Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy Birthday!

     
I grew up knowing I was a very special person. My parents and grandparents doted on me. I had the respect of my little brothers. And everything centered around my birthday.
         In those days, the new TV season usually began on October 1. The new model cars were released on October 1. There were billboards and television announcements and full-page ads in the newspaper. It was practically a national holiday.
          It was, after all, MY birthday.
          Yes, I really am self-centered enough to think the television networks and car manufacturers chose October 1 because it was the true beginning of the year. The beginning of me.
          Years  later I found an even better reason to celebrate the day. It's not only my birthday but also the birthday of Jimmy Carter. I was a Republican until Jimmy Carter came along. He's one politician I can respect. He's honest. He's a real humanitarian not a caring-for-the-cameras humanitarian. He's a Christian that not only knows the Bible, he lives it.
           Not to mention he's a nuclear scientist. And the author of 28 books. He volunteers at Habitat for Humanity. And paints. He's a devoted husband, father and Sunday School teacher.
          I know the pundits like to criticize him, but I don't usually agree with most pundits.
          I'd never want the thankless job of President of the US, but when I grow up, I want to be as good a person as Jimmy Carter.
         Happy 90th Birthday Mr. President.
         

Monday, September 29, 2014

When the moon says I love you...

         Every time I see a musical I notice things I didn't notice before.
         Last weekend I went to the Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon, Il., to see "The Addams Family." I'd seen the Broadway tour in Grand Rapids, but I was anxious to see what a small community theater would do with it. Although this community theater is not up to the professional level community theater that I routinely review in Michigan, my mother and I enjoyed several of the performances and songs.
          One song that I overlooked before, "The Moon and Me," caught my attention because of my recent release of Full Moon Friday. I guess you'd say I've become a moonie of a sort always looking for moon trivia.
         This number, if you haven't seen the show, is a love song between Uncle Festus and the Lady in the Moon. It's such a ridiculous, Addams Family sort of premise. It fits the script perfectly.
         I went online to find a copy of the song to share in this blog, and to my surprise I found a performance I absolutely love...and it is from a high school production! The soloist is a freshman of all things! And the staging is fantastic. I hope you enjoy.
         It IS a dream that's coming true when the moon says "I love you."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Building a boat

What I like most about a quiet little drama, such as "The Boatwright" at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, is that it starts the wheels turning in your head. Days later, I find myself thinking about ideas the play has planted.

Written by Virginia playwright Bo Wilson, the script won a national play writing contest sponsored by the American Association of Community Theatres and is receiving its world premier production this month at Civic. It's the story of a retired widower who combats loneliness by building a boat in his garage.

It sounds like a ridiculous project for someone in the middle of Kansas with practically no sailing experience. But it got me thinking about the "boats" all of us build as a means of coping. One person might take up golf.  Someone else might plant a garden. I usually take on more projects than I can possibly accomplish. Like buying a pottery wheel and turning out bowls and mugs for Christmas presents. Or getting a dulcimer and never taking time to practice. Or writing a series of mysteries. Ah, yes. That's like building a yacht.

Is building a boat -- or whatever project a person chooses -- a healthy coping mechanism? Or is it "tilting at windmills" like Don Quixote?  Does the way we spend our time need to be logical? Should our hours be meted out to activities that will accomplish the most good, be that financial gain or health improvement or world reform? Or is it okay to build a boat that will never make it out of the garage? And who decides what's okay and what's a waste of our precious time?





Monday, September 8, 2014

Mooning over the Moon

    
Isn't the moon beautiful tonight? Thin wisps of clouds streak across the face, like a bridal veil. Oh, yes, this is a lady moon. Peeking through shyly. You can only imagine the beauty, the shape, with the edges blurred by clouds. And then all and once the clouds part. She is beaming boldly, round and full. A woman, unafraid. Disarming. Dangerous.
     Tonight is the romantic moon poets write about, not that insidious evil moon that drives people to do crazy things. That beckons the werewolf out of hiding. That bedevils emergency rooms and  police dispatchers. Not the kind of moon I wrote about in Full Moon Friday. No, not this moon. Surely not this moon.
      And yet, here am I.  Sitting on the deck admiring the moon. Wishing I had some wine in the house to open. Forgetting the cookies in the oven. It's just so beautiful. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Are you listening?

           "Don't hang up! This may be the most important call of your life!"
            Really?
             I'll bet most of you have received a recorded call that began just like that. But was anyone listening beyond that point?  Anybody?
             I don't think so. Most of us can barely be polite to telemarketers. And if a recording is calling, we don't have to be polite. We can't hang up fast enough.
           I can't imagine anyone actually listens to a recorded call. And if you did, would you actually purchase a product that was advertised in such an irritating manner? Would you actually vote for a candidate who had such low regard for your intelligence that he/she would invade your personal phone with a recording? . I doubt it.
            Which begs the question: Why do so many marketers use recorded phone calls? Sure they are cheap, but if no one listens to them, why bother? Somebody must be listening. Marketers must have some statistic that shows some degree of effectiveness. Not only is somebody listening, somebody is taking the desired action.
         Okay, fess up! Which one of you is actually listening to recorded phone messages? Did one of you actually buy a product advertised on a recorded phone call? Did somebody actually vote for a candidate who insulted you with a recorded message?
         Step forward, whoever you are. Explain yourself!
         Oh, I know we are supposed to be able to avoid nuisance calls by signing up on a do not call list. Maybe I should give it a try. But I tend not to trust such lists any more than I trust recorded phone messages.
          What I want to know is : Who is listening and why?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Show off what you're reading

        
           Summertime and the reading is ...public!
           That's right. Whether you are on a jet plane headed to Europe or lying on a sandy beach in Pentwater, Mi., chances are good you've got your nose in a book. And holding in front of your face the best advertisement any author can get.
           Nothing like a satisfied customer to attract new readers. Haven't you ever noticed what the stranger next to you is reading? If you ask, they'll definitely give you an honest opinion and the next thing you know, it's on your reading list. Isn't that right?
           A few weeks after Full Moon Friday was released in June, I had to get some work done on my car. Two hours of work. I took a copy of Full Moon Friday. Of course, I didn't need to read my own book so I tucked another novel inside the cover -- a trick I learned back in high school when I wanted to read fiction instead of chemistry.  While I waited in the service center and a nearby McDonalds, dozens of people passed by. No one stopped to ask about the book, but they saw what I was reading.
          My good friend Cheryl Currier had her picture taken reading my previous book, One Shoe Off, and used it for her Facebook profile for a couple of years. She got all sorts of comments.
          I hope you are headed someplace a lot more fun than the dentist's office or the automobile service center. But wherever you're going, I invite you to take along a copy of Full Moon Friday, or One Shoe Off or Great News Town. Read my books in public!  Money can't buy better advertisement.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rocky Road Reject

   
      Rocky Road is my favorite ice cream flavor. But when it comes to the paths of life, I prefer to avoid rocky roads. That's what I learned about myself at a week-long hiking camp in the Adirondack Mountains. The "adventure" scheduled four hikes but I only made it through two.
     I know discomfort and danger are practically part of the definition of "adventure." I was expecting the week to be challenging. I knew each day's hike would climb the elevation equivalent of walking up the stairs of the Sears Tower. I expected to be out of breath. I purchased hiking poles and a hydrating backpack to help me make it. I prepared for months ahead of time replacing my usual 1-mile daily saunter through the neighborhood with a 3-mile hilly hike at a nearby park. But I didn't realize i should have included a month of training on a military obstacle course.
     The "trail" on both the mountains I climbed was more like a rocky creek bed. I don't mean an occasional rocky patch in a winding trail. I mean half-mile, uninterruped obstacle courses of rocks, rocks and more rocks. Boulders! Patches of normal "trail" in the traditional meaning of the word were the exception.
        I've done some hiking before. I spent a week on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park and walked many steep and winding roads to awesome vistas. But I have never come across stoney stumbling blocks anything like those I encountered in the Adirondacks. 
       Now, I must admit that most of the 24 people in our group handled the rocky road very well. My friend Mary Kay and I were the stragglers. Hikers that were older than us, or heavier, or less experienced passed us by. The more experienced hikers used the rocks like stepping stones, gliding along as gracefully as gazelles. Blame my short legs or my shortsightedness, but I couldn't perceive a possible path in the stumble jumble of rocks. Those stones crushed any bit of fun or satisfaction in my efforts.
        The trip wasn't a total waste from my perspective. I met some nice people. I will keep that 3-mile hilly hike at a local park as part of my regular routine. The equipment I purchased will come in handy  on other hikes I'll take on more navigable terrain. But I won't be returning to the Adirondacks and I won't apologize. I admire those who have accepted the challenge and  enjoy those trails, but I don't envy them.
         You see, the rocky road didn't reject me, I reject the rocky road. I have other ways I prefer to spend my time, other hills to climb. It's one of the advantages to living 65 years. I no longer feel like I'm a failure if I don't enjoy what others enjoy.
         Make this my sermon on the mount: Blessed are they that climb for they will know the satisfaction of the summit. Blessed also are they that decline for they will discover other stars that shine.