Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The speech I give to all new moms

The first six to eight weeks are the hardest

How well I remember when I first became a mom. I was thrilled, elated, joyful, and...CLUELESS.

Weeks of LaMaze training had not prepared a 23-year-old, who had never even had so much as a puppy. to care for a newborn baby and all its attendant needs and complications.

My mom has a photo of me holding Jonathan a few days after his birth. Jonathan is crying his head off, and I look like a deer caught in the headlights. The helpless feeling of "What do I do now????" is palpable and almost humorous in that picture.

Interestly, Jonathan wasn't even a difficult newborn! In fact, he was a remarkably good one, who slept long stretches at a time, was colic-free, and had a very peaceful (dare I say "angelic"?) disposition.

But the fact is, nothing can quite prepare you for the impact of your first child.

So, I have a little speech I give all new moms that I come in contact with--whether they ask for it or not! Just today, I posted it on the blog of the Lange Family, who welcomed Joseph into their home a little over a month ago.

It's actually based on something I read when Jonathan was a newborn, in the book Nursing Your Baby, by Karen Pryor.

I remember the book was a real help to me as a new nursing mother, but it there was one paragraph that really caught my eye. Pryor said that a turning point takes place when the baby is around six to eight weeks old. In effect, she was saying that things get easier then. Much easier.

I clung to that paragraph like a lifeline, and turns out--at least in the case of my three babies--Pryor was right on the money.

This is what I wrote in the Lange blog, and it's essentially my speech to new moms:

"The first six to eight weeks are the hardest. After that, things get much better. Baby will sleep more at night, plus he begins to get a little personality that rewards you with a smile or a coo, instead of just being a tiny little eating/sleeping machine.

Plus, you as parents are getting more accustomed to him by then--what his cries mean, how to comfort him, how to react to him.

If mom is breastfeeding, the worst of it (soreness, long feedings, uncertain schedules) will be over. Feeding settles into a routine, and baby gets so efficient at getting the milk out, feedings are much shorter.

Six to eight weeks is the magic milestone, in my opinion. And by six months? You'll think this child is the greatest thing God ever created, and the greatest thing that's ever happened to you. :)"

So if you're an overwhelmed first-time mom of a newborn, keep your chin up. Happier, easier, more well-adjusted times are just around the corner!

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It's so funny how we don't talk anymore...

or at least, teenagers don't!

You see them everywhere. Teenagers furiously typing out tiny little messages on their cell phones...but rarely actually TALKING on their cell phones. They've gotten so good at "hunting and pecking" the letters on that miniscule keyboard, it's amazing. (Well, of course they have--they're young. They have good eyes that don't require reading glasses, and skinny, agile little fingers. Is it any wonder you don't see a lot of middle-aged people text-messaging?)

I've noticed this phenonemon, partly because I have a teen-aged daughter of my own. She does her share of text-messaging, but she does actually use her phone for oral verbal communication more often than not.

Why the texting? Why not just call the person and talk to them? My sensible 23-year-old stopped instant messaging on the computer ages ago, and rarely (if ever) text messages. TALK. That's what free minutes are for, he reasons.

USA Today has a very interesting story about the text- and instant-messaging phenomenon and it's present and future repercussions.

Are we raising a generation of kids who can't carry on a real, face-to-face and voice-to-voice conversation--especially in the context of important job interviews and business and professional discussions?

According to the article: "Not long ago, prattling away on the phone was as much a teenage rite as hanging out at the mall. Flopped on the bed, you yakked into your pink or football-shaped receiver until your parents hollered at you to get off.

"Now, Sidekicks and iBooks are as prized as Mom's Princess phone, and conversations, the oral kind, are as uncomfortable as braces. Which makes employers and communications experts anxious: This generation may be technologically savvier than their bosses, but will they be able to have a professional discussion?

"'We are losing very natural, human, instinctive skills that we used to be really good at," says Sonya Hamlin, author of How to Talk So People Listen: Connecting in Today's Workplace.'"

Admittedly, all the blogging among young people could end up having some good effects. It's never a bad thing to be able to express yourself well in writing.

Interesting stuff.

Memorial Day revisited...

Last night, I was up way too late (having had friends over for a cook-out earlier,) and I was listening to Focus on the Family while folding some laundry before hitting the sack.

I began unashamedly weeping as I was listening to their Salute to America's Veterans.

We owe so much to our military people, past and present.

One of the most moving segments of the show was Lt. Colonel Oliver North reading this tribute to our troops: "The kid who wouldn’t share a candy bar with his brother will now offer his last drop of water to a wounded comrade, give his only ration to a hungry child and split his ammo with a mate in a firefight. He’s been trained to use his body as a weapon and his weapon like it was part of his body. And he can use either to save a life – or take one."

Do read the entire article when you get a moment.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A beloved artist

Since I don't have anything major to blog about today, I thought I'd post another pic taken when my mom and sisters were visiting me last month. (What an awesome time that was...sheer happiness. Those of you whose sisters and moms live near you, you don't know how blessed you are!)

Anyway, this picture was taken in front of my fireplace. I didn't crop the photo too much because I wanted to show you the lovely picture above my fireplace.

The picture was given to me for Christmas year before last by my dear friend Teri. Amazingly, I had seen that very picture while visiting Galena, Illinois, and had commented to my sister-in-law Beth about how much I liked it. When Teri gave it to me, I automatically assumed that Beth had told her about my comment. Not so. Teri was visiting Galena later, saw the picture, and thought I'd like it.

I actually love it. Sometimes I like to just sit and look at it. It's the kind of picture that draws you in. I've had guests comment, "I'd like to go inside that picture and be there."

The painting is called "Au Bois de Senteur." Click here to see a larger view of it.

The artist is a man named Donny Finley. All of his art seems to have that quality of almost photograph realism, yet softer and sweeter than real.

I was interested to find, at a local gift shop recently, a coffee-table type book of Finley's art, with text by Christian author Lori Wick. The book is Reflections of a Thankful Heart.

(Speaking of Lori Wick, several years ago I went on a kick of reading everything by her that I could get my hands on. I even interviewed her on my radio show...but lately I've gotten out of the habit of reading her books. Anyone a fan?)

Another thing I didn't crop out of this picture is the photograph to your left. That's my wonderful son Jonathan and his beautiful wife Daylyn on their wedding day. I love that brings back such happy memories and warm feelings!

What you can't see are the other photographs on the mantle, including ones of my daughter Elizabeth and my son Justin.

Well, I hope everyone has an awesome Memorial Day Weekend. God bless!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thirteen random things

1) Why does Madonna feel it's perfectly OK to offend Christians? Would she like it if someone created an entire concert segment out of mocking and disrespecting Kabbalah? (For that matter, why are Christians the ONLY group that it's perfectly OK to offend?)

2) My friend Randy perfectly captures how I feel about the Dixie Chicks right now: Bigger Microphones

3) I have fallen in love with a perfume that's new to me. I first inhaled Narciso Rodriguez For Her at Bloomingdale's in Chicago when I went there last month with my sisters and my mom. When I came into some "found" money recently, I ordered it online, actually from Nordstrom's. (It's not available anywhere in Rockford.) Ohmygoodness. This stuff smells so good, I could practically drink it.

4) Is anyone else a little disappointed in the latest Kinsey Millhone mystery? I've read all the books and for the most part, loved them. Just read the most recent...S is for Silence...and although much of what I love about the Sue Grafton books is still there, it was (as Randy Jackson would say) just "aaiight" for me. I would rather Kinsey tell the whole story, rather than using flashbacks. The book was also much more overtly sexual than the others, IMHO. It did keep me turning pages, but the ending was a bit anticlamactic. Oh well...

5) For the first time ever, my husband and I are really getting into decorating our yard with flowers. Is there anything prettier? We had a horribly hot, dry summer last year, which wreaked havoc on the few flowers I did have. I hope that won't be the case this year.

6) So Taylor Hicks is the new American Idol. I definitely wouldn't have predicted that one at the beginning of the season! I must admit I lost a bit of interest when my favorites started to trickle away...including Mandisa and Paris.

7) Speaking of Paris Bennett, she is coming to my town this Saturday for a free appearance at the beautiful Coronado Theater. Paris was born here and lived here until age 12, and her great grandfather is pastor Perry Bennett of Macedonia Baptist Church.

8) This guy is pretty cool.

9) This is my favorite magazine.

10) I often buy and read Vogue despite the fact that I think it's ludicrously snobbish and hoity-toity. It's so snobbish I don't think it even realizes how snobbish it is.

11) I don't have to spend very much money on magazines anymore, because often my daughter buys them first. :)

12) One of my favorite things about my husband--other than his very cool and husky speaking voice, and many other wonderful attributes--is his hands. I don't think I could have married someone if I didn't like their hands!

13) Seasonal delight that I haven't yet partaken, but will soon and often: BeefARoo's Summer Berry Salad. Look up "refreshing" in the dictionary, and there's a pic of this salad.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I interviewed author Jane Kirkpatrick

One of the great perks of my job is that I often get books sent to me without even asking for them. Several years ago, I was sent a wonderful book called "A Sweetness to the Soul." Not long after that, I was able to read its sequel, "Love to Water My Soul."

That began my love affair with the writings of Jane Kirkpatrick. It's hard to pigeon-hole Jane's books into a strictly Christian fiction slot, although they definitely come from a Christian world-view and are faith-affirming.

But it's my belief that Jane Kirkpatrick's books could be put on any shelf and stand out for their excellence. I've read just about everything Jane has written since I read "A Sweetness to the Soul," and I'm delighted that she has begun another series, the Change and Cherish series.

The first book in that series is A Clearing in the Wild. The story--based on actual people and events--centers around Emma Wagner, a young woman who is part of the Bethel colony, a close-knit religious community ruled by a charismatic and autocratic leader, Dr. Wilhelm Kiel.

Spirited, outgoing and opinionated, Emma has trouble buckling under in a community that scarcely allows women to speak, much less contribute an opinion. When one of the main men in the colony falls in love with her, conflict inevitably arises between Emma and Kiel, the leader. And then, Kiel decides to send Emma's husband on a trip to Oregon.

As always, Jane Kirkpatrick breathes life into a small portion of history, through meticulous research and beautiful writing. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

More on my interview with Jane Kirkpatrick tomorrow.

Go here to read my review of Jane Kirkpatrick's "A Name of her Own" and "Every Fixed Star.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Quote o' The Day

"Makes me wish Aunt Bee were still alive to give Opie a good hiding."--Joel Griffith, commenting on the Ron Howard-directed "Da Vinci Code"

13 of my very favorite books

In no particular order, except number one:

1) The Bible--(and my favorite book within the Bible is Psalms) Unparalelled not only in poetry and literature, but because it is a living, breathing, supernatural thing that literally has the power to change lives.

2) The Chronicles of Narnia--technically more than one book. (My favorite is probably "The Silver Chair")--I was avidly reading these books as a child, many years before the movie hype came along, and probably before many of you were born! Still, I continue to re-read them about once a year.

3) Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte--This book has everything--romance, high drama, mystery. Often seen as the mother of all Gothic fiction (and by "Gothic," I don't mean teenagers wearing black clothes and white make-up.)

4) Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte--Heathcliff is the ultimate bad boy that you can't help falling in love with. Windswept moors, sobbing heroines--it's a mess, but you can't help being captivated.

5) Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen--I've always loved the way Darcy and Elizabeth are inexorably drawn to each other throughout the book, despite ostensibly not being able to stand each other. And Elizabeth is one of the coolest heroines ever...feisty, funny and beautiful.

6) Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott--Introduced me to the joys of fiction when I was a very little girl. Now, as an adult, it seems a bit quaint-- but I still love it.

7) Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers--Showed me how really excellent, top-notch and absorbing Christian fiction can be.

8) The Emerald Ballad Series, by BJ Hoff (again more than one book--but hey, this is MY list)--Solidified my love for all things Irish and taught me about Irish-American history while capturing me with characters I cared about and stories I couldn't put down.

9) The Moon Spinners, by Mary Stewart--I've re-read this book many times, just because I love Stewart's way with language, the suspenseful story, the setting, the feisty heroine and her appealing love interest.

10) The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher--Introduced me to the joys of Rosamunde Pilcher, and I can't get enough. I've now read everything she's written, and I'm afraid she's not going to write much more. Wait a minute--I just read something here that I never knew before. Pilcher used to write as Jane Fraser. Maybe I can get ahold of some of her Fraser-books. She's the kind of writer that creates such a cozy atmosphere, you can taste the tea and scones.

11) Wisdom Hunter, by Randall Arthur. Probably the most brutally honest look at graceless Christianity to date. Combines a fascinating story with vital spiritual insights. (Jollyblogger has a good review of this book, including some excellent caveats.)

12) Villette, by Charlotte Bronte--Never hyped or lauded as much as "Jane Eyre," this book is nevertheless a terrific story, and I've re-read it many times.

13) The Church Ladies, by Lisa Samson--The first book that showed me Christian fiction could be real, fresh, funny and honest. Fortunately, that's now a Lisa Samson trademark, and I don't miss a Lisa Samson book, period.

...and the list could go on...and on...and on...

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ron Howard: Don't see "The Da Vinci Code" if...

...and, what's the deal with Tom Hanks' hairdo?

"The Da Vinci Code" director Ron Howard is actually telling people like me NOT to see his movie: "Howard agrees that the movie, like the novel, 'is likely to be upsetting to some people.

"The book and its screen adaptation suggest Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a secret dynasty. But Howard insists his movie is supposed to be entertainment' and 'not theology.'"

Read more here.

Meantime, how is the movie? A review by Caroline Briggs of the BBC says it "fails to live up to the hype that surrounded Dan Brown's novel."

However, negative reviews won't necessarily keep moviegoers from flocking to the film in droves.

And if you're tired of the controversy...

How about Tom Hanks' Bad Movie Hair?

MSNBC "Picture Stories" calls Hanks' hair in "The Da Vinci Code" "an eroded hairline spewing a half-baked bob"...saying the effect is "a bald man wearing a fur beret on the back of his head."

And Caroline Briggs of the BBC writes: "... Hanks is dry and uninspiring as Langdon - and the mullet hairstyle he sports throughout deserves a credit of its own."

Go here and scroll down to click on "Images: 'Da Vinci' inspires bad movie hair," to see pics of awful movie hairdo's from Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" to Bill Murray in "Kingpin." Pretty funny.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

"The Da Vinci Code" disturbs me...

...but Josh McDowell sees an opportunity

Yes, as a Christian it disturbs me that a movie based on a book that's been called "blasphemy on steroids" is probably going to be a huge hit.

Call me sensitive, but it just doesn't sit well with me that millions of people will see, and believe as fact, horrendous lies about the Person who is my best friend in the universe and the Saviour of my soul.

But apologist Josh McDowell has a positive spin on Da Vinci. McDowell tells AP's Religion Roundup: "This is one of the most positive opportunities in years to share our faith! What a wonderful time to be winsome and wholesome, to make issues clear about the deity of Christ, the Scriptures, everything..."

McDowell does say he knew he needed to respond to the book and movie: "When they take fiction as factual, and it hits home to something very dear to me, my relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ, the Scriptures and all--
then I feel I have a responsibility--not to defend the truth, not to attack Dan Brown--but to simply make the truth known."

McDowell has made resources available to help Christians do just that, based on his book The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers.

More resources are available at this Focus on the Family Da Vinci Code site.

By the way, Barbara Nicolosi of Church of the Masses has been blogging regularly about this issue; she is the one who came up with the idea of an "othercott" of the movie. Her idea: don't boycott DaVinci, just go to a different movie on May 19th...preferably "Over the Hedge."

And in case you missed the Screwtape parody about Da Vinci, (hat tip to Nicolosi), here again is the link.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

My foray into the Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I love about my mom

In no particular order...

1) Her name, Cynthia, which she passed on to me (much to my appreciation.)

2) Her beautiful green eyes

3) Her smile--it's dazzling and can light up a room

4) The fact that she doesn't dress in "old lady" clothes

5) The way she would defend her kids to the death

6) Her's incredibly neat and pretty

7) Her cooking--no one can fix a roast, or beef stew, or chicken fried steak as good as she can. Don't even tell me about any other chicken fried steak; hers rules.

8) Her genuine love of the Lord

9) The fact that she's a prayer warrior

10) Listening to her sing around the house. She can get so HIGH (vocally, I mean!)!

11) Her wonderful storytelling ability...she really should write a children's book

12) The way she's so disciplined...why didn't I inherit that?

13) The many ways she shows her love to me

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Can't resist a book quiz

You're The Poisonwood Bible!

by Barbara Kingsolver

Deeply rooted in a religious background, you have since become both
isolated and schizophrenic. You were naively sure that your actions would help people,
but of course they were resistant to your message and ultimately disaster ensued. Since
you can see so many sides of the same issue, you are both wise beyond your years and
tied to worthless perspectives. If you were a type of waffle, it would be

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

OK, this is interesting. I AM deeply rooted in my religious background, but the rest of the quiz results are hooey. :)

(By the way, hat tip to Dianne of Unfinished Work for this quiz.)

I DID find The Poisonwood Bible a fascinating book, but I had some real problems with it.

Naturally, I blogged about them not too long ago, and I now helpfully re-run the post for your perusal.

(Originally posted December 1,2004)

Call me contrary, but my kneejerk reaction to Oprah Book Club titles is generally to ignore them. (It's true, I read Christian fiction more than any other kind of fiction, but not exclusively by any means.)

At any rate, I've seen The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver everywhere from airport newstands to Wal-Mart, and heard great things about it, but never even had an urge to pick it up.

However,my sister Bev gave me her copy to read on the way home from Wyoming. I picked it up, and was hooked from the first page.

Kingsolver's writing is beautiful, powerful and lyrical, and she genuinely inhabits the voices of each of her narrators--whether missionary wife Orleanna Price or her daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May. Without question, Kingsolver is a singularly gifted writer and storyteller.

An unusual missionary story

The premise resonated with me on a few levels anyway, because it's the story of a Baptist missionary taking his family to a foreign land in the early 60's. This was my own situation as a child in the mid-60's, as my family uprooted from the United States and moved to Beirut, Lebanon.

However, a lot of things were different in my own case, as I'll mention later.

In the book, World War Two veteran Nathan Price takes his family to a remote, primitive village in the Belgian Congo, and proceeds to try to forcefully shove Christianity down the throats of the villagers, completely insensitive to their native ways and customs. Headstrong and bullying, Price also coldly disregards his family's safety and stubbornly stays in the village, even when his mission board urges him to leave and cuts off his stipend amid swirling political turmoil.

Kingsolver tells the story through the eyes of Price's family, alternating the narrative among his wife and four daughters.

Authentic narrative voices

Wife Orleanna tells her part of the story from the future, where she is living a safe distance away in her native Georgia.

Teen-aged daughter Rachel is vain, shallow and not too bright, as reflected in her numerous spelling errors and mixed up phrases like "my feminine wilds" and calling the marriage state "monotony" instead of "monogamy." Yet Rachel's easygoing humor, even in the bleakest of situations, makes her narratives some of the most fun to read.

Leah and Adah are twins, both highly sensitive and intelligent. Yet while Leah is whole, her twin was born with a birth defect that causes her to limp, and for some reason renders her voluntarily mute.

Leah worships her father and longs for his approval, but we see her view of her father changing as the story progresses. She is fair-minded, likable and insightful.

Meantime her twin Adah, living in a silent and highly imaginative inner world, is contemptous of her father and everything he stands for. She is obsessed with palindromes and Emily Dickinson poetry, and her narratives are among the most whimsical and poetic.

The five-year-old, Ruth May, also gets her chance at narration, and Kingsolver perfectly captures the mind of a small child.

We are prepared, but no less shocked, when the story careens to catastrophe.

I was glad that the book doesn't leave the family picking up the pieces of the tragedy, but follows them into the future as we see their lives unfold and how they are permanently affected by their experience in Africa.

However, I do have some problems with Kingsolver's view of Christianity and missionaries.

An unflattering view

I will admit I've seen my share of legalistic, bullying Baptist preachers, but Nathan Price is worse than anything I've ever seen. And as far as Christian missionaries go, I've had a great deal of experience with them. The vast majority are gentle, sacrificing souls who have devoted their lives to bringing Christ's love to others. They have done an immeasurable amount of good, much of which will endure for eternity, and they are true heroes of the faith, in my opinion.

[For another beautifully written but true story of missionary selflessness and love, read Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. In fact, read just about anything by Elisabeth Elliot and you can't go wrong.]

As I read The Poisonwood Bible with its extremely unflattering picture of a missionary, I couldn't help but think of Elmer and Mary Deal. The Deals were missionaries to the Congo until the political situation forced them out, and they were missions professors at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, when I was a student there. As I understand it, they've since returned to the Congo as missionaries.

You could never meet sweeter, kinder or more loving people than the Deals...the polar opposite of Nathan Price.

My missionary father

As the daughter of a Baptist missionary, I also had to look at the differences between Price and my own father.

First of all, although you could have called my father dogmatic about some things, he would never have tried to force someone--much less an entire village--into converting to Christ. My dad believed that the Holy Spirit convinces people.

He also had a sense of humor and fun, loved his wife and children dearly, and would never have allowed us to stay in harm's way. In fact, political turmoil forced us out of Lebanon in June of 1967.

Some inaccuracies

Kingsolver gets a few other things wrong when it comes to Baptist preachers. First of all, I have never in my life met a Baptist preacher who thought the Apocrypha should have been included in the cannon of Scriptures, as Price does in the book, and to preach a sermon from the Apocrypha (as Price does) is something I have never heard of in my 48 Baptist years of life.

Also, I have never met a preacher, no matter how hardcore, who goes around spouting Bible verses in lieu of conversation. That's simply a cartoonish exaggeration of a minister.

I understand that Nathan Price had to be written as thoroughly detestable, since he is the genuine villain of the book. And detestable and despicable he is. But in making him so, Kingsolver also makes him one-dimensional, a cardboard cut-out caricature of a wild-eyed fanatic, without a shred of humor or loving feeling.

Would I recommend reading the book? Certainly. It's gripping, beautifully written, and ultimately uplifting.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Christian missionaries haven't made some serious mistakes in their well-intentioned efforts to carry out the Great Commission...and I happen to agree with what one of the characters says in the book: "There are Christians, and there are Christians."

May we all be the best kind.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Flying isn't fun anymore

I used to love to fly. And air travel is still definitely my preferred mode of transportation when traversing long distances, like from here to my loved ones in Texas. But I have to assert that flying just isn't fun anymore.

First of all, before you even get on board, there's the hassle of security. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad our government is taking such precautions, and I really wouldn't want it any other way at this point. But I look back fondly on a time when I didn't have to take my shoes off, and "Garrett" was my maiden name, not a word on a wand that was waved over me to make sure I'm not packing something dangerous.

Come to think of it, 9/11 has even changed the way I'm greeted at the airport. I used to love landing in Austin, rushing through that little tunnel to find my loved ones waiting joyously for me with hugs and exclamations of welcome. Now, there's no one waiting for me until I trudge a mile or so through the terminal. Again, I appreciate the precautions...I just wish it didn't have to be that way.

And the delays...the maddening delays. I used to never give a thought to whether my plane would be leaving when my ticket said it would. Now, I steel myself for the delay that seems to happen more often than not. Heaven forbid I enter the airport without a hefty supply of reading material to while away the time.

Then, once you get ON the plane, there's the crowdedness. I'm blissful if I'm not sandwiched between two strangers in an appallingly intimate manner. Often I'm sitting closer to a perfect stranger than I usually sit with my own husband. Excuse me, I don't know you from Adam, but I'm up close and personal with you for the next two and a half hours!

It doesn't help that I struggle with claustropobia when I can't get a zipper unstuck, much less being crammed into a narrow space with no chance of escape. I do a lot of Lamaze relaxation breathing on these flights, just to calm myself down.

And then there's the emotion I never used to struggle with in my younger flying days. Maybe all young people just think they're invincible? Now, I'm in a constant attitude of prayer while flying. Turbulence upsets me, and terrorism is always a lingering threat, despite said airport security precautions.

And how about the stinginess in modern air travel? You're lucky to get a soft drink and a tiny bag of pretzels. Forget any kind of meal. People used to complain about airplane food, but at least you did get fed.

The lack of food prompts people to bring their own meals on board, which can be a very sloppy and even smelly proposition. I read an article not too long ago decrying the messes air travelers are making with their pizzas and cheeseburgers.

And when the plane finally does land, here's one of my biggest pet peeves. Why don't they let people exit the plane FIRST who DON'T have luggage in the overhead bins? Doesn't that just make sense? Inevitably, I'm paralyzed in my seat or in the aisle while everyone hauls their stuff out of those bins...and seemingly take forever to do so. Would it kill anyone to make a simple announcement: "Passengers without luggage in the overhead bins may now exit the plane"????

I'm not ready to give up air travel. As I said, it's still the quickest, safest and most efficient way to get from Point A to faraway Point B. But, just isn't fun anymore.

Thanks for letting me rant. :)

Friday, May 05, 2006

I interviewed author Linda Hall

I was delighted yesterday to interview one of my very favorite authors, Linda Hall.

I wrote this about Linda on my website's reading page: "With her page-turning narrative ability, realistic characters and intriguing plots, Linda Hall has quickly become a favorite author of mine. I had read a few of her books, including Margaret's Peace and Island of Refuge in the past, and recognized instantly her exceptional talent and singular style. Her recent books, including Sadie's Song and the first two books in the Teri Blake-Addison mystery series--Steal Away and Chat Room--have irrevocably hooked me. I highly recommend them!"

Besides being one of the best Christian fiction writers I know of, Linda is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada, so she brings special expertise to mystery/suspense stories like her most recent book, Dark Water.

Why not let Linda tell you about it? Here's a 2-minute soundclip:

I highly recommend Dark Water, as well as all the other Hall titles I've read. Go here to read my review of Sadie's Song.

And have a blessed weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Loved Ones

Time only for a fly-by today...but thought I'd post a pic of my mom, my sisters and me during their recent visit. I love the way my dad referred to all of his relatives--even those he barely knew--as his "loved ones." The women in that pic truly are my loved ones.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Wednesday hodge-podge

Some random thoughts, comments and links on this Wednesday...

Oh, the pic is of Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen, by the way. He played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart, and I thought he was one of the best things about the movie. Every emotion played out on his face and in his eyes. It has always surprised me that he hasn't become more of a star after that performance, which amazingly, was more than 10 years ago.

In checking, I see that Macfadyen did make a few guest appearances on Alias. Good for him. That's one show that I have never really watched, but I wouldn't mind checking it out on DVD.

"Pimpfants"??? Good grief...

Check out this new line of babywear. Eeesh.

Life is still not back to normal in Lakeshore...

It's easy for those of us who were not directly affected by Hurricane Katrina to assume that everything's back to normal in the areas ravaged by the storm.

Not so, as you'll find when you read Don Elbourne's blog. As I've mentioned here before, Don is the pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church in Lakeshore, Mississippi. Rebuild calls the church "a beacon of hope for the ongoing relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts."

Don has been doing a good job chronicling those continuing efforts in his blog lately. Donna Jean of Liberty and Lily recently returned from a trip to Lakeshore to help out..she promises to blog about it as well.

Don writes: "Every night, when I lay my head on a pillow to get a few hours of rest, I do so leaving so much undone. Taking time off means that even more phone calls will be left unreturned, dozens of emails unsent, scores of questions unanswered, and hundreds of urgent issues set aside."

Recently, he did give in to the urgings of friends and loved ones and took a short time off to attend the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Green with envy? You bet I am...

The wonderful Katy McKenna Raymond of Fallible is in IRELAND now. As I've mentioned here frequently, it is my heart's desire to visit that lovely country. In the meantime, I'll get a vicarious thrill out of Katy's exploits there.

Be sure to read this post if you need a good chuckle.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I heard from Tilly Cryar!

and an update on Johnny Philippidis of Burlap to Cashmere...

Not long ago, I blogged about hearing a lovely female voice on a small radio station here in Rockford. A little sleuthing revealed that the voice belonged to Tilly Cryar, daughter of Christian singer Morgan Cryar. At that time, I sent a shout-out to Tilly to let me know what she's up to, and if she has any plans to record again.

Well, ask and you shall receive, apparently. I got this e-mail today:


A friend sent me your blog about my record, and I was quite tickled by it. I am, indeed, still here at David Lipscomb, and working on writing originals in the same style for another record, hopefully on a label this time- something I have not yet done. But thanks for the encouragement! It made me want to sit down and write immediately, even in the middle of finals week. :)

God bless,


It was great to hear from this very talented young woman, and I hope we hear more of her music as well. But hey, Tilly...don't neglect those finals! :)

To hear Tilly sing, go here and click on "music."

More on Johnny Philippidis...

Last fall, I blogged about the fact that Burlap to Cashmere singer/guitarist Johnny Philippidis had been badly beaten in a road rage incident in New York City.

I was able to interview Johnny's sister, Nicole, a couple of times for updates. At the time, Johnny was still pretty fragile, although he was released from the hospital.

Like an idiot, I lost Nicole's phone number and have no way of getting it back. So I've been looking for info about how Johnny's doing five months later.

I found this blurb that seems to indicate he's progressing very well.

I've e-mailed Steven Delopolous, Johnny's bandmate and cousin, and will let you know if I hear anything from him.

Monday, May 01, 2006

In praise of rose-colored glasses

...and what exactly is a "toddlin' town"?!?

"take a permanent vacation. you're blog is boring. you write like your cinderella on acid. or june cleaver. you must wear rose-colored glasses a lot."

That was a comment left on the post in which I had explained that I was taking a blogging break while on vacation. Obviously, someone is not a huge fan of my blog. The same person (hello--you leave your IP address when you leave a comment!) left a few other fairly hostile comments on other posts as well.

I had to laugh. First of all, the "Cinderella on acid" comment was genuinely funny to me. But the other reason is because, as a rule, I'm not the most optimistic person in the world.

I have a lot of Irish in me...and it's common knowledge that it's typically Irish to either be in a jubilant mood or be in the pits of a black depression. Maybe I'm not quite that extreme, but I do battle times of being really down in the dumps.

I honestly didn't realize that my blog comes across quite differently. I guess it can often seem somewhat light and trivial, although I firmly maintain that it is often quite serious as well. I could give you concrete proof in the form of links to various posts, but I won't bother.

Quite frankly, I do find it odd that someone would take the time to leave such hostile messages on a blog. If you don't like reading it, that's your perogative, right? Just click elsewhere.

Anyway...what's so wrong with rose-colored glasses? I'm not talking about denial here--it's foolish to duck reality, of course. But I believe we all know how awful everything is. Why wallow in it? Why not try to put a positive spin on things? What's so wrong with trying to have a good attitude about life? What's so bad about trying to make someone smile?

I guess I think it wouldn't hurt to put on those rose-colored glasses every once in a while.

That said...

That toddlin' town?

One thing I HAVE to be positive about is this past week...I don't care if it means I'm channeling June Cleaver like crazy.

I had the most wonderful time with my mom and two sisters. My mom and Lisa came from Round Rock, Texas, while my sister Beverly came from Casper, Wyoming.

We talked endlessly, laughed an exorbitant amount, and shopped till we literally just about dropped. It was a wonderful, rejuvenating, recharging time of laughter and fellowship. (We also ate some pretty amazing meals.)

But one of the highlights was our day-trip to Chicago. Anyone who reads this blog knows I have a passion for the Windy City. We had a blast shopping, dining, and just soaking up the atmosphere of the place.

But there is one thing bugging me. You know the song that goes, "Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town...."? WHAT does that mean?

I gave a Google search my best shot, and all I can come up with is that it has something to do with jazz and/or dancing. Can't find anything definitive, though. If you know, PLEASE enlighten me!
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