Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nanowrimo is upon us!

            That’s “thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” as self-described on the National Novel Writing Month website. ( As an experienced participant of several years, I can think of a few other things that will be abandoned in many Wrimers’ abodes:  home cooked meals, clean laundry, clean anything.
            Students might abandon homework and studying. (I could name names.) Teachers might abandon lesson plans and grading. After all, to qualify as a winner, we have to write a 50,000 word novel by November 30—not necessarily a good novel, just so long as it’s 50,000 words. And what do we win?
            A certificate that we have to print out ourselves with our own ink on our own paper.
            I have signed up. With the WCA marking period ending Tuesday, I’m catching up on grading and entering grades this weekend. Hopefully I will be ready to write 1,666.666666 words a day for 30 days. Or I could round up to 1,667 and get rid of all those demonic looking sixes. I’m not writing a horror story.
            I thought I might entertain (or bore) you with a list of my previous attempts and sole success.
            Meatloaf for Three burned out at 5,780 words. It was about a pastor whose wife left him and their daughters. He in turn quits the ministry and opens a diner. Not as interesting as I had imagined, especially to the author.
            Death by Pumpkin Cheesecake, wherein a dead body is found in the church kitchen, met its demise by word 1,642, none of which I can remember writing as I look at the Word document.
            The Case of the Lethal Lunch was closed at word 3,073 when I realized I didn’t really care who was poisoning the meatloaf in the cafeteria at a small private academy. By now I realize I am not a mystery writer.
            Thirty Days Hath September, featuring schoolteacher Daisy Barnes filling her new post at a boarding school at the Jersey shore, achieved 24,601 words, and some post Nano editing. I have not permanently abandoned you, Daisy. I will return.
            The Gadarene’s Tunic wrapped at 5,342 words, possibly the best I have ever written. (It’s so good, even I cry when I read it.) It tells the story of the man the Gospel writers called Legion. I started with his childhood, telling how the demons possessed him, and got only slightly past the Gospel accounts. I have not permanently abandoned Tertios, either.
            Bride Price surpassed 50,000; the exact number of words changes as I edit and revise it. Intensive critique at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference last June both improved the manuscript and also let me know I was on the right track. I wrote Bride Price because I think everybody misunderstands King David’s first wife and gives her a bad rap. Everybody except me, that is. Yes, I know books about Michal are out there. My book about Meechal is edgier. Maybe too edgy for a Christian publisher. We’ll see. (I hope.)
            And that brings me to Prisoner in the Palace, which will continue where Bride Price ended, Meechal being reclaimed from her second husband by her first husband.
            Word count is at zero until Tuesday, November 1. I will not be starting at midnight like Linda, a true Nano warrior. I have to be awake to give a cumulative vocabulary test at 8:30 a.m.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What to Wear

Like 23 million other viewers, I enjoy the television series What Not to Wear. The show chooses a woman who dresses badly or inappropriately, nominated by her friends and/or family. The next step is to stalk her for a few weeks, filming her as she naively goes about her everyday life, dressed like a homeless person or a hooker.
Then Stacy and Clinton, the television hosts, show up and humiliate her at her job or some other public place. They offer to send her to New York City to spend $5000 on fashionable clothing, which totally makes up for the embarrassment. To receive this windfall, however, the chosen woman must surrender her old threads and learn to shop by the rules.
The rules make sense. How about this one? Dress for the body you have, not the body you want. Several of the women featured since I started watching had been wearing the same few pairs of sweat pants for five years while they waited to lose ten pounds. Stacy and Clinton convinced them to allow themselves to gussy up in spite of the extra poundage.
In my fantasy, my students nominate me and I am chosen. Stacy and Clinton rush into my classroom while we’re correcting level E vocabulary homework and whisk me away. I endure the shame of seeing my pathetic style in the 360 mirror. I stay at the luxury hotel. I buy a pair of pants for $120 in a chic Manhattan store (instead of ten pairs of pants for the same price at the Clothes Mentor, a secondhand shop in State College). Carmindy does my makeup, magically erasing scars, moles, warts, rosacea, and wrinkles. The hairstylist in the long-sleeved dress shirt and tasteful tie gives me an amazing cut and youthful color, all the while not getting a spot of hair dye on his shirt cuffs, as always.
After I model my new duds and Stacy screams, “Shut up!” (which is apparently a compliment) I leave NYC and return to a party attended by my students, coworkers, husband, and sons in a classy eatery—say the WCA cafeteria. Everyone hugs me, careful not to muss my hair or smear my lipstick. They gush and tell the camera how amazing I look and how happy they are for me. The camera follows me around for a few days, showing my new awesomeness in my old environment, maybe tottering in high heels down to CVS, or singing hymns at Watsontown Baptist Church.
It’ll never happen. I’ll never be chosen. I dress too well already because, darn it, I’ve watched too many episodes of What Not to Wear. My outfits match, my jewelry coordinates, and I’ve started wearing lipstick. Sigh.
You may be surprised to learn a similar program existed in New Testament times, hosted by the Apostle Paul. He urged the Colossian Christians to remove greed, rage, and other ugly items from their spiritual closets. With God’s credit card they could buy the more attractive garments of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Here’s one of Paul’s style rules:  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Colossians 3:14, The Message)
I can’t afford to buy the styles shown on What Not to Wear, unless I find them in a classy place like the Clothes Mentor. (I’m hoping they read my shameless plugs and give me a gift certificate.) But I also can’t afford to ignore the scripture’s instruction on my spiritual style.
Another Apostle warns me not to walk away from the 360 mirror and forget what I look like. (See James 1:23 – 24.) Instead, by looking into and obeying God’s Word, I will be changed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Birthdays...

…random memories about random birthdays that came to mind...randomly

VAGUE—It’s not even my own memory, but I’ve been told I once said only people wearing a jumper with two pockets could attend my party. I have no idea when this happened, but it sounds true. To this day I favor clothing with pockets. I like to have someplace to stick a tissue, a glasses cleaning cloth, and an occasional note to self. 

SWEET—I turned thirteen around the same time a friend, John, turned fourteen. His parents invited me along on the family’s outing to Central Park. I remember making spin art and holding John’s hand in the zoo. Or, am I confusing John with Pete at the pep rally? Ah, the innocence of ephemeral young love...

SURPRISE—My junior year of high school was my favorite. A group of about sixteen kids ate together every day on the upper level of the cafeteria. (When the new gym was built, the old gym became the cafeteria and the bleachers became a balcony claimed by upper classmen.) My good friend John (not Central Park John), in a gently mocking way, called us “the Billy Graham for lunch bunch.” (Yes, he was mocking me.)

That year each of us had a surprise  party. I thought mine was going to be at Cathy’s house, since she had invited me to sleep over. But that was a ploy to get me out of my house long enough to set up. My sister Taffy called to tell me I’d forgotten my pajamas or something; I knew then I had to hightail it home to attend my sweet sixteen party.

I still have two gifts from that birthday:  Pam’s dad worked at the American Bible Society in NYC, and she gave me a French Bible; it’s in the bookcase next to my bed. I also received a blue felt wall hanging featuring Snoopy surrounded by rabbits; the caption reads, “Happiness is loving your enemies.” It hangs on the wall of my classroom.

HARMONY—Either my junior or senior year of college, I was the only girl present in Greek class on October 9. (Lucy, the other girl enrolled, should have been there. Was she sick? I don’t remember.) At any rate, I enjoyed the serenade of an all male chorus of ministerial students. When you hear those rich voices, you understand why “God created them male and female.” (There may be other reasons, which will not be discussed in today’s blog. Or ever.)

CAKE—My mother-in-law Dot always baked me a cake and invited the family for a meal on my birthday. She also slipped some cash into a card, cash that I could guiltlessly spend on myself, a rare commodity in the days of raising my boys in the church parsonage. 

GIRLS OF OCTOBER—Most of the staff at WCA were born in October. This puzzled me, and I pondered what event had occurred nine months before October. Oh, Valentine’s Day. (As my students would say, “Eww.” No one wants to think about her parents on Valentine’s Day.) 

That still doesn’t explain how or why God brought us all together, but I’m glad he did. One memorable October found several of us celebrating at a spacious beach house in OCNJ…which seemed much less spacious the next October when we brought the rest of the staff and pretty much anybody who wanted to come.
2013—I hope to commemorate my 60th birthday in Jerusalem. Or Tel Aviv. Or Nazareth. Or Masada. I’m not fussy, just so long as I’m somewhere in the motherland on October 9. Former teaching colleague Janet plans to come with me. Anyone else game?
Since my mother died of ovarian cancer before her 58th birthday, I set year 60 as my goal for the long desired pilgrimage. This summer I saw my cousin Derek’s photographs of our grandparents’ tombstones, and I learned I come from a long line of women who died young. 

David wrote in Psalm 139, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (New Living Translation) So far I’ve lived about six months longer than my mom, but according to this psalm, the length of my life is ultimately not up to me. (I do cooperate with God by getting regular health screenings and eating salads.)

Maybe I’ll make it to Jerusalem in 2013. If not, I can look forward to the New Jerusalem. And I do hope to see you there.