Friday, January 27, 2006

swimming to the plastic castle

"I picked up a magazine, which is every magazine, read a story, then forgot it right away. They say goldfish have no memory, I guess their lives are much like mine, and the little plastic castle is a surprise every time, and it's hard to say if they're happy, but they don't seem much to mind."
-Ani DiFranco

I'm definitely like a gold fish sometimes.

I feel like I've been in this learning-who-I-am phase for quite some time. I'm talking at least a year. If not longer. But I'm beginning to realize that might just be life. I write things — thoughts, philosophies, ideas, dreams — down thinking it will help me better remember them. Maybe not remember. Maybe hold myself to being a better person.

Then my personality of caring a bit too much about the outcome, wanting just a little closer to perfection, letting other people and situations define me always makes it back to the surface. It's not really about not being who I am but trying to let giving of myself win out more times than not over my selfishness.

I'm not aiming to be someone else, but to be a better version of myself.

It's like the line from "Must Love Dogs": "I'll call you when my personality changes." Exactly. Don't wait on that phone call from me. But I know there's always room to grow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Welcome home, John


Greg's youngest brother, John, came home last night after about 14 months of deployment. Minus the state-side training before he left, he was just outside Tikrit, Iraq, but he went off the 30-something-square-mile base once for a short leave to Qatar. Otherwise he worked on base, where he inventoried vehicle parts for his transportation unit. He turned 24 year this month, and some of the Taylors celebrated his birthday last night. Here he is with his parents, my in-laws. You can learn more about him here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

roundabout to relaxation

She said, "You looked relaxed."

Hmmm. Good. I thought to myself. I sure didn't feel relaxed. I was the only one in the room sitting down. Granted, other people were trickling in and I was securing my seat where I could hear the board's discussion yet be a little out of the way (at least as much out of the way as media can be).

OK, so I wasn't uncomfortable. I could feel the ache in my belly button and the incision about five inches below and slightly to the right. I had spent the last three days on Lortab, but I had been obeying the directions and not driving (or operating any heavy machinery while taking the narcotic pain reliever) until now.

Back track...

After much conversation, Greg and I decided I'd stop taking my birth control in early December 2004. So much for that. Refraining from details on this co-ed blog, I ended up going to the doctor in the summer to talk about some irregularity issues. That led to a monthly medicine that was supposed to help me ovulate. It did.

Still no results.

So after five rounds of the medicine the doctor wants to do surgery. Just so you know, my body cringed every time I read about it, thought about, or looked at diagrams of it. It would be THEY really. A laparoscopy and hysteroscopy. Basically the doctor was going to look inside.

After the nursing student struggled slightly to get in the IV in and I was swept away into so other world of which I have no recollection, the doctor found my tubes were blocked. (I, of course, learned of this later.)

Let me insert here that I was hoping the doctor would find something but nothing serious. I wanted a fixable problem so I could move on. Blocked tubes. Just what the patient ordered.

So the doctor fixed one of the tubes. Apparently the other was unable to be unblocked. Still, one tube is enough for those counting.

I spent the weekend at home under the care of my mother and husband. My sister was here some of the time, as were a few good friends. The weekend seemed so much easier than I thought it would be. Looking back, I should thank the makers of Lortab for that.

Now, come Monday morning ...

I decide I'd go to work. Usually I only work a half day on Mondays. I kept thinking: Surely I can make it four or five hours at work. Well, the first few hours were good. Then I got a piece of mail that said the MSU Board of Regents were going to have a special-called meeting ... TODAY at 12:30. Too bad it was TODAY at 10:30 when this piece of mail arrived at my desk.

Sidebar: So it was probably a legal open meeting notification. But it sure wasn't delivered in the spirit of the law. What happened to the fax machine or even more conveniently the e-mail?

Well, this frustration on top of the fact my back was hurting and the areas around my incisions were hurting and I was hungry ... I just broke down. Then about 20 minutes of sitting on the comfortable couch, eating some left-over baked ziti, enjoying the peace and quiet, listening to realistic encouragement from a friend and my husband, I had it together. I was off to the meeting (with half of the recommended Lortab dose).

I think playing into my frustration was the fact people now know Greg and I are trying to get pregnant. I'm strange on this subject. I want people to know, but I don't want to tell them and I certainly don't want the pressure (aka questions) that often come with such disclosure of information. I had told my closest friends, but I wanted to just surprise our families. I wanted to creatively tell my mom she's going to be a grandma again.

Instead, I had to tell my mom I needed to have surgery to find out why she wasn't going to be a grandma yet. Thing is, it sort of felt good to tell people a little more. At least their questions now would be a bit more informed and I could rid those pesky hints that are ment to prope out of many conversations, especially with one particular sister-in-law of mine.

So, here I am, the one that bares my soul on some blog that may or may not be read by people I know and even strangers, admitting I was hesitant to bare my soul. But it feels good, especially now at this new start.

With at least one clean tube.

Maybe that's why I looked relaxed.

Lysol effect

I realize Mississippi has different issues than Kentucky. I realize I work at a daily (well, almost) newspaper and that creates issues different than what weekly journalists face. Still, issues are issues, and I relate to some things Julia Cass wrote in "Wonderful Weeklies" in American Journalism Review this month.

"Taking photos of awards ceremonies and other festivities produces goodwill that is an important counterbalance to the unpopular stands these weeklies sometimes take."

"Probably the major difference between editing a weekly in a small town compared with a daily in a city is intimacy. You know or know someone who knows or is related to the people you write about, including those in the police blotter. ... Juggling hats and balancing involvement with objectivity takes decisiveness, ethical surefootedness and thick skin."

Then there are two great quotes from Ray Mosby, the publisher/editor/reporter/editorial writer/columnist/photographer/ad salesman at Deer Creek Pilo, one of the weeklies Cass writes about:

"I don't care if you're a bad newspaper. The fact you're a newspaper and cover a board meeting and write what happens has a Lysol effect. It's gonna kill some germs whether you're sprayin' real good or not."

"Hell, we do the best we can with what we got. We're not tryin' to win a Pulitzer Prize. We're just tryin' to put out the best country newspaper we can. I think that's elevated enough."

Amen.

I've been told I take my job too seriously. I've thought about how work sometimes forces me neglect TV shows, ball games or friendly company. They've griped about my overtime. People notice I perfer the "real news." I've told myself I'm going to work at work and live at home.

Here's the thing: I like my job. I feel a responsibility to this community to cover what's happening, to keep people informed. Sometimes I'd rather be laying down on my couch. (Like today: Three days following a minor outpatient surgery I had; the first day I didn't take Lortab first thing in the morning.) But truth is, I like to go to the meetings and be the first to know things and have the responsibility to communicate those things to people.

I dream about other places and bigger cities. But deep down, I want to make a different here. I'll never have such a stage in a city, a "real" city. That intimacy is non-existent. But here people know me and I know people. That's harder than any beat reporter in Louisville or Lexington or Cincinnati or Atlanta or Nashville.
I just get so frustrated sometimes when I feel like I'm trying to do it alone.

And I end up taking comfort in knowing what I'm doing is better than doing nothing. It's a start.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Belle and her chef boyfriend

I've mentioned this Belle in the Big Apple blog before, but, again, I wanted to tell you I think it's fabulous. Well, now she's expanded to included a blog with her chef boyfriend. They ALMOST make me want to cook. I emphasize ALMOST. I can't wait for her book ...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

life-and-death irony

OK, read this ...

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (AP) — In the end, California’s oldest condemned inmate did not seem quite as feeble as his attorneys made him out to be in their efforts to save his life.

With the help of four big prison guards, Clarence Ray Allen shuffled from his wheelchair to a gurney inside San Quentin’s death chamber early Tuesday, a day after his 76th birthday. Though legally blind, Allen raised his head to search among execution witnesses for relatives he had invited.

“Hoka hey, it’s a good day to die,” Allen said in a nod to his Choctaw Indian heritage. “Thank you very much, I love you all. Goodbye.”

Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

“At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life,” said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. “We would resuscitate him,” then execute him.

But the barrel-chested prisoner’s heart was strong to the end: Doctors had to administer a second shot of potassium chloride to stop it.

“It’s not unusual. This guy’s heart had been going for 76 years,” said Warden Stephen Ornoski.

Allen, condemned for ordering behind bars a hit that left three people dead, was the second-oldest inmate executed in the United States since capital punishment resumed nearly 30 years ago, behind only a 77-year-old in Mississippi last month.


Do you notice any ironies?

Mostly, I have to wonder, they would resuscitate him even though he asked to die from a heart attack, should that happen? Yet they value life. Hmmm ... It's almost like he said "fine then" and his body got stronger.

Playing the Game

The last couple of days I've turned on the TV different times to catch the ends of some really great games.

The other night Michigan State vs. Ohio State was in double overtime when I started watching. The Spartans won, which was good because I like Tom Izzo. Earlier Sunday, I turned on the Steelers-Colts game with 4 minutes or so left in the game. The Colts had gotten closer and then Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball and I though Indy was going to win. But Vanderjagt missed a field goal. I didn't really care which team won, but I know Tony Dungy needed something to cheer about.

Then last night I saw the end of Kansas vs. Missouri. I didn't really care who one. Kansas pounded Kentucky, so I guess it would look better if the Jayhawks won ... Who am kidding, nothing can make Kentucky look better. But Missouri is a likeable team. And Quinn Snyder is much better to watch than the unanimated Bill Self. So I thought Kansas would win when Christian Moody was at the line with basically no time left shooting two free throws with the game tied. Nope. Missed them both. Overtime. And Missouri ended up winning.

All of this to say, I have been thinking about how these guys spend 40 minutes on the court or 60 minutes on a field — amounting to hours in real time — and then the whole game comes down to a few seconds, or even tenths of a second in basketball. I guess it goes back to the philosophy of "that's why they play the game." It still strikes me as weird.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking I'll watch the premiere of "Love Monkey" and only flip to the UK-Georgia game when those programs conflict for an hour tonight. Maybe when I'm not looking Kentucky will play with some heart and win a ball game ... Come on, I said maybe.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hill Women Slumber Party


I just got back from a Hill women slumber party with my mom and sister ... oh, and Bailey the Dog. It was fun just to be with them without many commitments. Usually when I see them one of us has to be somewhere or do something. The time was sort of about helping Cassie get her apartment in order for the new semester (Her roommmate moved out.), but we just hung out too. And we laughed a lot.

We ate at Blackhorse, my favorite restaurant in Clarksville. The pizza there is amazing. (Cassie says the beer is good too.) Then we ran errands and I got to take care of some things I've been wanting to buy (curtains for the kitchen and stain for the porch), thanks to some Lowe's and Home Depot gift cards I had. We also wandered around Hobby Lobby for a little while. We watched "Must Love Dogs" last night, although we were missing the couch. (Cassie and Mom ordered one earlier in the day; it's supposed to be delivered tomorrow.)

Today I spray painted a coffee table that Cassie bought in Louisville at a consignment type store really cheap. (Yeah, the snowmen that were painted on it were a little much!) We ate at Chili's, which was as good as always although the service was awfully poor.

(The picture is from Christmas.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Who is Donald Miller?

By Zach Dundas
Portland's "Willamette Week"
February 2005

Don Miller sits at Crema, a sleek coffeeshop at Southeast 28th Avenue and Ankeny Street, his cell phone buzzing every few minutes. A magazine photographer is scrambling to reschedule a shoot for that afternoon. The 33-year-old author, who has an expressive, oversized little-boy face, isn't exactly pin-up material. His haircut looks like a squall just passed through. He wears a rumpled blue sweater and battered jeans.

In the circles he travels, though, this guy is a star.

Since 2003, Miller's memoir Blue Like Jazz has sold 150,000 copies and counting. (By way of comparison, Will in the World, the hot new Shakespeare bio, has sold about the same number.) Miller's follow-up, Searching for God Knows What, just hit the shelves.

Each day, Miller fields four or five requests for speaking appearances; he says he's on the road about 60 percent of the time. He's off to Nashville in a few days and also has gigs scheduled at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and Harvard. This spring in Toronto, a live stage version of Blue Like Jazz will debut.

National rep aside, Miller's a Portland writer to the core. His nonfiction, first-person stories take place in this city's taverns, cafes, streets, parks and colleges. His moody, meandering style is pitch-perfect young Rose City bohemian prose. His cast of characters draws heavily on Portland's deep pool of oddballs.

Yet he isn't exactly the toast of Portland's literary scene. Powell's sells his paperbacks by the score, but he has never made an appearance at the City of Books. Multnomah County Library can't keep his books on the shelves (at press time, all 15 copies of Blue Like Jazz and all 17 copies of Searching for God Knows What were checked out), but no local newspaper (including this one) has reviewed it.

How come? Simple: Miller's a Christian. Half his sales are through religious bookstores. The afternoon photo shoot is for a slick magazine called Relevant, basically a hybrid of Spin and Entertainment Weekly aimed at the youth-ministry set. At Harvard, he'll address the Veritas Forum, a gathering of Christian intellectuals. In Toronto, he's speaking at a Christian college so small even he hasn't heard of it. The stage version of his book will run at "faith-based" venues in Canada's biggest city.

The weird thing is, Miller is not just a religious fish out of Portland's hyper-secular water. He's also an oddity among Christian authors. Some Christians don't care for him one bit. "I truly believe that Blue Like Jazz is in large part a heresy masquerading as Christianity," says Vince Bissey, one of Miller's most vociferous online critics.

His fans, however, love him. They've made his writing a hit largely on the strength of word of mouth, blogs and the grapevine that links scattered bands of rebel evangelicals across the country. Indeed, for a Christian writer, Miller's raising a lot of hell.

Christian publishing is, by some estimates, the fastest-growing segment of the book biz. According to the Association of American Publishers, sales of religious titles jumped 37 percent in 2003 and increased again last year. Though the field accounts for just 5 percent of total book sales, it's responsible for the lion's share of overall growth in sales to adults.

Beyond endless repackaging of the Bible and commentaries on Scripture, the industry has a couple of sweet spots. The first is Christian fiction. The genre even has its own Grishams. Collaborators Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' "Left Behind" series of over-the-top apocalyptic thrillers has sold more than 55 million copies and spawned a brood of spinoffs. In the Left Behind books, Jesus personally tosses nonbelievers into a lake of fire, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations is the Antichrist. Literally.

Christian publishing's other mainstay is self-help. Christian bookstores (and the growing "spirituality" sections of secular stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble) overflow with books that promise Bible-based formulae for success and serenity, with subtitles like "Seven Steps to Living Your Best Life Now" or "Breaking Through to the Blessed Life." The king of them all is The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, which has occupied the New York Times bestseller list for 106 weeks and can be found stacked in ziggurats at Costcos and Wal-Marts across the land.

Don Miller's stuff is different.

It's not that his work isn't Christian. His books revolve around his faith. He rhapsodizes for pages and pages about what Eden must have been like before the Fall. His new book, Searching for God Knows What, is dense with Scriptural references. Blue Like Jazz, his big hit, is an aching, sincere story of his personal faith journey: boy meets Jesus, boy loses Jesus, boy meets Jesus again.

A worshipper at Imago Dei, Donald Miller's chruch, which figures prominently in his books.
"I don't really deal with doubt anymore," Miller says. "I just don't."

On the other hand, Miller has many surprises in store for anyone looking to pigeonhole him. One passage of Blue Like Jazz recounts a scuffle with Portland cops at anti-Bush protests. Many of the conversations in his books take place over beers at the Horse Brass Pub. He describes watching penguins screw in wildlife documentaries as a spiritually enlightening experience. He recounts how, as an angsty Houston adolescent, he once renounced God while listening to the Smiths' song "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" and vandalizing a carwash. His first book was about taking off from Texas in a VW bus and ending up in a hippie encampment in the Oregon woods with a bunch of guys who were, as he says now, "brushing their teeth with beer."

All this makes Miller an extremely unlikely entrant into the Christian publishing sweepstakes. His following is equally unusual. Last month, he gave a reading at an old Nashville theater "sort of comparable to the Bagdad." The line started forming two hours before Miller went on stage, stretching around the block. The theater canceled its late movie so he could give a second reading.

To hear him tell it, though, those fans weren't exactly looking for a guru.

"Everyone just wants to have a beer," Miller says. "I could be an alcoholic for free if I lived in the South."

Miller's success doesn't quite have Tim LaHaye looking nervously over his shoulder, but it has changed life for a guy who says he used to end up praying for rent money at the end of each month. He still lives in a communal house off Burnside with four other guys, but he drives a newish Saab. With two books coming out in the next year and a freshly inked deal for two more, he knows for the first time that writing will be his job for a while. None of it, he says, is according to plan.

"I figured Blue Like Jazz would sell about 5,000 copies," he says. "When my agent was sending it out, I told her, 'Hey, we have a moral obligation to tell people this won't sell.'"

Miller was once an enthusiastic Young Republican who forged credentials just so he could hang out inside the 1992 GOP convention in Houston. Now he's a Green-turned-Democrat with a link to MoveOn.org on his website. And he is also the only writer in the cosmos who jump-started a career in Christian publishing by going to Reed College, a school where the unofficial motto is "Atheism, Communism, Free Love."

In 2001, Miller found himself living a somewhat disgruntled existence. He'd moved to Portland in the early '90s, in part because it offered a different cultural universe than Houston, where he grew up Southern Baptist. His first book had stiffed and gone out of print. He'd quit his job as a youth minister at a suburban church ("It was like going to church at the Gap," he wrote in Blue Like Jazz).

Tony Kriz, a Gospel-debating buddy whose pointy Bolshevik goatee and intense intellectual bearing earned him the alias "Tony the Beat Poet" in Miller's books, helped convince the stalled-out writer to audit a humanities class at Reed. Soon, the pair took charge of Reed's microscopic campus Christian ministry-a project roughly comparable to convincing NFL linemen to take up cricket.

The group (dubbed Oh, For Christ's Sake) organized trips to homeless shelters on one hand, round-tables on "the darkness of the human heart" on the other. During Renn Fayre, Reed's notoriously debauched end-of-term celebration, Oh, For Christ's Sake set up a "reverse confessional" so students could hear about the sins of the church.

"There would be, like, three Christians in a group of 30," Kriz recalls. "We were trying to show kids that Christianity valued what they valued, because that's certainly not how most people saw it. And I think Don suddenly felt like he had something to write about."

Miller remembers his epihany a little differently-"I ran out of money and thought, 'Hmm, maybe I should write again,'" he says.

Blue Like Jazz is, in the Seinfeldian sense, a book about nothing. Or more accurately, it's a wildly wandering coming-of-age-story, with segues into religious meditations. (Miller also confesses a crush on the bisexual songwriter Ani DiFranco.)

This weird mix struck a nerve, becoming the kind of book people buy for six or a dozen friends. Some of its devotees are natural spiritual searchers. "It's almost easier to tell people you're into witchcraft these days than to tell them you're a Christian," says Houston's Kelly Ann Hall, an ex-Wiccan who's now a sort of avant-garde Baptist. "The way Don talks about his faith helped me think, 'It's OK to believe this way.'"

Most people who love Don Miller seem to be more conventional Christians who feel cast adrift in the conservative megachurch world. "I think most of my readers are disenfranchised evangelicals," Miller says. "They've been going to church and voting Republican all their lives, but it's not working for them anymore."

"Beneath the evangelical power crust, a lot of stuff is bubbling," says Jess Bielman, the campus ministry director at Warner Pacific College, a tiny Bible school on Mount Tabor where many students read Miller. "Miller taps right into that. And sarcasm is underappreciated in the Christian world."

From the outside, evangelical Christianity looks like a right-wing monolith right now: bolstering Bush, crushing gay marriage, waging abortion jihad, saving America's children from SpongeBob SquarePants.

Miller's success is evidence something else is afoot. Locally, the author is part of a loose network of evangelical thinkers who are trying, as another says, "to talk about faith without sounding like assholes." In Portland and nationally, a new breed of churches often labeled "emergent" is carving out an alternative to the suburban megachurch.

For example, there's Miller's own church, Imago Dei, founded by an ex-college football player named Rick McKinley. The pastor calls people "bro," sports a goatee and talks in a drowsy, stoned-frat-boy drawl. His church, which has gone from meeting in his living room to holding three crowded services a day at the Old Laurelhurst Church, emphasizes art, music and social activism. Like many emergent churches, it draws a young, hipster-flavored crowd.

"The emergent church is the product of a bunch of people coming to similar conclusions at the same time," says Bob Hyatt, the 35-year-old pastor of the Evergreen Community, an emergent church that meets every Sunday at the Lucky Lab pub in Multnomah Village. "We're not going to ignore 2,000 years of Christian history, but we're not going to do what our parents or grandparents did just because."

The fact that so many young kids love a book like Blue Like Jazz and question the evangelical church's direction makes some people very uncomfortable.

Some of Miller's critics go after him for theological reasons. Vince Bissey, the Missouri Presbyterian who vehemently criticized Blue Like Jazz, believes Miller gets the Bible dead wrong when he writes, for example, that "something inside me…caused Him to love me." Bissey, who's entering seminary training next year, believes God loves humanity despite humanity's total lack of worthiness. "I really believe there can only be one correct view," he says.

And then there's politics.

"What Miller says about Christian conservatives," says Michael Spencer, a Kentucky pastor and popular Christian blogger, "will just peel the hair off those of us who voted for Bush."

On one of the unseasonably springlike days at the end of January, Miller and I meet at a Starbucks. He has just returned from his trip to Nashville; a few days later, he'll hit the road again. After this spring, he says he plans to cut back on his speaking schedule. He has a lot of writing to do.

A rewrite of his first book, the commercially unsuccessful road memoir that appeared before Blue Like Jazz, will be published in August (see "Don Miller's Books," page 25). A book about growing up without a father-Miller compares the tone to the maniacally wry gay humorist David Sedaris-will follow next February.

Portland is usually considered one of the most godless cities in the country. Only about 12 percent of its citizens attend services. Miller, however, seems remarkably attuned to a city where, yoga retreats aside, the majority seems content to ignore religion.

"I think this is a wonderful place to live," he says, while adding, "there's probably more intolerance towards Christians than there is toward any other group-but not that much intolerance. I don't feel oppressed. I don't feel discriminated against."

One of his big plans, in fact, is to make the Rose City the hub of a national network of unconventional Christian writers, which he's calling the Burnside Writers Collective. There's Chris Seay, the pastor at ex-witch Kelly Hall's church in Houston, author of books called The Gospel According to Tony Soprano and The Tao of Enron; McKinley, pastor of Miller's own congregation, Imago Dei, will publish Jesus in the Margins this fall. Miller is characteristically self-effacing, calling plans to coordinate the promotion of a select bunch of writers through a website "a bait-and-switch operation, a cynical effort to sell more books."

"I just want to provide a way to get some like-minded thinkers together and say, 'If you like my book, you'll really like their books,'" he says. "There's a huge desire out there to say, 'This is what our faith can look like if you approach it in a different way.'"

As different as Miller is from the stereotypical evangelical, make no mistake: Miller's no poseur.

At Starbucks, after I close my notebook, Miller looks at me. "So you've been talking to people, working on your stories," he says. "Has anyone explained to you what the Gospel is?"

I say, no, not in so many words.

"I could give you the sales pitch," he says. "Because maybe, who knows, 10 years down the road…"

Then Miller proceeds, in the most low-key and friendly way, to explain that God loves me, wants to have a relationship with me-and, for that matter, everyone. The relationship was damaged in the Garden, but Christ came to earth to fix it. The invitation, Miller says, is always open.

"That's one of the hardest things to do, to share your faith," Miller says when he's done. "I mean, especially with a journalist, someone you know could just hang you out to dry.

"So that's it," he says. "Plus, you have to vote Republican. Did I mention that?"

more Donald Miller

Remember his lifeboat theory? Well, here's more on that and who Jesus was:

"He had hunger and thirst and He slept and rested, but He had no regard for the lifeboat politics you and I live within everyday. He believed a great deal of absurd ideas, such as we should turn the other cheek if somebody hits us, we should be willing to give up all our money and follow Him, we should try our hardest to make peace, we should treat poor people the same as we treat the rich, we should lay down our lives for our friends, and so on and so on. It seemed He believed we should take every opportunity to fail in the lifeboat game, not for the sake of failing, but because there wasn't anything to win in the first place. It was as if He didn't believe the economy we live within had validity. No part of Him was deceived by its power."

I think my favorite thing about Jesus was how relational he was, how much he loved people. (Is it bad to have a favorite thing about the son of God?)

"He never sat down and wrote a mission statement. Instead, He accumulated friends and allowed them to write about Him, talk about Him, testify about Him. Each of the gospels reveals a Christ who ate with people, attended parties, traveled with people, and worked with people. I can't imagine He would do this unless He actually liked people and cared about them. Jesus built our faith system entirely on relationships, forgoing marketing efforts and spin."

—From "Searching for God Knows What" by Donald Miller

TGIF ... really

So we got new windows at our house. They look nice and leave me wishing for spring so I can open my windows. Wait, is it spring? No, just 65 degrees in January. (Well, that's what it was yesterday. It was 55 the day before. I think it's supposed to snow this weekend.) Anyway, seriously, I like the new windows. They are MUCH improved over the old ones. Although the old ones had a bit more character.

The other thing the windows do for me is make me want to do more projects at my house. But we've got to pace ourselves so we don't go into debt. We save and save, then pay for a project, then save and save, and pay for another project ... It's a good system, but sometimes I have to hold myself back from wanting to do it all at once.

Next up: Central heating and air.
(That's why we got the windows first. This way once we get central heating and air, they'll be more efficient inside and not literally go out the window.)

Then: Kitchen remodeling. I have big plans for this!

This weekend I plan to clean up the house we have and channel my creative energy that wants to accomplish something into the scrapbook I'm working on for my cousin. Then I have plenty of my own pictures that have been neglected in the holiday hustle and the subsequent ear infection sickness.

simple

It may not be quite this simple, but this is definitely basically my philosophy:

"Put everything in the newspaper unvarnished. Just ask questions, write down the answers and put them in the newspaper. Pretty simple."

—Gene Miller, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, 1928-2005

Monday, January 9, 2006

Happy 2nd Birthday, Milla!




Precious as always! We were glad to celebrate her second birthday with her on Saturday. (Her birthday was actually Friday.) But I say one thing about this 2-year-old ... she has some common sense. She dug into the cake with her mouth and hands, and then later she said, "I want some more happy cake." Clear as day, because that's how well she speaks. Happy cake. Makes sense. They sing happy birthday then give you cake.

LIVE

"Do the things you must in life, but do them with style, take from them joy, and remember to have fun."

—Rochelle Riley on resolutions for the new year

Friday, January 6, 2006

therapy?

Sometimes crying my eyes out for no good reason is the best way to remember there is no good reason to be feeling so overwhelmed and stuck in a self-caused rotten place.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

refreshing, especially for January

It's really nice to see the sun, not wear a coat and have energy for the first time in at least a week -- all in the same day.

ha ha ha ...

It is strange we laugh when someone tickles us. Laughter usually signals enjoyment, yet I generally want people to stop tickling me. So I did some brief research. I emphasize brief.

Laughing when another person tickles you is a natural reaction. Scientists have discovered that the feeling experienced when we are tickled causes us to panic and is a natural defense to little creepy crawlers like spiders and bugs. Slight tickles from insects can send a chill through your body letting you know something is crawling on you.

That same ticklish feeling sends us into a state of panic and elicits a response of uncontrollable laughter if a person tickles us. It's the moment that you least expect to be tickled and are that causes you to feel extremely uneasy and panicked, which leads to the most intense ticklish feeling. Even if you do know that you are about to be tickled, the fear and unease of someone touching and possibly hurting you causes you to laugh. Some people are so ticklish that they begin laughing even before they are touched.

So, if someone else's touch can tickle us, why can't we tickle ourselves? Much of the explanation for this question is still unknown, but research has shown that the brain is trained to know what to feel when a person moves or performs any function. We aren't aware of a lot of the sensations generated by our movements. For example, you probably don't pay much attention to your vocal cords when you speak. For the same reason, we can't tickle ourselves. If we grab our sides in an attempt to tickle ourselves, our brain anticipates this contact from the hands and prepares itself for it. By taking away the feeling of unease and panic, the body no longer responds the same as it would if someone else were to tickle us.


— From How Stuff Works

Cat news

Dedicated to Katie.

Yes, cat news. You see, when I was a kid, I really liked cats. In fact, my best friend Katie loved to buy me cat gifts - the earrings and throw pillow are the ones that particularly stand out in my mind. But, now, I'm not so sure about cats. They make me sneeze. (I didn't become allergic to them until I moved away from them, in case you were wondering why I would have pets that physicially irritated me.) I mean, I liked my cats, but I don't think I would have another cat pet. Four in my childhood was enough. The last one, Kali, had to be put down a few months ago.

Anyway, the first story is from www.ohionewsnow.com, although I'm sure you could find it elsewhere ...


A Columbus man who fell out of his wheelchair and was unable to call for help says his cat did it for him.

Officers say Gary Rosheisen's cat Tommy was lying by a telephone on the living room floor when they arrived at the house Thursday.

Fifty-year-old Rosheisen says Tommy must have hit the right buttons to alert authorities.

Rosheisen suffers from osteoporosis and ministrokes that disrupt his balance.

He says he wasn't wearing his medical-alert necklace when he fell. Police received a 911 call from the apartment, but no one was on the phone.

Rosheisen says he tried to teach Tommy to dial 911, using a speed dial button.

But he wasn't sure if the cat ever picked up the training.

The second is from The Associated Press ...

VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) — Curiosity didn’t kill one cat on a wild ride on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The feline, now known as Miracle, hitchhiked a ride on the underbelly of a sport utility vehicle just before Christmas. The gray and white cat traveled some 70 miles on the turnpike Dec. 23.

“I’m just amazed that the cat didn’t fall off or get blown off,” said Karen Dixon-Aquino, director of the Animal Welfare Association in Voorhees. The association is caring for Miracle and plans to put him up for adoption.

The SUV’s driver didn’t know about the stowaway until another motorist saw the cat through a wheel well and flagged down the driver.

Dixon-Aquino said Miracle probably climbed under the SUV and was asleep when the journey began. Somehow, the cat avoided being mangled by fan blades and other moving parts as he clung to the car.

“He was pretty freaked out,” Dixon-Aquino said. “His paws were burnt, one claw was missing and his fur was singed.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

What? (at least if you're speaking toward my left ear...)

An ear infection. Seriously. Isn't that what happens in grade school? I can't ever remember having an ear infection, though. I did have ear tubes put in my ears when I was about a second or third grader, but that had more to do with the fact I couldn't hear very well, not the recurring ear infections like some kids I knew. Oh, well, hopefully the antibiotic will make me feel like myself again.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Happy New Year

Celebrating the new year is anti-climatic in the central time zone.

Yes, this was the first year I've ever do so. In college, my friends typically gathered at my parents' house in Oldham County. The last few years, Greg and I have been in Louisville or Lexington with friends or family. This year we decided to stay put and invite some friends over here.

So the ball drops at 11 p.m. here. I mean, we watch the same party the folks in the eastern time zone - where the party is really happening - watch. I really thought there would be something else, or at least a delayed version of the New York party.

At 11:58 or so (that would be central time) we flipped through the channels to see if something was going to prompt us to say "happy new year" in unison. The best we found was someone - who knows where - counting down for one more hour to go. That means that party was in the mountain time zone. Again, not helpful.

Still, the mountain time zone really gets left out. The TV says eastern/central time a lot. Then things are replayed for the Pacific time zone. What happens with the mountain? Apparently they get some special New Year's Eve program. From where, though? Denver? Salt Lake City?

What good is Chicago if it can't have a big, expensive ball drop - or some comparable gesture - for the folks in the central time zone?

Regardless, happy new year, wherever you may be.