Friday, January 29, 2010

Just a Hack

A friend on Twitter sent me a message about my latest tweet concerning the incredible length of The Count of Monte Cristo, which I'm reading for book club. I'd said I didn't think a 1243 page novel would be published today. My friend lamented (though understanding the publishing cost limitations) that art like that would have to bend to publishers do's and don'ts today.
However, what I failed to mention is Alexander Dumas didn't have his book published back then either. It was published in serial form in cheap newspapers. If you could write fast and melodramatically, then you could make good money and become famous writing stories for the newspapers.
David Copperfield was written this same way. Dickens said one time he was in a store and a lady was complaining at the counter about the next installment of the story of David Copperfield not being available. She said she couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Dickens said that scene struck terror in his heart because he had no idea what was going to happen next either, as he hadn't written it yet!
At one time, Dumas had 4 or 5 different serial stories in the newspapers and became quite famous because of them. (And wonder if these books are sooo long because why stop a good thing when you're getting paid for it?)
Sensational, melodramatic, written quickly - not exactly the picture I had of masters at work on great literature. Sounds more like writers for the National Enquirer, doesn't it?
So let's live our lives, do the work put in front of us and laugh when others say we can't make a difference. 'Cause none of us know what the future holds.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happy Families all Alike?

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." This opening sentence from the novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is one of the more famous opening lines of a novel.
This line came to mind last night as I thought of our dinner companions. At the weekly church dinner we sat with an associate minister and his family. Their children are 16,14, and 11. The same age differences as our three.
I love children who like adults, who can talk comfortably, respectfully, and still be kids. We'd never met these young people and yet I felt very comfortable talking to them and joking with them; sharing a meal with them was a delight. Watching the interaction between the children and the parents and two strangers gave me many smiles not only last night, but this morning remembering it.
The family stories they told were told piece by piece - each person having their bit to share. You could hear how often these stories had been told by how familiar they were with the pattern. And they loved their stories - and loved sharing them. Joy jumped from face to face because they also loved hearing each other talk.
And yet the kids weren't center stage, they were controlled by parents who knew they were kids and knew they needed boundaries at times. And the fact that these boundaries are accepted and familiar was evident in the kids reaction to the boundaries. Just like a good driver doesn't pout when they see a STOP sign, they trust it's the right thing to do.
What fun it was to be with this family and what fun they had when they left. How do I know they had fun when they left? Because I just know it.
And while it made me remember the fun times with our kids, it didn't make me miss them. It made me appreciative of being at a point where I get to observe and participate in other happy families.
Isn't that amazing how an observation in a novel written in 1877, speaks truth today? I guess truth has staying power.
Just like happy families.

Alone again

Several years ago a friend who knew I was writing told me she didn't think I could do writing full-time because it would mean lack of interaction with other people.
I was bummed because I valued that friends opinions, but decided to try anyway. Plus, at the time I had three kids living at home and all the people they could find to drag home every day. The kids activities took us out of the house every night to sit in crowded basketball gyms or crowded bleachers trackside. And then there was church and all the activities there with three kids. Family dinner every night was a busy, nosy affair and on top of all that - I had friends to chat on the phone to or meet for lunch.
Miss being around people? My friend was crazy.
However-my life has changed. I now spend lots of time alone. Lots.
And while I couldn't imagine this much alone time back when the kids were home - I also couldn't have imagined Facebook and Twitter. For someone who has a lot of time alone, they are wonderful. I do spend a lot of time on both of them, but not nearly as much time as I spent at kids sporting events or in the church gym. And for other writers like myself, we are our own community on the web. We understand each other and our schedules - and that we are all alone, typing.
I talk everyday to some other writers all over the world in the agency who represents me. We don't have to share all our thoughts and concerns, but we serve to let each other know - You are not alone. And then there are the relatives and old friends I've connected with and now actually feel close to.
My friend was right. Without facebook and Twitter, I would feel isolated. So today, just putting my gratitude out there for Social Networking Websites.
Who loves ya, Babe?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poor God

Don't you just love that first moment at night when you lay down in bed? Especially if it's been a long or hard day? You stretch and your muscles relax into the mattress and everything rests. That is one of my favorite feelings and often as I lay there, beginning to doze, I feel sorry for God.
Well, I don't feel exactly sorry for him, but I wonder how could he have created something so good, which he never experienced. I mean, God doesn't get tired, right?
God understanding the human body would need sleep--that makes sense. Like a person designing a car understands it will need constant fillings of gas to keep it running. But for God to create this cool thing called sleep and make it so appealing--well, that's just impressive to me.
And then I start thinking about maybe Jesus was debriefed when he returned to heaven. Did God say, "Alright, so how does it feel to be tired? or hungry?" Did he press for details on going to sleep and waking up? Wonder what flavors Jesus preferred? You know, salty or sweet? And did he explain how good fresh bread tastes and how it feels in an empty stomach? Or what being clean feels like when you've been sweaty and dirty? God doesn't get dirty, does he?
I know God knows all these things - but was Jesus being in a human body a way for our God to know us even better? I like to think so.
God is just cool, isn't he?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Arrrghhh - Real vs. Almost Real. Bother (as Pooh would say)

I have a problem.
When we chose "The Count of Monte Cristo" for book club I knew it was a big book. When I went to the store to buy it however - it was HUGE - 1273 pages. I've been reading and reading and reading. But do you know how long it takes to read 1273 pages of very small print and larger than normal pages?
Then last week I found an old copy of the book here at the house (I've bought the classics for years, just didn't read them - hence the book club.) And I discovered it's the abridged version - only 468 pages and paperback sized. Doable.
So, ecstatically I started reading the abridged version. All the hundred's of visual details for each scene and never-ending conversation minutiae I'd been complaining about were gone. Whew.
. . . Except I missed them. I'd read a paragraph or a scene and then pick up the original, HUGE book and read it. And the writing would be so pretty, so flowing, so visual. Then I'd look back at the smaller book. Lines which caused me to stop and ponder were shortened or gone completely. Settings which before I could step in to and imagine perfectly, became just rooms.
Great - the original, the piece of classic art, the work of a master spoiled me for what would be quicker, fit me better, and is (most importantly) doable.
Wonder where else I choose - on purpose, with intention - what is doable over what is the real thing? Wonder what the author Alexander Dumas would say if told his book would be abridged so more people could read it? I imagine he'd say it would loose meaning and the flow and the beauty. He'd probably say, "that really wouldn't be my book and probably a waste of your time."
Wonder if God feels the same way when I settle for less than his true handiwork? When I substitute a quickly read devotion for spending real time with him? When a half-truth fits the situation (my situation) better? When I don't focus and appreciate an opportunity he gives me and just do what's doable, does he think - "Well, Kay, now it's just a waste of time."
I'd like to pray for God to spoil me for only the best, only his plan - but, honestly, I'm not sure I'm ready for that.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy New Year!

Finally I feel ready to start the new year. Earlier this month I blogged about 2010 feeling sketchy
And that feeling has persisted, even as the calendar ignored me and kept moving forward. Mike was headed to the airport yesterday around the same time I was driving past it headed home. So last night I rested from the trip, unpacked, and watched several hours of mindless TV - all in a quiet, clean house. And this morning feels like a new year. Not sure why. But I'm filled with new thoughts of doing things different, better. Eating, writing, living, doing - all those feelings I so look forward to when the Christmas decorations come down - usually. This year they didn't come - maybe it was the whole fear thing about not sure what 2010 holds.
And maybe it was just a hangover from all the swell of emotions and highs of 2009. It was an exciting, life-changing year in so many ways. How many times have I said in this blog I want to feel it all, not miss a moment, pay attention to the details? And I do - that's who I am. But that comes with a cost. Obviously, everything does.
When 2009 ended, it felt like when you drag yourself out of the ocean away from the waves and undertows which brought laughter, fear, exhilaration - and fall onto the sand.
But now, toweled off and having caught my breath, I'm ready for what comes next. I'm thankful for the passage of time, which I would've stopped until I was ready. Good thing I'm not in charge of that, isn't it? And I'm thankful for the knowledge that perceptions change. If we give them time and space - and don't fight those changes too hard.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Driving around yesterday reminded me of the five years we lived in Florida. First in Jacksonville right after college and then outside Tampa, in Dover - strawberry land. Without someone to talk to I did a lot of thinking and remembering. I also did a lot of looking. I returned to the condo last night, tired and cold and wanting to put down my impressions. Below is a list of the impressions from this trip, which I wrote last night. However, this morning one thought overrides the others - this blue sweater.
I only brought one big sweater - everything else long-sleeved was tee shirt weight. So, I've worn this same sweater every day and was reminded of how I don't care for Florida in the winter.
It's been a good trip, though, and I'm so thankful to have had the chance to be here (thanks again, Mama and Daddy)
Florida in January-
Cold, cold water of the Atlantic lapping over my bare feet.
Seagulls silent and still, all turned the same direction, waiting for the sun to rise out of the gray-blue water.
The sun, a ball of fire peeking above the horizon bit at time until it's a flaming ball of neon orange shooting liquid flame all the way to the shore at my feet.
Spanish moss draped almost to the street from gnarled, old live oak trees. Palm trees and palmettos not planted by landscapers, but shoved up next to trailers and ancient store fronts.
Sky-high, arching bridges joining the strip of sandy beach front land to the rest of the country.
Water pounding, Water pushing, Water traveling, Water reflecting, Water rolling, Water splashing, Water being Water and doing it everywhere.
Lots of old bodies in swim suits and not worried about what anyone thinks.
Hotels and condos stretched to the sky.
Cement block houses like our house in Tampa.
A cloudy sunrise reflecting pearly light onto green waves.
Now, it's time to pack and head north. I'm ready to go home. When we would visit my mom and dad when the kids were little and when they'd be excited to be going home, my mom would say that's a wonderful thing -to be happy when we get to go home. We should all have a home we want to return to- even from vacation.
Isn't that the way to be happy? Love home more than anywhere else?

I'm not Writing

Okay, did anyone out there actually think I'd get any writing done down here? Hopefully not, because I haven't even plugged in my zip drive (where my wip - work in progress - is located.) I didn't think I'd get any writing done, but I thought I might try.
Isn't time away what a writer longs for?
But maybe it's because there is no longer anyone at home all day, but me. No one popping in at 2:15 or staying home because they're sick or calling to say they're going to Taco Bell after school. But I think if the kids were home and I was here - I'd be thinking I should enjoy the free time, not spend it staring at a computer.
And, at home, the house doesn't distract me - I have the amazing ability to ignore housework or to give it so little importance that I do it without thinking. Some folks, including my husband, tell me they can't work at home. Too many to-do lists constantly swim before their eyes.
For me being in a strange place means there might be something new for me to see. Or, when will I get to see the ocean again, or drive on A1A, or drink a margarita poolside, or . . .
And maybe if I was on a deadline I'd be writing here at the beach, however I think I know myself enough that if I was on a deadline, I wouldn't have come.
So, just thought I should set the record straight. And for those of you who are smiling and saying, "I knew she wasn't working." Give yourself a high five and take the day off.
I am.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I go to Church

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love."
That is my favorite line in any hymn or worship song. Maybe that has something to do with my favorite passage in the Bible, John 15, which features two words "remain" and "abide".
I have complete faith that God would never leave me - but I have just as much faith that I am real prone to wandering. I can convince myself of pretty much anything (it's that delusional thing again). I sometimes think too much and can get way down a line of thinking before I realize where I'm going. There's my ability to get way involved in stuff that interests me - books, writing, football, politics. People fascinate me so I watch people a lot. Those close to me and those not so close - what did they do or say, what will they do or say, why did they do or say that?
All of this is how I wander, little bit by little bit.
Now some folks may be able to keep from wandering by themselves. Not me. That's what I need church for. I need a body of struggling people who are voluntarily coming together to remind themselves and each other what believing in God is all about.
That's why I go to church and why I love it. To join with others just as clueless about the road we'll face tomorrow, but ready to face it together because we know God owns the road. And we worship God together - with differences and doubts, and, yet, hope. Hope because God knows us and knows we are prone to wander.
I think that's why he calls himself a shepherd - tending a bunch of wandering, clueless folks.
Wandering? Clueless? Sign me up!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Promises Ocean-side

A friend, author of over 120 books, promised himself he'd always reach out to help others learn to write. An agent friend promised he'd instruct others on the business. A friend who grew up poor promised she'd never eat pinto beans again and another who grew up poor promised they'd never buy knock-offs.
Last week, Mama and Daddy decided his knee hasn't healed enough for them to feel comfortable traveling and the four days in the ocean-front condo couldn't be changed. So, here I am - sipping coffee, listening to the ocean and watching the sunrise. And I'm stumped. Why do I have the life I have? The old term - "My cup runneth over" is a familiar feeling for me. I remember telling a friend in college that if I died right then, I'd die happy. She thought I was weird and informed me that my life wasn't that great. (Hi, Connie). I remember saying that same thing to my co-workers in high school and a woman the age of my mother said, "No, you've not been married or had children." I told her I understood that, but I couldn't imagine being any happier at that moment. And, no, I didn't have the dream high school life - I don't know what I was thinking - except that I'm fairly delusional. Ask anyone who has to live with me.
So watching the sun sparkles on the water (that is my favorite thing to see in the world - light reflecting on water) I was marveling at my life and I made a promise.
I told God I'd be the most grateful person here. That he could look up and down Florida, but no one would be more appreciative of being here, than me.
What promises have you made that have steered your life? Or what promises do you need to make to regain focus?
It promises to be a beautiful day!

Friday, January 15, 2010

An Unexpected Adventure

An adventure was handed to me this week. My dad's knee is still draining from the surgery and so they aren't taking their trip to Florida like planned. That leaves their time share on the beach open for four days. And I just happen to be available! I can take my laptop and write from anywhere, but Mike has out of town work trips, the kids have school, plus it's only one bedroom, so it's just me.
I'll head to the beach Sunday after I speak in church (the hope talk thing I've written about). It's about an 8 hour trip and then I'll be there for four nights. I still can't quite get my head around that. I do enjoy being by myself, but in a vacation spot? And I've driven for that long when I used to take the kids to camp up in Tennessee, four hours up-drop them off-four hours back. But on my way to a new place, all by myself?
Also, I don't want this time to just slip through my fingers and not be special. Not be appreciated. So what do I want to do there? Read? study? explore? research? relax? what?
If you've read this blog much, you know I'm a planner. Deep inside me is the fear of missing something. Of not paying attention. So, I'm really getting excited. An adventure from out of the blue. I'm also enjoying examining my reaction to this unexpected gift.
So, here's what I want to know. What would YOU do if this popped up for you? Time alone, far from home. Would you even consider going by yourself? Just wondering and thinking AND packing!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Seems the longer I wait on something, the more surprising it is when it happens.
Some friends go to pick up their new daughters in Africa this week. The journey to this point has taken years and yet, now that it's happening it seems shocking that they'll have been to Africa and have the girls back here before the end of the month. How can things move this fast?
I'm seeing God move in my writing journey and to look back now on blogs from only a couple months ago it's hard to understand how hopeless I was. Surely I should've sensed that change was just around the corner. Right?
But that's not how it works. Is it because we have trouble believing something will happen - until it happens? And the longer something takes to happen, seems the harder it is to believe it WILL happen. For me, long term dreams start to fall into the realm of fantasy and fairy-tale. I get comfortable with them there, then when they jump into reality, I'm surprised.
My friend Cindy gave me a card a while back (she's such an encouraging friend) and it hangs on the board above my computer. The front has a quote from Luci Swindoll:
Vision is when you see it and others don't. Faith is when you do it and others won't.
I think I have a lot of that faith to do things. However, a lot of the time, I step forward because I don't think it will actually happen. Maybe a lack of fear? (or intelligence?)
How many things are started to just see What If? How many times do people step out, because the path, surely, won't go that far.
Seriously - if anyone knew what it really means to have kids, before they had them?
So here's to today and moving on, blissfully unaware of the amazing things ahead in the road - as long as I keep walking.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kiffin? Haiti? Kiffin? Haiti?

I love being passionate about stuff. Knowing all the ins and outs. Being up to the minute on the things I care about. But all that passion comes with a price, doesn't it? My most telling wage of this deep 'gotta-know' today is tiredness. Midnight came and went last night with me glued to the Tennessee Vol message boards. Coach Lane Kiffin's abrupt departure last night left me stunned - and I wanted to know every detail. Still do, I had to turn off sports radio to write this and I'm so afraid I'm going to miss something.
After 9/11, every morning I had to turn on the TV just to make sure nothing had happened overnight. That idea that something big could happen at any moment stayed with me.
That is my favorite thing about Twitter. Whatever happens, it's on there immediately. Many times there is info about which I care nothing. Michael Jackson's doctor comes to mind or most celebrity news. However, if it's sports or political stuff - I want to know first.
So last night and this morning I'm obsessed (I know you've been saying that word under your breath) with the Tennessee stuff - and yet the big story for the world is the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Intellectually I know the Haiti story is more important and makes my football story look small, petty and meaningless. But, honestly, I'm still obsessed with the Tennessee story. And taking a look at the sports TV and radio shows - I'm not alone.
You want more honesty? As I look at facebook and twitter updates of folks praying for and concerned with Haiti my thought is, "Good, there are folks concentrating on that so I can focus on the Tennessee story."
Should I feel bad about being like this? Is there room for all this knowledge? Is it a good thing we don't all focus on the same thing? When do I know if I need to know too much? And most importantly . . .
Who is Tennessee going to hire???

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I was a Door to Door Insurance Salesman

My first job out of college was with a large and well established insurance company. They specialized in supplemental insurance, but for many it was their only insurance. It was, and after a quick look at their web-site I believe still is, sold door to door.
That's right - I was a door to door insurance salesman. We were given a list of current clients and then let loose on a territory, to which we'd traveled. And then we went door to door on "cold" calls, explaining why this policy was a good idea. We worked in mid to lower economic situations, because they were often the folks who needed this type of insurance.
Sales is fun when you honestly believe what you have to offer is what someone needs or wants. I know folks were helped when they at some point had to use the insurance policy I sold them. But selling is not for the faint of heart.
Today I'll get a look at the proposal for my book Next Stop, Chancey. This is the proposal which will be sent out to several publishers by my agent. It will tell about me and include the first three chapters of my book. Wow.
Kinda feels like those days pulling into a long drive way and then walking up to the door after an entire morning of "No's". Scary - but the only way to get a "Yes" is to knock on the door.
Here's to knocking.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Biggest Problem with the Empty Nest

My biggest problem with the empty nest is that I got too used to it.
We moved Lizzy into her new dorm on Saturday and the house is now empty of children - again. It's been about a month since Christmas break started and all the festivities of the season and Robert's wedding commenced. I think our first semester of the empty nest wiped out my memory banks of having a houseful of people, coming and going and eating and sleeping at all different hours. I used to be able to function with the different schedules and agendas and needs, while still maintaining what I needed to do. Carving out time for myself in the midst of chaos was a skill I pretty much perfected. Going with the flow and adapting to those around me was really part of my make-up.
But this past month, it all got to me. The mess of lots of people and lots of activities weighed on me. The calendar lunged from one event to the next and the days, or hours, in between were lost in the process. And, yes, it was a busy time - but I think there's more to it.
The seasons have changed. I've always known I'm a very seasonal person and if you've read this blog for long, you know that. Certain smells, colors and music designate the natural seasons for me. Now I'm thinking my internal passage of time goes even further than that.
It's a new season of just me and Mike, of my writing having a future, of doing things I like (i.e. my book clubs) and basically narrowing my focus. Multi-tasking seems to have belonged to a different season.
I feel a deep gratitude for this new season and for the acknowledgment of it. However, there is also a sadness at the passing of that season of full home, full calendar, and broad, scattered focus. But having a beginning and an end IS what makes something a season.
Could that be what leads to so much sadness in our lives - holding on to seasons which have passed?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Two sides of Vision

In researching about hope, I came upon a quote which has me thinking this morning.

If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Yesterday we went to orientation at Georgia College and State University - the school Lizzy has transferred to. We will move her in tomorrow. We have become rather familiar with several Georgia colleges, and now have three kids in three different schools. I understand the need for good grades - I honestly do. But grades have just never been that important to me. That view has horrified many folks (even recently) but grades for the sake of grades never has really worked for me.
My parents didn't push grades - now failure wasn't taken lightly and the time I got my first car and two "D's" around the same time, Daddy told me that was not to happen again or the car would be sitting. No lecture or empty threats - he knew and I knew - I messed up. But all three of us graduated college, first generation in both sides of my family.
Grades for the sake of grades is like the sticks and assigned tasks in the quote above. Succeeding at school or a job, needs to be because we see the possibilities that success opens up. Where it will take us. It's about Vision.
But does true Vision also include the downside? What will happen if I don't keep going? In the quote - is the idea of failure to reach the "endless immensity of the sea" just as powerful?
This reminds me of a quote from John Greenleaf Whittier - For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, "It might have been."
True vision having two sides has never occured to me. To hope and dream of the sea is only half the story. To fear never seeing it, is clearly just as powerful. Hmmm - I've got to think on this some more.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cold Yet?

Okay, if it doesn't snow in Georgia today there are going to be an awful lot of disappointed folk. The weather gurus have been predicting snow for today for the last week. And it has been THE topic of conversation here. I tried to ignore the forecast, because it so often is a bust when it comes to snow for us. But the past couple days the buzz has grown and they've not changed our snowflakes to raindrops on the weather channel - yet. You folks up north, have no idea how it is here when we might get some snow. In the eleven years we've lived here, I can only remember two times when we actually had the ground covered. We moved from Chicagoland in mid-January and the week we moved here, snow forecasted for Marietta. My parents were here to see the new house and welcome us South. The kids went to school and my mom laughed at what they would think. "Your kids are going to think it's crazy down here because the other kids will be so excited about possible snow." (We'd left two feet of snow on the ground at our old house.)
Sure enough, the Shostak kids didn't understand. They were ready to open the pool. Matter of fact, both boys wore long, khaki shorts everyday to school the rest of the year.
And, I admit, after living with true cold for 10 years, I never could get real worked up about whether the kids were dressed warm enough after we moved back south. (Lizzy is known through out several youth groups as the girl who went snow skiing in shorts.) I figure it's not life threatening and if they're cold today, they'll put on more clothes tomorrow. I mean, they're not stupid.
However, sometimes parents act like kids are stupid. A teacher of kindergarteners mentioned that the kids come to school so cared for, they don't know how to do anything for themselves. When we protect our kids from consequences - failing a test, telling a lie, not dressing warmly, staying up too late, then they don't learn. Problem is - those consequences hurt us as parents so we cushion their pain when they live in our houses. What I'm liking about having adult children is I don't have to see the consequences up close anymore. Plus, I remember the consequences I dealt with as a young adult and know those mistakes, and dealing with them on my own, taught me a lot.
Wow - that took a big detour from the snow thing, didn't it? So here's to all the mistakes we made that got us here. And Let it Snow!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can You Define "Hope"?

Thinking about the word Hope this morning for a couple speaking events I have scheduled. Words fascinate me, and I think about them alot. One part of writing I love is finding just the right word. Even speaking in a casual conversation, the right word matters to me. If you look around our house youll see how much I enjoy words - there are books everywhere. I'm noticing this right now because I'm looking for a specific passage from Madeline L'Engel on Holy Innocent's Day and a recipe I made 20 years ago around Mardi Gras time. They are both in books I would never, never have thrown away, so they're here. I just have to find where here is. But, back to particular words.
Hope is a word which has eluded me and caused quiet a bit of pondering for me through the years. A long while ago, I even considered tagging myself, "Writer of Hope" after reading a book by painter Thomas Kinkade where he explains his label "Painter of Light". I have a mental picture of hope from the book "Pilgrim's Progress" - now there's another book I need to find so I can reread that passage. It's also here somewhere.
Before Christmas, our senior minister was asking about my writing when we were at a party. After telling him of my journey, he asked if I'd speak during the sermon he's doing in January on - you guessed it - Hope. Then last night I got the line-up for a women's conference I'll be speaking at in February and my passage focuses on - say it together - Hope.
So what do you consider Hope to be? How would you describe it? What does it mean in your life? Seriously, I'd like to know. And if you've never thought about it before - here's your chance!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dennis Rodman, John Rocker and Boise State

I remember the first time I saw it. We were in Washington, D.C. for a railroad conference and everyone was hanging out in the lobby seating area. We were next to the bar area, it was a Saturday evening, and suddenly our attention was on the TV near us. The college football game was being played on a BLUE field. Blue, not blue-green, not blue-ish. Bright blue. Surely it was just a one game gimmick or a mess up with the lawn fertilizer. Nope, it was Boise State and they did it on purpose and permanently.
I still hate it. Last night, Boise State played Texas Christian Univ. in a major bowl game. When I asked Mike who he was rooting for, since apparently they couldn't both loose, he said he was, of course, rooting for TCU because of Boise State's Blue field. It truly is horrible. Doing some research this morning, I discovered the NCAA now won't allow fields to be other than green. However, Boise's blue is grandfathered in. Yeah, them.
Living in Chicago, we loved the Michael Jordan led Bulls. And when the Bulls signed NBA Bad Boy, Dennis Rodman, we went from hating the pierced, tattooed, rainbow-haired thug to affectionately calling him, "Our Thug." And for Atl. folks, remember John Rocker, the Braves closer? Everyone else thought he was a loudmouthed redneck. We saw him as a good ol' boy who spoke his mind and, bless his heart, if his mind weren't all that big.
Funny how owning something makes it not only palatable, but almost desirable.
A lady in a women's class one day lamented how her husband always left his dirty clothes laying in the bathroom floor. He'd done it all thirty years they'd been married and she told, rather emotionally, how upset it made her every single time. I said if she really wanted to get over it, to ask God to show her something she consistently did which her husband didn't like. If God brought that to her mind, and the realization that her husband usually just let it go, soon she wouldn't resent his constant blunder as much. She was stunned (I'm thinking she knew exactly what infraction she regularly committed), but agreed to try it. She actually nodded her head and said, "I think that will work."
We delude ourselves into thinking our failures & bad habits are understandable, acceptable, and unintentional. While others are just out to make our lives miserable with their stupidity.
Boise State won the game last night - and I guess I'll learn to live with their idiotic blue field. Now, to make us all feel better, join me in that rousing and delightful song - Rocky Top!

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Feels a Little Sketchy

I'm a tad bit scared, I think.
Usually I can't wait to get all the Christmas decorations down and put away. Usually, the idea of a bare house excites me and the beginning of a new year finds me more than ready to jump in with both feet. But for some reason that's not the case this year. So I've been trying to figure out what's going on.
Am I not sure what 2010 will look like? Possibly. When I first talked to my agent and she told me the plan for turning my manuscript into a book, she cautioned. "Now, this may take a while. It may take as long as six months."
Six Months! How can anyone think that's a long time? I know I've talked confidently and written like someone will one day read all those words, but a book? A real contract, for a real book this summer? My head just won't quite hold that idea.
And other things are happening which fall into that category of one day - some day - a long time from now. Good friends are expecting grandbabies. Huh? We have a married son and another one sprinting down the aisle. I know about diapers and elementary school meet and greets and driver's licenses, and sports camps -but I don't remember the chapter in the baby books about them getting married. Married? And in May both boys will graduate, one from college and one from grad school. Okay, we planned for them to go to college - but, uh, seriously - they're done? Really? Lizzy is applying for an extended overseas mission trip for the summer - now who thinks that's a good idea? She's only 8 or so, right? Oh, yeah, she turns 19 this month.
So maybe 2010 looks a little sketchy to me right now. Sketchy - what a good word for how I feel. Both in it's new usage, meaning not quite right and it's original art meaning of a preliminary drawing.
Anybody else out there feeling sketchy? And how are you handling it? For me, it's helped to put it down in black and white this morning and I think I'll do some cleaning today of a closet or two. I feel the need to put things in order and get ready -----
--- for Whatever!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Recipe for a GREAT Party!

What an incredible blessing to have a house. Not only for the obvious reasons on a cold, blustery morning like this, but to invite people in to.
I woke with thankfulness for our home this morning, because it is the day we have our Open House to watch all the New Year's Day Bowl games. Crock pots of chili and nacho cheese will be fired up soon. The coolers are lined up on the deck and each have a piece of duct tape on them listing what can be found inside. (Both high tech AND classy.) Paper products have been purchased on my annual trip to Sams and furniture has been arranged for best TV viewing.
This is our 11th year of doing the Open House and this week at dinner we were thinking of all the folks we've welcomed here. How the basement use to be filled with kids, then teenagers, and now it will be crowded with college (and older) adults playing games, talking and laughing.
Mike and I enjoy opening our home and want people to be comfortable here. We want folks to open the refrigerator, put a new roll of toilet paper on, grab a towel from the stack at the pool and literally make themselves at home. I tell first time visitors to help themselves, because "If I get it for you once, you'll expect me to do it every time."
Mama told me the secret years ago to having a successful social event - Decide even if no one comes, you're still going to have a great time. And that works, every time, I promise.
Another thing I discovered is that what I want most is for the people who enter our home to feel like they've entered the presence of God. I pray before each gathering for God to be here in a strong way and to bless our home and everyone who comes in to it.
So there's the recipe for a great party - canned chili, duct tape on the coolers, and God.
Happy New Year!