Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Learning Curves

My kids are on Spring Break this week and I took most of yesterday setting up an EBay account and learning to post an item. I have been meaning to do it for a while and have this lovely little crate of items that I kept because I thought they would be good items to try and sell at the mega online auction house.

But oh how easily frustrated I get when I'm learning something new - and nothing frustrates me quite like the computer. Over the last six months I have learned to update my website, add pages and graphics, blog, and countless other things that were triumphs for me (and probably pretty simple for everyone else). I'm not sure if it's just the extra time required to learn a new thing or that I simply want to be able to do everything without suffering through the learning curve.

Or perhaps it's a little of both.

I still wasted half my day when I realized that I have fifteen vintage smoking pipes from my grandfather, but have no idea what to call them. Apparently, all of these silly pipes have actual names that these pipe-collecting connoisseurs happen to know. And I don't. So another project that I thought would be simple has turned out to be anything but.

Kind of like walking with God. We are always faced with spiritual "learning curves". We are challenged to let go of the old ways and put on new ways. It's not always as easy as it sounds.

And as I continue to watch Terri's incredible will to live, I am reminded that my struggles are almost certainly not as enormous as they seem.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday

On this day that we remember the death of Christ may you...

remember again the suffering he endured...

reflect on the great love that led Him to the cross...

consider that He chose to die that we may live...

ponder the freedom Christ offers us through His death...

respond to the sacrifice again, in thankfulness.

Blessings to you all this day...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Live For Today

The Today show had a segment called "Live for Today". The idea is to think about what you would like to do before you die. And then do it. My ears perked up when I heard that because I have always been one to try to live my life without regrets. And for the most part I do. Most of the things that I would do, I simply can't do because I'm not independently wealthy and face it, lots of things cost money.

I need to spend some more time thinking about it, but the first thing I thought of today that I want to do is this: I want to go to Israel. I want to see the places where Jesus walked, see the sky from the same place He did. I want to see the all of the sites that they probably have turned into tourist traps. What's stopping me? Money, mostly. Otherwise I'd go. I know it's not the safest place in the world to go, but something about that place draws my soul. I can't help it. Now I wouldn't drag my young kids there or anything, but one day, I'd like to see it for myself.

Many of the other things on my list have to do with traveling as well. I want to see the Parthenon and the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon. To be fair I actually did get a glimpse of the Grand Canyon as the sun was setting one night, but there was no where to camp and we had to drive out of there to find a place to sleep. So that glimpse was all I got.

My ten year anniversary is one month away. We had all these lovely grand plans to take a cruise or a short vacation, just the two of us - go somewhere together that we've never been. And that is no small feat with three young kids. But alas, there is no money to go anywhere. But we'll still spend it together - and that's what really counts. But it's nice to dream...

And so what would be on your list? Parachuting (yes, I'd like to do that), bungee jumping (no, thank you, I like my neck and spine the way it is), or going into space (that seems to be what a lot of guys want to do - I really don't have that much interest in it myself)? Or some other adventure. Can you go ahead and do it?

Now, if Ed McMahon would just knock on my door...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Fight for Terri

I have watched with great interest, and prayer, the fight now happening in Florida to save Terri's life. Amazing how a woman has become the center of a very political debate, when it should be simply a moral debate.

This link will take you to information about Terri and what is happening from her parent's perspective. What I think horrifies me the most is that so many of the talking heads on the news programs, and even doctors, presume to know what Terri is and is not aware of. How could ANY of us know that? Or even presume to know that? It seems so common sensical to realize that there are severe limitations to us really knowing what is going on with her. We assume coma victims can hear us. A recent episode of ER gave a quite dramatic demonstration of how a stroke vitim was completely aware of what was happening but was unable to communicate at all. The last day my father was alive, he was also unable to communicate, but he turned to the sound of our voices and seemed to be trying to respond. It comes to our self-pride as humans, to believe that we know a lot more than we really do.

What they are doing to Terri right now would be construed as cruel and unusual punishment were it done to a criminal in our judicial system. It's astounding that this many judges (saying that they are just following the law) refused to step in and stop what is going on. But as I watch this I can't help but notice that the blinders to morality and justice are thick. Just as the Isrealites could not recognize Jesus because of the blinders on their eyes, so much of our nation, particularly the judges, can not see how horrible this situation is. They have been blinded by the enemy. So what to do? We must pray. I'm glad people are down there. A number from my own church are speaking out on Terri's behalf. But the rest of us need to be praying because this is not just about Terri - this decision is a slippery slope for our nation - one we don't want to go down.

I don't want to think that some judge could have ordered the death of my father in those last weeks. When it was time for him to go, he went, peacefully. I don't want to think that some judge or lawyer could decide what I am and am not capable of and decide my life, or the life of someone I love, is not valuable enough to continue.

So please, pray. Pray for our nation, pray for our leaders and pray for Terri and her family. Only God can change hearts.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

And the book is finished...

I just wrote the last line of the last book in my teen fiction series. God is so faithful! This book has probably been the hardest for me to write for a multitude of reasons. My father died right before Thanksgiving last year and for several months I did not feel like writing. At all. So I didn't. I took the time to grieve.

But I had a deadline to meet and I don't miss deadlines so at some point earlier this year I realized that I had to get back to the computer, no matter how I felt. I didn't feel ready but I had to do what I had to do. But looking back, I see God's mercy in the midst of the pressure. If I didn't have the deadline, who knows how long I would have lingered in my grief. How long would I have stayed away from writing completely? God used a deadline to lovingly bring me back to what He's given me to do. And I am grateful.

The other reason this book was so hard to write was because it was the last book in a series. It's the fifth book and all the time I was writing I wasn't sure how I was going to wrap it all up. How do you wrap up someone's life when they're only eighteen? I wanted to find a way to satisfy the readers yet let them know what is next for her. I hope I was able to do that. We'll see.

And lastly, God took me a new way with the writing of this book. With this being #5 I sort of have a routine of how I write a novel but I got halfway through this book and I ended up starting over. A little scary when I had the deadline, but the book is better for it. God always knows how to help us lean on Him harder.

So now it's time to edit! Have a wonderful Holy Week!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Racing to Argentina

Well, last night's episode of Amazing Race showed how getting lost can totally mess everything up. The teams left from Santiago Chile and had to drive through the Andes Mountians. Debbie and Bianca neglected to realize, for nearly two and a half hours, that they weren't driving through the mountains and Susan and Patrick couldn't even get out of town. At the detour teams had to choose whether to paddle a seven mile course down a river, or pedal a bike down a seven mile course. Lynn and Alex were way too excited about beating Rob and Amber on the river - who cares? As long as you're not last it doesn't mean a thing. (And at the pit stop I thought their little demonstration of their paddling was a little too "high school musical") And I'm less than thrilled about Amber's explaination for how she kept rowing even though she was tired - "Keep rowing, you're burning fat calories, I have to fit in a wedding dress." Well those of us who aren't and will never be Amber's size let's just say it was annoying.

And now we've had a gross-out roadblock. Teams had to eat 4 lbs of cow parts - which included intestines, brain and something about a saliva gland. I really didn't even want to listen. But in a stealth move, Rob quit eating and took a penalty and convinced Ray and Deanna and Meredith and Gretchen to do the same. Uchenna wolfed down that nasty stuff and on the way to the pit stop Joyce asks him, "Do you want a mint?" In the end it was Debbie and Bianca who were eliminated simply because they didn't eat faster than Patrick - and because they got so lost at the beginning of the leg. It's a shame, I was actually hoping that the mother/son team would go after their little tiff over the cow parts.

For the record, I probably would have paddled the river and let my husband do the nasty eating. It's always been one of those things that I knew would sink me in a race like that - I don't eat gross stuff. Not even for money. If you haven't given the Amazing Race a try you can still catch up. I never knew the Andes were so beautiful.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Joan says No!

I've been Tivo'ing Joan of Arcadia the last several weeks and have been enjying catching up the last few nights. I think I'm still a couple weeks behind but I was so thrilled to see Joan say no when she and Adam had the opportunity to have sex. It was a good episode because even though Joan disobeyed her parents she confessed about what happened - a great example to teens out there. It's sad when I'm this thrilled about a character saying no because frankly, it doesn't happen very often. Even Rory on the Gilmore Girls is trying to be more sexually active (once she did it once, she showed she was willing to do it again when the next guy came along).

It was also interesting to note how Adam went about trying to convice Joan to have sex with him. He presented sex as "the next logical step" in their relationship and pointed out how long they've been going out. Joan also felt bad for upsetting Adam but fortunately did not give in and stood her ground.

So I applaud all those girls out there who are choosing virtue rather than logic and are willing to be different. It's a lot harder than it looks.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Discipline of Writing

As my writing has moved from hobby to career, I have found the major skill I have to develop is discipline. Now, being the sanguine I am, I'd prefer to write whenever the mood happened to hit but as with most endeavors that are started this way, I am not likely to actually finish what I start if this is the only time I settle down and get to the business of writing. I have heard of many ways that writers go about being disciplined in their writing.

Some don't do anything else until they've written
Some write a certain number of words
Some write a certain number of pages
Some write during certain hours of the day
Some write on certain days of the week

And so on. It really doesn't matter how you discipline yourself, but I do know it is absolutely necessary if we are to ever get the writing accomplished. I wonder how many people out there have files stuffed with half-finished stories or articles because they never actually got around to finishing them. Deadlines happen to be the driving force for me. Now that I have them, I'd like to keep them, so that forces me to force myself to get busy.

I have young children at home and a schedule that is erratic at best. But generally, my writing happens during naptime. When the kids go down and the doors are shut, I go directly to my computer. Even if I have a half-finished laundry pile or a bathroom to clean, the writing comes first. I can sort laundry with my kids running around, I can't write chapter 16 unless they're asleep. But once I get to my computer I still need to discipline myself from taking a surf around the web or reading a blog or doing a hundred other little things that can distract me. I have to boot up Word and pull up my story and get to writing

I use a page quota. This has always worked best for me because I can easily break down how many pages I need to get finished in a day. I also tend to edit a lot as I write so word counts aren't as effective for me. You have to do what works for you. Planning my writing time doesn't make it less creative or fun - it just makes it me more productive.

At least that's the story I'm sticking to...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Virus That Ate The Writer

Today is the first day I have even ventured up the stairs to where my computer is - and even that trip has me ready to take a nap. The doctor says it's not the flu, but some sort of virus. Well let me tell you that virus kicked my butt the last couple of days. I don't even remember the last time I felt that bad.

And, of course, it couldn't have happened at a worse time. Just when I shared about my deadlines and feeling overwhelmed I lose three days of work. But is there anything I can do about that? Well, no. So should I feel guilty about it? Well, no.

All I can do is to pick up where I left off and pray for the grace to meet my deadline. I haven't missed a deadline yet and I don't intend to start now. I have to remind myself that even if I'm surprised by the things that are dropped in my path, God is not, and He is able to sustain me.

So here's to grace - and a brain that isn't too mushy to think, and noses you can actually breathe through and well, you get the picture...

Friday, March 04, 2005

On being Overwhelmed

I know the Scriptures say that God never gives us more than we can handle but I've got to be honest - at times I feel like I'm in completely over my head! Now I know I'm not the only one who feels this relentless drive to do everything well - I used to say I had a drive to do everything perfect but I'm old enough to know that's not going to happen any time soon. So I shoot for "well". I love being at home with my three kids and shuttling them to school. I can even say it gives me some measure of satisfaction when I transform eight piles of laundry in my living room into neatly folded piles of fresh clothes stacked away in the dresser drawers of my family. I love seeing my two-year old's smiling face as she paints and being the one to hold her when the cat scratches her. I don't wish this time in my life away - it's too short as it is. Yet I'm torn. My writing suffers - how much can you really write in an hour and half a day. I find myself fantasizing of having three whole hours in a row to write and create. I dream about having enough time to clean out my office. I wonder when I'll ever catch up on my kid's scrapbooks.

You see, my list of things I want to do has simply grown too long - too bloated for me to ever be able to accomplish at this point in my life. So my scrapbooking supplies sit in haphazard piles on my table, unused. I buy clothes that don't need to be ironed. Dusting happens only when absolutely necessary and I've learned to say no to new responsibilities oft dangled in front of me (usually accompanied by flattery and compliments). But what do I do with all the things that can't be put aside - that can't wait? We need clean underwear and dinner on the table and my two-year old has a very short attention span. I have to leave in twenty minutes to pick my daughter up from preschool and then hurry home to make lunch and then, then I'll get my hour and a half to write. That is, as long as my little one decides to actually sleep. But then there are the piles of laundry still to be finished and by then it will be time to make dinner.

It just never ends.

Even my time with God, which has been so good lately, still takes me away from doing all that other stuff. Did I mention I still need to go grocery shopping and finish preparing my house for eight two year olds who will come to celebrate my youngest's birthday on Saturday? I may have too many balls in the air, but when you've put down as many as you can, what is left to do but try your best to juggle what is left? When did my life become this busy?

All I know is that at the end of the day, I an only do what I can do. Now if only I didn't have that pesky little deadline...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Do you feel lucky?

I think last night's episode of Lost was one of my absolute favorites. We got to learn Hurley's, the island's plus-size social director, backstory and what got him on that plane. I also got to add to my "Favorite Lost Moments" list - I choked up when Locke gave Claire a cradle for her baby on what turned out to be her birthday. But all that aside, the episode was about luck - bad luck mostly for those that were around Hurley and the mysterious numbers that came from the island. I've doubt we've heard the last of those numbers but luck is a worthwhile topic to discuss.

I used to believe in luck, or fate. Not exclusively mind you, I thought lots of things were conspiring against me to keep me alone and sad. But then I met God. And God's Word promises that nothing is out of His control. If nothing is out of his control, then there is no such thing as luck. For the purposes of blogging, I can't get into a treastise on the topic, but don't you find that lots of people believe in luck? And then there are those, like the lady who lost her leg on Lost said, "We make our own luck." So either we believe that luck is the god, we are the God or God is God. I think it could be a very useful tool in sharing about Christ to find out what people believe about how the world really works.

I think that's why I enjoyed the episode so much - it really gave some very real examples of how some people in our culture view luck. Hurley thinks he's cursed, and says that he's cursed - and even according to the Bible, we will often eat the fruit of our lips. So will things go badly around Hurley because of real bad luck or because he simply believes that it will? I honestly think this is where the enemy can have a heyday with humans. Because if he can get us believing in luck or fate, then he can also get us to believe that we're not really responsible for the choices we make.

And we are responsible for our choices. There's not some cosmic "luck god" who's controlling things on a whim, but God Almighty. That makes me rest a whole lot easier.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The New Amazing Race

Only three weeks after the finale of Amazing Race 6, we got to meet the 11 new teams for Race #7 last night on the season premiere. For those of you who haven't watched the best reality show on television, eleven teams of two (who have some sort of relationship with each other going into the show) race around the world. On each leg they have to perform stunts and/or tasks - not random stuff like Fear Factor - but actual tasks that tend to be part of the culture in that particular place. On this first leg for example, one of the choices was to rope two llama's and get them penned up. Sound easy? The tasks involving animals are always risky on this show - cause they're not as easy to control as you'd like to think. My husband and I would have chosen to hike with the 35 pound baskets rather than get slimed by a couple of nasty llama's.

We're just getting to know the teams so I'm not sure who I'll root for, though I was sad to see the hillbillies go - they were kind of cool (and I've heard that they are actually Christians - not sure if it's true). A couple of teams I'd already like to see go - Deana and her on/off boyfriend are a milder (so-far) version of Jonathan and Victoria from the last race. There are a couple of ditzy girl teams (not ditzy meaning stupid though because one of them is impressively bi-lingual), a few married couples, a brother team, a mother-son team, Rob and Amber (from Survivor) and in true Hollywood style, a gay couple from West Hollywood. It should be an interesting journey. I enjoyed seeing Peru - the mountains and the sea were both gorgeous and Phil, the host, seems more relaxed than I've ever seen him.

One interesting twist is that they gave $20,000 in cash to the team that came in first. If they're smart they'll keep that tidbit of information to themselves since in the past, it hasn't mattered a whole lot how fast you get there as long as you weren't last. They used to give away trips - but it never seemed to spur on a real race for first place like I think the cash prizes will. We'll see how it goes.

I'm still trying to get over Kris and Jon not winning from last season. Here's to the good guys!