Monday, June 30, 2008

Tuesday Triviality V

As per several of my blogging pals I am adding this as my Tuesday Triviality. If you take the challenge, let me know how you do by leaving a comment.

The Big Read, an initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts, estimates that the average adult has read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. How about you?

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE. (can't underline here, so I capitalized them)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 THE GREAT GATSBY - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (partly)
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 THE KITE RUNNER- Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (I can still get nightmares of this one)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 THE LOVELY BONES - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 ON THE ROAD - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

If I counted right, I think that's 47--not bad, but wish it were more. Now it is your turn...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

911 Fashion Emergency--Or Not Really?

I have noticed something lately that has given me pause for consideration. Fashion seems to have become a bit sexist, and here is why I am considering this notion. When we are at the movies or at a restaurant and observe a young couple (obviously on a date) the female is most always dressed in a cute skirt, pretty top, her hair is styled with obvious attention to makeup and accessories; some even look as if they have stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. Subsequently, our critical eye views the male counterpart who usually is adorned with a baseball cap, an old t-shirt, a pair of shorts in need of attention, and flip-flops.

I am not sure what this means, but the couple appears terribly mismatched. Don’t get me wrong, I know “clothes does not the man make”, but why should the girl be expected to take pride in her appearance if her counterpart could care less. Maybe I am missing it all together. Perhaps in these relationships the male is so secure that he doesn’t feel the need to pay attention to his appearance; but if this is the case, then why does the girl feel the call to appear fashionable? Does this mean she is insecure?

Now, I was raised with boys and raised three (working on four more), so I decided to take a look around my own home for evidence of such fashion bigotry and sure enough—in strolls Chad’s girlfriend with the cutest top and Bermuda shorts for their day out. Chad enters with gym shorts, a plain colored t-shirt, and baseball cap. This fashion dilemma exists, even in my own home.

All this week, we have been watching old episodes of “Family Affair”. Our society sure has traveled far from the social dress “norm” of the 1960’s. It isn’t that I think men should have to wear a suit and women an evening dress to go out on the town, but it does seem the pendulum has made a huge swing into a somewhat laissez faire attitude about dress, not to mention this gender inequity between acceptable attire for young men and women.

Here is my quandary; I am having difficulty figuring out if this matters. Is it really a matter of sexism or is it simply a matter of societal customs changing over time? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Triviality IV

#1 Quotes I have come across this week and haven’t figured out how to include in a blog:

“I think it is like when you are in school and you think recess is NEVER going to get there.” Jody-Family Affair season one, disc 2.

“Learning is messy” – one of the tech. ed blogs I have been reading and for the life of me, I can’t find it again.

#2 A different prospective to the 100 Things Challenge that I wrote about last week. I think my sister-in-law is onto something here. I could do this one. The Great Summer Destrash 2008 In fact go ahead and sign me up.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Family Reunion Part I

Today I experienced one of those bonding events—Chandler, Kent and I attended the “Price Family Reunion” in New Castle, Indiana. I love these moments where I acquire snippets of Kent’s history. The day started by attending the small Separatist Baptist Church where Kent attended as a child. Upon arriving, I experienced an extreme wave of nostalgia. The church itself reminded me of the small Nazarene churches of my youth. Upon entering the church, we sang hymns—yes hymns—great hymns of the church. I miss them so much in my worship. I understand that “praise choruses” are all the rage and in order to reach out, we need to be contemporary, but I miss hymns: those robust songs with theology and truth embedded therein. I know Chandler was on the verge of sleep for the entire time, but I really was present and “in the moment”.

Once the minister began to speak, I was taken back 35 years or so, to the preaching of Nazarene ministers of my childhood. I must have had a crazy grin on my face—not because his words were earth shattering, but because of the memories released in my mind. Following the service, I met the minister—he was a “fill-in” as this church is awaiting the arrival of their permanent pastor in a few weeks. Anyway, upon more interrogation, I find that he is—indeed—a Nazarene minister (I knew it—I can pick them out in a crowd—LOL). He went to Olivet (as did I) and was friends with the man who pastured the church here in Decatur in the 70's before my dad. He also knew dad, as the Nazarene world is mighty small. I felt contented. I hadn’t worshiped in, what some might label “archaic” means, in years and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

Following the service, we headed to “New Castle Memorial Park” for the reunion and the quest to meet the extended family. I was impressed with the folks I met there. They are genuine, loving people who respect each other and serve the Lord with delight. The warmth I felt is something I will not forget. They welcomed me to the family and made me feel at home. I enjoyed the stories, of Kent’s past escapades—which participants were more than eager to share with me. This information certainly begins to fill in the mosaic that is Kent.

I hadn’t planned on being this content after today. I worried that I would “fit in” and that Kent’s family would “accept me”. So what is the result? Turn about is fair play-it will be Kent's turn next week at my family reunion in Arkansas? I can only hope he feels as fulfilled afterwards as I do this evening. Life truly is all about connecting….

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Celebrate Today

Kent and I are visiting my baby brother, Evan, this weekend. He has a cat and since Kent is highly allergic to cats, we got a hotel for the weekend. We got up this morning to run and it was the most difficult run I have ever had. There was no clear place to run, so we started following a sidewalk and it ended abruptly, so we turned around and treaded in another direction only to find overgrown shrubs, uneven pavement and other dead ends impeding our path—but we kept on going until we successfully ran the two miles we set out to accomplish. I hated it—it wasn’t a bit fun; however, when we finally ran into the hotel—I was so proud of myself for actually completing what I embarked upon and viewed as impossible. I promise, in the future, I will keep the running analogies to a minimum; but I couldn’t help but see the collation between this morning’s run and my journey as a widow.

When Don died, I thought it would be impossible to move forward. I started the journey and before too long I would hit a dead end, or some other impediment that threatened to derail my efforts. Truth be told, sometimes I did derail, but would get back on the path with the help of family, friends and faith. It isn’t fun, but there are times I do feel I have made great progress. I don’t believe I have reach the finish line, but I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far. I feel I am at a level place where my pace is comfortable and I am finding that my “second wind” prevails despite obstacles in the road. I realize the race is far from over, but also acknowledge how important it is to review where I have come from and celebrate where I am today.

Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The IRONIC has come full circle

Don was one of the most “fit” people I know. He played golf several times a week, rode his bicycle, and ran. He also had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It never made sense to me. Even when I weighed over 300 pounds, I didn’t have these co-morbidities---until two weeks ago. I had my annual exam and low and behold---my blood pressure was high. I rushed to the appointment and dismissed it as a “fluke”. Then I had Ginny take it again this last week---it was high---then again two days later---high. DANG!!! So I made an appointment with my GP. After taking my blood pressure—yes it was high, he asked me about my family history. Well----grandmother, father, mother and younger brother are all on blood pressure meds—does this mean anything??? Apparently—it does. Did I get the skinny gene from my mother NOPE--I get the high blood pressure one.

I don’t want a “label”—dang it—for the first time in my life I am physically fit. I run 3 miles and bike 10??? WTH??? But because of my genetics I need meds—so—I started them today.

Dang it---

Tuesday Triviality III

First, let me say you MUST watch this all the way through. I know it is 10 minutes long, but worth the time. Tanja had an interesting post the other day about marriage/relationships the second time around that made me think about how much easier this marriage is (at least in the beginning) because of what we learned the first time around. When Kent and I watched this video he was a step ahead of Mark Gungor in his presentation, knowing what Mark was going to say next (like some male mind-meld). Apparently, Kent did learn much about the man/woman communication from his first marriage. So, gather your young adults around, this is perhaps the best video to explain the difference between men and women that I have ever seen.

And finally, I love words. I like creating them, changing them, exploring them and yes---creating something with them. Have a few minutes? Try creating your own Wordle: If you do, be sure to email me or post a comment. It might even let you copy the html and post your Wordle--which would even be better. My creation is to the right of this post.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What's the Big Deal About Social Networking?

I have had a Facebook account for several years, ever since Chad began showing an interest. I opened the account fully intending to use it as spyware to keep tabs on the content of my son’s cyber life. But let’s face it, spying is not what it is cracked up to be and sometime after signing onto Facebook I decided that Chad had never done anything to make me suspicious or to distrust him in any way, so there account rested - dormant until this week.

My decision to awaken my Facebook account came from a renewed interest in technology and its implication for education. I wanted to research the arenas where kids are connecting outside of school to understand how we can use this information to connect them INSIDE school. I know this isn’t a new pedagogical facet in education, but there are many new technologies that are simply not being utilized to reach kids. Social networking (Facebook, Myspace etc...) is one area that has grown tremendously in the last five years.

Shortly after reviving my Facebook account, setting up my profile and organizing my home page—I began to find “friends”. For those of you unfamiliar with Facebook, you can search for people that you might know, send a message you want to add them as a “friend” and once they accept—that’s when the fun begins. At this point you can look at their “friend list” and see if you know anyone, request to be a friend and within cyber-minutes you have your own “friend list”. It cuts “six degrees of separation” down to one or two. One of the amusing aspects of “friends” is finding folks with whom you have lost touch. With one click of the mouse, you are back in the middle of their lives. Within minutes you know if they are married, where they are living, if they have children, where they are working, if they had sushi for dinner etc….

I admit that I am far and above the average age of the normal Facebook client. Most of the Facebook population includes late teens and young adults. What was most surprising was that many of them have 200 to 400 friends! WOW! How can you have 317 “friends”? I have a hard time keeping up with the real ones that I actually see and meet for coffee on a regular basis (my generation is showing) or the few more who I email on a daily or weekly basis.

This got me thinking about what social networking means to this next generation (generation Y if you will). Keep in mind that you can’t complete any task on Facebook without the entire network knowing what you did. If you change anything, write anything, or navigate anywhere within Facebook, it is recorded it on your “mini-feed” for all to see – “Marsha, changed her weight to 130 pounds.” Which comes to my next question. Don’t these people care about privacy? In talking this over with Kent he brought up a great point. He said people of generation Y have a different concept of privacy than generations before. They view their life as an open book to be shared with any and everyone. It is more important for them to connect by revealing aspects of themselves that many of us “older folks” would never share, let alone print on a public page for all to read. The caveat is that a fair amount of information is, well less than truthful, so discernment becomes a skill necessary to cipher genuine intentions; a skill I am not sure most young people have fully developed.

Cataloging 317 friends on your Facebook account does not necessary signify popularity. It does; however, suggest that you are resourceful and there is a part of me that wonders, “Why can’t I have 317 friends, instead of my measly 27?” Fact is, I really don’t want 317 Facebook friends, but I understand why my younger cohorts would.

I enjoy the social aspect of Facebook. There are components of it that I find addicting. You truly could sit at your computer all day sending “flair”, “hugs” even “Iconograms”. You could play “text twirl”, “superheros” or find out “what Simpson’s character are you”, but in the end you eventually have to venture back out into the real world and develop real relationships---don’t you?

Until then—feel free to visit me—even become my friend.

Marsha's Facebook

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Father's Day Tribute

The boys and I have been so very fortunate to have exceptional men in our lives. Their father was a man of honor whose time on earth may have been shortened, but whose influence will live on in the lives of his sons forever. From him, Chad and Chandler learned life’s most vital lessons and for that I am eternally grateful. They carry Don in their hearts when they are up against life decisions and ask themselves, "What would Dad do?" or each time they pick up a guitar, or a golf club. Happy Father’s Day, Don.

My father is the one man I have loved since birth. His constant care and love is infinite. Frequently, church parishioners stop to tell me how much dad means to them. They never just say, “Marsha, your dad is the best.” They always have a story to tell about how dad spent hours with them in the hospital, or helped them through a difficult time in their life, or simply stopped them and asked how they are doing or to provide an encouraging word. I beam—I am so proud of him and I don’t tell him enough. The measure to which the church respects and appreciates dad, doesn’t come close to how much I do. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

As we blend our families, Kent has had a difficult charge. What I know for sure is that he is a great father. His kids are crazy about him and talk to him most every day. I know it is difficult for him to be away from them this Father’s Day, but we hope to make up for it next weekend. Of course, the thing I appreciate about Kent is that he has grown to love my boys. He, in no way, tries to take the place of their father; in fact he quite often asks about Don and is always interested if the boys mention their dad. He allows them, even facilitates upholding their dad’s memory. The boys have grown to love and accept Kent as an important man in their life. He is often the one they go to for advice and assistance when life throws them curves. More than anything, he is a willing co-parent with me. He supports me as I do him. So today, I wish him a very Happy Father’s Day.

Admirable men understand the important role that they play in the lives of their children. This goes far beyond “being there” or not “being there”. It means connecting with them in a real and lasting way, forming a relationship that sustains time and judgment, coupled with loving without limits. Never should this relationship be taken for granted, for all too soon in can be stolen from us. If you are fortunate enough to have a Father in your life, celebrate him today. If you no longer have one in earthly terms, celebrate the day by honoring his memory.

"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." -- Clarence Budington Kelland

Friday, June 13, 2008

On a Short Leash - Not What I Thought

This week, I had lunch with my sister-in-law who lives in Dayton (check out their blog). She was telling me about an article that she had read in SLATE about a Buddhist couple married for 10 years who had NEVER been more than 15 feet apart the entire marriage. They considered this a “high form of Buddhist practice”. Personally, I consider it a “high form of insanity”. Anyway, when David Plotz (a writer for SLATE) and Hanna Rosin (a writer for the Atlantic), read of this story they decided to experiment themselves and try to stay within 15 feel of each other for 24 HOURS. Needless to say, their exploits for that time period are chronicled in the following SLATE article – On a Short Leash.

I am a very independent woman, always have been, always will be. I take my responsibilities, obligations and commitments very seriously; but they are mine to make. I am fortunate that I have always had men in my life who were confident enough in themselves to actually appreciate, even nurture, this aspect of my temperament.

Summer has always been a time when I am in charge of the day. If I wanted to go to shopping, take the kids to the pool, clean out the storage room or sit around and read---I could. Don always worked away from home and when he came home at 5:00, I would feel I already had all the time I needed or wanted to plan things for the kids and I and at that point in my day, I was ready to be full time wife and spend the evening with him. On occasion, I might have had an evening out with friends, but for the most part that was time for us.

Kent works from home…can you see where I am going with this? Now, I was afraid of how this might to pan out. I wasn’t used to having another adult around or being accountable to anyone else during the day in the summer. I was concerned with how the kids and I would stay out of his way and well---he out of ours. I was worried that by being together so much, we would grow weary of the other, become short tempered even get sick of having the other around. We wouldn’t be 15 feet apart at all times (which I find an astonishingly short distance), but we would be in the same house most of the day. Before we got married, I contemplated what this might look like and worried it could become stifling, fortunately that has not been the case. In some ways, by having Kent closer in physical proximity during the day, I have felt more independence than ever.

I enjoy being able to pop my head into his home office and just say, “hi”. I like knowing his routines, habits and schedule. I love being able to eat lunch with him most day’s coupled with the freedom to meet friends if deemed essential. He is here for “check in” with the boys, and on busy days he is often their “go to guy”. I am the beneficiary of his more flexible workday. Yes, there are times we can spend an hour running an errand during the day, knowing that he will have to work a little later into the evening to make up the time, but we get to do it together.

The down side of this arrangement is that he also travels with his job. Sometimes infrequently, but more often than not he travels at least 2 days a week. You might think this offsets the days he is at home all day, but I don’t find it the case. Just as David Plotz states in his piece, when Kent is gone it’s like I can’t see him and it is disconcerting on a certain level. I never expected to feel this way, yet this is where my life situation has brought me.

One reason this works is that Kent really “gets me” and I him. I know when he needs to be alone, and give him that space. I know that he enjoys spending a little time with me during the day, so I oblige (this one is easy as I love it too). I still have my independence, but I also find I enjoy the opportunity to spend some of my daytime hours with him.

Could I spend my life no more than 15 feet from Kent? Absolutely not, more likely than not it would be ME who would drive HIM crazy. Perhaps the part of this equation that is missing is choice. It is not in an attempt to reach a "higher plane" that I enjoy being close to Kent. It is because we have chosen this arrangement to be an aspect of our lives. I take pleasure having him in close proximity. It is an unexpected benefit to this “chapter two”.


I ran the equivalent to a 5K race today (3.1 miles). It is amazing to me that just a few weeks ago I laughed at the prospect of becoming a runner and enjoying it on top of that. But here is where I find myself weeks later---surprised? You betcha!!! But it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. If I can do this, I PROMISE anyone can.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Literary Clutter 911

Today is one of those times when I have decided that being an ardent reader is both a blessing and a curse. I have seven windows open in my browser. I have four (yes, 4) blogs started in four other windows each responding to something I READ yesterday. First there is the Buddhist couple who have never been more than 10 feel apart for the ten years they have been married. Then there is the story of the San Diego man who looked around his families home and decided to begin a “100 Thing Challenge” to limit himself to a mere 100 personal possessions. Of course there is a “running” story, a “Family Affair” writing and on and on and on…

I am in the progress of reading four books and three magazines simultaneously: one for fun, one for training, one for spiritual connections and one for well—pop culture? Isn’t this SUMMER, a time for balance and renewal?

In analyzing this phenomenon, I have come to some conclusions. Before Don died, I used to read voraciously – at least two to three books a week. After his death, my desire to read anything, but information that would me take hold of my grief, was gone. Reading actually became a chore for the first time in my life and I hated that about myself. However, during this time, I did begin to write and write and write. Writing became the creative outlet reading once owned.

Herein lies the problem. My passion for reading has returned, but I also still have a zeal for writing. So I look at this morass of clutter that is my laptop, with the realization that I MUST begin to think – B A L A N C E. I seem to have found this illusive concept in other aspects of my life. Balancing my roles as wife, mother, daughter, teacher, friend and taxi driver seem reasonably sane. I have even been able to balance my fitness and health goals, but this literary clutter is making me crazy. Isn’t this the most bizarre “problem” someone could have? I don’t know of any therapist specializing in eliminating literary clutter? Looks as if I will have to attempt this on my own.

Marsha’s 911 steps to eliminate literary clutter:
1. Set aside one hour in the morning to read/answer email, read other blogs and check online news (yes, I will most likely have to set a timer)
2. During this time I need to jot notes for future writing in my writer’s notebook.
3. Have no more than two books and one magazine on-going at one time. Recycle magazines as soon as I finish reading them, tearing out and filing any articles I’d like to keep.
4. Prioritize future reading so that when I finish one book, I know what to pick up next.
5. BE flexible with this plan, knowing that at some times I will lapse and that’s OK.
6. Set aside an additional hour in the day to write. I am not a professional writer. It is NOT my job. I have many other aspects of my life to tend to---so this is plenty of time.

Now, I am taking bets---who thinks this plan will last a day? A week? A month? Those of you who know me best---what’s your prediction? I will give you a clue---I wrote this piece yesterday, so what did I do last night? I rejuvenated my much ignored Facebook account, added flair and friends---geeezz……

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday Triviality II

Literary clutter seems to have overtaken my life (blog to come) so today, for Tuesday Triviality I am going to purge a bit of it instead of giving in to my urge to write a blog about each. What I want from you is your reactions to the following

First, is a story on the SLATE sight about a Buddhists couple who have NEVER been more than 15 feet apart for their entire ten year marriage.
On a Short Leash

Second, is a story in Time magazine about a San Diego man who has decided his family clutter needs to be eliminated and has begun a “100 Thing Challenge”.
How to Live With Just 100 Things
100 Thing Challenge

Finally, just something to ponder:
What does Geronimo yell when he jumps out of a plane?

Have a tremendous Tuesday!

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Ultimate Self-Help Book

I own many different Bibles. Seems like for years, my parents would buy me a new one for by birthday or Christmas. There are more Bible translations and paraphrases than one person could ever need and I have them all: The Message, The King James Version, The New King James Version, The Living Bible, The New International Version, The American Standard and on and on… I do have my favorite. It is leather bound Thompson Chain New International Version. I will never forget the controversy my father stirred when he switched from reading the King James Version to the New International Version from the pulpit. One parishioner, in particular, stood up in the middle of a church service and challenged this new “version” as heresy and never darkened the door of our little church again.

My burgundy, worn Bible has seen me through marriage at a young age, the birth of my children, physical ailments, the death of my husband, milestones, life struggles and my recent remarriage and blending of family. Opening it’s cover you will find markings, tags, underlining, highlighting, bent pages, dates written in margins, and personal notes connected with scripture that resonate specific times in my life. It is, likely, my most prized possession. If lost or destroyed, it is the one material possession I would find to be a significant loss.

When I was growing up my grandmother used to challenge us to memorize portions of scripture, expounding the benefits of “hiding God’s Word in our hearts”. I was a good at it. I could memorize quickly, much to her delight. Psalms 23; Psalms 139; Romans 8; 2 Timothy 2; I have forgotten many things that I memorized in my past, but these scriptures remain in my recollection. I have found solace, as well as frustration at my attempts to reconcile life with the Holy Word.

I have never used scripture to “brow-beat” my children or others on the journey. I find the Word of God to be the foundation for life, not a tool for chastisement. The thought of thumping my children with the Word of God is foreign to me and I don’t believe it to be congruent to Biblical teachings anyway. I hope my children come to the realization that the Word is the solid foundation for their faith. It is the one means by which I believe God speaks to us today.

Within it’s pages are contained the answers so many seek in how to live with honor and principle. With all of the “awaking your life’s purpose”, Oprahish, guru-seeking books on the market today, this is the only one that has stood the test of time and scrutiny. Its words span time and history revealed to be undoubtedly the ultimate self-help book.

“For the Word of God is living and active.” Hebrews 4:12

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Step-Dog

Kent and I have been married three months next Sunday. We have blended our families as best we can, for having mostly adult children; but this week we added a step-dog to our family. Kent’s sons in Indianapolis live busy lives and though they love their dog they were were unable to give the time and attention he needed, so Joey, the Miniature Schnauzer, became a part of our everyday life. I have always wanted a dog to take in the car with me—Chelsie (our golden retriever, sheds and really doesn’t like car rides) but Joey “fits the bill” perfectly. He loves riding in the car, or spending the afternoon snuggled up on the couch. It is amazing how dogs adapt to their environment—as long as they feel welcomed.

Chelsie, Joey’s stepsister, is having some adaptation issues. She has been “top dog” for many years and now must share the spotlight with this new canine. She seems a bit jealous at times, but on the other hand seems to delight in the camaraderie another doggy companion provides.

Within the first few days, Joey learned many new positive behaviors. He used to dart out the door whenever anyone went in or out, but now humbly sits and waits to be greeted. Kent was surprised at how quickly Joey has learned manners. I am sure that Joey will have his “days”, just as we all do; but we are still glad he has joined the family.

It seems we humans could learn much from our dog companions. Dogs, unlike people, give unconditional love. They never hold your transgressions against you—they don’t even remember them after a few seconds. They are uncomplicated and simple, affording them a contented state of mind. I long to become uncomplicated: to love without boundaries and to live without worry. As Will Rogers once said, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Arte Y Pico Award!

I was awarded the Arte Y Pico Award by Annie, a fellow widow/writer/chapter 2 journeyer, who writes a blog (Anniegirl1138) that I enjoy reading everyday. Annie presented me with this award today with the following instructions:

1. Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog.

3. Each award winner (upon acceptance) should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.

4. Show the link of Arte y pico blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show these rules.

I have never heard of blog awards until today. Upon research, I found that many blogs have awards attached to them--never paid much attention to those little iconic thingys at the bottom of blogs. I am honored that Annie chose me for this award, but am more honored that she often posts comments on my blog that always encourage me as a writer and a person. Since she has already received the award, I can’t pass it back to her, yet that would be my first choice, SO, after much consideration, I have decided to pass on the award to the following:
Evan and Julia
Rosanne Though she just began blogging, I have learned much of what I know about teaching writing from her.

Here is a huge thank you from me for enriching my life with your words.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Realistic Victory!

As a beginning runner, I long to look like the guy down the street when he runs. He has long, muscular strides, his form impeccable and seems to run effortlessly. He is an “Adonis of running”. As much as I admire his abilities, it would be ridiculous to set my goals by his standards. I mean, he is half my age, not even my gender and obviously has more athletic genes in his little finger than I have in my entire body. But this is what we do in life; we compare our journey with that of someone else and set our goals by another’s standards then are surprised and dejected when we don’t “measure up”.

I understand that goal setting is paramount to success in any new endeavor, yet doing so often leads to failure. Why-- because we are unrealistic in our expectations. I tend to set unattainable goals like: lose 20 pounds before a wedding in two weeks, then I am shocked, disappointed and left with feelings of failure at my lack of achievement; when in reality, I set myself up for failure.

When I began to run, I made a conscious decision to set small, realistic goals that would lead to my one big desire of running a 5K race before the summer is over. Let me remind you that on my first attempt to run, I may have actually jogged – a block without needing a respirator to breathe. My first goal was to run ONE mile without stopping to walk. Each day I have watched myself come closer and closer to attaining this goal.

Today I actually reached it---

When I hit that one-mile mark, I felt like Rocky Balboa running the streets of Philadelphia. I am sure I heard the beat of the “Rocky Theme” bellowing in my head, as I looked the fool—jumping up and down in the middle of the sidewalk celebrating self-victory. I know one mile isn’t that far and that I have much further to go before I can run 3.1 miles without stopping, but this was a huge accomplishment for me. I immediately called Kent and Ginny, huffing and puffing as I shared my achievement. They cheered for me, and encouraged me and represented all that someone who loves you should be.

Why it is that we don’t celebrate life’s milestone in similar ways? Why don’t we hear the “Rocky Theme” the first time we accomplish things in our life that take guts to complete. Why don’t we cheer each other’s accomplishments no matter how small? I can’t tell you the number of endeavors I was able to complete on my own, after Don’s death. Instead of celebrating my successes, I often complained or whined that I “had” to do it on my own. I felt slighted because my circumstances required me to “step up” and I wasn’t as good at it as some other widows or single parents that I knew. What a travesty! I look back now and thing---DANG, I should have called Ginny and said “You know what? I changed the toilet ring, made solo-travel arrangements, or fixed the grill!” She would have cheered me on just as she did today, but I didn’t give her the opportunity.

We should set our goals according to our own expectations and circumstances---not gage our lives by those of others and at the same time we must allow others to celebrate with us. Life’s goals and accomplishments should be celebrated, no matter how trivial they may seem. We should spring up those proverbial stairs, arms raised in victory as the “Rocky Theme” plays in the background each day we step out on faith, accomplish something we never have before, or reach a personal goal. Can you hear it?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tuesday Triviality

I rarely simply copy and paste "stuff", but I think Tuesdays will become "Tuesday Triviality" and on this day of the week I will share things I have found important to me---basically to have a place to record "stuff". Feel free to do the same...

Triviality #1:
Henri Nouwen quote:
Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things-the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on-will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God's promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.

Triviality #2:
As a former pastor once said, "If this don't light your fire--then your woods all wet!"