Family Portraits – A Necessary Evil

28 11 2012

Why aren’t the non-professional pictures good enough, Mom?

First, I want to say happy birthday to my sister. She was one of the first followers of my blog (somewhat a requirement, I think) and I appreciate that she takes time to read every new post.

Now, on to the subject at hand; timely because I lassoed the three men in my life to dress clothes so we could get a family portrait taken. We invited the photographer to our home for the photo shoot. Needless to say, they were less than thrilled until I bribed them (something about a movie).

Since we plan to put our house on the market in the spring and my oldest will graduate from college in June, I wanted some professional shots of us in this home – for posterity. Also, it’s such a hassle to get all spiffed up (something that takes me about five times as long as the three of them combined) and then going into the wind and rain to wait in some austere setting to pose for a picture. Wouldn’t it be much more relaxing at home?

Right. I’ve always been such a positive thinker. I’m sure life will find a way to destroy that character trait before too many more years transpire.

None of them wear shirts and ties on a regular basis. They all own shirts and ties and I try to badger them into wearing them for church on Christmas and Easter. I’ve mostly failed in this for the past two years.

Being such a sneaky genius mastermind, I determined that we would start with our formal clothes. Good grief a shirt and tie is NOT formal! If I made them wear a tuxedo that would be formal wear. Anyway, we would have a family shot, the three men, the boys and the parents.

Presto change-o! Off go the “torture devices” (neck ties for all the non-male readers) and on go the jeans and sweatshirts. This is what we look like on a daily basis. It’s nice to have a realistic family portrait or two, don’t you agree? If only the weather cooperated.

I can let out a heavy sigh of relief now. It’s over. All that’s left is the ordering of the prints, selecting frames and wrapping them up as gifts for the grandparents.

Before I’m ready, I’ll be overjoyed to get a picture of my kids and grandkids for Christmas. Yeah, not too soon. Got that boys?



24 11 2012

A Name Poem
Using Hymn Titles

To God be the Glory

How Great Thou Art

All Hail the Power

Nothing but the Blood

Kneel at the Cross

Saved! Saved!

Glory to his Name

I Need Thee every Hour

Victory in Jesus

I am Bound for the Promised Land

No, Never Alone

Great is thy Faithfulness

My Favorite Holiday

21 11 2012

Thanksgiving means family game time

I love Thanksgiving. Stuffing smothered in gravy makes my mouth water. Kneading the dough for the crescent rolls brings stress relief. Warm, yeasty scents from them baking in the oven offer comfort even a hug lacks.

Do I even need to mention the apple-cinnamon fragrance of the bubbly apple pie?

The idea of families gathering to reflect on their blessings trumps even the delicious food. Being thankful gets lost in the rush of everyday life. It’s nice to know that at least once a year we’ll slow down – the turkey will guarantee it – to say thank you.

Who do we thank?

For people who don’t believe in an omniscient Creator, I wonder who they are thanking. When they say, “I’m thankful for my family, my health and the fact I didn’t get laid off from my job when hundreds of other people did,” just who are they thankful to?

My family and I will be sending our prayers of thanks and words of praise toward Heaven. I hope god will be inundated with so many similar prayers of gratitude and praise that he’ll wish for an answering machine. (Wait, that’s old school. He’ll be yearning for voice mail.)

What are we thankful for?

My list exceeds my height in its length. Anyone who says otherwise isn’t reflecting very deeply on all the things it takes to sustain life. In America, we take them for granted because they’re always there. Well, except in the aftermath of a hurricane or blizzard.

I can walk into my kitchen and press a glass against a lever on my refrigerator door and fill a glass with clean, cold water. According to WaterAid who quotes WHO, 11 percent of the people in the world don’t have access to clean, safe water. When was the last time I was thankful for it?

How about the fact that I can use a toilet in my house, flush it an the waste is transported far away to be taken care of in a healthy way? WHO says 35 percent of the people in the world don’t have access to such sanitation. That’s 2.5 billion people who have to think about what to do with their bodily waste every day. In America, we just flush and forget it. I’m incredibly thankful to live where I can do that.

I could go on and fill this post with tons of statistics about basic “necessities” of life that we rarely consider being thankful for while millions of people in the world don’t have them.

Family, health and jobs top our list of things to be grateful for on the fourth Thursday of November. Aren’t we glad our basic needs are met so we can focus on these things?

I know I am. And not just one day per year, either.

Why only one day in the year?

Don’t get me wrong, I think Thanksgiving is the best holiday because it helps our selfish, self-centered society stop and consider someone other than “numero uno” and that’s something that is sadly lacking on 364 other days of the year.

I’m not suggesting we should add more national days of feasting frenzy to the calendar. I know my waistline couldn’t handle that. I’m just wondering if it’s too much to ask for people to sit down at the end of every day and think of a dozen things they’re thankful for that day.

My list for today: 1) I have a day off from work; 2) My sons are home for a few days; 3) You are reading my blog; 4) I’m inside where it’s warm and dry because outside is a deluge; 5) I’m married to Mr. Wonderful; 6) Jesus loves me; 7) Breakfast burritos; 8) An hour-long bubble bath; 9) I could run on the treadmill; 10) I have a Bible to read; 11) I have other books to read – while I run on the treadmill; and 12) When I’m hungry, I can go in the kitchen and get something nutritious (should I choose that over delicious) to eat.

I didn’t even break a sweat or make a dent in all the wonderful things I have in my life. What about you? What are you thankful for?

And just for fun, I’ve included a poll about favorite holidays. If you select other, I hope you’ll post a comment naming the holiday.

What Lights Your Fire?

17 11 2012

Image credit to 2.bp

With football season well underway, hearing about “fans being on fire” is pretty common. Our pastor is a fanatic about football, but when he was preaching about “fire” on Sunday, he could have been asking us if we were fans of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, Christians as a whole have lost their fire for the Gospel. If we have a burning passion, it would more likely be for dark chocolate or some forbidden fruit.

Watching sports fans on TV or in person is an interesting study. Here’s what I notice:

  • They wear their team’s colors
  • They stand and cheer rather than sit and watch
  • They don’t mind being in a crowded stadium
  • It’s easy to pick them out in any crowd
  • Any negative talk about their team is likely to begin a brawl
  • Money is no object when it comes time for the big games

There are parallels to be drawn between this fanatical fire for the San Francisco Giants (yes, I’m more about baseball than football) and the Holy Spirit inspired fire that should be burning inside of God’s children.

  1. Team Colors:  Do Christians have colors? They should have true colors. They should be true blue – always believed because they’d never lie and loyal until their last breath.
  2. Stand and cheer or sit and watch? If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve heard the term “pew warmer.” Well, in sports the bench warmer doesn’t get any playing time. As for fans, any person who sits and watches their team isn’t as dedicated to the cause as those who are standing and cheering. The least we can do is cheer our fellow believers on. It would be even better if we stood beside them, sharing the message of hope with the world around us.
  3. They don’t mind being in a crowded stadium. When was the last time the church building was crowded with people who were cheering that their names were written in Heaven?
  4. It’s easy to pick them out in any crowd. Is it easy to tell you’re a Christian? If you looked in a mirror or watched yourself on hidden camera, would your actions mark you as “peculiar”? We act more like undercover agents than fired-up fans of our Savior.
  5. Negative talk about their team: This is the one that bums me out the most. Will we jump on the negative bandwagon when our brothers and sisters in Christ are under verbal fire? Or will we go on the defensive? It’s a fifty-fifty proposition, depending on our mood that day.

If we don’t join in, we nod and pull a pious face and pretend this gossip is really a prayer request. I think the saying my mother drilled into me as a child should be put into practice in churches: “If you don’t have anything nice to say… (come on and say it with me now, I know you’ve heard it) don’t say anything at all.”

I could do with a little more peace and quiet.

  1. Money is no object when it comes time for the big games. When the offering plate is passed, though, it’s a whole different matter. If we hear of someone unable to pay their doctor bill or electric bill, are we as willing to shell out $100 to help them? You can hardly get two poor seats at a regular NBA game for that amount of money – which says nothing about the parking fees and refreshment costs.

What do you think? Is there something in this world that people are more passionate about than sports? What lights your fire?


Too Much of a Good Thing?

14 11 2012

Too much of a good thing can be taxing. – May West

Too much sleep can make you sleepier. Too many sweets can make you gain weight.

There can be too much food in my stomach (we’ll prove it on Thanksgiving Day) but not too much on my table.

I’m an English literature major because I love to read and write. If you had asked me two years ago if there could be too much of either of these, I would have denied the possibility. It might have gotten loud.

Now, I’m tired of reading. Sure, most people were born with an aversion to textbooks, but I’m talking about the good stuff. Literature. Modern drama that uses comedy and satire to make statements about society should be a joy to read. Further, it should be fun to analyze and ponder and write about and discuss.

Should be – but it’s not. Even when I disagree with an author, I can usually appreciate the brilliance of their prose or see the value in their commentary. Not so. I didn’t even want to finish reading Shaw’s Major Barbara because by halfway through the third act, I was positive I wasn’t going to like the ending.

Furthermore, I don’t want to argue about why I don’t like it. I don’t want to read it again to find support for my views. I don’t even want to think about it.

Am I getting burned out because of the constant barrage of literature classes? Is the secular humanism Shaw spouts so diametrically opposed to my own beliefs that I don’t wish to consider it?

I’d like to claim this was a one-time anomaly.  Unfortunately, the reading of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan disproves that claim. Do I care why Brecht wishes the audience to stay at arm’s length? Do I find his interpretation of what makes a person “good” abhorrent? I don’t know and I don’t want to discuss it.

Of course, I have to discuss it. At length. On the discussion board for my literature class. Then I’ll get to write several essays comparing it with Shaw’s play. That will comprise my mid-term examination.

The only reading that appeals is something light that helps me escape from the deep thinking required for college. Like the YA book I finished during my walk on the treadmill – Riding Invisible by Sandra Alonzo. It’s a book I’ll be happy to discuss with my book group when we meet again.

What’s the problem?

Maybe I’m just tired from the setting back of the clock. Shouldn’t that extra hour infuse us with energy? I truly despise this semi-annual fiddling with the time. My body has its own clock – one that’s not as easy to reset as my iPhone, which resets itself automatically.

Writing begins to drain me, as well. I’m beginning to dread the short papers, the essay questions and the research papers. What I want to write is 5,000 beautiful words every week on my WIP. Even spending words on the blog seems like drudgery when the novel waits, sitting patiently in its Word document or in the Scrivener folders.

Does this mean that there is such a thing as too much reading or too much writing?

Ask me in the morning. My biological clock says its bedtime. Who cares if the clock on the wall says something else!


Keeping a Reading Journal

10 11 2012

I don’t use a quill, but it looks awesome – right?

Do I seem like a journal-keeper? I talked about a prayer journal and a blog journal in previous posts. I’m a fan of writing down thoughts so we don’t lose them. That’s the point of a journal.

Last week I talked about keeping a reading journal to help us improve our writing craft. I’d like to delve more deeply into specifics of that today.

If you’re like me, a pile of multicolored, spiral notebooks surrounds your writing space.

  • A blue one has pages of story ideas. Sometimes an idea is just a few sentences, or reads like the blurb on the back cover. Other times, several pages are filled up with the main plot idea and some interesting sub-plots.
  • The yellow one is all about characters and character arc.
  • A black one is filled with notes taken while reading books on writing craft. Completed exercises from the book are scrawled next to all caps announcing catchy acronyms to help organize ideas.
  • The red one has ideas for the blog. Inside, Kristen Lamb’s expert advice from her best-selling books intersperse with personal anecdotes. A quick line sparked while reading someone else’s blog that might expand into a future post.

I pick these up for 10/$1 at Back to School time.

The bones and brains of my current work in progress reside in a purple spiral notebook. I have pages with notes on the characters. Ideas for complications. There’s an origin story for my fantasy universe because world building is essential if I’m going to involve my reader. I have snippets of prophecies, names I think sound unique and even diagrams of the different ambits. When inspiration hits, I pull out the notebook and jot the ideas down. Unfortunately, it isn’t the most organized notebook I’ve ever seen.

Organizing Yourself

Making a writer’s reading journal is a great way to attain inspiration for reading like a writer. If you missed my earlier post on this subject, you can read it here.

  1. Select a notebook. If you’re like me, it will probably be another spiral notebook. Some people prefer loose-leaf notebooks so they can easily move things from section to section so it stays organized. Get what works best with your organizational style (What? You don’t have an organizational style? I’ll address this at a later date).
  2. Divide the notebook into sections. If you’ve got a spiral notebook, I use little sticky notes for tabs to mark the sections. In the loose-leaf notebook, you can purchase the ready-made dividers.
  3. Decide on what broad categories you will use to organize your notes. Maybe you’ll just use the basic elements of literature: Plot, setting, character, symbols, theme, point of view and style. I think these are a pretty good road marker for the notebook. If you have specific things you’re trying to improve, maybe you’d make a section for that. Perhaps you want imagery or description or vivid language or turns of phrase as sections in your notebook. Maybe you’re weak with realistic dialogue, so you might have a section for that.
  4. Start filling it up. Pull out the latest novel you’ve been dying to read. Stack the sticky notes next to you and start reading. When you come across something amazing, put a sticky in and keep reading.
  5. After you finish the book, go back and find your sticky notes. Now you transcribe the interesting passages into the blank pages of the notebook. Leave space after each entry to write your own analysis. You might be able to synthesize the information right at that moment, but you’ll probably have to come back later to complete that chore.
  6. Go back and comment on each passage you copied down. What did you like? How did the author make it work? Try to emulate it in your current work in progress.
  7. You’re a better writer already.

Remember, reading like a writer doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy devouring a book. Relish it. Just use those itty-bitty sticky notes to mark places that were especially amazing so you can learn from them.

Good writers are readers.

Great writers are observant readers.

Out with the Old and In with the New – Term that Is

7 11 2012

Yeah, the old YEAR will be gone soon, too.

Another eight-week term flew by while I was busy living life. That brings the countdown to four. Four terms left until I’ve earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English and Literature. A mere eight classes until a monumental task – for a woman of 40-something – is completed.

This term I’ve got my last required class for my professional writing minor – business communications. It’s a class all about writing memos and cover letters. This should be an easy breezy A. Of course, we all know what happens when I make assumptions like that.

In addition to this class is another literature class – of course! It’s a study in drama for me this term. I was slightly disappointed because I wanted to take the gender in literature class, but that filled up in two days. Crazy, I know.

Business Communications

This class marks a first time event for me – an electronic textbook. I could have purchased it in e-book format or I can just access it online for free. I’m sure you all can predict the choice this budget-conscious girlfriend made.

I’ve got the page bookmarked on my iPad and my computer. I foresee plenty of reading while on the treadmill in the future of this class.

Assignments for this class:

  • Read two chapters each week – on the iPad
  • Write a human resources policy memo and a bad news memo
  • Write an evaluation of nonverbal communication
  • Write about developing a presentation
  • Final project: a Power Point the sells me to a prospective employer

The intense research required for this class is to use the Internet to find a job I might be interested in having. I’ll gear my final project toward that “employer.”

Modern Drama

I know, the name of this class sounds somewhat like a day in the life at the middle school where I work. Alas, no! Instead, I rented four different books of plays and will be reading Sam Shepherd, Bertolt Brecht and Harold Pinter.

I’m not sure where I’m finding Major Barbara and The Brothers, which are listed as titles to read on the syllabus but are nowhere to be found within my little books of plays. Most likely, they will be available on the Internet – link provided by the professor, I hope.

Assignments for this class look a little more like something a senior should be doing:

  • Five short papers
  • A midterm exam
  • A final project which includes a paper and a Power Point

Not that I’m counting down or anything!

Did I mention that I only have six classes to go after I demolish these two classes? That demolition will happen just a couple days before Christmas. Is it wrong that I’m already imagining myself finishing up all this coursework and moving past it?


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