National Rare Disease Day: What Is Prune Belly Syndrome?

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Me and fellow Prune Belly Syndrome survivors in a conference we had a few years back.

While talking about the topics for our informative speeches in my speech class back in College, many people had ideas that, to be honest, felt cliché.

I, on the other hand, decided to stay close to home and do a topic that means a great deal to me. For my informative essay, I decided to speak on Prune Belly Syndrome. Yes, I’m sure many of you reading this right now are thinking “What are you talking about?” and that’s exactly the reaction I received from my classmates back then.

Just when I was going to reply to the comments, my teacher interrupted me and simply said “oh it’s just like wrinkled abs or something like that,” and began to laugh.

You read that right, the teacher laughed. This may have been six years ago, but remembering just how she laughed, and in turn made everyone else laugh with her, hurts me.

Little did they know, I have Prune Belly Syndrome (Not many people knew, safe to say if you’re reading this you know).

You’re most likely wondering what Prune Belly Syndrome is, well you can google it. Prune Belly Syndrome is a rare, genetic, birth defect affects about 1 in 40,000 births, in which 97 percent of those affected are male.

Prune Belly Syndrome is a congenital disorder of the urinary system, characterized by a triad of symptoms. The syndrome is given its name largely in part to the mass of wrinkled skin that is often (but not always) present on the abdomens of those with the disorder, giving the belly the look of a prune.

No one knows the origin of Prune Belly Syndrome, there are two hypotheses out there (They may bore you, but you’ve gotten this far so why not finish strong, champ?):

1) Urinary tract obstruction: A hypoplastic or dysplastic prostate causes an obstruction of the urethra, thereby creating a urinary tract obstruction leading to overdistension of the bladder and the upper urinary tract, thus stretching the abdominal wall (causing damage to the abdominal musculature)

2) Primary mesodermal developmental defect: An insult between 6 and 10 weeks’ gestation disrupts the development of the lateral plate mesoderm, from which arises both the abdominal wall and genitourinary tract (including the prostate). This is currently the dominant theory.

Let me preface by saying, I’ve been blessed beyond belief.

I don’t have it half as bad as many of the other people I know with Prune Belly Syndrome. I began defying the odds from day one in my life.

To say I’m perfect would clearly be a lie. I have back problems due to Prune Belly Syndrom, I have some kidney problems, and a few other problems as well. Nevertheless, God’s sovereign hand has been in my life from a very young age and I sometimes forget just how marvelous and glorious He truly has been to me.

Why would a college teacher make a joke about something as serious, and deadly, as Prune Belly Syndrome? Many children with Prune Belly Syndrome have a very low life expectancies due to their kidney failures, among a myriad of other issues.

My own parents were told by the doctors that they should have aborted me due to the high probability of death within a few weeks. I’m a miracle story, and every day I thank the Lord Almighty for this.

Why don’t many people know about Prune Belly Syndrome? Simple, no famous celebrity has Prune Belly Syndrome, it’s a sad but true. Parkinson’s has Michael J. Fox, and HIV/AIDS has Magic Johnson, while Prune Belly Syndrome has no one of that stature to talk about it on live television or donate big money to help raise awareness.

Yes, there are organizations out there helping like prunebelly.org, but compared to others diseases, we are very behind in support. It’s just a sad truth. I wish it wasn’t like that but that’s how our society works, we go for the trend. We go for the Ice Bucket Challenges but never look back and see other diseases that could be as serious but will never get the same amount of spotlight.

Since High School, I made it my mission to step up the plate and tell as many people as I can about it. It’s difficult since it’s not one of those conversations you just randomly have around the cooler at work, but little by little people hear about it and are amazed at my story.

I want teens that have Prune Belly Syndrome to be able to talk to me, I want to be there for them. I know how nasty kids in the world can be to someone that doesn’t look like them. In a world where looks are everything, people with Prune Belly Syndrome feel left out, for obvious reasons.

It was hard for me during elementary, middle and even sometimes, high school. Kids are so judgemental and if you don’t look like the status quo, they make fun of you. I want kids with Prune Belly Syndrome to understand they are not alone. I’ve gone through all the nastiness they may be going through and I want to be there to tell them, “It’s okay pal, you’re special.”

I want parents to look at me and say “If Pedro made it, why can’t my son?”

For the longest time I wondered why me, but ever since that teacher back in College made fun of Prune Belly Syndrome, I decided to help raise as much awareness as possible. I want to help in whatever way I can with younger kids or teens that may have Prune Belly Syndrome.

*If you or your kid has Prune Belly Syndrome and want someone to talk to, go to the contact me page and shoot me an email. I’ll be glad to talk to someone.

Prom

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Author’s Note: In my Creative Writing Class a few years ago I was challenged to write about something close to my heart, yet far. Although most of this story is true, some things have been embelished, and names have been changed.

It all started when I was in high school; the years of our lives we hate the most, yet for some reason are the most meaningful. As high school students, we count the seconds until we leave, move on to college, and finally move out of our parents’ home. We long to be individuals, but lose our uniqueness in the process. We are so caught up in making ourselves look “cool” so we can fit in with the popular kids and we forget to be cool to the real friends that matter. The ones that were there for you from that very first day you walked into the big scary high school.

For a very long time, I let my life be measured by the events that happened during my senior year, I thought my life was over, I thought that nothing good could come out of anything anymore. For the longest time, I would have to completely shut off from society when May came around because just thinking about that month hurt. In retrospect, maybe that was a little dramatic.

In the beginning of my junior year, I met a girl in my chemistry class. The way we met was rather interesting, that first day of class out teacher made us look for our own lab partners. I instantly scanned the class and to my dismay, all my friends had already paired up with others.

And then comes this beautiful red-haired, green-eyed girl named Samantha.

“Do you have a partner?” she asked me.

“You’re asking me?” I said rather confused.

She laughed.

“Yes, Chad. Do you have a partner?”

“Uh, no… I don’t have one, do you want to partner up?”

She agreed, and from then on we clicked like I thought we never would. We became good friends, and by October of that year I finally had built up the courage to go up to her and ask her out.

“I thought you would have never asked,” were her exact words as her cheeks turned bright red.

“How about I pick you up at your house tomorrow night at seven for dinner?” I asked with a huge smile on my face.

“That works for me.”

The simple fact Samantha even agreed to a date was surprising. I wasn’t sure if she was being sarcastic or if she truly did want to go out with me. “Are you sure you want to go out with me?” I asked her just in case.

“Yes Chad,” she said which caused her face to get even redder.

You must understand something about me before we go on. I was never one of the most popular of kids back in high school; in fact, even band kids would make fun of me. Samantha was the crème de la crème, and to many, she was perfection. Not only was I not the most popular, but also I was never one of the most outspoken people either. I just went to school, played in the marching band, went home and watched the latest live edition of SportsCenter. So for a girl like Samantha to agree on a date with someone the least interesting, like me, was a shock.

She was gorgeous. I liked everything about her: her petite physique, her beautiful red hair, the freckles on her face, and, of course, those sensational green eyes.

I counted the seconds until I was able to take her out on that date, I had thought of every single possibility, every little thing that could go wrong. That’s one of my worst attributes; I tend to overanalyze every little thing I came across.

The day finally came; we talked during chemistry class a lot. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you what Mrs. Silverman tried to teach us that day in class.

“Where are you going to take me tonight?” asked Samantha.

“Well, I’ve been thinking long and hard about this-”

“Chad, you know what happened when you over think something,” she said cutting me off.

She was right, I’ve only known her for a few months but she already knew me better than my best friend.

“Right, so that’s why I wanted to be safe,” I said, hoping for a response. “I was thinking of taking you to Chilli’s for dinner, then going to the drive-in theater to watch whatever they have playing.”

Her eyes lit up. I knew she had a special love for drive-in movies. She loved the idea of being in the comfort of a car and watching a movie in a huge outside screen.

“Yes, I love it!” she said excitedly.

Before I could say anything to her, the bell rang. As I walked her to her next class, all we could do is smile at on another. As she held my arm she talked about all the great movies playing at the drive-in we were going to, but to be honest with you, I was on cloud nine and I wasn’t even paying attention to what she was saying.

I must admit, as I got ready, I couldn’t help being a nervous wreck. The thoughts kept popping in my head: “What do I wear?” “What shoes go well with this shirt?” “What if she was just saying that to make me happy?” Finally, I decided to just close my eyes and empty my mind from everything. I finally decided on the black polo with the retro Jordan III’s.

My drive to her house that night was one of the most petrifying drives of my life. Unsure of what to expect, I knew that she already said yes, and if she didn’t want to go out with, she would have said no.

That one thought in my head really helped me as I picked her up, and drove to Chilli’s. I knew that my only now job was not to mess this date up.

As we sat a Chilli’s, we talked about everything from how the Miami Heat were doing terrible that year, to what we wanted to do after we finally graduated in two years.

Sam insisted she wanted to stay local and go to the community college, I told her my ambitions of working for ESPN, which was usually met with laughter, but she didn’t laugh. She thought I had the talent to do it, and believed in me. That has stuck to me to this day.

I like to think back and say I did a very good job that night. That first date with Samantha was one of the best first dates I’ve ever had, we talked for hours, watched a great movie, and at the end of the night, it had become obvious she wanted to be more than just friends.

Samantha was my high school sweetheart. We dated our entire junior and senior year, about a year and a half. We were inseparable; we even worked out a way to have most of the same classes.

She was the apple of my eye, every time I saw her I remembered that first time in Mrs. Silverman’s chemistry class where I met her and fell in love with her green eyes. I felt as if I was the luckiest guy in the world, cliché I know.

I was a different person around her; even my friends and family could tell something happened. Before I met her, I was a gloomy person, not caring about things, and just wishing I could punch the face of the imbecile in front of me. For those 17 months, I had a complete makeover and turned my life around 180 degrees.

With Samantha by my side, I was at the peak of my high school career. My grades were better (mainly because she helped, if not did most of my work), I smiled more, I was friendlier to people around me, caring, and my overall outlook on life completely changed. I no longer looked at the glass half empty but now focused on seeing the silver lining in life. I had finally trusted someone to enough to let my guard down; they saw my deepest and darkest secrets. My fear of letting people in vanished, a rejuvenating feeling I’ll never forget.

I thought I would be at my peak forever. Although I was young, there were many times when I thought Samantha and I would spend the rest of our lives together.

In retrospect, I was by far the most idiotic person in the world. I became narcissistic. My girlfriend treated me like a king; I felt as if I were entitled to something, unsure of what exactly it was that I was searching for.

Things started to not be as they were back when we started dating, she wouldn’t wait for me after class to walk her to her next class, her kisses weren’t the same, we wouldn’t go out as much. In fact, there were nights I wasn’t even able to get a hold of her.

The announcement for Prom came faster than both of us expected. Naturally, she and I planned on going together., except she didn’t seem excited to go anymore. Prom was one of the things we talked about since the beginning of senior year. We planned our outfits, who we were sharing a limo with, which after party we’d be going to, everything.

“Hun,” I told her. “What do you think about prom? Do you actually want to go?”

“I’m not really sure if I’m even going to be here to tell you the truth Chad,” she said to me. “I’ll have to let you know.”

Something about her answer didn’t sit well with me and my old instincts of doubting and questioning everything slowly began to creep back into my life. I remember sitting at home one night on the Internet viewing her social media page to see if there was any evidence of her being unfaithful. Obviously, I couldn’t find anything, but that night I realized I had officially become paranoid with the idea she was cheating on me, and even though I, it was getting difficult to extract it from my mind.

I sat her down to talk to her about how I felt; I didn’t want to assume things and be wrong. We talked and at the end of the conversation I was assured everything was okay.

I knew she loved me, and she knew I loved her. She assured me there was nothing going on and that the only reason she wasn’t able to go to prom was because she had a family reunion that same day all the way up in New York City. Me, being the paranoid freak I am, asked her parents if that was true and they confirmed her story.

After that, our relationship, feelings, and routines seemed to be back on track. We had finally returned to the happy couple I remembered. If only I knew I was simply in the eye of a category five hurricane.

As prom approached, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. Would I go alone, take a friend with me, or just go with my group of friends? In the end, I decided to go with a group of my friends who had made it their number one priority to see me go.

“Chad,” they would tell me, “You have to go! It’s senior prom. Yes, Samantha isn’t going but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be allowed to go and have a good night with your friends.”

I realized they had a solid point and so I went.

I remember my tux as if it was yesterday: black suit, black vest, black shirt, and a white tie. “I wish Samantha was here to see this,” I said to one of my friends in the limo. “She’s missing the best party of the year to be in New York with relatives she doesn’t even like.”

As we enter the ballroom, it was magnificent. The theme was “Willy Wonka” and the student government prom committee went all out with the decorations. As we walked inside, it was as if we were entering the Chocolate Factory with the gate and all. Our group handed an Umpa Lumpa our golden tickets and we were escorted inside to the “factory”.

As I looked to my right, I saw the chocolate fountain, the golden goose egg station where good and bad eggs, and right dead center was the great glass elevator. The scenery was magnificent.

As the night went on, my friends and I danced, ate, drank, and had a great night, until my friend saw Samantha stroll right in.

“Chad, isn’t that Samantha?” asked Leo.

“Yes!” I said very excited, not realizing what was going on. “She came just to surprise me!”

As I ran up to her, her face was in shock to see me. “Chad, what are you doing here?” she asked as I hugged and kissed her.

“Leo and the gang convinced me to come. I’m so glad to see you though babe.” I said to her, so happy I was almost tearing up.

She didn’t look straight at me, so I turned around in the direction she stared at, when it hit me. She wasn’t here for me. She was here for someone else.

The eye of the hurricane had passed and here came the 100 miles per hour winds.

“Sam… you aren’t here for me?”

“Chad, I didn’t think you were going to come! I thought you didn’t even like these things.”

“So that makes it okay for you to come to prom with another guy?” I asked her, getting angrier by the second.

“Chad, things with us haven’t been going well for a while now,” she said.

“Right, but we work through it, not run away and destroy it.” I protested as tears found their ways down my cheeks.

“We can’t work through it, Chad.” She said harshly. Samantha waved the guy she came with to come over. “It’s over between us Chad. James and I have been talking for a while now and I really like him.”

“Yeah, you like him, but you love me!” I screamed, almost in the verge of breaking down.

“I’m sorry it came to this Chad, okay? I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

I quickly regained my composure, wiped the tears that were on my face, looked her straight in her beautiful green eyes and said, “Well, you’ve done a fantastic job not trying to hurt me.” I turned around and walked away.

As I walked further and further away, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. It was Leo. I decided not to pick up, but when he kept insisting, I simply looked at the phone, and just threw it at the pavement.

From that moment on my life was measured by that moment. I shut myself out from everyone, was afraid of commitment, and never talked to the same person for more than a few months.

I wasn’t just hurt I was completely broken. However, I did such a good job at hiding my pain that people were surprised I was still laughing and smiling. But that’s the thing I learned just put up a facade of happiness and no one will ever truly ask you if something is wrong.

Samantha tried contacting me periodically throughout my years in college, but I was still so hurt that I just completely ignored her every time I saw her name flash on my phone.

I remember that she even went as far as to sending me a letter telling me she still thinks of me every time the song ”Come Back To Me” by David Cook comes on, and I must admit, till this day when that song comes on I think about her.

In retrospect, I wish I had some on to talk to about all the things that went on inside my head. I wish I had never just kept it all in and let myself be poisoned by my feelings. If I could do one thing over again it would be this: talk to someone about what I was feeling. No one is worth getting sick over. Samantha thought me a very valuable lesson: you can never run from your past, you can simply learn from it and keep moving forward.

The Millennial Games

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You have a better chance at surviving the purge and winning the Hunger Games than you do when it comes to navigating through this crazy world we call “Dating” as a Millennial.

We are the most connected generation, yet we are the most disconnected. We care about what’s going on hundreds of miles away, but it seems as if we have forgotten basic human skills such as holding the door for someone walking in after us at Starbucks.

Is Chivalry dead or is it just in a hiatus waiting for us to grow up?

Guys, grow up.

Just because you have a trendy beard doesn’t make you a man, just a boy that can shave. Quit the games, quit with the cryptic texts and the ghosting. Quit playing with another human’s emotion and be honest with them from the start.

It’s cool to knock at the girls door when you pick her up for your date, it’s cool to surprise her with something other than dinner and a movie, it’s cool to open the car door (or any door for that matter), it’s cool to walk on the side of the sidewalk closest to the street. Yes guys, these (and much more) are chivalrous acts we have put aside thanks to tinder, bumble, or whatever else we use to swipe right.

Ladies, grow up.

Just because a guy calls you or texts you saying “I had a great time” minutes after a date doesn’t make him desperate, it makes him the real deal. Just because the guy isn’t taking 45 minutes to reply to a text and is returning your texts rather quickly, it doesn’t make him weird, it makes him interested in you.

Don’t lower your standards just because you’re 28, single, with two cats (while looking to rescue another one), and all your friends are getting engaged, married, or having kids. Sure, that guy might “look good”, but what else does he have to offer you? Do you understand you’re worth more than gold? That the guy who dates you should look at you and know, “she’s a daughter of the King, I better not mess with her heart.”

We all live super busy lives. If a guy or a girl is texting you in the middle of the day, they care enough about you to see how your day is going.

I find it ironic that the same generation that loves instant gratification is afraid of when someone responds right away to a text. It’s shocking. Trying to act busy is not cute, it’s not cool, it’s just plain rude.

We tend to hold our true emotions from someone. If we show affection to someone we like or are interested in we get penalized. Millennials value seeing who can show less emotion, it’s a constant competition of who can care the least in a relationship. If we show emotion or act interested, the person we are interested in also considers that needy, or desperate and in the end will make them run the opposite direction. What kind of backward idea is that?

It’s mind-boggling to me how we treat other humans when it comes to dating, I’m mostly speaking to guys, but some ladies should read this too.

As Millennials, we don’t feel the slightest bit inclined to apologize when we hurt someone when it comes to relationships, it’s a sad reality. We just text them saying “It’s not working out,” or some other joke like that, and that’s it. You block their number, and you’ll randomly see them again in a few months and you’ll act like you never met them.

This is called ghosting, which is not okay. Ghosting means; if we’re no longer interested in someone, we don’t need to tell them, we simply stop responding.

However, the biggest issue facing Millennials as we navigate these choppy dating waters is trust.

Trust is severely lacking in our dating culture. In this golden era of meaningless hookups, our generation puts more value on what someone looks like or how they make them feel rather than someone who treats them with respect.

Millennials, we need to know our worth. Know that you are worth waiting for, know that you shouldn’t just hop from bed to bed to find your worth, you are the sons and daughters of the one true King, and he would never want you to feel anything less than that. You are royalty!

To the people who do know their worth and are criticized for not falling into this hookup mentality, remember this: if you are being made fun for not looking for cheap thrills every night, hang in there, your perfect guy or girl is doing the same; you just haven’t met them yet.

Because we sometimes don’t see what we are worth, we fall into the dark hole known as one night stands, which in turn makes us distrust the opposite sex. We’ve all had past experiences which left us hurt, broken, or unable to believe love will ever find us again.

My generation longs for the love we see in movies, yet we are not willing to wait, which leaves most with a void in their love life that they try to a temporary fix. However, when you wake up that next morning in a stranger’s house, you will feel empty once again and will go looking for the next fix; isn’t that what makes an addict?

Some don’t even trust that love exists anymore because they have constantly been met with disappointment.

Nevertheless, it’s out there don’t lose hope. We just need to grow up, stop playing the Millennial Games, and get serious.

Top Ten Quotes From The Dark Knight Trilogy

If you know anything about me at all, you know that my love for Batman knows no bounds. With that being said, after rewatching The Dark Knight Trilogy for the second one-hundredth time, I have finally decided to rank the top ten quotes from one of the most quotable trilogies of all times.


10. “One day you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you’d be spared your pain.” – Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins)

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This is mad deep, just think about it for a second. Being a big Batman nerd, this makes so much sense and it bothers me when people just brush over this because they think Batman Begins was inferior to The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. They are wrong. Ra’s Al Ghul is an eternal being, (assuming he can immerse himself in the Lazarus Pit) and imagine yourself being in love with someone so much that every single day it’s painful just to think about them? This is what this quote is about. Poor Ra’s….

9. “Bruce. Deep down you may still be that same great kid you used to be. But it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.” – Rachel Dawes (Batman Begins)

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What may be the most profound quote in not only Batman Begins, but the entire Dark Knight Trilogy is uttered by Rachel as a slap in the face to Bruce. Later on though, Batman uses it as his way of revealing to Rachel his true identity.

It’s a beautiful quote, seeping with wisdom and truth. It really is what we do that defines us, regardless of whether or not that matches what is underneath. That realization plays well into the developing theme of Batman as not just a person, but as a symbol.

It also speaks so directly to the dual-identity life that all superheroes are faced with, and the struggle of whether or not to share their secret with those they love. Even though who we are underneath doesn’t directly define us, the internal conflict he faces directly inspires Batman’s actions, which are seen by all.

8. “When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural.” – Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins)

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Sure, this can be taken as “let’s kill everyone”, but to me it’s a little deeper than that. Think about it as your life, you need to purge yourself from the wasteful things in life in order to get to what really matters, the bare bones. Or you can take it in a way of something someone tells you and you need to burn through all the bull****. Bet you never thought about it like that.

7. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight)

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Good old Harvey Dent comes in at number __. How can someone forget one of the most quotable quotes in The Dark Knight?

The irony of this quote makes it even more memorable considering that Harvey Dent didn’t do just one of those, he did both. He died a hero in the eyes of Gotham, but those who saw him in his last moments knew the villain he actually became.

6. “The night is darkest just before the dawn.” – Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight)

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Whatever you are going though, just know it will get better. Harvey Dent reminds us of that when he tries to convice Gotham that he is Batman and that the Joker’s reign is almost over. How did that work out?

5. “You start pretending to have fun, you might even have a little by accident.” – Alfred Pennyworth (Batman Begins)

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Some will not ever notice this quote, but oh how influential it is. You might be having the worst week, or month of your life, but push through it. “Pretend” to have fun because you never know, by the end you will notice that you are actually starting to have fun again.

4. “Don’t talk like one of them, you’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper. You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” – The Joker (The Dark Knight)

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Heath Ledger’s incredible portrayal of the Joker will go down as one of the greatest performances of all time. Ledger was the Joker, becoming totally unrecognizable as he immersed himself in his role. (the verdict is still out on Jared Leto in Suicide Squad).

When the Joker dropped this quote while in the interigation room with Batman, it was one of the best lines in the trilogy, although not the most memorable. A couple of lines before Batman tries to tell the Joker they are not alike, but the Clown Prince of Crime turned the table around and showed that when it’s all done, people will turn on Batman, which they did…. Is the Joker a genious? Nah, just ahead of the curve.

4. “Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated… but we are initiated, aren’t we Bruce? Members of the League of Shadows! You think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding.” – Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

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The anarchy that Bane inspired and the terror that he brought to Gotham City was truly frightening. Most of all though, Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the masked villain was absolutely brilliant. Most of his dialogue was quote-worthy, but it was this line in particular that sent an extra chill down my spine.

We had no idea that Bane would have actually known who Batman was. Yet as he’s underground and is about to break Batman he drops the bomb (figuratively speaking) about Batman’s identity. At first it took me a while to hear it, but after watching it maybe the 3rd time, it sank in.

This quote also marks the lowest point for Batman. It doesn’t seem as if things could possibly get any worse and we are left there thinking “oh sh*t, this is over… Batman had met his match and he will not be able to come back from a freaking broken back…” Oh wait, this is Batman we are talking about, not Superman… (phew, phew)

3. “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” – The Joker (The Dark Knight)

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In life, never do anything for free. The Joker sure does know how to do memorable quotes. Take this quote and take it as is.

2. “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy, and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood; I can be ignored, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.” – Bruce Wayne (Batman Begins)

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This quote is the defining moment of the entire trilogy put into words. It is when Batman actually begins. Once Bruce realized that Gotham needed him, but not as Bruce Wayne, as something more, is when he first realized the possibility of Batman. And the rest is history.

This quote lays out a theme that is carried through the entire trilogy. The theme that Batman is more than Bruce Wayne in a costume. Batman is a symbol of hope. It doesn’t matter who is in the suit. All people need to know is that Batman is there watching over the people of Gotham.

1. “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended. ” – Batman (The Dark Knight Rises)

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THIS is the moment we all waited for since the first movie, the time that Batman finally revealed himself to Commisioner Gordon after all this time. Of course, in typical Batman fashion he left it crypitic and made Gordon think about it.

Memories

Back in high school,when I began to realize that maybe one day I could actually write and not be half bad, I wrote this poem. It’s not much, but I think it’s a nice throwback since this was written around 2007.

When writing my history
You will always be a footnote
A distant memory
A warning sign of mistakes that I have made
The ones that I’ll learn from.

This poem is the best of me
Taking pills for solemn motives
A better side of me, with an open mind
For mistakes I’ve made
The kind that you burn from

So take these small confessions as my price to pay
I’ve never been the kind to let go
But before you get up and walk away
One thing I must say,
I’m miserable without you baby

It’s getting harder to breathe
Because all these memories of you
were warning signs of regression
The kind that i’ll never learn from.

I’m Not Chris

Author’s Note: I took a creative writing class that challenged me to write short stories. And as any writer would know, we tend to write about things that are close to our hearts. Below is an age=old tale of boy meets girl and falls in love yet the girl’s feelings aren’t mutual. 

There are moments in your life that will be with you forever. Whether you want them to be with you or not, they will always find a way to haunt your dreams, and make you say to yourself, “If only I had never”.

If I had never told her how I really felt, maybe things would have been completely different. One minute you are best friends, always together, constant communication, and the next she’s nothing more than just a fading memory. From nights of long deep, meaningful conversations, to simple, bland text messages that will always make me think, “If I hadn’t.”

Seems as if it was only yesterday she and I were at the bar, talking about her latest break-up, and meaningless hookup. She kept going on and on about an ex-boyfriend who had never loved her and was now making herself wonder if there was anyone out there who even cared about her. “If only she knew how much I cared,” I remember telling myself.

“I just really loved him,” she said to me with tears running down her face. “I flew to California for him, and the way I’m thanked is by telling me I’m not worth it?”

If only she knew how much I cared about her if only she knew how there was someone out there who thinks the world of her and believes she’s valuable. But how would she know if I would never do anything about it?

As she spoke, my mind wandered off to a few days prior to us meeting at the bar. I had been wrestling with the idea of actually having feelings for her, and as I was pacing back and fourth I just could not wrap my mind around what exactly I would even say to her.

“Clearly she would never think of me in the same way I think of her,” is something that constantly kept going through my head. “I’m just a friend,” I would tell myself. “That’s all I’ll ever be.”

I was scared. Not because of the idea of telling someone how I felt, but rather the idea of telling one of my best friends how I felt. Two things could have happened: One, the feeling would have been mutual, or two: she would have no idea what to say.

I marinated over the situation a little longer as I took a sip of my Jack Daniels, and after a couple of minutes a simple, yet intellectual thought came to my mind: “If you tell someone how you really feel and they decide to not be friends with you anymore, was there really a strong friendship to begin with?”

Proud of myself for having thought of that, I decided it was time I told her just exactly was on my mind. What better than taking her out for a drink? Maybe that was my first mistake, but I can’t keep thinking about the “what ifs”.

As she continued talking, it was clear that she was once again heartbroken. However, this time I was determined to make her feel better. I just wanted to show her how truly loved she was, I just wanted to make her smile again. She kept mentioning how great I was, and giving all the signs as if to say “Hey stupid, tell me now!”

And so, without any hesitation, I looked at her simple simply said, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

She looked at me half smiling and half surprised, maybe a combination of both, “yes?”

Feeling good about myself at this certain point in the night, not sure if it was liquid courage, adrenaline, or a peculiar combination of both, I looked her straight in her eyes and said: “You speak a lot about guys treating you with no respect. You talk about guys who don’t see you for who you really are. You cry about guys who have no clue how good they have it, and yet I’m right here. I’ve always been right here.”

“What are you talking about?” She said, not sure what was going on

“I’m not sure how you can miss it,” I told her. “I have feelings for you, strong feelings that I just can’t keep inside anymore.”

When I said that, I saw her face and the half blank stare as she said, “I’m not really sure what to say.”

It’s funny, most girls use that line as their go-to catchphrase when things don’t go according to plan.

We’ve been friends for such a long time.

Three years prior, I had begun working with a public relations firm in the city and she had just begun an internship at the same firm.

Her situation was more unique than mine, she was dating the boss’ son, so with that, there was a stigma about her that the only reason she got the job was because of the relationship, I don’t agree with that but I digress.

I didn’t let what people thought of her effect the way I viewed her. Despite what people said about her, she was a good person. She was always smiling, always happy, and she was honest.. to the point of being brutal at times.

I think the first time we talked, was over facebook. One of our bosses asked her and I to work on a client together. She messaged me, I replied.

“Hey, this is Christine from work.”

“Hey, what’s up?”

“I was told to contact you in regards to working alongside you with this new client we are taking on.”

It was all business. It was different, but it was nice.

During those four months working on that client, I got to see a side of her that not many people do. She came off as hard to handle to the outside world, but to the people who know her well she’s the most caring person you can think of.

Fast forward two years. We are now sitting outside her apartment celebrating the Miami Heat’s first NBA Championship since signing the trio of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.

“We’ve come a long way haven’t we?” She slurred.

“I guess we have.”

I didn’t know it then, but my feelings for her began at that moment. There was something different about a girl who honestly saw you for you and thought about how long we’ve come.

We were best friends. We would talk about everything, about anyone and anything. There was nothing that “too personal” for us.

So, if that was the case why did I feel helpless when she looked straight at me at the bar and said “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Look,” I said. “I know this might be too much, but here’s the deal. I told you what I had to tell you, and now I’m going to leave it up to you.”

“I don’t want to lose this friendship we have, the last guy friend who told me he liked me didn’t end well and we now hate eachother.”

I thought of using the cliché “I’m not like everyone else” but decided to go the “We will be friends no matter your answer… let that be a yes or a no.”

We gave eachother an awkward hug good night, and that was it.

The following week and a half were the most excruciating thing in my life. We weren’t really talking, just casual work chat. It was driving me nuts.. How could someone who claims to be your friend just ignore you like this?

Then, on a chilly Friday night my phone vibrates:

“I’ve been thinking long and hard about what you said to me all those days ago. Here’s the thing, I love you as a friend and I don’t want to ruin that, I really don’t. I believe if we were to start a relationship, things would be great at first, but I know me and I would find faults with everything. I think its best if we just stay friends.”

That was all I needed to know.

The days that followed we began to slowly talk about it and we let the elephant in the room slowly walk out. To say everything went back to normal would be a lie.

We never really spoke anymore, we just had random conversations, but you know what? It’s best to keep it that way. The worst thing you can do to yourself is continue to talk to someone you have feelings for when they don’t have the same for you. You will always be at their will and that’s never a good place to be.

Few weeks had passed and she calls me out of the blue. She was in a car crash. Because I still cared deeply for her, I rushed to her side to aide. As I drive her to the hospital she just looked at me and said, “why?”

“What do you mean?”

“I told you I didn’t have feelings for you and I was sure you would just let me go like everyone else. Why then, did you come to help me even after all that? I know Chris wouldn’t have done the same thing.”

This time, I couldn’t resist. I just let out a smirk and said, “I’m not like Chris.

Lesson I Learned During My Starbucks Adventure

As I was waiting for my brother to finish getting his hair cut this afternoon, I decided to stop by starbucks to kill the time… Little did I know two girls would sit right behind me and not stop talking…

At first, it was odd to have these two talk at the top of their lungs about their love life… However, as I started listening to the conversation, it sounded more like a bad soap opera than real life.

One of the first things that stuck out to me was this:

Typical girl logic… Go for the guy who’s a jerk to you and not the one who actually treats you with respect… but then this happened:

I think it’s important to mention that the girl talking was about 21, at most 23. What is she doing with a married man in the first place? As I kept listening, she went into detail about how this man has a kid and how his (ex?) wife  hates him and how the kid has a rough time because she’s never around her mom… I admit, that’s messed up, but do you really need to talk about it in a loud voice at starbucks?

Then, things got very interesting:

Woah, woah, woah… Hold the phone! Did anyone else freak out like I did? This was a huge plot twist! Usualy you hear about infidelity on the man’s part, but this time the tables were turned and the wife actually cheated on him with another woman…

The girl continued to talk about how much she loves him (despite him being a dick to her):

I feel for her, I really do… But at the same time, I don’t feel bad at all. Then, just when I was about to judge her for being another one of those clueless Boca girls, the chick drops some words of truth that made me yell: PREACH!

Why can’t more women be like her? She pretty much called out her entire gender because she knows they are the ones who are friendzoning all the good guys, and dating all the jerks who don’t deserve a woman.

Now, just because this girl is smart, it doesn’t mean her friend shares her knowledge:

Oh honey… That’s the worst reason you can marry someone. What happens when he can’t keep it up? What happens if he isn’t the stallion he once was? Will the marriage crumble? maybe.

After that, the girls shared a few laughs over that remark before they decided to call it a night and leave.

I must admit, this was one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever heard in my life and I had a great time tweeting all of those out. However, as I sat there I started to realize something.. Why do women like the guys who treat them bad?

Think about it.

Every girl wants the “bad boy”. They want the guys who aren’t emotionally there, who don’t care about them, and only want to sleep with them. These guys are the ones who pull all the stops in the first date, and maybe go 110% into the relationship in the first month but drop to 10% after and these girls still love them no matter what.

Meanwhile, there you are.. The guy who adores her, treats her with respect, is always there for her, and all she sees in you is a friend, nothing more.

Let’s be real, is a girl who likes a “bad boy” someone you want to date? Why would you want a girl who wants someone who treats them with no respect?

Those girls might be fun to think about a relationship with, but at the end of the day they are already so broken that if you are the nice guy who tries to put the pieces back together, you’ll just fail. They like the guys who don’t treat them well, the like the kind of guys you are not. They want them, and they clearly don’t want you. Despite you showing them you are devoted to a relationship 200%.

If you are reading this and are thinking “wow, I’m in a situation just like this,” I urge you to let her go. Trust me, it’s not easy to do that, but at the end of the day you’ll save yourself time, money, and heartache.

Sometimes, what a girl like that needs is just a good friend to be there for her when everything crumbles down. So what? You’re not her boyfriend, but you are something that no boyfriend will ever be, her friend. The one who isn’t there just because you want to sleep with her, but rather the one who is there for her simply because you care so deeply for her that even if you had feelings for her, you will put them aside just so you can see her happy. Let’s be real, all that matters is her happiness, right?

I guess a better name for your position isn’t friend, but handyman.. You know, since you’ll be fixing a lot. Keep your head up though, who knows.. Maybe one day that girl will realize the only person who is always there for her is you and she’ll give you a shot.

(Honestly though… If that happens, please email me [pedro[at]heizer[dot]us] with your story so I know it can actually happen.)

Sorry But Not Sorry

Sometimes all we have left are words.

Words that can cheer you up, bring you down, teach you a lesson, or even make you angry. You work your whole life to build this persona of neatness but you forget that some people can just bring all that down in a matter of seconds. 

Sometimes in life all you need is a good “Leave me alone” moment. You know, those moments in life where you just rather sit in your room, and watch some TV rather than being out with people, or when you decide to go see a movie alone because you want to see it. (let’s be honest though, is it REALLY that weird when you go alone? When you go with people you don’t even talk to them anyways, so what’s the big deal about going alone?)

Some people try so hard to be “helpful” that sometimes what they do is the complete opposite. sometimes good intentions end up being bad decisions and you can’t help but wonder “why”.

Honestly, does it really matter what some people think about you? Does it make your life better or worse if people care? In the end, isn’t all that matters how you view yourself? If you like you who are and what you’ve become, does it really matter what others have to say?

Some will say that the approval of people makes them realize if they’ve made the right decision. 

Do you think LeBron regrets his decision to come to Miami? Even though the rest of the country HATED him for it, he knew deep down he had made the right decision and in the end, all those haters turned into admires (that’s all haters are anyways… confused admirers).

What was the point of that? simple. People nowadays care too much about what other people think, and care too little about what they themselves think. 

If we let the whole world dictate our lives, won’t that just make us pushovers?

Jesus > Religion Book Review

BookJefferson Bethke’s book “Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough” presents a challenge to the pharisaic rule that has overshadowed much of American Christianity and comes back to the core of who Jesus really is. The book highlights how far away we’ve gotten from the true essence of what it means to be followers of Christ, and Bethke doesn’t just skim the surface of the issues; he digs into them, bringing out the parts of scripture that apply.

If I had to sum up the entire book in one sentence it would be: Your works don’t get you into heaven.

People try to hard to “earn” their way into heaven, and we as Christians have categorized ourselves separately from the world under the slot called “Christian,” where we have our own clothes, our own music, our own movies, our own books, etc.

We don’t need to mix with the world because we’ve got our little subculture, and we don’t want to be seen as the “problematic child”. This is one of the issues Bethke addresses in his book. We’ve separated ourselves, so why bother reaching out to the lost when we have our perfect little comfort zone right here? We have built up walls of perfection around ourselves and simply criticize everyone else who isn’t doing exactly what we are doing.

“Every generation has their non negotiables,” explains Bethke. “My generation’s [non negotiables] seem to be social justice. We won’t listen to someone who speaks it but doesn’t live it. Also, the internet is second nature to us so that drastically changes how we communicate.”

“My generation just wants one thing from the church,” continued Bethke. “Authenticity.”

Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice
Tend to ridicule God’s people, they did it to John The Baptist
They can’t fix their problems, and so they just mask it
Not realizing religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket
See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core
It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores
Like let’s dress up the outside make it look nice and neat
But it’s funny that’s what they use to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath

In each chapter, Bethke points out the difference between “religion” and Jesus. Religion does one thing, but Jesus does the opposite.

I think these differences are very important for Christians and non-Christians to contemplate. The differences point out hypocrisies that some religious folk carry out, the same hypocrisies that turn non-Christians away from Jesus. There is one way that some Christians act, and that is not the way that Jesus would have acted. There may be moments reading this book where you think, “Oh, I do that or I believe that” and you realize that those actions and beliefs are not bringing you any closer to God.

To non-christians, to be christian means you must not drink, not curse, hate gays, and not have tattoos. In his book, Bethke explains that Christianity is so much more than just those things, it’s about a relationship with Jesus. “Jesus > Religion” brings up the argument that we must shed the religious structure we’ve been hiding under and get back to Jesus. It’s not about what we do, it’s about what He’s already done.

Bethke’s book has to be one of the best books I’ve read in a long time when it comes to religion. Even if you’re not a Christian, this book is a great way to get to know more about who Jesus is and what true Christianity is.

After every chapter in the book there are “Study Questions” which can be used as lesson material for your youth group, or even just between a few friends.  I highly recommend this book.

In case you’ve been living under a rock this past year, Jeff’s Spoken word poem that inspired the book can be found below:

Things to know before dating a writer

The whole professional writer thing is the only game I have.

To an unsuspecting potential mate, I’m just like every other unremarkable 21-year old with glasses in the bar. But when they ask me what I do with my time and I reply with, “I’m a writer, who covers sports and writes the occasional short story,” they melt.

I understand wanting to date one of us. I can’t blame you. We’re alluring. We’re elusive. We’re romantic. We’re witty. But you really need to know what you’re getting into.

We have no money.

We writers pour our hearts into soul-sucking work for next to nothing. That means we’re always going Dutch.

We can’t help it.

I’ve always been a storyteller. As a child, I wrote plays for each holiday and made my sister act them out with me, each year dusting off the script from the year before and editing it to perfection. My sister and I also played radio, putting on flamboyant personalities, coming up with catchphrases and interviewing each other on a tape recorder in between taping songs off the radio. I even created a family newspaper when my parents bought a computer, toying with fonts and adding photos to my stories, forcing my mom and dad to write me letters to the editor. I’ve always had a compulsion for communication. I just can’t turn it off.

Sometimes I have a flash of inspiration and I have to handle it then and there.

I’ll apologize now for flaking on you or for taking a break from whatever we’re doing to jot some stuff down. (See the above note about not being able to help it.) If I’m in the mood to write, I have to take advantage of it, especially when I force myself to write for pay all the time. You just never know when it’ll strike.

You’ll probably see yourself reflected in the work.

If you’re dating a writer and they don’t write about you — whether it’s good or bad — then they don’t love you. They just don’t. Writers fall in love with the people we find inspiring. If you don’t set my pen on fire, how are you going to set my bed on fire?

You can find out more than you’ve ever wanted to know about us on the Internet.

Seriously. Google me.

Writers are dramatic and often gossipy.

No matter what type of writer someone is, we all love hearing other people’s stories and we all love telling them. We’re also prone to dramatic episodes and operate in hyperbole. We’ll never admit how dramatic we are, but expect nothing less than improbable plot twists and extreme character development when recounting our trips to the grocery store.

Writers are crazy.

And I don’t mean crazy in the way people throw the word at anyone we disagree with, I actually mean insane. We’re often misunderstood and deeply troubled. We have to be at least a little bit mentally unstable, or we wouldn’t be any good at what we do. Really, who wants to read something a boring sane person wrote, anyway? Not me.

We’re actually not cool at all.

I know, it may seem cool to earn money from writing, but it’s not. It’s just what we do. I do not lead a glamorous life. Writing is mentally taxing labor — albeit conducted while in sweatpants on my couch and surrounded by cats — but labor just the same. And we almost never see the sun. Seriously. Take us on a midday stroll or something. We probably need a break from staring at those two paragraphs we were working on all morning.

All writers need a good editor, but that editor is probably not you.

We may ask for your opinion on our work, but unless you’ve won a Pulitzer or something, we’re gonna get pissed if you’re critical of our lifeblood. This works in reverse, too. I’ve had lovers ask me to review their work, only to balk when I rip it to shreds. What did you expect? People pay me to edit their work. If you don’t actually want my professional opinion, don’t ask for it.

Writers are pompous jerks who drink. A lot.

Mainly whiskey. Lots and lots of whiskey. In fact, most of us should just be paid in whiskey. I could just cut out the middleman, be it the bartender who has memorized my order or the guy who knows my name at the liquor store around the corner.

We keep irregular schedules at best.

One day Ill have three 1,000-word pieces due and a feature to fact check that I’ll work on until 4 a.m., and the next day I’ll start drinking with friends at 3 p.m. in a park. Just because I don’t have a job I go to, doesn’t mean I’m not busy.