cause my anxiety? Throw me into depression? I’m confident my emotional issues are chemically driven, but is there a spiritual component as well? Do they fight over me? What does that look like? Do they have swords? Armor? I don’t know but I’d sure love to.

Now, today in 2016, in the era of instant access to information from every corner of the planet, we have become a bit desensitized. As a culture we are inundated with dramatic images, horrific stories, and as Americans, reports of strife and war from the other side of the world. We are culturally numb to pain, and crime, and death. It’s tragic.

But I have at times wondered why Satan, who is the general of the fallen army, hasn’t made his grand appearance. I know the Bible foretells why. There is a time and place for him to do this in the last seven years before The Lord comes back. The script has been written. But I wonder why If Satan knows the end of the story and his ultimate fate, why he doesn’t break role and try to change it up?

Defiance? Maybe. I think the more likely answer is pride. Stubbornness. He must be so defiant and filled with rage that he will fight to the end out of duty to his narcissism. Anger can blind. Why doesn’t he appear to us? Why doesn’t he command his soldiers to take physical form and wreak havoc on the Earth?

The answer to that question has to be strategy. He is an expert on human nature. He has been studying us for eons. He knows our weaknesses. He knows our flaws. He knows how our brains work, literally. He is the father of lies.

If they appeared to us and made a public declaration that was then instantly broadcast on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, the globe would no longer question the validity of the Bible. Millions, if not Billions of people would instantly turn to Jesus out of fear and the reality of the spiritual realm. Satan wants to rule us, and ultimately destroy as many of us as he can in the time he has left on Earth.

As I said, he knows how the story ends. He has to know deep down that he loses in the end. He is condemned. An analogy involving a lack of peripheral vision and a swimming pool comes to mind when I ponder this truth.

When someone’s hands suddenly meet you squarely in the back between the shoulder blades, and your center of gravity is violently propelled forward over the open expanse of blue chlorinated water, what is the first thing you do? You reach out and try to pull as many people as you can in with you as you go down. Misery loves company.

Satan wants to take as many people down with him as he can. He hates us. In the movie The Usual Suspects, Verbal Kint played masterfully by Kevin Spacy says, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.” It’s a masterful strategy. To let the sinful nature that resides in each of us to simply win out. Maybe with some subtle coaxing and subversive suggestions to do what he did. To be our own gods. To follow our own paths. To get what’s owed us. To focus on the world and our sinful flesh, rather than on our God who loves us.

What can I say… it’s worked pretty well so far. There’s a quote in the 2014 film “God’s Not Dead” that I think encapsulates this paradigm perfectly. In it a man named Mark is yelling at his live-in girlfriend’s mother who suffers from Dementia and Alzheimer’s. He says, “You prayed and believed your whole life. Never done anything wrong. And here you are. You’re the nicest person I know. I am the meanest. You have dementia. My life is perfect. Explain that to me!” She sits silently in her comatose state then suddenly as if supernaturally the woman’s eyes clear and she turns to him and says, “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly it’s too late.”

Think about it. In a battle for the mind and soul that revolves around people choosing of their own free will to acknowledge and accept a truth about the One True God, and His Sacrifice for our sins through His son, the God incarnate person of Jesus Christ, how would you stop people from traveling down the path to salvation?

Would you manifest yourself in all of your horrible, terrifying, rage-filled, supernatural glory? No. That would polarize people. It would crystallize a binary truth and force a choice.

No, instead you would subtlety lead people astray. Satan is playing the long game.

You would influence people and play on their selfish desires. You would take eons to slowly chip away at the concept of absolute truth. If there is but one way to salvation and to God, you would introduce doctrines over the millennia that run contrary to that belief.

You would appear to groups of people across the globe and do what you do best… lie. You would sell the idea that there are an infinite number of paths to Heaven and to God. Chi. Shakra. Reincarnation. Nature worship.

You would set up entire religions based on worshiping legions of your minions who profess to be gods. Polytheism. You would set up your minions and lead them through thousands of years of foundational, traditional religious establishment. Generations would be indoctrinated with your lies. You would become legend and lore.

You would appear to a man in a cave in 610.AD and tell him you are the Archangel Gabriel. You would then dictate a new holy book to him denying Jesus. You would tell him that he is God’s final prophet. Maybe you supernaturally give him the ability to spread his message to the world. Keep pulling people down into the pool.

Maybe you appear to a young, gullible, struggling man in Vermont in the early 1800’s. Maybe you appear as angel of light calling yourself Moroni and indoctrinate him with a new revelation of God that runs contrary to the simple truth of who Jesus Christ is and His sacrifice for our sins. Maybe you give him a supernatural boost to help him spread the new message? More people down into the pool.

Look at every Semi-Christian or Bible-Based cult or group and you will find threads of commonality. The denial of Jesus Christ as God incarnate and a member of the Holy trinity. The denial of the authenticity of scripture and the need to add to it. The need to break the ties to Jesus’s sacrifice as the only means of salvation.

Sound familiar? Maybe you slowly influence global society to fight against absolute truth, and accept an all-inclusive do what is right in your own eyes mentality. Slowly the lines between right and wrong, good and bad, moral and not, truth and lie are erased. The value of life, gender, sexuality, freedom, choice, expression all become fluid concepts.

All from behind the scenes. Brilliant strategy.

Splash. Splash. Splash. More people plunge into the pool.

Like I said at the outset, I am endlessly curious of what is actually happening behind the scenes. Literally. I want to know how it actually works. Nuts and bolts.

To that end, I attacked this concept and wrote a book about it. In 2015 I published “Hidden Steps: Behind the Veil”. It is a fictional story about a young man named Conner. Conner lives the typical college life of a sinful non-believing twenty year old. He feels the tug of Jesus on his heart but fights it with everything he has. During the book we are privy to four snapshots of his life at pivotal moments in his spiritual journey. They test his faith, strength, and sanity. He escapes death, blindly stumbles onto the path The Lord has set before him, and ultimately accepts Jesus before he is faced with a monumental choice where more than one life hangs in the balance. In it you get to experience how I see God’s master plan play out in the life of one young man, and how things that seem a lot like luck or random chance can be much, much more.

I then retell each chapter from the viewpoint of the angelic and demonic beings that the Bible teaches are all around us. I tried to show how I believe the battle for our souls rage beyond what we can perceive. The prospect simultaneously fills me with dread and wonder. Security and fear.

I believe in God and Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for my sins. That means I believe in the Bible. That means I believe in angels, which also means I have to believe in fallen angels or demons.

If you want a unique perspective on the spiritual world, and are intrigued by my viewpoints (and writing style) I hope you will consider grabbing a copy of my latest book. On sale right now for $9.34 on Amazon.

Thank you so much and God Bless!

Nick

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http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Steps-Behind-Nicholas-Gerasimou/dp/0692235159/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=1MRE8DTKXRXD1Z7TEEE9

Why Everyone Should Train Jiu-Jitsu at Least once in Their Life: (Part 4) When the wheels fall off. Getting Hurt vs. Getting Injured and how not to lose your mind when you do.

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411Death and taxes, picking the slowest line to checkout at the supermarket, and getting banged up when you train are all things in life that are pretty much guaranteed. Growing up on the football field as I did, playing though pain was a way of life. Our coaches used to ask us if we were hurt, or injured when we limped off the field. There was a difference. If you were hurt, you were advised to rub some fairy dust on your feelings, take off your dress, and end your little tea party. Hurt meant you were just being mentally weak, and you should persevere through your ouchie and continue to perform. However if you were injured, it meant you should probably go to the hospital because a shiny white bone was broken and protruding through your skin somewhere where it shouldn’t be.

Those were your two options. Feast or famine. For us or against us. Simple binary. If you chose to sit out due to being “hurt”, you were put on a short list of “Those guys” by your coaches. “Those guys” were not guys you wanted to be associated with. They were dispensable, and weak, and couldn’t be counted on. So I played. Through a number of concussions (which, as an aside, as an adult living in the current climate of football culture being scrutinized due to CTE issues, kind of freaks me out), broken bones, torn ligaments, dislocations, and lacerations; I plowed ahead. I’m paying for that mindset today… let me tell you.

Now that I’m fifteen years removed from wearing a helmet I can see the culture for what it was, and what it is. Its indoctrination at its finest. Designed to instill the overtly masculine values of toughness, teamwork, selflessness, dedication, and working toward a common goal where individual needs take a backseat to the collective good. They’re the same values instilled in military boot camp but to a much lesser degree.

In Jiu-Jitsu, getting hurt, and even injured are a way of life. It is a combat sport. Combat is brutal at times. The goals are to A) manipulate your opponents joints in such a way that they must submit by tapping or risk dislocation or breakage of their body, or B) cause them to submit by applying adequate pressure to the neck by way of a series of creative and inventive chokes which restrict the air and blood flow to the brain which will ultimately result in unconsciousness.

I guess what you have to ask yourself is: Why am I training? What is your purpose? Are you gifted enough to be an Open Division Black-Belt National Champion? Abu-Dabi? Mundials? Main stage at Metamoris? Get sponsors? Make a living at being a professional submission fighter? Chances are slim, but if you are, you’re going to push through a great deal of pain with little regard for your overall health and your ability to walk later in life. You are living in the NOW because you have a small window of time to be at the TOP of your game.

Are you just a really competitive person? Young? Aggressive? Something to Prove? Full of testosterone and youthful spongy cartilage inside your knees? If so then you may push yourself pretty darn hard. You may fight, and train, and spar at 100%. All the time. All. The. Time. The older guys in your gym look at you and wince. They watch you attempt cartwheel passes, blast through full-speed driving double-legs across the mat to take your training partner down, and arch unnaturally with adrenaline and explosive strength to escape bad positions you find yourself in. Well, God bless you. But just know that, that looks horrific from our point of view. So, so very painful. Or are you a hobbyist like me? Are you training for the great workout, the comradery, and the challenge of learning as much as you can for as long as your body lasts?

Whatever your reason, one is not any better or worse than another. I feel that you just need to understand your paradigm to know when to say enough is enough. You need to know your limits. Here is a list of things I have learned over the past 8 years. They may work for you or not, but they have allowed me to stay consistent through 2 surgeries, herniated disks, countless strains, a frightening lack of healthy cartilage in my shoulders and knees, finger and toe dislocations, and a veritable cornucopia of ouchies.

  1. When you get hurt, protect yourself. Change the way you train. Cater your rolling to adapt to your new limitation.
  2. Tell your training partner about your issue so that they’re aware of it. But don’t rely on them to take care of you. Especially if you’re training with a lower belt. During a roll, there is movement, adrenaline, and people fall into a routine where they focus on their favorite moves. If your partner only passes to their right and attacks the left shoulder with a Kimora once they get side-control, it’s your job to protect your arm or tap EXTREMELY EARLY (even before they start the submission) to avoid injury.
  3. Don’t be afraid to tell your instructor that you won’t be live-rolling. Ask him to pair you with a lower belt so you can roll light and control the pace.
  4. Give up bad positions. Let people pass if need be. Don’t fight submissions.
  5. Leave your pride at the door. I refer back to numbers 2 and 4.
  6. This one is tough. If you get injured, really injured… Stop Training. Let your body heal. When is an injury, not an injury? When it’s a chronic condition that requires surgery because you kept aggravating it and wouldn’t listen to your body. That’s when…
  7. Fight the irrational fear that all of your technique is melting away because you have been off the mats for two weeks and just stay home. Watch videos on YouTube to get your BJJ fix when you’re Jonesing. Or come to class, watch, and if you’re able to, drill some light technique, and then when rolling starts, go home.
  8. Live to fight another day. Let the little stuff go. You’ll have bad days on the mat when it feels like you’re a fish out of water. Like there’s concrete in your joints and your limbs are made of lead. People who you usually do very well against will smash you. They will cut through your guard like a hot knife through butter and to add insult to injury (no pun intended) catch you in your favorite submission. You’re endurance is non-existent. Nothing works. Everything hurts, and you seriously consider hanging up your belt. Don’t. As you drive home reflect on why you’re training. Look at the big picture and realize even though you got smashed, you got a great workout and you still learned something.
  9. Take sage advice with a grain of salt. Realize that some things won’t work for you. Realize that sometimes people are only speaking to their own experiences and what a 37 year old hobbyist Brown-Belt has to say may not directly apply to the entirety of your Jiu-Jitsu journey.

Then again you may be a superhuman, incredibly gifted and blessed athlete who can train at a maximum level of effort and strength for the duration of your Jiu-Jitsu career and be none the worse for it. If that’s you know that I admire your God-given ability, and that I wince in perceived phantom pain every time I watch you bridge high enough to drive a semi-truck under the small of your back.

Nick Gerasimou is currently a Brown Belt under Juliano Prado at ‘Total MMA Studios’ in Tustin, CA.

He is an author and educator and his works are available on AMAZON. Take a moment and visit his website:

http://www.nicholasgerasimou.com

Purchase his latest novel on AMAZON:

http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Steps-Behind-The-Veil/dp/0692235159/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1YJ03XJJ5TD85M99NE05

 

 

Why Everyone Should Train Jiu-Jitsu at Least Once in Their Life: (Part 3) – The old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be.

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How long do our bodies last? Can you train into your golden years?

The definition of perpetual motion is, “[T]he motion of a theoretical mechanism that, without any losses due to friction or other forms of dissipation of energy, would continue to operate indefinitely at the same rate without any external energy being applied to it.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

How cool would that be? For anything really, but more specifically for us. For these “Mortal Coils” as Shakespeare’s brain child Hamlet put it, to last forever.

Unfortunately for us God built in a failsafe. We call it Thermodynamics. Who knows what He calls it.

The first law of Thermodynamics states that matter/energy cannot be created nor can it be destroyed. The quantity of matter/energy remains the same. It can change from solid, to liquid, to gas, to plasma and back again, but the total amount of matter/energy in the universe remains constant. Okay, so the energy in a light bulb, is the energy in your iPhone, is the same energy in a turkey sandwich. Is just switches from form to form, place to place, forever into eternity into the far reaches of the universe.

It’s the second law that’s a bummer. The second law of thermodynamics is commonly known as the Law of Increased Entropy. This is the law that is most important to my point. It states that while quantity remains the same (First Law), the quality of matter/energy deteriorates gradually over time. It’s the basic tendency of a system to break down. For things to fall apart. Hot coffee set out on a counter gets cold. Why? Where does the heat go? The fabric of your favorite pair of jeans wears out. Why? What happens to the molecules that make up the fibers which make up the material? Have you ever dropped a hand full of marbles on a tile floor? Why do they erratically and explosively disperse? Why don’t they just bounce in place forever? Staying uniformed, tidy and perfect. Why do they stop bouncing at all?

Entropy. Entropy is why. The tendency of a system to deteriorate and slow down. Energy disperses and flies off into the Andromeda Galaxy, and things fall apart. Unfortunately the same principle applies to us. We don’t last forever. As we get older this fact becomes more apparent, and more painful.

Injuries are a part of life. You live long enough and you’re going to get hurt. Carrying groceries in from the car, walking down the stairs in the dark in the middle of the night to get a glass of water while you’re still half asleep, heck I’ve thrown my back out picking up a decorative throw-pillow whilst making the bed. True story, don’t tell anyone.

If you’re an active person, let’s say you go to 24 hour fitness and lift and trudge through thirty minutes of cardio twice a week, your chances of injury go up. And if you train and compete in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that “chance” becomes an inevitability, and you are pretty much guaranteed a storied list of ailments to nurse over your career on the mats.

Combat sports are just that… combat. You are using your body to physically subdue, submit, or pummel another human being until they are no longer theoretically a threat.

Age is cruel mistress in this game. As you age in the Jiu-Jitsu world, you get placed on a sliding scale. As your pure testosterone filled, youth driven athletic ability wanes, your earned wisdom and experience increases. The hope is that as you age and train, your intellect advances at the same pace at which your body falls apart and you maintain your level of ability with your teammates. That’s the hope anyway.

As I stated in my earlier posts about Jiu-Jitsu, I didn’t jump into this world until I was thirty years old. By thirty I was already in a constant state of repair. College football did a number on me. Torn rotator, herniated lumber disks, thin meniscus, etc… etc. But I tell you what, I was exponentially more “Peppy” at 30 than I am now at 37.

Since I began my journey I have had:

  1. 1 shoulder surgery (I need another)
  2. A Lumbar Micro-Discectomy on L-4 and L-5 (Probably going to need another at some point)
  3. 2 dislocated fingers
  4. 1 dislocated toe
  5. A torn calf muscle
  6. 1 popped elbow capsule
  7. Torn ligaments in my right wrist
  8. An uncountable number of bumps, bruises, cuts, bloody lips and noses, and black eyes.

The point is I am never “healthy”, nor will you be if you choose to commit yourself to Jiu-Jitsu. At 30 I could still “Pop”. With adrenaline I could torque my body into unnatural positions and explode out of a bad situation. Now, today, I have had to alter my game a bit.

As you age you must adapt. Your body changes and if you want to continue training into your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on, you need to make certain physical concessions.

Everyone says that Jiu-Jitsu is a pride-less sport. In theory yes, that is in the club charter, but in reality we all have a bit of hubris that drives us. We don’t like to lose.

When I began Jiu-Jitsu I was a bull. That was my game. I played top. I dreaded being on my back. I was strong, aggressive, fast & quick (there’s a difference) and athletic. I prided myself on smashing people from the top. I ate people’s guards for breakfast. I passed people’s guards and crushed them in side-control. My instructors gave me a nickname that I still go by today. “Passodor”. It’s a fun way to say, “The man who passes” or “The passer man” in Portuguese. That became my identity. I passed. White-Belt through Purple I passed.

But as I have aged and progressed in my Jiu-Jitsu game, I have adapted. I’ve had to. Injuries made it necessary. After my shoulder surgery I rehabbed and had to adapt. Now, if I’m on bottom I will simply give up a position and let people pass to my left because I still have no shoulder mobility. I can’t lift it above my head to this day so I protect it. I roll with that in mind now, it’s just second nature. It’s a part of my game. I keep my left arm close to my chest and wait. But here’s where the pride part comes in. If a person happens to get a hold of my left arm and I can see where they’re going with it, and I think that there may be a chance it’s going to be put into a painful position… I tap. Preemptively. Before they have a chance to finish the move. No pride. I have to.

My knees are terrible. When I play open guard I no longer use lasso-guard, nor can I use spider-guard to my right (sorry to my non-Jits peeps who don’t know what that means). My knees won’t allow it.

Basically I’ve had to accept that I will never be a world champion Jiu-Jitsu player. I am a 37 year old hobbyist. I get in to train maybe twice a week if I’m lucky. I have two kids, a loving wife who wants me home for dinner, and a body that screams at me for days after a hard training session.

I let people pass. I have to let people put me in bad situations. I have to let people win. Reason being, I want to be able to walk tomorrow. I want to be able to hold my kids above my head at the park. I’ve had to put Jiu-Jitsu into perspective as I’ve aged.

It is a great workout. It is fun. It is a place where I can hang out with some good friends I’ve made over the years. It’s a challenging sport where I can still experience a level of the competitiveness that still drives me, and that has pushed me through my high school and college years. I get enjoyment and fulfillment from training.

I am a brown-belt hobbyist Jiu-Jitsu player and if The Lord Jesus allows my body to do it, one day I will be awarded my black-belt. And if that happens I will be eternally grateful and proud of that accomplishment. It will mean that I dedicated over ten years of my life to a sport which I love, and that I was lucky and blessed enough to do something with my body that a very, very, very small percentage of the world’s population are able to do.

So to my aging Jits brothers and sister out there, keep training. Ice, heat, Advil, repeat. Take the time to properly warm up. Stretch. Listen to your body. Adapt, and simply enjoy the time you are on the mats because it is finite, and you don’t know how long you’re going to be able to do it.

Nick Gerasimou is currently a Brown Belt under Juliano Prado at ‘Total MMA Studios’ in Tustin, CA.

He is an author and educator and his works are available on AMAZON. Take a moment and visit his website:

http://www.nicholasgerasimou.com

Purchase his latest novel on AMAZON:

http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Steps-Behind-The-Veil/dp/0692235159/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1YJ03XJJ5TD85M99NE05

Rejection just punched me in the FACE. Thank you SIR may I have another!? The woes of Self-Publishing.

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The self publishing industry has revolutionized writing. What was once a good-ol-boy’s club where you had to be published to get published, where you needed an agent to get an agent, and you needed to have sales… to generate sales, changed overnight. Now anyone with an idea can share it with the world, with little more than a few hundred dollars and a dream.

While it is true that anyone can now publish a book and put it up for sale on a number of accessible platforms, it does not mean they will sell books. Even if their book is good, or dare I say it… great, chances are they will wallow in the far lonely corners of the sales ranking pool where the knowledge of these fledgling books fades from memory once the fervor of their release fades, and then quietly, meekly, they die. Like trying to climb a greased slide barefoot, the Amazon market-space can be a difficult place to get a foothold.

“Social media will save me,” many think. “I have hundreds of friends / followers, and they’ll all buy my book.” Well… you are half, no 30%, actually about 11% right.

Social media is an excellent tool to market your book in a grassroots, crowdfund-y, organic-word-of-mouth kind of a way. In theory. In practical application, results may vary.

In reality you cannot rely solely on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to sell your book. Post away to your heart’s content, the harsh truth is… people don’t care as much as you’d like them to. To you, it’s your baby. Your heart and soul. To them, it’s a guy they went to high school with twenty years ago asking for their hard-earned money. Mehhh… (disinterested shoulder shrug).

Ouch. I know. Even your Mom. She doesn’t care. No more report card on the fridge for you.

Lets say that you have 1000 friends on Facebook. Man you’re popular. Go you! And let’s say you post about your new book with the link, send direct email messages, create an author page, and post from there, independently. Lets say you saturate your feed with advertisements and then send text messages to everyone in your phone letting them know you’d like their support. Let’s. Just. Say.

Of your 1000 Facebook “friends” the average self-publisher can count on an 11% ROI (return on investment). That’s 110 books purchased by your loyal friends (and God bless the one’s who bought one). Guess what, some of your own family members won’t take the time to click over and hit the ol’ “Buy” button at Amazon. Your own family. Aunt Mary… how could you? Cold-blooded.

The truth is there are a number of reasons people don’t follow through. Some people don’t like to read. I know, crazy right? Others don’t have the time. Some are lazy and tell themselves they’ll do it tomorrow, then life gets in the way and they forget. Some people don’t really like you (eww, right in the feels). Some don’t believe you can write that well, and some just don’t want to fork over the $10. Whatever the reason, that’s the truth.

To truly market your baby, you need to hustle. You need to post. You need to create a buzz. You need to connect with people. You need to explore different avenues. You need to get lucky, and you need to spend money. Nothing is free. NO-THING.

I know this all may sound like my own personal therapy session where I’m working out my past issues, but I promise, I have learned from my mistakes. So, here’s my free advice. (Just kidding you need to go to Amazon and buy “Hidden Steps” Now, Nothing is free. NOTHING!)

  1. Post about your book. Post, post, post. But if you simply spam your feed in a desperate plea for sales people will un-friend, un-follow, and un-like you. As a person. You turn into annoying white noise and are pushed aside. You need to connect with your followers. You need to be engaging and interesting. You need to give them a reason to want to read your words. Start a blog. Post a daily update or fun-fact. Anything to add substance to your reader’s day. Make them want more of you. Set them up with the jab, then when they aren’t expecting it, throw a right cross and smack them right in the face with your link and sales pitch. BAM!
  2. SPEND MONEY. HUSTLE. You cant be cheap, and or lazy and hope to generate sales. You don’t have a multi-million dollar publishing company behind you hocking your book to an established network of brokers, stores, and dealers. Send out free copies to people in the industry you respect. Ask for a review. Buy marketing plans. Try non-traditional methods. Online market places like Fiverr.com offer a global network of marketers (traditional and social media) to open new avenues for you. The best part is you won’t break the bank. Sell copies at book fairs. Make business cards at VISTA-PRINT with your book on them and hand them out to strangers. Write blog posts about how to market your self-published book… wait, what? Who said that?
  3. Don’t give up. If you truly believe in your book don’t quit. You will get rejected. You will hear no. You will have doors slammed in your face. You will cry yourself to sleep in a puddle of salty tears whilst holding a worn copy of your book in your arms like a baby and softly ask your empty room, “why?”. What? Oh, just me. Okay then. Moving on.

My point is. Selling your book and generating a name for yourself is tough. Ultra, mega, bikini-brief made out of sandpaper tough. But it isn’t impossible. Be okay putting yourself out there. Be blunt. Ask people point blank to buy your book. Whats the worst they can say? No? I can handle that. Sure I die a little inside every time I hear it, but they don’t know that. Smile and move on.

So to all of my self publishing brethren out there: keep the faith, keep writing, keep hustling, and… go buy my latest book “Hidden Steps: Behind the Veil.” On Amazon for only $10.95!!! Come on. You’ll like it. I promise. Angels, Demons, Destiny, Action, Battle, and Heart. What’s not to love? Please go pick one up today!

See that wasn’t that hard.

Now go buy one. Seriously. Now. Here’s the link…

http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Steps-Behind-Nicholas-Gerasimou/dp/0692235159/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416984817&sr=1-1&keywords=hidden+steps+behind+the+veil

Corporate Religion vs. Faith: Subtitle: The Pope, the Whole Pope, and Nothing But the Pope: Sub-Subtitle: My take on Mans place in Christianity.

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So, I know religious division / sects / labeling / denominations / etc, are confusing and frustrating for those who don’t have a faith. They’re also confusing and frustrating for those who do, trust me. Religion is now widely looked at as more of a status symbol or a club affiliation than a relationship with The Almighty Creator.

“I am a Catholic.” Some say. “We are the original faith, 1.2 Billion strong. Revere me.”

“Oh yeah, well IIIIIIII’m a Lutheran. All the taste, half the ceremony.” Other’s retort.

“Well you’re both wrong,” a third religi-sizer interjects, “I’m a Southern-Baptist, Episcopalian, Charismatic, Faith-Healing, Christian-Scientist, with a side of hash browns. Nail that to your church door and smoke it.”

Sadly, I fear many are missing the point. Can’t see the forest through the trees, or maybe more appropriately, can’t see Christ through the stained-glass and incense.

If I had to label myself, I guess I’d say, I’m simply a follower of Jesus Christ, God incarnate whose ultimate once-and-for-all sacrifice made it possible for me to be forgiven for my plethora of continually compounding sins. So you can call me a Christian. I love and believe in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Period.

The reason I’m writing this piece is the fanatic hoopla that has been made over the Pope’s recent and historic visit to the United States. Every news outlet and media service has been focused on his every move. Every facial expression analyzed, every comment debated by political pundits. He dictates the church’s stance on important issues. He says what is forgiven, and what is not. The Pope offers blessings and absolves you from your shameful sins. He is, after all, the leader and head of over one-billion Catholics on planet Earth; is he not?

Is he? Is he really?

Well, my view is no. No he is not. Close your mouth. I know, how could I, right?

The Pope, the position of the Pope, the institution that has been established by the Catholic Church over the last 1600 or so years has been to elevate Men to glory and power using God as a vehicle. The Pope. His holiness. He is simply a man. Like anyone else. He sins just like everyone else. He has impure thoughts just like anyone else. He needs Jesus’s salvation just like anyone else.

He is no closer to God than anyone else. Read the Bible. [F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) It doesn’t say some have sinned. Or most have fallen short. All.

The fact that the “Catholic Church” has established a paradigm wherein a human man is the conduit for a “believer” to communicate with God, receive forgiveness, and “earn” salvation by works, or saying “Hail Marys” or penance, is appalling and directly against what the simple message of Jesus states.

The Pope is a man, and from what I’ve seen more of a politician than anything else. He is purporting to speak for God, enacting His will here on Earth. Again, if you read the scripture and listen to the message Jesus preached you will see that the institution of the Pope sounds eerily similar to the Pharisees and Sadducees which Jesus denounced time and time again.

They were the Jewish religious leaders of the time and they stood in between you and God. They were the only way you could communicate with The Lord. They dictated thousands of laws and regulations that you were required to keep under threat of banishment or ridicule, and they elevated themselves above all of their “parishioners” with an air of superiority, advanced social status, expensive and gaudy robes and adornments, and political power.

Sound familiar? Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge.

The truth is we all have a direct connection to God. A Fastpass to the front of the line. The Batphone if you will. All you need do is simply speak to Him. No buffer. No ceremony. No regulations. No ritual. All you really need to do is read the Bible to see that the majority of what occurs in the Catholic Church today is not found in the Scripture. It is nearly two millennia of men adding rituals, and road-blocks, and qualifiers, and restrictions to a relationship with Jesus to ultimately glorify themselves.

The Catholic Church is a business. A big, powerful, corporate business. A business with scratch in the political arena, and with a vested interest in global economics.

Now those raised in the Catholic Faith will be appalled to read this. I’m sure many will have a visceral reaction to hearing THE VICOR OF CHRIST being questioned. That is simply because for many Catholics, it was how they were raised. Its indoctrination at its finest and I get it. How dare I lambaste your Pope? How dare I blaspheme his holiness?

Therein lies the problem. He is not “His Holiness”. He is not holy at all. He is a man. The Lord Jesus is holy. The Lord Jesus is King. The Lord Jesus is in charge. Not Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis, the 266th Holy Roman Emperor elected by the papal conclave by means of the College of Cardinals.

The Pope cannot forgive you. Nor can he, for example, forgive women who have had abortions (for only 1 year, act now) as he recently stated. The Lord Jesus does that of His own accord. He doesn’t need any help… Last time I checked, He was God.

So I guess the point of this rant is… Anything that takes your eyes off of Jesus and His simple message of love, relationship, and salvation from your sin… Is not Biblical.

Religion vs. Faith and Relationship. Religion says look at me to see how to reach God. Faith simply takes out the middle man (which is what Jesus preached all along). By the way, when Jesus breathed His final completely mortal human breath on the cross, Jerusalem was rocked by a jarring earthquake, “[A]nd the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:38)”. The separation between man and God was torn asunder. No middle man. Its symbolic.

The Pope is a politician. Does he say nice things that are good for the world and the majority of people?

Yes.

Does he kiss children on the forehead and say beautiful blessings over them?

Yes.

Is he probably a very nice person who loves God in his own way?

Yes.

Is he the holy mouthpiece of Jesus Christ whom we must look to for a connection to God?

No.