Monday, November 28, 2011

Missing the Point?

Yesterday at church, it was announced that, because Christmas falls on Sunday this year, there would be no church services that day. Huh? No services on Christmas? Isn't that kinda like having a birthday celebration without the guest of honor?

Seriously, I do get it. One does not have to be in church to worship God or to celebrate Jesus' birth. One can worship in their own home, in the beauty of nature, in a car in rush hour traffic, or anywhere else. God is everywhere. And as long as our Christmas celebrations commemorate what the holiday is really all about, we're good.

My grandmother used to go to church every Sunday. Grandpa, on the other hand, read his Bible down by his still. Guess who knew it chapter and verse?

And here's a bit of advice: forget about Santa. God knows when you're sleeping, when you're awake, when you've been bad or good.... If you've been good, breathe a sigh of relief. If you've been bad, well, I hear those life reviews on the other side can be painful. You get to see every screw-up you've ever made. And when you're asked when you want to be for eternity, you'd better have the right answer!

Bear in mind that He doesn't care how much money you've made, how successful you've been, what property you own or other such unimportant crap. He cares that we have loved well. He cares how we've treated others  (being an animal lover, I like to think this includes all creatures). He cares that we've accepted his gift of salvation and put Him first in our lives.

Not too long ago, I told my pastor I believed God created me to be a warrior. Much to my surprise, he didn't disagree with me. I didn't get that look that says so much without a word. He said he thought I'd been made a warrior to enable me to survive all I'd experienced. I'll take it one step further and suggest that he made me who I am and gave me the experiences I had for two reasons: one, I had pride issues. Of all the Seven Deadly Sins, that's the one that always gave me the most trouble. I had to hit bottom to free myself of it, and I had to be a fighter to make the climb out of that pit. Sometimes, God lets us struggle, just as any parent allows their children to struggle to enable them to grow. I'd been a spoiled child who was given everything I wanted. I was a spoiled author who was given too much too fast. 

So I had to start all over again.

In the journey back from rock bottom,  I did evolve. I came back stronger, but also more compassionate. I have zero tolerance for the mistreatment of people or animals who are unable to defend themselves. Hey, I don't mind kicking butt when the object of the butt-kicking really has it coming, but there's no sport in kicking puppies!

I'm the one who will go to the animal shelter and, while everyone else is  snapping up the really cute puppies and kittens, I'll seek out the most pathetic creature in the place--the one that's old and scruffy, days away from execution, huddled in the back of the cage, looking as if he/she has lost all hope. Collin once said I'd look at the most butt-ugly critter on the planet and say, "Oh, isn't he cute...."

Guilty as charged.

I leave you today with a final thought from the words of St. Catherine of Siena: "Be who God meant you to be and you'll set the world on fire."

I invite you to check out William's and my discussion on collaborations at Writers of Mass Distraction and the new look Collin and I created for Sam's Story, along with William's review of A Time for Legends (The Unicorn's Daughter) at  Speak of the Devil and  Beishir Books!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sexy, Like Beauty, is in the Eye of the Beholder

People magazine just published the annual Sexiest Man Alive list for 2011. I'll admit that I agree with some of their choices, but there were some glaring omissions on their list. So...with a little help from my friends Beth and Christina, here is our idea of sexy men:

Chris Hemsworth: he may not be a god, but he played one in Thor. And he's got one heavenly body!

Beth likes Chris' kid brother Liam Hemsworth. So does Miley Cyrus. The Hemsworth family has to have the best genes in Australia!

Christina picked Sam Worthington. Gotta admit, he's pretty easy on the eyes....

Christina and Beth both had the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, on their list. I, however, have a preference for the previous 007, Pierce Brosnan....

He's one of those men who improves with age, as does my longtime favorite, Ewan McGregor.

And speaking of men who improve with age, no list of sexy men would be complete without George Clooney! (Could this man ever take a bad photograph?)

Looking for a hero? How about Captain America himself, Chris Evans?

Or maybe you prefer the animal magnetism of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman....

Or another of Beth's picks, the new Captain James T. Kirk, Chris Pine (oh, those lucky green women)!

And last but far from least, Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford!

Have we missed anyone? Tell me who you think is the Sexiest Man Alive...Still Alive...or even No Longer Alive!

November 26th: I omitted a couple of really hot guys here. I should be flogged! But here, to make amends, are Iron Man/Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. (this photo gives a woman all kinds of naughty ideas)...

...and the sexiest dude in any swamp, Kermit the Frog!

Okay, I had a few reservations about including Kermit. You all know how jealous Miss Piggy is, and she's got a mean right hook!

And if you all would like to see a collection of the hottest chicks around, head on over to William's blog, Speak of the Devil, immediately!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rules of Engagement

Time for a rant. I'm out to become the female Lewis Black!

Collin and I had lunch at Noodles and Company today. They have the best pasta and salads...but today, they had something I could have lived without.

The server brought out our food, and Collin went up to the soda machine for a refill. I wondered why it was taking him so long. The restaurant wasn't busy. Taking a closer look at the couple ahead of him, I realized they were standing in front of the machine...kissing! I was about to shout out, "Get a room, you idiots!" when they broke the liplock and went to their booth. I'm surprised the didn't sit in the same side of the booth so they could continue necking.

Don't get me wrong...I'm very much in favor of romance, If I weren't, I wouldn't be writing love stories. But there's appropriate and then there's inappropriate. Holding up a line in a restaurant for a bout of face-sucking is definitely inappropriate. A kiss isn't just a kiss when you're interrupting the other diners' lunch for it.

Behavior that embarrasses others is inappropriate. William and I knew a woman who was so blatant in her amorous pursuits, we broke all ties with her. She crossed too many lines. I was so embarrassed by her behavior that my parting words to her included "Drag a mattress to the curb. I'm sure somebody will come and climb aboard sooner or later."

I've found there's an odd double standard here. Face it, ladies, most of you are guilty of this one. We women are appalled by men in whom we have no interest getting too pushy in their flirtations, yet most  think men like any and all female advances. It's not true. I know many men who find the relentless flirtations uncomfortable. My father was one of them. Even when he knew it was "just in fun," he considered it to be in extremely poor taste. He refused to respond to such unwanted attention. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

Girls, we stress that no means no when the guys get too aggressive. That goes for them, too. If they're ignoring us, they're just not into us. One-sided flirtations make both men and women look pathetic.

And as for those over-the-top PDAs (public displays of affection)--get a room! If I'm not doing it myself, I sure don't want to want someone else having all the fun!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: Pretty Witches All in a Row by Lisa Olsen

For anyone who has doubts about the quality of self-published books, I have a suggestion for you that can be summed up in two words: Lisa Olsen.

Lisa is one of the finest new authors to come along in recent years. I'll be doing reviews for her other books in the weeks to come, but let's start with Pretty Witches All in a Row. In this spectacular novel, she blends the police procedural novel with elements of the supernatural that makes me think of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series.

Someone is killing the members of a coven. Enter Detective Nick Gibson, a practical, down-to-earth cop/single father of a teenage daughter, a man who's having a hard time buying into the idea of witches and covens and prophetic dreams. Will he fall under the spell of the beautiful Annaliese, a self-professed witch who's a member of the targeted coven? Has she really had premonitions of the murders in her dreams, or could there be another reason for her knowledge of the murders? Is Nick a fool to trust her?

Ms. Olsen is a skilled writer whose expert pacing keeps the story moving. She weaves the elements of fantasy into her real-world setting with confidence and populates her fictional world with well-developed, believable characters. This is a book you'll have a hard time putting down. And even though the ending is quite satisfying, you'll undoubtedly be begging for more!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad!

If my father were still alive, he would be 98 years old today. Wow. Makes me feel really old.

Until he retired and had to get a copy of his birth certificate, he thought his birthday was November 11th. Back then, proving one's identity for a driver's license and Social Security card was not so complicated. The officials took you at your word. That was before the word "terrorist" was coined.

Dad didn't know his birthday because his mother was deceased--a suicide, probably the result of postpartum depression--and his father was drunk the night he was born, at home as was the norm in 1913. There was also some disagreement among his relatives as to whether his legal name was Jacob Clarence or Clarence Jacob.That was also cleared up by his birth certificate.

He was almost 40 when I was born, a father for the first time. He was a good father and a good man, though not perfect on either count. He didn't have a good role model for either, unfortunately, so he did pretty good winging it. 

I was a Daddy's Girl from the minute I could walk. I followed him around the house and yard. If he went out, I was always in the truck with him. He gave me anything I wanted. When I was six, I wanted a pony. He built a barn and got me a pony. Two ponies, actually. He and Mom went Christmas shopping one year. I was, I believe, five at the time. Mom told me about the woman who checked them out at Sears. "Your little girls are going to love all these dolls," the woman said.

"We only have one," Mom told her.

The woman couldn't believe it. "All of this is for ONE child?" she asked.

That, I should note, was the year they discovered their little girl was a tomboy like her mother and didn't even like dolls. No more dolls. The next year, they bought me toy trucks and horse figurines, and Dad built me another barn--small scale this time, with a fenced paddock and a light inside, all on a large sheet of plywood that sat on a table in my room.

My father was a moody sort. There were times he would withdraw. I grew up with it, so it was just a fact of life: Dad needed to be left alone sometimes. As I grew older, I came to realize his dark moods were connected to the death of his mother. He never knew her, and he felt that loss acutely. All he had of her was her suicide note, in which she asked her mother to care for her children, and a spotty old photograph. He carried the note in his wallet until the day he died. I told Mom she should place it in his shirt pocket when he was buried. He would have wanted it that way.

As for the photograph, Mom surprised him one Christmas. He'd always guessed all of his gifts before he opened them, but that year, Mom had something in mind she knew he would never figure out, She took that old photograph to a portrait artist and had a painting made for him. When he opened it that morning, it was only the second time in my life I'd ever seen him cry (the first being when Mom nearly died in an accident).

Dad was great with small children--but when I grew up, and started to think for myself, I was a constant source of frustration for him. Mom always said we butted heads because we were so much alike. The one way in which we were not alike was when it came to money. Dad had left home at fourteen, the day he discovered the truth about his mother, and lived as a runaway until finally turning to his maternal grandmother, with whom he lived until her death. Dad could sit on a dime and squeeze out nine cents. I was more like Mom, who couldn't couldn't balance a checkbook to save her life.

Collin, fortunately, is more like Dad when it comes to money.

My relationship with Dad was good at the time of his passing, but still, there was so much I wished I could say to him. Unfinished business, if you will. Losing him and Mom left me with the painful reality that we can't put things off. Life can end in the blink of an eye. Tell those you love how you feel now, because none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

And a special thanks to my partner and dear friend William for this link to Dad's all-time favorite song:

The Tennessee Waltz

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is Our Number Up?

When I was in my late teens, I became deeply involved with the occult--astrology, numerology, I-Ching, Tarot, you name it. I did astrological charts--not just a "what's your sign" sort of thing, but a detailed placement of all of the planets at the time of an individual's birth. Supposedly, knowing these things could predict one's character, personality, and future prospects. Numerology is, according to believers, also capable of making such predictions.

I put all of that behind me a long, long time ago...though I do still get a kick out of reading the silly predictions online. Most of them make no sense whatsoever. Do we really need the stars to tell us when to go to the grocery store? The best time to go is when there's no food in the house!

 I don't remember much of it anymore, but the topic of numerology has been in the news all day. This is because tomorrow, November 11, 2011--11/11/11--at 11:11:11 (am or pm, take your pick), we will achieve a perfect, same-numbered palindrome (reading the same backward or forward) which can only occur once every 100 years.

Yep, that means that, for most of us, it will only happen once in our lifetime.

Some think this will herald the end of the world; others think it's a perfect day for a wedding--after all, it will be hard for one's husband to forget his anniversary.

The last time this palindrome occurred, on November 11, 1911, an almost supernatural event took place: temperatures dropped sixty degrees in one day. Known as the Great Blue Norther, it triggered both blizzards and tornadoes.
While the armistice ending World War I was actually signed at 5am Paris time, the War was officially declared over at 11am on November 11, 1918 for the symbolism. We humans, it seems, have a natural need to see patterns in everything.

This includes discovering one's personal numbers. The Life Path Number, for example, is the number that defines you at birth and decides the traits you'll carry with you throughout life. Life Path numbers are found by reducing your birthdate to a single digit. If you were born on, say, January 1, 1978, you would add 1+1+1+9+7+8 to get 27. 2+7=9. Your Life Path number would be 9.

Collin, for example, is a 5. The keyword for 5 is freedom. 5s are versatile, adventurous, compassionate and advanced in their thinking. Abraham Lincoln was a 5.

I'm a 4, as is my good friend and writing partner William. 4s have cerebral excellence and are practical, down-to-earth, with an ability to take orders and carry them out....

That sure sounds like William, but I think think I got the wrong number....

4s also have the kind of willpower that can be seen as sheer stubbornness. Their directness can come off as unremitting, and their tenacity borders on obsession--oh, that's me! I don't need a recount after all!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bring Back the Stagecoach!

I've blogged about our local mass transit before, but it's such a mess, there's much to write about.
I started using public transportation back in my college days. In fact, it was during my first week at St. Louis University that I rode a bus for the first time. Back then, mass transit was reliable (for the most part). We knew where the stops were and when the buses would arrive. We didn't wonder from one day to the next if we'd have transportation or not.

Today, things are much less certain. Not too long ago, financial problems led Metro to terminate several bus routes. The federal government rode to the rescue, providing funds to restore several routes and, for a short time, improve service. They bought new buses--with better wheelchair access, which is a good thing. When Mom was wheelchair bound, we had trouble taking her anywhere because more often than not, the buses' wheelchair lifts didn't work. We were once stranded at the mall for three hours, waiting for a mechanic to come and repair the lift.
What's not so good about the new buses is that, if the driver does not either pull up close to the curb or lower the bus, boarding can be difficult. Two years ago, Collin and I boarded one of the newbies for the first time. The driver could see that I was having a problem but did not lower the bus. I fell. I ended up bruised from thigh to ankle--and even now, I still have problems with that leg. Did the driver do anything to help? No. Last weekend, I boarded another one at the mall. Once again, the driver failed to lower the bus or pull to the curb. And if Collin had not been there, I would have fallen again. (About half of Metro's operators are in serious need of some attitude adjustment. I could do a month of blogs on these horror stories.)

Another thing I don't understand about the new buses: if Metro's objective is to increase ridership, why did they buy buses that accomodate fewer passengers? Duh!
Which brings me to their latest blunder: reduction of bus stops, presumably to save fuel. Now, I know zero about how that sort of thing works, but I do know that by reducing the number of stops, the loss of passengers is inevitable. Not everyone who normally uses public transportation will be able--or even willing--to walk several blocks to a stop. Will they lose more in fares than the gain in fuel costs? It's going to be difficult to get around for a while. Where do we board? And when we reach our destination, will we be able to get off the bus? There's no way of knowing.

Collin and I discovered the bus stop nearest our place was no longer a bus stop on Saturday. No warning, nothing. I haven't checked it out yet, but Collin says the closest stop to our place is at least six blocks to the south. To the north, it's about a half-mile walk to the mall. Not too bad in good weather--but winter's coming.
I complained--via e-mail, Twitter and message boards on the local TV station websites. Yesterday, I was informed that our stop would be restored. In two weeks.
Two weeks?
I'm not sure why it will take two weeks to put up a bus stop sign that was just removed. Did they destroy them already? Well, I just bought a thirty-day pass I won't be able to use for...fourteen days?

Mr. Nations, I'd like a refund. Or at the very least, a fourteen-day pass to take effect on November 28th. E-mail me and I'll give you my mailing address.