31 August 2007

In the Name of Love

"You're singing to your audience, aren't you?" my friend said to me in the car.

I blinked.

"I can tell when you get into the music because you look like you're singing on stage looking out to your audience. Or conducting. Or playing piano. Whichever."


You know that scene in An American in Paris where the grouchy too-old child prodigy conducts the piece he wrote and plays every instrument (in his dream, I should add)? To someone who doesn't understand, this may seem egotistical, but it's actually passion, passion for something beautiful and bigger than self, passion to be a part of it.

You know how people critique music at churches that feels more like a concert than a worship experience? (I've said the same thing many a time.) Truth is, I wish the congregation would be as involved as the audience at a concert (pop, not classical). I'm listening to a Metallica concert right now, and the audience is almost as loud as the amped singers. In fact, when the band stops singing, the audience fills in the lyrcs.

When you get down to it, I wonder if too much time is spent talking about the music. No, that's the wrong thing to say. The wrong type of conversation is spent on this. Often, it's the make or break of the church. And, I must admit, it's important. It's important that we use music, coupled with lyrics that praise God in mystery, in awe and wonder, and without heresy (I'm speaking the traditional sense of heresy--going outside the boundaries of the orthodox church as defined in the creeds, not as defined in each local church's statement). It's important that we are excellent in our pursuit of it. It's important that the entire church is involved without a self-conscious concern of how they sound. And I think it's a good thing when the style reflects the personality of the church. But is it the only thing about a church? What about other arts? What about the family and community? What about the teaching and exhortation? Is God glorified by His creation through creative means and as they worship together?

But that wasn't my point. My point is, why does a U2 concert get more singers who could care less how their voice sounds when they bellow so loudly that the veins in their neck pop out than a church service? Have we forgotten the passion, the beauty, the bigger than self?

29 August 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Two things--no, three--happened today (well, yesterday by the time you read this post) that made me stop and consider my writing.
First, I had nightmares last night that kept me from sleeping well. Awake every half hour until I got up at six--yes, that's six in the morning, which I happen to consider an ungodly hour. When I'm queen of the world, it will be outlawed. My insomnia has decided to make itself known again the past several nights. Basically, the first seasoning in the recipe is exhaustion, which never bodes well in my thinking life. Well, I think I'm thinking brilliant thoughts, but I've been told they're not as astute as I might imagine.
Second (if I can remember after that rambling), there were some new comments on old posts found in my sidebar "pontifications." I don't pontificate much anymore. I don't have these posts that make my readers stop and go, "oooooh, wow" and snap, snap, snap with head donned in beret. Have I used up all my oooooh, wow thoughts? Has my shiny dulled? Or have I just gotten lazy?
Third, I did some research on possibilities for publication. I mean true publication, not just, "Heather Goodman is published on her blog" publication and found some interesting opportunities for memoirs (well, one in particular excited me before I discovered that it is no longer in publication--c'est la vie, which I think is French or something). When I started this writing journey thingie, I wrote just that. Memoirs. I had read Alexandra Fuller and Don Miller and thought, hey, why not? Surely I have something to recount.
Except I don't. Not a darned thing. Seriously? What do I have to tell? Well, there was the time when I was oh, about five and thought my younger sister was being hit by a car. You see, she was riding her Hot Wheels. (How I long for my Strawberry Shortcake Hot Wheels sometimes--we rode them around our patio making streets between the picnic table and benches and chairs complete with lights and everything.) When she (my sister, the story is about her, if I can ever stop interrupting myself--remember, no sleep) saw a car backing out of a driveway, like a good citizen, she stopped and waited. But her stop was too close to the car's path and the bumper knocked it down. I, being the responsible older sister, went screaming into the house, where my mother was. Cheryl's being hit by a car! Cheryl's being hit by a car! Dad was already outside and to her rescue. No damage was done.
The end.
See how much I loved her? I was devastated.
Of course, then there's the time when I almost beat her up because I thought she was cheating at Go Fish.
These stories lack something. What is it, what is it? Oh, interest. Yeah, that's it. I blame my parents. If they weren't so loving and caring, if only I had had a worse childhood, then I'd have all of these powerful stories to pen and ooooh, wow the world.
Hence my foray into fiction.
Who knows? Maybe I'll foray myself back. I'll pontificate and dredge up some repressed memory of getting lost at Woolworth's (Mom still insists she was only an aisle away, but I think that's her cover up). Or I can talk about the attempt to pay bills in our household, which is a comedy funnier than Bill Cosby's Himself (which never fails to have me snorting).

* Note to God: this is not a request for more hardship in my life.

28 August 2007

The Woman's Place

Forget going to the Misfits' blog for my post today. I'd much rather you go to Sandi Glahn's blog for her post on gender roles (for lack of a better term).

I'm up at the Misfits blog today, which is all about words.

Miss Teen USA South Carolina 2007 with Subtitles


27 August 2007

Impressions at a Museum

I don't have much art training. I have one art appreciation class I took in college (and the only thing I remember from that is a lecture on corsets complete with pictures of a woman's rearranged innards from said corset and a comparison with Chinese footwear), and the childhood field trips. Since then, I have attempted to make up for it. I go to exhibits and museums and make such studious comments as, "Ooh, pretty" and "What's this supposed to be?" I have favorites: Picasso, Rembrandt, and Chagall, but, come on, so prosaic. Who wouldn't list those as favorites? I like Jasper John too, but only after a friend explained him to me.

My husband and I went to the Dallas Museum of Art a week ago. We go every so often. In fact, the day he proposed to me was after spending the day at the museum (collective "awww"). This time, I pulled out my cell phone and took pics for you guys. Two pieces in particular that I was going to make a brilliant observation about. Here's one:
And I was going to say, look at that forlorn expression, as if the love of her life had just walked out decorum dictates that she couldn't yell after him and stop him because a proper later doesn't do such things. I think there's a story behind this. The painter knew this but daren't ask, or maybe he did but the proper lady wouldn't divulge. Even the dog is sad (and beautiful).
But now I can't say any of that because the picture is so fuzzy. Stupid camera phone.
Or the next:
Modern art. Chromo something or other. Manipulative photography (you know how that photography can be...). It's of a cathedral (I'm sure immediately obvious to you). Half the cathedral is translucent, which I was going to make some astute (I'm into the adjectives today--I love em and I'm indulging) remark about how that could be a commentary on the state of the cathedral, that either it could mean that the cathedral looks imposing but has no substance or that (my preference) the cathedral looks big and impressive but is authentic, lets its people see right through it. But I can't say any of that either.
And then I was going to tell you about the frescos excivated from the ruins in Stabiano from Mt. Vesuvius. Well, here I have a real picture because I pilfered it from the web:

Did you know that more than Pompeii was wrecked by the volcano? I didn't. There was also Stabiano and Herculean (or something to that effect--after too much time looking for the above pics on the web, without precise titles, mind you, I'm too lazy to wiki it). This exhibit showed Stabiano's ruins. Beautiful frescos in amazing condition. Floor tiles. Fountains. The housing of the rich and famous. Seriously rich. They had their summer palaces in Stabiano - summer palaces of 150,000 - 190,000 sq. ft. You read that correctly.
Theses frescos made wallpapering look like the linings of the dump. And plain white paint? Fehgedabowdiht.
The amazing thing about the exhibit? They'd have half a human from a fresco and go on and on about who this depicted from which tragedy because you see how his arm is behind his back (only the top half of the arm is shown, but yeah, I guess now that you mention it, the angle does look like that) and he has a crown of some unknown materal (they knew, I don't) on his head? That means it's this character from this play where he was taken hostage and saved by his sister.
Oh, right. I got that.
Smart people.
Could you imagine having frescos? (Is it frescoes?) The patience in creating masterpieces on your every wall? I threw fits after painting my bathroom walls. I could now go on to comment on what that says on our society, but I've said too much already.

Review - Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

I confess. I loved this book. I fell in love with the characters and didn't want to say goodbye to them. It felt like one of those guilty pleasures. There are two POV's: Cornelia, a thirtysomething manager of a cafe who fell into the job because after college and a short foray into grad school (quickly ended), she didn't know what else to do. She's passionate about old movies and old objects that look like they have stories attached (do you see why I love her?). Then she meets Cary Grant. Well, not exactly. She meets her Cary Grant. Martin Grace is his name.
Then there's little Clare, an eleven-yr-old who, after realizing that her mother is getting sick (mentally), arranges life to continue existing without anyone suspecting what's going on with her mom. She finds comfort in the stories of orphans: Anne of Green Gables (yup, folks, now you must see why I love it, even it if it is on the cliche side), Pippy Longstocking, and the like.
The two stories connect about a third of the way through it, and the relationship between Cornelia, who, for the first time, has to really open up her life and be responsible for someone else, and Clare, who has to learn how to trust grown-ups again, is beautiful.
Now, a warning: the plot is made up of convienient coincidences. Oh, look at what just happened. Well, that allows this other thing to proceed that otherwise would have been backed into a corner. It's annoying, yes, but when you love characters so much, you ignore it. Or at least I did.
Somewhere I saw the book referred to as literary chick lit. It is about a 31-yr-old who doesn't know what to make of her life, and it does start off with a romantic relationship, but it didn't feel like chick lit to me (not that I've read much of it - one book, to be exact). There's no shopping (Vera Wang's not even mentioned, not once). Cornelia's not full of angst but is pretty content. Does this mean that every book about an unmarried 31-yr-old senza murder is chick lit? I don't know about that. But what do I know?
Apparently they're making a movie of it. Sarah Jessica Parker is starring as Cornelia, which doesn't fit in the least for two reasons: Cornelia is supposedly a petite girl of 90 lbs. Very, very short. It's part of who she is. Tallness doesn't fit her. And, no offense, Sarah, but you no longer look like a 31-yr-old. Sorry. I could see Goldie Hawn's daughter what's-her-name playing this possibly, but even she's too tall. Ooh, or Claire Danes. She would fit.

21 August 2007

Black and Read

Don your black mourning. Our country's literacy is in the red. I saw this article today in the Dallas Morning News that covers a poll done which shows that 1 in 4 adults read no books last year. 27% of our population read no books last year. I'm still trying to let it sink, hopefully before the entire book industry does.
Some of the findings were standard: more women read than men, and of those women the majority were over 50 (although it didn't say by how much of a majority); of the books men did read, there were more nonfiction than fiction; the majority of readers (again, no numbers given) had at least a college degree.
Here's a surprising (tongue-in-cheek) quote: "'Fiction just doesn't interest me,' said Bob Ryan, 41, who works for a construction company in Guntersville, Ala. 'If I'm going to get a story, I'll get a movie.'"
But there were also new-to-me facts. For example, "those who said they never attend religious services read nearly twice as many as those who attend frequently." On the one hand, this makes sense with the time factor. On the other hand, shouldn't these people at least be reading their religious book? And Democrats read slightly more than Republicans. And here's one that blew me over (no offense to those I'm about to offend): those in the Midwest read more than any other region. Huh. But then again, what else is there to do on a cold night? (Okay, now I'm hated my the entire area. Love you guys. My hubby grew up there, and he's a good man. The best.)
After all this black news, there are two findings keeping the industry out of the red: those who read, read avidly. Like 70 books a year avidly. And the number of sales are up 3% this year. Of course, never know what that'll mean for next year.
So keep reading, folks! (And not just blogs.)

Cows and Fires

I like my steaks to pretend that they've seen the fire from a distance. Purple and juicy and zapping with flavor. I like my characters the same way.

For the rest of the story, go to the Misfit's blog (kind of feels like a Choose Your Own Adventure, huh?).

17 August 2007


My passion is to incarnate Christ's love to a hurting world. We are the Body of Christ, the Church, and God calls us to a great adventure, to reaching out and loving our neighbors and the nations both as the Church and individually.

I'm happy to speak to your women's group, college group, or singles group including retreats, special events, and small groups.

Past topics include:

Here Comes the Bride: Being the Bride of Christ (series*)
The Heroic Journey of the Christian
Ruth and Naomi: God’s Unfailing Love and Unfailing Plan
Follies: A Reel Look at Abraham and Sarah (series or one session)
Ephesians: What Is This Thing We Call Church? (series or one session)
The Postmodern Mind: Rethinking Plato (series or one session)
Approach to Truth: Study of World Religions (series or one session)
Movies and Literature: Understanding Structure and Meaning
Ministering in a Postmodern World
Having a Missions Heart at Home
Incorporating the Spiritual Disciplines in Everyday Life
A session of Lectio Divina: leading the group through a passage meditatively

* The series can be taught over the course of a weekend retreat or over several weeks.

I'm also happy to work with your group with a theme more appropriate for your needs.

I received my Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and have been involved in teaching women's, youth, and singles ministries as well as small groups and Sunday school classes. For more information, email me at heatheragoodman [at] yahoo [dot] com.

16 August 2007

What's My Line Again?

What constitutes work? Is it the paycheck? The sweat on your brow? Does it allude to a dislike of the task?

I struggle with this question because of my current situation. I work, right? I teach flute and piano lessons. I write. I speak. But between the part-time music teaching, the speaking gigs, and the odd writing or editing jobs (and when I saw odd, I mean odd), I can have as much to write off in taxes as I claim in income.

Which makes me feel like I don't work.

Merriam-Webster had 10 answers with work used as a transitive verb, most with their a's and b's and c's, plus 7 more for the intransitive use. And then there are the definitions of work as a noun.

Here's the number 1 answer for work used intransitively:

1 a : to exert oneself physically or mentally especially in sustained effort for a purpose or under compulsion or necessity b : to perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations c : to perform work or fulfill duties regularly for wages or salary

"A" is certainly true. I exert myself. There are sustained efforts and a purpose, and yes, under compulsion, I'd even say in the sense of a writer has to write. "B" is true as well. I continuously repeat the operation of typing the keys or telling my students to sit up straight, curve their fingers, focus their embouchure. "C"--well, that's the one I get stuck on. My music teaching - check. My speaking - mostly yes. My writing - huh? It's rare at this stage in the game that I get paid for doing what I do. I hope someday I'll get paid for it, not because the paycheck allures me but because that means getting to the next stage, a regular (keyword) paycheck for writing.

In the Bible, the English word "work" is used approximately 350 times. Occupation, service, workmanship; God's work in creation, a craftsman's work on the temple, Jacob's work for Laban, the Proverbs 31 Woman's work (which is plenty--have you read everything she does? makes me want to take a nap), skillful work, and work to be enjoyed (according to the author of Ecclesiastes), the good work that Christians are to do--the work which God has prepared for us and which is coupled with love, the work that God the Creator and Redeemer does inside of us, the work that puts food on our tables.

I don't want to make too many crosses here, say that they are all related. But a few of these struck me, like the craftsman's work on the temple or the songwriter's work because in that sense, my writing is work. Or the work to be enjoyed because yes, I enjoy my work, all of it. Or the good work that Christians are to do. What does that have to do with occupation?

That work is more than occupation because it infiltrates all of our lives, our care of our families, our interactions with our neighbors, our giving to the poor. But it is part of our occupation in that our occupation is a work of the Lord and to the Lord, no matter what man sees in it, no matter if man claims it lowly, like he may a janitor's position (and let me tell you from experience, that is some hard work there), or if man claims it worthy of millions of dollars, like a CEO of Microsoft. Or if man claims it noble but unworthy of mucho money, like the artist. No matter, it is worthy to be used by God.

So do I work? 2 out of 3 dentists say yes, and that's good enough for me.

14 August 2007

Yay x 3

1. I'm going to Jersey! My mom and I decided to go the last week of September to visit relatives. We'll see the ocean (YAY!--although by that time, it will be much too cold to swim or don bathing suit even, though I will most likely venture a toe in until I can't feel it any longer) and eat. I'm already planning our menu. Hoagies, cheesesteaks, Italian water ice (pronounce wooter ice), panzarottis, more hoagies, Kohr Brother's frozen custard. Oh, my, the things we'll eat. Oh, and the family we'll see. Of course.
2. The braised short ribs on my second try were the delectable comestibles I imagined them to be. Moral: try and try again. Scrape the pot and try one more time. Bang kitchen accessories around and pre-heat the oven one more time. Oh, and a word to the wise (although if they're so wise, why do they need my word?) - don't steam artichokes. Much better to boil them.
3. Um. In my excitement, I forgot. But in the absense of yay number 3, I'll let you know what's coming up tomorrow (or maybe later today): my speaking information. I do speaking for retreats (women's, college, singles) and special events. Tomorrow I'll have more information for those of you who are interested while I'm waiting for my website to get done (which is harder than it looks - that HTML!).

Tension and Release

My piano teacher used to say this over and over and over again until I could feel the tension and release in my shoulders. Tension and release. It's what
music is built on.

At some point growing up--I'd like to think it was early on being the
prodigy that I am--I began wondering how this relates to eternity, when God sets all things right and restores everything to pure goodness. Music with no tension? Then how can we have a Beethoven's third? How can we have stories?

Find the rest at the Misfits blog.

13 August 2007

Movies and Theology - Equilibrium

I had no intention of posting this today, especially since I just did those book reviews, and I don’t like to do so many movies and books so close together, but I started writing notes on the movie I saw last night in order to remember points and found myself with a full-blown post (and an even longer sentence). So here it is. No spoilers. I talk about the movie itself and then some thoughts it led me to.

Premise: after a third world war, the powers that be realize that man could not survive a fourth, so they seek to eradicate the cause: emotions. If emotions cause rage and jealousy, and rage and jealousy cause war, then it is better to do away with them, sacrificing love and joy and the like for the sake of so-called peace. People take their injections of Prozium, which I’m sure you’ll recognize as Prozac, to deaden their feelings. No grief, no sadness, the government says. Sense offenders, which are anything from those who harbor works of art such as the Mona Lisa or a book by Keats to those who collect odds and ends like perfume bottles and record players and old Mother Goose books (sounds like my husband’s grandfather) to those who dare to love. The scene that got me: women and children were found rescuing and caring for dogs. They killed the dogs. I can’t handle animals getting hurt. I closed my eyes and tried to plug my ears to block out the yelps. The top cleric (the specially trained agents who seek and kill sense offenders in order to keep order—I’ll get to the whole cleric thing in a minute) sees something that awakens a corner of feeling in him. He plays with it. Stops taking his Prozium (itself against the law), allows himself to linger over the harbored objects of beauty to be destroyed, and aligns himself with the rebellion. The friend that loaned us the movie likened it to The Matrix. I think it’s more like V for Vendetta, personally.

One complaint: the movie did a great job of developing the main character’s character (ha!), growing his feelings and emotions and appreciation for beauty. And it had great fight scenes. However, in the climax, I felt jilted. Things went along too easily. (I tried to comment so much to my husband, but he shushed me so that he could fully enjoy the fighting.) There were two scenes in particular: one the Ordeal, one the Road Back with that death scene climax, that could have been developed and heightened, in my opinion.

Oh, two complaints, really: I had a hard time with the premise, that anyone would accept the wiping out of all emotion as the solution. Without gentleness and empathy, one easily kills (as you see in the movie). And, there seem to be some accepted emotions: pride or anger when it’s on the “right” side, so that seemed to be out of sync.

Props: the ending had a couple of surprises I was not expecting (hence the surprise) but really enjoyed. They did a good job with that. I won’t say anything more.

The movie stars the guy from Swing Kids and Batman Begins (Christian Bale), Boromir from Lord of the Rings (Sean Bean, also in The Island, National Treasure), Benjamin Coffin from Rent (Taye Diggs), and the guy who played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart (Angus Macfadyen). Also, the girl from Punch-Drunk Love and Gosford Park (Emily Watson) was in it, and Lincoln Burrows from Prison Break makes an appearance. (See, isn’t it so much better to go ahead and take care of these things from the start? Now you won’t have to sit through the movie going, where have I seen that guy?)

The governing power outlawing everything beautiful and everything emotional are associated with Christianity. Their symbol is a cross, and their top trained agents are clerics. I find this ironic for a couple of reasons. First, Christians have always maintained that God created emotions as part of humanity. Granted, some weigh logic as better than emotions instead of equal, and very few go to an extreme as to say emotions are bad. But it’s the same with anyone, Christian or not, in our Western Society. Second, we have a Creator God who looked at this beauty He made and said, It is good. He gave us the capacity to create and to appreciate the waterfalls and the sunsets (some even, the sunrise, if you can awake in time) and the snow-capped mountains. He made the rainbow as a promise. He directs us to an end even more beautiful than the beginning, if that can be possible (which, obviously, it is)—more on that tomorrow. Third, technically, this ideology, of getting rid of emotions, belongs to Eastern religions such as Hindu and Buddhist. While the end goal of Christianity is to have perfect humanity, perfect in emotion, reason, and body, each individual personality in its most beautiful state, glorified, in other words (words that the Bible uses), the end goal of Hinduism and Buddhism is getting rid of personality to meld into one, one essence, one nirvana, the One. This sounds lovely, really. I mean, who doesn’t want to be part of the One that flows in everything? But it does mean ridding yourself of your own personality, emotions, reason, body, the whole bit.

This brings me to another point: peace done man’s way v. peace done God’s way. They are trying to control things, forcing a community together to fight, well, fighting. But in their way, they do away with everything beautiful. And it’s controlling, manipulative, and power-hungry, even if their original intentions were good. In God’s way, though, we “fight” with all the things that the government in this movie tries to wipe out: love, charity, gentleness, beauty, selflessness, generosity. God’s way is covert and surprising. God’s way protects the weak and the hurt and the poor doggies (I’m still not over that scene). Which brings us to the role of the cleric. In the movie, the role of the cleric was calculating and controlling while we know that in God’s body, the role of the cleric is shepherding, loving, caring, encouraging, willing to leave the 99 safe ones to go out on a limb (like a shepherd reaching for that stuck sheep) for the one lost. This is the hard (and that darn convicting) point for me. Isn’t it more fun to be with the 99? Isn’t it more gratifying? Isn’t it more strategic, even? Isn’t it just easier? But as a shepherd, we’re called to the lost one. No, the numbers aren’t behind us. Nor is the guarantee. Who knows if that one druggie or one woman who had an affair or one guy who left the church because Friday nights at the bar are more fun or one child who has a habit of biting as his only form of communication or one girl who thinks her only recourse is abortion will come to Christ? Who knows if our efforts will be wasted?

In the end, I think I’ll wait for God’s peace and God’s community, which will be in perfect harmony with Him, each other, and nature, thank you very much.

Update: I knew I'd forget something. Not important, but interesting to me. The main character's breaking point comes while he's listening to Beethoven's third symphony, the Eroica (which is not erotica but Hero) Symphony, originally dedicated to Napoleon, who, of course, is related to the French Revolution. (Later, the dedication was scratched out when Napoleon declared himself Emporer and proved himself to be just another tyrant.) I wonder if the film makers meant to associate that moment and the resistant's movement with the French Revolution.
And Real Live Preacher is right: it's not a particularly great movie, although I enjoyed it and felt it worth the two hours, though I wouldn't put it on my top ten by any means. He likens it to 1984. I would add Brave New World.

10 August 2007


There's ABA, or American Booksellers Association (also a musical term describing ternary form, American Basketball Association, or Baseball perhaps, and American Bar Association, but although I am a musician, I'm not speaking of the first, and I'm neither a basketball player, baseball player, or lawyer, so that rules out the rest), and there's CBA, or Christian Booksellers Association. It's about publishing, fyi. The question is, which one do I got with?
I've vacillated between the two, and it has to do with philosophy, both of them good and desirable.
Let me preface by saying I don't like the term "Christian fiction." How do you determine which fiction is Christian and which isn't? Then there's the corollary, is it Christian enough? Then you get into wars of all sorts of things from cursing and drinking to the theology of angelology and trinity (which is dealt with less often than the former). And then there's the question of a non-Christian writing a work that reflects Christ more than he or she meant, and so is that Christian? I don't like these questions, and someday I'll talk more about that, but for now, know that that is not my ish here.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program:
On the one hand, there's the philosophy of Christians being in the world. Salt and light. Christians being present in the ABA world. Talented, beautiful, and Christian. This is the philosophy I typically strive to live. Does it matter if I'm a Christian playing Mozart or a non-Christian playing Mozart? No, not really, as long as I'm playing it beautifully. I think Christians should be in normal life, not in a bubble. Business women CEO'ing a dot com company or lawyers prosecuting and defending or musicians playing Mozart and writing original songs or writers coming up with stories that can be read by anyone who knows the language. This would be the world of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor.
On the other hand, Tevye, there's the philosophy of Christians, who believe in the Creator God and His Imago Dei in every human, standing up to be patrons of the arts, including writing. Showing the world that we care about beauty, that we see the horrors and the death and the evil and all the wrenching of lives and relationships and all the effects of the Fall, that we believe in reconciliation and redemption and hope. Showing the world that we don't want to just fight them. We want to lead them. As a group. As the Church, the Body of Christ. This would be the world of J.S. Bach and Handel.
See what I mean? Both are beautiful stances, in my opinion. So the question remains: which one for me?
I think at this point in time in my life, I'll pursue CBA. There are problems, as there would be if I chose ABA. There are things that frustrate me. Heck, that's life. But I'm passionate about writing. I'm passionate about Christ. I'm passionate about what can be. There are those who are passionate about writing, passionate about Christ, and passionate about what can be in the ABA world. Perhaps that will be me someday, another day.
Who knows.

Reviews – A Bigger Life and Son of a Witch

I picked up A Bigger Life by Annette Smith because of its high standing in Novel Journey circles. And because the subject matter is related to my current WIP.
Joel Carpenter lost is wife because of a stupid mistake. Now a single dad, he copes with raising a child part-time and dealing with a life he never expected to have, and that ain’t good. He misses his wife, Kari, and wants a do-over. Then comes his hardest test, and Joel learns that more than freedom, he wants forgiveness.
Kudos to NavPress for going out on a limb in the CBA world with the subject material: a man who has an affair. Besides that, he’s not a Christian (although there’s a Christian presence of love and hope with the characters that surround him), he smokes, and he occasionally drinks (although not in front of the kids, mind you). The book is good in character development, and once I got to page 140, I was drawn in.
Downside: you have to be faithful to the 90% backstory for the first 139 pages. The story itself doesn’t start until after that. I was okay with that for the most part. My primary question is can I feel the character.
Yes, I felt the character with his East Texas redneck accent. Although, let’s be honest here. Joel was not so much of a guy as much as he was the guy women want a guy to be. Does that make sense? There were several things that one of my crit partners, had I sent a story like this to him, would have told me, “That’s not how a guy thinks!” and I would have had the guy burp or something. Or stop taking all the blame on himself and thinking his ex-wife was and is perfect.
One more thing to watch out for: it gets preachy. A lot of characters talking about how life hasn’t turned out right and what Jesus means to me, and it didn’t always feel natural. I felt the book was strong when it showed Christ’s love active in Christians but weak in some of the conversations before that.
It’s contemporary fiction, but it reads like women’s contemporary fiction, though there’s a guy protag. I know, I know. I don’t make sense. But it’s more like Lisa Samson than it is Richard Russo.
Overall, I’d recommend it. The story flows. It’s hard. I cried. But there’s a beauty in it. There’s love and commitment and reconciliation. Oh, one more thing. For some reason, perhaps due to user error, I couldn't find it on Amazon. Sorry, folks. But it's pubbed by NavPress, if that helps.

Now, on to Son of a Witch (which, come on, is just a downright fun title). This one I read because I loved the musical Wicked, which is the other side to The Wizard of Oz. Son of a Witch is about a boy who might be Elphaba’s (the Wicked Witch of the West) son. Or he might not be. It’s a journey of him discovering himself through discovering his past, but more discovering himself by his choices. I struggled with some things because I hadn’t read the novel Wicked but counted on seeing the musical, so I had to piece together aspects that were different. If you haven’t done either, you need to read Wicked first.
The story is good. I enjoyed it. The character still echoes in my brain, which is always a good sign. It was creative, although not as much so as Wicked. The end was excellent, I felt. It didn’t tie up all the loose parts to make it a Cinderella happily-ever-after, but in the discovery, it is happy.
But it was also political, a little too obviously so for my tastes. Just goes to show that it isn’t just Christian writers who are preachy.
I enjoyed it. I found myself in “one more chapter” mode for most of the book, another good sign. Let me find out what’s around the next bend, then I’ll put it down. Of course, the next bend leads you to the next, and before you know it, you’ve taken a much longer lunch break than you meant.
If you want to read this book, and I think it’s worth it especially if you like fairy tales and fantasy (although there’s not a very big presence of magic in it), say so in the comments. There’s one thing I’d warn you about, although it’s not worth mentioning in this post.

08 August 2007

Welcome, Higher Calling


It's official. I'm joining the Higher Calling Blog Network. For those of you following my blog already, no worries. Nothing will change. But you might want to hop on over to their reader and see what the fuss is about. It came from The High Calling zine, which is dedicated to folks who see their job and life as their ministry.

That being said, what does this mean for me? Does this mean I feel these pressures to write dynamic posts that wow the public? Of course. Love me, love me. Throw flowers at the stage. (No, sir, I said flowers, not tomatoes. Please put the tomato down.) Does this mean that I have to cut out the silly and lighthearted? That I can't tell you that at this very instant I'm writing this post with an English accent (more of a Julie Andrews proper than Jason Statham street)? Higher Calling is about work and God and theology, isn't it? Does that mean no more stories about my charred dinners?

I don't believe so, no. It all flows together, now, doesn't it? My work of teaching piano and flute lessons, writing, and speaking and my life of laughing and crying and the whole bit. (Take it from someone who was found to randomly break out into song and dance - yes, dance too - at the office. Known for it, actually.) It's all seamless like a fine cloth. I don't mean that you go to work in your pajamas (unless you telecommute or model for JCPenny's catalog) or that you chat with your girlfriends on Tuesday night about profit margins. Well, you might. But what I mean is that it is all to glorify God, and it is all infused with loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Now, personally, as a writer, I don't always know where the pen stops and life starts. It's all one and the same. I see something, such as the Porta Potty company named Oui Oui Enterprises and think, now wouldn't Marnie laugh at that. Or see a lonely child and wonder how Itzel would love her. My characters inspire me, and sometimes I think, shouldn't it be the other way around? When I write a post, it's just preparatory for writing about Marnie, who hasn't figured out if she's poking fun at life or if life's poking fun at her.

So lift a glass with me (Shiraz, coffee, chocolate milk, or otherwise). Here's to silliness and laughter and tears and burnt dinners and philosophizing and theologizing and to friends, because the friends I've made this past year in the blogging world have pleasantly surprised me.

Me, me, me, me

Mir shot me, I mean tagged me for this crazy long meme. Like her, I'm picking and choosing. I may steal some of her answers just because I can't beat them.

Last night. Just because. Welcome to my world.
What's handwriting?
Oh, right, right, when you use that old fashioned pen thingy, the one that doesn't do anything on the blackberry but scratch the surface. Sure, I do. Why not? It's mine, and it's all I've got.
It depends on which other person I was. If I was someone like me, I'd drive myself crazy. If I was someone with a lot of compassion and forgiveness and mercy, then sure. If I was someone with lots of money and decided to become a patron of writing, then of course!
Moi? Sarcasm? Come on. I'm from Jersey. It's the language of love.
Only if I completely lost my mind first.
No. That would take too much time.
Hey, I do Pilates! Don't mess with me!
Baileys. That's good stuff. Especially when laced with chocolate.
Anything that can be used against them. Just kidding. I don't know.
Red, baby.
My cattiness. I know, I know. It's terrible. It pops up now and then, and the worst part is, it's really my insecurities.
There, now you have it.
My best friend who moved to Chicago.
Breyers chocolate ice cream.
Thorougly Modern Millie.
Red, baby. Or maybe orange, bright orange. Or a deep plum purple.
my husband, the ocean.
potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. my husband jokes that i'm setting off the next potato famine.
oh, and pasta.
From Homer to Harry Potter by Matthew Dickerson and David O'Hara, A Bigger Life by Annette Smith, Digging to America (audio on my iPod when I run) by Anne Tyler
ocean waves, my husband telling me he loves me and thinks I'm gorgeous
Um, nothing I can tell you guys about...

07 August 2007

Misfits Misalign

I'm up at the Misfits blog today talking about why I write. Here's a sneak peek:

I write because although I love my life here on the Island of Misfit Toys, I know there is a Charlie-in-a-Box and a crying doll and a polka dot elephant who want to feel the love of a child with wrapped-around arms.
So why do you write (blog, book, recipe)?

05 August 2007

What's for Dinner?

I should have taken a picture so that I could've pointed to it and said, "This is why I shouldn't cook," and you would've understood. You would have seen the inside of a dutch oven--my husband's potjie (pronounced poi-kee) pot--with six charcoal briquet looking things in a 1/4 inch cooled, pockmarked lava substance. That was dinner Friday night. I spent all Friday afternoon preparing this new recipe for braised short ribs (what became the charcoal briquets) in a sauce of chipotles, onions, garlic, ancho chiles, adobo sauce, all in coffee-based liquid. Sounds yummy, huh? Well, since I was cooking mine in a potjie pot rather than a roasting pan, I turned down the heat, added extra water, and cooked it for less time. I steamed artichoke and baked french fries (frozen).
The french fries were delicious. (Although I didn't realize that we were out of ketchup--french fries without ketchup? May it never be.)
Not enough damage control in the ribs.
Undercooked (although edible) artichoke.
We were able to excavate some meat from the charbroiled coating.
On the positive side, I used the leftover chipotle chiles and adobo sauce to make some spaghetti sauce with a kick last night. That turned out well.

03 August 2007

HAMLET ON THE STREET - Monologue by Craig Bazan in Camden NJ

Here's why I love this:
1. It's a darn good rendition.
2. It's set in Camden, NJ, where my mother grew up and my grandparents lived, miles away from where I grew up when we lived in Jersey, and the area, well, let's put it this way. You know those movies that show the poor, gang-infested areas? That's Camden. So this beauty coming from there encourages me. And finally, it's where my current novel is set.

Harry Potter Spoof

For a good laugh, check out the article of fellow Misfit, Chris, in the Wittenburg Door about Harry Potter. Remember, it's a spoof.

02 August 2007

My Non-Vacation

It looks like we're not going to be able to go on vacation this year. We've been holding out hope that we'd be able to find some last minute deal, the kind at a crazy low price if you can be on the plane in an hour. But those deals are not to be found, and we don't have the money for regular prices. It's part and parcel to (1) living where we do, where you don't have anywhere fun to go with a couple hour drive (in Jersey, we lived an hour from the Shore and three hours from the mountains) and (2) being in ministry (Chris) and having an odd assortment of jobs (me), none of which pay well at all.
I know. I shouldn't complain. After all, I was able to spend time in Chicago this year. And I have an incredible husband who isn't making me quit the fun stuff (writing, speaking, and teaching music) to find a "real" job and make us some money. But I'm not sure if I can survive a whole year without a glimpse of my beloved ocean (Robin, I'm counting on you for some sympathy here). I think it's only happened once or twice in my life, and one of those times it was because I had spent the summer in Czech Republic teaching English, so that made up for it.
So, pardon me. I need to go mourn now.
P.S. Chris took that picture last year at Sanibel Island, where he took me as a surprise for our first anniversary.

Review - Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This novel broke my heart. Jodi Picoult has a way of getting inside a character and bringing me with her. It tells the story of Peter Houghton, after years of being bullied, tries to stop it with an act of violence, a school shooting. Rather than villainizing the shooter, although it doesn’t shy away from what he did, the book points to the responsibility of a community that failed to take care of all the little children.
I’ve only read two Picoult books, but from those experiences, I’m tempted to label her Queen of the Backstory. In the first book of hers I read, Harvesting the Heart, it was overwhelming and slow. But in this book, the flipping back and forth only served to dig deeper into the lives and motives and hearts of the characters. Her ending was powerful, but I won’t say more than that so as not to give it away.
While I didn’t necessarily recommend Harvesting the Heart, Nineteen Minutes I do. Perhaps it’s Jodi’s development as an author over the past ten years…

01 August 2007

Movies and Theology - Over the Hedge

This movie reminded me of an L.L. Barkat post, except that it was two hours, in narrative, and animated. Bear with me a minute here. With humor, and I’m talking literally laugh-out-loud humor, it points out the foibles of an over-indulgent (the raccoon related all our lives to food), independent (cars are necessary because humans are forgetting how to walk, and only one human fits per car), heck, let’s even say gluttonous U.S. society. And then it plays out these faults in the animals, a group of whom discovers suburbia and all its junk food, and one of whom uses the family unit instead of becoming part of the unit.
The film is a commentary on separation of man from man (seen in individualism) and separation of man from nature (seen in the life of suburbia), two effects of the Fall. It presents the dangers of going it alone and doing it yourself (a.k.a. how we do things here in the U.S.) as loneliness and a just plain mean spirit. It presents what was lost the further we get away from nature: beauty and simplicity.
If you haven’t seen it, add it to your Blockbuster or Netflix list whether or not you have kids. It’s worth it.