Sunday, November 30, 2008

All I have to say



I know, I totally rock. Ending word count: 57,674

I should also mention, I didn't start on this book until about mid-month. El agento needed me to add to my word count on my other book, so I worked on that for a good part of the month. I added a total of 35,000 words to that one, but I did some of that in October, so I'm estimating that I did about 20,000 of it in November.

Which means, I wrote pretty darn near 80,000 words in one month. I'm so jazzed for myself. Henceforth, please address me as Madame Rockstar.

Okay, maybe not. I should point out that my NaNo book is not well plotted or researched, so I'll probably spend the next month or so fixing it. But first, I need to go back through the book I'm sending to el agento. It's due for the Critters to shred, I'll fix it, and once that's sent, I'll work on fixing the NaNo book.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with my progress. I even got to kill someone and blow something up in this book, so a good time was had by all. Love it when that happens.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In the Shadow of the Lions by Ginger Garrett



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


IN THE SHADOW OF LIONS

David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ginger Garrett is the critically acclaimed author of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, which was recognized as one of the top five novels of 2006 by the ECPA, and Dark Hour. An expert in ancient women's history, Ginger creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women.

On September 11, Ginger's non-fiction book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible, based on the historical research that began in her work on Chosen was released. The book explores the connections between beauty and spirituality, offering women both historical insights and scientific proofs that reveal powerful, natural beauty secrets.

A frequent radio guest on stations across the country, including NPR and Billy Graham's The Hour of Decision, Ginger is also a popular television guest. Her appearances include Harvest Television, Friends & Neighbors, and Babbie's House. Ginger frequently serves as a co-host on the inspirational cable program Deeper Living.

In 2007, Ginger was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award for her novel Dark Hour. When she's not writing, you may spy Ginger hunting for vintage jewelry at thrift stores, running (slowly) in 5k and 10k races, or just trying to chase down one of her errant sheepdogs. A native Texan, she now resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Paperback: 311 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448875
ISBN-13: 978-0781448871

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


And Job said unto God:

I admit I once lived by rumors of you;

now I have it all firsthand…

I’ll never again live

on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.

Job 42, The Message




CHAPTER ONE


Tomorrow, someone else will die in my bed.

Someone died in it last month, which is how it came to be called mine.

The infernal clock moved confidently towards 1 a.m., and I turned my head to look at the window. The window of this room is a miserly gesture from the contractors, producing more fog than visage. I watched the gold orbs—the lamps on the lawn of the hospice sputtering off and on in the darkness—that dotted the fogged glass.

That was the last moment I lived as an iver, one whose eyes are veiled.

One orb did not sputter but moved, gliding between the others, moving closer to the window, growing larger and brighter until the light consumed the entire view. I winced from the searing glare and tried to shield my eyes, but the IV line pulled taut. Wrestling with the line to get some slack, I saw the next movement out of the corner of my eye. I bit down hard on my tongue, my body jerking in reflex, and felt the warm blood run back to my throat.

Outside, a hand wiped the fog away from the glass, and I watched the water beads running down the inside of my window. There was no searing light, only this mammoth hand with deep creases in the palms wiping down the window until we both could see each other. A man’s face was against the glass, but no breath fogged his vision. He was a giant, grim man, with an earring in one ear and dark glasses, and he was staring in at me. Even through the morphine, fear snaked along my arms, biting into my stomach, constricting around my throat. I tried to scream, but I could only gulp air and heave little gasps. His expression did not change as he lifted his hands, curling them into fists. I flinched at the last moment, thinking him to be Death, expecting to receive the blow and die.

Then I grew suddenly warm, like the feeling you get stepping out from an old, dark city library into the busy street and a warm spring sun.

Death didn’t even hurt, I rejoiced. I could slip into it like I slipped onto that street, eyes down, my thoughts my own, and simply turn a corner and be gone. I lifted my fingers to beckon him. Yes, I thought. I saw the beautiful Rolex on my birdlike wrist, and saw that it had stopped. It is time.

When I looked back up, he was beside me, staring down, not speaking. I wasn’t dead. His frame was monstrously large, hitting what must be seven feet tall, with a width of muscle strapped across it that was inhuman. As he watched me, his chest didn’t move, and his nostrils didn’t flare, but heat and warm breath radiated from him. When he laid his hands across my eyes, I was too scared to move my head away. His palms covered most of my face, and a sharp buzzing drilled into every pore. He began to move his hands elsewhere, touching and bringing to life every splintered inch of my body. When he got to the cancer, with one swollen lymph node visible even through my stained blue gown, he rested his hands there until the swelling sighed and he swept it away with his hand.

“Wait!” I screamed.

I didn’t want to live. I hadn’t known that was going to be an option. I deserved to be damned. To return to my life was too much to ask of me. I was finished.

“You’ll still be dead by morning,” he reassured me. His voice was deep and clean, no tell-tale dialect or inflection. Taking off his glasses, I saw he had enormous gold eyes, with a black pinhole in the center that stayed round and cold. There was no white in them at all, and they were rimmed all the way around the outside with black. I stared at them, trying to remember where I had seen eyes like this. It was years ago, this much I remembered.

I had to shake myself back to the moment. Clearly, morphine was not setting well with me tonight. I wanted to die in peace. That’s what I paid these extravagant sums for. My hand moved to the nurses’ call button. Mariskka was just down the hall, waiting for her moment to steal my watch. I knew she’d come running.

He grabbed my hand and the shock seared like a hot iron. Crying out, I shook him off and clutched my hand between my breasts, doing my best to sit up with my atrophied stomach muscles and tangled IV.

He leaned in. “I have something for you.”

“What?”

He leaned in closer. “A second chance.”

Second chances were not my forte. As the most celebrated editor in New York City, I had made a killing. I loved the words that trembling writers slid across my desk, those little black flecks that could destroy their life’s dream or launch a career. I bled red ink over every page, slashing words, cutting lines. No one understood how beautiful they were to me, why I tormented the best writers, always pushing them to bring me more. The crueler I was to the best of them, the more they loved me, like flagellants worshipping me as the master of their order. Only at the end, lying here facing my own death, did I understand why. They embraced the pain, thinking it birthed something greater than themselves. I saw how pitifully wrong they were. There was only pain. This is why I was ready to die. When you finish the last chapter and close the book, there is nothing but pain. It would have been better never to have written. Words betrayed me. And for that, I betrayed the best writer of them all.

“Burn any manuscripts that arrive for me,” I had ordered my nurse, Marisska. “Tell them I’m already dead. Tell them anything.”

“I’ll let you write the truth,” the man whispered.

“I’m not a writer,” I replied. My fear tumbled down into the dark place of my secrets.

“No, you’re not,” he answered. “But you’ve coveted those bestsellers, didn’t you? You knew you could do better. This is your second chance.”

It caught my attention. “How?”

“I will dictate my story to you,” he said. “Then you’ll die.”

Taking dictation? My mouth fell open. “I’m in hell, aren’t I?”

He tilted his head. “Not yet.”

I pushed away from the pillows and grabbed him. Blisters sprang up on my palms and in between my fingers, but I gritted my teeth and spat out my words. “Who are you?”

“The first writer, the Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world. The stories are forgotten here and the Day draws close. I will tell you one of my stories. You will record it.”

“Why me?”

“I like your work.”

I started laughing, the first time I had laughed since I had been brought to this wing of the hospice, where the dying are readied for death, their papers ordered, and discreet pamphlets on “end of life options” left by quiet-soled salesmen. I laughed until I was winded. He rested his hand on my chest, and I caught my breath as he spoke.

“Let’s go find Marisska.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

Was it worth it?

Yesterday, I ranted about the holiday crazies. Today, as I read this sad news, I have to ask, was it worth it?

Do we really need stuff so badly that we're willing to let someone die over it?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #70: Holiday Rant



Thirteen Holiday Rants

I know, it's rant week in Danicaland. For those of you who are new to the party, you might think I'm an angry gal. Sometimes, I am. Sometimes, I am not. This week, however, I definitely am. So here's my rant about the holidays.

1. Commercialism. Please don't make me say more. We'll be here a month.

2. Guilt Charities. Bear with me on this one. I heard a commercial the other day that basically said, while you're enjoying your tasty Thanksgiving dinner, people in your community are starving. First, the guilt thing irritates me. Who are you to judge me for enjoying a dinner that you know nothing about how I got it? The second part of my irritation is #3:

3. Increased holiday charity. I have nothing against charity. I donate to a number of them myself. But why is it that we basically only care that there are starving people twice a year? Are they not hungry the other 363? Here's a thought... give on those other days too.

4. Starbucks Red. My friend Jonathan talked about this, and the more I think about it, the madder I get. Basically, for every cup of certain drinks you buy for them, they donate five cents to help AIDS in Africa. Yes, I think it's great that they're doing something. But come on! Five Cents? Starbucks is still making a profit on this. And I'm sure lots of people are going to buy these drinks just because of the charitable benefit, which means Starbucks is going to make even more money. Out of that profit, AIDS victims in Africa get five cents. Sorry, but I'm not impressed. Great idea, but it's a little sad that Starbucks is using AIDS victims as their poster child to make a bigger profit.

5. Black Friday. Sort of a catch 22 here, but we've heard all the economic reports on how stores need to do well tomorrow to stay afloat. How many of the folks waiting in line to get in at 4 a.m. can really afford to buy all the junk these stores are hawking? Is the solution to the economic crisis really that we should encourage folks to spend more money they don't have?

6. Fruitcake. Does anyone know what those red and green things even are? Seriously, folks. I had two people bring that nasty stuff to my house for Thanksgiving, bragging about the recipe. And then they had the nerve to leave it here when they left. I'm thinking they didn't really like it and were pawning it off on me.

7. Toy Commercials. I need to figure out how to get my cable turned off for a month only so that the kids can only watch DVDs and I'm not subjected to more "buy me junk I don't need" whines. No one needs a child-size battery operated horse. No one.

8. Too many Christmas lights. Call me Grinch here, but #1, we're in an energy crisis. Why are we using so much electricity? #2, while I actually do think they're pretty, and will eventually have some on our tree when I put it up, is there a reason the guy down the block needs to light up the entire neighborhood? It's almost creepy, the way I can sit in the dark, in my own house, and have it brightly lit up.

9. Holiday mailers. They're worse than the political ones. So basically, because they're in a financial trouble, retailers are cutting down more trees, using more ink, and spending more money to convince me to buy more junk I don't need.

10. Useless junk. We have too much of it. If you think you might like some useless junk, please visit my basement or garage. I would be happy to give you some, and you won't even have to pay for it.

11. Crowded stores. I recognize the fact that I will have to buy a few gifts. Although, for the most part, I either have finished my shopping or I know what I'm buying. I think I've mentioned that I'm slightly agoraphobic, so I really hate dealing with all the people. I know, shop online, but I still like touching and feeling the stuff. Weird. Touchy feely as long as it's not people touching me.

12. Holiday shoppers. This is a different category... You're in the store, looking at the only appropriate shirt in your daughter's size (my kids need clothes this year), and some rabid beast, grabs it out of your hand because she wants it, and as she's headed off in victory, says over her shoulder in a cheery holiday voice, "Have a Merry Christmas!" Do not play holiday cheer with me, crazy lady.

13. The whole holiday attitude. Back to Ms. Cheer... People are either unusually grumpy (because Ms. Cheer spat in their eggnog) or they're a million times more cheerful than they are any other time of the year (maybe it's the eggnog). We smile at the Salvation Army bellringer, but we cuss out the jerk who stole our parking spot. We joyfully welcome guests to our holiday parties, but we spent the whole time getting ready yelling at our children and spouses. We'll throw a toy from the dollar store in the toys for tots bin, but get our kids name brand stuff.

I guess what my whole rant boils down to is the showmanship the holidays tends to bring out in us. We want to make people think we're so great, and we never show the real us.

Is there anything wrong with giving to charity? No. And I hope you do. But why does it have to take so much effort to get us to do it?

Is there anything wrong with being nice to folks and wishing them a Merry Christmas? No. And I hope you do. But why aren't we that nice to everyone, all the time?

And lest you think I'm some self righteous pig who thinks I have it all figured out, I do a lot of the things that I'm ranting about. I spent a lot of time today telling myself I couldn't yell at my hubby who was doing everything wrong, even though he was trying to help, and I needed to appreciate him more. Did I succeed? I don't know. I do know that God rescued me with a phone call from a friend who wanted to make a Starbucks run. Otherwise, I might have been pretty darn mean to that great guy I married because I was stressed out that we had people coming over and he wasn't doing things "right." And maybe I was still mean. He reads my blog, so maybe he'll tell you. And maybe he'll just tell me. Either way, I have a lot to work on.

This holiday season, it's not going to be about the stuff for me. I'm really looking forward to clearing out the stuff and making a little more room in my heart.

Happy Thanksgiving.





Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


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, November 24, 2008

Banking Bailout rant

Want to know why Citigroup needs a bailout? Because of emails like the one I just got a few days ago...

Dear Danica, we are pleased to increase your credit line to something ridiculously high given that we haven't bothered looking at your income or whether or not you'd be able to repay it in this lifetime. Guys, my credit limit is now HIGHER than my annual income. Granted, I don't make all that much on my own, but STILL.

If you are lending idiotic amounts of money to people who may or may not have the ability to repay the loan, then frankly, you DESERVE to go bankrupt. Seriously.

Yes, I do pay more than the minimum balance. And yes, I carry a balance on that card because I'm still working on getting us out of debt from when hubby was out of a job and we used that card for groceries and other necessities. Maybe not a smart idea, but it was our only option at the time. But now... we are paying it off. I have two jobs. The paycheck from one goes toward paying off the card. The paycheck from the other goes into savings so that if we end up in a bad place again, we've got a cushion.

Do the folks at Citigroup know this? No. Do they care? No. They would like to see me in debt up to my eyeballs so that they can charge me 500% interest (not really, but you get the point). The trouble is, they have no idea if I can afford to repay it. If I lose my job tomorrow, guess how much money they get? Nada. Guess who's filing for bankruptcy (not really, but a lot of folks do). Guess what happens to the credit card company's debt?

I am so irritated right now. I cannot believe that these idiots are trying to lend me so much money at the exact same time they're begging for bailout help. No wonder our country is in financial trouble. Maybe if all these banks would stop lending people more money than they can ever pay back, they might find that they aren't in the same position: too much cash going out than is coming in. Economics 101. Duh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #69: I forgot what?


Thirteen Things I forgot this week


So if you don't know me well, you need to learn one thing about me. I am extremely forgetful. I really try to remember things, but seriously, I need a lot of help in the memory department. I usually can't even remember what day of the week it is. So here's a few of the many things I forgot this week:

1. Which week of the month it was... not a bad thing, except when you pay your bills a week early and don't have enough money to last the week because you're supposed to be saving it to add to this week's paycheck to pay NEXT week, so you're out of grocery money for the rest of this week. Thank God I keep a well-stocked pantry.

2. To pick up a lunch for the small one. She goes to school full day on Tuesdays and they have to bring a lunch. Forgot to hit the store the day before, so we did a mad dash on the way to school.

3. To call my mom back. I finally remembered after message #3, where she was really worried. In my defense, I was out of town for messages #1 and #2, and she could have called my cell if it was urgent. She just wanted to chat.

4. What day of the week it was. I kept thinking it was Thursday yesterday, not Wednesday, so I didn't do any of my Wednesday things until today. *gulp*

5. To change the time on my car clock after the battery died. Not too bad, since it is now ten minutes fast. I might leave it that way.

6. To call the dog groomer because our dog is really fuzzy. Doing that now. Done.

7. That my daughter had Brownies Monday. She remembered, but I had a panic moment when she didn't show up at home on time.

8. To invite our cousins for Thanksgiving and make other arrangements. Also doing that now. Done.

9. My password to pay my visa online. I do that every month and have to change it every month.

10. To turn in some paperwork for work. I'm not sure I know where it is... Hmmm...

11. To bring my tea mug to work. Not a terribly big deal, except that I'm trying to save money by bringing my own tea rather than going next door and buying some.

12. To get stuff ready for best friend day, which is my one day a month with my best friend. She ended up being sick, so we're doing it next week.

13. I forget what else.



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


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, November 18, 2008

Silver Linings... an attempt

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter (and if you don't, why not?) know that yesterday was a horrible day for me. Now that it's behind me, I thought I'd share, and *gasp* talk a little about how I tried to find the silver lining.

Event #1: Small child wakes up with a bloody nose, putting my morning routine into chaos so I didn't get most of what I'd hoped accomplished and started out stressed.
Silver Lining: I realized bloody nose was due to dry air, which had been bothering me for a while. I wouldn't have bugged hubby about getting a humidifier, but with my kiddos suffering, I did, and he's out buying one now.

Event #2: I forgot it was my day to volunteer at small one's class. Which means I didn't bring snack. Which meant rushing to Target to buy snack before kiddos left on field trip. Car broke down in the middle of Target parking lot. I had to leave car there and walk to the school carrying snacks, laptop, purse, and other items of value and get there before the bus left.
Silver Lining: If it hadn't been my day to help out and get snacks, I'd have broken down at Panera, not realizing it until time to pick up small one from school and would have been really late, even with walking. Which would have been a mess. Plus, event #1 prevented me from working out, which was accomplished with the walk from Target to school. Trust me, I was definitely huffing and puffing on that hike.

Event #3: Unexpected field trip. Teachers planned it on the spur of the moment, so no one knew until that day. We went to a farm and got to interact with animals, which drove my allergies nuts.
Silver Lining: One of the "treats" of the day is we got to touch a coyote skin. I used this time to take a picture of the little one with it so that next time she comes to me, afraid cay-whoa-tees are going to get her, I'm going to remind her that we can kill and skin it if it comes near us.

Event #4: The computers were down at work. Bad news considering last night's class was an online web tutorial designed to last the entire class period. We ended up staying 1/2 hour late.
Silver Lining: We did eventually get online, raced through the tutorial, and learned flexibility with lesson plans.

I had a lot of other bad things happen yesterday. As one of my friends today so eloquently put it, it was like getting pebbles in my shoe. Nothing majorly traumatic, but enough to be a constant irritant. Just as I'd thought I was getting a handle on my day, something else would explode. Literally. I forgot to mention the part about my daughter dumping the drink I'd just bought her all over my backseat once we got the car running. Did I mention it landed on my class materials and books? Silver lining: I technically am done with the books since I'm now prepping them for the final.

But here's the point of all this. Yes, I was miserable. Yes, I was upset. And at one point, all I could do was sit there and say, "God, please." I forced myself to try to find the positive in each incident rather than follow my usual pattern of letting the negative drag me down. And then, once I was done with class, I called my FIL to find out the name of the wine I'd had at his house and enjoyed (called Prosecco if any of you want to know), stopped by the wine shop, went home, had a nice glass of wine and chatted with a friend. Maybe not the most exciting end to my day, but at the end of that day, no one died, no one was injured, and my broken down car ended up not costing me anything to fix. Although, I did get one piece of bad news. I want to send out a prayer request for my friend, who found out yesterday (and told me in the midst of the mess) that the cancer they thought they'd gotten rid of a year ago is back with a vengeance. They're starting chemo again on Thursday.

Perspective is an interesting thing. Still looking for the silver lining on my friend's diagnosis, but I hope, and I pray, that whatever crummy things you're dealing with today, you'll find a silver lining to boost you up and make you realize that it's not so bad after all.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Weekend to Remember

That Man and I are at the Family Life Weekend to Remember Conference. So far, we're having a good time. It's been interesting to see the unexpected things we're learning about each other, even after 9 years of marriage. And, I have to admit, there's some things I've been learning about myself that I'll probably end up sharing in posts to come.

One thing this conference has taught me is that even if you think you know it all or have it all together, there's something you can still learn. I was amazed to see how many couples were there who'd been married 20, 30, even 40 years. I thought for sure we'd be among the old fogies and it turns out, we were the young 'uns. I love knowing that there are folks out there who've been in it for the long haul who are still committed to making their marriage better. There is still something for them, who could probably teach all of us a thing or two or three, to learn.

Mostly, though, I am just blessed by the thought of seeing so many people committed to making their marriages work. It's not an easy thing in this day and age, that's for sure. Judy, one of the speakers, made the comment that the world, especially Hollywood, gives us this example of having a few kids together, living together, and if it gets too hard, you find someone new and supposedly better. Well, that doesn't seem to be working so well for them, now does it? Where's the stability and growth in that?

Probably the biggest thing that I've learned so far (we still have sessions tomorrow) is that God created my husband for me. The things that I say, "okay, God, why him, why me," are areas that God has placed in our lives to help one or both of us grow in some way. None of us are perfect, but together, we can grow and become better. If I reject him or some aspect of him, I am rejecting something God has placed in my life for a purpose. Which is basically rejecting God. It puts things in a whole new perspective as I begin to look at things, even the negative ones, as opportunities God has placed in my life.

Mostly, though, I've just been blessed by this time alone with my husband, away from the kids, to reconnect with him. I hope each of you who are married get an opportunity to reconnect with your spouse sometime soon. For those of you who aren't, well, take the time to reconnect God and deepen that relationship.

Tomorrow we'll go home, and from there, figure out ways to keep the spark ignited and connect even better in the future. Any fun tips?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Title Trakk Blog Tour

Welcome to the 1st ever
TitleTrakk.com Blog Tour!


This week we're chatting about:



The Fantastic Fall Giveaway Contest!


Just in time for the holidays, you could win over
$335 worth of books, cds and dvds!

Sponsored by our friends at:


The Grand Prize Winner will receive:

BOOKS:

Whispers of the Bayou by Mindy Starns Clark
Rachel's Secret by BJ Hoff
Beach Dreams by Trish Perry
Playing God by Michelle McKinney Hammond
White Soul by Brandt Dodson
The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka
Finding Marie by Susan Paige Davis
The Power of Praying Through the Bible by Stormie Omartian
A Man After God's Own Heart by Jim George
Evidence for Faith 101 by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz

CDS:

Wake Up! Wake Up! by Everyday Sunday
Rock What You Got by Superchick
Sunday by Tree63
Houston We Are Go by Newsboys (Live CD/DVD)
Nothing Left To Lose by Mat Kearney
I Am Free Worship Collection
Salvation Station by Newworldson
Not Without Love by Jimmy Needham
Pages by Shane & Shane
Colors and Sounds by Article One

MOVIES:

Love's Unfolding Dream
The Ten Commandments Animated
Between the Walls

But that's not all!
We're giving away even more!


During this blog tour (November 10th - 16th) we'll be drawing 2 winners daily from the contest entries to win an additional free book or cd!

Visit the TitleTrakk.com Contest page today to enter the contest and place yourself in the running to receive the Grand Prize, plus all the daily prizes! Deadline to enter is November 17th.

About TitleTrakk.com:
Founded in 2006 by Tracy & C.J. Darlington, TitleTrakk.com is an interactive website spotlighting Christian books, music & movies. Updated weekly, we feature author and musician interviews, album and book reviews, music videos, movie reviews and interviews, book excerpts, surveys, polls, and fun contests. Learn more: http://www.titletrakk.com/about.htm

Thursday Thirteen #68: Things I love about Panera



Thirteen Things I love about Panera


1. I get a ton of work done there.

2. My kids are not bugging me.

3. I love their tea. Republic of tea is wonderful!

4. Free WiFi. (Take that, Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, and Borders!)

5. Their food is really good.

6. They use good for you ingredients.

7. I like the music... nice, soft, classical. Perfect to write to.

8. I can't do anything other than write, so things like my messy house and laundry piles don't bother me.

9. I'm not tempted to snack so much, because if I want to eat more, I have to buy more.

10. Their cups of tea cost less than at other places (by 50 cents, but when you go often, it adds up!)

11. It's a comfortable environment... nice seating, good lighting.

12. There's a fun mixture of people to people watch.

13. I go every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning when the little one is in school, and any other chance I get.



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


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!



Sunday, November 09, 2008

Murder On The 'Ol Bunions by S. Dionne Moore



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Murder On The 'Ol Bunions

Barbour Publishing, Inc (February 29, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




S. Dionne Moore is a bunion-free supermom, able to leap piles of homework and loads of laundry in a single bound. Not only does she write, homeschool her daughter, and help her pastor-husband, she also plays piano, loves to garden, and encourages other writers.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 4.97
Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (February 29, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159789639X
ISBN-13: 978-1597896399

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Something about the Out of Time antique store didn’t feel quite right that Tuesday afternoon. The rattle of that annoying bell Marion Peters insisted on hanging over the front door combined with the shock of cool air against my hot skin and managed to fry all my circuits and make me feel a little crazy. Kind of like the days when my kids each used to demand all my attention at once.

“Mercy, Marion,” I reached up to still the clattering noisemaker and called down the narrow building toward the soda fountain Marion used as a counter, at the back of the store. “When you goin’ to bless us all by removing this thing?”

No one answered. Strange, that. Silence is not one of Marion’s virtues. Come to think of it, her Virtue list is pretty short, if you get my meaning. And no one enters Marion’s store without her verbally pouncing on them with news of her latest purchase of quality merchandise or her daughter Valorie’s most recent show of academic brilliance.

My sweet husband, Hardy, set the bell to rattling all over again as he heaved his plaid pants a little higher and stepped inside the shop and out of the Colorado sunshine. He shot me a grin that sported his pride and joy—his lone front tooth, covered in gold. But the sight of his weathered black face and grizzled gray-black hair has filled my heart with contentment for going on thirty-eight years. ’Course, I don’t let him know that too often, or he’d be thinking he’s got me wrapped around his little finger.

Hardy shut the door and gazed up at the spastic bell. He reached to silence the thing, fingertips three inches shy of meeting their goal. His cocoa eyes rolled in my direction, waiting. You see, Hardy’s as short as I am tall.

I reached up to squelch the bell and patted him on the head, not bothering to hide my smile. “Where’d you disappear to? I looked all around the library for you, then gave up and came here.”

Hardy’s grin didn’t dim. “Went to Payton’s to talk music. He tried to sell me a book on playing the banjo.”

“You don’t play the banjo.”

“Yup. Where’s Marion?”

“How am I supposed to know? I just got here myself.” Reaching around Hardy’s slender form, I opened the door wide enough to set the bell to making noise and slammed it hard. We both cocked our ears toward the room for any sound to indicate Marion’s arrival.

Hardy guffawed. “Never thought I’d enter a place owned by Marion Peters and not hear her mouth flapping.”

I sailed past the old Broadwood concert grand piano that took up one side of the room and peered into one of the two boxes of books I’d purchased earlier in the day. Marion had grudgingly agreed to let me leave the boxes until I could fetch Hardy to haul them for me. “I suppose we can just take this box and go. Wonder where the other one is?” Where was that woman? “Marion!”

“Lot o’ wind in them lungs for an old woman.”

“You better shut your trap, Hardy Barnhart. Years of yelling after you has given me my lung capacity. Marion!”

Hardy’s eyes twinkled. “She’s giving you the silent treatment. I figure she’s still mad at you for—”

“You hush.”

“Marion can hold a powerful grudge.”

His words came to me through the filter of my own warring thoughts. Something wasn’t right. I could feel it. Marion never left the store without flipping the sign from OPEN to CLOSED. And forgetful she’s not. Ask anyone who has ever done her wrong. I glanced back at the door. The sign definitely said OPEN.

“You go ahead and load this box into the car, I’m gonna look for the other one.”

Hardy shuffled forward. “You paid for them?”

I sent him a healthy dose of the look I made legendary with my children. “Of course.”

He held his hands up, palms out. “Just askin’. If LaTisha Barnhart is thinking of starting a life of crime, I want to make sure I get cut in on the loot.”

This man. He makes me crazy. I glanced down the length of him and smirked. “Got your drawers hitched too high again, don’t you? I can always tell—you start spouting crazy things.”

“Yeah, like the day I said, ‘I do.’ ”

“That’s not what you said. You said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ ”

I peeked into the box. The old books, covers frayed and worn, were neatly stacked, and definitely the ones I’d purchased. I motioned to Hardy and he lifted the box to his shoulder. I turned and mentally itemized the merchandise in the store. Having worked at Out of Time until my youngest left for college last fall, I knew exactly where everything should be. A few dustless outlines proved recent sales had helped boost Marion’s receipts, but other than that things looked normal. And why shouldn’t they be?

The store didn’t hold much. A huge oak bookcase, a mahogany secretary, and a cherry dining room set, took up most of the twenty-one-foot length. Thanks to her going-out-of-business sale, Marion’s overpriced stock now sported tags well within the price range of Maple Gap folk. The store’s impending closing had surprised many of the citizens. Everyone figured Marion’s elite clientele of wealthy collectors both here in tourist-laden Colorado and across the United States would keep Out of Time a thriving landmark for many years.

So much for that thought.

The scent of old books and dust hung heavy in the air. A draft of cold air raised shiver bumps on my arms. I stilled myself, turned, and studied everything again, forcing deep, calming breaths. Something was eluding me. Whatever stirred my senses to high alert seemed to be strongest at the counter. I returned there and sucked in another breath. And that’s when I caught it. A certain strange scent. What was that odor?

A mental image of my grown son at the age of eight bloomed. Tyrone had been helping Hardy build a shed and had sliced his finger a good one on the saw. Tyrone gave out a yelp. I went running. Hardy’s dark chocolate face took on a milk chocolate patina at the sight of the blood, so I took charge. As Hardy hit the ground in a faint, I barked instructions to my children on how to care for their father and hustled Tyrone to the car.

I directed our old Buick through town, one hand on the wheel, the other helping Tyrone maintain pressure on the wound. I tell you, blood seeped through that towel faster than I felt comfortable with, filling the air with its copper scent.

That was it! I inhaled the air in Marion’s shop, held my breath, and then released it slowly. My stomach clenched hard. Blood.

All my senses flared, spitting warnings, making my head spin. With a hand on the counter, I steadied myself for what I knew needed to be done. As if pulled by an unseen string, I gravitated toward the only corner of the room I hadn’t already examined. Some sixth sense screamed at me, telling me to hightail it out of there. But I ignored it, my feet leading the way, my brain screaming at my toes, telling them to cease all forward movement, turn tail, and run.

I focused on the things scattered along the counter, a white envelope, an old-fashioned cash register, brochures of the store, a small bell for service. The now identified scent of blood saturated the air. My throat clenched. My feet must have finally got the message because they wouldn’t move forward at all now, so I steeled myself and leaned forward over the counter.

Marion.

Her head lay in a pool of blood.

Cold shivers tingled along my scalp. My heart skittered. I pressed both hands flat on the counter and squeezed my eyes shut to block the horrible image as shock carried me over the edge of rational thinking into one where every impulse had its way. I opened my mouth and gave vent.

Hardy came on the run, his steps banging along the wooden floor as he skidded to a halt beside me.

“What’s wrong? What happened?”

My tongue stuck to the roof of my dry mouth.

“You getting ready to drop over or something?”

Tears glazed my eyes and turned Hardy into a fuzzy, carnival-mirror image. I raised my hand and shooed him away. “Get back,” I finally croaked. “Go back outside. You don’t need to see her.”

Hardy’s eyes got wide. “What you talking about, woman? See who? You ain’t been sniffing glue again, have you?”

He sure knew how to get to me, but I wasn’t having any of it. “You know I only did that once on a dare. Now you get.” I waited for him to retreat, instead he stared. I flicked my hands at him, hoping he’d trust me on this one. “Hardy. . .” My glance at the place where Marion now rested gave everything away.

Hardy’s expression melted into a frown. “What’s back there?” He took a step closer.

“No! You’d better not stick your nose over that counter. I’m warning you. You’ll be sorry. Don’t look.”

[SB]

“Hardy’s coming around, LaTisha,” the young doctor of Maple Gap stood in the doorway of Out of Time, divested of its annoying bell at long last by the chief of police himself.

“I think he’ll be just fine.” Dr. Troy Gordon motioned me to precede him back into the store. “It’s not every day one sees a dead body.”

I stepped over to the end of the counter, careful to keep my eyes off the form flanked by the police chief and another man I’d never seen before. I gazed down at Hardy’s waxy complexion. He needed a thorough chiding, so, being the good wife that I am, I warmed to the event like a microwave on high. “I told you not to look. You never do listen.”

The doctor knelt next to my man and patted Hardy’s shoulder as he tried to sit up. “You’d better lay back down, Mr. Barnhart. You’ve had quite a shock.”

“Naw,” he grated out. “She talks to me like that all the time. Ignoring her works best.”

My tongue poised to reply, but a wave of dizziness gripped me so hard I felt myself whirling. “I’m a-thinking I’m going to lay me down, too.”

Doctor Dr. Gordon’s wide-eyed face tilted up at me, and he jumped to his feet. Just as my knees gave way, a hand jerked me backward and my body folded onto a chair.

“Head down, LaTisha.” Doc’s hand pushed my head between my knees, or as far forward as it could reach over my stomach. Diet is a four letter word, after all.

Within seconds the dizziness began to release its grip. Something tickled down my belly. As my head cleared, I realized the sensation came from my pantyhose beginning a southern migration. Never could get a decent pair anymore.

“How do you feel?”

Doc Gordon’s voice penetrated my thoughts. I croaked a little hiccup and raised my head slowly. “I’ll be fine.” But I wanted air. Real bad. I nodded toward the door. Doc must have understood my silent plea because he gripped my arm and helped me get up. With his hand directing me, I broke out of that shop and back into the spring sunshine. He helped me get settled into one of the two Windsor chairs he’d dragged from Marion’s shop.

“I’ll bring Hardy out here, too. I daresay he’s had enough excitement in that store.”

Within minutes, Doc Gordon returned with a wan, shuffling Hardy.

“You don’t look so good,” I said as Hardy slumped down next to me and buried his face in his hands.

“Neither did she.”

I scootched my chair closer to him and squeezed his shoulders, drawing his head down to my chest. “You listen next time I tell you something. Thought you’d done gone and had a heart attack.”

I spread my hand on his slender back and wondered how, after thirty-eight years of my cooking, the man had yet to put on more than five pounds. He was too skinny. Of course, he always told me I’d gained enough for both of us.

Hardy’s voice came out muffled. “I wouldn’t leave you to have all the fun.”

The doctor reappeared. “Officer Simpson wants to talk to you, LaTisha. I told him you weren’t feeling well and to wait awhile. He’s pretty anxious to ask you some questions. Do you feel up to it?”

I twisted around in the chair and saw the young police officer standing in the doorway. I nodded at him, anxious to have the whole incident behind me. “Come on over here and get to your asking.”

Doc gave Hardy a pat on the shoulder. “I’ll be inside if you need me.”

Hardy straightened in his chair as the officer approached. I gave his complexion a good once-over before frowning at the policeman and jabbing a finger toward Hardy. “You can ask me what you need to until he’s feeling perky.”

“I just have a few questions, ma’am.”

“You new to town?”

The young officer swelled up a bit. “Yes, Mrs. Barnhart. I moved into town last week.”

I gave the newcomer a good scrub down with my eyes and wondered why I hadn’t heard of his arrival. No way was I anxious to have to go through the whole trauma of explaining how I found Marion’s body with this young fellow.

“Job doesn’t pay well,” I started out, making good and sure he knew I had the upper hand. “We just lost two men a month ago because the city council didn’t approve raises. One of them moved his family to Seattle, the other became an insurance salesman.”

“Uh, yes, ma’am.”

“I’m LaTisha Barnhart. And you?”

“I’m Officer Mac Simpson.”

“Not a bad looking boy. How old are you?”

“Thirty-two.”

“Tisha.”

Hardy’s voice held an edge that I recognized right away. I rolled my eyes his way. “I’m just trying to be neighborly.”

“Let the boy do his job.”

I huffed back into my chair and crossed my arms, considering. Doesn’t hurt to give the new guy a few warnings about small town living. Who knew? A murder right after a new person arrives in town. . . Suspicious if you ask me.

With Hardy getting uptight with me, I’d have to summarize my welcome speech. “You must have bought the Hartford’s place. Only house for sale that I know of. I’ll bring you some of my fried chicken. Don’t want newcomers to feel unwelcome here. I consider it my duty to make sure new people have at least one good square meal. Moving is hard work, and organizing a kitchen takes a woman’s touch. You got yourself a woman? Preferably a missus.” My eyes slid to his left hand. No ring. “We can take care of that for you, too, just give us a chance.”

Satisfied that I’d had my say, I waited for the man to begin with the questions. He blinked like a barn owl in the sunlight for a full thirty seconds.

“Hurry up and ask what you need to ask. I haven’t got all day.”

His Adam’s apple bobbed, and he cleared his throat. “I—” He glanced at the small notebook in his hand as if it contained the script he should follow. I knew the pages were blank. Noticed it right off. Not much escapes me. Ask any one of my seven children. They’ll tell you their momma not only has eyes in the back of her head, but she’s got ’em on the sides, too, and the high beams are always on.

Being that I had more education about these police things than he probably did, I decided to help him out. “You want to know what I was doing in the store and how I found Marion.”

His lips cracked a small smile. “That would be a good start. Yes.”

“The chief asked me all this already.”

“Yes, ma’am. He wanted me to ask again.”

Now if there’s one thing I don’t like to have to do is repeat myself. I tell you once. That’s it. You ask for a repeat and you might get it—slowly and with every vowel enunciated—but you ask again, and I’ll call the ear doctor and set up a fitting for you to get yourself a hearing aid.

I leaned forward, deciding I’d give this boy a second chance. This time. Since he was new and all. “I went into the store to pick up some things I bought earlier. Hardy came in after me. Something seemed funny when Marion didn’t start talking right off. That’s Marion for you. She never had any need for quiet. Anyways, I went around the counter and there she was.” I had to push hard at the sight of her that flashed in my brain. Forcing back my emotions, I went on. “Payton heard me—that’s the owner of the music store next door, don’t suppose you’ve met him yet—and he came over right after Hardy fainted. He’s the one who called you boys. That’s it.”

Officer Simpson scribbled in his book. “Did you see anything suspicious? Hear anything out of the ordinary?”

“I smelled blood.” And still did. I swallowed hard. “Took me awhile to figure out what that smell was, but I did. That’s when I thought to look behind the counter.”

Voices carried over from the doorway of the shop. The chief of police and a man I didn’t recognize talked for a minute before the stranger went back inside. Chief Chad Conrad caught my gaze and headed our way.

Simpson saw his boss coming. His expression became severe. “I must say you’re pretty calm for someone who just saw a dead body.”

I latched onto his eyeballs with mine. “Look here, I’ve had seven children, five of those are boys. Between bumps, scrapes, and breaks, there isn’t much more that’ll shock this momma. If one of them boys didn’t drop blood every day they’d thought they was girls. You feelin’ me?”

“Uh, I—” Officer Simpson’s face became a fiery red, and he gave his boss a mortified look. “Why, no, Mrs. Barnhart, I’d never—”

“That’s not to say I’m not sorry for Marion. She was a pillar in this community, but she’s also a woman who is well known for her high-handed ways and churlishness. I figure most folk wanted to give her a good push at some point or other, but that doesn’t mean I did it!”

Chief Conrad presented a slick authority figure beside his younger counterpart. He also maintained the honor of Maple Gap’s most eligible bachelor, though Officer Simpson’s hand, sans ring, might mean the chief’s days retaining that honor were numbered.

The chief leaned to whisper in Officer Simpson’s ear. Relief flooded the younger man’s face. He sent me one last, almost terrified glance and went back inside.

Conrad hooked his thumbs over the edge of his thick black belt. Squint creases on either side of his eyes, coupled with his thin lips and dark widow’s peak, gave him the look of a tough guy. “I should appoint you to the force, LaTisha. The way you intimidate people is amazing. You and I could do the good cop/bad cop routine quite well.”

Hardy snorted to life. “Yeah, but you’re a little too mean looking to be the nice guy, Chief.”

The two laughed themselves stupid at that. I crossed my arms and glared. But the idea of being a cop, an investigator, or an officer on the force. . .

“I’ve only got one more semester before I’ll have my degree in police science,” I offered, pointing a finger after the departing Officer Simpson. “Bet that boy doesn’t have one of those.”

“I can’t be too choosey at this point, LaTisha. The budget restraints are stretching us as it is.” His gaze shifted to the store, and I could almost hear his brain churning. He doesn’t know how he’s going to manage a murder investigation as short staffed as he is.

Conrad pulled his gaze from the store. “How are you two feeling?”

I glanced at Hardy, relieved to see the familiar sparkle in his eyes.

“We’ll survive.”

Couldn’t help but wince at Hardy’s choice of words. Chief just grinned.

My curiosity got the best of me. “How do you think it happened?”

“We won’t be sure for a while. State police are on their way with a mobile crime lab vehicle. Could be she just had a bad fall and slammed her head against that radiator.”

“She’d have to have fallen awful hard. It’s not like she weighs a lot.”

Conrad pursed his lips. “True. We’ll let the state men do their thing to find out. In the meantime, there are a few more things I need to ask you. Payton has offered us the use of his store while Nelson finishes taking pictures of the bo—”

I shook my head and ran a finger across my neck so he wouldn’t shake up Hardy again with reminders of Marion’s body.

“—uh, the details.”

“Does Hardy need to stay?” If Conrad insisted on talking bodies and blood, my man needed to leave or we’d be sweeping him up in a dustpan after he shattered.

“How about I talk to you first. While we’re talking, if Hardy could play us a tune. . . ?”

Hardy pushed to his feet. “Sure thing, as long as Payton doesn’t try to sell me anymore banjo books.” He laced his fingers together and stretched them, palm out in front of him, until his knuckles cracked. “I’m a piano man.”

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: The first Christian book you remember reading

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: The First Christian Fiction Book You Remember Reading

We have a new title! Faith 'n Fiction Saturday won by a long shot.

Now, if somebody wants to make us a button, we can all be super happy! :)

Today's Question:

We all come to faith in Jesus at different times in our lives and we all come to Christian fiction at different times, too! What's the first book in the Christian fiction genre you can remember reading? What was your impression of it? Did it make you want to read more or less?

My Answer:

Yikes! For as much as I have a memory of the books I read, this first isn't one I can remember. I actually started reading Christian fiction a while back, and I was really disappointed with the poor quality of books, so I stopped. I just didn't feel like they depicted characters and situations I could relate to. Then, I started reading Steeple Hill books (probably Margaret Daley, because I love her) and I thought, huh, maybe I misjudged. So I started reading more Christian fiction, and I've been pleasantly surprised to discover a lot of great books and authors. A variety of characters, a variety of situations, and they reflected a lot of the values important to my faith.

Me Myself & I AM Created by Matthew Peters in partnership with Elisa Stanford



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card is:

Me Myself & I AM


Multnomah Books (October 7, 2008)


Created by Matthew Peters in partnership with Elisa Stanford



Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (October 7, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421427
ISBN-13: 978-1601421425


Well, hopefully this is a good place to put a review... I'll admit right now, I haven't used this book yet. I read about it, and thought it was a wonderful idea. It kind of reminded me of the childrens quiz books. I used to love those. However, when I got the book, I realized something... some of the questions are pretty intimate. And maybe I'm being shallow, but I'm not ready to answer some of them. Maybe I should write that in there... great idea, but I'm not in a place to go that deep.

Still, I've got the book hanging around, and I think I will go through it at some point. Maybe when I have a safe or something so that no one runs across it and reads. Wow... that's kind of like I did with my quiz books as a kid. When we moved a while back, I came across one, and it was interesting to see the things that were important to me back then.

Hmm... maybe I will go ahead and start jotting a few things down. Maybe when I'm 80, the things I didn't like about myself in my 30s won't seem to be such a big deal.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

You are holding in your hands a unique question and answer book that helps you tell the very personal story of you and God. We take the title from the well-known passage in the Old Testament in which God tells Moses God’s name: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO
I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14).

You can use Me, Myself, & I AM in many ways: as a map to explore your faith, as a lens to focus on your relationship with Jesus, as a fun way to let others get to know you, or as a starting point for important conversations with family and friends. What you record becomes a spiritual time capsule you can revisit months or years from now to see how you used to think and feel, who you used to be.


Be sure to answer questions not with what you feel you should say but with what you really (like it or not) think. After all, you’re writing down the story of your life. You’ll find that some questions are fun, some are serious, and some that appear to be light turn out to be the most thought provoking of all. Answer as many questions as you can, but if a question doesn’t feel right for you, skip it and move on. If you run out of space for an answer, you might want to use the blank pages in the back of the book to continue writing.

So relax, take your time, and enjoy the experience of getting to know yourself and God in new and deeper ways.

—Matthew Peters and Elisa Stanford




R E A L M E R I G H T N OW

My name: ____________________________________ Today’s date: _____________

The city I live in: ________________________________________________________

The city I consider to be home: _____________________________________________

My occupation: _________________________________________________________

My health: _____________________________________________________________

When and where I am writing this: __________________________________________

The weather is: _________________________________________________________

Sounds I hear right now: __________________________________________________

The one thing I’m most thankful for right now: ________________________________

The one thing I’m most concerned about right now: _____________________________

I picked up Me, Myself, & I AM because: _____________________________________

My biggest hope is that when I’m done I’ll: ____________________________________



T H E P E R S O N WRITING…

Looks: ________________________________________________________________

Is wearing: _____________________________________________________________

Drives a: ______________________________________________________________

Has a secret: ____________________________________________________________

Shares a residence with: ___________________________________________________

Is currently reading: ______________________________________________________

Tends to watch TV shows like: _____________________________________________

Usually goes to bed at: ____________________________________________________

Usually gets up at: _______________________________________________________

Gets most annoyed at: ____________________________________________________

Gets happiest when: ______________________________________________________

Talks the most to: _______________________________________________________

Is never without: ________________________________________________________

Likes to listen to: ________________________________________________________

Prefers to eat: ___________________________________________________________

Dreams about: __________________________________________________________

Complains about: _______________________________________________________

Could easily be captured by: _______________________________________________

Has great potential to: ____________________________________________________

Is most dangerous when: __________________________________________________



A DAY I N MY L I F E

My perfect day would look like this…

Morning: ______________________________________________________________

Midday: _______________________________________________________________

Afternoon: _____________________________________________________________

Evening: _______________________________________________________________

Night: ________________________________________________________________



A DAY I N MY L I F E

Today my top three priorities are:

1. ____________________________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________________________

Three words or phrases that describe me:

1. ____________________________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________________________

Three words or phrases others would use to describe me:

1. ____________________________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________________________

I like myself most when: __________________________________________________



A DAY I N MY L I F E

I like myself least when:

A new invention allows me to change one thing about myself. I decide to change:

That change makes the following difference in my life:



A DAY I N MY L I F E

One place I go to find peace: _______________________________________________

One activity that makes me happy: __________________________________________

One circumstance or person that consistently makes me so angry I might explode:

One train of thought that brings me serenity in the midst of stress:

Challenges I am currently experiencing that I have some control over:

Challenges I am currently experiencing that I cannot control:



SOUNDT R ACKS

If my life today were a movie, these song lyrics would be in the soundtrack:

[ ] “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

[ ] “I need thee every hour.”

[ ] “There’s bubblegum in the baby’s hair.”

[ ] “It is well with my soul.”

[ ] “On the road again…”

[ ] “Another day older and deeper in debt…”

[ ] “I feel good!”

[ ] “If I could turn back time…”

[ ] “I’m raining on the inside.”

[ ] “Loneliness is a place that I know well.”

[ ] “Joy to the world!”

[ ] “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”

[ ] “Sunrise, sunset…”

[ ] “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

[ ] “Send in the clowns.”

[ ] “Take a sad song and make it better.”

[ ] “Thank you, Jesus.”

[ ] “Working nine to five, what a way to make a living!”

[ ] “I wanna hold your hand.”

[ ] “Whatever will be, will be.”

[ ] “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

[ ] Other: _________________________________



F E A R F U L

My biggest fear about my family today: _______________________________________

My biggest fear about the world today: _______________________________________

My biggest fear about my spiritual life today: ___________________________________

Something I fear that others might think is silly: ________________________________

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a lot, fear influences my life: ___________________

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friendship blessings

Today, I had my usual Panera time. Over the past couple months, I've started meeting a few girlfriends at a different Panera and we all write together. Lots of fun. Today, it struck me how sometimes God answers prayers so subtly that you don't always notice them.

My friend Robbie was already there when we got there. She moved around tables and arranged things so we'd all have a place to sit together. Maybe that sounds like a silly thing, but I'm not the kind of person who likes to make waves. I would never move tables around because I'd be afraid of messing things up. But Robbie, she's a friend with courage. And I appreciate how she's willing to do the things I'm too shy to do.

Then, my friend Kay arrived with a present for me. Nothing big, but something very sweet. It was just really cool to be sitting there and have someone walk in with an unexpected gift because she was thinking of me.

Finally, my friend Denise showed up, and there's just something special about her. I can't explain it. I feel like she's someone I know from someplace else, but we've never been able to figure out where.

So there I was, working on my book, occasionally sharing a comment or a laugh with three friends, it occurred to me how God has answered a prayer I've been praying for a long time. Most of my friends live all over the world and we see each other when we can, maybe once or twice a year. For a long time, I've prayed for friends who lived closer, so we could meet for coffee or tea on a regular basis. And I'll admit, they aren't as close as I'd like, but you know, God came through on this one.

I kept thinking about how blessed I am, and how even though they've been my friends for a while, that they were really an answer to a prayer. I love how God arranged these women in my life so perfectly.

Kay's present was a book of encouraging thoughts. It was perfect. Even more perfect is that the little bookmark thing marked a page that had a beautiful quote:
"What brings joy to the heart is not so much the friend's gift as the friend's love." Saint Aelred


Thanks for bringing me joy. I have some pretty cool friends. And an amazing God.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #67: Me in Numbers


Thirteen Things about Me in numbers


I stole this from Popping Bubbles, who did this last week.

1. Times I've been married.
2. Children I've given birth to.
3. States I've lived in: Colorado, New Jersey, Florida
4. Bathrooms we have.
5. Thursday Thirteen topics I considered for this week.
6. Books I'm trying to read.
7. Loads of laundry to wash and/or fold.
8. Todd Agnew concerts I've been to in three years.
9. Unfinished books I've had substantial work on.
10. Plants in my house.
11. Books I've completed writing.
12. CDs I listen to regularly.
13. Things I need to do tomorrow.



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


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!



Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Revolution!!

My friend Jaime posted this thoughtful blog about how she's seen the light and is using her precious children for labor. I realized that I, too, am a slave to my children. Feeding them, clothing them, picking up after them, helping them with homework, tending to their needs, listening to them whine, and putting up with their general childhood demands.

Jaime's story, however, inspired me. Generations ago, the children did things like chop and carry wood, wash the dishes by hand, help with laundry by hand, weed the garden, scrub floors, only had 2 or 3 different outfits, churned butter, milked the cow, and did anything else their parents asked.

What happened? I'm sorry to say, but it's time to do as our forefathers did and regain control of our destinies. So here it is:

The Declaration of Independence for Mothers

When in course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all adults are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Because our children have denied us the right to pursue Happiness, namely sitting on our rear ends, eating bon-bons, and instead force us into slavery like laundry, preparing them wholesome meals, helping with homework, cleaning the house, and other drudgery from which we should be exempted because we already paid our dues as children.

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United Moms of America, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, solemnly publish and declare, That these united mothers are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent people, that they are Absolved from all responsibilities toward their children. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Danica Favorite

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hope

You know, I have a lot of thoughts and not sure what to share. Rather than tell you my take on the election, and by now, I'm sure a lot of people are sick to death of hearing about the election, I want to turn our eyes toward hope.

A lot of people are disappointed. Others elated. Some who think all hope is lost, and others who believe that hope has been reborn in America. Both groups are wrong.

There is only one hope.

Tonight, I am praising the Lord. The One who is, was, and always will be. Here's my personal set list for the night:







God is still God. All my hope is in Him. His perfect love casts out all fear. He is the everlasting God. Greater things have yet to come, and I am so honored for the place He has given me in all of it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

7 Bookish things about me



Kalea Kane
tagged me for this meme a day or so ago. As promised... here's my 7 bookish things...

1. If I can't read it in one sitting, I'm not reading it. Fortunately, I read fast, so as long as I've got an hour or two, I can get it done. :)
2. This rule is reverse for nonfiction. I only read about a chapter at a time, otherwise, I don't get the full meaning.
3. I dream of a weekend getaway where I get to do nothing but read. (And trust me, I could really use it to catch up on all my reading!)
4. If I think about a phrase in a book, I must re-read the entire book as quickly as possible or I'll go nuts. Not sure why, but it's a strange compulsion.
5. Because of the aforementioned compulsion, I have to own all the books I read. Otherwise it takes too long to find the book that's driving me nuts.
6. I LOVE reading in the bath. Hate when a book gets wet.
7. I'm a pristine book reader... I do not crack spines or crease pages. That's just wrong. Wrong, I tell you!

So now I have to tag people... hmmmm.... let's see if I can do seven...

1. Jan
2. Siteseer
3. Pammer
4. Jana
5. Dianne
6. Janet
7. YOU!!

Tell me your fun bookish things...
4.

The Shack by William P. Young



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Shack

Windblown Media; 1st edition (July 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Wm. Paul Young was born a Canadian and raised among a Stone Age tribe by his missionary parents in the highlands of former New Guinea. He suffered great loss as a child and young adult and now enjoys the "wastefulness of grace" with his family in the Pacific Northwest.

Visit the author's website.

The author will be on the Blog Talk Radio show on on November 4th at 2PM ET. Come and listen!

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1st edition (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0964729237
ISBN-13: 978-0964729230



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


A Confluence of Paths

Two roads diverged in the middle of my life,
I heard a wise man say
I took the road less traveled by
And that's made the difference every night and every day

—Larry Norman (with apologies to Robert Frost)

March unleashed a torrent of rainfall after an abnormally dry winter. A cold front out of Canada then descended and was held in place by a swirling wind that roared down the Gorge from eastern Oregon. Although spring was surely just around the corner, the god of winter was not about to relinquish its hard-won dominion without a tussle. There was a blanket of new snow in the Cascades, and rain was now freezing on impact with the frigid ground outside the house; enough reason for Mack to snuggle up with a book and a hot cider and wrap up in the warmth of a crackling fire.

But instead, he spent the better part of the morning telecommuting into his downtown desktop. Sitting comfortably in his home office wearing pajama pants and a T-shirt, he made his sales calls, mostly to the East Coast. He paused frequently, listening to the sound of crystalline rain tinging off his window and watching the slow but steady accumulation of frozen ice thickening on everything outside. He was becoming inexorably trapped as an ice—prisoner in his own home—much to his delight.

There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine. Snow or freezing rain suddenly releases you from expectations, performance demands, and the tyranny of appointments and schedules. And unlike illness, it is largely a corporate rather than individual experience. One can almost hear a unified sigh rise from the nearby city and surrounding countryside where Nature has intervened to give respite to the weary humans slogging it out within her purview. All those affected this way are united by a mutual excuse, and the heart is suddenly and unexpectedly a little giddy. There will be no apologies needed for not showing up to some commitment or other. Everyone understands and shares in this singular justification, and the sudden alleviation of the pressure to produce makes the heart merry.

Of course, it is also true that storms interrupt business and, while a few companies make a bit extra, some companies lose money—meaning there are those who find no joy when everything shuts down temporarily. But they can't blame anyone for their loss of production, or for not being able to make it to the office. Even if it's hardly more than a day or two, somehow each person feels like the master of his or her own world, simply because those little droplets of water freeze as they hit the ground.

Even commonplace activities become extraordinary. Routine choices become adventures and are often experienced with a sense of heightened clarity. Late in the afternoon, Mack bundled up and headed outdoors to struggle the hundred or so yards down the long driveway to the mailbox. The ice had magically turned this simple everyday task into a foray against the elements: the raising of his fist in opposition to the brute power of nature and, in an act of defiance, laughing in its face. The fact that no one would notice or care mattered little to him—just the thought made him smile inside.

The icy rain pellets stung his cheeks and hands as he carefully worked his way up and down the slight undulations of the driveway; he looked, he supposed, like a drunken sailor gingerly heading toward the next watering hole. When you face the force of an ice storm, you don't exactly walk boldly forward in a show of unbridled confidence. Bluster will get you battered. Mack had to get up off his knees twice before he was finally hugging the mailbox like some long-lost friend.

He paused to take in the beauty of a world engulfed in crystal. Everything reflected light and contributed to the heightened brilliance of the late afternoon. The trees in the neighbor's field had all donned translucent mantles and each now stood unique but unified in their presentation. It was a glorious world and for a brief moment its blazing splendor almost lifted, even if only for a few seconds, The Great Sadness from Mack's shoulders.

It took almost a minute to knock off the ice that had already sealed shut the door of the mailbox. The reward for his efforts was a single envelope with only his first name typewritten on the outside; no stamp, no postmark, and no return address. Curious, he tore the end off the envelope, which was no easy task with fingers beginning to stiffen from the cold. Turning his back to the breath-snatching wind, he finally coaxed the single small rectangle of unfolded paper out of its nest. The typewritten message simply said:

Mackenzie,
It's been a while. I've missed you.
I'll be at the shack next weekend if you
want to get together.
-Papa

Mack stiffened as a wave of nausea rolled over him and then just as quickly mutated into anger. He purposely thought about the shack as little as possible and even when he did his thoughts were neither kind nor good. If this was someone's idea of a bad joke they had truly outdone themselves. And to sign it "Papa" just made it all the more horrifying.

"Idiot," he grunted, thinking about Tony the mailman; an overly friendly Italian with a big heart but little tact. Why would he even deliver such a ridiculous envelope? It wasn't even stamped. Mack angrily stuffed the envelope and note into his coat pocket and turned to start the slide back in the general direction of the house. Buffeting gusts of wind, which had initially slowed him, now shortened the time it took to traverse the mini glacier that was thickening beneath his feet.

He was doing just fine, thank you, until he reached that place in the driveway that sloped a little downward and to the left. Without any effort or intention he began to build up speed, sliding on shoes with soles that had about as much traction as a duck landing on a frozen pond. Arms flailing wildly in hopes of somehow maintaining the potential for balance, Mack found himself careening directly toward the only tree of any substantial size bordering the driveway—the one whose lower limbs he had hacked off only a few short months before. Now it stood eager to embrace him, half naked and seemingly anxious for a little retribution. In a fraction of a thought he chose the chicken's way out and tried to plop himself down by allowing his feet to slip out from under him—which is what they had naturally wanted to do anyway. Better to have a sore butt than pick slivers out of his face.

But the adrenaline rush caused him to over compensate, and in slow motion Mack watched his feet rise up in front of him as if jerked up by some jungle trap. He hit hard, back of the head first, and skidded to a heap at the base of the shimmering tree, which seemed to stand over him with a smug look mixed with disgust and not a little disappointment.

The world went momentarily black, or so it seemed. He lay there dazed and staring up into the sky, squinting as the icy precipitation rapidly cooled his flushed face. For a fleeting pause, everything felt oddly warm and peaceful, his ire momentarily knocked out by the impact. "Now, who's the idiot?" he muttered to himself, hoping that no one had been watching.

Cold was creeping quickly through his coat and sweater and Mack knew the ice rain that was both melting and freezing beneath him would soon become a major discomfort. Groaning and feeling like a much older man, he rolled onto his hands and knees. It was then that he saw the bright red skid mark tracing his journey from point of impact to final destination. As if birthed by the sudden awareness of his injury, a dull pounding began crawling up the back of his head. Instinctively, he reached for the source of the drum beat and brought his hand away bloody.

With rough ice and sharp gravel gouging his hands and knees, Mack half crawled and half slid until he eventually made it to a level part of the driveway. With not a little effort he was finally able to stand and gingerly inch his way toward the house, humbled by the powers of ice and gravity.

Once inside, Mack methodically shed the layers of outerwear as best he could, his half-frozen fingers responding with about as much dexterity as oversized clubs at the ends of his arms. He decided to leave the drizzly bloodstained mess right where he doffed it in the entryway and retreated painfully to the bathroom to examine his wounds. There was no question that the icy driveway had won. The gash on the back of his head was oozing around a few small pebbles still embedded in his scalp. As he had feared, a significant lump had already formed, emerging like a humpbacked whale breaching the wild waves of his thinning hair.

Mack found it a difficult chore to patch himself up by trying to see the back of his head using a small hand-held mirror that reflected a reverse image off the bathroom mirror. A short frustration later he gave up, unable to get his hands to go in the right directions and unsure which of the two mirrors was lying to him. By gingerly probing around the soggy gash he succeeded in picking out the biggest pieces of debris, until it hurt too much to continue. Grabbing some first-aid ointment and plugging the wound as best he could, he then tied a washcloth to the back of his head with some gauze he found in a bathroom drawer. Glancing at himself in the mirror, he thought he looked a little like some rough sailor out of Moby Dick. It made him laugh, then wince.

He would have to wait until Nan made it home before he would get any real medical attention; one of the many benefits of being married to a registered nurse. Anyway, he knew that the worse it looked the more sympathy he would get. There is often some compensation in every trial, if one looked hard enough. He swallowed a couple over-the-counter painkillers to dull the throbbing and limped toward the front entry.

Not for an instant had Mack forgotten about the note. Rummaging through the pile of wet and bloody clothing he finally found it in his coat pocket, glanced at it and then headed back into his office. He located the post office number and dialed it. As expected, Annie, the matronly postmaster and keeper of everyone's secrets, answered the phone. "Hi, is Tony in by chance?"

"Hey, Mack, is that you? Recognized your voice." Of course she did. "Sorry, but Tony ain't back yet. In fact I just talked to him on the radio and he's only made it halfway up Wildcat, not even to your place yet. Do ya need me to have him call ya, or would ya just like to leave a message?"

"Oh, hi. Is that you, Annie?" He couldn't resist, even though her Midwestern accent left no doubt. "Sorry, I was busy for a second there. Didn't hear a word you said."

She laughed. "Now Mack, I know you heard every word. Don't you be goin' and tryin' to kid a kidder. I wasn't born yesterday, ya know. Whaddya want me to tell him if he makes it back alive?"

"Actually, you already answered my question."

There was a pause at the other end. "Actually, I don't remember you askin' a question. What's wrong with you, Mack? Still smoking too much dope or do you just do that on Sunday mornings to make it through the church service?" At this she started to laugh, as if caught off guard by the brilliance of her own sense of humor.

"Now Annie, you know I don't smoke dope—never did, and don't ever want to." Of course Annie knew no such thing, but Mack was taking no chances on how she might remember the conversation in a day or two. Wouldn't be the first time that her sense of humor morphed into a good story that soon became "fact." He could see his name being added to the church prayer chain. "It's okay, I'll just catch Tony some other time, no big deal."

"Okay then, just stay indoors where it's safe. Don't ya know, an old guy like you coulda lost his sense of balance over the years. Wouldn't wanna see ya slip and hurt your pride. Way things are shapin' up, Tony might not make it up to your place at all. We can do snow, sleet, and darkness of night pretty well, but this frozen rain stuff. It's a challenge to be sure."

"Thanks, Annie. I'll try and remember your advice. Talk to you later. Bye now." His head was pounding more than ever; little trip hammers beating to the rhythm of his heart. "That's odd," he thought, "who would dare put something like that in our mailbox?" The painkillers had not yet fully kicked in, but were present enough to dull the edge of worry that he was starting to feel, and he was suddenly very tired. Laying his head down on the desk, he thought he had just dropped off to sleep when the phone startled him awake.

"Uh . . . hello?"

"Hi, love. You sound like you've been asleep." It was Nan, sounding unusually cheery, even though he felt he could hear the underlying sadness that lurked just beneath the surface of every conversation. She loved this kind of weather as much as he usually did. He switched on the desk lamp and glanced at the clock, surprised that he had been out for a couple hours.

"Uh, sorry. I guess I dozed off for a bit."

"Well, you sound a little groggy. Is everything all right?"

"Yup." Even though it was almost dark outside, Mack could see that the storm had not let up. It had even deposited low, and he knew some would eventually break from the weight, especially if the wind kicked up. "I had a little tussle with the driveway when I got the mail, but other than that, everything is fine. Where are you?"

"I'm still at Arlene's, and I think me and the kids'll spend the night here. It's always good for Kate to be around the family . . . seems to restore a little balance." Arlene was Nan's sister who lived across the river in Washington. "Anyway, it's really too slick to go out. Hopefully it'll break up by morning. I wish I had made it home before it got so bad, but oh well." She paused. "How's it up at the house?"

"Well, it's absolutely stunningly beautiful, and a whole lot safer to look at than walk in, trust me. I, for sure, don't want you to try and get up here in this mess. Nothing's moving. I don't even think Tony was able to bring us the mail."

"I thought you already got the mail?" she queried.

"Nope, I didn't actually get the mail. I thought Tony had already come and I went out to get it. There," he hesitated, looking down at the note that lay on the desk where he had placed it, "wasn't any mail yet. I called Annie and she said Tony probably wouldn't be able to make it up the hill, and I'm not going out there again to see if he did.

"Anyway," he quickly changed the subject to avoid more questions, "how is Kate doing over there?"

There was a pause and then a long sigh. When Nan spoke her voice was hushed to a whisper and he could tell she was covering her mouth on the other end. "Mack, I wish I knew. She is just like talking to a rock, and no matter what I do I can't get through. When we're around family she seems to come out of her shell some, but then she disappears again. I just don't know what to do. I've been praying and praying that Papa would help us find a way to reach her, but . . ." she paused again, "it feels like he isn't listening."

There it was. Papa was Nan's favorite name for God and it expressed her delight in the intimate friendship she had with him.

"Honey, I'm sure God knows what he's doing. It will all work out." The words brought him no comfort but he hoped they might ease the worry he could hear in her voice.

"I know," she sighed. "I just wish he'd hurry up."

"Me too," was all Mack could think to say. "Well, you and the kids stay put and stay safe, and tell Arlene and Jimmy hi, and thank them for me. Hopefully I will see you tomorrow."

"Okay, love. I should go and help the others. Everyone's busy looking for candles in case the power goes out. You should probably do the same. There's some above the sink in the basement, and there's leftover stuffed bread dough in the fridge that you can heat up. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, my pride is hurt more than anything."

"Well take it easy, and hopefully we'll see you in the morning."

"All right honey. Be safe and call me if you need anything. Bye."

It was kind of a dumb thing to say, he thought as he hung up the phone. Kind of a manly dumb thing, as if he could help if they needed anything.

Mack sat and stared at the note. It was confusing and painful trying to sort out the swirling cacophony of disturbing emotions and dark images clouding his mind—a million thoughts traveling a million miles an hour. Finally, he gave up, folded the note, slid it into a small tin box he kept on the desk, and switched off the light.

Mack managed to find something to heat up in the microwave, then he grabbed a couple of blankets and pillows and headed for the living room. A quick glance at the clock told him that Bill Moyer's show had just started; a favorite program that he tried never to miss. Moyer was one of a handful of people whom Mack would love to meet; a brilliant and outspoken man, able to express intense compassion for both people and truth with unusual clarity. One of the stories tonight had something to do with oilman Boone Pickens, who was now starting to drill for water, of all things.

Almost without thinking, and without taking his eyes off the television, Mack reached over to the end table, picked up a photo frame holding a picture of a little girl, and clutched it to his chest. With the other hand he pulled the blankets up under his chin and hunkered deeper into the sofa.

Soon the sounds of gentle snoring filled the air as the media tube turned its attention to a piece on a high school senior in Zimbabwe, who had been beaten for speaking out against his government. But Mack had already left the room to wrestle with his dreams; maybe tonight there would be no nightmares, only visions, perhaps, of ice and trees and gravity.


Copyright © 2007 by William P. Young