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!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

What can you give to God?

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity for I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,
2 Corinthians 8:1-3 (NIV)

        The early Christians in Macedonia did not have much in material possessions.  By the standards of those who had plenty, the Macedonian churches were in poverty.  And yet they were praised for their generosity.  If you remember the parable told by Jesus of the widow who gave a tiny donation to the temple as compared to the large amounts the wealthy were giving (Mark 12:41-44), Jesus tells us that the widow's donation was far greater than that of the weatlthy donors.  Why?  Because she gave all that she had to give, whereas the wealthy only gave a pittance of what they had available to give.  The widow's donation was a willing sacrifice to God on her behalf. 

         This was the example set by the Macedonians.  Their gifts may not have seemed great in the eyes of the world, but their attitude and the spirit of their giving sets a high standard for the rest of us. To have little, yet to be able to give joyfully and in a sacrificial manner is what God wants from us.  Our blessings come from God and he deserves the first fruits of what we acquire on this earth.  It's not because God needs our money or possessions, they are really His anyway, but because God wants us to acknowledge Him as the one who blesses us and to show Him our love.  Personal sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love, whether it be for our families, friends. or our country.  The supremely ultimate sacrifice is when we turn our lives over to God.

And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.
2 Corinthians 8:5 (NIV)

          The commonly held expectation in our world is "me first".  We are advised to "watch out for number one".   But really now, who is number one?  Are you greater than God?  If we trust in God, He will watch out for us.  Perhaps it won't always seem obvious to the more short-sighted ones among us.  Do the unexpected: Give yourself to the Lord first and do God's will and the rewards will come to you.         

Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me."
Psalm 50:14-15 (NIV)

          God is not asking us to sacrifice animals on an altar or give up our first born child.  God is asking for the living sacrifice of ourselves.  God wants the fullness of our being--our hearts, our minds, our bodies, and our souls.  We should show our thanks to God and praise him through our good works and with our time as well as our talents.  And when we are faithful to Him, God will be faithful to us.  Because God has shown his mercy through the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, it is our duty to honor Him with the sacrifice of our lives.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

       Yes, today is my birthday.  I won't tell you which one -- see if you can guess.  I wish it weren't my birthday.  I'd happily stop having the darn things if it meant I didn't get any older.  I'm content where I am now thank you.

        This week I received a very nice phone call from Phoenix singer-songwriter Forrest Smith.  You may recall my post about him back in December -- if not you may want to go back and check it out.  He complimented the interview I did with him and told me it was among the three best stories that had been done on him in his entire career.  That made me feel really good. We writers like to get feedback on what we do and here on the blogs it sometimes seems that it is never enough.  In fact over my vacation during Christmas holidays, I caught up with several friends and family members who had been following my blogs and told me to my face how much they enjoyed them.  Thanks to all of you who provide me with that encouragement as it really helps keep me going.

         I am going to continue my BLOG BOGGLED series on Mondays.  I have been getting a good response and there is still more to say.  I've been noticing other blogs doing the same topic and I will continue to link to those when I find them. 

       I had so much fun with my Costco story on Tuesday and those who read it seemed to enjoy it.  I like writing humor but I don't know that it's my forte.   I'll try to be funny as much as I can--- in fact I may get downright silly if I can.  Don't know about this coming Tuesday.  I'll be reviewing, or at least commenting on something.  I just have to figure out what it will be.

       The Wednesday story about my library seemed to go over pretty well with readers.  This coming Wednesday, if things go as planned, I am going to go into my back yard and see if you can help me answer a question and tell you some other parts of my story.

        Thursday has always been debate day and will continue to be so.  And Fridays are a mystery and perhaps I will continue exploring the mysterious world of dreams.  Oh, and I forgot to mention Sunday--I'll be delving into the Bible as usual.

          What has been the most uplifting thing you've heard about your blog?  Do your friends and family keep up with your writings and how much support do you get from them?  Do you ever think about just giving it up?  Or have you just started and we ain't heard nothin' yet?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Do Dreams Predict the Future?

              Marley is my granddaughter.  That's Marley in the picture.  The following are two recent dreams that I had in which Marley was the star.

             My wife and I are preoccupied with something.  I don't recall what we are doing but we have forgotten that we are supposed to be babysitting Marley.  Suddenly we hear her crying in a very alarmed manner.  We are afraid.  We rush to her and I pick her up.  She stops crying and  is looking at me. I can tell that Marley has something in her mouth.  I coax her to open up and let us see what is in her mouth. She looks at us carefully and opens her mouth, sticking out her tongue.  On her tongue is a very expensive looking piece of antique jewelry made of ornately worked gold with a large amber-colored gemstone set in the center. I take the piece of jewelry from her mouth and we are amazed.

         Later, I hear Marley in an adjoining room-- a bedroom I believe.  This is not the house in which we live in waking life, instead it is an older house, perhaps built in the 30s or 40s.  In the other room I am surprised to hear Marley talking in a very adult fashion.  I peer into the room and see Marley talking on the phone about business.  She is talking to her "agent" about upcoming acting jobs.  I had no idea that she had an agent, or that she worked as an actress, or for that matter was even able to talk.  I am surprised.

----the next morning I had the following dream:

         My mother is driving an old station wagon that my parents used to own when I was young.  I am sitting in the backseat on the passenger side--in the same place where I would have sat when I was young, except now I am an adult, but my mother seems to be about the same age as I am.  The rear seats are folded down so that the back of the station wagon is in cargo carrying mode.  My wife is in the back of the station wagon with Marley in her car seat.  I am concerned because the car seat is not strapped to anything and I fear that it is not safe.  I crawl back into the rear, but the car suddenly swerves and the car seat falls onto its side.  I see a police car through the rear window and I am sure we are going to get a ticket.  However the police car skids sideways and takes off in the opposite direction and I am relived.

       The station wagon comes to a stop and I start to move Marley and her car seat up to the back seat where I had been sitting in order to fasten the car seat in safely. My mother gets out of the car and enters a house we have parked in front of.  I get out of the car.  It is dusk with darkness quickly approaching. I open the passenger side of the front seat door.  I notice my mother's purse on the floor and pick it up so I can take it to her.  As I am picking up the purse, I realize I am holding it upside down.  The purse is not clasped and some of the contents begin to spill onto the grass.  In the dimness of late dusk I grope about to gather what has fallen.  I realize that everything that I am picking up is expensive looking jewelry.

---- I'll leave this to you.  What do you think it means?  In the Bible sometimes dreams foretold something that was going to happen.   Many people believe that dreams are prescient.  Do you?  Or does this tell me something about the current state of things in my life?   Could be an symbolic interpretation of something in my past?   Have you ever had a dream that predicted something that eventually came to pass in your life?

Photo of Marley by Juan Velez

Jewelry photo by Lee Jackson

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stop The Presses?

Are Newspapers dying?

         Please say it ain't so.  I have loved newspapers since childhood.  I remember back in the late 50's and early 60's when as school children we would have to clip out an article on certain days to present before the class for current events.  I would scour the depths of the paper to find some bizarre ariticle that I was sure no one else would be presenting.  I would read the daily funnies and work the crossword puzzles.  The newspaper provided me hours of entertainment, enjoyment, and education.

          Back when I was in high school and college, one might have thought I was in danger of becoming one of those packrat whackos that you read about who have a house filled with stacks of newspapers. Indeed, I had two stacks:  the papers that I still needed to read (I read nearly everything in the paper and would often get behind) and the papers I needed to take to the recycling center (I was into recycling before it was fashionable, I saved newspapers because you could  get money for the used newsprint).  Reading newspapers was one of my favorite forms of recreation.

         Clipping news articles was also a hobby of sorts.  I would look for unusual articles for story ideas, clip them, and save them.  I still have a file drawer reserved for these articles and even now sometimes add new articles to the file.  The newspaper was such a wonderful source for current information, as well as interesting features.  The newspaper was written for us--the people.

         What happened?  I think newspapers lost sight of the original intended mission.  They are supposed to be feeding the populace --expressing the "vox populi".  Of course the papers often espoused certain agendas, but they were something in which the masses were interested and could get behind.  And there has always been some media manipulation and scandulous behavior, but that was part of the game too. It was all broadscale and bigger than life when it came to some of the front page and editorials and that was part of the fun.  Now the agendas have often become narrower and less savory to most readers.

         Why read the paper for news when all of the news can be found instantly on TV, radio, and the internet?  For that matter, the internet has it all -- recipes, movie reviews, commentary, sports, and anything else that we used to go to the newspaper to get.  Even coupons-- you can't find as many coupons in the paper as you used to and now they come via email or are found on internet sites.  Or classifieds-- why advertise in the paper when you've got resources like Craigslist or the mailout adzines like the PennySaver. 

         The newspaper stopped serving me years ago.  I now only get the L.A Times week-end editons delivered (they throw in Thursday at no charge) and that's only for the crosswords, Sunday coupon sections, and entertainment section.  I have the extra bonus of some occasionally interesting articles, but I would never miss them if I didn't have them.  The Times does not speak to me.  In fact it condemns much of what I believe and does not address most of my interests.  Instead the Times promotes agendas which I am against and lifestyles that are not mine.  Even the restaurant and travel reviews --it might occasionally be interesting to read about places where the meals are $100 a person or rooms are $500 a night, but those are not the types of places that fit my budget.  Please--speak to me.  Are those people you are speaking to really reading your boring rag?

      In my opinion, newspapers as we have known them in the past are dead.  They will keep getting smaller and smaller until the big ones are essentially gone or somehow migrated to the internet as they are doing now. In the future I think we will see more localized community papers, more special interest papers, and smaller agenda driven papers.  All of these are out there now and have been for years.  But now they will be all there is.  The days of the newspaper with a huge circulation are going to be over in the near future.

       What do you think?  Am I right or wrong on this?  Where do you get most of your news and information now?  Will you miss the newspaper?  What do you like about newspapers and what do you dislike?   Do you have a good local paper that you enjoy?    Does anyone reading this now work for a newpaper, and if so what is your view?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Soul of My Office

A room without books is like a body without a soul.

           Last week I took you on a tour of my office.  But you really didn't have the opportunity to peruse through some of the books that are there.  If you're anything like me, when you visit somebody you like to check out what kind of books they have.  It's not so much that I'm nosy, it's more like I want to know what their interests are.  It's a conversation starter or stimulator.  As soon as I see books, CDs, or DVDs I check them out to see if they have anything like I have at home or what it is they like.  You can tell a lot about a person by the books they read, the music they listen to, or the movies they enjoy.  It's not a perfect indicator, but it's usually a pretty good indicator of a person's nature.

         This week I thought I'd give you a closer look at my primary office book shelf.  These are the books that I've put closest at hand as books to which I might refer or might inspire me as a writer.  We have many other books in other rooms and many of those are also highly treasured by me, but the books on this shelf are my writer's office library.  On the top of the bookcase you can see some family pictures.  I have many family pictures throughout my office.  I like to stay reminded of the family that I love so much.

           My top shelf contains my books about writing.  These are at my eye level and though I have read or plan to read these, they are not books to which I refer on a regular basis.  These are my trade books to remind me who I am and to inspire me on my journeys.  Many of them I have purchased through Writer's Digest and contain much of the same helpful information I get on many writing blogs.  The way I see it is you can never read this information too many times--it's always good to be reminded.  The main book on this shelf is probably the WRITER'S MARKET.  I'm sure most of us have this or some other similar book to help guide us when it comes to moving our works out into the marketplace.

         The next shelf has my reference books.  These are kept the most easily accessable because these are the books I use more than any others.  These are the word books and encyclopedic style reference books.  There is even a rock and roll encyclopedia that was out of date before it hit the store shelves -- that's the hazard of any reference book, especially dealing with pop culture.  I love these kinds of books though--always have.  I used to read the encyclopedia and dictionary for fun when I was a kid and I still do every once in a while.  We've got reference books throughout our house which to me is a very good thing.                              The next shelf has Bibles and religious books.  Since I lead a Bible study class at church, write about religion, and like to study religion I tend to have many religious related texts.  They are not just about the Christian religion.  In other places in our home we have texts for other religions and books about those other religions.  In another larger office we have a great many religious books,  but these are the ones I might use with greater frequency.  Some of these belonged to my father.   He used to study the Bible and write about the Bible.  I take after him in many ways.
                          Further down I have some books that have special meaning to me.  These are mainly short story books.  Most of these I started buying back in the 1960's when I was in middle school and high school.  My first real reading passion was science fiction, but it quickly expanded to other genres.  Sometimes I go back a reread some of the stories in these books.  Good stories are worth rereading.

          On the bottom shelf are some other miscellaneous books with various purposes. Some are other types of reference like finance.  Others are novels that I have enjoyed.  There are even some of my old high school yearbooks--I pick these up every once in a while.  These are all books with special meaning to me, but books that others would enjoy seeing as well.

          This is one of two bookshelves in my office.  We have many other bookshelves in other rooms.  I am vitalized by the presence of books in the home.  Sometimes it is comforting just to go to part of my home library and pull down books from the shelf to just thumb through.  In our guest room I keep a nice selection of books in case a guest would want to read.  It's something I enjoy when I visit someone-- I always bring my own book, but if a place I'm visiting has books I'll give those preference.  There's that strange thing about how books can make you feel at home while they take you away at the same time.

         Do you have special places for books in your home?  What kinds of books are the keepers for you as opposed to the ones that you sell at your yard sales?   Do you have a special book memory that illustrates how books can breathe life into a home or some other place?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Carried Away at Costco

        Three hundred sixteen dollars and ninety-six cents!  Have we gone mad?  How did we walk in that place, spend an hour and a half, and walk out the door leaving that much money behind?  And what we have to show for it is an oversized shopping cart full of oversized quantities of household commodities.  This is not your typical visit to the grocery store.  This is Costco.

        You may have been there, or to Sam's, or to one of the other big box retailers as they are called--and for good reason since you don't just get small quantities of anything, but you get cases and big boxes.  Texas size quantities suitable for feeding armies.  This might be great for big families, but for just my wife and I it always seems to border on the ridiculous.

         Sometimes I've seen the Indian couple that run the convenience store where I sometimes stop to grab a lottery ticket shopping at Costco for goods to supply their store.  After a run to Costco I look at my shelves and cupboards and wonder if maybe I should put a sign on my front door and open a neighborhood grocery. We could probably do it except I don't want a bunch of weirdo neighbors wandering through my house buying toilet paper and canned goods.

         This is ridiculous.  I've got more sardines and endamame nuts than any reasonable person should ever have.  What do you do with endamame anyway?  They looked kind of tasty and I had heard that they were supposed to be healthy, but I guess I shouldn't experiment with five pounds of weird little soybeans that I've never tasted before.  Well, at least I like the chocolate covered almonds that came in the seven pound jar.

       Then there's the five hundred and fifty square feet of aluminum foil.  After I wrap the outside of my house in it I should still have plenty left over for kitchen use.  I hardly ever use aluminum foil, but that was the only quantity they had.  Well, that is, unless I wanted to get those rolls that are like three feet long and then you still have to buy two rolls of them which is probably seven hundred square feet or so.

          Since I got the foil, then I had to also get the giant packages of plastic wrap.  There's so much plastic wrap that my wife and I could have each wrapped ourselves up in it--don't ask me why, we just could have.  Why heck, we could have had the weird neighbors come over and all of us wrapped up in plastic wrap and toilet papered the whole neighborhood.  Then after we were done we could have sat around drinking instant breakfast and eating chocolate cake.

           Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that chocolate cake.  I see those chocolate cakes everytime we go to Costco and I threaten my wife that I'm going to buy one.  Well, since my birthday's this Saturday my wife went ahead and bought a chocolate cake.  She'll help me eat it, but guess what I'm going to be eating for lunch and dinner for the next few days.  If you guessed chocolate cake and instant breakfast you're close.  You forgot endamame nuts-- I'll have to eat a few of those as well.

           Breakfast is covered.  I got the institutional size carton of eggs and four pounds of bacon.  You can't buy just one pound of bacon at Costco.  You have to buy four one pound packages wrapped in plasic wrap.  At least they found some use for their plastic wrap.

            So now my cupboards are pretty full.  The only problem is that they are mostly full of the same things.  At least we have food.  The coffee and sugar should last a few months.  I'll have four meals of corned beef hash (they have some great canned corned beef hash at Costco).   And my wife has seventy bottles of water--I say my wife because I drink water out of the tap.  I never could figure out that thing about buying water.   And just in case my buddy, Stephen McCarthy, ever stops by to visit I've restocked my supply of Grand Marnier.  And if he doesn't ever stop by then I guess my wife and I will wrap ourselves in plastic wrap one night and drink it ourselves.  Whoopee!   What a wild party!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blog Boggled: First Impressions

        Do you remember when you first met your blog?  Was it love at first sight?  Or did it take some time for you to get know and understand and fully appreciate your blog?   Are you still in the courting stages?  Or do you now just take your blog for granted?  Even worse, is your blog beginning to annoy you, become a burden to you, or just isn't the same blog you fell in love with in the beginning?

        I'm still happily married to my blog (note to my wife-- please don't be jealous, my blog could never take the place in my life that you occupy) and I'm trying to keep my writer-blog relationship healthy.  But maintaining that relationship is ongoing work and takes a great deal of time and patience.   A blog is an investment of talents, emotions, and time.

       As I continue reading other blogs, I continue to find others posing the same questions and pondering the same thoughts that I have been looking at over my past several Blog Boggled Mondays (if you have not been following, you can search back through my archived articles for other articles about blogging).  There are several good posts that others have done, one of my favorites being a series of excellent posts by JODY HEDLUND, who has several really fine posts on the subject.  Today KATIE GANSHERT is supposed to be posting her take on some blogging issues -- you may wish to check out what she has to say.  There are many others who have discussed this same issue and if you are one of those please give the link to yours in the comments to this post or direct us to other sites on the same topic.

        Blog Science is how I've been thinking of it.  That is a study of how blogging works and how it relates to the human mind.  In addition to science it is also art.  There is the literary aspect of the written blog and the visual artistic aspect of the photo blogs and the other visual art blogs.  There are culinary blogs and craft blogs, mommy and daddy blogs and grandparent blogs,  cat blogs and dog blogs, and now here I'm talking about blog blogs.  There is no end -- you name it and somebody will blog it.  The real question that many of us want answered is who will read these blogs and what will keep them coming back.

         Like when meeting someone for the first time, blog first impressions have a big impact.  Something either catches your eye to attract you, repels you to make you look elsewhere, or makes you feel so indifferent that it makes little impact.  And it's different for different people.  Initially most of us are drawn in by some sort of visual stimulation -- pictures, colors, fancy borders and wallpaper, movement, sparkle, and so on-- but once you get past that does the blog really have anything to offer.

          Personally, yes I'm captivated at first by glitz and gimmickry, but once the novelty has worn off I want there to be something there to keep me interested.  If I'm looking for information, that's what I want.  If I want something to read, then give me something to read.  When I pick up a book to read, I don't expect fancy borders on the pages or pictures everywhere unless that's part of the purpose of the book.  I'm not condemning anyone's blog because I am amazed by some of the things I see on some of these sites.  Granted I'm easily impressed when it comes to technology and I don't know how to do a lot of this stuff I see, but I haven't found anything I'll sit and look at for hours because I am looking for content to feed my intellectual curiosity.  If you grab me, then you need to hold on to me.

           I will continue to explore this in future posts perhaps, but I really want some opinions.  What grabs you when go to a new blog and what keeps you coming back?   How does a blog win you over?  Do you still like your blog?  How has your blog changed from when you first started it until now?  What kinds of changes would you like to make to your blog in the future?  What kinds of changes do you think I should make to TOSSING IT OUT?   Say whatever you like.  I want some real honest information, so get tough!

Update:   Robyn Campbell also asks why we blog on her post for today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

God Can Fix That

           There has been so much in the news of late about the suffering in Haiti.  Sometimes we wonder why God permits terrible things to happen in this world.  On a smaller scale, this past week I have dealt with some severe back pains which several times virtually incapacited me.  Therefore, I have kept some of my blog posts shorter that in the past.  Today's post will be no exception.  I have gotten some painkillers after a visit to the emergency room yesterday.  I was assured that the pain was not anything serious, but I would probably have some discomfort over the next week or two.  Then I see on TV about the people left homeless, with loss of loved ones, in pain and suffering on the streets of Haiti and realize how petty my own problems are in comparision.  Praise God for the blessings we receive every day!

            Here are just a few verses that I have been pondering over and I wanted to share them with you:

 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Romans 8:17-18 (NIV)

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Romans 8:20-22 (NIV)

When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, a man cannot discover
anything about his future.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NIV)

 He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you."
Exodus 15:26 (NIV)

 Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Proverbs 4:5 (NIV)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding
Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Is Only A Summation of the Week That Was and a Preview of Things to Come

          The rains came with a vengeance here in Southern California this week.  Of course rainfall is always something that this part of the United States needs desperately whenever we can get it, but it sure can create some hardship for us as well.  Fortunately, where I live we didn't face any flooding, just cooler temperatures than we are accustomed to and wet, wet, wet.  Top that off with one painful backache and I was in the house most of the time and in bed more than usual.  I was not in much of a writing mood so I hope my blog posts didn't suffer.

            My Monday post in the Blog Boggled series, This Is Only A Test started a titular thematic trend for the rest of the week--I always try to have a good time.  Seeing how I have been getting a good response on the topic of blogging I am going to continue discussing it this coming Monday.  After all, if you're like me, you probably like to discover ways that improve your blog act and I like to just toss out a little seed for thought for all of us Blog Birds.  You also might want to check out Jody Hedlund's post from yesterday.   She has also posted about this topic over the past several weeks.  Katie Ganshert also said she's posting on this topic on Monday.  It should be interesting to compare and contrast what we are all saying--I'll be looking at Katie's post on Monday for sure.       
       Tuesday I was in a playful mood with This Is Only A Game .  No one asked to play along but seems like a few of you enjoyed watching me play.  Well, I had fun, despite my backache.  We'll see what kind of fun we can come up with this Tuesday.

          Many of you came to visit me in my home writing space on Wednesday's post, This Is Only An Office .  I enjoy visitors and the post is still there for you to check out if you missed the original tour.  I wonder where we can go and who we can see this coming Wednesday?  You'll just have to stop by to see.

               This past Thursday I vented with some somewhat touchy topics perhaps.  I hope I didn't offend anybody but I was just thinking aloud.  In fact, I almost deleted This Is Only A Question and then I thought, no, this is what was on my mind and I might as well see what others think.  Well, some of you gave me some good opinions and I thank you for that.  If anyone else wants to toss their two cents in the bucket you can still do it cause I'm still listening.  Hmmm-- Wonder what will be bugging me this coming week?

            Yesterday, I ventured back into my inner realm as I experimented with This Is Only A Dream .  Regular readers already know that I have a strong interest in dreams.  The world of the sleeper is a peculiar place that I will probably return to frequently.  Let me know if you think it's a place you don't really need to know about.  Was anyone curious about the radio photo?  Nobody really said anything if they were?

              And so the rain continues off and on and is predicted to be with us until next Tuesday.   I don't mind the rain so much, but this darn backache is definitely something I could do without.  The only real advantage to the rain and the backache is that I'm probably going to read through the entire Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME .   If you're thinking I got the backache from carrying that book, well I didn't-- I didn't pick the book up until I realized that my back felt better if I was lying down-- a perfect time to read.

            Incidentally, the photos on this post were all taken out of the windows of my home during the storm days.  It isn't exactly like the sunrise pictures I put up on Wednesday, but they still look pretty nice.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This Is Only A Dream (Morning of 1/21/2010)

          I am traveling somewhere in the middle of the United States-- Oklahoma perhaps.  I am caravaning with a traveling show, but I have been separated from the other vehicles.  However, I know where I am going in the dream, but I don't recall where that is in my world of wakefulness.  I am with my wife and a baby.

           At some point in our journey we go through a town where I've been before.  I don't really remember anything I see here from my past visit, I only know that I've been here before.  We are in a small car that has a small trunk.  The rear left window is part way down and I stop the car to roll it up.  The window will not roll up and I begin trying to push it up by hand.  When I push against the window, the glass breaks and the shards fall to the ground.  

          Concerned that I should clean up the broken glass, I go up to the door of a house that we are stopped in front of so I can get a bag into which I can put the broken glass.  A man, whom I perceive to be Hispanic,  answers the door.  The man invites me inside his house and tells me to follow him.  As I enter the house I am surprised about how spacious and lavish the interior is.  From the outside the house looked very small and plain.  Inside the rooms are large and pleasant with very fine furniture and decor.

          As I walk through the house I see about six other people, all women,  who are engaged in conversations. I know these are his wife, daughters, and perhaps some friends or relatives.  First, in a open bedroom that I can see directly in front of me as I enter the front door, there are three young women sitting on a large bed talking.  The bed is neatly made and has a flowery decorated comforter with  matching bed decorations.  The furniture is traditional in style and new looking.  The room is very clean and neat, as is the entire interior of the house.

       In another room, perhaps a dining or sitting area, I see three other women milling about apparently preparing a meal.  I continue to follow the man to a den or family room where there is a young man or teenager working on what appears to be radio equipment.  The young man is supposed to give me something to put my broken glass into.  He hands me a stack of about five small flimsy white boxes and some pieces of metal that look like they might have come from his radio project.

       I return outside to my car and realize that the boxes will serve no purpose for helping me dispense with the broken glass.   I open the trunk and place the broken glass pieces, along with the boxes and metal which I have been given, into the trunk of the car.  I notice that the car trunk is very small and would not hold very much.  Then it occurs to me that we are traveling, but we have no suitcases or anything else with us.

       I then woke up.  The room was cold and I had a very uncomfortable backache.  I thought about what I had experienced before waking.  I realized it was only a dream, but I lay in bed for a while thinking about it.  Then I drifted back to sleep and continued dreaming-- incoherenly, unmemorably.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This Is Only A Question

           Why do you jump on bandwagons?

        .....Or do you?  In some cases we all do unless we're just totally antisocial, and even then we are emulating somebody elses behavior or maybe even rejecting the behavior of the norm. None of us have been born and are living in a vacuum.  We all are influenced by others and in turn have influence upon others.  It's called society and that's where we live.

           Before I go any further I should establish the definition of the idiom "jumping on a bandwagon" in case there are any readers who are not familiar with the saying.  What it means is to follow a trend, a fad, or an ideology that many others are following.  It is following the crowd and doing what we perceive to be popular or is what "everyone else is doing".  And in today's society there are so many bandwagons to jump onto.

          The "bandwagon" may be a politcal movement, a popular culture fad, a favorite sports team or athlete, a dietary fad, or any other mass social movement that amasses a following.  Sometimes following the crowd makes sense.  Cheering the local sports team during playoffs or supporting your country when threatened by enemies are understandable inclinations.  Joining up with others who share your just cause makes sense because there is strength in numbers  and the more the merrier (to use a couple of cliches).

          However there are some movements that I really question what kind of critical thinking has been involved.  Recently, Pat Robertson was almost universally condemned for his statement about Haiti having been cursed because of choices the people of the nation had made over the years.  Immediately angry voices began assailing Robertson for his saying that God had brought the earthquake as a judgement upon Haiti. Did I miss something here?  Is that what he said?  Or did Robertson's timing in stating something he could have said a month ago just create another convenient reason to criticize him and Christians in general?  What I found sad is that many people who should be defending the cause of Christianity, jumped on this bandwagon to join in on the condemnation of Pat Robertson.

        Another example of movement joining where I really question judgement is some of the fads that take hold.  Often younger people will join in on a faddish movement so as not to be left out of whatever group by whom they want to be accepted.  Dress styles and musical tastes are typical ways that people use to identify what they represent.  One fad that I question is tattooing.  Where is the practicality involved in tattooing?  I know that some people whom I love very dearly have tattoos so if you are reading this please don't take offense--you probably already know that I don't like the tattoos but I love you.  I just want to know what purpose there is to paying money to mark your skin with a tattoo.  Who do you want to impress?  Who are they following?

         Is it really so important to have to conform to a particular standard to be accepted by a particular group?  And here I am refering to traditonal conformity as well as untraditional non-conformity.  I include anything from cowboy boots to business suits.  What bandwagons to you feel obligated to jump on?  How do you dare to be different?   Do you feel weird when you stand out in a crowd or do you embrace your uniqueness?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This Is Only An Office (My Personal Workspace)

                          View of Sunrise from my home office.

         Some of you have posted views of your workspace-- the place where you do much of your writing.  On today's post I thought I'd get a little pictorial as well and show some photos of my home office. 

    This is the first view you get of my office when you reach the end of the hall and the enterance to the room.  Most recently this was the bedroom of my youngest daughter, Angelina. 


      Here are my files and a part of my office library.
The windows face east and capture the first sunlight which provides nice natural lighting and a pleasant morning warmth. 

The sleeper sofa was what Angelina wanted instead of a bed.  That left me with a nice place for guests to sit when they visit me in my office.  On rare occasions I sit here to read, watch television, or even take a nap.

             My office library consists of books about writing, reference books, bibles and religious books, and other miscellaneous books that I enjoy.  The television is very rarely on--it's another thing leftover from when Angelina was staying here.

This is my desk.  I have a  CD player / radio beside me.  I usually like to listen to classical music if I'm writing.  I like other types of music but I find it too distracting when I write.  My office is very comfortable, well lit, and quiet.  I have just about everything I need within reach or very nearby.  I am extremely pleased and thankful to have such a wonderful place to work.

             Here is a close up of the top of one of my file cabinets. There are a couple of momentos of Tennessee.  I really like globes and maps.  I have several atlases and miscellaneous maps in my office.  I'm surprised I don't have some maps on the wall yet.

 This is a portion of the rug that covers most of the floor.  My wife originally picked it out for our living room, but it has now ended up on my office floor.

              Thank you for stopping by to visit.  I know you have to go, but I hope that one day you can stop in and stay for awhile so we can chat.  I'll look forward to your visit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This Is Only A Game (How Do You Feel About That?)

           Yes, I am a sucker for games--certain games that is, like trivia related and word games.  I don't care too much for those internet games like Farmville.  I started a farm, but everytime I planted crops or accepted the animals people gave me, when I would go back to it the crops were all dead and the animals escaped. I guess if I'm going to devote time to farming I'd rather get a real farm and try to make an income from it.

            What I do enjoy is a few hours with friends or loved ones playing games and enjoying the fun and conversation of just being together.  Scrabble is always one of my favorites if I can find companions who are willing to play.  As a writer I suppose I am just naturally drawn to words.

          Then there is the psychologist part of me.  When I first started going to college my original major was psychology.  Something I used to enjoy was playing word association with my friends.  In case you're not familiar with this psychological testing process, the tester provides a word to the patient who must provide the first word that comes to their mind.  There is some significance to what they answer but the actual usefulness is probably questionable since the test is so dependent on a number different variables --probably vary similar to dream interpretation.  But it is interesting to see what the responses are and it does make a somewhat fun game to play with others.

           So my interest in word association being what it is, I was naturally drawn to a post I saw on Sol's blog,  The Window to My Sol .  This little blog exercise is called the Five Word Association Meme.  You may have seen it before since it has apparently been travelling the blog circuit for some time.  The premise is that you get five trigger words and respond with the first word that comes to mind.

         And now, thanks to Sol, here are the five words she gave me for the Five Word Association Meme, my responses, and my explanations as to why these came to mind first:

fierce:   warrior --- the word warrior just seemed to follow the description.  Fierce is a very graphic adjective and I immediately pictured a muscular warrior adorned in feathers and leather garb, brandishing a spear and baring his teeth in a fearsome manner.

snake:   Betty--  Betty is my wife and she is terrified of snakes.  If she sees a snake in a movie she hides her eyes until I assure her it's okay to look. I am my wife's protector and snakes are one of the things from which I provide her protection  I don't really like snakes that much, but I don't mind seeing them.  I could write pages about snakes since I have a lot of snake stories in my life.  Snakes are strange and fascinating animals and I have had an interest in them since childhood.

cook:     restaurant ---  I go to restaurants far too much-- it's one of the money-sucking vices that my wife and I have.  She doesn't like to cook and I don't cook as much as I used to when our kids lived at home.  I've always done most of the cooking in our household.  But much of the time I go out to eat because I'd just rather have someone else cook and clean up for me.

bliss:   fort ---okay, I know there's a Fort Bliss around El Paso, TX because I've seen the signs for it when I've passed through there.  I guess I could have thought of "marital bliss" but instead I thought of something militaristic.  What does that say about me?  Perhaps some of the most blissful times that my wife and I have had have been on our long trips we've taken.   We always have had so much fun and feel so happy driving across our beautiful United States.  And we get to eat in restaurants when we're travelling.

tomato:     sauce --- My mother makes some great spagetti sauce which requires canned tomatos, tomato sauce, and tomato paste with a number of other ingrediants.  I really like tomatos a lot, by themselves or as a part of something else.  But a good tomato sauce evokes some wonderful memories of childhood and my mother's home and pizza.

        There you go, you can make your analysis about me if you wish.  But I enjoyed that.  My mind was working to the point that I could have written lengthy essays about any of these words.  It's really a great prompt for an exercise in writing.

          So now it's your turn.  If you'd like to play, let me know in the comments and I will give you 5 word association memes for you to play with.    Or if you wish you can go to Sol's blog and ask her to give them to you --but please let her know that you came from my blog.  Either way it's fun to play and it's a worthwhile writing game that can stimulate your writing mind.  Have fun!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blog Boggled: This Is Only A Test

       Testing.... 1, 2.3.....testing.  Can you hear me in the back?   Before a speaker or someone who is relying on a microphone begins whatever it is they are going to deliver to an audience, they usually will do a sound check to make sure that they will be heard when they deliver their presentation.  Blogging does not allow any sound check and we never really know who is going to show up to our blog presentations.  And without comments or tracking it's hard to tell if anybody did show up.

        I'm not especially scientifically minded, but I am intrigued by things like consumer surveys and the effectiveness of advertising.  I also like to see the lists like best selling books, top grossing movies, music charts, or anything that gives the results of how well received something was by its intended audience. That's probably why I am so fascinated by how effectively a blog is delivered to an intended audience, how it is received by the readers, how well it is followed and commented upon, and how it sustains life or eventually dies.  Blog Development and Marketing is what I suppose one would call it if it were a college course.

         Some of my posts have been strictly experimental, but hopefully not in anyway detrimental to the content of the material--I always try to post something substantive.  For example, after seeing many posts on other blogs about contests or free give aways, I thought I'd start with a similar come on to entice readers to look at my post last Thursday.  It was a tease--I wasn't really giving anything away--I just wanted to see if I could draw any more readers to the site with this approach.  Google Analytics, my hit tracker that I have installed on my site, said no, the hits went down from the previous day.  There were some excellent comments, but not more than average.  What does it all mean?  You tell me.  Maybe nothing much, but it was my experiment for the day and I thought the post was still reasonably informative.

          So I'll probably keep playing with this, but hopefully not at the cost of quality of content.  It's like when I was a kid:  If I got a toy that really fascinated me and I wondered how it worked, I would frequently take it apart, usually with a hammer, and see what was inside.  Hopefully I won't be as destructive with this blog, but I'm curious.  I am trying to learn something.  If any of you are doing the same thing, I'd like to swap some ideas, so I hope you will leave your comments if you have something to share.

          Tamara Heiner posted some good information on her blog, Chasing Dreams, the other day.  You may want to check it out and when you're there, leave a comment and let her know that I linked you there.
And while you're here at Tossing It Out please leave me a comment.  Anything will do.  I killed "capcha" like Tamara recommended--let me know if it worked okay.  Have you learned anything useful from Google Analytics or whatever tracking device or hit counter that you use?   This post has been shorter than most of mine:  Is that better?  Should it be even shorter?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Giving To God

          It's often said about churches and ministries that they're just out for our money.  This is such a common complaint that I've heard from people who don't go to church.  Granted there are some ministries that do scam for money, but overall I think those are the exception.  If you are a member of a church or even just an attender, you more than likely know what your church does. The question you should ask yourself is what are you doing for your church?

Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.
Deuteronomy 16:17 (NIV)

       It's amazing how blessed we in the United States are.   And so many Christians throughout the world have an outpouring of blessings in their lives.  So many Christians have cups that are running over and they can well afford to keep giving back to the loving God who has blessed them.  You know what you can afford.  And God knows what you can afford, but He leaves it up to you to decide.  Are you giving as much to do God's work as you give up for your own personal pleasure.  You're the one keeping the books and paying the bills.   Are you paying all of the bills that you have due?

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)

          Yes what you give is your decision, but how do you make your choices.  Take a look around you and then take a look at your own life.  Right now we are seeing the tremendous suffering in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake.  There is comparable suffering in many places in the world.  There is suffering in your own community.  Part of giving to God is giving what you can to help those who are suffering.  Give til it hurts, but keep a cheerful attitude. Your reward should not be acclamation from others, but the inner peace of knowing that you are giving to God.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

          Some people have a great deal and hide behind locked gates and security systems.  If they were to lose their material possessions, they might feel very sad and without value.  There is a greater value that we should place our focus upon and that is in the good that we do for others and the work that we do for God. No one can take away our heavenly rewards that await us, but we can choose to give them up.

"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV)

             There is an important principle at work in giving to God.  When we give to God, God gives back.  When we steal from God, we are under a curse.  The blessing from God will be abundant if we are in His will and doing His work.  If we are living a Godly life, we will understand the nature of His blessing--it may be very different than what we might have expected in living life for ourselves.

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV)

         Giving doesn't just mean money either.  It can also mean your time, your service, your property, or whatever else you have to give.  Remember that a church is like a business.  Buildings must be maintained, personnel must be paid,  utility bills must be addressed.   Even if a church consisted of just some people meeting outside or in a home, someone would have to be contributing time and service.  Even a poor church can give of themselves to be in the service of God.  Maybe they won't be blessed with an abundance of worldly riches, but they are storing up treasures in heaven.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)

            When you start worrying about the sacrifices you think you're making for God, remember the sacrifice God made for you.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What's Happening Here?

           I've been continuously experimenting  with my blog to see what works and what doesn't.  I check my Analytics tracking results daily to see if I can understand what's happening.  Maybe I need to keep careful records to do this scientifically, but I look and guess.  I'm guessing that I haven't come to any real conclusion.

           Blog-boggled is what I've been calling it.  Each Monday for the past several weeks I've been posting my thoughts about the topic of blogging.  This past Monday's post got the most comments of any post so far if I'm not mistaken.  Why?  I've got some thoughts and I guess I will continue at least one more episode of Blog Boggled this coming Monday.   Let me know if you get sick of the topic -- or maybe Analytics will let me know.

          Then Tuesday I went from big response to much smaller response  -- my hits to the site went down by nearly 50%.  If you didn't read the post, please check out  CHRISTMAS AWAY FROM HOME and tell me what was wrong.  Was it "Christmas" in the title?  Or was the story a downer like Stephen McCarthy suggested?  I really liked this post, but maybe it was too personal like Carrie was talking about yesterday in her blog post.   Let me know if you have an opinion about this.

         The popular pictoral series about My Mom's A Dancer sent the hits back up.  Not sure what I'll do for this coming Wednesday, but I may continue with some more memoirs with pictures. 

           My real experiment this past week was my Thursday post on scams .  I did not get the response I had hoped for, but I thought I was pretty creative with this idea and I'll talk about this some on my Blog Boggled post on Monday.

           Dreaming is one of my favorite topics of all and once again on Friday I stayed with the topic of dreams.  Had a little guessing game that I hoped would have had more participants and I will be posting the answers in the comments for that post tomorrow.  Should I do more dreams next Friday?  I probably will unless the crowds become unruly and clamor for me not to.

        What about the Tenth Annual Weblog awards also known as The Bloggies?  Is anyone following these or voting for these?  Have events in Haiti disrtracted you from blog activity?  Do you think that Pat Robertson is an insensitve jerk?  Or did you actually grasp the meaning of what he was saying before the media and the blabbering fools on YouTube distorted his statement?  Did I pack enough ideas into this last paragraph that could provide fodder for two or more blog posts?