Saturday, October 28, 2006

Happy Birthday, Linder Woman!

Back in the day,Linder Woman and I were friends in high school and roommates in college. We were in the same youth group, took this trip out West with our good friends Linda and The Chief, and were in each other's weddings. Our oldest sons were born a month apart.

But this guy in the photo isn't our "Chief," but a guy making a living in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We still have stories about that trip. It was the summer before we started college and I am forever grateful to Chief, Linda and Linder Woman for saving me that summer. I have stories for a lifetime from that trip.

Today's her birthday, and she will always be special. She's like family to me, even though I don't see her much now.

She's one of the best people on earth. Happy Birthday and Salute to Linder Woman!(Almost made it to half-a-century!)

Love, "Beanpole" (why she gave me that nickname, I STILL don't know, but I'm getting suspicious that she was teasing me...)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Whaddea Know??

I just read an article in More magazine (yes, I do fit the age bracket) "20 Things You Should Know By Now." It's kind of like that list you get before your child goes to kindergarten--you know, when they tell you if your child doesn't know three languages by this time, you must've failed as a parent in your choice of preschools? Yeah, like that.

I know you want to know what was on the list, especially if you are approaching 40 or well on your way to Methuselah's age, like me. So here is More magazine's list):

1. How to tell your doctor you want a second opinion.

Seriously. I don't even want the first opinion. I don't go to the doctor.

2. How to find your way out of the woods.(literally)

Don't go. There are lions and tigers and bears in them woods--and flying monkeys. I saw The Wizard of Oz. I know.

3. How to fake a fox trot.

You are old. You can dance any way you want now. Your kids still will be embarrassed no matter how you dance at cousin Sophie's wedding.

4. How to get the best room in the hotel.

What I really want to know is how to get out of the house and off to stay in a real hotel. And, if you have money, you can get any room you want as long as Oprah isn't staying there. She has more money than you.

5. How to counsel a friend through divorce...without getting divorced yourself.

Whoops. You do have your degree in counseling, right? No? If you are still breathing in and out at this point in your life, then you realize you have enough drama in your own life. Sometimes all you can do is listen. Or rather, all you should do as a friend is to listen--not counsel. It really will only get you into trouble. Trust me. (And sometimes when you just listen her ex will still blame you. Sigh. )

6. How to do a background check.

This one is easy. All I have to do is get my teenaged kid on this. They can find the scoop on anyone. (As long as that person goes to their high school, or teaches there.)

7. How NOT to write a business plan.

If you are writing a book, you need Book Proposals That $ell for your business plan. Why would I want to know how NOT to write a plan? "How Tos" are better. Quit wasting your time on How Nots because you are getting old, buddy.

8. How to charter a jet with friends.

I assume if you can afford a jet, you got this one licked. My advice would be to just be friends with Oprah, or hang out with trapshooters. Or know a jet pilot who wants to get some money and hours in.

9. How to tell if someone's lying to you.

I actually liked this one, and feel it is the first thing on this list that is valuable to know. If you have been a teacher, married, or had kids, you know this one. If you have had siblings, you know this one. Once you found out(uh,oh! Spoiler alert!) Santa Claus was not actually coming to YOUR house (he goes to everyone else's,) you began your trek into figuring out the liars. Malcolm Gladwell who wrote The Tipping Point and Blink has this article about face reading on his site, if you are interested in this further. Great stuff.

10. How to kick someone out of your book group.

I know that there are people you just don't want to hang out with and who probably take up all the time of the book group by yakking about her post-op trauma with her hernia surgery. It's more like Grand Rounds with Dr. House on House(my favorite TV show right now,) than a group of Desperate Housewives (which I have never seen.)

Or, if you are in a book group who writes the books, she's the one who talks incessantly about her book that continues to get rejections, but is the greatest thing since Left Behind or Harry Potter. (You know that she is going to become famous, eventually, while you never will, don't you?)

But...let's face this one. This is kind of mean. Like the mean girls at recess who exclude the new girl or the cliquey club women who decide they don't want someone in their group because she's got a better figure than everyone else and she packs her husband's lunch. There's just something totally wrong with this one. Ok, so I was the girl in school who always tried to include everyone, even when they were mean to me. Maybe you should conquer the background check thing before inviting her. But meanwhile, remember my words: Never burn a bridge. She may someday be the one who who reads your proposal and gives it thumbs up or thumbs down. And I guarantold you--she will remember you. (I will remember you...)

11. How to run for office.

Ok. That's it. This list just goes downhill from here.

I know a lot of things. I am a know-it-all. I tell people what to do on a daily basis. Queen of My Known Universe. From this point on, I'm telling you that it's what you know that can hurt you. What you don't know can be ignorant bliss.

Here's the rest of the list and if you want to truly know something, just ask me, or find the October 2005 issue of More magazine (ok, ok, so I'm a little behind in my magazine reading!) What I don't know, I can find out. (This is what I tell my kids.) And if I don't know, or don't want to know, who cares?

12. How to recognize age discrimination.
13. How to ask for a sabbatical.
14. How to ask a man on a date.
15. How to decide what to charge as a consultant.

16. How to find an old boyfriend without it ruining your life. (Didn't he ruin your life when you knew him the first time??)
17. How to negotiate a killer severance.
18. How to program an Ipod.
If I win Camy's contest, then I will want to know this one.
19. How to pack for Machu Picchu. (Whatever. I want to know how to pack for my spot on Oprah when I publish my book.)
20. How to find your way out of the woods (figuratively.) What I want to know is how to find my way out of a plot corner. Or how to upload my blog photo. Or how to get out of going to the grocery store this week in the rain and cold....

So, whaddea want to know?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's not often that I post twice in one day, but Delia is always doing something intriguing. So, I stole from the Kentucky Wild Mudcat Woman who stole it from someone else! (How do you find these wonderful rabbit trails??)

This is writing related. I am having an issue with my name. There are many out there doing writerly things with my name who are not me. Now, I have a perfectly great name, but it can get confusing. So, I'm in search of a pseudonym for my fiction. I think I have one(which I'm stealing from my great-great-great-great grandmother,) but I'm waiting until I get ready to submit my proposal. Wasn't it Shakespeare who said "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?" I suppose. But a rose named Crystal needs to distinguish herself from the pack of writers!

Look up your name:
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Reading Is FUN-da-Mental Day

Tuesdays are the day I let you know what I'm reading. I just picked up this book that was published in 2002 called The Mentor Quest: Practical Ways to Find the Guidance You Need by Betty Southard (Vine Books/Servant Publications,ISBN 1-56955-309-2.) I found it through a private seller. It's out of print.

I think all of us would like a mentor, and we talk about it often in writing
circles--finding a writing mentor who would guide our career and help us to find our voice and type of writing best for us. (Especially if we haven't published a book or don't have an agent.) We hate stumbling around, trying to discover who we are. (Well, I hate that.) Who are your role models? Who do you look up to?

I admit I have struggled with this concept. I don't have any particular teachers I've tried to emulate. I do listen to many people and what they say about the business. I have selected a few in the industry whom I trust to point me to the best information--and have even emailed them, asking about this or that. All of them live far enough away that I don't have what my friend, Linda, used to call a daily friendship or relationship. I don't meet them for lunch or coffee because it would require a jet or a long journey and not being able to sleep in my own bed that night (which I prefer.)

It is difficult to not only find those people we wish to glean knowledge and wisdom from, but it's tough to develop the relationships required once we do know whom we'd like to get to know. Betty says that we can get these relationships from books, as well as from people. I know this is true. I know that I have revisited books many times that speak to my own soul and heart. Books can pull me along when I'm stuck and I can't call someone up at 2 a.m. I have definitely stayed up until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning reading a book!

Some of you are writing fiction. You want someone to help you along in writing and to talk over your stories with that person, maybe get feedback or get information about writing. Here's a library that I have and refer to these books when I can't make it to a conference or find a writing mentor to talk to:

1. Read as much in the genre you wish to write in as possible--good, bad,mediocre. Know thy genre. If your writing is difficult to classify, then find who is writing something similar--where would you fit on the shelf? These should be recently published or as current as possible.

What is good, bad or mediocre about it? Keep these thoughts to yourself if you wish to publish in this genre. Editors you wish to woo to your own fiction may have worked on that fiction you just put down. No need to insult anyone with your opinion. Be humble in seeking this knowledge. Ok, even if the editor agrees with you that such-and-such book was a snore--if that editor spent time on that book, you better believe he is not going to take your evaluation of that book and how yours is better. He might even not agree with you. Ouch. Foot in mouth is no way to start off.

Do voice what you love about a book because editors DO like to know that you know the genre in which you are writing. You cannot be taken seriously if you don't even know what is being published right NOW. Read the good, just so you can recognize it. But don't turn your nose up at the "bad" or the "mediocre." Unless daddy owns the publishing company, that person got published somehow. You're not. (Well, I am assuming this if you haven't found a mentor, agent, editor, or are just starting out.)

2. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King (buy this--do not merely borrow it) If you cannot get any other book, get this one.

3. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

4. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

5. Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

6. 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham

7. The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman

8. GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon

9. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

10. Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins

11. The Making of a Bestseller by Brian Hill and Dee Power

My favorite:

12. On Writing by Stephen King Even if you are not a Stephen King fan, he has some good insight into writing fiction.

A little out of date, but still worth a look if you can find them:
Writing and Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope Stokes
How to Write (and Sell) a Christian Novel by Gilbert Morris
Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis A. Whitney

Another resource to check out is Terry Whalin's Right Writing web site with many articles on specific types of writing by experts and his blog, The Writing Life.

I never stop reading material that helps me with writing. Of course, applying that reading is what is important. You can read helpful books like this all you want--but if you ignore what you read, then you're just wasting your time.

Just remember to read where your passion lies. That is where I am reading today. The days of "have to" reading is over for me. I'm liking this new exploration in reading.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Flies in the Soup Friday

What is it about Fridays? I seem to spin more wheels on Friday than any other day.
No matter. Everyone is posting their 100 Things, 100 Preferences, etc. I decided today to post the flies of my life--those things which buzz around my head, annoying me when I should be thinking about blessings and good stuff.

See if these things annoy you, too. (This is my extreme dislike list...)

1. 4-way stop signs
2. Being late
3. Clutter
4. Impatient drivers
5. Japanese food
6. Dust
7. Self-righteousness
8. Mini-vans
9. Car trouble
10.Computer troubles
12.People who say, “You have no idea”/”You don’t understand”
13.Chin hairs/sunspots
17.Sitting in long sermons
18.Waiting for flights/airline terminals
19.Being stranded
20.Unsolicited phone calls
21.Grocery shopping
22.Fish (to eat, except tuna salad sandwiches)
23.Bad haircuts
25.Having nothing appropriate/comfortable to wear when I feel vulnerable at an event
26.Tanning booths
27.Denver International Airport in a snowstorm
28.Head-on wrecks
29.Tear-jerking novels
30. Morning News Shows
31. Someone holding my wrists
32. Meetings
33. Possums
34. Mice
35. Snakes
36. Being in smoky rooms
37. Diets
38. Dogs throwing up
39. My gray hair
40. black carpet
41. bees
42. camping
43. fishing
44. People who say, “You’re a city kid.” /“You’re too backwoods.”
45. People gossiping
46. Small town prejudice
47. Church denomination arrogance
48. People who try to force you to do what you don’t want to
49. People who say, “You don’t know art, so you can’t appreciate it.”
50. Petty Power Plays
51. Aqua-lung by Jethro Tull
52. Face piercings
53. Wearing glasses
54. Doctor appointments
55. Frying (but I like having fried)
56. Being too cold or too hot
57. migraines
58. mothballs
59. Shopping and no clerks around
60. sweating
61. trying to post a blog
62. Talking over the phone with a computer specialist
63. Crawling under my desk to find whatever the computer specialist tells me I have to find
64. Misunderstandings
65. Thinking of something to eat/cook
66. Trying to find a place when I'm in traffic
67. Waiting in a hospital to "hear"
68. Waiting for death to come
69. death
70. Picking out coffins
71. Being moved to tears in front of someone
72. cutting my dog's toenails
73. When someone I love hurts or is treated poorly
74. Concussions
75. Not knowing what colors to pick to wear
76. The laundry room
77. "Fake" iced tea
78. No electricity
79. No heat in cold weather
80. Planning parties
81. Bad hair days
82. Feeling dumpy
83. Mean neighbors
84. living in town
85. traffic
86. forgetting
87. hairspray
88. Hot Topic stores
89. Steaks too rare
90. Boring plays
91. Broken notebook rings
92. Cleaning out fridges
93. No place for quiet and solitude
94. remembering hurtful things
95. Playing games
96. Anger
97. Being pushed
98. Drunks
99. Being "by myself" at events
100. Staying home when I want to go
101. Going when I want to stay home

Thursday, October 19, 2006

You Ever Have One of Those Days?

I saw this photo in my file, and thought, "Yeah, I'm having one of them kinda days."

This is me a few years back when I was living with my Grandparents in Tennessee. (They lived out in the hills and had chickens. I hated the chickens. If they laid a chicken feather on anything they didn't want me to bother, I would walk around it by miles.)

But how I look in this photo is how I feel today. Some days you have bad hair days (like a couple days ago) and then the bad hair catches up with the rest of you. I'm aching all over, and maybe it is the flu. Anyway, time will tell the story.

I have been reading all kinds of stuff today, but am unable to concentrate well. But Health magazine had these tips about "what to eat when..." and that got my concentration. If I can eat my way out of it, well, hold all of my calls!

What do you eat when you can't sleep? They say to try whole grains with protein. So, try eating a half-cup of whole grain cereal with skim milk before you go to bed. I should already have known this one. My dad, the King of Insomiacs (being a trucker, he had irregular hours)used to have a bowl of cereal before going to bed. Turns out this releases serotonin in your brain. Or if you eat a turkey sandwich (with whole grain bread or a whole grain pita pocket) that will do the trick, too--try a half cup skim milk with it. My mom used to say to warm up the milk and add a touch of real butter to it. Hmm. Probably just relaxes you.

So, what if you're coming down with a cold? Well, if you have a fever, you can get dehydrated pretty fast. You know that chicken soup you're supposed to eat? Turns out that you need to add either onions or garlic to it. Garlic has some sort of fight in it that gives your body a boost. The liquid is good for dehydration, and it being warm helps with the other icky stuff going on (the sniffles.)

I would like to hang out here some more, but my head just hit my keyboard twice in rapid succession, and I have to keep correcting this.

Let me know your best "I'm sick" remedy. What makes you feel better when things are going not too good?

My mom always made me red Jello when I was sick. There's something about even seeing red Jello that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Also, she had this Friendship Tea that she made when I'd have my yearly pneumonia and round of colds. Because it was made from powders(Tang/tea/lemonade,) I took a jar of it with me to college. I'd heat some water and have a cup of comfort from home pronto. As soon as I'm feeling better, I'll post the recipe.

Off to make a cup of my blueberry green tea.

In the meantime, check some of the blogs to the right for updates:

Terry Whalin is talking about booksignings

Terry Burns just became an agent with Hartline Agency and is also talking about smells in writing

Brenda Coulter, Steeple Hill author is coming to Kokomo, IN for a booksigning on Saturday

Nancy Ring has listed her 100 Favorite Things and 100 Quotes and 100 Things and some Bibliotherapy

LeAnne Martin has some great interviews with those in the arts and worship in the arts

Sabrina and Cara have posts about Karen Kingsbury's latest book

Karen Wingate has another great post about teaching children about Jesus

and Camy Tang, new author with Zondervan, has this fabulous contest going on where you (ME, ME!) can win a nanopod thingie (all my boys have one--I don't)and a whole slew of books. Drop by there and sign up for her newsletter (put as the person who referred you and ignore Delia's plea about putting HER down as the reference.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This Ain't No Glamour Detail

This Ain't No Glamour Detail

My favorite place in the entire world, other than Indiana and Tennessee, is Savannah, Georgia. This is me in some distant past February in Savannah. I was at a regional championship trapshoot competing, and while my walk on the beach without my shoes was pushing it (it was a might chilly, but doable,) I couldn't get over the azaleas at the gun club entrance. At least I shut my mouth long enough to take the photo. (And later would stuff my mouth with Savannah cuisine and pralines.) Most of the places I've been to are related to trapshooting. Most of my life has been not too glamorous. I always want to look like the Audrey Hepburn of life; instead, I come across more like Harlow Hickenlooper.

We had just left a blizzard in Indiana. I didn’t think we were even going to make it out of the state. So, I had to have my photo taken there because even on a good day in Indiana, I had never seen such a profusion of colorful flowers. I felt even a bit glamorous. This is as glamorous as I get, though. I have to have God's glorious creation backing me up to get a good "glamour" shot.

Some people see shooting sports as glamorous. I have hung out with and shot with the rich and famous, it’s true. While eating a greasy hamburger in the clubhouse between rounds, I listened to my shooting companions talk about the best places to fuel up their private jets. And my Italian-made shotgun is considered "sexy" by others in this sport. The Italian craftsmen, who hand-designed and made my gun, are swoon-worthy. (They come over from Italy during The Grand American Championships and take care of any problems you are having with your gun, so I have actually talked to them. My goodness is all I have to say about them.)

The first time I ever shot trap targets, I knew it was a sport I was going to like. But trapshooting has never been glamorous for me. It is a "rush" to powder a clay target flying through the air. But this shot of me right before going out to shoot is the best I look all day. After shooting, my cheek or shoulder could be bloody or bruised,sweat soaks through my shirt and gun grease decorates my sleeves. It's not pretty.

When I first started shooting, it was hard to remember everything: put in your earplugs, put on your shooting vest, put on your eye protection, bring your box of shells, keep track of how many times you shoot, shoot on your turn, after five shots move to the next station, look at the target, don’t call for the target until you’re ready, call only on your turn, stay still while others shoot, keep your gun open at all times until it’s your turn to shoot, breathe easy, look over the gun, look over the traphouse, don’t pull the trigger until it is in your sites--and, well, phew, there is a lot to remember. But eventually it became second nature to me.

But at the time I started shooting, I didn't see a lot of women. I wore a vest too big for me, because it was a man's vest I'd borrowed, along with my gun, which was also too big. My cheek was beaten to a bloody pulp with a knot on it the size of a baseball, because the gun stock was too high and thunked me each time I pulled the trigger. I could barely hoist the gun up to my shoulder, which caused me to lean back. It was a wonder whenever I did hit a target--which I hit enough times to keep me coming back. So, after each practice session, I was a mess, but determined. Since you load one shell at a time into the gun barrel, each time I opened to load, a bit of grease would smudge on me somewhere. I ruined several shirts and jeans that way.

A lot of men shoot in this sport, of course, and some have been shooting since they were small boys. I had only shot a gun twice—and both times were handguns, not a 12-gauge shotgun. Some of the men I met were WWII, Korean Conflict or Vietnam veterans, and they had been hunting all of their lives, too. They had forgotten more than I even knew about shooting. I looked clunky and slow, I'm sure. I was a bit of a novelty, too, but wasn’t an Annie Oakley. It was hard work for me. They all had advice and gave it out freely. Talk about the most confusing time of my life.

“Hold your gun higher.”
“Hold your gun lower.”
“Close one eye to focus.”
“Whatever you do, keep both eyes open.”
“Use a longer gun. Use a heavier gun.”
“Use a shorter gun. That gun is too heavy for you.”
“Wear a vest to hold your shells. Get plenty of padding in the shoulder.”
“I never wear a vest. Get one of those belts and get a shooter's tee shirt.”

One time early on I was practicing on a particularly hot day. I don’t know where my husband had gone, but I was left on the field to shoot practice. I’m sure I was frustrated. In those early days of shooting, I was always frustrated. I wanted to do better. I just knew I could be good at this. And I really liked doing it.

This older man had been sitting on the bench watching me. Because it was so hot, my face was not only flushed with the heat of the day, but also from the gloves and long-sleeved shirt I had on to protect me from the now-heated barrel. Sometimes the barrel gets so hot, you can suffer burns. I already had some blood seeping through my shirt at the shoulder, and I was sweating--there's no dainty way to put it. My hair stuck out everywhere, even though I had pulled it back and stuffed it under my hat. My cheek was swollen and bruised. Arms and shoulders ached. I had lifted that gun over 500 times. It ain't a sport for the puny.

Dehydration becomes a problem, so you have to make sure you get some shade and some water between rounds. I walked back to my bag and the bench where the man was sitting and relaxing. I was braced for whatever advice he was going to bestow on me, because they all did that. This one spat on the ground before he spoke.

"You know, honey, this ain't no glamour detail."

I don't know why, but I thought of David when he had put on all that armor King Saul loaded him up with when little David said he was going to battle with Goliath. I was thinking to myself, I wonder if anyone pointed that out to David, right before he dumped all the armor and said, "I got this slingshot and I'll get some stones on the way..."

"Rhaaaa-it! Rhaaaa-it! Bring me my smelling salts! I believe I'll swoon..."

"Frankly, Scarlet, you're a wimp. You know, dahling, this ain't no glamour detail, this wah-r, and all."

I didn't know what to say. Usually when someone offered me unsolicited advice, I would say, "Thank you," and then would go on, ignoring the man in my face at the time, and keeping the advice from my coach firmly in my brain. This was something I just wasn't prepared for at the time. I'm surprised I didn't spit my water all over him from the shock.

Writing is a lot like trapshooting, I've found. Hey, LIFE is a lot like trapshooting.
So, I'm here to tell you that writing and life ain't no glamour detail. I guarantold you ain't.

This is the Blue Plate Special for Mondays. I'm having trouble again posting. Drat.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pass the Salt Thursday

You ever feel the need for a makeover? As you can see by my current photo to the left, I not only need a new hairdo (my hair looked just like this today,) but also it wouldn't hurt to find some more attractive clothes. This was a professionally done photo.

My mom used to say I was the "worst" when it came to getting my photo taken (which knowing now that I'm a kinesthetic learner, explains the bangs--I probably wasn't still enough to get them straight.) By the time I got there to the photo studio, my hair was a mess (I have stick-straight, thick but fine hair that goes every-which-way,)and my clothes were twisted around. I sort of remember my high school senior picture being the same way.

One time mom was taking my brother and me for a professional photo--he was about 6 months old and I was nearing 5, and while she was dressing him, I decided to make myself pretty for my photo. I took a ballpoint pen and drew the prettiest pictures all over my arms and legs. (I mean, after all, my daddy had done this to both of his forearms in the Army!) I was so pleased. My mom said she nearly started crying and she rubbed my skin red to get them off (I was so fair-skinned,) which upset her even more (She was always kind.)

Today Sarah Anne Sumpolec on Girls and God has a blog about photos on web sites and the importance of getting them right. She's a photographer, as well as a published author of some great teen books as a series called Becoming Beka, (if you have or know teen girls, get these books for them) and a mom of three girls. If you want, get in on the discussion about your own look and photos. Sarah thinks that if you are a professional (and in this context, we're writers, but any professional) you should update your photo and have a professional photographer do it. I don't even know what color to wear! It's an interesting discussion and one I, personally, would like to know answers to. Somebody help me.

And speaking of photos, the girls over at Girls Write Out--Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, Diann Hunt and Colleen Coble--all had new photos taken by a professional for publicity. On their blog they share some interesting photos that I'm guessing are the "goof off" photos. At least I hope so. Colleen, who I used to think was the nicest person on the planet (well, Diann may have that title--I don't think Diann actually even thinks hateful thoughts,)has some sort of dagger, looking quite sinister.

The four of them couldn't be more different in their book genres. Colleen writes scary romantic suspense; Kristin writes super cool (that terminology probably just dated me) chick lit; Denise writes tearjerking,emotional wringers of true life; and Diann writes thigh-slapping (thigh-hating?) lady lit topped with chocolate sauce. And I like all of them (the girls) and all of their excellent books. Every one of them started off writing romance. Go figure. But even in their early work, their voices were there. Check out all of their books (and that blog with the wild photos.)

While I'm pointing out other blogs on my Pass the Salt Thursday, I also want to shoot you over to a new blog by writer and book reviewer, Sara Mills. Sara is blogging through her journey through Romans in the Bible. She recently finished a complete Bible-Bible study(that means all of the books!) and now wants to concentrate on this book.

Romans is one of my favorite books in the Bible. It is the book that holds our Bible doctrine. Written in Corinth by Paul, it is God's letter to you. Even though it was written in about 58/59 A.D., it is so relevant today. I will probably check in on Sara's study of Romans, because I don't know that I can hear too much about the "grace that is free, or it's not grace." It is the book which freed me from the heavy burden of trying to be "good enough."

So, while I'm trying to get the outside to line up with my insides, I'll be checking out these three blogs.

I'm thinking of cutting my hair short. What do you think? Sigh. Should I wear warm colors or cool colors? What are my basic colors and what is my style? Maybe I'll go over to Kentucky Boo Gal's beauty shop for some "big hair."

P.S. I'm so excited. I just was added to the Christian Women Online blogroll, joining over 600 blogs of Christian women.

Also, there have been over 1000 page views since I started my blog. (I'm amazed that I've had even 10.)See you in the funny papers!(Something my mother-in-law, Imy, has said. Don't really know what it means.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Neurotic Health Watch Wednesday

A lot of people I know are ill today. I have a cousin Sally in her final stage on earth; an ill husband and son; an uncle who is suffering the fallout of a stroke; an aunt who has a multitude of illnesses, but may also have ovarian cancer. We will always have the sick with us. It is one of the fallout events of sin. How can God allow such stuff? Well, we allowed it. And He tries to get us out of our messes.

There are so many new discoveries of medicines, healthy practices and treatments. What gets me is when people deliberately try to harm their own health--like with smoking or illegal drugs or simply by not practicing moderation. And then, people want to blame someone else for whatever is wrong. They "sue" the very people who have tried to help them, or the people who gave them what they asked for! That's just not right.

Then, there was my mother. You can see her above. She spent several years in a TB hospital--a hospital you were required by law to enter if you had the disease of tuberculosis. She had such a strong will to live. She didn't place blame on anyone, and she relied on God to help her through. She wanted to stay alive and did everything she could to keep that way. Despite her best intentions, the doctors removed one lung and two lobes of the other lung. Yet, she lived on. They caved (broke) the ribs on one side and allowed the crushed bone to fill the cavity where the lung used to be. It was because of this technique, that she eventually suffered at the end of her 64 years and caused her heart to move over to the other side. It was a price to pay. But she got to see her kids grow up, get married, have children of their own.

Can you see her smiling in this picture? Despite her horrible prognosis, she found time to joke and smile. I think by making friends (she was far from everyone whom she loved and left alone in this hospital,) I think she found a way to endure the tortuous treatments and surgeries and worst of all for her--separation from her family. It is an incredible testament and one which demonstrated to me how others could do the same. Many people have, too.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh said one time:

"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable."

This is something my mother practiced, experienced and understood in her own suffering. You can do this, too. Whatever your burden is.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Maybe that rest comes in this life, or maybe it comes when you die. Regardless, the rest is in Jesus. In Galatians 6:2 Paul says, "Carry each other's burdens, and this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." This is what we do in ways that we can. Maybe I lifted a burden off your shoulders by sharing this story. Hope so.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

If It's Tuesday, Would You Like Coffee with Your Reading?

I have tried and tried to post with this stupid thing. It keeps giving me an error message, so I'm starting all over again. The other post was much better. I even had a photo. This is ridiculous. Ever have one of those days?

Usually, today is the day I give you a little review on something I'm reading. Only what I'm reading today is a manuscript. I cannot tell you anything about that because whatever I think about this manuscript is strictly between my client and me. You would appreciate that if you were paying me to read/critique your manuscript.

I have two more manuscripts to tackle after this one. It's been a long summer.

This past summer I gave up my book review column. I stopped reviewing books because it was interfering with my own progress in writing. What was happening to me was I was reading EVERYTHING. I read just about everything coming out in the Christian market. I could not discern my own voice when I would write and I could not figure out anymore just what my story was above all of the other voices. I could doctor any genre and a few nonfiction manuscripts. I had no passion left, because it was consumed by so many words. I had to let it all go or I would never be able to lift my own head above the din. I was drowning in words.

That is why I started this blog. I had to get back to things that interested me. I couldn't even tell you what kind of a book I'd pick up, if I had the choice! I was so used to being sent books and reading whatever I was sent, that I could not tell you what kind of book I'd pick up if actually given a choice. Therefore, I could no longer figure out my own passions. I was enveloped in the passions and hearts of others. That is not a bad thing, but I have this great desire to write my own thing before I pass on. What are my passions?

Lee Warren on Little Nuances has these lists of 100 Things, 100 Preferences and 100 Little Nuances

I want to think about these things in my own life. I have thought about other people's things and given out so much to others, that I've lost myself in the word salads. I couldn't find a sesame seed of my own flavor anywhere!

I still have a few more pieces of writing I have done to share. (And I fixed all of the mistakes--I think--from yesterday's story. Sigh.)Maybe people can fully see me here, but I can't fully see me. I'm like in a fog, and I can't fire at targets until that fog disappears.

I still love books. I still love helping other authors find their full potential. But I need a little refilling of my own.

Maybe my journey here will help you, too, discover your own passions and potential. I hope so. As Stephen King says, "If God gives you something you can do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it?" God expects us to follow those passions in our soul because He put them in there to make you, you. You have to feed it and exercise it. I haven't done that for me.

Stephen King's book, On Writing, speaks to ME. Not something for one of my clients or fellow writers (though it may,) but I reread it for ME. In order to give out more, you have to refill the well.

So, that is what I'm going to do.

I swiped this from Delia. The ones I've done are in bold.

(This is weird. It said I couldn't publish this. Well, two posts in one day. Go figure. I will never figure this out.)

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula How about an alligator named Julie?
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it (every single day)
09. Hugged a tree (While climbing it only)
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris (Does New Paris, Ohio and Paris in Las Vegas count?)
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables (wish I could still do this)
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper (I have four boys, two years each apart so that is 9 years in, all the babysitting...sigh)
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon Well, no. Got in. Got out. ha
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne (oh yuck)
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope (took a class in college in this...)
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight WATCHED a food fight. In Grandma's bedroom between little cousins at a Christmas dinner. Boy, were they in trouble!
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can Whooo hooo! Got hoarse, at the Sectional Basketball championships in Marion Arena when we beat the GIANTS!
32. Held a lamb (How about a baby pig?)
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer Yeah, but one died first, and then got the second, along with a motherboard, etc. etc. Sigh.
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke Hey, I've sung with a real band!
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football Played FLAMINGO football--with boys!
61. Gone scuba diving No, not really. Went snorkeling
62. Kissed in the rain Shot trap in the rain, too
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie Ha, in high school, we made movies--not big production...
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch Which recipe do you want??
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason Used to be a first grade teacher--got dandelions galore in the spring
84. Performed on stage Was voted Best Actress in the same hometown where James Dean was from
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents April 12th and June 11th
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children Almost!
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold Passed out during rehearsal of a half-time show because I didn't eat all day (Pom pon girl)
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country Rode 50 miles on a bike to earn a Pathfinder's badge. Got sunstroke.
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication (depends on how large you consider large...)
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone (Does this mean a concussion?)
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol (all three) Did competition trapshooting in the international championships--shot with champions. I own my own guns.
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild Stalking the Wild Morel with the Small Family...
118. Ridden a horse Had one named Star
119. Had major surgery Any surgery you go "under" is major
120. Had a snake as a pet GET REAL!
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions (Well, most)
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office (school board count?)
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident In college, in a green car, on a road that had a snow bank on it, slid into another car. Drat. The state police guy was very nice.
150. Saved someone’s life

Number 150--Saved someone's life by leading them to Christ. Try walking the Romans Road. If you want to truly save a life, including your own, try reading this:

The Romans Road
What can I do to be saved?

I'm no theologian, but I am a Christian. Sometimes I have been asked what makes a person "saved" and what can he do to be a Christian (follow Christ? )Jesus is a man who walked and talked on this earth, who lived and died--but who was different, as he was sinless,he was fully man and fully God, and then rose from the dead. Jesus is living today, not on earth, but in heaven with God.

First, find a Bible. Any version will work. I happen to mostly use the New International Version, but there are many versions out there. Also, if you are already a Christian, but you are unsure of your salvation, this "road" I suggest reading is helpful to show that there is no doubt.

The book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul when he was in Corinth. It is God's letter to YOU.

Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire and Paul was one of its citizens. Paul tried to show in this book (letter) that we are bankrupt with God and we are unable to pay for our sins. Under that premise, no one should ever be able to get into heaven--but for Jesus. Jesus made it possible. And He freely gives it to YOU, if you will only accept it.

Believe this story as if your life depends on it--because it does.
Follow the Romans Road:
1. Romans 3:23:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...

2. Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3. Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

4. Romans 10: 9: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.*

From the Zondervan New International Version, copyright 1973, 1978,1984, International Bible Society,

It is that simple. Once you are saved--have confessed your sins and believe, of course, you are going to want to be with others who believe this same truth and to learn more about this amazing person, Jesus.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Blue Plate Special

In our family we've always been fans of cars and racing. My Dad was a dump truck driver and worked on the Indianapolis 500 track back in the 1950s. The month before I was born he became an owner-operator, professional long haul truck driver hauling--what else, but automobile parts.He raced on the back roads of Tennessee in his teens and twenties, rolling a few cars in the process. (He won the Million-Mile Safety Award for driving a million miles in his truck without an accident, so he later became a model driver.)

This is not a true story. It's fiction. However, I wrote it (and placed in a fiction contest with it) with that bit of truth tucked in-between the lines. Another writing sample.

Candy Apple Red
by Crystal Warren Miller

"I think we could drive to Indianapolis to look at a few more,
don't you, Dad?" I said.

It was no use. His eyes were glassy, obsessed. He headed toward the used car dealer's office, expecting me to follow.

"Haley, bring your checkbook," he said.

I took one more look at the car I didn't want, but was to be mine, anyway. The little bubble of hope called "Candy Apple Red" burst into a bloody puddle in my dreams. Drat!

What did I expect? The ink was barely dry on my teacher's license. I had drawn only a few paychecks in my first teaching job, and I needed transportation. I knew I couldn't afford a new car. It would have to be reliable, but at twenty-two, who wants reliable? Candy Apple Red was the name of paint in a car dealer's brochure. Now, wasn't that appropriate for a teacher? Who cared about gas mileage, or if it would start in ten below? I wanted a machine.

Dad listened to my ideas about a car. He then asked me how much I wanted to spend. He looked for one right away. I smiled. Oh, yeah! I mean, this is the dad who'd had car fever every year while Mom "made do" with one burner on the stove and the same old winter coat. This was the dad who bought the powder blue T-bird while we ate skillet lasagna. This is the dad whom I knew loved cars--as much I do.

The car dealer handed the keys of my new/old car to my dad, not me. Oh, the dealer took my check readily enough. I signed the papers, but he was looking at Dad, not me.

Dad drove it home and changed the sparkplugs. I think he was afraid it wasn't going to make the drive home.

Every time I looked at it, it almost made me puke. It was a mustard yellow 1973 Mercury Comet with cracked bucket seats.

It had personality. The rotted top had brown spikes of vinyl sticking up everywhere. It gave the appearance of a guy with a crew cut. I was living in the opulent '80's, so this was not cool. It was like a bad blind date who wouldn't go home. It was mine, so I figured I could name it, even though I never mentioned my pet name to Dad. I called it, "The Vomit." Yeah, that's right. "Haley's Vomit Comet."

The Vomit had some cool features. If I left the car running with the keys locked inside as I went into school for my first evaluation (yes, a bit nervous,) it wasn't that hard to get into it. A simple twist of the wrist with a coat hanger through the gap in the side window made locking it up nearly obsolete. With just a hit of a fist on the trunk and--voila!--everything in the trunk, including my spare coat hangers, were available.

One late night on the interstate I could see sparks in my rearview mirror. I thought, This is it, and pulled over to the side of the road. When I looked underneath, with rain pouring down, of course, I could see the exhaust system hanging by mere rust. Hitting the trunk with my fists of steel, while trucks barreled past me in some sort of centrifugal semi-truck 500, I took a coat hanger and wired up the dangling remainder of the system.

Wicked thoughts of envy and disgust crossed my mind as The Vomit fired up to carry me home. The muffler guys said I'd done a great job wiring up the exhaust system. They wanted to know if I needed a job.

If that wasn't bad enough, the students in my sixth grade class, notorious for being the baddest of the bad by rep, weren't tempted at all.

"It'd be an easy car to steal, wouldn't it?" I'd taunt.

No bites.

"Miz Studebaker, who would want to steal that car? No one even wants the parts!" said Charlie, who was fifteen in the sixth grade. He knew his car parts.

Then, winter came. When the temperatures plunged to minus thirty-five degrees during a freezing rain, the doors froze shut. No problem. A hair dryer on an extension cord soon had The Vomit sputtering down the road while everyone else had dead batteries. The Vomit didn't even appeal to those in need.

"No, Haley, I don't believe I'll take that ride," said Dr. Smock. "Thanks, anyway. I'll just call my office and, uh, let them know my car is dead, and that so is everyone else's. It's not that cold waiting out here--really. Snowmobiles will be along soon. Mrs. Zukowski probably won't have that baby for hours."

It was beginning to be worse than a tag-along relative from North Carolina who said,"Shazzam!" every other word.

Right before I started suffering from a complex from an inanimate object, I received a desperate call from my mother.

"Haley, honey? Can you get here now? Dad isn't feeling well. He needs to get to the emergency room, and he won't let me call an ambulance. Says he doesn't trust the drivers."

"I'll be right there, Mom," I said.

I didn't even think of the irony of taking Dad to the hospital in The Vomit. It ran smooth with the perfection of a fine Indy racing machine, all the way to the hospital. As I parked it, after dropping Mom and Dad at the door, I didn't even worry that it might be tagged as an abandoned junk car and towed, like usual.

After hours of testing, Dad ended up in the coronary care unit. With words like myocardial infarction being flung around, we soon were versed in heart attack lingo. The surgery which cracked his chest was enough to make me grateful for any moments I'd spent with Dad.

Nurses smiled their smiles of sympathy, as Dad's soul hovered between us and God. We spent hours in the waiting room just talking about his love of cars, his years of trucking, and the way he never read one instruction to assemble something before throwing tools across the room. We slipped between tears and laughter.

Then, the hour came when he opened his eyes. In a hospital, even if you just had major heart surgery, there is always this tough-looking nurse who comes in to not only get the patient up, but also to get him mobile. Dad was close to a normal setting. He was uncooperative.

"Haley, didn't I tell you that Comet was a good car? Didn't I tell her, Linda?" He said this looking smug at Mom.

The nurse twiddled on some monitor.

"My daughter here didn't think her car was so hot, but it's been as reliable as a wind-up clock. I guarantold you that car was good. It got me here in the nick of time. Your car saved my life."

Not "you, Haley, saved my life" but "your car saved my life."

The nurse, already a witness to Dad's stubbornness, didn't argue.

"Now, what do you have to say, Miss Haley, about that Comet of yours?"

I oscillated for a moment on whether to drive my point home on a man with a sore chest, or to just be nice and let it rest.

I pointed my finger down my throat, making a gagging motion.

Then, I said, "Dad, there's something I want to say to help you get out of here. I want you to think of three little words."

Mom smiled her sweet smile. Dad looked a bit confused and flustered, not being one much for raw emotion.

"Candy Apple Red."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Are You Laughing Too Much These Days?

Me, neither. And I'm wondering why. I was looking through some old photographs from my college days. In almost every single one, I'm laughing or have my smile way across my face. My eyes sparkle with mischief and fun; and they are totally me. And those weren't the happiest of days. I was dealing with big issues, plus trying to make enough money to stay in school.

So, I studied those photos to see what it was that made me laugh. Almost every time, I realized, I was spending time with friends. Friends who made me laugh. In one photo, my friend, whose life was complicated and full of strife, too, had given me a jack-in-the-box pop up Snoopy and I'm laughing with my mouth full open (note the teeth, etc.) She found it for a quarter at a rummage sale. I laughed my head off. I popped that thing up until I nearly wore it out. She also gave to me a pearl ring. She knew how much I loved jewelry and didn't have a really nice ring. How I loved that birthday. It was full of joy.

With that thought in mind as I look for things I want to write about, I realized that I want joy to be my success.

To laugh often,
To win the affection of children,
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends.
To appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others,
to leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch...
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived,
This is to have succeeded.
--Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's my thought for today. One I'm going to take to heart.

Friday, October 06, 2006

It's Friday--And Boy, Am I Seeing Flies in My Soup!

I'm having one of those days. I spent the morning throwing in loads of laundry while trying to do some writing. The towels are fluffy, but the writing is going to have to start all over again. Ick. A mess.

Then, I wanted to update my blog. Let's just say that my technological intelligence is not staggering any huge corporations. After many frustrations, I finally gave up. Took my dog for a walk in the brilliant sunshine and changing leaf colors--and nearly stepped on a snake! Have I ever told you about my snakes? We live in a woods and those snakes are everywhere, it seems. Sometimes they sun themselves on our front doorstep.

I don't care what kind of a snake they turn out to be--I do not want to be in the same vicinity. Talk about an enmity between my kind and its kind (See Genesis 3 for a refresher on that one.) One snake was a rat snake. Quite pretty. Alternating black and silvery white stripes. The other snake was a garter snake. Both are agressive and will strike. While not poisonous, I could get an infection and die a raging death from the bite--or just drop dead from the adrenaline pumped to my heart.

Anyway, my post today is the result of many frustrations, but I am determined to post. I hate it when I have a blog in mind, and then waffle in posting it. This is a peeve about myself--being someone who wants to do things now, but waiting, anyway. It's like walking into my diner here, and sending the waitress away because I can't decide between sausage gravy and biscuits or shredded wheat cereal and bananas. What if it's my last day? If it is my last day, I will eat the gravy and biscuits with a glazed donut. If I can prolong this agony, I'll go for the shredded wheat and banana. If I were in the movie, Groundhog Day, I would be in the phase between self-indulgence and near suicidal, I suppose. This is not what I wanted to discover about myself.

What if?? (And that is another peeve--people saying, "What if?" to me.) I was going to post a chapter from my novel, but I hesitated. Maybe tomorrow. What if my tomorrow doesn't come? Would anyone other than Colleen Coble and Mary Connealy ever read it?

Preferences are so individual. Everything included on blogs is a choice, and if you click on any blog in my list to the right, you will find they are different than mine, though most of them connect to me because of two things: writing and having Jesus Christ as our Savior.

I do like to read about what people prefer, what they think about, and where they have been. My preferences belong to me, and that alone is an awesome thought. After having my own kids, I realized fully that some of those preferences are there when you are born. (You can't believe how different each of my four boys are, even in preferences.)

It's one thing to read it in the Bible that we are so individual, and not from a cloning process : "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14.

It is another to see it in person on a daily basis. The application becomes alive and real, breathing right in front of you. (By the way the boys clustered on my lap above are now all taller and bigger than I am.)

Cara's list below has very few things similar to mine, and the rest are all different. While I admire her fast twitch personality and her lightening reflexes, I will never be that way. My trapshooting coach told me I had "fast hands" meaning I could shoot quickly and get to the target, but it was incredible how slow the moments ticked by when I would "lock on" to the target and hold off shooting it until it was nearly hitting the ground. Even my quick moments become slowed down.

Cara tagged me for this meme back on September 26th because . . . I need writing assignments like I need another child to send to college (to be oh, so cliché .) So here's some TMI (too much information) about me:

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Elementary teacher (pre-kindergarten,1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th )
2. Track, cheerleader & basketball coach (My girls were City Champions in Track)
3. P.E. teacher (Loved that job)
4. Book doctor

Four movies I could watch over and over:
1. True Grit
2. You've Got Mail
3. Indiana Jones
4. Groundhog Day
4. James Bond with either Pierce Brosnan or Sean Connery

Four places I have lived:
1. Noblesville, Indiana
2. Wayne County, Tennessee and Indiana
3. Indianapolis, Indiana
4. Fairmount, Indiana (Home of Where Cool Was Born—James Dean)

Four things I like to do:
1. Read
2. Watch Movies
3. Go out to dinner at new places
4. Spend time listening to live music or making music
4. Writing
4. Doing activities with my husband--like trapshooting, golf, hiking, eating out, traveling, motorcycle riding
4. Bible studies

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Pizza (Supreme with thin crust)
2. Sausage gravy and biscuits and grits
3. White beans and cornbread
4. Garden fresh tomatoes
4. Creme Brulee
4. Coca-Cola
(All things I rarely have to eat for one reason or another)

Four places I would like to be right now:
1. In a log cabin in the mountains in Tennessee, watching the gurgling stream from the swing on the back porch, drinking coffee
2. Visiting my Aunt Linda and Aunt Sue, getting ready to eat something
3 Finished with my novel, typing The End and a query letter and celebrating by eating out
4. Eating at Joseph Decuis

Four websites I visit daily (or often):
1. The Writing Life
3. Little Nuances
4. Right Writing
4. Tricia Goyer It's Real Life

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Savannah, GA
2. New Orleans, LA
3. San Francisco, CA
4. Memphis, TN
(Ask me what I remember eating in each one...ha)

Four books I could read again:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. On Writing by Stephen King
3. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
4. All of my 100 cookbooks
4. A Girl Called Zippy by Haven Kimmel
4. My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber

Four friends I think might respond to being tagged (but only if you want to:)
1. Delia Because she has the coolest name for her blog--Gator, Skunkz and Mudcats and I can finally post on her site and her best friend is another Crystal
2. Mary (Who needs a blog other than "Hey! I just figured out how to link!")
3. Michelle Book Reviewer who needs to think about her own writing today
4. Nancy who knows famous people and will soon be blogging about it

Would you like decaf or caf? my waitress asks.

Caf, thanks--no sugar or cream--at least I am sure about that one.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pass the Salt Thursday!

In a previous post I mentioned how I have too many books and not enough room or time for them all. I have published reviews of around 500 books (four more came out in a magazine this week) and there are more books than I have reviewed.

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky.
My piles of books are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

--Arnold Lobel author of Frog and Toad , children's book

Well, I have another book I can't wait to read by one of my favorite people, Mary Connealy. It comes out in February and don't you just love the cover? I have books stacked to the ceiling and my beard to the floor and here I am anticipating another book.

Anyway, why Mary is extra special to me is that she is a fellow book reviewer. We both belong to the American Christian Fiction Writers and she led a forum class in teaching participants how to review books. Since it was an overwhelming class in participation, she enlisted some fellow reviewers to help with critique and in tips on reviewing books. They all have blogs, so be sure to check out each one:

Mary Connealy: Her blog, Petticoat Ranch, is an author-driven blog. She's very funny. Eventually, she'll figure out how to do her blog and it'll be something you might want to bookmark.

Michelle Sutton: She maybe reads more than I do. Her entire blog is devoted to book reviews, so if you want to know the latest in Christian books, read Michelle's Edgy blog.

Sara Mills is also reviewing books on her blog, but she throws in some other edgy thoughts and writerly perspective.

Linda Mae Baldwin: She often reviews at Road to Romance, so if you like romance books, check her out there.

And then Sheryl Root who was reviewing at Armchair Interviews took the forum class and you can check her reviews there.

I cannot leave this topic without visiting my favorite site for book reviews, Faithful Reader. Even editors like Terry Whalin and writers like Marcia Ford do reviews there.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Neurotic Health Watch Wednesday

Today is the day I usually blog about whatever health scare is numbing my brain at the moment. But a couple days ago I said I would post some writing examples to sort through to get an idea about where I should be concentrating my efforts. So, this post does have to do with a health concern of mine: SPF 50 and skin issues.

A while back I wrote this book that was rejected everywhere(but rejected with such nice comments.) It was nonfiction. I called it This Ain't No Glamour Detail: Beauty for Here and Beyond. I tied Biblical teachings and principles to today's woman, who is bombarded by the media to meet a certain standard of beauty. I used my own experiences.

This is a chapter from that book and you judge if I should put it back into the drawer from which I dragged its molded pages. It's a bit long.

The Law of Sunshine

by Crystal Warren Miller

“Before a girl’s turn came to go into King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.” Esther 2:12 (NIV)

Beauty is tough. It didn’t even come easy to natural beauty, Esther, so celebrated in her book in the Bible. I mean, c’mon! A whole year? How many years would it take for me? I shudder to think I would have to endure beauty “treatments” for an entire year for a job interview. (Eeek.)

But yet, I know I have given in and attempted to do the very thing that is so blatantly and openly talked about concerning Esther. I have tried many things to get beautiful and measure up. The one thing that has tormented me is something I just would not accept about myself—I’m as pale as an albino. And beautiful women these days have “color” or that thing I don’t—pigment. Melanin is something with which I was barely blessed. Dermatologists ka-ching their way through appointments with those my age, preaching SPF to the nth degree and tsk-tsking—but it doesn’t matter—people still want a tan come their Florida beach vacation or in the summer months. I have been no exception to this.

With my gene pool heritage deeply embedded in the Scandinavian peoples, despite my Cherokee side (not sure how that plays out in me,) I fit better into Victorian times than I do in modern day America. My blue veins are like neon highways on my clear porcelain surface and people ask me what is the matter with me. Have you been ill?

Even my husband’s family who have known me for 25 years ask why I just don’t go out into the sunshine and “get a base tan.” In the day of SPFs and knowing our skin limitations, people still love that sun-enhanced, golden brown skin coloring, if they don’t already have it. But back in the day, just as I hit my teens, mini-skirts and bikinis were all the rage. And getting a tan was a hobby for many a teenaged girl, including me.

Some women radiate natural sun-kissed skin without trying—those lovely shades of skin tone, which beckon to the world and blaze “true glamour.” Some of the most beautiful women I know have dark skin. And if you cannot get into the real sun to get that “healthy" glow, tanning beds are even in the smallest of towns, sometimes in the place where you do your laundry, in every state of the union,(especially those states which have fewer months of warmth and the tanning rays grinding down on our downy heads through the ozone hole.) And lives are so busy—at work all day, inside. Even if you work and live in places like Florida and California or Hawaii, you might not get a glimpse of God’s sun for days on end, according to your work schedule. So, you find a tanning bed to make you look as if all you have to do everyday is decide whether to jet to a Mexican or your private island beach on your lunch hour.

I wanted to believe if I "just tried hard enough" back in my tender-skinned youth that I could have a tan. I wanted to think, if I did it “right,” I, too, could have a delicious brown-baked hue to flash my pearly teeth whiter, and my blonde hair blonder. One trick we used was to mix iodine with baby oil. This concoction supposedly caused you to tan faster and deeper. The whole summer was spent carefully slathering this stuff on all of our exposed areas, dying the surface, and frying the upper epidermis. I suffered severe burns in those days before it became chic to apply SPF 15 (no higher than that, or you won’t get a “tan.”) It was before we knew DDT was toxic, before cell phones gave you brain cancer (what’s a cell?) and PBA needed to be free.

My best friend in high school didn’t help matters, either. Lorrie was dark-haired and dark-skinned, and she tanned even more with little effort. Boys flocked around her, pushing me aside to get a chance to speak to her. In harsh sunlight, you wouldn’t notice me as I sort of faded out in a ghostlike aura. I finally gave up the effort after college. SPF 114 became my new best friend.

But then, my husband and I were going on one of those Bahama Mama cruises with his cousins. My girlfriends, who all had gone on cruises or had vacations on beaches,advised and insisted that I could actually achieve a tan and wouldn’t have to resort to an orangey tan in a tube. They were certain that if I just got a “base” tan, my skin would be “protected” from the rays so near the equator. Despite years of finding out otherwise much farther from the equator, I very much wanted to believe them, especially when they told me of the “Super-Duper Accelerator Tanning Bed 2000” (prior to 2000) that guaranteed “no burn.” It was a dream come true. Answer to my prayers. I could have a tan to shine out underneath my new swimsuits and slinky dresses on the ship. I would blend in with the crowd and stand out to my husband. This promise launched my ship. Elvis had left the building of reason.

I plopped down my money for ten sessions. The great part was that I would have a private cubicle. NO TAN LINES. I would be almost normal for the first time in my life. Miss Sunshine at the desk, popping her gum and definitely a positive advertisement for her place of employment, rolled her eyes as I quizzed her about the UV rays, the timing for someone like me, and I insisted on assurance that I wouldn’t burn. She told me, “If anyone needs this, you do.” Then, she sold me this viscous solution called an “accelerator.” She rolled her eyes again and told me to stay in the bed for so many minutes, after applying the gooey stuff. I would be well on my way to the tan of my life. Warmth and a gradual tan in 10 sessions.

The private tanning bed area turned out to be one in a row of closet spaces set up in the store with thin, cubicle walls that didn’t even go to the ceiling. If I sighed, gasped or talked myself through it, I would be heard. Clearly. I delicately squeezed into the room, locked the door and shimmied out of my duds. I had a soft towel to lie on. I spread that lotion stuff all over and I began to feel actual excitement. I slid onto the hard surface, with the towel underneath, belly-side down. Headphones went on and I set my little timer to the length prescribed by Dr. Sunshine, who had just become my new beauty guru. She had all of my answers. I was ready to have the first tan of my life. I closed my eyes, pressed the button so the top lid lowered, and sunk blissfully into the warmth. Ahhhh. Radio station set to a soothing beat, this was even therapeutic. I enjoyed this!

As my heart slowed to a resting rate, I thought how I could do this all year round. It was a beauty treatment that was worthy of a queen. My mind embraced the thoughts of relaxation. It was wonderful. Heavenly sunshine nurtured my soul, but artificial sunshine soothed my emotional state.

Soon, my little timer said, “ding!” in the most melodious of voices. I reached over to press the magic button to raise the lid and then I could turn over to get my front side. I would reset the timer for another few minutes, and then be done with my first session of what was going to stretch out into a weekly event all year round. I pressed.

Did I mention that the walls were very close? Did I tell you this machine doubles as a coffin in the off-hours?

Nothing. Nothing happened when I pressed that button. I’m not one to panic. Plus, I was new to this. I figured I didn’t press hard enough. Hmm. Just a bit more pressure. I pressed again with the force of Conan the Barbarian. Nothing. This time I whipped off my headset and it hit the floor. Hoping no one heard that, I breathed in deeply, just as in my Lamaze sessions before the birth of my first son. I whammed that button with all the power I could muster. Again, nothing. This time I took the full force of my palm to whap that button. NOTHING. Not even a grunt. No whirr of the machine lid opening. Stephen King movies flashed across my mind screen.

Flexibility and sheer strength is often pumped into veins of those in situations where adrenaline-induced moments overcome otherwise limitations to a person’s usual everyday mild-mannered demeanor. I arched my back and twisted my arms behind me to physically push the lid up. No budge. Not even a smidgeon. All that crud about a woman having the upper body strength of ten men was obviously a fairy tale. This tanning bed lid must weigh tons. The thought flashed across my now panic-induced blonde brain that if one bolt slips out, I would be paper thin. Mashed like a raisin. I forced myself back to my Lamaze breathing. Deep breathing. In. Out. Was there any air in this place???!

The message rang loudly in my ears, screaming silently with only the whooshing of massive amounts of adrenalin pounding through my eardrums: I’m trapped in a tanning bed in a tiny locked cubicle with no clothes on.

I had several options still open to me at this point. I could scream bringing everyone in the building including Miss Condescending Sunshine, and maybe from the street to my aid. Maybe she’d call 9-1-1 and the fire department would bring the “Jaws of Life.”

I immediately ruled out this option. Did Esther ever call for back up during one of her treatments? Probably not. She was a woman of grace and natural skin pigment. She had all of that cool, calm, Save My People legacy. I was just trying to save my hide and pride.

A desperate woman can think in ways, and contort her body, which even a yoga instructor would appreciate. I could hear Yoda, the Jedi master, whispering into my ears, “Use the force, grasshopper.” Well, maybe it was the headphones on the floor and a flashback to Kung Fu. I shimmied a bit. Yeah, breathe gently into that goodgriefnight, Crystal. Squeeze and suck in because just maybe I could squeeze out the side. Maybe I could liquidate my skeletal structure and become a jellyfish. Maybe my true super powers would finally be revealed. Looking out of a corner of my eye that I didn’t even know existed, I see there’s an opening at the end of the bed just big enough for me to crawl out. But, the wall loomed large and thin beyond. My coffin, er, tanning bed was nearly flush with the wall. Just a teensy opening, but it was larger than the sides.

My decision was made. I was going for it! I still had my towel, slightly soggy from a mixture of perspiration and the viscous accelerator. I inched forward like a worm. My head is out! My head flopped down, and I morphed into a prior experience. What was it? That’s it. My birth. I had not seen this scenario since my birth. And thus, began the journey that no baby is born to endure—to be born of a tanning bed. For a flash of a female moment, it crossed my mind that my tan ought be really great by this point.

Slithering up the wall, inch-by-inch, I realize that this wall has a nubby surface. My front side has just adhered and been left behind, as I forced my progress. But, at last I breathed again. The adrenaline slowed its rush into my blue veins. Like a paper doll coming off the page, I flaked over to my freedom. I heard a poet croon, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” I know what she means.

I glanced at the timer. Had it really only been 10 minutes?

Dressing gingerly, I unlocked the door and poised myself to walk like a spy with a top international secret to my contact, out to the lobby. I paused by the desk to ask about the refund policy. Sorry lady, Miss Sunshine beams. No refunds. I can, however, transfer my nine remaining certificates to immediate family members. I smile with my Big Tooth Christian Smile and say, “Thankewverrymuch.” Pride and modesty has kept me from panicking. I am free. I can walk out. Just without my money.

That evening I had a severe reaction to the tanning accelerator. My skin puffed out like a toad. Beauty is truly a miserable process and until this moment, I had never fully appreciated what that Cinderella Esther really had to endure in her year of “beauty treatments.”

On the brighter side, I was able to transfer my session certificates to my husband. My husband who gets a tan shoveling snow out of the driveway.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Experiencing email/internet problems. Will resolve and be back later...

My cousin, Sally, is dying from pancreatic cancer. Please pray for her and her family. She is an author and has written books and articles. Thanks.