This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Was This Your Best Year?

              People often speak of superlatives.  This is the best, that was the greatest, she was the prettiest, he was the most athletic, and on and on.  We make top ten lists and have contests to determine who or what is better than someone or something else.  We like to know the general consensus of which one comes out on top or which one is preferable.  Wine connoisseurs use the standard of which year is best for certain wines.
That brings me to today's question:

Was 2009 your best year ever?

            I've never been very good in making judgements about something being better than something else unless it's so obvious it just slaps me in the side of the head.  I would probably have a hard time judging a beauty competition, an essay contest, or an art show where all the entrants were fairly equal.  Even when they're not equal I can usually find something good where I know somebody has put in an honest effort.

            So how can I judge a year.  For some reason 1972 has always been one of my favorite years, but I couldn't  tell you why.  I don't even remember much of anything that happened in 1972.   My 1980 started really bad, but turned really good, and ended pretty good, but with something bad thrown in.  Generally speaking though, I've always been a pretty happy guy with a positive outlook so every year has seemed pretty good.

            In 2009 I lost a job that I'd had for 18 years and remained unemployed in a year of bleak employment prospects and somewhat bad economy.  At least I was able to collect unemployment which I've never had to do before in my entire life.  So I guess economically I'm holding on unlike some people who have lost homes and other things.  And so far my continued job search is not showing too much promise.

          On the other hand, in 2009 two of my daughters have gotten married to some really fine young men. Their lives seem to going very well for them.  And my other daughters are doing things in their lives that have made me feel really proud of them.  My grand-daughter is beautiful, healthy and progressing well having passed the one year mark.  I have been enjoying my life despite my decreased income.

          I have come back to writing and have started blogging.   I'm loving where this has been taking me and I see bright prospects for the future.  I have a nice home, reasonable health, and I certainly never go hungry.  Yes, 2009 has been a great year over all.  But can I say 2009 has been my best?  Perhaps too early to tell.  Maybe ten years from now I can look back and say that this was my best year.  Or maybe I'll say this is when my life really started getting better because every year since 2009 has been better than the last.

         What about you?  Was this your best year ever?  Was it a bad year?   What was your best year?  What makes a year "the best year"?   Are you a glass half-full or a glass half-empty sort of person?  In other words, are you an optimist or a pessimist?   Do you think next year will be better than this year was?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Interview with Father Time

           I didn't line up any interviews for the holiday time,  so thought I'd pay a last visit to a guy who will  soon be leaving.  I'll keep it short because I know he's got a lot of loose ends to tie up before he goes.  We each have our own Father Time and I'd like you to meet my Father Time:

Arlee:   How do you think our 2009 went?

Father Time:  It started kind of slow.  You were kind of sick as I recall and your job was ending  so things seemed kind of bleak in January and February.  But we just plodded along packing up an entire warehouse, just you and me.  And really you did all the real labor.

Well, you were good and made my time last just right to finish.  It was a somewhat bittersweet parting, leaving my job and all.

And you dove right into the unemployment with a lot of enthusiasm. I was impressed how you went to the trade show in Las Vegas for your company and worked your tail off just like you were going to keep working for that company.

I believe in friendly departures because you never know what can happen in the future.  And it's kind of funny, I always kind of disliked those trade shows, but this year I really savored it. So can you remember much after that?

I had it easy.  This year was leisurely --almost like a vacation much of the time.  Let's see you had a wedding for one daughter in June, a road trip to Vegas in July, and another road trip to Houston in early August.  That was the life I'd say.

There was a lot to enjoy, but keep in mind that I've been working pretty steadily for the past 18 years and wasn't able to have those advantages that often.  And Father Time, you don't stop for anyone.

But sometimes this year I felt like I was napping.  I'm just happy you discovered the blog world and got fired up about your writing once again.  When that happened you got me really stirred up as you started filling your days with more of a focused schedule and started developing clear goals.

Yeah, I don't know if it would have worked as well if I had started my blog before September.  As it was, I was going thru Halloween busy season withdrawal and the blogging gave me that Halloween topic to start on.  I don't think many people saw those old Halloween posts, but it really started shaping my style and it brought you and me closer.

Yes after you got on the blog schedule we were certainly a tight team.  That's how we managed to get through November with blogging and doing the NaNo novel at the same time.  And we even managed to keep the comments coming on the blogs of your new friends in blogland.  Yes sir, we became a pretty tight team.  And now here we are at the end.  It's been a good ride.

I agree.  I hope that 2010 will be as good to me as you were.

Just remember--stay focused on your goals and let 2010 know who's the boss.  You control time and don't let it control you.  Time is your friend, and like any good friend we grow older and wiser together.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday in Tennessee

            Tennessee is actually three states according to Tennesseeans.  There is the flatland region that is part of the Mississippi River basin that is West Tennessee.  This is where you'll find Memphis.  There is Middle Tennessee with it's plateaus and where you have the state capitol of Nashville.  And then finally you have the beautiful Appalachian region of East Tennessee that has Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  That's where I am now.

           This is what I now think of as home even though I've been living in Southern California for the past 18 years.   I moved to Tennessee with my family right as I was starting high school.  This is where I graduated and where I went to college.  Most of my friends live here and I have some family members still living there. And if I'm going to be from somewhere and call it home, East Tennessee seems like a pretty good place.

            The biggest attraction in East Tennessee is The Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding area.  The national park is over 500,000 acres with about half in Tennessee and the other half in North Carolina.  There is a wide array of trees and plant life and a large number of different animals.  History is a large focal point of the park as this was a site of the early American settlers as well as many Indian tribes.  Recreational activities include hiking, camping, fishing, and many other things.

           One of the biggest attractions are the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  Most of the tourists stay in these towns. There is a plethora of shopping opportunities of all kinds ranging from souvenir shops to antique stores to outlet malls. Several amusement attractions are located in this area, the most notable being Dollywood, the country flavored Disney-type attraction found by country music legend Dolly Parton.  Also, much like Branson, Mo., there are a number of theaters where you can find family entertainment shows.  With all of the things to do here it's no wonder so many tourists flock to the Great Smokies each year.

           The place where I'm staying is on the quieter side of the park.  I'm in Maryville, which is halfway between Knoxville and the National Park.   Maryville was a pretty quaint little place when we moved there in the mid-60s.  Now it has built up and has much upscale shopping and dining.  This is also where the Knoxville airport is located.  From my mother's house it takes about twenty minutes to get to the National Park entrance.  The town is centrally located and has good quality living.  And there are some pretty nice people there as well.

          If you are considering a vacation and you've never visited East Tennessee, no matter what your interests are, you will probably find something to suit you here.  I encourage you to check it out and consider visiting.  It's a relatively easy driving distance for over half of the U.S. population and flying there is very convenient.  So why don't you'all come on and stay a bit.  The biscuits and gravy are gonna be ready soon.

          If you've visited East Tennessee, how'd you like it?  When vacationing what do you prefer-- the splendors of nature or the shopping and civilized amusements?   What's your favorite National Park?  Are you going to take a vacation this year and if so, where?



Monday, December 28, 2009

Blog Boggled (part 3)

             Last week I had brought up the topic of adding to your list of followers and creating your blog list. Many of you are already aware of the networking that needs to be done in order to add new followers.  Just adding yourself as a follower sometimes works, but sometimes you have to outright ask  them to follow your blog.  That's partly what commenting on blogs can be used for.

             Leaving a comment on a blog that I've read just seems like a nice thing to do.  If I've read something that I was impressed with and it had an effect upon me, I want to let the author know.  It's the Golden Rule of Blogging.  If you've written something that you're hoping someone will read, then you probably would like to have an acknowledgement from them that they have read it.  I like a kind word, but I also like a more expository comment that tells me that the reader not only read what I said, but also thought about it. If that doesn't happen it's like trying to start a conversation with someone who ignores you or responds with a bit of oblique dialogue.

            An example of some comments that I found to be really excellent can be found on my post about Santa Claus .  Readers responded to my questions with a depth which indicated there was an interest.  If you look at some of my other Thursday debate topics you can find at times actual back and forth exchanges  that are quite interesting and lengthy. All parties have remained civil which is necessary to maintain an ongoing positive relationship with those who I want to keep as or become followers to my blog.

           Inviting and encouraging comments is one of the best ways to build your online relationship and make people want to come back to your blog.  But  to gain followers it is equally and perhaps more important to go to other blogs and make  comments. Your comment to a fellow blogger is telling them that you visited their blog, you appreciated what they had to say, and you want to establish a relationship with them.

        In turn when somebody comments on your blog, it is a polite gesture to acknowledge their comment, answer back accordingly, and let them know that you would also like to be their friend.  The internet can be an uninviting, faceless environment.  With no body language or facial expressions to guide us, all we have are words on a screen.  We need to make the most of these words.

        Jody Hedlund   has two really good posts about this topic:   Do Blog Comments Really Matter?  and   Best Way to Get Blog Comments .  If you want some more on this topic you might like to check out these excellent post.  Many others have also done very fine posts about commenting.

           Here are some questions I might toss out to you about commenting on blogs:
Why do you or why don't you comment on blogs?   What kinds of comments do you like to get about your posts?  Would you be offended if someone else politely disagreed with something you had posted?  Do you ever disagree or offer criticism to other bloggers?  Do you respond to the comments you receive?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday before new years

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
Isaiah 43:18 (NIV)

 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

The following is the a portion of the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, " plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you...
Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NIV)

34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Home in East Tennessee

          I may live in California now, but when I think of home I think of the place where I am right now-- East Tennessee.  If you've never been to East Tennessee, you really should put it on your list of "places to see before you die".  It's where you'll find the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited national park in the United States.

          Besides being an absolutely beautiful place to go, it stands to reason why the Great Smokies would be the most visited national park.  It is located in the center of the most populous region of the United States.  I will tell you more about the Great Smokies and East Tennessee on Tuesday.

         Hope you had a splendid Christmas.  I spent most of the day travelling and perhaps I'll talk about that when my posts are no longer on autopilot.  If you didn't read my short story The Princess of the Plinth you can go back to the post of Tuesday 12/22 and read the four installments of the story that ran through Friday's post.  Hope I got some comments on the story, even if it was just telling me that you saw it.

          If all goes well in my posting assignments for the upcoming week I'll have some surprise stories.  I'm winging it here.  If you see something weird come up you'll know I didn't make it to a computer and I didn't write up a scheduled post either.  I'm still waiting on my Christmas laptop.

          And if I don't get a chance later---- Have a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Princess of the Plinth (Part 4-- conclusion)

                    Merry Christmas!

          I hope everyone is having or has had a wonderful Christmas day.  On this day I will be visiting my son in Virginia and then travelling on to beautiful East Tennessee for the remainder of the week.  And now to finish the story of "The Princess of the Plinth".

....continued from yesterday:

 As the weeks progressed, the future seemed to be taking shape for Maxine. The Liverpool Daily Post did a story about Maxine and on the front page there was a picture of her on the plinth. After being invited to a reception at a local gallery, she met others in the arts community and was able to gain an outlet for showing some of her works. She received an offer for a part-time position at the gallery. She also received a stipend to enroll in the arts college. Her dreams were finally becoming realities.

Months later, Beryl and Maxine met for a celebratory evening meal together. Maxine’s busy schedule had kept them apart and they had much to relate to one another. Most of the news was from Maxine since hers was the life that had become so filled of late. Beryl was happy for her friend. Maxine was thankful to have Beryl as her friend even though they would not be seeing as much of each other in the future.

After dinner, Beryl suggested that they pop into a pub for a drink. They went into one of the pubs in their neighborhood. It was a quiet place where time had seemed locked into a past era. Two older gentlemen sitting at the bar watched as the two young women entered and joined them. One of the men wore wire rimmed spectacles and looked quizzically at the women as they sat down. His friend, a stocky man with muttonchops, looked at his friend bemusedly. Then they both looked at the young women

Beryl, ever the outgoing one, nodded and said hello to the men.

The barkeeper took the women’s orders and poured their drinks.

Mr. Muttonchops finally spoke, “Good evening ladies. And what are we celebrating this evening?” He had a friendly glint in his eyes.

“Our good fortunes in life,” answered Beryl. “Things have been turning out really well for us.”

“And how so?” asked the other man.

“For one thing, Maxine’s dreams have come true,” Beryl explained, then added, “She’s an artist.”

Maxine turned slightly and giggled sheepishly into the back of her hand.

The whiskered man perked up. “Is she famous?”

“She was on the Plinth,” Beryl said to the two men beside them.

“The what?” asked the bespectacled man, “You say she rode on a blimp?”

“No, not a blimp—the Plinth!” cried Beryl. Then she further elaborated, “She was on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. She looked just like a princess.”

“Yes, yes—I saw it on the telly, I did. And in the Post. Something to do with art they said. Why she’s a celebrity of sorts,” the whiskered man said with heightened animation. “Barkeep, give the Princess of the Plinth another drink on me and one for her friend too.”

Both men raised their glasses. “To the Plinth,” toasted the whiskered man.

A congenial laughter was shared among the group. Celebrity, Maxine thought to herself. This plinth thing would be remembered for a while, perhaps, to some people. It might be good for a free drink like now or just a tad of recognition—something for conversation. Princess of the Plinth was not who she was, but a part of who she was.

She thought back to her hour on the Plinth, looking about at the buildings, the street, and the people passing below. Some of the people were merely passing by consumed by their own business, while others stood there in Trafalgar Square looking up at her. Maxine imagined herself as one of those stopping to look upward to that person on the top of the Fourth Plinth. The person set out from all the rest, high above them all, and for that moment in time unique among any other in the world. And as she looked up, Maxine saw herself.

The End
            The characters in this story are all imaginary, but the basic event is real.  The event was British artist Antony Gormley's One and the Other project during the summer of 2009.  For 100 days between July 6 and October 14, 2400 people took their turns at one hour each on the empty Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.  Each person had the option of doing whatever they wished as long as it was legal.  The event was streamed continously over the internet on the special website devoted to the project. Participants were chosen by a national lottery in which nearly 35,000 had applied.
           Thank you if you have taken the time to read this story.  I'd love to have your take on the story I have presented over the course of this week.  I have not yet taken the time for any final edits or rewrites so please feel free to make any corrections or suggestions you see fit.  The story was written on a whim after I discovered the project and began following it on the internet in mid-August. 
              If you had been chosen to participate in this project,  how might you have spent your time on the plinth?  Were you aware of this project?  If so, did you follow it and what did you think of it?  Do you call this art?  Have you been to Trafalgar Square and seen the Fourth Plinth?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Princess of the Plinth (Part 3)

.....continued from yesterday:

She reported to the project welcome center and under the professional direction of the representatives of the organization she was meticulously guided through the process. She was led to a change room where she donned her special fine looking dress and carefully adjusted the tiara onto her head. Looking at herself in the mirror, she held her head up and pronounced with amusement, “There! I shall be the Queen of the Plinth.” She paused with uncertainty and bit her lip. “No perhaps that would be far too pretentious. After all we have a Queen. No, I shall be the Princess of the Plinth!” She was pleased with the alliteration of the title and decided that this would be far more artsy. Now she was ready for her hour of glory or gaucherie.

As one of the staff members attached a wireless microphone to her dress, he explained what Maxine could expect and assured her that she would be safe and that if she fell off that she would fall into the net that had been mounted around the upper portion and that so far no one had fallen off or had gotten hurt. Maxine felt a little more relaxed but nevertheless apprehensive about her appearance before not only the crowds assembled in the Square, but also the thousands, perhaps millions, watching on the internet. Maxine mounted the green metal platform on the hydraulic arm of the bright yellow JCB tractor that proceeded to make its way across the square. Then she was filled with exhilaration as the lift arm raised the platform high above the square and over the top of the plinth, settling gently onto the edge of the plinth. She was breathless. The gate of the platform was opened. Like the changing of the guard, the present occupant of the plinth entered the platform and Maxine stepped onto the Plinth. The two exchanged cordial greetings. The exiting plinther, a slightly plump lady with frizzy hair and a cheerful round face, encouraged her with a “have fun!” as the platform drew away.

Now Maxine was on her own. The day was splendid, with lovely clouds wafting overhead and a pleasant breeze caressing her. The view far exceeded any expectations that she had before she mounted the Plinth. Her eyes widened with wonderment as she surveyed the scene around her. The beautiful buildings that had stood there for two hundred years or more looked like they did in the pictures she had seen. There was the National Gallery (oh, if only she had time to explore the art housed there), the St Martin-in-the-Fields church, and the Canada House. There were the streets with the famous double-decker busses and never ending traffic. There were fountains and statues. For a while Maxine slowly looked about her taking in the entire scene.

But then she gradually became aware of something almost equally amazing. There were many people below her and many of them were looking directly at her. She saw a man waving at her. She gave a slight wave back. Periodically as she looked about she saw others wave, and then more. Above the sounds of the traffic and splashing fountains she heard voices of some of the people below. Some called greetings to her while others were asking questions. She timidly acknowledged some of them with waves and smiles. She tried speaking to some of them but was not sure that they could hear her. But mostly she just looked about her perch above the heads of the people below so that she could remember as much as could later. She would never be in this place again.

Maxine remembered that people were also watching on the internet. She tried not to think about all the viewers that she did not know, but she did want to acknowledge those who had helped get her here. She took out the list of her family, friends, and benefactors. She had made a list so she wouldn’t forget anybody. In a steady low voice she read the names of all of those who had helped her and given support. Directing her speech toward the camera nearest her, she hoped that this camera was the one that was being fed to the live stream while she spoke. When she had finished, she paused for a moment, then gave a slight shrug and said, “And that’s all for now.”

And very soon it was. She heard the sound of the bright yellow JCB cherry picker coming to get her and drop off the next plinther. When she was brought to the plinth the JCB was a lift—it lifted her up to her hour of recognition. Now it was a cherry picker and Maxine understood why the tractor might be referred to by either name. At first it had lifted her to new heights, but now it was a cherry picker plucking her off of her place on the plinth to take her back to her life.

It was over. She had a train to catch and she caught it. She wondered if she had looked foolish while she was on the plinth. What would people say? Would they laugh at her or make fun? It was over now and now it did not matter. She went back to her flat in Liverpool and back to her regular life. Everyone that had seen her on the plinth told her that she had looked beautiful and had done a wonderful job and they all asked many questions and wanted to hear everything about her experience.

When she was with Beryl, her friend told her, “Oh Maxine, you were absolutely beautiful! You looked just like a princess with the crown and all.”

Maxine laughed, “That’s so funny. That’s what I called myself on that day. The Princess of the Plinth I was.”

“Well you were wonderful. It was one of the best things ever!”

Maxine, looking somewhat embarrassed, replied, “It wasn’t all that. But thank you”

As the weeks progressed, the future seemed to be taking shape for Maxine. The Liverpool Daily Post did a story about Maxine and on the front page there was a picture of her on the plinth. After being invited to a reception at a local gallery, she met others in the arts community and was able to gain an outlet for showing some of her works. She received an offer for a part-time position at the gallery. She also received a stipend to enroll in the arts college. Her dreams were finally becoming realities. be continued tomorrow.....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Princess of the Plinth (Part 2)

...continued from yesterday:

Then the day came for her to leave. She had told everyone she knew how her entire appearance would be streamed live on the internet. They could all watch while she was on the Plinth. While she waited at the station for her train, Beryl posed an unexpected puzzler to Maxine.

“So what are you going to do while you’re on the Plinth? Have you thought of something?”

“Do?” Maxine stared vacantly, silently. Curiously she hadn’t thought of this.

“You have to do something when you’re up there. Everyone will be looking at you, waiting for you to do something. It will be like you’re on the stage or something.”

Thus Maxine began her journey with a sense of ambiguity and dread. The organizers didn’t really say that she had to “do” anything in particular. She had candies to toss out to the crowd. But she didn’t dance, or sing, or juggle, or anything of the like. The people would all be looking at her waiting for her to do something. She tried to push these thoughts from the forefront of her mind and convince herself that she was merely going to be part of a work of art—a living statue of sorts. Nevertheless that thought of “doing” something nagged at her.

The train ride and her arrival in London were uneventful. She had been to London once as a child and had even visited Trafalgar, but arriving in the city now on her own was a total sensory assault. She wished that she could have the luxury to see all the sights and take in all of the experience of the city. However, her first concern was finding her cousin Jane’s flat. When Maxine arrived at the apartment, she rang and did not get an answer. She dialed her cousin’s mobile phone number.

“Jane, it’s Max. I’m here.”

“Sorry Cuz, I had to leave town for a few days,” Jane apologized. “I left a key under the doormat. Make yourself comfy and just help yourself to whatever you need. I’m so sorry I can’t be there. I was looking forward to seeing you. When you leave just lock up and slide the key under the door.”

Maxine felt very alone. The flat was nicely kept and quite comfortable. She had really looked forward to having the company tonight and perhaps even going out for a bit. However, Maxine was decisive that she would not go anywhere on her own. She settled in for an evening to herself. With a dinner of biscuits and jam that she had brought courtesy of one of her patrons, she turned on the television and that was that. When she retired she merely did so on the sofa in the reception room so as not to stir up a bed. Sleep came easily and well she slept.

The next morning before leaving, Maxine tidied herself first and then what little mess she had made in the flat. She found a nearby bakery café and breakfasted on two buttered muffins and tea before transporting to Trafalgar. She arrived a couple of hours before her scheduled midday appointment. Her early arrival allowed her to check out the scene. The square was bustling with people who were involved in all states of activity and inactivity. Her gaze soon followed the gazes of many of those in assemblage and there she saw the Fourth Plinth. A man stood atop the Plinth dressed in some sort of costume reciting poetry bellowing in loud round tones. Maxine watched the man and then watched the people who were watching the man. She strolled through the crowd and looked at all of the different types of people involved in many different activities and relationships. She wished that she could be one of them. A lady replaced the costumed man who had been reciting poetry. Then, more quickly than Maxine would have expected, her appointed time arrived.

She reported to the project welcome center and under the professional direction of the representatives of the organization she was meticulously guided through the process. She was led to a change room where she donned her special fine looking dress and carefully adjusted the tiara onto her head. Looking at herself in the mirror, she held her head up and pronounced with amusement, “There! I shall be the Queen of the Plinth.” She paused with uncertainty and bit her lip. “No perhaps that would be far too pretentious. After all we have a Queen. No, I shall be the Princess of the Plinth!” She was pleased with the alliteration of the title and decided that this would be far more artsy. Now she was ready for her hour of glory or gaucherie. be continued tomorrow....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Princess of the Plinth -- Part 1

          Due to the Christmas holiday schedule, over the next four days I will be offering a short story that I had been working on directly prior to starting my blog back in September.  This story appears as written in its first draft form.  I have not attempted to rewrite anything and thought I might get some critique and commentary from some of you readers.  So I'll be hoping to hear something from you, though I may not see your comments until after January 2, when I am back online.  Please leave a comment, good or bad, about this experiment of mine.

          I hope I have explained the setting and circumstance well enough in the beginning of the story that you don't get lost or confused.  I will provide explanation at the end of the story.

The Princess of the Plinth -- Part 1

When Maxine heard about the project of the Fourth Plinth, she immediately registered for the drawing on the internet. With only 2400 spaces available she doubted that her name would be drawn. She never seemed to be lucky and had never won anything in her life. So when the notice arrived that she would be participating in this epic work of art she was stunned.

She anxiously broke the news to her best friend, Beryl. “I’ve been chosen to be on the Plinth!”

Beryl looked at her quizzically, “Plinth? What’s a plinth?”

“A plinth--it’s a sort of pedestal like they mount a statue on.”

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re going to be on a plinth?”

“The Fourth Plinth Project by Antony Gormley,” Maxine explained. “On the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. It starts in July and for one hundred days each hour twenty four hours a day someone different will be on the Plinth.”

“And why would anyone want to do such a thing?”

“It’s art!” Maxine cried. “It’s a participatory installation by Antony Gormley.”

“And who exactly is this Antony Gormley fellow?” Beryl persisted.

“Oh, Beryl, surely you know. He’s the one that did the “Another Place” sculptures at Crosby Beach.”

“Those blokes out at the beach?” Beryl cringed. “They give me the shivers.”

And this was typical of the response that Maxine got when she told others of her chosen status to appear on the Plinth. Then after the initial wonderment of it all, there came the mild, oft feigned, encouragement. Most everyone who knew Maxine knew that art was her great desire in life. Much of the time she could be found drawing, painting, or working at some crafty endeavor. Her greatest wish would have been to go to art school, study art, and become a working artist. However, by the fate of her life circumstance and lack of money she struggled as a shop clerk saving whatever spare money she could in hopes of one day achieving her dreams of art. It was always a struggle.

She told Beryl, “When I go to London I’m going be staying with my cousin Jane so that will save me money, but I will still need about a hundred pounds to take the train.”

“Do you have the hundred pounds to spare?” asked Beryl.

“I have some of it. The organizers suggest that I could solicit donations from my community and people I know to help out.”

“I can dole in two pounds,” Beryl said as she reached into her pocketbook. “Just don’t spend it on anything except for your train fare.”

And Maxine tucked away the two pounds and thought to herself, “Now if I can only find fifty other contributors”

By the time she had gone through her friends and family and gathered what she could of her own funds which she could spare, she was halfway to having enough to pay for her rail ticket to London. Then came the challenge of obtaining the other half of the needed monies. Approaching strangers, or at least those people whom she did not know very well, was a frightful proposition. Her first attempt was at a costume shop near the shop where she worked.

“A donation?” queried the owner, who looked around and then handed Maxine a tiara covered with rhinestones. “There you go.”

Maxine studied the tiara in her hands before quietly saying, “Actually I was thinking about a donation of money to help pay my expenses to get to London.”

“Money?” said the shopkeeper, “you want a donation of money? Well I’m afraid I can’t help too much but here’s ten pounds—I hope that helps some.”

Maxine was ecstatic. “Oh thank you! It will help so much” she cried as she handed back the tiara.

“You can keep the tiara. You can wear it when you are on the Plinth,” the shopkeeper said with a smile.

Getting donations from the shops was much easier than getting money from the people she knew and the shopkeepers didn’t make fun of her. And not only did they give her money, but they gave her merchandise as well. One shop gave her a fine looking dress to wear on the Plinth. Another gave her a couple of bags of sweets to throw to the onlookers at Trafalgar Square. She was given food to take with her on her trip. The entire mission was taking on an air of validity. The owner of the shop where she worked gave her permission to take two days off from work and gave Maxine her blessings. Maxine began looking forward to her hour on the Plinth.

Then the day came for her to leave. She had told everyone she knew how her entire appearance would be streamed live on the internet. They could all watch while she was on the Plinth. While she waited at the station for her train, Beryl posed an unexpected puzzler to Maxine.

“So what are you going to do while you’re on the Plinth? Have you thought of something?”

“Do?” Maxine stared vacantly, silently. Curiously she hadn’t thought of this. be continued tomorrow....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blog Boggled (Part 2)

              I am essentially a computer dunce.  I'm learning, but still I get so confused by different computer things that it sometimes leaves me in a daze.  As I told my wife the other day, when I get rich I'm going to hire somebody to just take care of my computers and my web pages and all that stuff that gets me so confused.  But through reading other blogs, receiving helpful comments, and just studying what's in front of me I'm starting to slowly catch on.

              Take the widgets for example--before blogging I had no idea what a "widget" was.  Then I started studying the layout page and looking at all the widgets.  I experimented and added some and started dressing up my page.   Things were coming together.  But there are so many more little doo-dads I've yet to explore.

            Just recently I started noticing the Tossing It Out blog listed on the blog lists of other blog pages.  I started wondering how they did that and so I explored those widgets.  Now I've gotten it figured out and I have one of those nifty Blog Lists on my page.  After finding the list set-up I went through all of the blogs I was following to see which ones had my blog on their list so I could reciprocally add theirs to my list.  If my blog is listed on your list and I don't have yours on mine, let me know so I can fix that.

            Networking is what I'm really trying to make a special effort to achieve.  But also the encouragement of other bloggers that are new.  There have been several blogs where I have become the first or among the first to follow.  I try to encourage these new bloggers so they don't give up right away.  Of course with each blog I join I hope to gain a follower.  That's why I, and I suspect many of you, add blogs to the ones that you follow.

            Now tell me if I'm wrong in this next point.  When I was setting up my blog list, I went through every blog that I was following.  If they  had been on my list for some time and had never reciprocated by adding my blog to their list, and they weren't a particularly informational blog, and they never commented on mine, I slashed them off my list.  After all, there are so many blogs a person can follow before that is all they do.

           Then, of course, there are some of the biggies, agents for example, who are probably not going to add me, but their blog is not only a source of solid information, it is also a source of other bloggers I check up on and occasionally comment on. 

            In November I had said I was trying to reach 100 followers by the end of the month.  When I saw that was not happening I extended the goal to the end of December, which I have a good chance of achieving.  Trying to build up a list of followers is a job that takes time and effort.  It is my reasoning that the more followers a blog has, the more potential readers your blog posts have.  Gaining readers is my goal.

            How important is to you to add to your list of followers?  Are you merely writing for your own amusement, or that of a limited circle of readers, or do you truly write with the intent of saying something to others?  Is my blog on your blog list?   Should your blog be on my blog list?  Are blog lists just a bunch of hooey?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Sunday before

 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD  ; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
Isaiah 40:3-5 (NIV)

 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,  Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, stablishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 (New International Version)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Flying On Autopilot

           As you read this I should be in New Jersey for my oldest daughter's wedding.  Hopefully each day's article has been posting  correctly.  I was checking it before I left and it looked like I had gotten the hang of scheduled posting.  So onward to Christmas and beyond into the new year when I'll be back live and in person -- well in a manner of speaking.

           I don't think I can put any links in that posted over the past week since I'm writing this in the future from where I am now.  Or should I say this was written in your past. No matter-- I wrote it and now you're reading it and thank you for being there.  Maybe Stephen Tremp can sort this conundrum out for me.

           Did anybody come up with their favorite holiday movie?  This question was posed by Buffy Andrews and then borrowed by me on my Tuesday 12/15 post.  I enjoyed thinking about this one and came up with a kind of strange choice.  You can go back into the archives and see what it is and tell me if I'm nuts.

           On Wednesday I featured a short memoir about my mother.  I will be getting back to more interviews after the first of the year, but memoirs certainly count as people features.  In fact, what do you like best-- interviews or stories about people?

            Tomorrow I will have a Christmas related Bible study.  Monday I will be continuing "Blog Boggled" with some more thoughts about blogging and how to make a better blog.

            The remainder of the week will be something very different from what I have done previously on this blog space.   You can think of it as my Christmas present to you-- I just hope you don't think of it as a bundle of sticks or a bag of coal.   I will be offering to you a first draft of a short story I had written right before I started posting on my blog back in September.  You can praise it, tear it apart, or politely red-pencil it with comments-- I'll leave it up to you.  I hope to hear something, anything.  But I hope you enjoy my first actual short story to appear on this blog.

            Hey, I've got to go get ready for a wedding, so I'll hopefully have some comments to read next time I'm near a computer.  Did anybody send me that laptop yet?


Friday, December 18, 2009

The Mystery World of Dreams

               Do you listen to your dreams?  There are various definitions for dreams, but today I'm going to deal with the most mysterious type of dream--those dreams we have during sleep. These dreams have intrigued humans throughout the ages. There are many explanations for dreams, but there is still no absolute consensus as to what these dreams are.

           In ancient times, dreams were considered to be otherworldly messages either from gods or demons.  Magicians and sages were called upon to interpret dreams and divine the messages the were sent to the dreamer.  Several times in the Bible dreams are recounted and interpretations given.  Many people still believe that dreams are messages sent from God to guide us, comfort us, or even foretell future events.  I am one of those who believe that this is sometimes one possibility, but not always.

           My wife is a great believer in dreams being messages from the Holy Spirit.  She will sometimes relate a dream that she has had and how it has lifted her spirits.  She will give her interpretation, which to me always sounds quite credible.  I have also had those types of dreams that seemed to be direct messages of comfort and healing-- I will awaken with a sense of incredible well-being and positive outlook. My father, who was a very spiritual man, used to have dreams that seemed so telepathically connected to his children who were no longer living at home that it used to give me the creeps when I would her my mother tell me about it.  She would tell me that he would say it was the Holy Spirit.  Now I see some credence in what he was saying.

            Sigmund Freud pioneered modern thought on dreams and psychiatry.  Freud believed that dreams were the unconcious expressions of repressed thoughts and memories.  He related much of dream symbolism to one's sexuality and innermost sexual thoughts.  Although some of this may be true, much of what Freud believed about dreams has fallen out of favor with the community that deals with human psychology.

           Most researchers and thinkers about the field of dreams (couldn't resist using that one) now relate dreaming to symbolized and actualized representation of anything in our lives.  A dream may be a re-evaluation of the previous day's events or some other significant event in the dreamer's life.  A dream of this nature may relive the event almost as it occurred or may symbolically recreate a previous event.  For example, if events in your day involved extreme apprehension, your dreams might also involve something which arouses similar feelings.

           On the other hand, a dream may provide an inner resolution of a previous problem.  The apprehension of that day may result in a dream where solutions are found and the dreamer awakes feeling a sense of relief and release.  There are many stories of researchers or others who have been stumped by some problem who suddenly awaken with a feeling of resolution and go on to solve the problem they were facing.  Dreams like these can be  tools which our subconcious mind uses to fix itself.

          Dreams may also be a symbolic recap or an interpretation of events or stages of our lives. The thoughts of sleep may be just a continuation of what has been on our minds most recently.  This may be the mind's way of cataloguing and interpreting information it has received in the waking hours. When my job ended earlier this year, I would frequently dream that I was still working.  As the days progressed, the work environment in the dreams seemed to get older and more unfamiliar to me.  Eventually, I would be dreaming that I was "at work" but it was not the workplace I remembered and in the dream there was something more important for me to do and I would forget about work in the dream.  Of late, I frequently dream about blogging and writing.

          Another function of dreaming is what might be considered a form of wishful thinking.  These are the dreams that may involve things we would like to happen or fantasize about happening.  Dreams such as these may be about having sexual encounters, finding money, or going to a place we would like to go.  The dreamer may have been thinking of the topic conciously prior to the dream or it may be a desire that has lain dormant in the back of the mind. These are the dream fantasies that can fuel our desires or allow us to continue with daily reality having enjoyed the respite of the dream.

          There are many dream theories.  More than likely there is truth to most of them.  We are each unique individuals with unique life experiences, therefore the symbolism of ours dreams is probably unique.  One person's dreams about climbing a ladder might be different than another.  In fact, a person's dream about climbing a ladder during one dream session may differ in another dream session. There are many factors to consider such as how did one feel while climbing, where was one going, what kind of ladder was it, and so on.  The significance of dreams varies based on the content of the dreams, emotions they elicit, how often they occur, how they appear to relate to one's current life, and many other factors.

         I used to be, and still am, a fan of things like dream dictionaries, encyclopedias, and interpretation guides.   They can be an interesting diversion.  However, I don't think it's good science in the most absolute sense.  And from the mystical or spiritual or whatever you what to call it sense it is probably mostly nonsense.  I wouldn't call any of them useless, but they should not be relied upon.  An apple to one person may have a totally different meaning to another.  Walking in a public place naked may symbolize vulnerability for one person and be a titilating fantasy for another.  Dreams are an interesting mystery that are also very personal.

         Do you ever journal your dreams?  Has a dream ever helped you solve a problem or see something in a new way?  Do you use your dreams in your work, relationships, and for inspiration?  Do you like your dreams?  Are you afraid of your dreams?  Do you think you don't dream?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


             As you read this I am on a plane, or in an airport, or perhaps even in my rental van on my way to my destination in New Jersey.  I will have been on a plane all night, probably having gotten very little sleep. Traveling by plane is certainly the fastest way to go from L.A. to New Jersey like I've done, but is it the best?  The question I would like to pose for today is:

If time is not an essential issue, how do you prefer to travel?

          I'm not a huge fan of flying.  Getting to New Jersey I was on a deadline so I didn't have much choice.  However, if I didn't have to worry about my wife's work schedule and the amount of time we needed to get to our destination I would have left a few days sooner and driven across country.  We did just that a couple of years ago and it was  a grand experience.  In fact, we compared the cost of flying (including incidentals like transportation to the airport or parking) to driving (including gas, hotels, extra meals) and it came out to similar numbers.  Of course you have wear and tear on your car, but when you have a new car it's not too bad. 

           When we did our cross-country drive we allowed ourselves a leisurely eight days from L.A. to East Tennessee with lots of stops and side trips. What I like best is that you can enjoy the scenery and don't have to be in close quarters with a lot of people you don't know.  You can stop when you like, eat whenever you want, and change your route if you're so inclined.  We stopped in a place the plane would have never taken us in order to spend the night with an aunt and uncle who I hadn't seen in many years.  We went to see the arch in St. Louis and spend a day in Washington, DC.  We spent an afternoon in Richmond, VA, where we were joined by my sister and my daughter.  There was so much flexibility in our schedule and I was relaxed the whole time we travelled.  

          On our return trip we allowed seven days to return to L.A.  We drove leisurely on the Natchez Trace Parkway; spent New Year's Eve in Natchitoches, LA where we went to see the beautiful Christmas lights on the river; visited a daughter in Houston; stopped for breakfast in San Antonio; visited my sister in Phoenix--how could we have done all of that if we had flown?

        Of course there are other options.  I've taken train trips, but never across the country.  Train is not a bad way to travel, but like the plane you are on their schedule.  I've never taken a cruise or travelled by ship, other than ferries.  I've heard that a cruise is an absolutely wonderful experience.  I'm not big on being out in the water, but I might enjoy a cruise. I used to travel by bus occasionally, but I can't imagine anyone saying that's how they would want to travel.

       The bottom line though is that I'm a road person.  I love being in my car with the stereo going and being able to have the independence of deciding when and where I want to go.  So I want to know what is your preferred method of travel and why?  Have you ever taken a really long road trip?  Do you prefer a nice comfortable car and hotels or luxury RV?   Or would you rather just stay home and could care less about travelling anywhere?  I'm just tossing it out there.  How about tossing it back?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Mom's a Dancer

           Lois Kay Trevillian was born a year after Shirley Temple.  When Lois was a small child Shirley Temple was the rage of the nation.  Parents of little girls across the country dreamed of their child becoming the next Shirley Temple and little girls idolized her.  Lois was one of those girls.  I've often heard about this because Lois Kay Trevillian is my mother.

          The other day as I was talking on the phone with my mom, she was reminiscing about some of her experiences in her life and happened to mention in passing, "I should write a book!"  This immediately caught my interest and I encouraged her that she should.  She began to back down on the idea.  My mom's not too big on writing these days.  I told her that if she would just write down things in a rough draft, I would write the book for her.  I was fired up about it, but she wasn't.  Maybe I can just start writing things down and maybe come up with a good memoir someday.  It's funny, she's told me stories recently that I'd never heard before and I've known this lady for 59 years.

          Ever since I can remember she has told stories about her childhood aspirations as a Shirley Temple wannabe.  My mom started taking dance lessons at the Virginia Chittum Dance Academy in Morgantown, West Virginia when she was about five years old.  This undoubtedly was a tough sacrifice for her parents as this was during the Great Depression.  Her parents must have seen some special talent in their daughter and believed that she could be a dancer.  My grandmother used to show me pictures of my mother in her dance costumes and she did look a bit like Shirley Temple.  My mother said she even won a few Shirley Temple look-alike contests.

          As the years went on my mother continued studying tap dance and acrobatics. My favorite memory that she would share with me when I was young was how, when she was a teenager, she and some of the other older students accompanied their dance teacher, Virginia Chittum, to New York City.  I recall being fascinated as she described going to Coney Island.  They also attended  a Radio City Music Hall performance of the Rockettes, who had become the aspiration of the young dancers.

          Lois Kay, which was her stage name, began making a name for herself in her hometown of Morgantown as a tap dancer who also incorporated feats of acrobatics into her numbers.  She continued her dance career after she began attending the University of West Virginia. One her fellow students at the university whom she started appearing on the same stage with was Don Knotts, the actor who is most remembered as bumbling sheriff's deputy Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith Show. 

         Another performer with whom she would often work was a juggler by the name of Bob Jackson.  Bob was a very popular player on the West Virginia University Mountaineers basketball team.  Crowds loved Bob's performance on the basketball court as he would incorporate his juggling moves into his playing ala Harlem Globetrotters.  As fate would have it, Lois and Bob fell in love and after college continued pursuing their show biz dreams.

         My mother continued to perform her acrobatic tap dance act and the duo would get booked on shows in night clubs in the Cleveland, Ohio area where they had settled.  As she had her children--first me and then my sister-- she danced less and learned to juggle.  My mom and dad worked up a fast paced juggling team act that was always quite a hit on the shows where they performed.  My mom no longer tap danced, but she continued to perform her perilous balancing act on two folding chairs.  Eventually when my sister got older she took dance lessons and took over the act that my mother had been doing.

         After my siblings and I became adults and left home and no longer worked in the juggling act with my parents, my mom and dad continued to work the duo act they had started with.  My father juggled almost to the day he died of pancreatic cancer at age 67.  Toward the end, in a morphine induced delirium at the hospital, I recall him confusedly talking to my mother about their juggling act as he believed they were getting ready to perform.

       At age 80, my mother no longer dances, but she loves the television dance shows like Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  And she can still tell a pretty good story when she wants to. Before he died, my father wrote his memoir, which is now in my possession, and which I hope to gather together with photographs so I can do a self-publication in the coming year.  I hope that my mother has many more years ahead of her, but I also hope she might reconsider that memoir idea.  She's got a great story to tell.

        I'm sure that there are many communities like the one where I live where free or nominally priced classes are offered to people who want to learn about or get help with writing their memoirs.  A memoir is a great thing to leave to children, grand-children, and beyond.  I know that several readers have written their memoirs.  If you haven't yet, have you ever thought about writing one?   Do you have any memoirs that your forebears have left you?  Has anyone had any experience with self-publishing a memoir?  Have any of you taken one of the classes in memoir writing and how did it help you?  Let's hear about some of your thoughts and experiences.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ginger and Fred

         Buffy Andrews at Buffy's Write Zone had posted a piece about her favorite Christmas movie and I liked the idea so much I thought I might review mine as well.  I left my comment on her site but am going to expand upon on mine further.  Buffy's favorite is  It’s a Wonderful Life  directed by Frank Capra and released in 1946.  I'm sure that's one of everyone's favorites.  I'm going to go for a less obvious and more obscure choice.

           A new favorite for me by one of my all time favorite directors, Federico Fellini, is GINGER AND FRED (1986). This is a brilliant and poignant satirical look at television. An aging Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers look-alike dance duo is reunited after 30 years for a Christmas Eve marathon television show. The movie is bizarrely surrealistic as is most Fellini but wonderfully visual. The story touches upon the shallowness of modern television and the mass audience and also of aging and relationships. In Italian with subtitles, but I found it to be very rewarding when I watched it this past summer. I bought a copy and hope to watch it again for this Christmas season although it's a good movie for any season.

        I loved this movie --- it ranks with Fellini's best as far as I'm concerned. But the caveat here is that most movie viewers probably don't have the patience for Fellini's vision in this film or most of the body of his work. The story here is simple enough. It's a sweet story that could have been done by any other straight-forward director as a serious drama, a comedy, or even a musical. But why do it that way when you can make it a wacked out surrealistic dream vision of a film complete with midgets, transvestites, beautiful people, and the whole gamut of individuals that make the world the wonderfully various place it is. The vision concerns the decay of the modern world and the modern mind, alienation as brought to you by television, and the wistful longing for a past that is gone and perhaps was really never how we envision it now. The layers of the film's cinematography, dialogue as pertains to the story, absurdist antidialogue, sets and costuming, and every other aspect makes the film call for repeated watching. The acting is superb. The music is typically whimsical and lovely as any Fellini film.

         GINGER AND FRED  ranks high on my list of favorite films. But as I have warned, if your movies have to have action and traditional storylines then you may not appreciate this one, especially since it's in Italian with subtitles. But if you think you would enjoy watching a story presented in a manner akin to watching a dream (not a nightmare) full of strange visuals and off the wall ideas and dialogue then I would encourage you to give this a chance--it is an artistic coup.  I would compare Fellini's film to those of David Lynch except without the perversion, violence, and darkness. Fellini is more like Lynch at the circus. Before there was David Lynch, there was Fellini.

Actors: Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni, Franco Fabrizi, Friedrich von Ledebur, Augusto Poderosi
Director: Federico Fellini
Language: Italian
Subtitles: English
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Run Time: 127 minutes

         How about you?  What's your favorite Christmas film?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Somebody's Talking About Me

          My ears started feeling really hot this morning and I was thinking it was something to do with high blood pressure or something like that.  Then I realized that my ears were burning because someone is talking about me.

           If you'd like to know what they're saying, check it out at  the VBT Writers on the Move blog today. I won an opportunity to be profiled on their site and it appears today.   Pretty cool.  My thanks to

Elysabeth Eldering and to Karen  for their help in getting word about Tossing It Out.


Blog Boggled (Part 1)

            For several years I've heard talk about blogs.  I wasn't exactlly sure what a blog looked like, but I had a general idea of what they were. Then in May of 2008 my internet buddy Stephen T. McCarthy started his blog here on Blogger. 

          Now I have never met Stephen but we became acquainted on an Amazon discussion board where I found myself very entertained by his writing style.  For reasons I won't go into here, though you can find an account on Stephen's blog, he left Amazon and came here to Blogger.  So in order to keep up with him I started a blog at the same time-- end of story.

          Or it would have been the end.  Fast forward to September of 2009.  I had allowed my blog, Tossing It Out, to lie fallow for a year and a half--in short I had forgotten that it existed.  Then in mid-September I was researching Google Ad Sense because I kept getting these work at home schemes from some listings I had placed on Craig's list.  As I was researching, I remembered that I had already set up my Google blog. So I started posting my articles.  And in doing so I revived my old enthusiasm for writing.

          Now shortly before this I had also written a short story called "Princess of the Plinth". I will post this story next week in installments in its rough first draft form. I will offer this up for critique and hope that some of you might have some suggestions for me regarding this story.

          But I have digressed.  I only tell you about this story to enlighten you about the direction in which I have been going in the latter part of this year.  Since losing my job earlier in the year I believe I have been moving toward this writer's life.  During the summer I started re-outlining  ideas for a novel that I have been kicking around since the mid-70s and for a non-fiction book I had started thinking about in 2005.  The writing muse has been prodding me for the past few years in fact.

           So, anyway, I started hearing about this Google Ad Sense program and thought that it might be nice to make money at home while "sitting in my underwear" as they say in the ads.  So there I was, reactivating my old blog.  More importantly, there I was writing.  Writing became a passion and what I was starting to see as a pathway to a profession.  I kept checking my Google Ad Sense status, but they weren't approving my account.  As the weeks passed,  I discovered that Ad Sense might be nonsense.  For me, there was something more important in this new blogging thing that I was doing.

         I think I've been pretty serious and diligent in my blogging efforts.  And I hope that I have been providing some sort of pleasant and informative diversion for those who read my site.  My goal now is to get better.   So here's the deal.  I had no idea what I was doing when I started blogging and my mind is still a bit boggled by blogging and all that it entails.  I have learned a lot since I have started, which I would like to share in case someone else out there hasn't learned these things, and I hope that some of you might know the answers to some of the things I'm still trying to figure out.

           I want to get the most out of my blogging experience and I'm sure most of you do too.  For the next few Mondays I will be talking about blogging and other things related to blogging.

          How long have you been blogging?  Why did you start blogging in the first place?   Did you have to learn about it on your own or did someone help you?   What have been your best resources for learning about your blog?   Are you still waiting to be approved for Ad Sense or do you care?  If you have Ad Sense now, is it worth the effort?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Importance of the Church Community

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

           The beginning of the second chapter of Acts describes an event which is unprecedented by anything like it in history.  The day is described  as occurring on the Jewish holy day of Pentecost which is fifty days after the Sabbath of Passover week.  Jesus Christ had been crucified and  resurrected during that Passover week.  He then remained on Earth for the next forty days until He ascended into heaven.

           Ten days later, during the day of the Pentecost celebration,  Jews from many places were gathered together in Jerusalem, at which time they witnessed an amazing occurrence.  The followers of Jesus were gathered together, probably in the temple, and a great wind blew through the place and "tongues of fire" came down to rest upon each of them.  They began to speak in the different languages of the many who were witnessing this event to the amazement of those gathered there.  Peter quoted scripture and preached to the assembly and 3000 people were converted to be followers of Jesus Christ on that day. That was a huge turning point in the new Church.  The followers became a community under the teachings of Jesus.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

          As a community they learned together under the guidance of the apostles of Jesus and they were devoted to these teachings.  In other words, these followers made a commitment to a lifestyle and a philosophy.  They spent their time together and celebrated the Lord's Supper. The evening meal is an important time for family togetherness and we see problems arising with families that no longer have these important times of sharing.  The church is a family.  The church community is strengthened by practicing the ritual of the remembrance of Christ together and praying together.  Praying in solitude is important, but unified prayer among believers gives the prayer a louder voice and the community of those praying a sense of common purpose and strength.

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

         In their unification, these believers were powerful because they were focused on God and received the power that God gave to them.  Christ had performed miracles and prophesized during His time on Earth. The apostles knew Christ and received power through Him and were able to act in that power that was manifested through them by God.  If we know that our God is indeed awesome, should we not be filled with awe as well.  Do we really have to see water turned into wine?  Is it not enough see our own lives transformed by God's grace?

All the believers were together and had everything in common.

         As a community of believers we should enjoy one another's company.  We should be able to share time, help, and kindness with one another.  In a healthy church community no one should be left in need of the essentials of life.  If we have a common belief, then we should likewise have a common purpose and a communal sense of caring for fellow members.  To be a part of a healthy church community we should be able to have confidence that when one member needs assistance, other members are there to step in to fill whatever needs exist.

Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

         This is real commitment.  In our society that is so absorbed with accumulating possessions, sometimes things come before people.  As a church community, members must know their priorities. People come first. Fortunately, most of us don't have to go to the extreme of selling our possessions in order to help others .  We live in a society that has such an abundance of wealth we usually have the resources to provide for those in need.  But, if you had no other choice, would you be willing to sell your television, diamond ring, or silverware to help a hungry family?  How committed are you?

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.

         Would you be willing to go to church every single day?  Most of us have jobs or other commitments in our lives.  The early Christians were so committed to their community of faith that they met every day at the temple.  Most churches today are hopeful that the members show up on Sunday let alone everyday.  Those first Christians must have really been on fire to learn the teachings of God's word and to pray together.  And they must have really enjoyed being with each other.  Once again it is a matter of priorities and commitment.

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

           Not only did they go to church every day, they also ate at each other's homes with glad and sincere hearts.  This wasn't something they did out of sense of obligation.  This was something they did gladly from their hearts because they wanted to do it.  They enjoyed basking in the love of God and this must have filled them with an attractive glow.  As the song says, "when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you".  When you are praising God, you are joyful and this shows outwardly.  This tends to bring a favorable reaction from others.  When you appear happy, other people see in you something they would like to have for themselves.

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

           When others want what you have, they are more willing to join you and follow what you are following in order to get it.  We see this in such superficial ways in our society.  People become so caught up in fads and celebrity worship.  This is all so empty and people either see the deception of what they have followed or become bored by that which has little lasting substance.  When people see something that is real and solid and lasting, it is easier for them to want to become part of that.  Are you real?  Is your church offering solid teaching and lasting relationships?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Uncertainty Ahead

           The past week on Tossing It Out has been a highlight week for this blog to date. At least, that is how I look at it.  The focus was on the exceptional author Athol Dickson and a review of his current book LOST MISSIONI hope everyone had an opportunity to read these entries and if not I hope you will click on the links above and check them out.  Quality authors like Athol Dickson deserve recognition from those of us who call ourselves writers and we should let our non-writer friends know about some of the truly fine literature that is currently on the market.

           Speaking of recognition, I raised some questions in my Friday blog post about bloggers and blogging and also gave some recognition to some bloggers of note.  I hope some of you will go to some of these recommended blogs and recognize them.  As Sig at BeadedBear pointed out in her post on Thursday , most of us bloggers are not writing just for ourselves, we hope that somebody is reading, and just a little note to say you stopped by is encouraging.  But I guess I don't have to tell you that. On Monday I will have some more things to say about blogging and some hints that I've found helpful.

           On Sunday, I will continue discussing the importance of Christians becoming involved in a "community" of other believers.  This goes back to my thought in the previous paragraph.  We are part of a blog community and it's pretty nifty when one blogger gives another encouragement and support.  I've been seeing a lot of this lately, especially with the 12 days of community promotional effort.  A strong, supportive community helps all of us.

           Now, let's see--Sunday, Monday-- got those covered.  Here's where the uncertainty comes into play.  I'm sure many of you are in my situation.  With the holidays many of us are travelling, spending time with families, or just doing things that come this time of year.  I am no exception. I've noticed some blogs essentially shutting down until after the first of the year and others expressing uncertainty.  You can put me in the uncertainty crowd.

           While I hope to make every effort to post each day, I'm not going to make any promises.  I'm trying to prepare articles ahead of time that will be scheduled to post automatically, but I don't know if I'm going to get nearly 20 articles prepared between now and Wednesday.  So I'll be winging it I guess and if I disappear for a while don't forget about me.  I plan to be back full strength after January 2, 2010.

             In the meantime wish me well.  One of my daughters is getting married in New Jersey next weekend.  Then I'll be visiting my son in Virginia the following weekend. I'll wrap up my trip visiting my mother and other family members in East Tennessee.  And poor ol' me still doesn't have a laptop.  If anyone is looking for something to get me for Christmas, a nice laptop will do.

            Maybe some time away from computers is not so bad though.  Some of the other bloggers have mentioned that they plan to take a hiatus from their computers.  I don't know about that.  I was feeling for Stephen Tremp of Breakthrough Blogs when his computer was down for several days.  You get kind of used to the darn thing and kind of feel lost without it. 

             So how about the rest of you.  Has anybody looked at any of the blogs I suggested?  Have you been promoting anyone elses blogs?  Has someone else's promotion of your blog had any kind of effect on your following or comments?    Are you travelling for the holdays?  Are there any loved ones that you usually only get to see a few times of year?  Is anyone else planning a break from their computers?

            Now there's some questions that should keep you busy.  I'm just tossing it out to you.