Family Weekend

31 10 2012

Scrapbook Image for Family Weekend

My youngest son attends a private college located about 70 miles from our home. I’m certain I’ve mentioned before how expensive this school is, but I wanted to take this opportunity to mention its many fine qualities.

This weekend was a combination of Homecoming and Family Weekend at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. They have a soccer team, so that is who played in the Homecoming Game. Homecoming is also a time when they plan alumni activities. This meant the campus was sporting three or four times its usual capacity of people.

Jeff and I drove down on Friday. Needless to say, Friday evening traffic through Beaverton was nightmarish. A car fire on the Sunset Highway made a five mile stretch take 35 minutes.

We got there right around six, when our son got off work at his job in the engineering lab. We took a recommendation from one of his friends and drove up the road to Dundee. Dinner was a quick fix of Chinese combination plates at Chen’s Szechuan. Thaddeus devoured his heaping plate and took our leftovers back to the dorm. Everyone needs a break from cafeteria food once in a while.

On Saturday, we joined in for the brunch. This was an opportunity for the president to have a captive audience. Thad was excited because the food they make on special event weekends is generally amazing. They didn’t disappoint and gave us a lunch along the Thanksgiving dinner theme, including: roast turkey breast, apple and sage stuffing, potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie. We even got to enjoy the British accent of the father of another student, who was seated at the same table we were during the meal and program on Saturday.

Thaddeus at the Brunch

We attended a college theater presentation of “A Servant of Two Masters.” It was a comedy after the tradition of the school of Comedia Del Arte. It was entertaining. The humor was mostly buffoonery and slapstick. I prefer something with more substance, like Molliere’s The Imaginary Invalid. This doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh often during the silliness.

We also attended a jazz concert that featured bassist, John Clayton. Clayton is a renowned musician and composer. The numbers he performed with his pianist, saxophonist, guitarist and drummer were all Jazz improvisational songs. Each instrumentalist gets a chance to change up the major musical theme during a solo spotlight. Who knew a guitarist could move his fingers (on both hands) so quickly?

As a small, private university, George Fox offers a more personalized education for college students. Their theme is “Be known.” Even though my older son’s state college only has about 700 more students on the campus, the feeling at Fox is completely different. People smile and greet each other by name. Professors are known by their first names to the students and involve themselves in social aspects of the school. Sure, they offer Bible classes and chapel services, but the “brotherly love” mood goes deeper than either of those things.

Even though it poured buckets of rain on Saturday, the venders at the Holiday Bazaar were friendly. I don’t know how people stood in that deluge for two hours to watch a soccer game. Watching soccer bottoms out the list of things I’d choose to do – even on a sunny day.

College should be more than an investment of time and money. Reassured that my youngest son is reaping education in a spiritually nurturing environment, I can grimace less when I see the student loan figures. For now, at least.



Meet my Heroine

27 10 2012

There’s nothing about my work in progress that’s ready to see the light of day. I’m still not sure if I love my magic girl as much as I love the little sister of her knight in shining armor.

I’m putting it out there anyway. I’m giving you the first scene of the young adult fantasy book I’m trying to write. I still don’t even know for sure it’s what my Heavenly Father wants for me to write. All I know is that the story is there – in part – and so I’m getting it out of my head and onto the page.


“Unknown parentage and secret birth, blue-green diamonds shine; time to time and earth to earth, preserving the magical line.” The words reverberated around the room, echoing as if they were spoken from atop the nearby mountains.


Gram entered the central room of the cabin, checking the fire. Beside the fireplace, Aura stretched on her simple straw pallet. Gram’s brows were lowered and her jaw set in a firm line.

“Why me?” Aura asked. Gram just studied the girl, a stern look on her face. “It’s because of my blue eyes, isn’t it?”

“Why would you even think that?”

“I’m the only one that has them in the whole world.”

“No, the ancient mage had them.” Turning away, she added, “There is another mage who lives on the eastern shores who has blue eyes.”

“Gram, what did the words mean?” The girl’s whisper quivered.

Gram turned to look at Aura and then knelt beside her pallet. “It is the most ancient of prophecies.”
Aura wrinkled her brows and said, “But he said it was about me.”

Gram nodded, the play of the firelight casting strange shadows over her grim features. “This isn’t a small matter and I don’t want you to speak of it to anyone.”

Aura nodded, sitting up and hugging her knees to her chest. “I don’t understand what it means.”

With a sigh, Gram said, “No one knows who your parents are or where you were born.”

Unknown parentage and secret birth. Aura’s life fit this line of the prophecy. “I thought you were my grandmother,” Aura said, a lump in her throat making her words sound thick.

“I’m the one who found you. It was near the shore where the Gates of Astrya stand. I thought an elf put you there,” Gram said softly, staring into the fire rather than looking at Aura.

Aura didn’t have a grandmother. No one knew who her parents were or even where she came from.  It was more than those rare blue eyes that set her apart; she was a foreigner. Was it any wonder she always felt like an outsider?

“No one is sure what the other lines mean,” Gram said, turning toward the girl, her face in shadows.

Tears burned behind Aura’s eyes so she squeezed her eyelids shut. Maybe the middle lines of the prophecy seemed unclear, but one thing wasn’t a mystery. The last line set forth an ominous and overwhelming purpose for a youngster of seven summers. She’d felt the weight of it settle in her chest when the words were spoken earlier that morning. Preserving the magical line could only mean one thing: Aura would somehow be responsible for keeping magic alive.

What Does a College Degree Mean?

24 10 2012

My stress level rises. Sleep eludes me while essay topics dance through my head, not in the least as enticing as sugar plums. I have no life outside of work and school.

Is getting a college degree worth all this and more?

By more, I mean thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. Sleeplessness and weight gain and periods of despondency are all byproducts of pursuing this piece of paper.

What does having a college degree mean? Will it mean I’m smarter? Well, I will be, provided I don’t lose my mind in the process. Will it mean I deserve a better paying job? I hope to get one, so I hope so.

In a recent interview, the husband of my colleague said, “Some of the smartest people I’ve met don’t have college educations.”

It can probably be inferred that some of the most socially inept people I’ve met have advanced or multiple college degrees. They might be brainiacs but they wouldn’t survive for ten minutes on the street.

What does having a college degree mean to you? Complete my poll and comment if you have more insight to share.

A Cure for Grumpiness

20 10 2012

The original “Grumpy” face

If you’re reading this because you’re having a bad day and feeling grumpy about it all, welcome to my world. On the other hand, if you’re reading this hoping to read about a real curative for bad humor, I apologize for misleading you.

Do we really just wake up on the wrong side of the bed some days? When this bad day started, I got out of bed on the same side I do every morning. I didn’t even have to get up to an alarm clock. It was a day off work. What could be better?

I did a 30-minute workout lifting weights and some other things designed by the Nike Training Club to make your arms and leg tremble like a leaf in the wind. Everything was going fine.

The thing is: I have a list three miles long that needs accomplishing. I’m a morning person and I like to jump right into it. I didn’t do it because I was going to a Bible study with the ladies at my church. We are trying to plan a retreat for next fall and I wanted to share some ideas so we could all be thinking about what we want to do.

Fine. I’ll go to the meeting at 9:30 and get home in time to have a quick lunch and get right on the schoolwork.

I pull up to the church building at 9:30. Not a car in sight. Lights are off. Hmmm. I must be early. Of course, in this techno-world when we have to wait, we grab our smart phone and take care of business. I played a round of Words with Friends and added coupons to my Safeway Club card. It was all very efficient.

9:40: The meeting must not start until 10. Thanks so much for mentioning a time change. Or maybe they did. I’m running around on overload most days, so I could easily have forgotten such in inapplicable thing.

I didn’t have those 30 minutes to waste today. I mean, I was reading this novel that I’ve had beckoning to me for over a week – when it arrived in an Amazon carton like an early Christmas gift. Seriously. I was reading before I went to the meeting because I didn’t think I would stop if I was in the middle of school work.

I should have prayed. Let’s face it; focusing on something besides our own woes is the best way to cure a bad mood. This seems anti-thesis, but it really works. Maybe it’s faith that God heard me and is going to take the reins at my request. Maybe it’s not stewing over what’s eating at us. Whatever it is, putting someone else front-and-center in our thoughts and deeds cures the grumpy-face-woe-is-mes.

If you’re having one of those days, I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t help. Who can you help? What needs doing? Stop stewing like a crock pot. Get up and do something for someone. Or at least pray.

Great American Writers

17 10 2012

At some point during this most recent term, I began to wonder what makes a great writer. Who decides the criteria? Who determines the candidates? The answers seem illusive.

In my literature class, we read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It always generates strong reactions from students in the class. I was pleasantly surprised that all the men didn’t immediately take John’s side. Several of the women in class are psychology majors or work with mentally ill people and they found the story fascinating.

I’m never fascinated with this story. It makes me angry that a woman could be subjected to a “cure” that makes her crazy. I appreciate my own caring husband more after reading it. Another thing I think is, “Thank the Lord I was born in the 20th century.”

One woman in our literature class berated the story. She claimed the main character was lazy, unmotivated and unappreciative of all the wonderful things her husband did for her. She went on the state how she despised Gilman’s feministic beliefs, especially the way she used men and dumped her daughter off on her first husband instead of mothering her.

Whew! This woman was steaming. I think it’s safe to say that Gilman is not considered a great writer in this lady’s eyes.

We also read “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane and “To Build a Fire” by Jack London. I think both of these gentlemen are considered to be great American writers. I already spent a post reflecting on Mark Twain’s genius, so I won’t embellish that any further.

We also read “The Other Two” by Edith Wharton, who was considered quite famous during her lifetime.

I’m not sure I can create an active definition from these writers. Obviously, there are similarities in their themes, but what makes them great? There were a dozen or more writers who we read this term, perhaps all of them considered “great American writers.”

Are there great writers producing work even now? Will they be considered great in their lifetime? What criteria will be used to determine their greatness?

Rewrite – Revise – Rework- Retire

13 10 2012

The best writing is rewriting” – E.B.White

It has come to the attention of this blogger that rewriting is not the same as revising. In fact, reworking might resemble revising, but it is a horse of a different color. Can you tell it makes me want to retire?

No, not retire from writing. Retire from rewriting – or maybe reworking. In any case, if I want to create a masterpiece, I had better stick to the revising.

Then revise it and rework it

Rewriting, according to Peter Elbow, author of Writing with Power, one of the textbooks for my feature writing class, is exactly what it sounds like. You write the thing again. No, you don’t cut and paste and rearrange things. That’s revising. To rewrite, you pick up your pen, pencil or typing utensil and write the whole thing over.

Uh – a three page essay might get this treatment, but surely he doesn’t expect the whole novel to be rewritten?

Most of us know something about reworking. This happens when we have all the nuts and bolts of a story on the page. We’ve even done a decent job writing using concise and powerful language. But something’s missing. It’s not smooth sailing from start to finish.

This is where reworking comes into the picture. That cut and paste feature on the word processing software burns rubber on those pages. Roget’s Thesaurus sidles up beside this flurry of activity and offers up unique verbiage. A minute amount of excess fat gets lasered off in the process.

For writers, it’s revising that makes us look professional. Revision is the process of looking over or manuscript in order to correct and improve it. Fatty scenes that add nothing to the plot meet the delete key. Passive language scampers off the page, chased by its active counterpart.

Every scrap of writing that’s meant for an editor’s eyes should be revised five or more times. I can hear all my students whining in unison over this pronouncement. And you, dear reader? What’s your response to such an astronomical estimate?

I have to wonder: is writing ever done? I know I can always find some way to improve what’s been written. The first read-through is probably about glaring errors and the story line. On second glance, I’m circling weak verbs, over-used words and repetition in types of sentence constructions.

Writing is never done. It’s just due.” –William Zinsser, On Writing Well

I haven’t even focused on making the language sing yet. There’s no chance this writing is ready to meet an agent or editor.

Of course, it might be time to retire. I mean, put the manuscript on the shelf for a week or two and work on something new. When you pick it up later, you’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes and see weaknesses in the prose that went unnoticed before.

What’s your advice on revising? Do you ever rewrite? How helpful is reworking? How do you know when it’s time to retire the manuscript (maybe forever)? Your opinions matter on this blog.

Research using the Internet

10 10 2012

Thanks to



My husband despises when I research using the Internet. Something about leaving 16 tabs open within a browser’s window bothers him. It could be that it bogs down the Wi-Fi, but I generally tune out once the computer acronyms begin to fly.

I like to keep all the tabs open so I can go back to them and get the information for the bibliographic citation. I especially like articles that include the citation (in several different formats) right at the bottom of the page.

I’ll open another window (not a tab) and head to the Son of a Citation Machine website to get those citations formatted exactly according to the professor’s guidelines. Generally, I get to use the MLA format now that I’m heavy into my English and Literature classes. Never fear. My magic citation maker can make all different types.

Search engines are finicky creatures. I’ve discovered that a fruitful search requires a certain combination of words. Can I find a search engine code cracker?

Type in exactly what you want. No good. Okay, throw in some quotations. Still 50,000 hits about an unrelated subject matter. Sometimes being more specific only makes things worse. It was a stroke of genius when Google subdivided their search page into all the different categories (web, images, maps).

Using the library database to find journal articles requires even more special search word finesse. Most professors are enamored with peer-reviewed journals. I find most of the reading in these periodicals dry, statistic heavy and full of noncreative nonfiction at its finest.

Obviously, those are the very qualities that make it a “scholarly publication.” If I ever decide to pursue a graduate degree, I’ll crawl on my knees and beg one of these journals to publish my thesis. Yippee. I hope I don’t have to crawl over broken glass in my running shorts.

And so – the research continues. For coeds, it’s a normal part of life in the college lane.

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