Monday, December 26, 2005

Final Thoughts on Christ the Lord
I posted on Anne Rice's newest book, Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt a week or so ago. I mentioned that I was part-way through the book and was reflecting on some thoughts on Joseph, Jesus' guardian.

This morning, while enjoying some lovely leisurely day-after-Christmas relaxation, I finished the book. As I closed the cover, all I could think was this book is incredible. It's about the 7-year-old Jesus and his growing understanding about his life and purpose, while always in the embrace of his large extended family. Gradually, he increases in understanding, which reminds me of this verse from Luke 2: "And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him" (v. 40 ESV).

Especially amazing is the ending when Mary finally explains to her son about all of the circumstances of his birth. Jesus longs to be in the temple, with the teachers, trying to understand everything about the Scriptures and what happened at his birth. But Mary finishes her retelling of the events by telling him that the Lord could have given him to the temple, to the teachers, but He chose to place His Son in the midst of a family, to Joseph, His guardian and to Mary, His mother. It was a very poignant and excellently written passage.

Read what the Kirkus reviews wrote about it:
“A riveting, reverent imagining of the hidden years of the child Jesus . . . A triumph of tone—her prose lean, vivid—and character . . . Christ the Lord is a cross between a historical novel and an update of Tolstoy’s The Gospels in Brief, it presents Jesus as nature mystic, healer, prophet and very much a real young boy . . . Essentially it’s a mystery story, of the child grappling to understand his miraculous gifts and numinous birth . . . As he ponders his staggering responsibility, the boy is fully believable—and yet there’s something in his supernatural empathy and blazing intelligence that conveys the wondrousness of a boy like no other . . . With this novel, Anne Rice has indeed found a convincing version of him; this is fiction that transcends story and instead qualifies as an act of faith.”

Kirkus Reviews

I completely agree. The book was masterfully written with great care, and that comes through on every page. Rice uses some lovely lyrical turns of phrase and creates a kind of prose that is almost poetic. All her skills as a novelist come into play as she builds the story to a climax when the extended family visits Jerusalem for the Passover.

It is definitely a must-read, and I highly recommend it. By the way, it was terrific Christmas reading. Normally during Christmastide, I read Martin Luther's Christmas book by Roland Bainton (which I still will do), but this was wonderful Christmas reading because it made me reflect on the humanity of Christ, on the reality of His growing up in a family, being a real boy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dental Phobia
So, I got over my short-lived dental phobia yesterday by seeing my fabulous dentist, Dr. Paul Hess. Here's help for those of you who don't have terrific dentists. (And seriously, don't fall off your bike when you're 13 and then need repeated root canals years later that are treated by scary endodontists.)
Thoughts on Parenting
Two unlikely places have made me think about parenting lately.

1. We watched the movie Spanglish the other night. It was quite good, and much sadder than I expected. Not your typical Adam Sandler movie. It portrayed some wonderful go-against-the-grain thoughts on parents sacrificing their own freedom and desires for their kids' sake.

2. I read this poem, "Father's Song" by Gregory Orr from The Caged Owl on the Writers' Almanac today. Very nice.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Five things about me
1. I like vanilla more than chocolate. Seriously. But I do like chocolate too.

2. I drive the people I live with crazy when I find a song I like because I listen to it over and over and over and over. Mindy Smith's "Falling" is one of those songs. (And yes, I just listened to it twice.)

3. I am currently researching ancient Egypt, particularly about Joseph (from Genesis) and the Holy Family's flight to Egypt. I'm also researching nocturnal animals and Saint Patrick. Interesting mix, eh?

4. Guinness stout is always my first beer of choice; Yuengling's Black and Tan is also awesome.

(okay, just listened to the song again...)

5. I love to drive stick shift. I don't know why. My husband looks at me like I'm really strange when I say that. Maybe it's because I can coast all around our hilly city and save gas?

Thanks, Burr. Absolutely no one left to tag.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christ the Lord by Anne Rice
I am currently about one-third of the way through this latest book by Anne Rice. It is fascinating. She delves into the inner workings of the 7-year-old Jesus, and paints a portrait of his life in Egypt and traveling to Nazareth.

The surprising element in the book so far for me has been the portrayal of Joseph. Joseph is spoken of so little in the Gospels that I've quite honestly not thought a lot about him. But Rice creates his character as calm, strong, steady, and wise. Because he is not mentioned during the years of Christ's ministry, it is sometimes thought that he is quite a bit older than Mary. Would he have been around when Jesus was 7? Maybe. If he was, I think it most likely that he was much the way Rice portrayed him. He is pious, patient, calm, and very clearly the guardian and protector of Jesus, even while caring for his large extended family.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying the book so far. Take a look at it here.
Lutheran Carnival
Check out Aardvark Alley for the 13th installment of the Lutheran Carnival here to read various and sundry thoughts from other Lutheran bloggers. Even I figured out how to be included, so keep scrolling down. And a couple of dear hubby's posts are on there too. exciting! Am I becoming blog-tastic or what?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Thoughts on Narnia
Last night, despite the nasty winter weather in our area, we decided to go see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was tremendous! I really enjoyed it, and have been thinking about it today.

As we walked out of the theater, our ten-year-old son mentioned how similar it seemed to The Lord of the Rings. Dear husband (whose comments are here) then reminded dear son that C.S. Lewis, who wrote Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkein, who wrote LOTR were great friends and met often to critique each other's writing. They both were lovers of fairy tales and mythology from many cultures. Tolkein was a great lover of language. They had a lot in common (including--and why is this?--the fact that their Christian names are known only by initials...).

It got me thinking about my own writing and my own writing critique group. Not only do these people support and help me in my writing, but we artists do feed off of each other. The reason why my writing can improve, I believe, is because I put myself in the company of excellent writers. Because of them, I try new things. I experiment with different genres, etc. I'm sure the same was true on some level with Lewis and Tolkein.

So, the similarites between Narnia and LOTR are striking: the unlikely king, the magical creatures, the epic battles, evil being overthrown. Themes are also similar: courage, valor, loyalty, and redemption.

For me, LOTR was deeper, richer, fuller. Narnia the movie felt more suited for children. And I think this could be a result of directing or casting or some other cinematic element. But mostly, I think it's because Tolkein's work is longer, fuller in scope, more epic itself. Narnia, especially LWW is short (150 pgs?), and its intended audience was children. And the movie stuck to the book. So, that's why I think some people think it may be coming up short to LOTR. It just doesn't have the depth and scope of LOTR. On the other hand, it is brilliant in its simplicity. The direct parallels to Christ are terrific.

A note about Aslan: I'm reading many who are saying that Aslan isn't what they hoped for. I think this could partly be a result of failing to capture in film what is in the printed word. For me, Aslan in the books is larger than life, and somehow putting him on screen with computer-generated fur and movement doesn't quite translate perfectly.

By the way, did anyone notice that it was Douglas Gresham, Lewis's step-son who was the radio announcer in the movie? He has a new book out that I'd love to read. Look here.

One last thought: how cool is it that Tolkein and Lewis, both professors at Oxford University wrote these fabulous epic fantasies that are now on the big screen. They were great thinkers and teachers, who loved literature and language. And it makes me think that children's literature will certainly take a turn for the worse when death row inmates and celebrities are our bestselling authors.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Feeling Scroogie?
If you need a mindless waste of time to get your mind off your to-do list, go to this link and have an elf snowball fight. So far I almost made it to level 3.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Advent means to wait
This is not an easy lesson. As my dear husband preached in his sermon this morning, we Americans are particularly impatient. He mentioned the Old Testament saints, Abraham and Sarah, who had to wait 25 years for God to fulfill His promise for a son. That's why Advent is good. We need to learn to wait on God.
For those of us moms who get everything ready for Christmas, Advent is also a time to shop, prepare, mail packages, and do everything else that it takes to get families ready for Christmas. So, I've been busy preparing, and also waiting.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Happy St. Nicholas Day!
Did you know that Nicholas was actually a 4th century bishop who lived in what is modern-day Turkey? He participated in the council of Nicea, which adopted the Nicene Creed. His generosity was well-known, and that is why over the years, he became known as Father Christmas and eventually Santa Claus. The original is so much better, though! You can read about him in my book, Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend. Also, check out this website for some other interesting St. Nicholas stuff.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Robert's Snow - Auction for Cancer Cure
Robert's Snow is an organization that auctions off snowflakes decorated by children's book illustrators. There are a ton of different snowflakes that are auctioning for a fairly reasonable amount, considering the fact that they are original art by well-known as well as up and coming artists. Today, my friend and ilustrator's snowflake goes on auction. Her name is Carol Baicker-McKee and her snowflake is darling, and gives a little taste of our new book which will be released in March 06, Cheep! Cheep!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Radio interviews
Recently, I've been interviewed for a couple of my new books, Bethlehem Night and Things I See at Christmas. Yesterday, I was interviewed on WHEM in Eau Claire, WI. The host asked me why it was that God chose for Jesus to be born in a manger. A good question, no? The answer shows the depth of God's love and our hard-heartedness. God's love was so great that He allowed His Son to enter into our pitiful existence. And we did not welcome Him. It's a good Advent thought.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cool Narnia Website
Check out for a really great intro to Narnia.
Interesting stuff on Iraq War
Read here and here to find out some interesting stuff on Bruce Willis who is making a pro-war movie. Apprently, he is working with Michael Yon who is the former special forces green beret who was embedded with Deuce Four and sent regular dispatches about their heroics. On Yon's blog, he posts many moving photos of the good things happening in the war that we don't see in the media. The photos of the children in school, smiling with the soldiers at their sides are outstanding.

Thanks to Noah Bawdy for some of this info.
Dog proverbs for the day

"Women and cats will do as they please and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea."- Robert A. Heinlein

"In dog years I'm dead."- Unknown

"My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to 99 cents a can. That's almost $7.00 in dog money."- Joe Weinstein

"I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven't got the guts to bite people themselves."- August Strindberg

"I wonder what goes through his mind when he sees us peeing in his water bowl."- Penny Ward Moser

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably man's best friend, and inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."- Groucho Marx.

"A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down."- Robert Benchley

Friday, November 25, 2005

My Movie Hero
We watched "Signs" yesterday, the M. Night Shyamalan film starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. My husband finally convinced me that this movie was not too scary for me. (I am a movie wimp.) I loved it.

The thing I love about Shyamalan's movies is the way he weaves this very human, very emotional story into a fascinating setting. The writing is phenomenal, the cinematography breathtaking--I just love these movies.

His other films are The Village, Unbreakable, and The Sixth Sense. The latter freaked me out, but I loved the others.

On the other hand...
Recently, we saw the Will Ferrell movie "Kicking and Screaming" which left me bored and rolling my eyes for 90 minutes. We had just re-watched "Elf" a few days before, and my 10-year-old asked while we were watching the dumbest soccer movie in the universe if this guy was really the same one who was in elf. Hmmm... I wonder. Who stole Will Ferrell?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving! Today, I'm thankful for:

...the love of God and hope in Christ...

...all those who share God's love with me...

...Colorado skies...



...grandmas, cousins, sons and all family near and far...

...a soldier's sacrifice today

...and back then...

...the gift of story, literacy, and books...

...models of the faith who have gone before...

...for my country, for its founders, for the soldiers who preserve our freedom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Did you hear about the ugliest dog in the world? He's pretty nasty looking, but loved. Apparently, he died last week. The owner says: "I don't think there'll ever be another Sam. ... Some people would think that's a good thing." Poor Sam. Reminds me of God's undeserved love for us unlovable sinners.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven
Read Burr in the Burgh's awesome review of this lousy film. He delves into the shockingly bad theological problems with the movie. From an artistic point of view, there were some terrific cinematic moments. The way the snowflakes hung in the air at the beginning and the landscapes were spectacular at points. But casting is so darn important, and it was totally messed up here. Orlando Bloom may be pretty, but he simply does not have the presence needed to carry off this role.

And on a common theme in many movies today, the catholic priests were portrayed as devils. And we wonder why people think the church is irrelevant. Most movies and tv shows portay pastors as 1) crazy, 2) devilish, or 3) immoral. I know a lot, I mean A LOT of pastors, and while they are certainly sinners like the rest of us, I find almost all of them completely sane, tireless, and faithful to God and their congregations. So, it burns me up when movies demean them.

In the same week, we watched Hotel Rwanda. Don Cheadle was amazing. He embodied the role with such skill and precision. The story was sad but important. And it demonstrated wonderful values of courage, familial love, and generosity, which was sorely missing in Kingdom of Heaven.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Quote for the Day
A line from a poem called "Symbol" By Robert Francis from Robert Francis: Collected Poems. © University of Massachusets Press.

"Fall has fallen yet winter is not yet here."

I heard this poem on the Writer's Almanac this morning. Lovely.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thanksgiving Book

The time has come to unashamedly plug my children's picture book Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration. This was published by Concordia Publishing House two years ago. I was so excited to see it in Barnes & Noble last night here in Pittsburgh, and other people have told me they've seen in at other B & Ns.

The book follows the pilgrims on the Mayflower across the ocean to Plymouth Rock and chronicles much of the first year in America. These were Christian people who thanked God for the blessings of their first harvest, so that is where I end the story. It's simple enough for young children to understand, and is a nice story for families to read together. A friend of mine told me she read it to a Cub Scout group, others use it in churches, etc. Hope you like it!

Wish for the Day, Part 2
To be more specific, I'd like to see Venice, Rome, Florence and some other places in Italy. And see the catacombs in Rome too.

In Germany, I'd love to travel to Wittenburg and see the Luther sites. See Rev. McCain's photo tour. Awesome stuff.

It would be cool to go to Israel to see Bethlehem, Capernaum, the dead sea, Nazareth, Jerusalem.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wish for the Day
Within the next five years, I'd love to travel to:
1. Italy
2. Germany
3. Israel...
not necessarily in that order. And I would just take one if that's all I got!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A "New" Old Church Found in Israel
This is cool. The mosaic in this photo from MSNBC is really big and clear. The fish in the middle is an ancient Christian symbol, which I think comes from the way Christians would secretly refer to themselves when they were under persecution. The word "fish" was similar to the acronym, ICTHUS, which stands for "Jesus, Son of God, Savior." Here is a cool link to a very cool-looking website and a lot of info on Christian symbols.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Project I'm working on
Often, people ask me what I'm writing. Am I working on a new project? Any new ideas? I always find that question difficult to answer because I'm always working on several projects at once. My projects fall into one of these steps: 1. I get a brand new idea, 2. I make notes and jottings on the new idea, 3. I write a rough draft of the new idea, 4. I get my draft critiqued, 5. I revise and clean-up a version so it's ready for submission, 6. I revise, sometimes endlessly.

Lately, I've been struggling with revisions, and if there's any "writer's block" that I get, it's in this stage. The piece isn't "connecting," it doesn't have enough tension, etc. These are problems that are not easy to fix.

Right now, I'm currently working on 4 brand new ideas for picture books, 1 project that I'm revising that is close to being finished, and 2 projects that are stuck in the revision process.

And by the way, here's a great site for children's writers. It's Jane Yolen's official website, and this info she has for writers is really helpful.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Another kitty post
aawwww....isn't she cute? This is my kitty, Penny, who is on "her" leopard blanket.

Monday, October 31, 2005

What Made My Day
You know what made my day yesterday? I had gotten up to church early yesterday morning to help the Sunday school kids prepare for the song they were going to sing during the Reformation service. Then I got everything ready for teaching Sunday school. So, I was in a tizzy trying to get everything together.

I began Sunday school by asking the five boys in the room for prayer requests and for things we could thank God for. Two of the boys kept going on about this great sleepover they had, etc., etc., (and they shall remain nameless).

And then one of the new boys in the group, who is nine years old, looked at me with these sincere eyes, and said, "I want to thank God that He let me be here today."

I just wanted to scoop him up and give him a hug because I was so glad he was there too. He had missed Sunday school the week before, and was just happy to be there that day. And I thought, wow, here is this sweet little boy thanking God for the simplest thing. And what a gift that was to me that morning to be reminded to thank God for being able to be at church.

Anyway, that's what made my day yesterday.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Happy Reformation!
Hi all -- hope you enjoy this fine Reformation weekend. We're celebrating by going to church twice on Sunday, plus going to Max's Allegheny Tavern for a fine German dinner.

Here's some great info on the Luther rose, which Martin Luther created as a symbol of the Christian faith. It's a great reminder of the basics. Last weekend, I put together a visual aid for the Sunday school kids to help them remember all the elements of Luther's rose to understand the the hope we have in Christ. So, happy Reformation to all!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Honoring our vets
Recently, I received an email with information about the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Some of the info was correct; a lot was made up. Here's the real stuff:

On Arlington and the Tomb of the Unknowns

On the honor guards or "sentinels" that serve at the Tomb of the Unknowns

It's interesting to look at the FAQs at the honor guard site. They do not, for example, live in a barracks underneath the tomb. They actually arrive at the Tomb in normal clothes and then get into their uniform. But it says that their short haircuts sometimes give them away.

And one fabulous fact: the marble for the tomb actually came from Marble, Colorado, my home state.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
I love Wallace and Gromit, especially Gromit, the dog side-kick. My family has enjoyed Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit movies for many years now. He created 3 short movies a while ago--at least 10 years or so: A Close Shave, The Wrong Trousers, and one other I can't think of. So, we were thrilled when we heard that he had made a full-length movie featuring these lovable characters. It's all done with clay-mation, which I think is just fascinating. We went to see the movie over the weekend, and I could tell each of those characters was handmade because you can actually see the fingerprints in the clay.

The story is silly and funny. Gromit, the dog who's always getting his master, Wallace, out of scrapes, is adorable. The emotion they are able to convey through Gromit's eyebrows alone is pretty amazing.

My only beef about the film (and this is fairly small) is that the elderly clergyman is portrayed like a raving lunatic. It's nice to see that the people of the parish gather in the church when there is a crisis, but the clergyman, of course, is not portrayed as some rational helpful person, but rather as a ...yes...raving lunatic.

Being married to a pastor, I am especially sensitive to this stereotypical portrayal of ministers because it is so common. Instead, in my experience, the many pastors I know are dedicated, rational, community-minded, helpful, kind, life-sacrificing men devoted to Christ and spreading the Gospel (and who do not recommend murdering were-rabbits with golden bullets!).

With that qualification in mind, go see the movie and enjoy Gromit's eyebrows.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More on Narnia
This time by one of my very favorite writers, Frederica Matthewes-Green.

Absolutely. Adorable.

This photo was taken by Erin Pence for the Sidney Daily News in Sidney, Ohio. I was trying to get a copy of the photo and emailed the publisher. Erin, the photographer, called me today. It was great to talk to her. Thanks, Erin! This is so cute! I think Erin should win some award for this. Seriously. I mean, cats don't exactly pose on demand.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ridiculous, to put it nicely
Avowed atheist author Philip Pullman has now weighed in on the beloved children's classic series of books The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis' 7-book series began with the tale The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and this December, the Disney company will be releasing the movie of the same title.

The books have been cherished by readers for 50 years. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe appears on numerous lists of the top-100 books of the 20th century, or on lists of the top 100 novels OF ALL TIME. The books contain elements of Christian allegory.

However, with all the publicity over the new Narnia movie, people like Pullman become critical. (Scroll down to the end of that link to see what readers think of his statement.) He claims he does not object to the Christian overtones of the story, but to the lack of "Christian charity" in the books.

Yet again, here is a perfect example of someone who is not a Christian, and in fact is an avowed atheist, who is purporting to understand Christian doctrine. And his "understanding" is that Christianity is all about being nice. In other words, Christianity is about tolerance. Sorry, Philip, but you've got it wrong.

Apparently, in his view, it wasn't very nice for good to triumph over evil in these stories. And it wasn't very nice for Aslan (the Christ figure) to lay down his life to destroy evil, save the children, and redeem the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Julie needs
This is a silly but fun blog thing.

Directions: Type "(your name) needs" (with the quotes) into a Google search; cut-and-paste the first 10 responses that work. Just pull the answers right out of the excerpt Google shows you, don't click the link and search around. The only rule is that each one has to start with "(your name) needs."

Here's what I came up with:
Julie needs early start
Julie needs a Kidney transplant (I sure hope not--having enough trouble with root canals!)
Julie needs to work on her parenting (ouch!)
Julie needs a team of committed people to pray for her and her ministry ( comment)
Julie needs 15 attendees in an area to schedule a workshop
Julie needs to wrap a gift for her mother (probably true since my gifts are usually late...)
Julie needs some real hands-on comforting as the anniversary of that first
killing spree is drawing near (yikes!)

Julie needs one fencepost for every 2 feet (for my new field)
Julie needs 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily (another no comment--root canals and all)
Julie needs to learn and teach others how to avoid fad diets (yeah, so cut it out)
Julie needs to bite the bullet

Thanks to Pr. Scot Kinnaman for this silliness.

Monday, October 17, 2005

And a sad note...
I read in the newspaper this morning that a man--on his way to a funeral--was struck by a car and killed. This happened in Bangor, PA. Apparently, it was rainy and dark, and the driver, I guess, just didn't see him in time. There was nothing in the article about foul play. The irony of it all reminded me of Alanis Morissette's song Ironic from a few years back. That was one well-written song. Sad, though.
I read this article this morning in the newspaper. It has helpful tips for those who recyle cans, bottles, etc.

Recycling tips:

If it is raining, put paper meant for recycling in a plastic bag or save it for another recycling day. Wet paper sticks to itself and other recyclables and starts to deteriorate, making it difficult to sort.

Scrape recyclables clean, but don't rinse them or remove labels. Food residue and labels are burned off or otherwise removed in the recycling process, so rinsing is unnecessary and wastes water.

Either screw plastic bottle tops onto the bottles or discard them. These tops are recyclable, but when removed from the bottle, they become too small to efficiently sort. Recycling plants discard loose bottle caps.

Try not to break glass intended for recycling. Broken glass is too small to efficiently sort and is one of the most common things recycling plants discard.

When possible, buy products packaged in aluminum or recyclable plastic rather than glass. Glass is heavier and breaks easily, requires more fuel for transport and is less efficient to recycle.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

From Penn's Woods...
Today, we went on a nature walk with some of our Sunday school kids at a local park. It was fun, and turned out to be a lovely autumn day. I found this website that has great info on all of the trees in Pennsylvania (which is latin, by the way, for Penn's Woods). Apparently, there are only 57 trees indiginous to the state, and 5 others were brought in. We found lots of maple, oak, black walnut, and many others. The fall colors aren't quite at their peak yet, but the day was lovely nonetheless.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wallace and Gromit
So, I'm hearing awesome things about the new Wallace and Grommit movie. If you don't know about Wallace and Gromit, you must check them out. We have the videos from several years ago of their first movies, "A Grand Day Out," "Close Shave," and "The Wrong Trousers." They are terrific clay-mation and great fun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Robert's Snow
Go here to look at ornaments decorated by all sorts of children's authors. On the second row of this page, you can see "Snow Angel with Chicken Wings" by Carol Baicker-McKee. She and I collaborated on a book about chicks, called Cheep, Cheep! which will be coming out next spring.

These snowflakes are sent to a lot of children's authors who then decorate them with all sorts of media. They go on auction in December, and all the money goes toward cancer research. This is a neat one by Tomie de Paola called "Round Yon Virgin, Mother and Child."

A Pastor's Wife
Got a nice comment from another pastor's wife at her blog site. It's so nice to hear that parents and kids find my little books useful! I especially liked her post from another PW who lived 100 years ago.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mommy Promises
For those of you who know me, you know I'm not super great at self-promotion. But I know people do like to hear about my upcoming books. There are some Christmas books coming out this year, which I'll write about in a few weeks.

But today I want to talk about Mommy Promises. I had such a great time visiting with my editor and the designer for this book last Friday. How cool is it, also, that the designer is expecting her first child? Anyway, this is a book I wrote last spring about all the promises a mom makes to her children. The CPH website says it'll be out on 12/15/05. It might be a nice Mother's Day gift idea for next spring.

The designer, Karol, did a terrific job with the colors and all the neat little touches that go into making a picture book. And the art is fabulous. There's no image available yet on the CPH website, but I can tell you that the book is filled with beautiful autumn colors, and the children in the artwork are precious.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Pittsburgh Bands
Who knew that Pittsburgh was a hotbed of terrific bands?? I'm listening right now to some songs from the new Bill Deasy CD, which you can hear here. Another local band is Good Brother Earl, which hubby and I really like. Check them out. And of course the Clarks are from Pittsburgh. Cool, eh?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Whispering Arch
Today, I was in St. Louis with a group from a writing conference, and we had lunch at union station. While there, someone showed us a cool feature in the architecture called the whispering arch. This very ornate arch is built over the doorway to the grand hall. The way the architecture turned out, the arch creates the perfect avenue for sound waves to travel. If you stand facing the wall, you can speak very softly, and someone standing on the opposite end of the arch can hear you perfectly. It is so cool. While we were experiementing, people kept walking by, looking at us like we had really lost it. So, we showed them too. Here's a so-so link to the place.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Christian Writing
My husband over at Burr in the Burgh wrote today about Jeb Bush in Florida encouraging school children to read C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Apparently, there has been some controversy over this incredibly terrific idea.

It got me thinking about being a Christian writer myself. I write either decidedly Christian materials that are catechetical in nature, teaching children about the faith. Or I write stories that are (hopefully) fun, use word play, and usually end up with some message about helping each other, but do not spell out the Christian message. But I usually won't mix the two. I won't produce something with a watered-down Christian message, since that's not Christianity at all.

Our vocations are to do whatever we do to help our neighbors, and to do the best we can in that vocation. That's why I always encourage aspiring writers to join critique groups, attend writing conferences, read books on writing, and write, write, write. Improving the craft of writing is the main job of an aspiring writer. Be the best writer you can be, while producing wholesome and excellent materials.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What the....??!!
Now I've read it twice. This morning in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I read that a chimpanzee in a Chinese zoo has quit smoking. I've been trying to find a link to it online, and can't find anything else about it. Apparently, the chimp has been smoking for something like 15 years, and the way the zoo keepers got him to break his habit is by providing music therapy. What???!!! A chimp is

So then I'm looking online again for this story and find this. An Austrailian chimp now has to kick his habit too?? This is really freaking me out.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The quiet church
This evening, I spent some time in the church sacristy putting together three flower arrangements for church tomorrow. Some tireless helpers in our congregation plant and take care of dahlias in the garden which I can see from my kitchen window. They are now really coming in, so I put together three arrangements. I like it in the church in the quiet before Sunday morning. My favorite moments, though, are on Good Friday, when I come into church the back way. The sanctuary is bare and black, but the back hallway smells like Easter with lillies just waiting for Sunday morning. Sometimes it seems like it's the preparation and waiting that make the gathering around God's Word and Sacraments even more precious.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Book Tag
My dear husband from Burr in the Burgh tagged me to respond to this:

1. Total number of books you own?

Hmm...that's a tough one. We have lots and lots of books in almost every room of the house, plus many that we don't have room for. We use the library A LOT.

2. What is the last book(s) you bought?

I bought a couple of books for my son last week at our PTA's Scholastic book fair, which I chaired. One cool book was "How Big is it," a children's book comparing the relative size of things. I was amazed to see how enormous St. Peter's basilica in Rome is compared to the Great Pyramid in Egypt. The pyramid is only a little taller and wider.

3. What was the last book you read?

I just finished "Headlong" by Michael Frayn. The theme was so Hamlet--the protagonist's worst qualities in the end defeat him. But it was hilarious. The protagonist, Martin, and his wife are art historians and in the course of the story Martin thinks he's discovered a long-lost painting of Pieter Bruegel. It was a pretty good escape novel, but had extended sections of art history, which was hard to get through.

4. List 5 books that are particularly meaningful to you (in no particular order):

1 & 2 - Of course, the Bible and Luther's Small Catechism, ditto for the Book of Concord.
3 - anything by Jane Austen, Shakespeare or Dickens (okay, I know that's more than one book, but still)
4 - Julia Cameron's The Right to Write - which has helped me keep on writing.

Now I'm off to write my own book...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Writers' Almanac
Look here for the link to Garrison Keillor's daily five-minute inspiration for writers. Well, maybe not exactly inspiration, but listening to the broadcast almost always inspires me to keep writing. Each day, he chooses three or four authors, usually because that's their birthday, and describes their lives, their struggles, how they made money when writing didn't make them rich. Then he finishes with one poem for the day.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Band of Brothers
If you haven't seen the HBO series, "Band of Brothers," I recommend it. It's about the 101st airbourne division, Easy Company in WWII. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg produced it. The acting, the script, the cinematography, everything is great. I've been watching that off and on for a couple of weeks, and I saw some of the (fairly bad) movie last weekend, "Pearl Harbor." Compared to the complexities of the war on terror, the motivation for the US entering WWII was straightforward. Isn't it interesting, though, that around 3,000 seamen were killed in Pearl Harbor, which prompted the US to declare a state of war, and that's around the same number that were killed on 9/11? But totally different circumstances. Civilians, not soldiers died in 2001. Here's a link to the History Channel that has some pretty interesting footage from WWII.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cool website
Look here to see how creative people are. For every minute of the day, this website shows people all over the world telling the time. You can submit your own pictures. Click on "view the clock" to see the time. It's cool.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Don't get stuck on stupid - awesome quote for the day
I heard this great soundbite from General Honore, the John-Wayne dude in charge of cleaning up after Katrina. Yesterday, he was in a press conference talking about the new storm, Rita, and telling reporters to move on from placing blame for Katrina. He told them not to get stuck in the past storm, but to move ahead and figure out what to do about Rita.

Then, some reporter ignored completely what he just said, and asked again about what went wrong with Katrina, blah, blah, blah. General Honore responded, "You're getting stuck on stupid. Next question."

I love that guy. I can't find anything written about that press conference on the Internet, but I heard it with my own ears. Anyway, here's more about him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tolkein biography
I just finished a biography of J.R.R. Tolkein by Doris Lynch. This is actually a book for young adults. I really enjoy reading biographies and memoirs, and sometimes the YA versions of biographies are just long enough for me. Some interesting notes:

-It took Tolkein 17 years to complete The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which makes me feel better when I stall on writing projects)

- He invented all sorts of languages

- He worked on the Oxford English Dictionary, considered THE best dictionary of the English
language (published first in the 1920s, I believe). He was once questioned by someone about the spelling or definition of a word. He was someone who could truly say, "Hey--I wrote the dictionary; don't question me on that!"

-His favorite language was Welsh, what he considered to be the most beautiful sounding language.

What a legacy he left behind. Not only did he give the world a wonderful epic and fantasy world; he also was beloved by his children, who considered him not only a wonderful father, but a treasured friend. Truly, a wonderful life.

Here's the link to the book on Amazon. Here's a link to more info on him.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Writer Everyone Should Read
David Petersen at cyberstones reminded me of one of my favorite writers, Frederica Matthewes-Green. I've read three or four of her books. I recommend Real Choices in particular because she faces the real challenges women in crisis pregnancy situations find themselves and how pro-lifers can best help. Her writing is insightful, profound, and often, beautiful. Find her here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Question for the Day
Why is it that reading mystery novels is so satisfying? Because life is never neatly wrapped up like the endings of most novels?
Quote for the Day
"Every street had a story, every building a memory...."
-from The Summons by John Grisham, about his protagonist's thoughts on his hometown.

When I return to my hometown of Denver, it is always interesting to visit the grocery store where my mom shopped as I grew up, go on walks around the neighborhood of my childhood. I've lived away from my childhood home since I was 18. It's hard for me to imagine never moving from where I was born. Funny how things like that sort of define who you become.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Refugee, Part 3
Crumbunnies! I knew my first attempt at linking to something would be stymied. The article I linked to yesterday was from the Chicago Tribune, but apparently, you have to be registered to be able to read it.

Anyhoo, the gist of it is some feel "labeled" (in the negative use of the term) by being called refugee because this often refers to someone from a developing nation who is ousted from their home because of their government. They felt this was a slur.

Here's the ending:
"The definition of "refugee" is someone who has fled his home, seeking help from another government, so it's appropriate in this case, said Marissa Graciosa, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

She said the word typically isn't considered an insult."The spirit of the word reflects on all of us," she said. "It tells us that we are obligated to take care of these people."

Well said, eh?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Refugee, Part 2
A few days ago, I posted about Jesus being a refugee. The term, "refugee" was on my mind because of the controversy over use of the term with regard to those who were affected by the floods in New Orleans. Are they evacuees? Refugees?

I looked up the definition, and a refugee is someone who is displaced from their home because of war or natural disaster. I couldn't really figure out why someone would be offended by the use of it. Read here for some insight.

The ending is good.

Wish for the Day
I wish my cat, Sophie, would not constantly sprawl out all over my desk every single second I am working.

(But then again, if she weren't here, I'd probably feel neglected.)
Today's rhymes
As the saga unfolds... I'm writing a Christmas narrative, so that's why polyurethane foam didn't work out so hot for the "home" rhymes. Neither did chrome.

But check this out. I was thinking about "own" and what rhymes with it. Rhymezone came up with 9 syllables: capital of sierra leone. Silly rhymezone. But then I did find "atone," "throne," and "alone." Now those are usable.

Monday, September 12, 2005

My 100-page rule
Another thought to live by: whenever I start a new book, I read at least 100 pages. If after that many pages, the author still has not convinced me to keep reading, I give it up without regret. But here's an example of a book that grabbed me from the very first page.

I was choosing between three novels last Saturday night. Which to read next? I started A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher. Here is a quote from the first page:

"So we see that sorrow may be good or bad according to the several results it produces in us. And indeed there are more bad than good results arising from it, for the only good ones are mercy and repentence; whereas there are six evil results, namely anguish, sloth, indignation, jealousy, envy, and impatience" -St. Francis De Sales "On Sadness and Sorrow"

Isn't that something to ponder?

The good results of sorrow? mercy and repentance
The bad? anguish, sloth, indignation, jealousy, envy, impatience.

I have no idea who St. Francis De Sales is, but I think this is a pretty interesting insight about sorrow and suffering.

So is Romans 5:1-5.
Rhymes to Live by
Thanks to all of you for your great (and funny) comments on my rhyming quandries. Sometimes writing rhyming poetry can be a real pain. Other times, it's great fun. The best rhyming poetry is that which flows smoothly and naturally. That's tricky. But somehow, when I re-read my writing, I'm much more satisfied by something that is written in verse than in prose. It's sometimes the struggle to make it come out just right that makes me enjoy it more in the end.
Question of the Day
Why do cats sleep so much? (Sometimes, I envy them.)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Jesus, the Refugee
So, I've been thinking about the "flight to Egypt," that somewhat mysterious time in Jesus' life when Mary and Joseph took Him to Egypt to escape the death sentence of King Herod (Matt. 2:13-15). I say "mysterious" because these two verses in Matthew are all we know about it. I tried to measure how far it is from Bethlehem to Egypt on a map, and it was (at my very rough estimate) at least 600 miles or so. Jesus, through whom the world was created, had no home, was born in a stable, and was a refugee even as a small child. Kind of wild to think about when I realize how attached I am to this little piece of earth I call home.
Wish of the Day:
I wish baked potatoes didn't take so long to bake. Ergh.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Question of the Day
Why do crickets only chirp at night?
Wish of the Day:
Today, I wish more words rhymed with home. My best options in the poem I'm working on now (ha! there's one, sort of) are roam and comb. And neither of them are great.

Go here for a great rhyming website. It brought up (under6 syllables) polyurethane foam.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Wish for the day:
I wish I knew how to make tandoori chicken and really good lamb curry.
Question of the Day:
Why does chai taste so good? Is it the cloves?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Question of the day:

What's the best Mexican restaurant in Pittsburgh?
No question. Taco Loco on the South Side. Authentic. Yummy.
Wish for the day:

I wish more things rhymed with moon.
Welcome to Jottings and Such!

I'm feeling privileged today that I can actually sit here and write most of the day, now that school's back in session. How great is that? I write children's books primarily, but also have written in magazines and had the occasional newspaper piece published too. Right now I'm working on a long poem, a chapter book (ugh, not going well), and several other projects.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005