Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Matt's New Digs

After four years at our little church, my husband is about to achieve a major milestone.

His own office.

For four years, his "office" has been the old dumpy couch-filled space reserved for youth Sunday school and one of our youth small groups on Sunday night. As any of you who have taught the upper grades or raised adolescents can attest to, teenagers molt trash--funyun wrappers, coke cans, plates of congealed rotel, notes passed during the service (did you fall for that one? Ha! How irrelevant you are! omg! No self-respecting teenager has passed a note since the invention the text message. lol...yeah, I don't text message much. I have too much to say, and there's this darned obsession with accurate spelling.) Every week we would find a pair of dirty socks lying somewhere, as if someone were marking his territory. Matt's desk was crammed in behind the couches and was a favorite spot for pretty much every member of our church under the age of 18. For a few years the church housed a little Christian school, so he officed in the youth room/library/school copy room. There was no lock on the door, and people streamed in and out constantly.

My husband is one of the most humble people I know. He never complained. Until the candy started disappearing from the secret stash in his old filing cabinet. And then someone broke the weird little running man statue we bought at IKEA. Some people have no respect for art! The darkest day came when some irreverent soul desecrated his Chia Scooby Doo. That was the last straw.

He stuck his desk in the corner, constructing a makeshift wall between him and the parasites out of shabby bookcases. The area was maybe 5 ft x 5 ft. There was more of an implied barrier--but still no door. Therefore, the candy bandit is still at large. But now there's nothing left but a giant bag of hard candy that arrived from the Oriental Trading Company shortly after Matt was hired. You know, the kind you never wanted to get on Halloween.

About a year and a half ago we got a new pastor that energized our little fellowship and stirred up lots of new ideas. We must have a lobby, the people said. And perhaps an office for Matt, some kind soul chimed in.

So the old youth space is being repurposed to create this new lobby and an office for Matt. The original plan had been to just throw up a real wall where the shabby bookcase wall had been. Sure, Matt's office would have been the size of a pantry. But at least there would be a door. He was filled with joy. A door! With a lock! And just when he thought things couldn't get any better...

(phone rings)


"I have the greatest news ever. You just won't believe it."

"You got tickets to see Prairie Home Companion?"

"No, it's even better than that. I'm getting a window."

"A window! Wow, honey, this is such great news. Nobody deserves a window more than you."

"This is the best day ever."

And there you have it. A locked door to protect the candy, and a window, to boot. Keep your expectations low and you'll seldom be disappointed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.

I tried to remember that five minutes ago when I googled the name of one of the clients I have represented at work and was surprised by the results. For starters, let me explain to you a little bit about what I do. I write press materials for a group of publicists. Publicists are the people who help you become famous. They convince media people that you are an interesting person who deserves their attention and that you have a message worth airing. Ever been reading an article in Real Simple that quoted an author and happened to mention his/her new book? Work of a publicist. Heard an author or speaker giving commentary on FOX news or CNN about the newsworthy topic du jour? The publicist strikes again. This whole enterprise may sound smarmy to some of you, but the truth is that the media has the attention span of of three-year-old. Is this just a reflection of the American public's short attention span? Which came first, the chicken or the egg... If you want to get your message out, you must be in constant pursuit of media opportunities.

You may have the best, most urgently needed message in the whole world. But unless you're already famous, nobody will hear it, at least not on the national news. You could draw the media attention yourself, but that usually only happens when you do something that would make you infamous...and I hear the market for jailhouse memoirs is glutted at the moment. So you're better off hiring yourself a publicist. I'm particularly fond of all the publicists with whom I work. I write press releases about new books or ministries (we do mainly faith-based stuff) or just whatever ya need. And I write questions for potential interviewers to ask our authors about their books, the goal being to set up each autor to share his super-duper best stuff. We want to get the word out.

I tried to remember that when I read several "articles" by a certain news service about the client in question which had by-lines by some random gentlemen...but were WORD FOR WORD replicas of the press releases I had written. It's all for the cause, I suppose. They pay me to write it, then the client owns it. It's not like I own the copyright (for those of you who are baffled by this, you would be shocked to know how many books "written" by famous people are, in fact, the work of paid scribes like myself...but in that situation, the famous person then holds the copyright and would probably sue some random person who posted it as their own). But I think these guys, all of whom describe themselves as "freelance writers" are focusing a little too much on the word "free." It would seem they just troll the news wires for good stuff, then slap their byline on it and repost as their own. This happens, I am told, even with the national media who you'd think would be more worried about getting exposed. I like to think they only steal the well-written, emotionally resonant stories. Hopefully they are not well paid to do this. But this is America, so I'll bet they are. Maybe I'll look into that line of work. Forgive my snarkiness. I'm purging. Perhpas there is something spiritual to learn in this. Are there other areas in my life where I am prone to getting my panties in a bunch when I don't receive the credit I feel is due to me?

So it goes. In each instance, I rejoice that this particular client, who has overcome amazing odds and really needs all the support, is benefiting from the repetition of my words. This is great publicity for a deserving person.

I have decided to take it as a compliment. Some people send affirming words your way. And others think so highly of your words that they adopt them and raise them as their own.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

We Has Class

Here's an excerpt from our day. I was thumbing through the magazine our local newspaper sends out every month.

"Hey, whatcha readin'?"

"An article called Donkey Talk."

"Oh. Sounds interesting."

"Hey, look at this! They have those woodwick candles down at the Pack 'n Mail!"

"Awesome! Since we can get them here in town, we won't have to drive an hour to the Cracker Barrel."

"Don't be ridiculous. Of course we'll still drive an hour to the Cracker Barrel. It's the Cracker Barrel, for cryin' out loud."

I love living this close to people who are actually preserving a rural way of life. It's fun waving to cows on our way into town. As for me, this is about as rural as I get:

The guy at the feed store was only too happy to sell me this decorative bale of hay, which you can see is guarded by the imposing scarecrow I bought for 5 bucks at Garden Ridge.


Here's a fun assignment. How many no-nos can you spot in this picture?

This child ate a birthday candle today, so that should make for an interesting diaper.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Music in My Head

I hear music all the time.

I can't tell you how many times I've been sitting with a group of people in a crowded, noisy restaurant (say, the Olive Garden), and all of a sudden Matt taps me and says something like, "Why are you singing songs from West Side Story?"

"What? Was I singing?"

"Well, you were quiet. But yes."

"Oh. I guess I was singing along with the music."

"What music?"

"You know, Somethin's Coming, from West Side Story. Don't you hear it?"

The table gets quiet and everyone agrees that, yes, lingering in the background noise is Frank Sinatra singing showtunes.

I used to be so softhearted (read:weepy) that just the sound of beautiful music would move me to tears. I remember one year when the guys in the All-Region choir performed an arrangement of the Ave Maria by Biebl, and I just sat there with tears streaming down my face, wishing the sound would never end.

Concerning movie soundtracks, my musical memory was particularly keen. The theme from "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" was used in the previews of several adventure movies, and I would always lean over to the person next to me and inform them of the true source of the music. Made a bunch of friends that way. Everybody loves a nerd. You know, in case you ever end up in a high-stakes game of Trivial Pursuit.

Why am I telling you this? Well, those of you who know me best are aware of an unfortunate and traumatic event that happened in my life about 9 years ago. In the months following, I was alarmed to find that the music in my head had stopped--and with it, the emotions that expressed who I felt God had created me to be. Eventually, the music came back. At least, my empirical music memory returned. But I never felt swept up in anything--not the harmony, not the beauty of the voices or the instruments, nothing. After awhile I got used to it.

Well, I am happy to report that last evening, September 4, 2008, I was fooling around with my playlist and decided to look up some of my favorite choral music. I found a recording of a men's chorus performing Biebl's Ave Maria. Imagine my surprise when that old feeling, so unfamiliar to me over the past years, began to well up in my heart. Then the tears began to fall.

I felt like I was meeting a younger version of myself...this hopeful, girlish--and yes, sappy--young woman sans control issues. This confirmed romantic, this girl who considered Anne of Green Gables a personal friend...it turns out she's still here. To some people, this smacks of regression. I mean, who wants to be a blubbering crybaby whose emotions are triggered simply by listening to the right song?

I guess I do. I liked that girl. I missed her. I am so thankful that God, in His own time, has seen fit to restore that portion of who I am.

My apologies to those of you who come to this blog for my usual fare of semi-amusing nonsense. I haven't forgotten about you. Since I was taking a musical walk down memory lane (check out the last tracks on the playlist for bee-yoo-tee-ful theme songs, etc. Can't you just envision Sally Field flipping out in a cemetery or Kevin Costner frolicking with his pet wolf?), I decided to pull out the copy of Speed that we got in the five dollar bin at Wal-Mart last night. This movie came out while I was in high school, and I remember thinking Keanu Reeves was so amazing. Watching it again after so many years...it's Keanu Reeves with a flat-top haircut and a mouthful of chewing gum, which he chomps incessantly and with purpose. Oh, and he throws those dirty words around like only a bona-fide tough bomb squad guy can throw 'em...and that's about all there is to that performance.

What was that girl thinking?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hooray For Fall!

Today a big limb fell from our massive oak tree and landed on our little picket fence, knocking one panel loose. The panel was fine--all we had to do was nail it back in place--but my fall bloomers that were just about to begin the show were all squashed. Alas. Ah, well, I shall not allow a pesky limb and some trampled autumn joy sedum to trample my own sense of autumn joy. The fall is my favorite, even though Texas is not exactly known for its crisp fall weather or colorful leaves. Actually, we do have two colors: green and brown. Still, I love it!

Hooray for fall!
Hooray for Meet the Teacher night and school supplies! Hooray for fingerpaint and naptime and sloppy joes and lunch ladies!
Hooray for field trips on big yellow buses!
Hooray for hayrides and weenie roasts! Hooray for s'mores!
Hooray for chrysanthemums and pumpkin patches!
Hooray for It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
Hooray for football games! Hooray for geeky band uniforms! Hooray for school spirit and cheerleaders who write brilliant alliterative slogans like "Swat the Skeeters" and "Trounce the Tigers" in giant bubble letters on posters!
Hooray for mulled cider and pumpkin pie! Hooray for steaming pots of soup and chili! Hooray for hot chocolate with teeny tiny marshmallows!
Hooray for pumpkin spice and harvest spice and all the other spicy scents they use for fall candles!
Hooray for great big piles of leaves perfect for jumping!
Hooray for candy corn and popcorn balls and bobbing for apples!
Hooray for trick-or-treaters in little kitty cat and princess and cowboy costumes! (Sorry, even my good Baptist upbringing couldn't stop me from blurting that one out. I do frown on dead cheerleader outfits, if that will redeem me in anyone's eyes).
Hooray for sweaters and, if we're lucky, for sweater weather!


Okay, I'm finished now. That was exhilirating.