Friday, March 31, 2006

A somber anniversary...but life and hope continue

This has been a rather sad week, with the deaths of two wonderful young women locally, and now the anniversary of the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo.

Regardless of where you stand on the "pulling the plug" debate, I cannot understand how anyone can assert that Terri Schiavo was treated humanely in her death. I personally believe that baby seals and lab animals routinely get better treatment, and in some quarters much more compassion and sympathy than did Terri Schiavo--or her parents, for that matter.

As far as I'm concerned, if Terri's parents wanted to take care of her for the rest of her life, regardless of her condition, then WHY NOT???? Maybe I'm too simplistic. I just don't get it.

If anything redeeming has come out of the whole thing, it is the fact that the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation has dedicated itself to sparing other disabled Americans the kind of death she endured.

David Gibbs III

To mark this anniversary, I'd appreciate it if you'd read my June 2005 interview with Schindler family attorney David Gibbs III.

In the meantime, despite the sadness that surrounds us in this fallen world, we can have joy. God is still on the throne, and He is sovereign and gracious.

Have a blessed weekend!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

We are not home yet

Every news story about death is sad, but there are certain stories that hit closer to home than others. I had to report on such a story today.

Two young women who were involved in Rockford's Master's Commission* program were killed in a traffic accident yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Katie Prosopio, 19, and Wendi Watson, 20.

My co-host, Darren Marlar, has blogged about this beautifully. Do take a moment to read Darren's post if you can.

A Master's Commission spokeswoman tells me the girls were both "wonderful people" who had missionary plans. She mentioned Wendi's "grit and determination" that kept her going despite financial obstacles. Wendi wanted to go on a missions trip to Sri Lanka, but couldn't afford it, so she put together a benefit concert to raise funds for the trip.

That concert was supposed to take place this Friday. Now, it's uncertain if the concert will go forward. It could possibly end up being a combination memorial service/worship service in Wendi's memory.

Katie was described as "the epitome of the fruits of the Spirit." She planned to go to India as a missionary, and start an orphanage.

In one of those strange twists of what some call fate and others call God's providence, the driver of the truck is also a Christian. Joy McCarnan tells me that William (Terrell) Goodwin is a faithful and well-loved member of Morning Star Baptist Church in Rockford. Although he was not at fault in the accident, he also needs our prayers as, in Joy's words, it's "emotionally painful to be involved in such a thing."

Joy writes, "We don't understand why God so clearly took these girls' lives, or why He so clearly spared Terrell, but we have to be awed at His sovereign ordaining of everything that happened yesterday morning."

We closed our morning show today with Steven Curtis Chapman's We Are Not Home Yet:

"From one who's seen the view
And dreamt of staying on the mountains high
And one who's cried like you
Wanting so much just to lay down and die
I offer this, we must remember this

We are not home yet
We are not home yet
Keep on looking ahead
Let your heart not forget
We are not home yet
Not home yet"

*Master's Commission is a program aimed at providing students with a nine-month opportunity to pursue God and follow his commission without distraction. Read more about the program's vision here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My interview with Deborah Bedford

Listen to an excerpt

A few months ago, I interviewed a wonderful writer named Deborah Bedford about her novel, Remember Me.

Embarrassingly, I did something I make it a rule never to do...I interviewed Deborah BEFORE I had finished the book. The good news is, I have now finished the book, and I truly enjoyed it.

The book centers around Sam Tibbits, a bachelor pastor who can't seem to forget the childhood sweetheart with whom he's lost contact. As problems swirl in his pastoral and personal life, he decides to take his troubled nephew and make his way back to the quaint Oregon seaside village where he spent his childhood summers...only to find that his childhood sweetheart has also returned.

There are complications, of course. And how Sam (who is a very likable protagonist) deals with them is both absorbing and faith-affirming.

And I love Deborah Bedford's writing. It's lovely and evocative, and makes you feel the wet sand squishing between your toes and hear the cry of the sea-gulls.

Deborah was a delightful interviewee, with a ready laugh and a sparkling personality.

You can listen to an excerpt of our interview below:

Friday, March 24, 2006

Happy 25th anniversary to me!

It's hard to believe, but yesterday I celebrated my 25th anniversary of working here at 101QFL.

Yes, I was 10 years old when I started here. :)

Not really. I was 24 years old, a young wife and the mom of an almost-one-year-old baby boy. (I started out only working four hours in the afternoon, but I still cried when he waved good-bye to me as I dropped him off at the babysitter's on March 23, 1981.)

I was still apparently young and pretty enough to get out of a speeding ticket when a cop stopped me on my way to my first day. "Officer, I'm sorry! I'm on my way to a new job, and I just wasn't paying attention to the speed limit..."

I had worked for three years at KWFC in Springfield, Missouri. I was so excited to be working in Christian radio again. If someone had told me that day that I would still be working here in 25 years' time, I probably wouldn't have believed them. But I have to say that I've enjoyed most of my time here.

The news director who hired me, Wes Bleed, is now the news director at WGN Radio in Chicago. He was a terrific news director and I learned a lot from him during the short time we worked together. I respect him deeply and enjoy occasionally hearing him on WGN.

Brian Wright, who was the program director at 101QFL for a while, is now a consultant for the station, and he has the distinction of being probably the only consultant whose advice I fully respect and who I thoroughly like! Brian was always brimming with creativity and chutzpah, and even in 1981 he was ahead of his time.

Ron Tietsort, the general manager at the time and now operations manager of our sister-station, Radio 91, is the only employee who pre-dates me at the station. I still enjoy working with him as I do the news for Radio 91.

To give you some insight on how things have changed in the past 25 years:

*When I first came here, I typed my news stories on a manual (yes, MANUAL!) typewriter. I remember being thrilled when the newsroom got an electric! I now have a computer complete with AP news and SounDesk as well as the Internet.

*We recorded our interviews on reel-to-reel and transferred them to cartridges. My soundbites are now all recorded onto my computer (from mini-disc if necessary.)

*I sat through lengthy county board and city council meetings in order to garner a few minutes of soundbites. 101QFL is now a music-intensive station whose focus has shifted away from a heavy emphasis on news, so such coverage would no longer be a wise time investment.

*I used to truly enjoy covering murder trials and calling in reports to the station. One of the most exciting things that has happened to me as a reporter was when I was covering the trial of accused murderer Ray Lee Stewart. At one point, he escaped from a guard on his way to the courtroom and was shot by law enforcement authorities before being on the loose for a few hours. I and a TV reporter were the only people in the courtroom at the time, waiting for the trial to resume after a recess, and we got the story to our respective stations before anyone else.

*When I first came here, the station was in a residential neighborhood that wasn't close to any retail or food places. We had to travel a ways to even go to McDonald's, and what is now a major thoroughfare (Riverside Boulevard) was just a two-lane road. Now, the station is in prime real estate surrounded by every sort of business and eatery.

*Brian Wright and other staffers used to do their best to crack me up while I was on the air. I usually managed to make it through the newscast, but then I would completely lose it as soon as the mic was turned off!

*I started working on March 23rd, 1981, but I was scheduled to go on the air for the first time on Monday, March 30th. However, a certain event called a presidential assassination attempt pre-empted me! Yes, that was the day President Reagan was shot. We went with ABC Network News, and I never made it on the air that day.

There are a lot of great--and not-so-great--memories. General managers who were complete jerks, and a few who were wonderful. A long list of DJ's and support staff for whom I will always feel affection. Many colleagues--like Mike Marino, Mike Schlote, Joel Griffith, Randy Adams, Joe Buchanan and Chris Carmichael--who I still miss to this day. Others with whom I'm now working, like Darren Marlar,help make radio a continous joy for me.

I don't know how much longer I'll be in radio...maybe as long as the Lord gives me a voice and a mic to speak into! But to all who have worked alongside me this past 25 years, and all who have listened to me, thanks for the memories.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Will the real Mary Magdalene please stand up?

"Mary Magdalene has suffered from two thousand years of bad press."--
Liz Curtis Higgs

With the huge popularity of the book, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and now the imminent release of the movie based on the book, I think it's important to examine the real Mary Magdalene.

Two Christian books--one recently released, one from a few years back--are well worth reading to discover the truth about this much-maligned and misunderstood woman.

I recently read and reviewed Angela Hunt's Magdalene. You can read my review here and listen to it here.

Though fictional, Angela's book reflects what we actually know about the historical Mary Magdalene.

Unveiling Mary

The second book is Unveiling Mary Magdalene by one of my very favorite authors, Liz Curtis Higgs.

I just got off the phone with Liz...I was interviewing her about her recent novel, Grace in Thine Eyes. But I couldn't resist asking her, as someone who has done a great deal of research on Mary Magdalene, what she thinks of DaVinci Code-type fallacies that have arisen about the woman...such as the "fact" that she and Jesus were romantically involved with each other.

"Mary Magdalene has suffered from two thousand years of bad press," Liz tells me, "and for several reasons. First of all she's from Magdala, which was a bad town...the town known for fabric, feathers, fish and fallen women. And so when you have a woman with a history like Mary' demons...and make her from a town like Magdala...well, sometimes a town can taint a reputation!"

Another point of confusion about Mary, says Liz, is the multiplicity of Marys in the Bible. "The Mary stories sometimes get confused. You throw in the sinful woman who anointed Jesus feet with her tears; she has no name, but people who often confuse her with Mary of Bethany, who also anoints Jesus' feet.

"...Even in The Passion of the Christ we saw Mary [incorrectly] as the woman taken in adultery who was about to be stoned."

As for what Higgs calls "the DaVinci Code problem"--suggesting that Mary and Jesus had, in Higg's words, "a thing going on"--Liz says, "I'll give you one place of scripture to look to absolutely discount that, and that is when Mary, in John 20, is outside of the tomb, and Jesus speaks her name. She turns around and says, 'Rabboni,' which means 'my great teacher.' That pivotal moment establishes what the relationship was."

Higgs also stresses that the Bible never even hints that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, a misunderstanding that Higgs believes goes back to the "too many Marys" confusion.

If you'd like to know more about the fallacies of The Da Vinci Code, go to Liz's website and click on DeCoding DaVinci, where Higgs compares the controversial book with what the Bible says.

"I'm on a mission," says Liz. "I wrote that book [Unveiling Mary Magdalene]in 2001, long before DaVinci ever came out...and you know, I've always been such Mary fan, I hate to see her so dissed."

Look for a transcript of my interview with Liz about Grace In Thine Eyes sometime soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An un-put-downable book...

I've said before that the true test of a really good book is how late I stay up reading it when I should be sleeping.

Well, last night I was up waaay past my bedtime because I simply couldn't put down The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney, by Randy Singer.

I've read a few of Randy's books before--Dying Declaration, Irreparable Harm, Self Incrimination--and really liked them.

In my opinion, Randy (who happens to be a lawyer as well) is right up there with John Grisham when it comes to legal suspense--maybe even better in some respects. His writing is crisp, fast-paced, reader-friendly--laced with humor and imbued with spiritual insight.

But Singer's latest, The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney, takes the cake. From page one, the reader is on a thrill ride of suspense and intrigue that doesn't stop until the very last page. Through it all, Singer manages to make a strong apologetics-style case for Christianity and weave an entertaining subplot that has to do with the fascinating subject of codes and code-breaking.

This book is actually a companion piece to Singer's nonfiction book, The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ, which I haven't read yet...but which is also featured throughout the fiction book. Confused? You won't be when you read the fiction book, which I highly recommend.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Where are you, Tilly Cryar?

In a tiny little sliver on my FM radio dial resides a very unique little radio station. In a day when most radio stations (including the wonderful ones I work for) have decided that you must narrowcast and niche-market in order to be your best, this little low-power station throws out all the rules and plays whatever it wants, mixing Christian music with secular and with no apparent obeisance to any sort of rigid playlist.

WTPB LP is owned by Third Presbyterian Church of Rockford, and broadcasts out of Rockford College. My daughter discovered it during one of her many channel-surfing sessions. Like me, she loves the old that you just don't hear on the radio anymore...but you hear it on WTPB.

As of now, WTPB doesn't have live announcers. The music they play is apparently pre-recorded and played over and over again on a loop, punctuated only by brief recorded comments by Third Presbyterian's Pastor Murray Hanson.

So, my daughter and I kept hearing this lovely young female voice, singing classics like "At Last," "Baby it's Cold Outside" and "The Way You Look Tonight." We fell in love with this voice and its style, which manages to be nostalgic and retro, fresh and youthful all at the same time.

Who WAS this girl? We had to know, but WTPB doesn't back announce song titles or artists, so we had no way of knowing.


I have a slight acquaintance with Pastor Murray Hanson, having interviewed him a couple of times in the distant past for one reason or another. I got so curious about this artist that I called him up on the phone and just asked him.

He laughed and said, "You know, you're about the fifth or sixth person to ask me that. Her name is Tilly Cryar, and her album is called 'A Kind of Daydream.'" Pastor Hanson said that Tilly is actually one of his favorites as well.

Well, we checked out Tilly's website, and found out a couple of things. First of all, A Kind of Daydream was recorded about two years ago, and as far as I can find out, she hasn't recorded anything since.

Secondly, her dad is none other than Christian singer Morgan Cryar, who we played here on 101QFL a LOT during the 80's.

Apparently Morgan was amazed to discover his daughter's talent: "I was walking through the hall one day and heard this sound. I was stopped in my tracks because it was too live and naked to be a recording but it sounded like some classic 40’s record."

They decided to put together an album before Tilly headed off to David Lipscomb University in Nashville, where I assume she is still attending college.

You can hear samples of Tilly's songs here. If you love the old, romantic standards, you may be as charmed by Tilly's voice as my daughter and I were.

The only thing is, the website doesn't appear to have been updated since October 2004. I would love to know what's happening with Tilly and if she'll be recording again. Tilly, if you read this, give me a holler!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

...these are a few of my favorite Irish-related things...

(I hope you'll forgive me, but I said everything I wanted to say about St. Paddy's Day in my post a year ago, so the following is a re-post!)

It took me years to realize that a lot of people use St. Paddy's Day as an excuse to party and get drunk. The day still has happy connotations for me of being a kid in school and making sure I was wearing my green so I wouldn't get pinched. Just in case you forgot to wear green, though, you could also pin on a green construction-paper shamrock!

Now, I use it as an excuse to reflect on my Irish heritage, dream about visiting Ireland someday, and think about some of my favorite Irish-related things.

Maeve Binchy
Favorite Irish author: Maeve Binchy
I believe I've read all of Binchy's books to date, and there's not one I haven't enjoyed. Her breezy, humorous and casual style gives the reader the feeling that you're chatting with a good friend, but don't be fooled--her storytelling ability is impeccable. Among my favorites: Circle of Friends, Tara Road, and Light a Penny Candle.

B.J. Hoff
Favorite author who writes about the Irish: B.J. Hoff
It's no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I'm a major B. J. Hoff fan. Her Emerald Ballad series hooked me, and I've continued to be impressed by her absorbing tales which often feature Irish immigrants. When asked why, B. J. replied, "Well, who’s more interesting than the Irish, after all? There’s no danger of ever running out of stories about them!

"Seriously, I love writing about the people who built our nation—our ancestors—and there’s really no way to do that without writing about immigrants. And since the Irish immigrants played such a hugely important role in settling America—and since my own family tree is exceedingly 'green—' I chose years ago to focus on Irish characters."

(Click on the titles to read my reviews of B. J.'s Prelude and Cadence.)

Also, check out B.J.'s All Things Irish page on her website for some interesting facts.

Book that started my fascination with the Irish:

The Red Knights from Hy Brasil, by Christine Savery. I blogged about finding this beloved childhood book recently. I fell in love with mysterious and charismatic Shane O'Coghlin, one of the book's main characters, and in fact the book began my lifelong love affair with all things Irish.

OK, end of re-run...

And if you're interested, Saint Patrick's own testimony.

Have a happy St. Paddy's Day and a blessed weekend, everyone! (Oh...and by the way...Katy pleads with you to PLEASE not call it "St. Patty's Day"!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lord of the Princess Bride?

If you're a Lord of the Rings fan AND a Princess Bride fan (which happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time)...then double your pleasure, and your laughter, with "Is This a Kissing Book?"

Hat tip to Blest With Sons.

Thanks to all who commented...

...on my post about reading to your children. I'm encouraged that there are still many who make that a regular part of their children's lives.

One thing my post failed to address is using bedtime stories to reinforce biblical truths to your children. There's a lot of great literature out there aimed at doing just that, in a way that's appealing and enjoyable for your child. In fact, let me know if you can recommend any and I'll pass them along.

Check out The Crusty Curmudgeon's post on the subject. Among other things, he speculates about why many classic books, like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, are not on the lists.

"Little Women" was THE book that really introduced me to the joys of reading. I latched on to fiction at around age 8, and have never looked back!

Six months after Katrina...

...rebuilding efforts continue for Lakeshore Baptist Church, and weariness threatens to take its toll. "At times we feel the strong temptation to buckle under the overwhelming burden," writes Pastor Don Elbourne. But he's thankful for teams from around the country that have come to help in the ongoing efforts. Read more here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

In praise of the bedtime story

...and the Bestselling Children's Books of All Time

I was saddened to read this story (hat tip to my 101qfl co-host Darren Marlar) about the fact that reading bedtime stories to your children appears to be a dying tradition, at least according to a UK survey.

It's been many years since I read bedtime stories to my children, but I did it on a regular basis--and I'm convinced that's one of the reasons why all three of my kids enjoy reading to this day. (In this piece by my oldest son Jonathan, he reminisces about being read to--although I don't think I read the Chronicles of Narnia to him "every night." :))

To this day, I can remember bits and pieces of books I read to my kids. One was a well-worn Little Golden Book by Richard Scarry. Although I can't remember the title of the book, I can recite whole chunks of it to this day:

"On rainy days we stay indoors.
We have a lot of fun.
But there is so much work to do
When rainy days are done."

"We like to dress up wickedly.
We march to our ship...yo ho! yo hee!
And then we sail across the sea."

"When pots and pans are handy
A big parade is dandy."

And there was the page depicting a big bird--a seagull, I think--to which little Jonathan always pointed and said "Caw! Caw!"

Ah, sweet memories. If you don't read bedtime stories to your children, you're the one missing out. Although my kids are grown now, I can still feel how their little warm bodies felt, clean and pajama'd, encircled in my arm as I read to them.

And how, when I would try to condense a long story, they would never let me get away with it: "That's not how it goes, Mommy!"

Which is why I enjoyed reading them quirky, humorous books like those by Richard Scarry and Dr. Seuss.

The 100 Bestselling Children's Books

Which brings me to Publisher's Weekly's list of Bestselling Children's Books of all time.

There are actually two lists--hardcover and paperback---and I first went to the paperback list. I was puzzled that many children's favorites weren't on the list.

Then I went to the hardcover list, and apparently "Little Golden Books" count as hardcover, because there were several there that I remembered reading to my kids: "The Poky Little Puppy," "The Tawny Scrawny Lion," and several of my Dr. Seuss favorites.

Anyway, here are the top 100 on the paperback list (there are actually 150 on the list), and I've highlighted the ones I've read, and made notations on others.

Why not glance through the list and see how many you've read? Let me know in my comments section or on your own blog.

And check out The Crusty Curmudgeon's post on why he read girls' books as a boy.

(And if you like, read about some my OWN favorite childhood books here.)

Publisher's Weekly list of Bestselling Children's Books (paperback)

1.Charlotte's Web, E. B. White; illustrated by Garth Williams (1974)
2. The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton (1968)
3. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Judy Blume (1976)
4. Love You Forever, Robert Munsch; illustrated by Sheila McGraw (1986)
5. Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls (1973)
6. Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O'Dell (1971)
7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling (1999)
9. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, Judy Blume (1972)
10. Shane, Jack Schaeffer (1972)
11. The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks (1982)
12. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (1974) (I've heard so many good things about this book--I must read it)
13. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)(Interestingly, my sister, who didn't even like to read that much, was the Laura Ingalls Wilder fan in our family...the only one I read was:
14. Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)
15. The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford (1984)
16. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1968)
17. Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes (1969)(loved this book when I read it in school--tried to read it to my kids years later, and they hated it so much I had to stop)
18. Just Me and My Dad, Mercer Mayer (1977)
19. Go Ask Alice, Anonymous (1976)
20. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. J. K. Rowling (2000)
21. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Judy Blume (1976)
22. Blubber, Judy Blume (1976)
23. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare (1972)
24. Superfudge, Judy Blume (1981)
25. Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson (1987)
26. Freckle Juice, Judy Blume (1978)
27. On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)
28. That Was Then, This Is Now, S. E. Hinton (1972)
29. Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar (1985)
30. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger (1951)(!--this is a children's story?!)
31. Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)
32. Just Go to Bed, Mercer Mayer (1993)
33. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak (1984)
34. Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Clement Hurd (1977)
35. The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)
36. The Berenstain Bears' New Baby, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1974)(pretty sure I read this to one or more of my kids at one point)
37. By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)
38. Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)
39. The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1983)
40. The Pigman, Paul Zindel (1978)
41. The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1961)
42. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg (1973)
43. Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad, Mercer Mayer (1982)
44. Just Grandma and Me, Mercer Mayer (1975)
45. Just for You, Mercer Mayer (1975)
46. Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan (1987)(No, but loved the movie with Glenn Close and Christopher Walken)
47. When the Legends Die, Hal Borland (1984)
48. Bunnicula, James Howe (1980)
49. James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl; illustrated by Nancy Burkert (1988)
50. The Berenstain Bears Go to School, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1978)(may have read this one to my kids)
51. The Night Before Christmas, Clement Hurd; illustrated by Douglas Gorsline (1975)
52. These Happy Golden Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)
53. All By Myself, Mercer Mayer (1983)
54. Stuart Little, E. B. White; illustrated by Garth Williams (1974)
55. The First Four Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)
Hatchet, Gary Paulsen (1988)
56. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson (1979)
57. The Cay, Theodore Taylor (1970)
58. Kristy's Great Idea (Babysitters Club #1), Ann M. Martin (1986)
59. The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1985)
60. Then Again, Maybe I Won't, Judy Blume (1973)
61. I Was So Mad, Mercer Mayer (1983)
62. The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1984)
63. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1994)
64. The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1984)
65. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl (1988)(haven't seen the movie yet either, but my oldest son recommends it)
66. The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1985)
67. The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1985)
68. Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George (1974)
69. The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1981)
70. The Berenstain Bears and the Truth, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1983)
71. Gremlins, George Jipe (1984) OP
72. Stone Fox, John Gardner; illustrated by Marcia Sewall (1983)
73. I Just Forgot, Mercer Mayer (1988)
74. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz (1976)
75. How to Eat Fried Worms, Thomas Rockwell (1975)
76. The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Beverly Cleary (1980)
77. When I Get Bigger, Mercer Mayer (1983)
78. The Berenstain Bears in the Dark, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1982)
79. 500 Words to Grow On, Harry McNaught (1973)
80. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor (1984)
81. Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia, Peggy Parish; illustrated by Lynn Sweat (1987)
82. Number the Stars, Lois Lowry (1990)
83. Thee Trumpet of the Swan, E. B. White; illustrated by Edward Frascino (1973)
84. The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden; illustrated by Garth Williams (1970)
85. Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry (1956 0(a friend my age tells me this is the ONLY fiction book he's ever read!!! He loves it, by the way)
86. It's Not What You Expect, Norma Klein (1976) OP
87. Matilda, Roald Dahl; illustrated by Quentin Blake (1990)
88. The New Baby, Mercer Mayer (1983)
89. The Chocolate Touch, Patrick Catling (1984)
90. Corduroy, Don Freeman (1976) (I might have read this. Is it about a bear?)
91. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (1970)(One of my favorite books of all time. 1970? Maybe that was just one of the publishing dates)
92. The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1981)
93. The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight, Stan and Jan Berenstain (1982(might've read this one)
94. Sounder, William H. Armstrong (1972)
95. The Return of the Indian, Lynne Reid Banks (1987)
96. The Kitten Book, Jan Pfloog (1968)
97. Dinosaurs, Peter Zallinger (1977)
98. Wee Sing Children's Songs and Fingerplays (1977)
99. The Truck Book, Harry McNaught (1978)
100. Barney's Hats (1993)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Monday Madness

And time for the Monday Madness meme:

Using the letters in the word 'MONDAY,' list things that you do (or would like to do) in your spare time.

OK, some of these are kind of a stretch!

Making new recipes--I get in a rut!
Outdoors--as in "spending time in the"--IF the weather is nice!
Needlework--no, I don't do it now, but I'd love to learn!
Doing absolutely nothing--sometimes it's great to just be lazy
Airplane--as in flying on one to some wonderful location
Yo-yo-ing--Actually, this one isn't true at all. I have absolutely no desire to play with a yo-yo. Or to yodel, for that matter. And I'm not crazy about yoga. But hey, I had to finish the acrostic!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Listen to...or read... my review of Angela Hunt's "Magdalene"

Go here to listen to my review of Angela Hunt's Magdalene.

UPDATE: I'm now experiencing problems accessing this sound file on my computer. If you were able to successfully listen to it, PLEASE let me know!

Here is the written version:

Magdalene, by Angela Hunt

Review by Cindy Swanson

They say some of the best works of fiction are spun around the question, "What if...?"

In "Magdalene," Angela Hunt takes this question and crafts a riveting tale of revenge and redemption with Mary Magdalene--or Miryam of Magdala--as the central character.

"What if" Miryam is a Jewish wife, mother and tradeswoman until she loses everything in a horrific tragedy? "What if" Roman soldiers brought on that tragedy in retaliation for a zealous act on the part of Miryam's firstborn son? "What if" Miryam's characterization as a woman of ill repute is thrust on her by circumstances beyond her control? "What if" her thirst for revenge continues to drive her, even after a meeting with Yeshua (Jesus) miraculously changes her life? And "What if" the very Roman soldier she blames for her loss carries with him a powerful link to Miryam's past?

While weaving a fictional story from these questions, Angela Hunt is careful to honor the Biblical record of this remarkable woman and the actual things we know about her--such as the fact that Jesus delivered her from seven demons. This is especially important when so many wild speculations about Mary are being presented as fact, including the falsehoods put forth in the popular book The Da Vinci Code.

Miryam is fleshed out as a very real woman--headstrong and independent, big-hearted and loving; but riddled with pain, grief, and a relentless craving for justice and revenge. We see how her life is changed irrevocably by her following of Yeshua, the wise and compassionate teacher who claims to be nothing less than the Son of God.

It's wonderful to see familiar Bible events come alive through Mary's eyes. Hunt makes Yeshua a real person, portraying his humanity without diminishing his deity in the least.

The parallel story of Atticus, the Roman soldier whose secret links him inextricably to Miryam, is equally compelling. It sheds a great deal of light on what it was like not only for Jews to be under Roman oppression, but for a Roman soldier to be stationed in Israel.

Angela Hunt's writing has never been more beautiful and evocative, redolent with the sights and sounds of first-century Palestine and vivid with well-researched historical accuracy.

The result? A finely-crafted fictional tale of "What if...?" that ultimately leads us to a very true and timely look at redemption and forgiveness.

A true American hero

I received this e-mail from a personal hero of mine, evangelist and Marine Tim Lee:

"Thirty-five years ago yesterday, at 1:30 in the afternoon, I stepped on a land mine that ripped both of my legs from my body. I am convinced that God spared my life. If I would have stepped on the mine in just the right way it would have blown my body to thousands of pieces. The mine was large enough to have destroyed a Jeep.

"So what does a person do to 'celebrate' such an anniversary? I went to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. to visit our soldiers and Marines who have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Several months ago S/Sgt. Joe Bowser who had been hit in Iraq and had his right leg blown off called me and asked if I could come and visit him and others at Walter Reed. I was unable to change my schedule to go any earlier, however, since I was in a crusade this past week in Annandale, Virginia it worked out perfect for us to go yesterday.

"Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Berbano is a member of Capital Baptist Church, where I was speaking. She and her husband are both Army Doctors. Her husband is in Iraq right now.She went to work and set it up for me to be able to visit and to spend some time with our soldiers and Marines who have given so much for this country.

"Marine Chief Warrant Officer Charles Andrews was our liaison person at the hospital and a tremendous help.

"First, we went to visit the soldiers that were in physical therapy. There were approximately 15-20 who were in therapy and most of them, if not all, were amputees. Some were still in a lot of pain, but every single one of them had a great attitude.

"From there we went to Occupational therapy and there was a class going on with about 75-80 in attendance with the majorityof them being amputees also. I was given the opportunity to address them and it was an awesome time. We took my testimony in CD format and our Deadline Vietnam tract and gave them out to all that we came in contact with. I was then taken to a few private rooms to visit some who were going through some rough times.

"The Commander of the hospital, Colonel V. T. Deal came to welcome us and spend a little time with us.

"Well, I could write so much more, but this is getting pretty lengthy. It really was an awesome day for this Marine, who gave my legs 35 years ago, to visit and try to encourage so many young men and women who have given so much of themselves for you and I today. Please continue to pray for these heroes.

"I have said thousands of times that America is worth living for and she is worth fighting for and if needs be she is worth dying for.

"Tim Lee

"P.S. I hope to get some photos up on our web site in the next few days."

God bless Tim Lee and our troops around the world.

Chicago revisited...and a flash fiction meme

Commenting on my Chicago visit, Matt B had this to say: "Cindy: How can you go to Chicago and not eat Giordanno's pizza? With all respect to Dianne,[another commenter] it's much better than the stuff at Gino's East. And, surely you didn't leave without stopping for some Garrett's popcorn - did you??"

Funny you should ask, Matt! We passed Giordano's during out trip, and one of my sons said, "I wonder if this Giordano's is different or better than the one we have in Rockford?"

Because we do have a Giordano's in Rockford. I've eaten there, and it's quite good. However, I stick by hometown Italian eatery Giuseppe's (especially the thick crust variety) as being the very best pizza I have EVER eaten. (I've never had Gino's, but I have had Lou Malnati's...also quite good.)

As to Garrett's...well, it had a long line coming out the door and well out onto the sidewalk, as is so often the case.

However, when I visited Chicago last April with my mom, sisters and daughter, we made a point of going to Garrett's. It's special to me, because Garrett is my maiden name, and it was established in 1949...the same year my parents got married. My mom had never been to Garrett's and wanted to make sure she got a souvenir tin, which she did. And yes, the popcorn is nothing short of heavenly!

(By the way, Dianne, I'm sure the context in which you were visiting Chicago had much to do with your lack of love for the city.)

Dee's Flash Fiction Meme

Dee has tagged me with a flash fiction meme...flash fiction being "a story that can be told in a flash."

As you can see from my story, I'm a hopeless romantic. I'm not tagging anyone, but if you choose to take part on your own blog, please let me know and I'll link to it!

The Train, by Cindy Swanson

The fog hangs thick and dreary as he trudges up the stairs, wearing his loneliness like a heavy and ill-fitting coat. The people waiting on the el train platform are silent, dark sentinels standing carefully apart; they appear to him almost like featureless, wavering blobs.

But she is there again, and she alone is bathed in color and light, like the little girl in the red dress in the black-and-white Spielberg film. Breathing in her gentle perfume, taking in her glowing skin and cloud of auburn hair and sparkling eyes, the energy that radiates from her, he gathers strength to face another day.

It is all he has to look forward to, this fleeting daily moment of brightness and beauty. The train exhales to a stop; he gets on and sits down, hopeless and resigned.

And suddenly she is sitting beside him. She turns to him and smiles, and the thick ice around his heart begins to thaw. It is the strangest sensation. "My name is Jillian," she says. "I see you here every morning, and I thought it was about time we met."

It takes a moment to find his voice. "I'm Brian."

The city is still fogbound, the workday still yawns before him, the people on the train still seem colorless and drab. Nothing has changed, yet everything has.

The train speeds off into the future.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I love Chicago!

One of the highlights of my son Jonathan's visit was when our family headed into the Windy City for some shopping and dinner at Ditka's.

There's a little frisson of excitement for me when the Chicago skyline comes into view. I don't know what it is about the sight, the ambience, the heartbeat of a big city that does that to me, but it just's just cool.

I actually bought absolutely nothing at the Water Tower Place, but that's OK. I enjoyed browsing the shops. (We walked along the Magnficent Mile, but most of the shops there were closing, it being a Saturday evening. Water Tower shops stay open until 8 PM.)

And Ditka's is always good. We all took a cheat night from our respective diets and enjoyed the huge cheeseburgers named after former Chicago Bear "Refrigerator" Perry.

We truly enjoyed having our oldest son home with us for a few days. What a wonderful young man! And I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom. :)

Loving Larnelle

I've loved Larnelle Harris since I first "discovered" him back in 1978.

My husband and I were students at BBC Springfield, looking for something to do on a date night, when I found out that Larnelle would be singing at an Assemblies of God meeting at the Hammons Center. I had heard Larnelle on the radio station where I worked, KWFC.

Well, we were blown away. I went out the next day and bought a Larnelle 8-track (people, this was 1978), and I've been a fan ever since.

Fast forward to 2006. I've discovered a little discount book store that carries a lot of older Christian music, and I managed to pick up Larnelle's First Love (1998) cassette tape for 4.97. (Our jeep unfortunately has only a cassette player, not a CD player, so I've been trying to find decent cassettes to listen to when I'm driving it.)

Although the lush orchestration can sound a bit dated on a few of the songs, there are some real gems...notably "Were it Not for Grace":

"Were it not for grace
I can tell you where I'd be
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me
I know how that would go
The battles I would face
Forever running but losing this race
Were it not for grace"

Larnelle's voice is at its most beautiful and appealing here--imbuing each syllable with meaning and feeling; varying each nuanced note with quiet contemplation or soaring joy. It helps that the song is pretty much stripped down to little more than a piano accompaniment, allowing Larnelle's voice to be the featured instrument that takes poignant lyrics and renders them powerful.

I'm glad to see Larnelle recording again after what seemed, at least, like a lengthy absence. He may not easily fit in to a CCM playlist, but that talent is too good to be sitting on a shelf.

Go here to scroll down and listen to a snippet of "Were it Not for Grace." The Windows media version, by the way, is much clearer and cleaner than the RealPlayer version.

And snippets of stuff...

I love Joel Griffith's way with words! Read his post about Hillary Clinton being photographed praying in front of Jerusalem's Western Wall. I love this line: "... this photo is striking because of the wall (no pun intended) of photographers busily snapping Hillary's picture as she implored Heaven to do who knows what. All they needed to do was airbrush in a halo and the tableau would have been complete."

This editorial eloquently captures why many people had problems with Brokeback Mountain. And this one by Roger Ebert purports that one is not necessarily homophobic if one thought Crash was the better picture.

I finished Liz Curtis Higgs' Grace in Thine Eyes, Look for a review here soon.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Happy Friday!

Here are my answers to today's Friday's Feast. Why not answer the questions here on my comments section, or on your own blog?

How many pillows and blankets do you sleep with?--2 pillows. No blanket...our bedspread/comforter is pretty heavy.

What are you currently "addicted" to?--American Idol! And by the way, I thought the four people who went home last night--Brenna, Heather, David and Sway--were the very ones who needed to go, and I predicted their departures to my son Justin.

By the way, I'm becoming more and more impressed with Elliott Yamin. And my favorites among the girls are still Paris, Mandisa and Katharine.

If you could make a small change to your current routine or schedule that would make you just a little bit happier, what would it be?--Actually, it would be kind of a big change. I love doing the morning show on 101QFL, but I wish I didn't have to get up at 4 AM to do so! I wish I could sleep till at least 6 o'clock every day. What luxury that would be.

Main Course
Which adjective do you find yourself using often?--"Amazing." I say that way too much!

Have you ever picked up a hitchhiker?--NO.

Well, I'm enjoying having my son Jonathan here for a few days! I'll be taking Monday off, so won't be blogging again till Tuesday. Everyone have a wonderful, blessed weekend!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Reporting from the Front"

...a patriotic poem

If you're patriotic and support the troops, you'll probably like this poem, Reporting from the Front, by Michael Marks. It was forwarded to me by my brother David, who is a Texas police officer and former Marine currently in Iraq training commandos in hand-to-hand combat.

I was curious about the poet, Michael Marks, and decided to try to find out more about him. My search turned up this Washington Times article.

Apparently Marks is a 42-year-old resident of Leesburg, Virginia, who grew up the son of a Marine in what he calls "a very patriotic household."

He seems to have the ability to write poetry that is stirring and patriotic without being overly sappy and sentimental. More on Michael and his poems here.

"Narnia" stars in tonight's Movieguide Faith and Values Awards

This from AP's Religion Roundup:

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The films that will be honored tonight
in Beverly Hills have been far more popular at the box office
than those nominated for Best Picture Oscars at Sunday's Academy
The top nominees at tonight's 14th annual Movieguide Faith
and Values Awards Gala include "The Chronicles of Narnia: The
Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which has earned an estimated
640 (m) million dollars so far worldwide.
Movieguide publisher Ted Baehr says the Narnia film is
nominated for Best Family Movie and could also win the
50-thousand dollar Templeton Foundation Epiphany Prize for most
inspiring movie.
Other nominees for Best Family Movie include "Madagascar,"
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Chicken Little," "Dreamer,"
"Robots" and "The Greatest Game Every Played."

Comments? How do people get comments? Give me comments!

OK, I'm genuinely asking! I love getting comments to my posts, but I often get none, and sometimes just a handful. Yet I see other blogs who are in the same vicinity as I am in the TTLB Ecosystem, who consistently get 20 or so. How do you do it?

I know that in radio, controversy breeds feedback...but often the blogs that I see getting lots of comments are non-controversial and often fairly prosaic. (That statement doesn't include bloggers like La Shawn Barber and Pyromaniacs, who are often controversial and heavily opinionated, which of course, breeds comments.)

So, I'm asking. Do you get comments? How do you engender them? Do you see any kind of a pattern...any posts that tend to get more feedback?

While we're at it, if you often read my blog but have never commented, I'm asking you to come out of the woodwork here! Please leave a comment today, even if it's only to say "hi" and "yes, I'm reading"! That would make my day.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I have "Grace in Thine Eyes"!

A new Liz Curtis Higgs book is always an event for me, and I've looked forward to this book ever since I finished Whence Comes a Prince. Grace in Thine Eyes continues the series in which Higgs has very creatively-- but wonderfully convincingly--set the Jacob/Leah/Rachel story in Scotland in the 17- and 18-hundreds.

Grace in Thine Eyes is the story of Davina McKie, the daughter of Jamie and Leana McKie. (Their Biblical counterparts? Jacob, Leah and daughter Dinah.)

Of course, setting her story in Scotland in 1808 means some necessary changes from the Biblical story on which it's based, but the connection is clear.

I've thoroughly enjoyed the first three books in this series, and I can't wait to interview Liz again on March 23rd. You can read a transcript of my last interview with her here.

And speaking of Scotland...

Today is whuppity scoorie day!

Boy, do those Scots know how to celebrate! Apparently, whuppity scoorie is how Lanark, Scotland celebrates the arrival of springtime.

By the way, we have our own Lanark here in Illinois. No word as to whether they'll be celebrating whuppity scoorie today, though.

Do you know more about the Simpsons than you do your own freedoms?

This from AP: "Americans' knowledge of 'The Simpsons' apparently exceeds what they know about the First Amendment.
Only about one in four Americans can name more than one of
the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment -- Freedom of
speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of
But more than half of Americans can name at least two
members of the fictional cartoon family.
That's according to a survey by the new McCormick Tribune
Freedom Museum in Chicago.
The survey found that while 69 percent of people could name
freedom of speech as a First Amendment right, just under one out
of four people could name freedom of religion."


More on the museum here.
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