Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Being satisfied

I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with a friend I hadn't seen in a few years and meet her husband. She kept going on and on about her new home and how wonderful it was. I was excited for her, to see that after years of struggle, she was finally living her dream. I couldn't wait to see this amazing home that she couldn't stop talking about. She drove me through some beautiful country, past enormous beautiful homes, then turned down a little lane into...

A trailer park.

We pulled up in front of an old dilapidated trailer. When I described it to a friend, she made the comment to the extent of, "so basically we're talking aqua appliances and pink toilets." Um, no. Think older.

Her amazing house is a single wide trailer, two bedrooms, one bathroom, and you can see a lot of places where frankly, it's falling apart. She escorted me into the living room, cleared off some papers from a chair that she proudly told me they pulled out of a dumpster, and they invited me to sit. After all, it was the best seat in the house.

I'll be honest. At first, I was a bit disgusted. The place was rundown and dirty. She made a comment about how I don't keep a very clean house, so she didn't think I'd mind that she hadn't picked things up, but let me just say that I have never allowed my home to get that dirty. When I left, I was picking dirt and fuzz and hair off my clothes and I honestly have no idea where it came from.

But what do you say? She was so happy, so proud, and it hit me. I'm a big meanie. Who am I to judge how she lives? It may not be the home I'd want for myself, but she loves it. Later, we were talking and her husband made the comment that someday they'd like a real house with a real yard. But for now, they own this house. It's completely paid off. They pay utilities, HOA for the trailer park, and get this... $50 a year in property taxes. As he put it, they have everything they need. Why, then, would they go into debt for something else?

I left their home feeling almost envious. They didn't need a big house, nice things, or any of the other "stuff" society tells us is important. They were happy enough without. With the current financial crisis, I can't help but think that this couple is the wisest couple I know. They haven't bought into the lie of bigger being better. They haven't bought into the lie of buy now, pay later. They accept what they have with utter gratitude.

Last night, I chatted with a friend who shared her thoughts on the financial crisis. She and I prepare taxes for folks who live in McMansions, making less money than we do. I've griped in past blogs about people who make less money than we do, who drive fancy cars, wear nice clothes, and have all this "stuff". They also have a lot more debt. As I told my friend, I'm actually surprised the crisis didn't happen sooner, and that it's not a lot worse. But maybe we haven't seen the worst yet.

I know, pessimistic thinking. But honestly, what did we expect? At some point, the buy now, pay later philosophy demands to get paid.

My friend Kay has a great post talking about how we got into this mess. She also links to a great article. So check it out.

I've had to take a long, hard look lately at what it means to be satisfied. We just bought a bigger house last summer (for the record, our mortgage is almost the same as it was with the old house... that was intentional). But honestly, as much as I gripe about not having enough space, we do not need five bedrooms and four bathrooms. Really, given that much of the world lives with barely a roof over their head, I could probably make do with a lot less.

The reality is, we've replaced God with stuff. And because stuff is not God, we're never going to be satisfied as long as our goals and dreams revolve around stuff. As much I think some sort of bailout needs to happen for the sake of the country, we need to get real and realize that the only thing that's going to save us is to jump off this roller coaster and stop spending money we don't have on stuff we don't need.

Crikeys!!

I know, talk about long time no blog. My most humble apologies. ACFW kept me running and then I ended up with a nasty virus. I came online to work and that's about it. And okay, I admit, I played a little Crackrat. But that's because it's mostly mindless and all I had to do was click the little buttons to get my points and cards.

Soo... here I am... returning from a long (well, seemingly so) absence from my beloved blog.

Tell me, what have I missed in the blogosphere? Any posts I need to hunt down and re-read?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Interview with Camy Tang: Single Sashimi


Speaking of time with great friends, I've gotten to spend some time at the ACFW conference with my good friend, Camy Tang, and talk about her latest release, Single Sashimi.

1. What's the story behind Single Sashimi?

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Drake Yu. Why would Drake call her after … what, five years? Six?

Venus heard in his voice that resonance that was almost a growl, that titanium-hard determination to get what he wanted. And he usually got what he wanted. The voice said: “I want you to work for me.”

Not this time… If it was a choice between Drake and McDonald’s—she’d choose french fries. She’d never work for him again. It would take an act of God.

Venus Chau is determined to start her own game development company and launch the next Super Mario-sized phenomenon. However, she needs an investor to back her idea. When Drake Yu, an old nemesis, approaches Venus with a contracting opportunity at his sister’s startup, the offer to become Chief Operating Officer tempts Venus to think the unthinkable.

Venus would rather throw away her PS3 than work for Drake again … except Grandma bribes Venus to do this favor for Drake’s wealthy family with a coveted introduction to the most respected investor in the game industry. It’s also a short job—only a few months—so Venus won’t have to stand Drake’s presence for very long.

But one wild youth group, a two-faced assistant, and Grandma’s determined match-making threaten to make them both fail—or go insane. With the encouragement of her three cousins, Lex, Trish, and Jennifer, Venus discovers that even a wounded heart can undergo a beautiful transformation …


2. How'd you learn so much about the video game stuff for the book?

A friend of mine, Stephanie Quilao, who runs the popular Back in Skinny Jeans blog (http://backinskinnyjeans.com/), used to work for Nvidia, a company that makes all kinds of things related to video graphics and gaming. She gave me the idea because of the things she told me about the video game industry.

Then a fellow youth staff worker at my church got me in touch with his sister who happens to know everyone on the planet. She got me in touch with a few engineers who work in video game companies—one is a programmer, the other is a designer. They helped me with all the nitty gritty stuff, basically creating Venus’s Spider program.

3. What was the best part about writing the book?

I absolutely love Venus. I wish I could be her. And writing Drake was just too cool. He ended up being more sexy than I expected him to turn out. So writing their scenes was a lot of fun.

4. What do you hope readers take away from this story?

That there is hope for control freakazoids like me and Venus. Oh, you mean something meaningful? That God really is in control, and that there is hope for control freakazoids like me and Venus.

5. What's the one thing you wish people would ask you because you're dying to give an answer, and what is that answer?

Why is your dog Snickers a butthead?

We really don’t know, except that she came that way from the Humane Society. She is very friendly toward people but she has a problem with dogs. Any dogs. If they’re small dogs, she sees them as prey. If they’re big dogs, she wants to pick a fight. She’s messed up in the head. But she’s very cute and we love her anyway.

Thanks for having me here, Danica!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ for a huge website contest going on right now, giving away ten boxes of books and 30 copies of her latest release, SINGLE SASHIMI.

Thursday Thirteen #61: Travel edition


Thirteen Things Travel Edition

For those of you who don't know, I'm in Minneapolis, at the ACFW Conference. Great times, great times.

1. I've been super stressed for the past week over everything I had to do to get ready, and I was positive I was forgetting something.
2. Now, I really don't care. Whatever it is, it'll work out.
3. However, I am super tired. Too many late nights and early mornings lately. Scary for the first day of the conference. I skipped out on part of a session to take a nap.
4. Airport funny: They called our flight to board, and I started rummaging through my purse, looking for, not my boarding pass, which was in my hand, but my car keys. To the surprise of my fellow passengers, I triumphantly pulled them out only to realize with great embarrassment that um, I don't need them. Blaming lack of sleep on that one.
5. It's really hard to use my laptop to write on the plane when the person in the seat in front of me decides to recline.
6. I did, however, get six or seven pages written. (Let's not discuss the fact that after Camy and I brainstormed last night, I've since realized that I'll need to delete an entire chapter in the beginning.)
7. Another funny freakout moment: I'm at the hotel, and I notice they have a giftshop. The sign says, "Minnesota gifts." My thought: why on earth would they have a Minnesota gift shop in... oh yeah, I guess I am in Minnesota.
8. Why is it that when TSA chooses to rifle through your belongings, that they cannot at least put things back the way they found them?
9. Despite the fact that I have a wifi card, I can never get the hotel wifi. I always have to hardwire in.
10. I LOVE that many airports now have free wireless, which I can get with no trouble.
11. After you've been to so many conferences, it all begins to have a very familiar routine. I kinda like that.
12. Meeting new friends from all over the world is such a joy and blessing.
13. But the greatest blessing of traveling all over the place for conferences and things is getting to see your most beloved friends. There's just not enough time, but it sure is precious when you get to spend it with them.




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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



Friday, September 12, 2008

Fighting the grumpies

So we've all figured out I'm in a bad mood, right? I've been in this funk pretty much all week. I don't WANT to be in a bad mood, and I keep trying to NOT be in a bad mood, but the grumpies keep taking over. I keep trying to see the upside of things, I keep trying to do the right thing, and it feels like this dark cloud hanging over me just gets heavier and heavier.

This morning, I called my beloved Squirly and before I even said anything she said, "I'm so glad you called, is everything okay with you? You've been heavy in my heart and I've been praying for you." So we talked for a while, and it was so wonderful to hear her voice. In just five more days, I'm going to get a big hug and some huge squeals of delight outta that girl.

I love that I have friends who still love me even when I'm fighting the grumpies.

My husband read my blog this morning and called me in a panic... "What's wrong? I read your blog."

Nothing's wrong. I'm just grumpy.

I'm fighting it, or at least trying to. So in my effort to fight the grumpies, I've worked extra hard to be extra nice to people. Thus far, it has consistently backfired. My attempts to add humor to my friends' lives? Completely taken the wrong way. I actually spent this morning emailing back and forth with the same person apologizing, then re-apologizing for apologizing, etc.

So I give up!

I'm not going to try to be nice to anyone. I'm not going to apologize to anyone else. I'm not going to pretend I'm not in a bad mood. And I'm not even going to try to figure out why.

I am what I am. Today, I am grumpy. Maybe tomorrow, I will be happy again. But today, we're just going to accept me and say, "I love you anyway."

I am never being nice again

NEVER.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #60: The Dumps


Thirteen Things about The Dumps

Lots of dumps in my life right now... some literal, some figurative...

1. My house. It's beyond gross.
2. Family... sick and getting over colds.
3. It's been really cloudy lately.
4. Did I mention it's getting cold?
5. College kiddo is dealing with some rough things.
6. I've got so much to do, I'm overwhelmed.
7. Why doesn't my monthly come gift wrapped in pretty paper like it does on commercials? Because this sucks.
8. I have a weird sinus thing going on.
9. I'm tired for no particular reason.
10. My dog won't stop barking.
11. No school today. Again. What's up with that? They start two weeks early so they don't have to go one day a week?
12. I have to teach a class tonight.
13. I need to buy some jeans that fit.



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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



Monday, September 08, 2008

Something Powerful

I've been reading the Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and I've decided I've finally found the perfect spokesperson to my own personal theology.

"There is a myth flourishing in the church today that has caused incalculable harm: once converted, fully converted. In other words, once I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, an irreversible, sinless future beckons. Discipleship will be an untarnished success story; life will be an unbroken upward spiral toward holiness."

Wow... Can I just raise my hand here and say that I've been one of those? Thinking that there was something wrong with me because I haven't suddenly crossed over that invisible barrier turning me into the perfect Christian. I've struggled with wondering why I haven't "gotten it" yet, and why it seems like for every step forward I take, I end up making a thousand giant leaps back.

Manning continues with, "Tell that to poor Peter who, after three times professing his love for Jesus on the beach and after receiving the fullness of the Spirit at Pentecost, was still jealous of Paul's apostolic success."

I love reading stories in the Bible where our heroes mess up. Not because I rejoice in the failure of others, but because I know that even the most perfect Christians aren't perfect.

As Manning says, "the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me into an angel. Because justification by grace through faith means I have been set in right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table."

I have to say, this above all gives me the most hope. Jesus gave us the opportunity for a relationship with Him, not a brainwashing to turn us into little Jesus robots. If He'd wanted that, He'd have done it. We'd all be perfect little Jesus clones running around the planet, doing all the good things we're supposed to do. But it doesn't work that way. Relationship means that sometimes we do it right, sometimes we get it wrong, and together we work it out.

Isn't God cool?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #59: Why I like Sarah Palin


Thirteen Things about why I like Sarah Palin


I know, *gasp*, I never get political or talk politics on my blog. However, I happened across her speech last night, and I have to say, I was impressed. Here's why:


1. Going to make a lot of Hillary comparisons here, so here's the first. As far as I can see, she is the complete anti-Hillary. Where Hillary is cold, grasping, and someone I absolutely cannot relate to, Sarah is warm, genuine, and I can relate to her.

2. She's funny. Some of the commentary I heard talked about how they were turned off by her sarcasm. I disagree. I thought it showed she actually had a personality, as opposed to most of the politicians out there, who I think are made of wax.

3. Love this line: "We met in high school, and two decades and five children later he's still my guy."

4. Her smiles seem genuine. Maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal, but to me, the fake smiles of most politicians make me sick.

5. Another great quote: "I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids' public education better." The reason this impresses me is that I was a political science/history major in college. My favorite prof used to say that his ideal presidential candidate was one who wasn't looking for the job. I believe that while Palin obviously wants the job, she didn't go looking for political power. Contrast that to Hillary, who has made her quest for power very obvious. In my opinion (and something that my prof and I always discussed), it's the people who seek power who are the most dangerous to a democracy.

6. More evidence of how she's not power hungry: "I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion - I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country. Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reasons, and not just to mingle with the right people." AMEN!

7. This, I think, is the great irony of the election: "Sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power brokers. That's why true reform is so hard to achieve." We always think that the Democrats are the ones who push for reform. Certainly, in this present age, we often think of the Democrats as those who seek to shake up the political status quo. But in this election, if McCain/Palin win, the Republicans are going to do it. And I, for one, am very much looking forward to it.

8. "Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems - as if we all didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all." This highlights my biggest problem with government in general. If we can't solve all the problems we sit and debate it rather than do something that will ease it. I like the fact that she's got the attitude of "let's do something until we can totally fix it."

9. "We've all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers. And there is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform - not even in the state senate." Now... I don't know how true this is, and this will be something I'm researching. However, given that many of the attacks on Palin are her inexperience, I think it really makes me think about whether or not Obama is experienced enough to lead a country. I appreciate that she's given me this to research and think about.

10. "Our nominee doesn't run with the Washington herd. He's a man who's there to serve his country, and not just his party. A leader who's not looking for a fight, but is not afraid of one either." Again, rousing applause from me. My friend and I were talking about McCain the other day and how he doesn't consistently fall in line with the Republicans. Neither does Palin. And you know, that's what I want in a leader. Someone willing to look at what's best for the country, not necessarily what's best for the party.

11. Her family. She's got a beautiful family. I'm frustrated that some of the attacks on her are about whether or not she can be a competent leader given that she's got a young family. Um... hello? Did anyone say that about JFK? He had babies in the White House. Was he unable to do his job because of it? The reality of what I see in Sarah Palin is that she is a regular mom, struggling to raise her kiddos just like the rest of us, who, just like the rest of us, wants to hand our children a better world than what we were given. And she will be in a tremendous position to do so.

12. Her daughter's pregnancy. I know, weird thing to say here, but you know? I respect her for how she's handling it. She didn't lie or make excuses. The fact of the matter is, as much as you try to raise your kids right, they make their own choices. And as a mom, you have to just love them through it and do what's best. To me, the example of having a mother with less than perfect kids, traveling through life, trying to figure it out with the rest of us, that's the kind of person who represents me.

13. This promise... this is what I will hold her to if they're elected: "But we are expected to govern with integrity, good will, clear convictions, and ... a servant's heart. I pledge to all Americans that I will carry myself in this spirit as vice president of the United States." Truly, my hope, and my prayer, is that every leader in America would be willing to make this promise- and keep it.



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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Stuff!!

So... I had my day with the Lord. It was nice. But can I just gripe a typical American gripe? I got nothing productive done! House, still a mess. Laundry, still in a basket in the family room. Projects that are due piling up like crazy.

Monday, I worked my tail off. Some Labor Day. I labored. For one of my many jobs, it was the first of the month, so I had to do all my updates that are due on the first, but in a lot of cases, I can't get them done until the first because content isn't available until then. I also got an email from the guy overseeing the textbook I'm writing to say I needed to add something to what I'd written rather than have a supplement. Okay... Then we had a family BBQ. Then we had to get kiddos ready for school. I finally threw in the towel at 9, took a bath, and read a not-very-satisfying-why-did-I-waste-an-hour-of-my-life-on-this book.

So today, I got up, raced to get folks ready for school, dropped small one off at the school, met the new teacher who freaked out because she didn't know us (and this is my problem, why? Read the roster!), and worried the entire way to WFTJ because I have so much to do and I have no idea how I'm going to get it done.

At WFTJ, I warned them I'd be multitasking. I finished the changes to the portion of the textbook that was urgent. I set some goals. I committed to checking in with my friend Karen to stay accountable with my writing. And of course, WFTJ was as informative and uplifting as always.

Then, we went to lunch. More good times. I've missed my weekly lunches with my writing buddies. We got ready to leave, and my friend Jan mentioned she was going to write. Which was also my plan. I've decided I can't let the stress of the to-do list and my overcommitment prevent me from writing. My writing time is my writing time. Period. So we went to write. You can read her blog to find out what happened. I would just like to point out that I did NOT play Crackrat, I actually wrote and got about ten pages done. So there.

I raced home to meet the eldest kiddo, we spent time together, worked on her homework, I cleaned the kitchen, threw in a load of laundry, finished some work leftover from yesterday (and I only have a few more things to catch up on, YAY!), searched for a library book that is still missing, and am getting ready to pick up youngest kiddo, drop off the library books due today, grab a bite to eat, then head to church.

And in the midst of this, I have to ask... is all this piling up because I took a day off? It sure looks like it. However, I'm going to make a bold assertion and say that I think taking that day to relax and be filled by the Lord has given me the strength to do all of this and more. I have so much stuff to do. And yes, part of my quest in the coming months is to cut out a lot of the stuff and focus on what's important.

Here's the thing, though... I can't keep waiting on the stuff to go away to make time for what's important. I have to do it now. Which means God has to come first. Family has to be a close second. Writing third. And the rest can fall into line after that. Someday is never going to come. Not in the way I think it will. So I have to learn to prioritize now and make it all fit in.