Thursday, November 13, 2008

Write or Die!

Surfing the web isn’t always the time-waster people say it is. Sometimes you go down that rabbit trail of links and discover gold. Or Dr. Wicked.

The evil Dr. Wicked has developed a writing tool based on negative reinforcement. He calls it Write or Die, and it’s a web-based program that motivates you to just do it: keep on writing or suffer the consequences.wod2

It works like this: Go to the Write or Die site, enter a few customized choices into a dialogue box (word-count goal, time goal, level of “punishment”), click “submit” and start writing. Here’s what happens if you stop writing, depending on the mode you select:

  • Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
  • Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
  • Kamikaze Mode: Keep writing or your work will unwrite itself

I know more than a few writers who could use this. I’m the kind of writer who keeps on writing and worries about editing myself later. Some of my writing friends insist on editing as they write, and they’re the ones who have trouble producing 500 words a day.

As Dr. Wicked puts it, this program puts the "prod" in productivity. I love it.

If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you. I’ll do the same.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shameless Plug

But not for one of my books. This is a plug for Garlic-Free Gourmet: Be Your Own Personal Chef by Andy Ward.

Garlic-Free Gourmet Okay, I know what you’re thinking: garlic-free gourmet? That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? To me, garlic is its own food group, just like coffee. And the only time I entertain the notion of putting the words “garlic” and “free” together is when my local natural foods store overbuys and puts out a basket of free garlic bulbs. I live for those days.

But Andy and his wife, Donna, have an adverse reaction to garlic, so Andy developed several dozen recipes that use other flavorings to take the place of garlic. I’ve tried a couple, and they really are good.

Only for Andy, though, would I forgo garlic, even for a meal or two. We’ve known each other for…um…many, many years. We first met in Miss Radcliffe’s fifth-grade class at Sensor School in Millville, New Jersey, in 1960. My earliest memory of him dates back to one morning when I was basking in the glow of having just won the class spelling bee. Andy piped up and challenged me to spell “antidisestablishmentarianism.” Quite the precocious guy, he was.

To this day I maintain that even at the age of 10, I could have spelled that word correctly. But he threw me off my game. I turned bright red, blinked back the tears and wanted to run out of the room. Miss Radcliffe, bless her heart, chided Andy and told me I could sit down.

I have no doubt that this is why Andy has been deprived of enjoying one of life’s finest culinary pleasures. Let this be a lesson to all males everywhere: Before you make a young girl cry, consider the karmic consequences.

Enough. Now I’m in withdrawal. I’m going to go sauté a whole bulb of garlic just for the heck of it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Our long national nightmare is (almost) over


There's not much I can add to the eloquent and emotional words so many have spoken and written in an attempt to express what Barack Obama's victory means to them. What I can add is a personal perspective and a few memories of growing up during the civil rights movement and witnessing segregation first hand.

When I was a child, our family visited the South every few years. My mother was born in Georgia and had family in Florida; my produce-selling father had lived and worked in Florida seasonally and met my mother there. I don't have any race-related memories of the times we traveled by train from Philadelphia to Gainesville, but traveling by car was another story.

Car trips meant stopping in Southern states and being exposed to segregated restrooms, water fountains and restaurants. Those memories are hazy; I can mostly remember this vague sensation that Negroes, the term our family used, were lesser people, diseased and dirty and definitely to be feared. This impression didn't come from my parents. It came from simply walking the streets of Georgia or South Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even in the North, I can remember using coin-operated public restrooms (remember those?) in train stations and especially on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, and hearing women admonish their children not to use a toilet that a Negro had just used. A child couldn't help but absorb some of that trepidation.

Then came the race riots. I won't go into that history; all I will say is that if you didn't live through that time, you cannot imagine the terror people felt.

In April of 1968, I visited Paris on a high school trip. Race riots were the furthest thing from my mind---until the day before we were scheduled to return to New Jersey. The news was all around us: Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis. The fear returned. I recall looking out the window of the plane as it descended toward Philadelphia International Airport; I fully expected to see Philly and Camden, its neighbor across the river, engulfed in flames.

Today I heard someone mocking Jesse Jackson for crying as he listened to Barack Obama speak the night before. I don't care who your presidential preference was; I don't care what you think of Barack Obama---if you can’t understand why people were crying and taking to the streets in sheer jubilation last night, then you're far too cynical for me.

Our long national nightmare, the one that's (almost) over, isn't our history of racism. I'm hopeful about the future, but I'm also realistic about the deep racial divide among some segments of our society. Racism isn't the nightmare I'm referring to. The nightmare is the Bush administration. Free at last, free at last---thank God Almighty, we're (almost) free at last.

Sunday, November 02, 2008 goes live

Anyone who has worked with Ed Gilbreath can attest to his journalistic integrity and professionalism, as well as his deep faith in God. And he’s an all-around great guy, the kind of person who makes you feel good inside whenever you think of him.

He’s now the editor-in-chief of, which launched on Oct. 30 after what I’m sure was a long and arduous process. Any major online startup is a challenge, and given Ed’s commitment to excellence, I’m sure Urban Faith was no exception.

I’ll let Ed tell you what the site is all about:

Today, urban culture transcends racial boundaries and covers many different socio-economic backgrounds. For some, "urban" may evoke images of hip-hop and BET. For others, it might suggest inner-city poverty and injustice. Still others will associate the term with savvy, cosmopolitan sophistication. The truth is, an "urban" spirit can be just as vibrant in the suburbs as in the heart of the city. What's more, Christians who are engaged in the exciting call to urban ministry come from all races and walks of life. will embrace "urban" in all its diversity. It will be more about a way of looking at the world than where folks live or the color of their skin. It will be both for those who make their home in an urban setting and for those who simply care about the people, culture, and issues related to urban life.

Every day, you'll find thoughtful articles and conversation about issues such as politics, pop culture, and theology. You'll read commentaries, journalistic reports, and reviews.

Every day, we'll take on the hot topics everyone's talking about, offer insight and inspiration for your daily Christian walk, and provide a forum for honest, real-life questions and opinions.


Ed Gilbreath

I wrote two articles for the site, one about black independent voters and a growing coalition of black political groups and white independent voters. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that’s in its early stages and was prompted in part by the Democratic Party’s failure to deliver on its promises to blacks, whose support the party has long taken for granted. The other is a guide to what you can do to ensure that your vote is counted on Election Day—something everyone needs to be concerned about.

I hope you’ll visit the site, register and comment on its content. It’s a project of Christian publisher Urban Ministries.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not bad, not bad

Tyndale House, publisher of We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, just posted this video interview of me talking about the book. It’s on the book’s Web site,

Check it out and let me know what you think. Personally, I expect all the major networks and cable outlets to come calling.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

From charismatic to crucifer

cartoon from

(Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.)

Oh man, this guy nailed it. There's no doubt about it—that's me up there, or rather a male version of me. My transformation from crazy charismatic to Episcopal acolyte comes to fruition later this month when I'll don the appropriate vestments and assist in liturgical worship for the first time. Was my journey all that predictable? It appears so, though I think not. I know lots of crazy charismatics who still look like that guy to the far left.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The comma as a sign of respect

Liz Wolgemuth, who covers careers and business etiquette and all that jazz for U.S. New & World Report, asked a question on her blog today that is near and dear to this English major's heart: Does Grammar Really Matter Anymore? It's so near to my heart, in fact, that just hours before Wolgemuth's article appeared in Google Reader, my husband and I had been bemoaning the state of communication today in the U.S. of A.

That should be enough to alert you to our grammatical crisis, because my husband is not exactly a stickler for grammar. He's been saying "have went" for all of our 26 years of marriage, despite my stellar grammatical modeling and my occasional, pointed, maybe-a-bit-too-loud "have gone" by way of correction. And yet, he gets irked by the instances of grammatical looseness he encounters every day.

Here's the thing: I became reconciled to the fluid nature of language some time ago. I realize that language is an ever-changing factor of human life that shifts according to a multitude of influences, not the least being the ever-changing nature of human nature. Language evolves naturally.

But linguistic and grammatical changes become problematic when people make them intentionally and carelessly, without regard for the rest of humanity. Or English-speaking humanity, in this case.

The point of language is communication, but our ability to communicate with each other is severely diminished when we make up our own rules for grammar, spelling, usage and word definitions. (I'm OK with some forms of shorthand, by the way, if you're texting someone who understands the shorthand. This is why I don't ever text or IM. And yes, I know I just used "text" as a verb. I hate myself for it, all right?)

But here's the bottom line for me, as both an editor and a writer: Following the rules for punctuation and spelling and all the rest is a sign of respect for the reader. I remember hearing such great things about Cold Mountain, but after a few pages I found it was just too annoying to try to read dialogue that had no quotation marks. Plus, I had a hard time suppressing the urge to mark up the book. By all accounts, it's a wonderful book. I'll never know. I felt as if the author had ignored convention for an artistic purpose with little regard for the reader.

That's really what it comes down to—respect and regard for the reader. As an editor, I'm required to follow the dictates of The Associated Press Stylebook when I'm editing news, The Chicago Manual of Style when I'm editing books, and the style guides my clients have developed to supplement those two books. Even so, there are cases in which the style guides just don't make sense, and that's when I break the rules in order to make a particular sentence more readable and understandable.

What do you think? I really don't believe I'm off-base in suggesting that we need to consider our readers, whether we're writing an email, a blog or a book. Or am I?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Remembering Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I've hoped for a week now that I would be able to come up with a brilliant, poignant tribute to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an author whose impact on my life has been immeasurable. Others have done far better than I could in the week or so since he passed away. But I can't let his death go unmentioned, especially after reading a New York Times article about the absence of a national outpouring of grief in Russia, a country that owes him so very much.

I was in my 20s when the great writer was forced to leave his homeland. This is a portion of what I wrote about him in 2005 in God Between the Covers, an annotated bibliography of the books that had a significant impacted on my life:
Several years after his exile, he emigrated to the United States, where he proceeded to alternately enchant and offend the media and the masses. At first he was a media darling and a trophy émigré for the American government: “Look! A Russian who found faith in a prison camp and got out and chose to live where? In the U.S., of course!” But he fell out of favor when he began criticizing the West for its complacency, lack of moral courage, and legalistic attitudes.

I ignored the backlash and concentrated on what Solzhenitsyn had to say, mainly through One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and his monumental work, The Gulag Archipelago, a disturbing account of life in the Soviet labor camp system that was based on his observations as a prisoner as well as the experiences of other prisoners. The Soviets did not take kindly to this exposé, which is why he was finally booted out. The combination of the depth of his faith and the courage it took for him to stand up for his convictions stood in marked contrast to what I saw in the church at that time (and, well, what I saw in my own life). I thought we could use a few more troublemakers like him. I still do.
God, send us more troublemakers like Solzhenitsyn. He stands apart as one of the true heroes of the 20th century.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Photoshopping of America

I realize this is nothing new, and I'm pretty late to the game in writing about it. But I had a conversation the other day with a guy who uses an online dating service, and we got to talking about women (and men, I'm sure) who are less than honest when they give out information about themselves on Internet sites. Like many men, my friend has wasted time online with women who turned out not to be who or what they said they were.

Just as bad is all the altered photos. I personally know a woman who Photoshopped herself right into disfigurement, and she just can't see it. Even to the untrained eye, her online photo makes her face look distorted. To the trained eye, it's downright laughable; one of her eyes in no way matches the other, and one cheekbone looks as if it's swollen—but in a really odd way, not the way it might naturally swell up if she was injured.

This woman has fallen prey to one of the greatest deceptions to befall women in recent decades with regard to their appearance: that it's OK to deceive men by altering their photos, because once those same men are introduced to the woman's stellar personality, it won't matter that she's 10 years older or 20 pounds heavier. But it will. Because deception is crummy foundation for a relationship, which is presumably what some of those men, at least, are looking for through an online dating service.

I don't get it. Sure, my photo over there on the side of this post may not make me look so hot, but that's me. Not so hot, but honest. (Oh, and happily married...not on the dating market.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Words and More Words

As you all must know by now, I love language. I have this ongoing love affair with words, and I'm so enchanted by them that I don't even care what language they're expressed in. So here's my current slew of words and word-related interests:

1. Out-woman. Isn't that delicious? It means exactly what it says. It dates to the 16th century, I believe. Can't you just see two brazen hussies going at it outside some remote rural pub in the Cotswolds, one of them shouting to the other, "I can out-woman you any day!"
2. New words. Merriam-Webster is finally adding "edamame" to the dictionary; edamame are immature green soybeans, and many of us have been eating them for years. Also to come in the next edition: "soju," a Korean vodka distilled from rice, and "prosecco," a dry Italian sparkling wine.
3. The Adventure of English. History International is currently airing this 2002 series, and I've TiVoed every episode. I especially enjoyed the one in which the host credited America with standardizing the language, much to the admiration of the Brits. Who knew? I figured they always thought we were the ones who botched it up.
I keep a running list of my favorite words, and it's getting ridiculously long. Do you? If so, what are your favorite words?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The International Christian Retail Show

I'm a bit late with this, but I don't much care. It took me three full days to recover from a recent 10-day trip to Florida, mostly to visit my daughters and the friends I left behind when I moved to Colorado last year, but also to attend the annual event known as ICRS, or the International Christian Retail Show. I'm only now sufficiently awake to post this.

I began attending the show in the 1990s when I was editor of Christian Retailing magazine. In those days, I had appointments on the trade-show floor every half hour or so during the day, early morning breakfast meetings, luncheons, dinners, and late-night events or appointments. I averaged four hours of sleep each night.

After I left the magazine, I attended as a representative of a freelancing client like Publishers Weekly or, or as an author with one of the publishing companies. Over the years, my participation waned—as did my interest. This year, I attended three dinners that I wouldn't have missed for the world (thank you, Christy Awards, Baker and Tyndale), a seminar my literary agency held (thank you, Alive Communications), a women-in-publishing event (thank you, Guideposts, Sara A. Fortenberry Literary Agency,, Nunn Communications, and the B&B Media Group), meals with industry friends, and a booksigning for my very own We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter.

That was it. I never "walked the floor"—which at an event like this means spending untold hours going from one vendor's booth to another, checking out excellent, mediocre and truly horrible books, the plethora of what we call "Jesus Junk" (cheap products, often ridiculous, with something religious gratuitously slapped on them) and the myriad services offered to booksellers.

Apparently, I wasn't alone in my lack of interest in the show. Attendance dropped to just under 7,500—the lowest number in decades. As recently as 1999, some 14,000-plus people attended.

So is it the economy, increasing travel hassles (which nearly did me in, I admit), the consolidation of mom-and-pop stores into large chains, meaning fewer representatives, or simply a lack of interest? For me, it's that last factor. With each passing year, I feel less of an affinity with the Christian marketplace and more with the general market.

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate Christian retailers, who work harder in a day than some people work in a week, or Christian publishers, who have been incredibly good to me. I just think that maybe this show has run its course. Back in the day, we faced an uphill battle getting our books into general market stores, and we needed our own show to give our books and other products exposure to retailers.

But no more. Religious sections in general market stores have expanded, and while they'll never compete with Christian stores in knowledge or depth or breadth of titles, they do offer exposure to Christian authors and let readers know there's more to Christian books than they may have realized.

Will I attend next year? Sure. It's going to be in Denver, a mere hour or so from my home. And the following year? Probably. It's in St. Louis, a much more manageable city to tolerate. Other venues in recent years, and to which they may return, have included Dallas (nope), Atlanta (no way), and of course Orlando (well, my daughters are a factor there). If they ever add Portland or Seattle, I'm in.

But no matter where it's held, it's unlikely that you'll see me walking the floor looking for the latest and greatest product. I'll leave that to the other 6,000 or 4,000 people there, or whatever attendance drops to in future years.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

In Memoriam: Linda Pryor

"I'm Done" (Linda's caption, after summitting her final Fourteener a while back)

Early Saturday morning, the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the seemingly impossible happened: Linda Pryor, an experienced climber who had summited all of Colorado's 54 14,000-foot-plus mountains, died while climbing Crestone Needle in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado.

I am still in disbelief.

While Linda was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya last fall, I began attending the same small church she did --- and expected to feel intimidated by this nearly legendary mountain climber when she returned. But no. Instead of meeting a tough, aggressive, muscular show-off, I met a gentle spirit who lived to love, to serve and to climb. Her smile, her sense of humor, her faith, and her wisdom were all infectious.

Unlike Thoreau's men of quiet desperation, Linda lived a life of quiet inspiration. To me, she defined serenity.

Linda was careful, conscientious, and safety-conscious. She was a meticulous climber who planned and thought through every step of her climb before she ever left the house. On Saturday, she and her climbing companions had with them all the safety equipment they needed. Her fall was simply a freak occurrence. The photo below was taken the morning she died.

I would have trusted her with my life. Her climbing companions did just that.

I can't help but feel cheated; I knew her for such a short time. Tonight at her memorial service, though, I found not just comfort but also cause for celebration in this verse from Isaiah, which Linda and her fellow climbers shared in their tent Friday night:
For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
That's an image I can live with now, the image of Linda's beloved mountains bursting into song and the trees clapping their hands as she made her final ascent, straight into the arms of God.

Linda died doing what she loved, but just as important, she lived doing what she loved. We should all be so fortunate.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Caged Virgin and Willful Blindness

How's that for a matchup? Actually, those are the titles of two books on my must-read list. Both examine Islamic beliefs and practices but from distinctly different perspectives.

I've read enough excerpts of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's The Caged Virgin to know that I want to read the entire book. Her more recent release, Infidel, provided a fascinating look at her life as an Islamic woman and traced her journey from Somalia to the Dutch Parliament. In The Caged Virgin, Ali offers a rebuke of Islam's treatment of women as well as a critical analysis of fundamentalist Islam and how it is perceived in the West. Her perspective is that of an insider who escaped being forced to marry her cousin and who lost her sister to the emotional aftereffects of genital mutilation. Hers is a compelling story, and that is an understatement.

My knowledge of Willful Blindness stems entirely from an interview by Hugh Hewitt on BookTV with author Andrew McCarthy, the federal prosecutor who brought the "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel Rahman, to trial for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. What struck me most about the interview was McCarthy's vulnerability about the mistakes he made and his shallow understanding of Islam. And then there were the many revelations about the lack of communication among government agencies and other lapses in national security measures that allowed the Blind Sheikh to carry out the attack — and that paved the way for the 9/11 attacks. An equally compelling read in a different way, I suspect.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A.J. Kiesling and 'Skizzer'

I read a lot of books. I don't mean a skimpy one per week or anything like that; double or triple that, and you're in my ballpark. I read both multi-genre fiction and multi-category nonfiction. I'm not only an avid book reader; I'm also a highly critical book editor and writing instructor. And I will say this without apology or qualification: The very last thing CBA (shorthand for the Christian book publishing industry) needs is another crummy or mediocre or wannabe writer. You have to kiss a lot of toads to find a prince, or princess, among the mass of Christian writers.

One such evidence of CBA royalty is Angie Kiesling, who writes under the name A.J. Kiesling and is one of the best writers I've ever edited. She is also a friend, which makes me appear less than objective in my assessment of her writing skills. But before I launch into a glowing review of her first novel, Skizzer, let me assure you that our friendship grew in part out of a mutual respect for each other's writing skills. I wouldn't praise her book just because she's my friend; I wouldn't subject her or you or the publishing industry to that kind of deception.

Here's what I love about Angie's writing: She's a wordsmith through and through. After reading dozens and dozens of Christian novels so far this year, I am so utterly tired of lazy writing, which made Skizzer such a refreshing and
even recuperative read; I found myself breathing more deeply as I settled into a book that reminded me why I love the English language so much. Angie's word choice is always precise; her metaphors are always fresh; her descriptions are always visual. If you can't "see" the scenes in Skizzer, the problem is not with her writing.

Okay, enough about Angie. I'm guessing it would help if I told you a bit about the book. In Skizzer (the way one character pronounced "sister" as a toddler), protagonist Claire Trowling's sister, Becca, has disappeared, leaving only a few cryptic clues behind. Claire's quest to find her sister uncovers a long-held family secret and takes her from North Carolina to England, where the mystery behind an unusual pendant, the celebration of a sacred ritual and the reason for Becca's disappearance all come together. It's a compelling, suspenseful and ultimately satisfying read.

Reading Skizzer made me wonder why CBA editors don't demand this level of writing from more of their authors. Maybe the problem is that there are plenty of writers in love with stories but not enough in love with language and stories. Readers should be given both — a page-turner of a story and just the right words to tell it. Budding writers and veteran authors alike would do well to read Skizzer and learn from it.

You can buy the book here as well as in brick-and-mortar stores, and you can read a great interview with Angie here. I heartily recommend both.

Monday, June 09, 2008

John Hodgman and "We the Purple"

Becky from somewhere or other is one of my new, very best friends, and all because of John Hodgman, the resident expert on "The Daily Show" and PC Guy on the "Get a Mac" commercials.

Maybe not all because of him, but close enough. Becky and I stayed at the same hotel in L.A. during BookExpo America and met at breakfast one morning. We got to talking about the reason I was there, the release of We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter. As it turns out, Becky is a committed independent, so she stood in my autograph line later that day to pick up a copy of the book.

Beloved Becky, God bless her, then went to John Hodgman's autograph line, got a copy of his book* — and handed him her own copy of We the Purple, talking it up and encouraging him to read it. He received it graciously and seemed genuinely interested, Becky tells me.

How cool is that?

"The Daily Show" staff already has a copy of the book; my publicist made sure they got it along with a media kit. Even if nothing comes of it — even if Jon & Company don't come calling — I'm so grateful to Becky. John Hodgman has my book! That's good enough for me.

Things you probably don't know about PC Guy:
* I couldn't make it to Hodgman's signing. Ergo, I did not get a copy of his book, More Information Than You Require, or what I assume was an excerpt from it since it doesn't release until October. Whatever he was signing at BEA was titled Taxonomies of Complete World Knowledge; I'm guessing it's a chapter title. Anyway, if the good people at Dutton would like me to get my facts straight, maybe they wouldn't mind sending me a copy of Taxonomies and put me on the hot list for a review copy of More Information.

Cross-posted on my other blog.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My First Time

That's me over there, firing a gun for the first time ever. Michael, my favorite and only brother-in-law in the entire state of Oregon, came to Colorado for an extended visit and brought about half his arsenal with him. Since I had gone public on 43 Things with my desire to shoot a gun at least once before I die, I didn't have any excuse not to try out some of his weaponry.

So I did. We went to the Rampart Range Shooting Range, and I got to shoot three pistols and a couple of rifles, including an AK-47. Michael tells me that in this picture I was shooting a 22-caliber bolt-action Marlin, but you could have fooled me. Oh, and I'm not pregnant. Hey, it may have been May 27, but it was cold and cloudy and windy, and I was heavily layered.

There you have it. I've done yet another of the 43 Things I want to do before I die. Now I don't have to do it again. But I suspect I will, especially if BIL Michael shows up at our door again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where's "We the Purple"?

Good question. If you go to a Barnes & Noble store looking for We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, good luck. You won't find it in Politics, or Political Science, or even Current Affairs.

Nope. You'll find it Inspiration.

Never mind that the faith content is, oh, less than 20 percent. Or that the distinctly Christian content is even less than that. And the inspirational content? I'm flattered that B&N finds my writing so inspiring, but really. Inspirational, in the religious sense? I don't think so.

And apparently, never mind that the political content is 100 percent. Or that my publisher, Tyndale, correctly categorized the book as political. Or that the B&N's own web site categorizes it under "United States Politics & Government."

The official explanation?
  • Tyndale is a Christian publisher.

  • The book contains a faith element.

  • All the other books I've written are shelved in their religion section.

I particularly like that last one. What if I wrote a novel, published by a Christian publisher, that contained a faith element? Would that be shelved in the nonfiction religion section, rather than Christian fiction, because that's where all my other books are shelved?

I've been in the publishing industry for 30-some years and the Christian bookselling industry for 10-plus years, and I have to tell you, it gets more bewildering with each passing year. The more inside information I learn, the more confused I am.

Unless I'm totally off my rocker here, I do believe the purpose of both publishing and bookselling is to sell books. I mean, to make money selling books. A B&N employee tried to comfort me—yes, I needed some serious comforting—by reassuring me that the staff would be able to find my book for any customer requesting it. Uncomforted, I asked him 1) Would anyone browsing the shelves for the latest and greatest book on independent politics think to check out the Christian Inspiration section? and 2) Would anyone looking for an inspirational Christian book have a clue what We the Purple is about?

Tyndale, God bless 'em, tried again to get it shelved properly, as did a B&N rep. But no. The corporate powers-that-be overruled reason. And I doubt that B&N is alone in making decisions like this; I just haven't looked for the book in any other stores yet.

Moral of the story: If you're looking for a political book during this highly charged political season and you happen to wander into a bookstore to find one, go straight to Christian Inspiration. You never know what you'll find there. (Hint: I'm shelved just to the left of Richard Foster.)

(Cross-posted on We the Purple.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How Not to Do a Booksigning

Friday night I went to an event at a local mega-bookstore billed as a discussion led by a certain nonfiction author. I won't embarrass the author or mention the book title, which was clever enough to attract my attention. Since I'd like to do a similar event to get the word out about We the Purple, I left my cozy little mountain enclave, reluctantly drove down the pass, and took the Evil I (Interstate 25) to the bookstore.

Big mistake.

At 7 p.m., when the author was scheduled to begin her talk, a videographer was still fiddling with the A/V equipment, which he continued to do for the next 10 minutes. Meanwhile, a dozen or so people in the audience politely waited for the technical drama to end and the book event to begin. Finally, the videographer was good to go. Everyone readjusted themselves in their seats and turned their attention toward the author, who stood behind the podium and appeared ready to talk.

But no.

She just stood there. For the next 10 minutes. Not saying a significant word. I had invited a friend to go to the event with me. "I'm losing it," she said. "Me too," I said. Those proved to be the most significant, and perhaps only, words spoken for the next 5 minutes.

Get that? It was now 7:25, a full 25 minutes into a one-hour event, and nothing had happened.

The bookstore support person, who had been standing at attention for the entire 25 minutes, did not do or say a thing. You have to visualize this scene. A videographer in the back, waiting. An author at the podium, waiting. A staffer on the sidelines, waiting. A dozen people in the seats, waiting.

And then the author took a breath, as if to speak. We sat up straight, anticipating the best—the beginning of the event, finally. "I'm still expecting two people," she said to the staffer, holding up 2 fingers in case, I suppose, the staffer mistakenly thought she meant "too people."

Whatever. We left.

At first I was ticked off, having left my cozy little mountain enclave, reluctantly driven down the pass, and taken the Evil I (Interstate 25) to the bookstore.

But then I reminded myself of the cardinal rules of any event:
  • Start on time.

  • Set up the bloody A/V equipment well in advance.

  • Start on time.

  • Don't wait for latecomers.

  • Start on time.

  • Show the people who are already there that you value their time.

  • Start on time.

  • Don't depend on the bookstore staff to do your job, which is to:

  • Start on time.

So now we all know what's going to happen the next time I have a booksigning: something is going to prevent me from starting on time. But I can guarantee it won't be because I'm waiting for latecomers. And I can guarantee that instead of standing at the podium looking clueless, I'll be explaining the delay to the audience. I may still look clueless, of course, but at least the audience will be clued in.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mountain of Authors

That's the name of an event I'll be participating in on Saturday (April 12) in Colorado Springs. It's a regional event that gives book lovers and aspiring writers an opportunity to hear local authors speak. (I'm now a local author...) I'll be serving on the nonfiction panel and signing my most recent release, We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, which is getting lots of media attention in this election year. Here's the official information:

Pikes Peak Library District will host its 2nd annual regional authors’ event, “Mountain of Authors” to showcase authors of the Pikes Peak region, and offer presentations about writing and publishing.

The free program will be held from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 12 at East Library, 5550 N. Union Blvd. No registration is required.

This event will inspire new and established writers, and offer book fans a chance to meet and discuss their favorite titles with local authors. Panel discussions will be offered by nonfiction, fiction, children’s and teen authors. A free lunch and booksigning will also be held at the event.

Program Schedule
10 - 11 a.m. Nonfiction Author Panel (moderated by Tim Blevins)

Beth Barrett
Marcia Ford
Karen Scalf Linamen
John Stansfield

11:15 a.m. -12:15 p.m. Fiction Author Panel (moderated by Kirk Farber)

Kevin Anderson
Kacy Barnett-Gramckow
Beth Groundwater
Rebecca Moesta
Robert Spiller

12:15 -1:30 p.m. Lunch (food will be provided)

1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Children’s/Teen Author Panel (moderated by Karin Huxman)

Mary Peace Finley
Donita Paul
Katherine Pebley O’Neal

2:30 - 3:30 p.m. Author Showcase: meet authors from the Pikes Peak region, and purchase your favorite author’s books

Pikes Peak Poet Laureate reception following program.

If you come to the event and found out about it here, introduce yourself to me, okay?

(Cross-posted on We the Purple.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spending the Night with Alice Cooper

I confess: I've done it often. I've spent many Nights with Alice Cooper. Lest you fear for my moral choices --- or my eternal salvation --- I need to assure you that all those nights were spent on KKFM 98.1, "Colorado's ONLY Real Classic Rock." It's one of the few stations that comes in clearly as I'm driving through Ute Pass west of Colorado Springs. Five nights a week, Alice Cooper regales his listeners with great music and equally great commentary, and on many of those nights, I'm among those listeners.

Thanks to Alice, I'm can actually listen to music radio once again. Normally I give up after the second song because the playlists are so lame. But not Alice's. Not only does he play great and long-forgotten classic rock, he also plays stuff I've never heard before, and it's all good. Oh, and he also plays "lousy requests from mutant listeners."

Some nights he'll do themed segments, like "Same Title, Different Song" or "Songs We Just Don't Understand." This coming Monday is tax-distraction night. The show lasts a full five hours, so there's plenty of time for some Cooperesque storytelling. It airs on about 100 stations in North America and the U.K.

It's a fun show.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bob Dylan Wins a Well-Deserved Pulitzer

Kudos to the Pulitzer Board for bestowing a special honor on one of my all-time favorite songwriters, Bob Dylan. The "Special Citation" was conferred on Dylan "for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power." Those last six words perfectly describe much of Dylan's output over the last --- no, it can't be --- over the last 40-plus years. Is that right? Have I really been listening to his music that long? It never gets old. Never.

Even if you can't take his voice, and many people can't, you'd have a hard time tearing his lyrics apart. Sure, there were some less-than-stellar songs, but most are nothing short of magnificent. It's a pleasure to simply read the lyrics to many of his songs, let alone listen to the recordings.

In the interest of full disclosure --- not that anyone has asked for it --- I hereby confess that I am indeed the very same Marcia Ford who is the co-author, with Dylan fan and scholar Scott Marshall, of Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan. My admiration of Bob Dylan is a well-documented fact --- copyrighted, no less. You can read an excerpt from the book here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

My Offchored Life?

Not quite yet. But soon. Maybe. I could hire what Timothy Ferriss calls a "Bangalore Butler," a personal assistant who will do things like update my contacts file and enter into a database the info from the umpteen business cards I've collected and monitor my three dozen RSS feeds, all from the comfort of his home somewhere in India, most likely. Just like "Jason" or "Ryan" from Qwest tech support, "Brian" or "Steve" (a.k.a. Sanjay and Kumar) would be at my beck and call. And all for a price that won't topple my feeble financial empire.


But I have this problem. I get all bent out of shape when I call Qwest or any other company that has tech support/customer service in India or Pakistan or wherever, and I think about all the U.S. jobs that have been outsourced. So how can I justify doing the same thing? I can't. But then, neither can I find competent stateside help at a rate I can afford. By "competent," all I mean is "someone who can do the work without having me stand over them and prod them along every step of the way." And neither can I do all the work myself; health challenges limit the amount of productive hours I have each day, and I need to earn money during those hours, not spend my time on administrative work.

Anyone out there found affordable help of the kind I'm talking about? (I've already pursued the "high school student/son or daughter of a friend" angle to no avail.) Let me know how you solved this problem!

Ferriss, by the way, has a great blog (one of the three-dozen or so RSS feeds I subscribe to), is the author of The Four-Hour Workweek, and wrote an article about offchoring here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Cops and "The Bob Dutko Show"

Those two have nothing to do with each other---as far as I know---apart from the fact that they converged at my house at the exact same moment this morning.

Here's what happened: I was scheduled to appear on "The Bob Dutko Show" today at 11 a.m. Mountain time. We're living in a two-family house right now, this was a phone interview, and the guys downstairs had their music turned up a little bit too loud. We have a good relationship with them, so my husband was going to ask them to turn it down right before I went on the air.

So far, no problem. Until, oh, 10:50 a.m. That's when one of the guys---I'll call him Joe---started throwing bags of clothes out their front door. Uh oh. Last week Joe had threatened to throw out his roommate---I'll call him Bob---for not paying his share of the rent. Today, it seemed, he was making good on the threat. In no time the front yard was littered with boxes of empty beer bottles (do you know how much noise that makes?), a large metal trunk, and the rest of Bob's earthly goods.

Meanwhile, I'm prepping for the radio interview, wondering what on earth would happen next.

The phone rings. I don't have my glasses on, but I'm sure caller ID reads "Ware Christina"---the name of one of my friends. I pick up the phone and breathlessly announce, "I can't talk! I'm on the air in a few minutes!" The caller laughs. It's Bob Dutko's producer. Only later did I realize that caller ID actually read "WMUZ Christian." The show airs on WMUZ Christian radio on 103.5 FM in Detroit. Hey, it was an honest mistake. I put my glasses on.

By now, though, I'm not doing so well, but I rally and make it through the first on-air segment. Then we broke for a commercial, and I couldn't help myself. I had to see the next scene in the drama unfolding below. There was Bob, looking abandoned and forlorn, sitting outside on his metal trunk, snow falling on and around him. Yes, it had just started snowing.

I noticed he was on his cell phone and jokingly suggested to my husband that he was calling the cops.

The next on-air segment went fine---until I noticed one cop car, and then another, slowly drive by the window and slow to a halt. Now I'm seriously distracted. Somehow I held it together until the next commercial break, when I looked out and saw not one, not two, but four police cars. Oh, and three emergency vehicles including a fire truck. I live in a town of 8,000 people on a good day. This had to be the city's entire fleet of emergency and police vehicles, all parked haphazardly below my window.

I know the guys downstairs well enough to know that there's no danger involved. And I know them well enough to know that this is an utterly hilarious scenario. But I can't laugh. I'm back on the air, talking as intelligently as I can about independent voters and partisan politics.

The moment---I mean the exact moment---the interview ended, the cops left, but not before they forced Joe to put everything back in the house and told him he had to let Bob stay until they could go to court. Joe later told us he wasn't upset about that; he was just glad that for the first time in his life, the cops didn't make him go with them. They did confiscate his concealed weapons---a couple of pocketknives he had in his jeans pockets---but they let him keep the many swords that adorn his wall, once he assured them that if he'd intended to hurt Bob, he would have done it long before they arrived.

So if you were listening to me on the radio today and I sounded a bit rattled, you now know why. And if I sounded in any way intelligent and focused, you now know how well I can fake it. I felt like the fourth-graders in A Christmas Story looking out the classroom window at Flick, whose tongue is stuck to the frozen flagpole: "Holy smokes, it's the firemen!" "Holy smokes, it's the cops!"

My husband, by the way, never did ask them to turn down the music. Any wonder why?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Why I Don't Write Fiction...

...for now, anyway. There's one and only one reason: I am the most critical reader of fiction on the planet. I can find the flaws in novels in my sleep. And the one flaw that will kill an otherwise decent novel for me is unnatural dialogue. Here are some examples of the most egregious problems in dialogue:
  • Characters constantly using each others' names. This is especially irksome when the characters are married to each other. You know what I mean: "Jake, did you remember to pick up milk on the way home?" "No, Cindy, I was too busy wondering how long it would take you to use my name in a sentence once I got home." I mean, really. Who else would she be asking that question of?

  • Saying things that the other character already knows. Lazy writers use this device to provide backstory details: "Well, sis, you know I haven't been myself since I lost that lucrative accounting job back in the spring when I lived in Seattle." Methinks that "sis" — does anyone still talk like that? did anyone ever talk like that? — knew the job in Seattle was lucrative and that "bro" lost it in the spring. "It" being the job, his normal self, and his ability to speak like a human being.

  • Speech that is more formal than conversational, particularly when the scene cries out for informal dialogue. I wish I could post a real-live example from a book I just read, but that would be grossly unfair to the relatively unknown author. (Had it appeared in a book by a mega-selling author, I'd have no qualms about it; a bestselling writer should know better.) So here's my made-up example: "I've never told anyone this before. When I was just an innocent child, a beloved uncle crept into my room one night and stole my innocence from me. I could never think of him the same way again. He went from being my favorite relative to my most despised relative." I kid you not; I recently read a contemporary book in which the dialogue in what should have been a gripping scene was just this stilted. Give me a break! This young woman was revealing a secret she had harbored her entire life, and she's going to start talking like, I don't know, a prim and proper Victorian upper-cruster? I think not.

Fiction writers need to be real with their dialogue, and the best writers are those who have a finely tuned ear for dialogue. The others? It's as if they never stop and really listen to what they've just written, never stop to imagine what a person would actually say in a given situation or how the person would say it.

So that's reason number one why I've never written a novel: I'd be so critical of my own dialogue that I'd never finish writing the book.

What are your pet peeves about novels? I don't mean the obvious things, like truly lousy writing and a truly flimsy plot. What are the deal-breakers for you — those flaws that make you want to put down an otherwise good book and never finish it?

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Problem with Political Sermons

Last week I did a half-dozen or so radio talk shows, a couple of them back to back. Under those circumstances, the specifics of any one conversation tend to get lost; it all becomes one big blur. But a comment by one caller---three of the shows were call-ins---stuck in my mind. The show was "Across the Nation with Bob Dunning" on Sirius Satellite's The Catholic Channel, and we had been talking about about partisanship in the church.

The caller brought up an excellent point. A homily (or a sermon), he said, involves one-way communication. There's no chance for dialogue, no time for discussion, no opportunity for disagreement. The pastor says what the pastor says, and that's it. The caller suggested that if churches encouraged conversation on political matters in a give-and-take, hear-all-sides format separate from worship services, politics in the church wouldn't be nearly so offensive.

I'd love to hear your opinion on this. Agree? Disagree? Could you see this working in your own church, synagogue, or other house of worship?

(Cross-posted on We the Purple.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Most Creative Author Web Site Ever

Wish I'd done this.

Kudos to Miranda July. (If I had her name, I'd be more creative too.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Live on the Michael Medved Show

I'll have the opportunity to talk about independent voters, and the independent voter movement, on the Michael Medved radio show tomorrow, Thursday, March 27, at 4 p.m. Eastern. The show, which airs on the Salem Radio Network, is heard on 200 or so stations nationwide and reaches a potential audience of 3.5 million listeners. To find out if it airs in your area, and on which station you can listen to it, go to the web site's station finder and click on your state.

For those of you unfamiliar with Michael, he was a well-known movie critic (co-hosting "Sneak Previews" with Jeffrey Lyons) and author before he became a well-known conservative talk-show host and commentator. (He pretty much stunned everyone when he converted from being a liberal to---some would say---an ultra conservative in the late '70s or early '80s, as I recall.) For those of you with long memories, he's also the guy who gave us the book What Really Happened to the Class of '65? and the subsequent TV show.

Regardless of what you think of his politics, Michael is a terrific and insightful interviewer. He's fair, and he always has interesting guests. (Pray that I'll keep that streak going for him!) This interview will provide me with a great opportunity to get the word out about independent activists and how we can impact the political system. I'm psyched!

(Cross-posted on We the Purple.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Barack Obama and His Pastor

Aside from the obvious, something about this whole Barack Obama-Jeremiah Wright situation has been troubling me. Before I could get my act and my thoughts together to blog about it, I came across a related post by Diana Butler Bass on the God's Politics blog on Beliefnet. As always, Diana said it much better than I ever could. "Putting Rev. Wright's Preaching in Perspective" is worth reading in its entirety.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We the Purple Web Site Goes Live

Tyndale House has created an über-cool web site for We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, and it's now up and running. The site features bonus content, an excerpt from the book, a poll on the presidential election, and an opportunity to sign up for my monthly newsletter on issues of concern to independent voters.

The site's URL is I hope you'll bookmark it and visit from time to time. I'll be adding new content in the coming weeks.

Cross-posted on We the Purple.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"We the Purple" Has Released!

Having a book published has often been compared with giving birth to a baby. I've done both, and I can assure you that the analogy holds up. The last few months for me have been like the final trimester of my second pregnancy: I felt like I've been waddling through my days, wondering why on earth I got myself in this condition once again. Sure, the conception was fun and all that, and the first two trimesters were characterized by a flurry of activity, much like the nesting instinct that kicks in right about that time.

And then reality sets in. You start to feel like the elephant that you look like, and there are days when you totally believe that this is, in fact, a permanent situation. And during the worst part of labor, the pain is so intense that you're in denial that you really will get a baby out of the deal.

Today I officially gave birth to We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, even though it officially released last week, because today is the day that I actually held a copy in my hands. And I have to tell you that after writing 20-plus books, this one felt incredibly good. It's clothbound, and the designers at Tyndale House pulled out all the stops to make this a classy book. Yes, I'm one proud, writing mama. 

Here's a link to the Amazon page for We the Purple:

Ignore Amazon's note about the book being out of stock. They should have it by now. If you buy We the Purple and like it, please post a review on Amazon and tell your friends about the book. I'm on a mission to clear up many of the misconceptions out there about independents, and I'd appreciate your help. And let me know what you think of it, okay?

Cross-posted on We the Purple.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"They Say It's Your Birthday"*

Today's date marks the day George Harrison was born. I know this not because of some "this day in history" list but because I have known this since 1964. I have no idea why this particular date has stuck in my mind, but I'm sure I've thought of George on February 25th pretty much every year since then. Sure, I was and still am a Beatle freak. But back when every Beatle-lovin' girl was pressured to declare who her favorite Beatle was, George wouldn't have made my top three. But he was in my top four, and if he hadn't had such blatantly British teeth, he might have edged out Ringo.

Things change, of course, and by the time George (I'm on a first-name basis with all of the Fab Four) released The Concert for Bangladesh, I saw his talent for what it was—a passionate expression of a heart that beat for those who suffer. Over the years, my admiration for him continued to grow.

George died of lung cancer in 2001. The following year, on the very day his last CD was released in the UK, I happened to be in Liverpool. I bought the CD that day at a Beatles shop across from the legendary Cavern (or rather, its replacement) and signed a memorial to him at a different Beatles site down by the Mersey. At times, the songs on Brainwashed still make me cry. If you were a Beatles fan, you understand. You may not be able to articulate why you sometimes start crying when you hear certain Beatles songs, but you understand.

George sought peace for others. He would have been 65 today; may he rest in peace.

*For the unBeatled, a lyric from "Birthday," written by John and Paul. It's on the 1968 album The Beatles, which no one knows by that name. We've just always called it The White Album.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Anglimergent, at Last!

I recently joined Anglimergent, the Anglican/Episcopal expression of the emerging church conversation. If you're Anglican and want to find out what the emerging church is all about and how we liturgicals fit in to it, come and join us at!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Un-Valentine's Day

Here's to all the misfits who missed out on a box of chocolates and a fancy dinner and a bouquet of supermarket flowers today. Know that you are loved. Know that there has never been a moment in your life that you were not loved. Know that the Creator of the universe has loved you every minute of every day of every year of your life. Valentine's Day pales in comparison to that.

And here's to all the misfit schoolkids who didn't get a card or a rose or a candy bar from a secret admirer today. Tell them they are loved and that there has never been a moment in their lives when they were not loved. Tell them that the Creator of the universe has loved them every minute of every day of every year of their lives. It won't help to tell them that Valentine's Day pales in comparison to that. They're kids, after all. But tell them you love them anyway.

No, I don't like Valentine's Day. I never have. I never will. I come by my misfit identity honestly.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The MOB and Me

I'm currently reading Beth Webb Hart's The Wedding Machine, a novel about a group of Southern women who have inherited from their mothers the task of organizing every wedding that comes to one sleepy little lowland town. I'd tell you more, but you'll have to wait until my review of the book is posted on next week.

I chose to review this particular book because I love Hart's writing. Her Grace at Low Tide and Adelaide Piper were among my favorite novels in recent years. I gave little thought to the title of the new release. A dozen or so pages into the book, though, it hit me: I'm living out my own version of the Wedding Machine.

Yes, I've taken on the role of the MOB: the Mother of the Bride. One of my daughters got engaged at Christmas, and suddenly I'm immersed in wedding plans. This has made me, a certified misfit, something of a schizophrenic. I'm socially paralyzed by day and a social planner by night. Or the other way around, but you get the point.

Finding myself in the position of having to help plan a real, live wedding gives me the willies. I didn't even do this for myself; my two weddings (yes, I had two) were as casual as they come and not exactly traditional. Thankfully, my daughter is keeping it small and also a bit untraditional. But still. There's the MOB, and then there's me, two people in one. I'm a mess already.

So I'm issuing this plea: if anyone knows of a really cool, beautiful, easily accessible, won't-break-the-budget, lodge-type place in the foothills or mountains in or around Colorado Springs or northward, where a couple of Floridians could get married in November or December and where 50 or so guests could stay, let me know, okay? Google is getting tired of me pestering him (or is Google a her?) all the time about this. I'd be ever so grateful.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth

Longtime readers of this blog, which means me, will remember my fascination with Iceland. It's the number one place in the world that I would like to visit, and as it turns out, it's also the happiest place on earth,* according to former NPR foreign correspondent and self-described grump Eric Weiner. After spending years traveling from one miserable place to another to report on mostly miserable events, he figured it was time to search for something radically different—happiness—and now has a book to show for it.

Weiner managed to score a spot on tonight's Colbert Report, which means his book, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World, will benefit from the Colbert Bump and hit a high spot on the major bestseller lists. I haven't read the book (hey, give me a break—I just heard about it an hour ago), but it did garner a solid four stars on Amazon. Since I tend to trust customer reviews, taking the most negative and the most positive reviews with a grain of salt, and since Weiner was booked on Colbert, I'm pretty sure it's worth checking out.

But back to Iceland. Call me crazy, but I love traveling to cold places. Give me Canada or Alaska any day over the heat and humidity of the tropics. Weiner's research tells me I'm no so crazy after all:

All things considered, colder is happier. Maybe we should all be vacationing in Iceland, not the Caribbean. And global warming takes on added significance…it's also likely to seriously bum us out. This might be the most inconvenient truth of all.

So there. Cold makes people happy. So does this, I suppose:

I want to stay in that house, somewhere on the frozen tundra outside of Reykjavik. Even though I'm living my bliss in Colorado, I wouldn't mind a week or two in another geographically blissful, glacially beautiful area.


* Okay, so it's one of the happiest places on earth, but I have no emotional tie with the others. Iceland it is.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The DMV and Me

Here's a thought. What if..?

But first, an update on my attempt at getting a Colorado driver's license. We've decided to make an outing of it. Instead of heading for the city and waiting in line for about four hours (I'm not exaggerating one bit), we've decided to spend that time driving through the scenic wonder of the mountains and go to a rural DMV office about an hour away. I mean, how busy can the office be with just a few thousand drivers to accommodate? I guess we'll find out.

But back to my thought. I know that DMVs across the land fall under the states' jurisdictions, but...what if we had a presidential candidate who would promise, under penalty of impeachment, to fix the DMV mess in all 50 states? No question about it: he/she would get my vote. Now that president would be a miracle worker indeed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In Praise of (Readable) Church Signs

So there's this church that shall remain nameless. Said church sits on a rise in a semi-rural area that has seen a whole lot of growth in the past decade. Before then, all the area needed was a two-lane, 45 mph highway. And all the church needed was a weathered, barely readable sign. Shoot, it hardly needed that. Anyone who cared knew the name of the church and the time of the service, because there was only one church of its kind and only one service.

Alas, times change. The two-lane, 45 mph highway became a four-lane plus turn-lane, 55 mph highway, which we all know means it's really a 65 mph highway. But the unreadable-at-any-speed, weathered sign remained in place, forcing someone who was new to the area to search the Internet and the local newspaper and ask everyone she encountered trying to find out when the heck the Sunday service was held. No one seemed to know. So this someone got in her car, drove to the church, turned around after overshooting it because 1) the sign was unreadable and 2) she mistook the church for a doublewide, and pulled in the driveway, magnifying glass in hand, determined to find out the service time. Mission accomplished, but really, it shouldn't have become a mission in the first place.

Unbeknownst to her, since she hadn't been able to attend the church previously, a bitter dispute had been brewing over the very sign that had caused her and other would-be worshippers such anguish. We need a new sign! one faction insisted. But we've always had that sign! another faction protested. This went on for months, as disputes of that nature are wont to do in churches across the land.

And then, the breakthrough. The one incident that settled the argument forever. What was the situation that broke the nearly year-long stalemate? The denomination's regional bishop had been invited to speak at the church, and the bishop could not find the church. Like someone, he overshot it.

Within two weeks, the church sported a wonderfully readable sign.

Someone simply must thank the bishop.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Let's Go Shopping"

Those are the three little words I never expected to hear my husband say. I am absolutely certain that he has not put those words together, in that order or any other, at any time in his 50-some years on earth. Frankly, I'm not sure I've said those words very often. But one day last week, he was driven to utter them, and I was driven to comply.

"Driven" is most appropriate in the context of that day. We had driven 28.62 miles, according to Mapquest, from our cozy home in the mountains to the strip mall in the city that is home to the closest DMV facility that so beneficently grants Colorado licenses to recent transplants.

The situation didn't look very good from the parking lot, but maybe all those people standing outside in the frigid weather were just smoking.

Not so. They were in line. We peeked around them, saw countless people sitting and waiting, countless people standing and waiting, and then counted 10 people in line outside. And that's when my husband said it: "Let's go shopping."

So we did. All was not lost. I managed to score a three-piece Columbia Sportswear ski outfit in perfect condition for $15 at the thrift store several doors from the DMV.

A Colorado driver's license won't be so easy to score, I fear. What is it about the DMV? Why is that one agency such a joke in just about every state? Why in the heck can't they get it together?

Answers, anyone?