30 December 2010

52 of 52 for 2010 -- I made it!

I set out in January to blog 52 times this year. More goal than resolution. I can't really say why other than my writing had suffered the last year or two unless it was something work related. I randomly blogged previously when something occurred to me, but not with any committed timeline. I had a work goal of three scripts this year which I did not meet due to not taking time to do research (just to be honest.)

As I got going with the blogs, I noticed something that I had experienced in the past to again be true. The more you work a muscle, like a writing muscle, the more ideas you have. The more the muscle gives you. I hesitate to call it creativity because these blogs were about random musings more than creative works, but it works the same with your creative muscle too. The more you do the better it works.

I didn't lack for ideas, but I did hit a few weeks where perhaps emotionally I wasn't in a great place to blog coherently or weeks where the time frame didn't allow me the concentration to put something coherent together or the internet access was unavailable when we were on the road. I got behind.

The past couple months I took to blogging on the computer and saving it for internet access times. I also started doing two postings, usually previously written blogs, each week to make up for those absent weeks. And this week, well, you get three. But that brings us to 52. I haven't really made up my mind on any writing goals for next year.

I have a couple ideas already lined up in the cue for new blogs. Not sure yet if I'll try to keep up the weekly idea or just let it be random. My imagination is coming up with more than it used to though and I'm glad I did this exercise. Thanks for hanging with me on the journey. Stay tuned for what 2011 holds.

28 December 2010

My reading in 2010

At the end here, I am posting the books I've read this year, so far. It's nine more books than last year and usually a magazine in between each book. I have been pondering why it is more. Is the availability? I think that definitely plays into it. I can run to the library or to the store and grab another book that interests me or something that someone recommended. Also people hand me books that they are done with so the books have been flowing. Quite frankly, it's been delightful. I don't feel as much like I have to save a particular book I'm looking forward for a specific moment or time.

The range of books is also very different for me this year. I think that is partly from people handing me books that they enjoyed. I might not pick them up of my own accord, but when recommended I do give them a try. In the past, I've tried to alternate one fiction book and then a nonfiction. I seem to stall out in nonfiction because it isn't as compelling and it doesn't take me out of my circumstances somehow. This year I didn't stick to that schedule at all. Maybe that's why I read more.

I wonder if I simply read more because my time frame in life is very different than it was in Spain. I don't really feel I had more time to read, but perhaps I gave it more time since I had more books? The fund raising process we are living in is more stressful than going to the office in Spain, and I do tend to seek out comfort and escape in fiction. So maybe it's just the mental health factor that has led me to read more this year. I am getting an electronic reader to take back to Spain with me, so we will see next year how that effects my reading habits. I will let you know.

Anyways....here's the list. Why do you read? What do you read?

The last camel died at noon, Elizabeth Peters, mystery
I'll be off then, Hape Kerkling, travelogue, spiritual
Wish You Well, David Baldacci, drama
The Places In Between, Rory Stewart, travelogue Afghanistan
State of Fear, Michael Crichton, suspense
The Literary and Potato Peel Pie Literary Society, Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, drama
Clubbed to Death, Elaine Viets, mystery
A Painted House, John Grisham, drama
Fatal Fixer Upper, Jennie Bentley, mystery
27 Tough Questions Pastors Ask, Dick Hardy, nonfiction
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingslover, drama
In the Moon of the Red Ponies, James Lee Burke (cd, abridged)mystery
The Associate, John Grisham, mystery
Bitter Harvest, Ann Rule, nonfiction True Crime
Rapture in Death, JD Robb, mystery scifi
Nothing to Lose, Lee Child, suspense
Nothing to Fear but Ferrets, Linda O Johnston, mystery
From the Cross to Eternity, Randal Ross (devotional booklet)
Just Take My Heart, Mary HIggins Clark, mystery
The Border Legion, Zane Gray, western book on CD not abridged
Little Bee, Chris Cleave, drama
Dial H for Hitchcock, Susan Kandel, mystery
Unveiling Islam,  an insider's look at mulim life and beliefs, by Ergun Mehmet Caner, Emir Fethi Caner, nonfiction
The Spy wore Red, Aline Countess of Romanenes, nonfiction
City of Silver, Annamaria Alfieri, mystery
Spanish Reflections, Mary Lee Settle, travelogue
The Spy went Dancing, Aline Countess of Romanenes, nonfiction
Soul Survivor, how my faith survived the church, Phllip Yancey, nonfiction
Magdalene, by Angela Hunt, historical fiction
Shakedown, Joel Goldman (kc mystery)
Vineyard Enigma, Philip Craig, mystery
Rough Weather, Robert B Parker, mystery
Dipped, stripped, and dead, Elise Hyatt, mystery
Hide, Lisa Gardner (Boston suspense)
Santa Cruise, Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark, mystery
Resilience, Nathan and Beth Davis, nonfiction
The First One is Free, JB Purdy (guy we met in AZ), fiction
A Holiday Yarn, Sally Goldenbaum, mystery
Telling Yourself the Truth, (started not finished yet) Backus & Chapian, nonfiction

27 December 2010

An attempt at Satire

In Klingistan, the people are small and green. A new leader decided all the people of the kingdom would wear yellow shirts. He had found a law in the history books that said he could tell the people what to wear. So, "Only yellow shirts," he declared. "Starting on Tuesday at 9am, everyone will wear yellow shirts. Always."

One fellow, we'll call him, Adam didn't want to wear a yellow shirt.

Another person, Anna, had to make her own and she asked for a two hour deviation. By 11am she could have her shirt done, but 9 wasn't quite going to work.

Tuesday came and the leader sent the police out to enforce his new law. Many people didn't take it seriously, so he created a special police force just for the yellow shirt policy. Anna was arrested first for not being on time.

Adam started speaking out in the streets wearing a, gulp, blue shirt. He called for the yellow shirt law to be abolished and Anna to be released from prison.

Well, in the tradition of the green people the leader had to be followed. It just had to be done. The ancient writings said so. The leader sent the yellow shirt police to disband the crowd, even though they all wore their yellow shirts. It wasn't seemly for them to gather together and listen to that Adam fellow talk ill of the leader. You see speaking ill of the leader was also forbidden in the land. The original leader of the green people, many hundreds of years ago, had said so.

The shirt police fired shots into the crowd, live ammunition, killing several people. The red blood soaked their yellow shirts. No one would be allowed to congregate in the public squares, yellow shirts or no. Poor Adam, who felt he had something to say, was arrested.

It was a big event in Klingistan and well, a man who worked for the newspaper had happened by during the gathering. He was intrigued and took notes from a distance. So he wrote a little observation piece for the local paper. He tried very hard to only tell what had happened because he knew it would be sensitive. The next day the newspapers flew off the stands. All the green people who weren't at the gathering were fascinated and wanted to know what had occurred exactly.

You can imagine it wasn't long before whispering was going on among the green people. Even though the leader said so, well some weren't sure if the arrest of Anna or Adam was the for the best, but then tradition said they must obey the leader. It was perplexing, but no one was sure what could be done.

The shirt police went to the newspaper and talked to the poor observant fellow. His choice was to, well, clarify the story, perhaps recant some things or face losing his job, maybe going to prison. He got going on a new version of the event. The printer sent couriers out on the streets to gather in the unsold papers.

When Adam's family saw the newspaper the next day with the new version, they were disturbed. They knew they couldn't say anything against the leader. But poor Adam sitting in prison. He had a different opinion yes, but, well it was disturbing.  They went to the religious house in their neighborhood. It seemed they ought to appeal to a higher power on Adam's behalf.

While his mother knelt at the front, the state police entered the back of the building. A large green officer, cleared his throat loudly. "Excuse me, you will all have to leave this place. It is not a sanctioned place of worship. It deviates from the tradition. The ban is effective now."

Everyone sat or knelt frozen in place contemplating this announcement. Stunned.

"You need to leave, NOW!"

The startled group shuffled out. The general police nailed the door shut and posted a notice of where a legal place of worship existed. Adam's mother grasped the officer's arm, "Is this because of Adam?"

He shook her off. "No," he straightened the yellow uniform blazer. "I don't know what you are talking about. This worship place doesn't abide with the tradition. The new leader wants to enforce the old traditions. We must enforce it."

The poor woman sobbed as she walked home. Something didn't feel right, even though the traditions were being followed. Somehow she felt dirty or wrong. She also had a conviction she would never see Adam again. And she didn't.

the end

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23 December 2010

Nice things that have happened

As we've traveled in the past year doing fund raising in churches, some have done special things. They ALL have honored us by even letting us in the door to share, but without naming names I wanted to let people who don't live that life know of things that are nice.

Nearly all the churches have paid for the night in the hotel if we have had to travel far. Imagine how much that has saved our account in a year! Probably 45 nights of hotel have been covered this year. Some churches have a hospitality room built in and let us stay there. One place let us stay an entire month!!

Four times this year the church has given us a goodie basket or maybe the women's ministries team has done it, but it's a nice touch. Usually travel foods or treats. Sometimes a church's mug too. A couple families helped us get groceries when we arrived, and later in the year a Sunday School class gave us some grocery gift cards.

Nearly always the pastor or someone in the church buys us lunch after church. We love visiting with people in the relaxed moment after a service.

One small group gave me a $25 gift card for sharing with them. One lady organized a home group evening in her home simply to introduce us to people who love missions -- and she used REAL dishes for 30 people. That's a lot of extra effort.

A family on the east coast let us borrow a car for THREE weeks. The man giving up the car had to ride the bus or his bike. Very humbling and beautiful.

One family puts labels and stamps on our newsletter cards. (Pray for Sandy she is in the hospital recovering from a stroke.)

A group of individuals, not a church, has organized a storage area where people can donate new items and they find missionaries who can use the items. They run a thrift shop to pay the postage. They send treats at Christmas, Valentines and Easter if you are on their list.

One church organizes Christmas present packages every year so people will get to know us from our requests. So fun and personal!

Several churches have sent us their own music CDs or some from the mass market.

A few churches try to connect with us personally through a note or email a couple times a year or on birthdays, anniversary or Christmas.

It is nice to be remembered by these gestures of kindness and of course to be helped by them. It's not so much about the finances as the effort and thoughts behind it. A HUGE THANK YOU has to go out to those who quietly, faithfully send funds each month in small and large quantities that make up the money needed for us to be missionaries.

17 December 2010

Media, Publishing, Gutenberg days

We are living through an incredible time in publishing/media history. I mean, for one thing you can't just call it publishing anymore. Things like book trailers are out there. Advanced software and marketing tools exist to promote a (fill in the blank) movie, book, blog, website, all of the above.

When I started learning the Communications field you had to choose which niche you wanted to specialize in. Back then my choices were broadcasting, journalism, drama/speech. I went journalism. I'm glad because the firm hand on writing has carried over to everything else I've ended up doing.

My significant other, Kerry, and I were talking this morning about living through a media revolution and how incredible it is. I was reading blog analysis and debate on the book industry with Google releasing their online book distribution, ereaders, and New York Times is saying they are going to do a best seller elist for ebooks next year. That's just books.

I talked to a friend last night in film school who is exploring documentaries. People after they make a couple of these that are moderately successful are making a living. Not a multi-million dollar living but with basic equipment and good ideas you can share your ideas with the world.

Another article I read about a maverick who is creating a hybrid media group that will team writers and ideas for no money up front but 30-50% of what eventually comes in for projects, books or movies or whatever they turn out to be. That is amazing -- traditional publishing for a traditional book is NOT paying that. The odd thing is they are trying on purpose to be the next Harry Potter phenomena. A book didn't sell to a publisher so they shopped it to DreamWorks who are releasing a movie next year almost before the publishers can get back in line to buy the book. Oh, and the screenplays of the book have now modified that about to be released book. This is radical stuff. The guy behind it is universally loved and hated. Read article here.

It's not to say I'm for or against any of this, it's just amazing to watch something that is going to be in text books unfold before your eyes. The software for movies is radicalizing too, shrinking and getting more accessible. It is truly "media" now because it all bleeds over onto each other and gets more accessible to the rabble masses rather than elites in ivory publishing, movie towers.

14 December 2010

Battle ship vs cruise ship

I heard someone use the phrase this year about the church universal - do you treat it as a cruise ship or a battle ship? Are you a visitor who wants to be entertained and catered to? Or do you see us in a battle together and we all have a role to fulfill to survive?

After circulating in a variety of churches all over the country throughout 2010, we've made some interesting speculations. We had a sense and were told by many that the church had changed during our almost 5 year absence. That was definitely true. We also talk to pastors all over who are searching right now. It's like something is off keel but no one is quite sure what.

One observation we feel is confirmed by pastors is that the church in general has become even more of a spectator event than it was before we left. I'd always heard the statistic that it is 20 percent, or pick a number but a small one, of church goers that do the work (teach, clean, nursery etc). It seems there is much more of a sense of: what can you (the church) do for me?

In one sense, church does do something for us. Hopefully, we learn more and are fed more about God and grow closer to him. The church needs to be directing the traffic in our lives toward more of Christ and not less. But in the same measure while works do not save us or get us into heaven, I wonder if we are participants or merely spectators.

God does not require any sort of list of fulfillments to accept us or validate our Christianity. I'm thinking of this more from the angle of a community of Christ perspective. We are called to be the "body of Christ" that is what the church is. We all have different roles and abilities and we use them uniquely to help propel ourselves and others toward Christ and introduce Christ to those who don't know him. At least in theory.

So is our cultures' new slow leaning toward entertainment driven lives harming our perspective of the church? Or harming the way church functions?  If the staff members of the church, use all their energy just barely keeping the normal functionality going, when will they be able to dream to take the church deeper, or expand the church through outreach?

I don't have any answers, nor do I believe my opinions here are definitive. I know I've been guilty of being a spectator from time to time, but I want who I am and how my church is to be drawing people to Christ, not simply entertainment that releases some measure of guilt in my week.

09 December 2010

Real vs Fake

Coming out of a restaurant recently, I encountered chocolate mints. Hard candy like peppermints. This is just a waste of calories in my opinion. If I want chocolate flavor, I want chocolate, not hard candy doing it's impression of chocolate.

I love strawberries. That's my favorite fruit. Fruit being the key word. I don't like strawberry candy. That's not the real flavor of strawberries. It's just a sugary impression of something red. I'd really rather just wait for the real fruit to show up again.

I will eat fake things like watermelon or cinnamon Jolly Ranchers, but they don't taste to me like the real thing. They are just candies that I like the flavor.

I bought a cinnamon syrup to flavor steamers. I was thinking cinnamon like the spice I have in my cabinet. This is actually red-hot candy flavored "Cinnamon." It's not that it's bad, it's just not the real flavor. I have cinnamon tea that actually tastes like tea, not like candy cinnamon. So the real flavor does happen from time to time.

Can you think of other fake flavors that aren't, well, real?

05 December 2010

Crafts -- good or bad?

I stayed some place recently that had an entire set of animals made out of seashells. Little seashell sculptures if you will. My impression was that these had been around a while. I started thinking about my own fits of craftiness over time. I realized the styles of crafts change, sometimes dramatically. Sometimes I go to a relative's house and see a craft I made, say, 20 years ago. Yes, I was an adult then but it was a different time and those things shouldn't still exist. They should have gone to goodwill heaven long ago.

When I got married, there was a sort of country thing going on in crafts. Lots of duck and bunny based projects. I did t-shirt and sweatshirt painting too. Yes, I did. But it was okay then. So as I look back at things that are now sad or ugly years later, I wonder if there is such a thing as timeless crafts.

I think of knitting and crocheting, hand art that has gone on for centuries. While some things can carry on through time, a lace tablecloth perhaps, some things are scars on the surface of craft-dom. I'm thinking of the knit lady-doll-toilet-paper-covers of the 70s. Now, in the 70s I was delighted by a purse knitted into the base of cut off plastic soap bottle. But I was 7.

Even today when I decide I want to make something and I go look at crochet patterns, I am sometimes horrified. No, I don't want to make a yarn owl, nor a vest that fits no one. It makes me scared that I participate in the art.

I used to be much more crafty-inclined. For some reason, that tendency has been fading the last 6 years or so. Maybe it is a temporary lull. A friend did recently show me how to make felt acorns and I had a spasm and created a whole bowl full. Now I'm making essentially the same thing, only it's holly berries. A small voice in my head is concerned I'm creating something that a few years from now will make me cringe. But in spite of the voice I carry on with the roving wool making the felted berries. Felting is in right now. So it's safe... for now. But everyone who receives one, needs to think about a date to discard it, please.

It seems like many things have had a hey-day. Ducks, cows, bunnies...have had their day. Can you think of any old or new scary crafts?

02 December 2010

Tea Snob

I drink tea all the time. When the air conditioning is too cold in the summer, I have tea. Whenever I'm cold in the winter, I have tea. When I need comfort, I have tea. When...well you get the picture.

But...I have stomach issues that make my caffeine intake limited. So I try to mostly drink decaf.

Most the time when I say this to someone they say, "No problem, I have herbal." These are words that make me cringe. I am a tea snob. I don't want berries and herbs; I want tea.  Now, if I'm truly honest, I do drink some herbals, peppermint for instance. I don't like hibiscus and for some reason this seems to be a primary ingredient in nearly all herbals, especially Celestial Seasonings. I don't like chamomile; I'll drink it but not a big fan of grassy flavors.

Not really a big fan of green tea, but if it is weak I like it okay. Red tea also known as Rooibos that is an herb from Africa. I kind of think it comes from a tree because it tastes woody. (I have no idea if that is true.) I don't mind the wood flavor and if they add cinnamon, vanilla or other nice flavors to it, it's pretty good. And naturally caffeine free.

This whole naturally decaf thing perplexes me. What I really want is black tea that is decaf in a host of flavors. But lately everyone is in to naturally decaf, but then everyone is into natural organic everything.  I just want Earl or Lady Grey, English, Irish Breakfast, Cinnamon, and others in BLACK tea. Decaf.

But in a pinch, I go for green which has less caffeine. White tea has even less caffeine and I go there too, it's not as common to find though. They add flowery flavors to it too, but it has some nice options. It's usually expensive.

And please for all you coffee drinkers out there, for the love of all hot beverages, do not serve me tea out of a coffee pot or carafe that has been used for coffee. It tastes like coffee. I'm just saying. Yes, I'm a tea snob.