Archive - January, 2012

Does the universe speak to us?

string theory image courtesy of

It is often said (and I concur) that God speaks in mysterious ways.

But what about the world? The universe?

And as a person who believes in the One True God, when circumstances which seem other-worldly speak to us, do we ignore them, attribute them to God exclusively, coincidence or something else?

I just don’t know. There are more likely than not great coincidences which happen all the time, but I’m often reluctant to believe in them. I couldn’t tell you why specifically. Maybe it’s my hard-wired desire to unravel the mysteries of life coupled with the harsh reality that I’m not even remotely smart enough to wrap my mind around what is seen, let alone what is unseen.

Case in point:

Last week I had a rather vivid dream which involved my kids, an 18-wheeler which I did not know how to drive, a large gathering consisting of people I went to high school with, and the troubling knowledge that I needed to get home with my kids. The 18-wheeler was the only means of getting me to my destination, and while the people there were friendly, it became quite evident that no one in the crowd would be able to help me get to where I needed to be. Had I been alone, I would have risked driving the truck without knowing how to work the gears, but as I sat in the driver’s seat, I looked over my shoulder to see two seats–one for my son and one for my daughter and I knew risking their safety was not an option. As I walked through the crowd seeking out someone–anyone–who might give me some insight as to how to safely get this truck up and running, the only topic of conversation anyone seemed interested in was reliving their high school glory days. All the while a soundtrack from the 1980’s is playing in the background.

I have no idea what any of this means, if anything.

Fast forward a couple of days to my sixty dollar haircut. Tony, the master stylist who cut my hair tells me I look familiar. Come to find out, he and his wife worked at a salon called Visible Changes back in the early 80’s. That salon was where I used to get my hair cut when I was in high school because I happened to work in the same mall during the same span of years they worked there. One or both of them could have cut my hair. The conversation moved to which night clubs we used to frequent. (Yes, I know I said I was in high school, but I was a wild child back in the day). Yes, we frequented the same club, the Rocksy, which specialized in my favorite music of the day new wave.

So far, I’ve made no connection from the dream to the conversation at the hair salon.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. I was driving my daughter to pick up a friend who was spending the night. As I’m pulling out of the garage, she starts singing “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Go’s–one of my favorite bands from the 80’s (don’t judge me–I was young and foolish). Since she wasn’t exactly getting the tune right, I decided to do a search on Pandora for a Go-Go’s music channel, and what do you know? “We Got the Beat” was playing, followed by what just might be the song voted most likely to sing along and dance to, “My Sharona” by the Knack. (Which is neither here nor there, I had just forgotten how wicked-awesome that song is.) Every song which followed was a walk down memory lane and of all the people who have touched my life in some way.

Like my best friend from junior high, Laurie, who I’ve only recently reconnected with on Facebook. I shared with her my Go-Go’s channel discovery and I’m sure some of the same memories I’ve been reminded of have caught her attention as well.

Does any of this mean anything at all?

And if it does, does it matter?

We are all connected. Some theorize this connection has to do with mathematical connections and something called string theory. Others will tell you we are all connected by God, all descendants of one man and one woman.

But what if it’s both? The former created by the latter? Can a theory which in part seeks to disprove the existence of a higher power actually point to Him as its creator?

And will we choose to do anything about it or simply ignore the connections that are already there?

On needs, wants and sixty dollar haircuts

I consider myself to be fairly low maintenance. And no, like like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally–I’m not a woman who thinks she low maintenance but is really high maintenance–I really am low maintenance. Mostly.

My day to day wardrobe consists of jeans, t-shirts and flip flops (except on those bitterly cold days where I am forced to wear closed toe shoes and socks.) I don’t buy shoes to go with a particular outfit. I have shoes or boots in black, brown, tan, navy and cordovan. Okay, I do have a pair of leopard print heels with a big red bow on them, but those were purchased to wear to a Christmas party, and my blood sugar was pretty low at the time. I wasn’t thinking clearly.

Besides, practicality aside, they are pretty fabulous.

My make-up routine, if and when I wear it, takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish. I color my own hair. My haircut is fairly simple. Long layers with bangs (see giant head shot to your right). I get a $30 haircut about every 6 to 8 weeks and my bangs trimmed once in between. When my days get particularly busy (as they have been lately) my overgrown locks are relegated to a high ponytail and the bangs are pushed to the sides of my face.

My hair grows incredibly fast. I know hair experts will tell you that’s a misnomer, that every one’s hair grows at about the same speed, but they’re wrong. Which is why after putting off my regular appointment at the hairdresser (I use that term loosely. I actually get my hair cut at a barber shop) I was of the opinion that my unruly mane needed the attention of a master stylist. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “master stylist” it means among other things that you are going to pay more than $30 for a haircut.

I enjoyed my visit to the salon. Tony the master stylist truly is a master at what he does, and the salon experience is several notches up from what I’m accustomed to. Upon my arrival at the upscale salon, I was offered my choice of beverages, including wine. The woman who shampooed my hair also conditioned it using a hot towel draped over it for good measure. While waiting for the conditioner to do its magic, I was treated to a hand massage. All part of the upscale salon experience.

Beautiful building, beautiful people and a pretty good cut and style, all for the price of $60 plus tip.

I could get used to that. And if I’m being honest, it’s not as if I can’t afford a $60 haircut. It’s just that I don’t really need a $60 haircut every six to eight weeks. I’ve never once been accused of being frugal (my husband will certainly testify to this). I just think that after two or more subsequent visits, I would most likely rationalize that $60 want into a $60 need.

William Shakespeare said familiarity breeds contempt.

I think it also breeds entitlement.

We tell our kids they need a college education. The truth is, we want them to have a college education. Statistically speaking, they will have a much higher earning potential if they have a college education. But they don’t need one, and they’re certainly not entitled to one. They haven’t earned the right to one simply because they successfully completed high school, despite what many would have you believe.

I live in the Houston area, and while technically having a vehicle falls into the want category, public transportation being what it is here and the fact that the area is so large and spread out makes having a vehicle as close to a need as one can get if one wants to be self-reliant. I don’t, however need a late model Jeep Grand Cherokee, contrary to the impassioned sales pitches I received from three different car salesmen while I was waiting to have my 2008 Jeep Commander serviced.

So often we blur the lines between needs and wants, and that’s a recipe for resentment.

As to what we’re entitled to in this great country we live in?

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Not happiness, mind you. Only the pursuit of it.

The founding fathers had it right.

Everything else is just gravy.

Dancing Priest

As a life-long reader with a particular love of fiction, it has long been my suspicion that an author will–intentionally or otherwise–infuse the main character with many of his or her own characteristics, flaws and values. Now, having worked with an author through the writing and editing of four books (2 published, 2 yet to be released), I know this to be the case. At least if they’re writing honestly, and fiction doesn’t work for me unless it’s honest.

Which is why I was so delighted to read Glynn Young’s debut novel Dancing Priest.

Book Description (from Amazon):

Michael Kent… A young man studying to become a priest finds love, and learns that faith can separate. A university cyclist seeking Olympic gold finds tragedy, death and heroism. A pastor thousands of miles from home seeks vocation and finds fatherhood. Sarah Hughes… A young woman living abroad finds love and loses family. A university student meets a faith she cannot accept. An artist finds faith and learns to paint with her soul. Dancing Priest is the story of Michael Kent and Sarah Hughes and a love, born, separated, and reborn, in faith and hope.

I’ve never met Glynn in person, but I feel like I have a sense of the kind of person he is through his online presence: kind, generous, humble with a heart turned towards God.

So much of him seems to be infused into this story. It is a novel in the traditional sense, but it is so much more. It is a testimony of God’s grace and mercy weaved into the lives of its characters. It is a powerful reminder to live intentional lives for Jesus. That while there is loss, heartache and pain for every one of us, there is also great joy.

If your faith is waining and you need a good infusion of hope, I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself.

You can find it on Amazon here: Dancing Priest

And while you’re at it, get to know Mr. Glynn a little better through his prose and poetry at his blog, Faith, Fiction Friends. You’ll be glad you did.

Not convinced?

Okay, you twisted my arm. Leave me a comment for a chance to win yourself a copy autographed by the author (Thanks, Glynn!). I’ll choose at random and announce the lucky winner next week.

The problem with ordinary gods

From USA Today:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – They gathered around the bronze statue of their former football coach shortly after the news spread Sunday morning. Less than a mile away from Beaver Stadium, Joe Paterno died at Mount Nittany Medical Center at the age of 85.

I went back and forth about whether to write about the passing of Penn State coach and football legend Joe Paterno. In an era of pay for play college football scandals, Joe Paterno demanded and received more from his players. There is no shortage of praise and admiration for this man who loved the game and loved his players. He did so many things right.

“I wish I had done more.”
– Joe Paterno (in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal)

“This is a sad day! Our family, Dottie and I would like to convey our deepest sympathy to Sue and her family. Nobody did more for the academic reputation of Penn State than Joe Paterno. He maintained a high standard in a very difficult profession. Joe preached toughness, hard work and clean competition. Most importantly, he had the courage to practice what he preached. Nobody will be able to take away the memories we all shared of a great man, his family, and all the wonderful people who were a part of his life.”
– Jerry Sandusky (in a statement released by his lawyer)

A bitterly ironic statement coming from the man whose actions and Paterno’s subsequent inaction lead to a sizable black mark on a bigger than life legacy.

In State College, PA football is a religion and Joe Paterno was their god.

But the problem with ordinary gods is that they are fallible. Ordinary gods must make difficult decisions. And sometimes they choose badly.

After 62 years of coaching, serving as a much beloved, respected role model, the last 11 weeks of Paterno’s life were filled with physical and emotional challenges.

“I just can’t help but think he died of a broken heart.”
– Mike Millen, former Penn State player

Many will say that nothing will take away from Paterno’s legacy. But for me, some mistakes are bigger than others. Much bigger. I mourn the loss of a great coach, and my heart aches when I think about the shame and regret that must have shadowed his final days.

If Joe Paterno was the man that his legions of fans believed him to be, I can’t help but wonder if the cancer that ate away at his lungs was miniscule in comparison to the one which crept into his heart on that fateful day in 2002 when he chose not stand up for the least of these.

We fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

Beyond reputation, beyond glory, there is great honor in doing what is right.

We serve a just and merciful God. I pray for Coach Paterno’s family. May he finally rest in peace.

A bitter pill to swallow

image courtesy of

I don’t talk politics much on this blog, but bear with me, please.

For months and months, we’ve been seeing news stories about the republican hopefuls. Candidates would enjoy brief periods of popularity only to lose momentum and drop out of the race. And while it seems that Mitt Romney is the assumed eventual winner, it also seems that no one is particularly excited about the possible eventuality of a President Romney. Or a re-elected President Obama for that matter. I sense a collective, “Meh…” from the masses.

Against my better judgement, I began my Thursday morning by turning on the news. Top news story: Despite earlier reports that Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucus by a razor thin margin, it turns out that the actual winner was Rick Santorum.

Santorum jumped through every hoop possible to win Iowa. Out-financed by Romney and others, his grass roots campaign included personal appearances in each of Iowa’s 90 counties. He should have been declared the winner. He’s declaring himself the winner. But unfortunately for him, it’s too little too late, and whatever boost this news may have garnered him was quickly eliminated by Rick Perry’s announcement that he will suspend his campaign two days before the South Carolina primary and endorse Newt Gingrinch for president.

This guy can’t catch a break.

With the latest polls showing Santorum dead last in South Carolina (with the exception of Perry, who’s out anyway) and his donations dwindling, I don’t foresee him staying in the race much longer. I could be wrong. It’s been known to happen.

Maybe a victory in Iowa would have changed the momentum of the race.

Maybe tentative donors would have been convinced to give Santorum some cash which would have paid for more ads in South Carolina.


But maybe never happened. Despite his best efforts in Iowa, despite his apparent win which he wasn’t credited for, none of that matters now. Through no fault of his own, the might-have-been tipping point was missed.

Like many Americans, I am still firmly in the “undecided” category. Having said that, I feel bad for Rick Santorum. Really bad.

When we decide we want something–truly, deeply desire something, we cross our t’s and dot our i’s. We do everything within our control to attain what we seek and what we desire.

But the frustrating thing about life is that so much of it is beyond our control.

And it’s so unfair sometimes.

Like what happened to Santorum in Iowa, things just happen and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

I suppose the key is recognizing what we can control and what we can’t

To think we have no control over anything is a cop out.

To think we have control over everything is delusional and asshole-ish.

To say God is in control? Okay, yeah. but again, that doesn’t mean we have no responsibility.

How do we know where that line between our control and beyond our control lies?

I guess that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

Or whatever that is adjusted for inflation…

The white flag of whatever

image courtesy of

When you’re tired of fighting and never getting anywhere.

When you promise to do better, to be better but you never do and never are.

When you’ve stopped being an active participant and chosen instead to just get thru another endless day.

When you’ve stopped caring about your dreams because they seem so unreachable and it hurts too much to dream anymore.

That’s when you wave the white flag of whatever.

It signifies you don’t care because caring feels too vunerable.

Caring puts you in danger of having old wounds reopened.

But maybe rather than waving the white flag of whatever, what you should really do is surrender.

To get in line with a bigger plan which may not include the things you want.

Just the things you need.

And contrary to what you may think, the master planner knows exactly what you need.

It’s Him.

It’s always been Him.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9

It’s your choice.

And surrender is an act which must be repeated. Daily for the most stubborn of us.

It’s your life.

Live it or live in it.

An honest day’s work

image courtesy of

In my last post Our fascination with stupidity and chaos, I mentioned that I had quickly grown weary of what I call train wreck television. While shows like Toddlers & Tiaras, The Jersey Shore, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Hoarders, Say Yes to the Dress, My Strange Obsession, the now cancelled John & Kate plus Eight and others all have seemingly different subject matter, for me, the underlying message for all of these shows is the same: The people on these shows–whether it be because of choice, circumstances or both–are less than you are, and are therefore open game for your disapproval and mockery. Why push ourselves and strive to be better when we can just turn on the television and breathe a sign of relief that we’re not as bad as these idiots on TV?

Last year I began to see promos for a show on the History Channel that appeared to be another along this same vein, which is why I made a conscious decision not to watch it. Partly because, as I’ve said, I sick and tired of these shows and partly because the participants were some of my neighbors to the east–South Louisiana. Having worked around and befriended many transplanted Cajuns here in Houston, I didn’t want to watch a bunch of Hollywood types make a mockery of the lives and livelihoods of folks whom I know to be good people. People who talk very different from most of us, whose lives are simple not because they are simple minded, but because they choose to live their lives simply.

But then I accidentally watched a full episode of Swamp People, and despite my earlier reservations, I am now a big fan. I’m not sure if the show’s creators intended to or not, but after watching these men (and one sharp shooting woman named Elizabeth), there’s no denying the obvious. These are hard living, hard working, brave people making a dangerous living and providing for their families just as their ancestors have done for decades before them. Swamp People reminds us of how we used to be, of what we need to return to. No, I don’t mean moving to the sticks and killing alligators for a living. I mean doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and not being afraid to get our hands dirty.

I’m looking forward to the next alligator season and one of the few reality shows I truly enjoy.

Laisser le bon temps rouler!

Our fascination with stupidity and chaos

image courtesy of John Saddington (aka @tentblogger) taken while on a visit to Houston

Stupidity is fascinating, isn’t it?

Why else would I be sitting here attempting to write to no avail because I can’t tear my eyes away from the local new coverage?

Coverage of what, you ask? Severe thunderstorms, hail, a couple of funnel clouds spotted and at least one tornado which blew through someone’s garage. Which actually is pretty newsworthy considering the severe drought we’ve been experiencing. But that’s not what’s got me glued to the boob tube.

Instead, I’ve been sitting here for the past 30 minutes or so as the new anchors continually cut back to a reporter standing on a sidewalk as car after car drives into a flooded street. Car after car stalling as the floodwaters splash over the hoods of their cars. In a city where anyone who’s lived here more than a year knows which streets flood quickly during a heavy rain, where we’ve adopted an official slogan of “Turn around and don’t drown” because this happens so often. Where the most prudent and logical thing to do is to simply pull into the nearest parking lot and save their car, people instead choose to believe that their car will be the one that will make it through the water.


Live and in color.


Which is not to say that I am immune from blatant acts of stupidity. I’ve committed a lion’s share of those. Fortunately, most of those acts were committed before the invention of phones with cameras and the explosion of the interwebs, before there was such a thing as reality television, where it seems the stupider the actions, the higher the level of chaos, the better the ratings. Why is that?

Because we are fascinated by train wrecks and remarkable acts of stupidity, as long as they’re happening to someone else.

I was introduced to reality television in 2000, when I watched the very first season of Survivor. I believe that first season set the tone for all subsequent seasons and the plethora of reality shows to follow. I’ll admit I was fascinated with the participants and how the interacted with one another, but my fascination turned to disgust when the winner turned out to be Richard Hatch, whose actions and interactions on that show colored him as a pretty deplorable human being. As uncomfortable as the following speech was to watch, Sue summed up fairly well what I find so offensive about this show and the hundreds of others that followed:

If you have cable or satellite television, the sheer number of reality shows to choose from is staggering. The subject matter of said shows varies wildly, but most have a common denominator: People whose lives are a bigger mess than yours is, usually by their own stupid choices. They make us feel better about ourselves in comparison, don’t they?

The cast of Jersey Shore

I grew weary of these shows a long time ago, but not all of them. There are a few that don’t fit the mold of train wreck television. I’ll spotlight one of my favorites, along with others shows you should be watching this year.

Until then, what’s the most horrible reality show you’ve ever seen?

What reality shows do you like?

What fresh hell is this?

Dorothy Parker image courtesy of

“What fresh hell is this?”

Without using the Google, do you know to whom those words are attributed to?

If you answered Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory, then you get points for paying attention (and for watching Big Bang Theory), but Dr. Cooper was not the brainchild of that phrase.

Actually it’s attributed to American author/critic/poet Dorothy Parker. She is reported to have exclaimed “What fresh hell is this?” when her train of thought was interrupted by a telephone. She then started using it in place of “hello” when answering the phone or a knock at her door. The actual quote was “What fresh hell can this be?” and although Ms. Parker is considered by many to be one of the wittiest women in history, she wasn’t being funny. She meant it. (Source: Dorothy Parker, Wikiquote)

Dorothy Parker was a fixture of 1920s literary society known for her acerbic wit and low opinion of romantic relationships. Hers was a life of turmoil, both external and internal. Tragedy seems a common thread among the lives of the world’s greatest poets, writers and artists. I don’t think pain and suffering makes people great artists. There are many whose lives are full of it. What makes them great is the courage to share their suffering with the world, even if it comes disguised as a work of art. While some may not consider humor in general and satire specifically a form of art, I find it to be one of art’s highest forms because there is such great truth in humor. It really is funny because it’s true. Here are a few great truths from Dorothy Parker:

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.”

“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

“They sicken of the calm who know the storm.”

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

“If I didn’t care for fun and such,
I’d probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.”

“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”

“Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.”

I’ve seen a few people write about choosing their one word for the new year. My chosen word is one I’ve privately hoped for as long as I can remember. Perhaps this will be the year I will proclaim it publicly:


Courage to share truths both big and small, and the courage to acknowledge that I may fail miserably and know once and for all that I am strictly mediocre. Perhaps that’s a truth I’ve chosen not to explore. Because meaning to do something, and thinking about doing something, and thinking that you can do something is not at all like actually doing something, is it?

Ah, what fresh hell is this?

“There must be courage; there must be no awe. There must be criticism, for humor, to my mind, is encapsulated in criticism. There must be a disciplined eye and a wild mind…There must be a magnificent disregard of your reader, for if he cannot follow you, there is nothing you can do about it.” – Dorothy Parker


This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Fresh, hosted by the lovely and talented Peter Pollock. Visit his place for more fresh posts.

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: The hard sell

Awhile back I was invited to one of those home parties where they sell stuff. Specifically, kitchen stuff. And while I usually politely decline invitations to these things, it had been years since I’ve attended one, it was being given by a couple of good friends from church and my husband saw a knife in their catalog that he wanted. So I accepted the invitation. In case you’re not familiar with these home parties, the person or persons who host the party receive incentives by way of free merchandise and/or discounts on products they want depending on how much other people buy.

At this particular party, the theme had something to do with chocolate. There was a chocolate fountain and other things made with chocolate. For the demonstration portion of the show, the consultant made a dessert with chocolate, crushed pecans and some other stuff. (Sorry, my eyes sort of glaze over when people prepare food. Just tell me when it’s ready, thank you.) Each step of the process involved some handy-dandy product which made the process of preparing this dessert much easier: a mini food chopper (for the nuts), easily read measuring cups, spatulas, and the baking stone which it was cooked on. There was probably some other products used, too. (See previous “eyes glazing over” comment.)

But lest you think we all just stood around watching this woman make dessert, let me assure you that was not the case. She encouraged us to ask questions about the products, about how we could host our own parties for free products and discounts and how we, too could work from home if we chose to sell all of these wonderful products. Which incidentally, are pretty great products. I bought plenty of them before the night was over, but once she started talking about how easy and profitable it was to be an independent consultant for her company, I knew where this was going. As we say in Texas, this wasn’t my first rodeo. This is the birthplace of Mary Kay Ash.

When the demonstration was over, I was first in line to check out. I already had my order form filled out and my checkbook open. She immediately proceeded with the hard sell. Bless her heart. She doesn’t know me at all.

Consultant: You have quite a large order here.

Me: Uh huh.

Consultant: Did you know that if you signed up to be a consultant many of these items would be in your starter kit?

Me: Really? I’m not interested.

Consultant: You wouldn’t believe all the free items I’ve received by being a consultant.

Me: That’s great. For you. For me? That’s never going to happen.

Consultant: Were you interested in hosting a party? I still have some openings for next month.

Me: No.

Consultant: You could get several items for free, deep discounts and free shipping.

Me: That sounds great. Where do I sign? HA! Just kidding. I don’t want to sell kitchen gadgets. I don’t want to host a party. I try to avoid the kitchen as much as possible. I’m here because my friends invited me. I want to help them out and my husband needs a knife. I’m not a seller. I’m a consumer. What’s my total?

I had my order totaled and was out the door in record time. My other friends (who are way more polite and accommodating than I) were not so lucky. From what I understand, it was pretty late before everyone got out of there.

I have since been invited to three more parties that were booked that night. I have declined two so far. I may attend the third, but again, only to help out a friend.

I don’t fault anyone for trying to earn a living in this tough economy. But there’s got to be a better way than how these parties are structured. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time because I was with good friends and was served chocolate–win/win. But I don’t think it’s by accident that these selling parties are geared toward women and more specifically wives and moms who are looking for ways to stretch the family dollar. We like hosting gatherings with our friends. We like shopping. We like the opportunity to get free stuff. (Obviously, these are largely stereotypical statements.)

But no should mean no, however polite it may be. If your presentation and your products don’t convince your customer that this is something they may want for themselves, don’t try to hard sell them into something they don’t want.

Because saying no doesn’t come easily for many people, but being resentful for feeling pressured to say yes does.

For those of you who find it difficult to say no, trust me. It gets easier each time. And saying no to what you don’t want frees you up to say yes to what you do.

Editor’s Note: I don’t mean to imply that all of these parties end with the hard sell. It’s just been my personal experience that many do–regardless of what’s being sold.

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