29 November 2010


Do you ever have instant rapport with someone? It's usually an evening of conversation that establishes some new acquaintance into something more, but occasionally something clicks instantly.

I think sharing a common experience creates instant bonds if not friendships. It seems that parents of the same age children often have a bond, if somewhat tentative, by the shared experience of having a toddler. Often people of different ages might bond over having attended the same university or school. Is it friendship or does the shared experience just give you something to talk about instantly, thus filling the conversational gap?

I don't know but I have noticed a few times lately and instant rapport with people I had only just met. With the missionary crowd, you generally keep running into each other at missions conventions or pastor meetings and such. It's the same series of questions usually and the same commiserations over our shared experience of fund raising and calling churches. It's almost humorous. I noticed it particularly on the East Coast because suddenly I was a newbie at the conventions coming in from the outside and yet we had the same conversations like we were old friends.

Recently I met someone who had spent several months in Spain learning the language. So, bing, instant connections. In the course of an afternoon of conversation, we found we had other things in common too and much to talk about, but that shared past experience was the basis for that new connection.

What triggers an instant connection for you?

25 November 2010

Shopping legends

I heard an advertisement for a shopping area in KC that opens at midnight Thanksgiving night for shopping. Now that is a weird sale time I could get into. I can do midnight, but 5 am you've lost me there.

The idea of getting up at 3 am to stand in line just doesn't do it for me. I'm not a hard core shopper I guess. I also don't like the idea of fighting for the particular items in question.

I once went to Tuesday Morning (the shop) on their opening day. I had seen a flyer and I wanted a tiffany-style lamp they had advertised and it was on the way to work. I had no idea people lined up to get stuff that first day, and I had no idea they were after the same lamps. People pushed and shoved and ran! At Tuesday Morning in MIssion Kansas on a weekday morning!! I calmly walked down a separate isle found a lamp that was $10 more but the same style and vowed never again. I'm just not a shoving, fighting type shopper. I know it's suppose to be all in the hunt, can't do it.

The odd thing is I do like to go to crowded group events, like the Plaza lighting ceremony in KC with half a million of my closest friends. But at those type of events, I'm just there. I'm not trying to fight anyone in the crowd for a sweater.

Several of us went to London at Christmas back in the mid 90s. I can't remember but I think we arrived the day after Christmas. We decided to go shopping on Oxford street, a major shopping street with big department stores. It was really crowded. Insanely crowded. Not 5 am or anything, just the middle of the afternoon the day after Christmas. They had barricaded the sidewalks so that we couldn't spill over into Oxford Street. We reached a point where no one could walk on the sidewalk. You couldn't get from one store to the next to look around. Finally the police came and moved barricades or something. The next day we say a headline in the newspaper, "Oxford street experiences human gridlock."

So maybe you want to mock me. I don't get up at 5am to fight for deals, but I'll go into a crowd of 100,000 for the heck of it. And just maybe, I'd go to a midnight sale - to watch the crowd!

23 November 2010

Traditional Foods says who?

What's on your table for the holidays? Same thing for Christmas and Thanksgiving? Do you cringe if your "traditional" foods aren't there? I overheard someone recently say they just get a turkey breast and do that for Thanksgiving and I thought, "how sad." Then I realized my own food filter ideas were at work.

Traditional Thanksgiving for me is as follows. Turkey, a big whole golden bird. I'm flexible on where the stuffing is at (in or out of the bird) what with health concerns and all. Some people are not flexible on this. But DO note there IS stuffing.  Gotta be mashed potatoes and gravy. I really prefer REAL gravy, it can be supplemented by some broth of course, but not the mix stuff (oh Lord, I sound like my grandpa!).

Rolls, I would say are a traditional Thanksgiving table item. I'm not major on them because at my age I gotta save calories for the important stuff. I'm in charge of bringing rolls this year. Much to my mom's disappointment (though to her credit she didn't say it outloud exactly) I'm not making them from scratch. I don't think it's the time as much as the mental energy right now.

Cranberry sauce, traditional gotta be on the table. I'm not a fan and don't eat it but it's gotta be there. At the Hartman house, it is made from scratch and actually looks appetizing compared ot the can shape stuff which is sort of fascinating. Maybe I'll try some this year.

Vegetable? I don't have a vegetable in my turkey tradition slot in my brain. I know for many this space is filled with the infamous green bean casserole. I suspect I may the only North American who doesn't care for this that much. Love green beans, but the creamy action in there isn't my favorite. I'll eat it, but saute my green beans in a little bacon fat and I'm happy. But I would even be at peace with another vegetable on the table. No tradition for me here.

Salad. Totally optional. Not tradition for me. Black olives are a side item that I expect often but I think that is left over from my childhood more than their actual presence.

Pumpkin pie is a no brainer of course for dessert. I love pecan pie but didn't always have it growing up with Thanksgiving, but I would say those are the two that need to be on the dessert table.

I have a friend who always has homemade noodles with the Turkey traditional dinner. It's not thanksgiving for her without noodles. What are your gotta haves? What is traditional for you?

19 November 2010

Evolution of Thanksgiving

I haven't seen what Thanksgiving looks like in the USA for 6 years. So it has been interesting to watch the approach of this magnificent holiday after such a long absence. Keep in mind these are simply personal observations, nothing scientific at all.

One thing I noticed is that Halloween is bigger than it has ever been. I'm not anti-halloween, but I did notice the decorating aspects of it seem to have gotten darker, ghoulier if you will. While that seems unrelated, it is in comparison that I bring it up.

I saw and felt the approach of Halloween in stores, in yards, in the media. Immediately thereafter, I heard Christmas music, saw bell ringers, etc. It was an immediate switch to Christmas themed things, Christmas anticipation. The atmosphere, unspoken, is that we are on to the "holidays" which in theory could include Thanksgiving, but doesn't appear to do so.

I realize Thanksgiving isn't necessarily a major holiday, but it still deserves it's own acknowledgment and space. It is a holiday unique to our country in that we celebrate our existence and survival and have in the past acknowledged that God was involved in that survival. A moment to pause and give thanks for our country's existence, but hopefully also for the year we've managed to survive once again.

I've almost felt a certain cultural pressure to move on to Christmas, decorations, music etc. I've held out with my two pumpkin decorations however, (the rest migrated to Spain with me), and will try my best to cut Thanksgiving some space in the holiday-space time continuum.

17 November 2010

Christian marketing

I've heard some discussions in my book world, in my video production world and speculated that the same is true in music the music world. All of these in regard to Christian products.

I know that when a book or video distributor/printer becomes successful they have guidelines. This can be good in that it guides them to choose projects that are a good fit for their company, but I'm beginning to suspect that some of the parameters and rules placed on art by the big companies, publishers, distributors (THEM for lack of a better term) have turned it into a repetitious formula. The danger with this is that new artists or styles don't find a commercial voice even if they have minor success on local levels.

It's like THEY by finding a formula of movies, books, or dare I say it music, dictate what can and cannot be popular. Now this is true in both secular and Christian circles but I've been thinking about it in regard to the Christian market place.

I heard a lecture about the so-called rules for a Christian movie that places like Sony are putting on things they will distribute. It's not moral convictions. It's just that x + y has equaled marketing success. SO, no sex, no bad words, no, no whatever the rules fill in the blank. Christian books have similar limits. I once heard an acquiring editor for a Christian press say they did not accept any book with a divorced protagonist or significant other. So how believable and realistic are these pieces? Bad guys who aren't too bad (no swearing). Good guys who are, well, too perfect (no sins). Do you ever see something that doesn't quite ring true but it was pretty good, just not quite? Maybe it didn't have believable characters. Maybe it followed the formula for financial, marketing success but not necessarily the most satisfying story it could be. Maybe a tiny bit of reality was squeezed out of it so it would fit better in the Christian system.

I had been thinking these things in my head driving around and I was listening to the radio. I'm a station flipper when left alone. I flip til I like a song then flip again. I kept trying the Christian station and flipping away. It was all that sort of country sounding alternative songs and all sounding the same (and not to my taste). It occurred to me that the Christian radio mavens and masters have done the same thing that the Christian book and movie guardians had. Only one style is getting through because it fits the formula. I'm absolutely positive there are Christians out there with other musical sounds and granted I'm a flipper so there is much I miss, but still.

Not to say the secular world doesn't do the same thing, but it's disappointing as someone who wants to move in those circles to think I have to fit some odd uncomfortable formula to be considered "legitimate." Sorry to say I'm probably not gonna fit.

13 November 2010

Two for the road

Well, many of you have been hanging with me during this odd disconnected journey of blogging in 2010. The update is that I'm behind. Shocking that, I'm sure.

Actually it's not for lack of ideas or things I want to write, it's about internet access and travel. If my math, is right, I can still make it. I'll have to do 2 posts a week rather than one. The trick will be access and probably a bit of perseverance.  I think now I have 3 or 4 ideas that are either started or waiting their turn plus a short story I'd still like to share with you.

I've enjoyed the interaction and feedback on the many random subjects. Writing can be so solitary, it's been fun to have more connections and you are all so kind and interesting in your comments. That keeps me going too. Hang in there as I have to put in 2 a week because of the road time this year. Anyone taking bets on whether I'll make it?

Any topic requests for the mad dash to the end of the year?

11 November 2010

My Stuff

I'm staying in a single bedroom, a big one, but a single room with a bathroom attached. It has been five weeks more or less. This amount of time brings out one of my challenges. Stuff.

I don't mean to, but my stuff builds up. Now, I'm never going to be on Hoarders but I tend to feel like I need to hang on to pieces of paper in case I need them. You know, stray phone numbers, names of people we met, receipts, lists of what I need to get done. Then there's things that might be useful to me or might be able to be used again. (shopping bags, anyone?) These and other things have built up on all the flat surfaces in my room.

A desk-pseudo-cubical in one corner is having to work as the kitchen/hotpot breakfast area. I'm trying to stay mostly with food/plates in this area but it is next to the mirror so occasionally make up products migrate there. There's not enough light in the bathroom for these activities nor a plug in for the hair dryer.

On the other side of the mirror is the table with the microwave. This has caught the make up bag, hair goo products, etc. but you still need to get the microwave open and not knock all the receipts off. It's a little tricky.

The side tables by the bed have papers, books, work "stuff", pens, etc. Sadly no flat surface remains untouched.

I try to keep my "stuff" in check and I'm better than I used to be. In danger of sounding like an advertisement, I'll say something that has helped me is evernote.com. You can keep lists, webpages, and other stuff there for free. This helped me get rid of many random bits of paper I felt like I might need while we were in the USA. In Spain, I  put the info on my evernote pages and I have it without carrying it. Very good for a paper pack rat! (free too).

Another problem I've had with stuff, is the word itself. It's such an all purpose word that I discovered after writing my first (unpublished) novel that I use the word entirely too much. I think I've weeded it out of my writing mostly -- this post excepted.

And now in the next few days, I have to get all that stuff back in two suitcases. Oh boy.

06 November 2010

Together or Apart?

So I'm spending some time on my own in New England. Things happen all the time that I think, oh I should tell someone...funny things, odd things, strange events.

I started thinking are things better experienced together or apart? With the risk of sounding a bit like a sesame street episode: together or apart? Together - sometimes you are busy with your own conversation or your own stuff and you don't notice things. But...together sometimes you can see something and just give each other a look and know that weird guy in aisle 5 caught both your eyes. Is it funnier together or apart? Because sometimes things get funnier in the retelling. I don't retell something when I saw it with someone but I might retell it to a third party thus expanding the funny factor. So together or separate?

I've noticed sometimes I get an artistic eye when things quiet down or I look around more in general when I don't have anyone to talk to (guilty of being of talker). I went on a walking tour this week without a companion on the tour with me and I found myself trying to be creative with the camera (didn't turn out but I tried).

I know my significant other has said he saw a lot of sites in Europe by himself in the Army and it was less satisfying because there wasn't anyone to share it with, so I suppose it depends on where and when.

I know I found myself laughing this week a few times even though I was by myself - so things are still funny even though I'm by myself. Maybe that makes them funnier because then I'm the crazy lady by myself laughing out loud. So I can see good on both sides: the together side and the apart one. Maybe the trick for everyone is not too much of either one.

04 November 2010

What's a missionary?

When I was a kid, in the (ahem) 70s, it was getting to the end of a legalistic battle of generations. The culture of rules defining the evidence of your faith was struggling. Even though my family wasn't big on the rule scene, it permeated the landscape and my grandparents were definitely in the old school camp.

So slacks or jeans at church were bad for women. Missing church was bad. The judge was still out on pierced ears.  Movie theaters could keep you from the rapture (not in my family but in my friend's). Rock music was blasted by many as of the devil though some would tolerate "Christian" rock. Drinking and smoking were straight tracks to...well you get the idea.

So somewhere in all of that without really meaning for it to happen a subliminal idea of "holiness" lodged in my mind. So as a (ahem) 30 something person God started dealing with to become a missionary, I felt at a distinct disadvantage. I am not all these "holiness" things that my mind would tell me I must be to fit the "missionary" mold.

I mean "real" missionaries would never watch movies or listen to *gulp* rock music. Right? Or prefer jeans over skirts and high heels? Or like reading secular novels?

It seems the deeper I go with God, the more I realize that by some remarkable miracle God uses damaged people. Even more amazing, He redeems us bit by bit from our brokenness and occasionally we do something good for his kingdom with a vast amount of His mercy and help. But that's the point, He did the miracle and we are evidence of His love.