Monday, October 26, 2009

Donald Miller and Susan Isaacs

Last Thursday I went to see Donald Miller and Susan Isaacs at the NYC show on their "Million Miles Tour"

I had devoured both books fairly quickly - I knew I would Don's as I loved "Blue Like Jazz" and "Through Painted Deserts", but Susan's was a surprise.

Based on a ton of blogosphere recommendations, I downloaded the sample of "Angry Conversations with God" to my kindle, and then forgot about it. A few weeks later, when I was between fantasy novels and thinking it might be time to read something more spiritual, I found the sample and read it. A few minutes later I bought the book. Then less than twenty four hours later, counting work and train trips, it was finished.

I was with her through almost every situation in the book, though perhaps not to the same extent, until the very end when she ended up happily married. Lauren Winner did the same thing to me! Ah well, good for you, girls :)

Susan was fantastic in person, the way she brought the various situations in the book to life, including the accents, had me laughing out load. One of my favorite bits from the show, as from the book is the quote (and it's probably not word for word, as I'm too lazy to go find it on the kindle) "Christian men don't date. They've all read that book. 'Kiss My Dating Ass Goodbye'."

I didn't have a chance to meet her, the line was very long and I had to go, so hopefully next time!

Donald's book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" I also read in a twenty four hours period. It lived up to all I'd been reading about the past few months, and spoke to me on several levels - first as a writer how the art of story works. I'm going to be chanting "A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it." the entire month of November.

I loved also the parallels between writing a story, and living the story that God has written. It's fun to think of myself as a character, and to try getting out there and not being afraid of conflict.

Don was awesome in person as well. He had me at his first line "Welcome to Hogwarts." We were in this old very Englishy Episcopal church down in the village.
Before he spoke we had a video presentation on his ministry "The Mentoring Project", which is partnering with world vision, and there was a call for volunteers to sponsor a world vision child and also give to mentoring project as a package deal.

So I volunteered. Because, you know, when you've been feeling like you haven't been giving enough lately, and also slightly guilty about buying a third computer, and a cute and funny guy asks you donate for his project, how can you say no? Plus I got a hug out of it later. :) So I am now sponsoring a young boy from Brazil. I've done it before and it was a great experience, so I am excited.

Don talked about some of the funniest bits of the book, as well as the art of writing a story. My favorite line (and again this is a spotty memory quote), when discussing how the character's conflict needs to be something we care about, preferably a matter of life and death, "Frodo has to take the ring to the Temple of Doom and kill Darth Vader before the last Star Trek planet is destroyed."

He also talked about when "Blue Like Jazz" was first out, going to local book stores and moving his books over to the best seller rack. He then suggested we help with that, and move Dan Brown aside for him. Dude, anytime!

After the talks those of us who had signed up for World Vision were invited back to meet Don before the rest of the people who could line up for autographs. I think I conducted myself with slightly more poise than when i got my picture taken with Jason Momoa, but only just. (Plus there was no dressed up stuffed bear this time) I told him I had the book on kindle, and I was not going to let him sign that, but that I loved it on both levels, like I wrote above. I also then said something silly like he would bring me luck for NaNoWrimo (I was wearing my new hoodie). And I got a hug. Did I mention that?

All in all, two great books and an enjoyable evening, and I highly recommend all three!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Life is good. Seriously good. It's one of those times where I have so much going on that I have to pick and choose what I have time to do. Writer's groups, book clubs, music and dancing, learning new skills like knitting and sewing, workshops at church - I just took training to be a small group leader, which was surprisingly exciting. I met with one of the group organizers last week for coffee and she asked me how I was planning to fit leading a group into my schedule. Hmmmm. Now if it would just stop raining so that I can go to the beach.

Work is good - busy and frustrating at times, but not overwhelming, especially when I hear about other people's jobs, and considering that so many people here in NY are losing their jobs, I really can't complain. Not that that stops me, all that much ;) I've got two trips coming up this summer that have been (mostly) paid for, and a friend coming to visit me for a week in between.

So. Life is good. And that's what scares me. I've been reading and hearing much lately that points to the fact that spiritual growth comes through suffering. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, dark nights of the soul, and so on.

I don't want to suffer. I want my life to stay good. But I also want to grow. I want to have my cake and eat it too, so to speak, but not sure if that is possible. And so I'm half waiting for something horrible to happen, and if it doesn't, is that a good sign, or a bad one?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Book Review: Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt

I borrowed this book from a friend because I was curious. I'd read "Interview with a Vampire" ages ago and was not overly impressed, but then I read Anne Rice's 'reconversion' story in I think Newsweek, and was fascinated.

I really liked the book. From a religious viewpoint, it's quite an interesting question the book dives into - what was it like for the child Jesus to grow up, being fully God, but yet fully a child that had to go through all the mess of childhood?

Being a science fiction and fantasy reader, I also saw a quite a few parallels with your typical fantasy hero, who grows up in a fairly low position in society, has something 'special' about him that he can't quite figure out, until he discovers his magic, power, talent, etc, and adventures ensue. In some of the early chapters, Jesus brings a dead child back to life, after accidently killing him, brings clay sparrows to life, and discovers that when he tells the rain to stop, it stops.

At the same time I was reading this, I was also reading a fantasy series exactly like that, where the hero discovers in the second book that as well as human he is part of another race entirely, and as such has all these talents and powers that need to be awakened, so he can then save the world. The character even undergoes a baptism of sorts, when he is immersed in a pool for several days to cleanse himself of a serious addiction.

The parallels between the two books remind me of what Tim Keller said in a sermon about why we like fantasy. (Those of us that do like fantasy, that is, I suppose. Which would be me.) We're looking for that hero, the knight in shining armor that will come and save the world and defeat the forces of evil. Who is, of course, Jesus.

I liked the characterization of Mary as well, but had a bit of issue with the Roman Catholic theology inserted that she remained a virgin always and never had any children with Joseph. Rice makes James the older son of Joseph from a previous marriage, which I assume is also taught, but bugged me since there is no mention of another child in the Christmas story. The details are so carefully recorded, and if Joseph had to drag his nine months pregnant wife down to Bethlehem to be counted, surely he would have had to take his son as well? But there's no mention of anyone else being with them.

Those details don't ruin the fantasy of the story, however, and I've placed the next book, as well as Anne Rice's biography on my wish list.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Year Thus Far

As I break my Lenten fast with french toast and canadian bacon - yum! on Easter morning, seems like a good time to update this sadly neglected blog. I don't have to be at church till 5PM, going to attend that service before ushering at 7:15PM, so am having a leisurely easter morning/afternoon eating and listening to the Messiah on my ipod. Contemplating a bike ride also, but it looks rather cold and windy out there, so we shall see.

I've been spending way too much time on Facebook - its short soundbytes are addictive, and the amusing mix of internet friends, real life here and now friends, and high school people whom I didn't think even liked me back then but now are friending me, is interesting also. Talk about various worlds colliding!

So what's been doing with me? I see the last time I posted here was right before I went to England in January. England was awesome as usual, and Wales even more so. Pics are here, and Travelog here.

Sewing - I have successfully completed another pair of boxer shorts, and a baby blanket. Next attempt will be a skirt for summer. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I've also taken up knitting. So far I have made something that can only be described as a "thingie", which is being worn by one of my teddy bears. Am now on my fourth attempt to start a hat, which might be ready for next winter. If nothing else my fourteen inch bamboo knitting needles will be useful in defense against vampires.

Reading - I really really want a kindle, but have promised myself I will not get one until I get to the bottom of my to read basket, so am reading as fast as I can. Aside from an excellent fantasy novel, I'm in the middle of "Christ the Lord" by Anne Rice. I've never been much of an Anne Rice fan, read "Interview with a Vampire" ages ago and wasn't too impressed, but her story fascinates me. The book is very interesting so far. The Roman Catholic bent is pretty obvious, especially in the characterization of Mary and Joseph, but her Jesus makes sense - I've often wondered what it was like for him being God and child together, to grow up.

And with that I think I will attempt a bike ride after all.

Happy Easter, everyone!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I am officially on vacation! And it is snowing. My car is all snug in the garage, and as long as the runways at JFK are clear by Monday evening, it can storm its little heart out.

I'm getting my stuff together for a trip to Wales and England starting the aforementioned Monday evening, and right now am doing one of the most fun tasks - deciding which books to bring. I am allowed only one fiction and one non-fiction because there is a serious raid on bookstores in Cardiff and London being planned.

I think i have settled on "When True Night Falls" by CS Friedman for the fiction, being the second in a series I started in Hungary. But I also have the second Otherland book by Tad Williams. The Friedman is thicker than the Williams - Imagine anything being thicker than a Tad Williams?? - and I read the first one earlier so really should stay in order.

Right, on to non-fic, I am settling I think on a book on Frances of Assisi in a spiritual classics series, but I also have two others in the same series that look good. Might have to just close my eyes and point.

My goal is to pack everything into two small bags rather than the big one, as will be easier for getting on and off trains and such, and plus I am trying to learn to pack light. The next debate will be on which sweaters to bring as I am only allowing myself two, but I won't bore you with that one!

Off to play do laundry in the snow, and then a fun time of dancing and music in the city is being planned, Lord and LIRR willing.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Day, 2009

It's official. The year of no clothes shopping has ended. As I started the new year off with a very light day of work - only five patients, I headed straight out to the Island, first to Panera, where I had the tomato soup that I got hooked on during NaNoWriMo, and then to EMS where I broke my fast in style.

First I bought the thing I needed most since early fall - a new raincoat. My old one, which you can ring water out of, is now in the trash.

Waterproof, breathable, and not in a girly pastel color!

Next I bought a soft shell to go with it:

It's darker than it looks.

And not clothes but I needed a new travel wallet:

Then I came home and went online on Title Nine and bought a pair of pants, a tee shirt and two pairs of socks. Now I am all set for the rest of winter and my trip to Britain in two weeks.

I bagged for the thrift shop at my parents' church:

1 pair cords, a sweater, two fleece jackets and a shirt I never really liked and only wore I think once. As well as the old rain coat I pitched my old travel wallet which was all dirty and never fit my passport properly anyway.

What I learned from this past year:

1. I don't really like clothes shopping. It didn't leave much of a void, if any. And if there was it filled very very quickly.

2. I'd rather have one shirt I abolutely love than ten cheap ones I don't really like.

3. two pairs of jeans are enough.

4. when i find something I really do love, I don't need to go buy four more.

5. sewing is fun. I hope to eventually move on to things that can be worn out of the house, but at the very least I will never have to buy pajamas again.

That's about all I can think of at the moment!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Throwing away the scale

Now that nanowrimo is over, well almost over, there are still almost twelve hours to go. I've not written in my novel for a couple of day but i do plan to go out with a bang later after church by hanging out in the nano chat room and cheering on my fellow writers till midnight, and maybe getting another thousand or two words in before the deadline as well.

But this blog post is not supposed to be about fiction writing, or my future plans for that which are bouncing through my head, distracting me as we speak. I had resolved that once nano was over I would try to write a blog post a week, that is not a copy paste from my live journal, most likely on sundry mornings (*cough* afternoon) because that's my generally calm and quiet time, sitting around the house in pajamas, drinking coffee, and just puttering. A 7:15PM church service is a beautiful thing. I figure if I could pound out 50 thousand words of drivel disguised as fiction (and many scenes of people drinking coffee, or tea, or debating the relative merits of coffee versus tea - I think I should just call next year's novel 'Scenes from a Starbucks' and have done.) then I can pound out a few hundred words of blog post a week, surely? Though the blog will not be immune from coffee references, because coffee is love. Especially with pumpkin spice creamer.

Mixed up in my nano notes in the notebook I've been carrying around since mid October are lots of little ideas for blog posts, and the challenge today is to try not to cram them all in to one, because I am in the mood to write something not related to adventures on the moon, the coffee is flowing (see?), it's raining and I have the house to myself.

No. Must stay on track. Yes.

Right, so today's blog post will be about idols.

I've been reading and hearing quite a bit lately about idols - in books, sermons, podcasts, etc. When I think of idols, the first thing that pops into my head is a silly statue, like the falling fish god, the golden calf, or Jabu in the movie 'Major League' who gets offering of rum, cigars, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. And I always think, so self righteously, how could anyone be so stupid as to worship something like that?

Of course, we wouldn't. Two thousand plus years after Bible times our idols have become way more sophisticated.

If this year of no clothes shopping has taught me anything, it's that clothes are not my issue. Finishing my eleventh month of no clothes shopping today, I still don't really feel it. I wonder where on earth I found the time to go shopping for clothes, and I'm not really looking forward to resuming it. I could almost go another year, except that I really need a new raincoat, one that does not absorb water. Did you know Gortex wears out? Apparently after a few years, it does. And proper running shoes, from the store where they watch you run on the treadmill and look at your old shoes to see where you wear them out... But this post was not supposed to be about clothes.

My idol is the scale. I decided this after about two years now of weighing and recording, obsessing about numbers changing, counting and recording points, trying to hyper organize everything I eat in one day, blowing it, feeling guilty, and then blowing it some more. And then last year, trying to fit training into the mix, calculate how many points I exercised and need to replace, so as to not pass out during a workout, which would be bad. Discovering the the weight watchers site has no clue about energy bars and sports gels and drinks didn't help.

So I threw out my scale. Well, actually i didn't because I would feel guilty throwing out a perfectly good appliance. It, they actually, are in the top of my closet, if anyone would like them. I have one old fashioned and one digital that supposedly also calculates body fat and percentage of water. I have decided to accept my body as it is. I'm not *really* overweight. I did a triathlon this year, for crying out loud. Okay, it took me four and a half hours, but still. And with no new clothes, everything still fits from this time last year.

I had a wonderful time this past month with all the write-ins, making healthy choices as best I could from the menus at Panera and Cosi, and then indulging a little bit if I wanted to, to reward myself for my word count. I'm also having fun experimenting with cooking, and continuing my training, which are other blog posts.

so I shall leave you with a picture of my thanksgiving leftovers, and go make pancakes. And perhaps catch up on the blogs I've not read all month. My rss reader just might be about to explode...