Monday, December 22, 2008

Say What?

I have the joy of spending my weekends with hundreds of kids between the first and fifth grades. Over the course of working in Children’s Ministry these past few years I’ve had the opportunity to amass quite the array of amazing quotations. Today I present to you… conversations in the key of E.

Me: Who can tell me the signs that God gave Moses to use when he spoke to Pharaoh
3rd grade girl: Moses threw his staff on the ground and it turned into a snake. And then Moses took his hand and put it under his cloak and when he pulled it out it became leopard skin.
Me: Or leprosy. Either one.

Me: Who can tell me the job that Zipporah had? Remember, she was Moses’ wife.
5th grade boy: She was a Shebrew.
Me: Close. A shepherdess. Moses was a Hebrew. But very close.

Me: Can anyone tell me what it means to sacrifice?
Girl: To sacrifice.
Me: Okay…anyone else?
Boy: To sacrifice something.
Me: Let’s try to use another word other than sacrifice!
Boy: It’s like if there was a chicken and a farmer. And the farmer was hungry. And the chicken was like, ok, you can eat me. So they kill the chicken and cook it. And it’s on a stake, and it’s cooking, and getting brown, and golden, and crispy, and it smells amazing. And then the farmer eats it.
Me: Exactly.

1st grade boy: Miss Ginger I pooped my pants…when I was a baby…in my sleep.
Me: Cool.

While stretching before a Christmas Musical Rehearsal-
Me: Reach over to your left shoe. Remember, we want to be all ready to go at 10:30am!
Girl: This is stretching my tibia.
Boy: This is stretching my rectum.
Girl: That’s not a bone. That’s a muscle.
Boy: Oh.
Me: Umm... go ahead and reach over to your other foot.

Me: If you could invite any person to your house for Christmas this year, anyone in the whole world, who would it be?
Girl: Joe Jonas!
Boy: Shaq
Another Boy: Pierce Brosnan
Me: Really? Um, ok.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas (Episode)

Since my list of favorite Christmas movies would probably look much the same as Ginger's (although I would have found room for "Love Actually," "While You Were Sleeping," and "Little Women"), I've decided to compile a list of my favorite Christmas television episodes. Translation: pretty much just the best Christmas episodes from my favorite shows. No one said this had to be an unbiased list....

The One with the Girl from Poughkeepsie, Friends- How could I not include an episode that features such a heart-felt Christmas song from Phoebe? If I could sing and play the guitar, I would totally write you guys a Christmas song.

Forgiveness and Stuff, Gilmore Girls- There is snow! Christmas parties! A crazy local Christmas program with a girl baby doll playing the part of Jesus! Plus- Luke makes Lorelai a Santa Burger! Heart!! Please watch at least the beginning of this clip. You'll like it:

Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, Grey's Anatomy- Most of what Grey's Anatomy is about is convenient storytelling. It involves a lot of ironic circumstances, contrived situations, and scenes set up for the sake of creating a specific quotable line or memorable image. And they certainly know what they're doing, because it makes for a very entertaining show indeed. This is a great Christmas episode, filled with longing and hope and drama and struggles and all the other cheesy things that make up Grey's. But the episode sticks with me. The most memorable image is that of three friends lying beneath a Christmas tree, just staring at the colored lights and savoring Christmas. I love to stop and savor Christmas. (Skip to 1:26 in this clip. It's lovely.)

The One with the Routine, Friends- Any storyline involving Rachel, Phoebe, and Chandler is automatically hilarious. The storyline where the three of them are searching for Monica's hidden Christmas presents is therefore automatically hilarious. They spend almost the entire episode searching, and even find a few fake presents Monica planted to throw them off. This scene is from when they finally find the gifts:

An Echolls Family Christmas, Veronica Mars- Definitely not your typically sweet and cheerful Christmas special, this episode of the consistantly genius "Veronica Mars" speaks to the bittersweet feelings of melancholy that somtimes accompany Christmas. It's an episode containing the usual brilliant villain-unveiling by Veronica that we've come to expect, but it's also filled with more disillusionment and heartache for our poor heroine. Veronica ends the episode by concluding: "What was I thinking? Christmas in Neptune is, was and always will be, about the trappings: the lights and the tinsel they use to cover up the sordidness, the corruption. No, Veronica, there is no Santa Claus."
I couldn't find a really great clip or preview of this episode that really captures its Christmas melancholy, so here instead is a funny Logan/Veronica moment from the same episode:

Christmas Party, The Office- The original and still the best "Office" Christmas episode. "Happy birthday, Jesus. Sorry your party's so lame." "'A real man makes his own luck,' Billy Zane, Titanic." "Yankee Swap is like Machiavelli meets... Christmas."

The Best Christmukkah Ever, The O.C.- I unashamedly love this show. Seriously. And this is an amazing, amazing episode, as 'Chrismukkah' is an essential part of "The O.C." This episode just has everything: Ryan and Marissa happy, Ryan and Marissa fighting, Seth and Summer, Seth and Anna, the Seth Cohen starter pack (The Goonies, Death Cab for Cutie, etc.), a big fancy O.C. party, and Sandy and Kirsten being typically sweet and hilarious. Throw in that ending shot of Ryan finally hanging his stocking up with the rest of the family and the slow pan to the Cohen's "Happy Chrismukkah" card's just too much. I am too full.

The Bracebridge Dinner, Gilmore Girls- From the very best season of my very favorite television show, we finally come to the perfect and enchanting Christmas episode, The Bracebridge Dinner. It's an amazing balance between the sweet and the hilarious, the magical and the zany. I love the snow, the twinkle lights, the crazy waiters in costume, the fights, the sleigh rides, the snowman contest, and everything in between.
Lorelai welcomes everyone to the Bracebridge Dinner:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's not Christmas without…

You can argue, but these are my preferences for top ten Christmas films. I’ve already viewed Home Alone, The Family Stone, and Elf this year. I told my dad that I’m saving Meet Me in St. Louis for Christmas Eve. Here, in my own personal and particular order – is the list.

10. Christmas Vacation – I saw this one for the first time about five years ago and thought it was hysterical. I showed it to the rest of my family and they did not have the same response...alas. “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas – We love this movie. We can sing the songs, my Dad has the CD and DVD. What can we say? There’s nothing like Tim Burton for Christmas. “There's children throwing snowballs / instead of throwing heads / they're busy building toys / and absolutely no one's dead!”

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Linus gets me every time. I love his recitation of Luke 2 in the King James translation. Also, the singing of Hark the Herald Angels Sing with the characters heads thrown back in complete abandon brings a smile to my face. “That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

7. Mickey’s Christmas Carol – I’ve probably seen this 25 times. We have a tape of the Disney channel from about 1988 that shows this along with some other lovely clips. “Listen, Scrooge, if men were measured by kindness, you'd be no bigger than a speck of dust.”

6. Home Alone – There’s nothing like laughing at grown men being beat up for forty-five minutes to really enjoy the season. “Bless this highly nutritious microwavable macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.”

5. White Christmas – I want to be Rosemary Clooney and wear her clothes and put on a show and have everything go perfectly. “There's no Christmas in the Army!”

4. The Family Stone – This is actually one of my favorite movies all year round. I watch it all the time. I love the house. I love the messed up family. I love the tender moments it showcases. Although it won’t be quite as severe, I do foresee a coming home of this nature in my future. “I'm sorry, I would sign, but I don't know the language.”

3. Meet Me in St. Louis - There’s just something about Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” “No, no, Tootie, you're wrong. New York is a wonderful town. Everybody dreams about going there, but we're luckier than lots of families because we're really going. Wait till you see the nice new home we're going to have, and the loads and loads of new friends we're going to make. But the main thing is, Tootie, that we're all going to be together, just like we've always been. That's what really counts. We could be happy anywhere as long as we're together.”

2. Elf – Too many quotes to choose from, thus bringing it to the top of the list. “Wow, you're fast. I'm glad I caught up to you. I waited 5 hours for you. Why is your coat so big? So, good news - I saw a dog today. Have you seen a dog? You probably have. How was school? Was it fun? Did you get a lot of homework? Huh? Do you have any friends? Do you have a best friend? Does he have a big coat, too?...”

1. A Christmas Story – it’s tradition. “Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl.”

Now Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


In a desperate attempt to find something to blog about

Because I know you are always eager to read about my childhood

Look, everybody! Funny diary entries!

All of this was pulled from my highly prized Lisa Frank diary with the lock on it. That's right, a lock! These are some precious secrets you're about to read!

May 19, 1995
Yes! It’s Friday!
Now I’ve got my boys narrowed down to four, and I’ve changed it- a lot!

1. David (he’s funny)

2. Steven (he’s cute!)
3. Brad (he’s cute)
4. Bobby (he’s cute)

David is so funny, and I think he likes me! And he’s cute. I’m in love! I’m a love bird!

P.S. I’m grounded! Augg!

Why I am still the same person I was in 5th grade: 1) Funny guy at the top of the list. 2) Making lists.

Also-- I wish I could remember why I was grounded!

Aug. 16, 1995
I no longer like Brad, but I still love David. I am sure he likes me too. I know he knows I like him, and he knows I know he likes me.

Did you catch all that?

Bobby is no longer cute (?), but Steven is. School just started a couple days ago. Yuck!

Sep. 11, 1995
I hate! I hate! I hate, David! He's being a dodo brain.

Whoa! Watch the language there! And whatever happened to the love bird? I so wish I remembered what had happened here....

I sorta like Roy, but if anyone were to see this entry, I'd be in complete agony.

Someone's feeling a little dramatic!!

+ I hate Bobby! (so much I can't put it in words)


Mar. 27, 1996
Now Bobby, David, Roy, and Brad like me. They're all dorks! But Brads sort of o.k.

Oct. 20, 1996
Dear Diary,
I hate Brad! He is so dumb! I hate Bobby, I hate Roy, I hate Steven, and I hate, I hate, I hate David! He's a dumbo-brain!
But I love John. He is so fine! He is cute and funny.

Sorry, but the saga ends there! I really do enjoy these particular entries, mostly because of the fact that I don't offer any explanations as to why I oscillated between loving and hating some of these poor boys. I guess it can just be left up to your imagination....

Finally, a teaser for a possible future post about high school boys. A line I was fed in 12th grade:

"Did you really think I didn’t know what color your eyes were? Why do you think I turn around in English class every day?"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Changing the Numbers

In 2007, the average consumer planned to spend more than $800 on holiday related shopping and more than $100 on themselves.

The typical American planned to spend:

$469.14 on family members
$94.69 on candy and food
$90.13 on friends
$49.76 on decorating
$37.45 on acquaintances
$32.21 on greeting cards and postage
$22.79 on co-workers
$20.53 on flowers

In November and December of 2007, consumers accumulated an estimated $12.8 billion in new debt, according to cardtrak, an organization that tracks credit card use. That is 16% of the total debt accumulated that year. According to a 2007 survey, one third of consumers were still paying off debt from the 2006 holiday season. But what if we could change the numbers this year?

If you’re interested in joining the conspiracy that will change the face of Christmas Seasons to come, then check out some creative alternatives this year. For more gifts that keep giving consider some of the following organizations for some unique gifts this year:

Cards from Africa

Save the Children

Gospel for Asia

Invisible Children



Christian Andre Coffee

Merry Christmas and Happy Giving!!

*2007 Statistics from The Good Sheet

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Photo Shoot (as in shoot me now)

A peek into the minds of our lovely family...brought to you by BOTH Ginger and Valerie....

CLAY: The game started at 3:15. Of course we had to start taking pictures at 3:18.
DAD: Fake laughing is HILARIOUS! We need something different this year! HAHAHA!!
MOM: Can't we just take a nice picture?
GINGER: Dear God, PLEASE let me have a double chin in this year's Christmas card photo.
VALERIE: Whatevs, G! Your double chin looks AWESOME! And my fake laughing is totally more convincing than Dad's!
MOM: At least the kid's didn't try to take their picture with a fake owl this year. What is WITH them and weird pictures?

CLAY: Seriously. Are we done yet? Cowboys. On television. Right now.
GINGER: Maybe we can take a goofy picture with a poinsetta! Ooooh! Or we could all make a PYRAMID! With the poinsetta on top! And a partridge in a pear tree! LOL!
MOM: I'm so glad the kids are here to help me decorate this year. Hopefully they won't be weird and sarcastic. Again.
DAD: My jaw hurts. But-- HAHAHAHA!
CLAY: You know what I'm going to be thankful for today? Getting this the freak done and going to watch the Cowboys.
GINGER: I really don't think we should have the red shirts standing so close together. Mom? Valerie? Switch places!
MOM: Why are we just standing in front of bricks? I wish we could sit down or something. Maybe we can all be in front of the fireplace! With hot chocolate! And scarves! Where's Olan Mills when you need them....
DAD: HAHAHAHA....Are we almost done?
CLAY: You have 12 seconds and I'm going back inside.
GINGER: Does this pose make my arms look fat? Yes. Yes it does.
VALERIE: Everyone is funny! Everything is hilarious!!
MOM: Ginger doesn't even look related to us anymore. Why is her hair so dark!?
CLAY: 8....7....6....
GINGER: Easy with the camera there, buddy! Two hands, please! You're holding my child. If only I could get a picture with my child. My precious....
VALERIE: Why does the PALEST person in the family have to be standing next to the TANNEST? Not. Fair.
MOM: I'm so thankful for all of my family.
DAD: I'm so thankful this is almost done.
CLAY: 5....4....3....
GINGER: I'm so thankful that I'm tanner than Valerie.
VALERIE: I'm so thankful that I'm the funny one.
CLAY: 2....1.... I'm outta here. PEACE.
May your day be as HILARIOUS as ours.... But we bet yours didn't include a wheelchair, a throwdown fight over chocolate pie, 18 people, two dogs, the Jonas brothers, Mario Kart, brussel sprouts, text messaging over turkey, and setting up a Christmas tree! And if yours did, Please let us know. That would be UNBELIEVABLE.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers and fellow bloggers!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Smattering

I hate it when I'm filling up my car and I pick up the pump and start turning it towards my car but I realize it's twisting and it has to go the other way so I end up having to turn myself and the hose in the other direction to get it to the gas tank. I'm sure the other gas station patrons must think I'm trying to dance around with the gas hose thing but I'm really not. It was just twisted.

Whenever I type the word 'recognition' I always sound it out in my head as if it is said ree-cog-ni-shun.

Once I had a dream that I went to visit the people from my old job at Chick-Fil-A. Incidentally, no, I have never worked there. My old boss, Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show," kept hitting on me and being really funny and I decided that it would probably be okay to date him because I don't work there anymore.

We used to all live in one city. I can barely wrap my brain around that fact. We all were in one place? We saw each other every day? How did I get so lucky! Now we are in New Mexico and California and Tennessee and...all over! And even the ones who didn't leave the state are spread all over. Not cool. What if the United States was a big piece of fabric and you could just pinch and pull certain areas closer together? Just grab that state over there and stretch it to be right next to mine. That way an entire year wouldn't have to pass before I saw you again! Seems like a simple solution to me, anyway.

I know I've mentioned "Twilight" before on this blog. So in answer to your question (you did ask me, didn't you?)-- yes, I saw the movie (and yes, I went to the midnight showing). Yes, I enjoyed it. So let me first of all say that any movie you see at midnight will instantly be more fun. For one thing, you are sleep-deprived. For another, and more importantly, you're seeing the movie with people who are genuinely excited about it. It's a crowd that's free to laugh and scream and woooo to their heart's content. Second, I think it was a pretty good representation of the book, which itself was a pretty good book to begin with. So all in all, a very fun movie-going experience. I'm ready to see it again!

Wouldn't it be great if life was always like MasterCard commercials? All those "priceless" memories. Playing in the backyard with your family, going to baseball games, cooking with your Grandma... These people seem to always spend their money but never really have to pay the bills.

Yesterday our Movie Club watched "Psycho." That is a great, great movie. And not even from a simply "suspense" or "horror" standpoint either. It is a stand-alone, truly well-made film. I highly recommend it. Just don't read any spoilers....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spice Up Your Life.

Phone message received yesterday morning:

"Hi, this is Cinnamon, Jamie's mother from the Children's Choir. I was calling about the next rehearsal for the Christmas Musical. If you could call me back at 623-###-#### that would be great. Thanks."

Deep breath and dial.

"Hi...Cinnamon...this is Ginger." Laughter ensues from both of us.

A child's name can be a heavy burden to carry. I'm not saying that my name is an actual burden. I've always pretty felt pretty detached from it for some reason, as if it's not really me, but someone I refer to. I don't dislike it and I probably wouldn't change it even if I could. But I do dislike the same three jokes used by everyone in the entire world. Yes, it would be funny if I married Tom Bread or Larry Snap. I had a youth leader growing up named Andy Ale. He had a son about eight years my junior and everyone thought it would be just swell for me to end up as one of the Ales. I don't even like Ginger Ale.

I worked at a summer camp that provides each of it's employees with a summer nickname. Campers spend an entire week trying to guess your real name. I used to give the following clues. I am a noun that can be found in your kitchen. My name can also be added to and become an adverb. You can't do that with Katie or Jessica.

My best friend all through elementary school was Kelly. She moved from Michigan right before the start of first grade. We met at Sunday School and Kelly went home to tell her mother that she had made a new friend named "Nutmeg." Confused, her mother suggested she rethink that name. They ended up pulling every spice from the cabinet before determining that my name was not Nutmeg or Sugar.

Do you know what isn't exciting for me? When I meet you and you excitedly proclaim that "My dog is named Ginger!!" Am I supposed to be pleased with this?

Something I have been pleased with is the costume possibilities that my name allows. I once went to a Christmas party with bread hanging off my shirt and fashioned as earrings.

"Nice costume. So, what are you supposed to be?"

What's my name?


What am I wearing?


That's right. I'm ginger toast. Good guess, genius.

And finally, the piece de resistance. The summer after my senior year of high school, my family moved from Dallas to Houston. I had to order a new voter's registration card. I don't remember how we registered at that time, but it would not have been on-line. Someone typed in the information on my card and made one slight error. For years our house received jury summons for one FINGER. Oh snap.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This List Brought To You By The Letter....

Another list, Valerie? Really? Okay, okay. But it had better not have anything to do with movies, though. All you ever talk about is movies! Wait-- don’t tell me you are posting another LIST about MOVIES!

Well, blogiverse, I am so sorry to let you down, but this is indeed another list. I absolutely love this idea: it’s the The Alphabetical Favorites Meme! In this one, you get to pick a favorite movie for every letter of the alphabet. I’m in heaven!

It turned out to be a lot more difficult than I’d anticipated, though. I mean, how do you choose between your most beloved films? It was tough, but…I had to do it. What if someday someone asks me to name my very favorite movie that starts with the letter “U?” Or “X,” even? That’s not something you think about every day! Now, though? Now I am prepared.


A- Almost Famous
B- Bend it Like Beckham
C- Clue
D- Diary of a Mad Black Woman
E- Ever After
F- Finding Neverland
G- Gone With the Wind
H- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I- Iron Giant
J- Juno
K- Kate and Leopold
L- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
M- Moulin Rouge
N- Newsies
O- Oklahoma
P- Pirates of the Caribbean
Q- The Quiet Man
R- Remember the Titans
S- Singin' in the Rain
T- That Thing You Do
U- The Unsinkable Molly Brown
V- Vertigo
W- Waiting for Guffman
X- X-Men
Y- You've Got Mail
Z- Ziegfeld Follies

Ack! There’s no room for "A League of their Own" or "Sense and Sensibility!" And I had to pick between "The Notebook" and "Newsies?" Like cutting off a hand here, people.

P” might’ve been the hardest letter. Because in order to pick “Pirates of the Caribbean,” I had to skip over “The Princess Bride,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and “The Prestige.”

This is like SOPHIE'S CHOICE!

And I know. “Kate and Leopold?” Ridiculous. I KNOW. It’s not even a great movie. But seriously- tell me some other “K” movies! Really, it was either that or like… “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court.” See? Exactly.

Man, for a few of those letters I was literally paging through my giant movie review book trying to think of something- anything!- that started with the right letter. Look! I'm saved! "Ziegfeld Follies." Phew! I've seen that. That right my favorite "Z" movie. I can sleep tonight after all.

Totally harder than it looks, guys. I dare you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I have a friend that I affectionately refer to as Superwoman. She’s only 26 and she absolutely blows me away. I can’t tell her story without tearing up. I remember very vividly having a conversation with Megan a few years ago as she described to me her desire to be a foster parent. She had graduated college and begun teaching at a local elementary school and was now considering this next enormous step. Megan accepted the call to foster and was able to provide a stable and loving home for three different children. This month Megan adopted her foster son Cooper. They are now connected forever. She spent this past weekend moving her new family into a home closer to her parents. Her heart’s desire is to provide for her son the best way she can. You may ask why a single young woman would be willing to drastically alter her life for a two year-old. I love Megan’s answer: “I can guarantee that he will be loved and will know of God’s love through me. I can’t be assured of that if he’s sent back into the foster system.” Megan has chosen to live sacrificially and I am blessed to call her friend.

I would also like to introduce you to the Incredibles…Mr. and Mrs. Incredible. Not only are the Amaros two of the most talented people I have ever met, but they inspire everyone around them to think creatively about the bigger picture. Fernando is a gifted musician and filmmaker who leads by example. Carrie Fay excels in photography and writing and half a dozen other things. Bilingual, biracial, and now they are looking to grow their family internationally. Already the incredible parents to one of the sweetest kids on the planet, they are in the long and tedious process of international adoption. I’ve been surprised to hear the questions they’ve received about their reasoning in making this decision, and humbled to hear their response. There is a very lucky girl in Ethiopia who will be coming to live with the Incredibles one day. And although this process is lengthy, frustrating, and expensive, the Amaros are reassured that God’s plan is perfect and their family will only blossom with the new addition.

Finally, I want to highlight the work of a talented Wonder Woman who has chosen to work for something bigger than herself. I worked with Sydney at summer camp several years ago and have been following her photography and design work since then. Last spring Sydney packed her life in Austin up and headed to Uganda. She works for an organization called Watoto and it has been incredible to live vicariously through her journey. I read her blog and was especially moved by a recent entry that was both simple and poignant. I love to see the way she is utilizing her giftings not only in the provinces, but all over the world. (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
I am blessed to know so many superheroes, I could just go on and on about them. But I wanted to remind us all that the choices we make, whether big or small, do have real and lasting impact on those around us. I am both motivated and humbled to see what can be done with one life. We each choose what our stories will say. As Erwin McManus says,” You were born with potential; you were not intended to die with it.” What's your story saying?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tagged for Seven

Dani tagged me for this fun "seven things" survey, which comes at the perfect time. Most of these items are things I've considered devoting whole blog entries to but just aren't long enough. So this makes for a great mosiac of randomness! Here we go, seven things I've never blogged about before...

1. I'm not typically a fan of fantasy or science fiction. At least, so I've thought. Witches, elves, vampires, they never really interested me. And I saw myself for a long time as staunchly separated from anything having to do with any of those things. "I'm not one of those people." And even as I began to enjoy certain sci-fi/fantasy (sci-fantasy?) shows, movies, and books, I qualified each of them as an exception to the rule. But recently I've begun to realize something. My favorite movie? Is "Lord of the Rings." Favorite books? "Harry Potter." Musical? "Wicked." Favorite TV drama? "Lost." Most recent book series read? "Twilight." Wait-- when did this happen? Y'all. I am totally geeking out! And you know what? I couldn't be more okay with that.

2. I'm currently reading Lana Turner's autobiography. It's a really exciting book, and I always love hearing the inside Hollywood story. However, I think prefer the self-deprecating tone of Debbie Reynolds or the unassuming and humble approach of Henry Fonda in their autobiographies. Lana was fabulous, yes, and most assuredly a screen icon. However, she certainly won't let you forget it! Hardly a page goes by that she doesn't mention how many men desired her, how valuable she was to MGM, how glamorous her nights on the town were, or how dramatic her entire life was. Ginger Rogers was the same way in her book: not necessarily conceited, but she never let you forget how popular she was or how influential her dancing has been. Some of it may be fawning by the ghostwriter, and I don't doubt it's all (or mostly) true, but seriously...give it a rest!

3. My new favorite game is Word Twist. I absolutely love it! You're given six letters and you try to make as many words as you can out of it. Very simple, and very addicting. I like to play right before bed, and the other night I woke up thinking "If you can make the word shelf then you can also make the words self and elf...." Cool, Val. Anyway, the best part is-- you get to play your friends! The competition is pretty fierce between Julie, Dani and I. Sometimes the clock is ticking toward zero and I haven't gotten the six letter word yet but Julie and Dani both have why can't I think of it and NOOOOO! Time's up. Widely. The word is widely. GAH!

4. "Legally Blonde: The Musical" is so. Much. Fun. I never thought I'd be here recommending it, but I just love it! It really is a quality show, and the songs are so sing-alongable. It's hilarious, the music is great, and I can't WAIT to see it on tour! Check out my favorite song from the show, "So Much Better:"

Love it! If you're interested in checking out more, my other favorite songs are "Chip On My Shoulder," "What You Want," and of course, the show opener, "Omigod You Guys!"

5. I keep a small squishy soccer ball (see what I did there, alliteration?) on my desk at work. It's fun to squeeze while I'm making phone calls or toss to people who walk through the door. Yesterday one of the part-timers and I went out into the long hallway to see how hard we could throw it at each other. What does my boss think of these crazy shenanigans? Well, the other week he led us in a longest putt competition in that same hallway, so I'd say he's okay with a little craziness every once in a while. And yes, we totally do real work at my office. Why do you ask?

6. When I was in sixth grade and Ginger was in eighth, we were in a wonderfully cheesy school play called "Thanks is Something You Give." The show involved a group of kids that raise money to give to a poor family, until OH NO! Someone STOLE the money. My character blames Ginger and turns the group against her, and she cries. Angels come down from heaven to help us (I'm not making this up) and in the end the real thief confesses. Who was it? Why it was me all along, of course!

7. One time several months ago my cousin Shannon and I went shopping at Target. She was looking for some new work-out clothes and found several items to try on. I sat in the dressing room opposite her so that as she modeled different outfits I could give her my opinion. After three or four different looks, she opened the door wearing a shirt that I instantly vetoed. "Oh, no," I said emphatically, shaking my head. "Definitely not." Seriously, I did everything short of sticking my finger down my throat and rolling my eyes. She just stood there staring at me, her smile widening. "What?" I asked, obliviously. Finally, it dawned on me just as she answered: "This is my shirt." Yeah, as in the shirt she came in wearing. Wow. Foot in mouth much, Val?*

*In my defense, though, it was a 3/4-length black shirt that looked like it would be very uncomfortable to exercise in! It was a nice shirt, not a workout shirt! See? I just had her best interests at heart. Love you, Shanni!

Tag! You're it: Amanda, Katie, and Kaki- who is doing NaBloPoMo and surely needs more new blog ideas!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


IF thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven,
Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light,
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content:--
The stars pre-eminent in magnitude,
And they that from the zenith dart their beams,
(Visible though they be to half the earth,
Though half a sphere be conscious of their brightness)
Are yet of no diviner origin,
No purer essence, than the one that burns,
Like an untended watch-fire on the ridge
Of some dark mountain; or than those which seem
Humbly to hang, like twinkling winter lamps,
Among the branches of the leafless trees.
All are the undying offspring of one Sire:
Then, to the measure of the light vouchsafed,
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content.
- William Wordsworth

I was invited to dinner at the home of a very nice young family last Monday. The weather was pleasant, even though the highs here have been in the lower 90’s recently. We sat outside on the porch and had pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potatoes, and an ambrosia salad. Fearful of anything covered in a white sauce, I was skeptical of the mandarin oranges and pineapple that were encased in sour cream, coconut, and marshmallows. We really had an enjoyable evening and I found myself saying, “Orange you glad you’ve made friends?”

As little Ruthie and Lilly ran inside to watch “Lilo and Stitch,” I was asked how life in Arizona is really going. After all, it’s been two years since I left friends and family and the great state of Texas to trek out to the desert. And what a two years it has been. What a gambit of emotions I've felt...then and now, and all parts in between. Many miles jogged, grilled cheese sandwiches and cups of coffee made, e-mails written, lessons taught, lessons learned, library trips made, tears cried, bills paid, hopes recorded, books read, conversations had, and laughs enjoyed. Believe me, the desire to run home has remained at the forefront of my mind. Catch me on a rough enough day and you will probably hear me lament the wish to be back in the Lone Star State and nearer to family. Truth be told, I would like nothing more than to spend the rest of my days in Texas. I believe that it would be both familiar and comforting. But I don't know if I can say good-bye to my friends and community here.

My response to my hosts was plain and simple. “I’m learning to bloom where I’m planted.” Asked to then clarify, I explained that I tend to live my life in anticipation of the next goal or adventure. The world just doesn’t feel right if I can’t pull my latest to-do list out of my drawer and add and subtract to it before I fall asleep. I’m so focused on thinking ahead that sometimes I forget to enjoy the present. I’ve been reminded by several friends and advisors to find contentment right where I am. In fact, beginning in August my prayer has been to find true contentment in the life I currently have. Thankfully, the Lord has been faithful to answer that prayer. Even in the past month I've felt peace seeping in and contentment allowing me to accept this desert as an important chapter in my life. I've made new friends, started new endeavors, and am blessed to find freedom I find in my job.

The Lord is teaching me to:
Continue to guard my heart.
Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.
Forget myself long enough to lend a helping hand (Philippians 2).
Get outside of myself.
Get moving.
Realize my potential.

This has become my home, and I'm ready to bloom.

IF thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven,
Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light,
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Carryin' the Banner Tumpin' Tall!

I first saw “Newsies” when it came out in theaters in 1992. My best friend Meredith's mom took us to see it. The theater was completely packed, and we had to sit on the very edge of a row right by the wall. I’ve always remembered this detail, because for years whenever I mentioned “Newsies” as a favorite movie I got nothing but blank stares and furrowed brows. Weren’t the theaters packed when it came out? Where were all the people who had watched the movie with us that day? It wasn't until I got to college that people seemed to know the movie again, and to this day I find that nearly everyone has at least heard of it, if not seen it. So don't ask me what happened in that time period—I'm just happy that we as a society are moving toward more “Newsies” awareness every day.

Meredith and I loved that movie. We would always pick out our favorite newsie (she liked to pick Spot or Kid Blink, while I've always been a Jack girl). She gave me the cassette tape for my birthday and it was nearly destroyed when we played it over and over and over again. We would dance around the house for hours singing the songs and pretending that we could dance like the newsies. I can remember jumping around to “High Times, Hard Times,” and pretending to spin on a fan during “King of New York.”
We sang those songs a lot, even though I had no idea what the boys were really saying. I still remember the lyrics as I thought they were, so here now is a bit of my interpretation of a couple of the lyrics from "Carryin' the Banner":

Try Bridal Alley... (Try Border Alley)
Full of buck-an-eye! (For a buck I might)
Carryin' the banner tumpin' tall! (Carryin' the banner tough and tall)
Showbiz washin' dishes! (Sure beats washin' dishes)
It takes an orphan with a stunner! (It takes an orphan with a stutter)
I know Snowza! (I’m no snoozer)
Since you left me high and undone! (Since you left me I am undone)
We need a gooder sassination! (We need a good assassination)

I think that this early love of “Newsies” was just an early love of musicals for me. I love Broadway musicals, movie musicals, and even “High School Musicals.” “Newsies” was an introduction to the joy, spirit, and passion that musicals could bring. I still get lyrics from “Santa Fe” stuck in my head, and I still get excited when “The World Will Know” comes up on my iPod. Yes, it’s a kid’s movie, and Disney at that. But it means so much more to me. It's memories of dancing to those songs as a kid with my best friend (and, yes, doing the spit shake with her too). It's the freedom to roll down my car windows and sing "Once and For All" at the top of my lungs. It's the ability to have an instant bond with someone once I find out they're a fan too. It's the gateway to a world where people stop their lives and burst out into song because everything they are feeling is just too big for mere words; they need lyrics and orchestration and choreography and exclamation points!

“Newsies” has been on my mind especially this week because of Halloween. Some of the girls in my office decided to dress up as different decades. I couldn’t decide which decade was right for me. But then... inspiration! I decided to dress up as... the 1900’s. And I would be a newsie. Luckily I got some enthusiastic responses when I shared my idea, so I decided to go for it. One black newsie hat and a pair of pink suspenders later, I was set. Finally, my heart’s desire:

                                               Ain't it a fine life?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fill her up.

I started off Thursday with good intentions. I was going to eat my fruits and vegetables, walk during my lunch break, and ward off temptation. I’m not sure if your office is similar to mine, but it seems we are constantly getting e-mails informing us of “goodies” in the conference room or birthday cake in the work room. I try to be strong. I stay away from store bought cake. I take my own healthy snack into staff meetings. But this week I was blind-sided. Not only did someone make an amazing homemade caramel cheesecake, but our local Rubio’s called and delivered chips and salsa to every department. By noon I had already had my fill of chips and salsa and cheesecake. The truth is, I never ate lunch on Thursday. I filled up on carbs and didn’t have room for any of the things my body actually needs.

Jeremiah 2:13 says “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jeremiah laments with the Lord that the Israelites have made faulty cisterns. They have spun their wheels and worked to an end that simply will not satisfy. How often do I fill up on the chips and salsa, forgetting what will actually satisfy my every need?

Isaiah 55:2 reads, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fair.”

This world is full of some amazing diversions, but we know in our hearts that there must be more than simply drinking coffee and following celebrity gossip. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he has come to bring the abundant life. Without him there is no life. I choose everyday whether to exist or to really live. May we learn to eat what is good and satisfying and not simply filling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

He's a Little Boy, Daddy!*

In reading this blog, you might think that Ginger and I are the only siblings in our family. False. I know we've mentioned him in passing before, but there is a very special someone I think we need to tell you about: our brother.

Clay is four years younger than me, six and a half years younger than Ginger. It’s true: I am a middle child. This was great for me growing up, because I could play Barbie’s with my sister, and when she got too old and cool for that, I could play GI Joes and Micro Machines with Clay. It’s also great for me now. Ginger and I went to the same college and then lived in the same city for a short while before she moved to Arizona. Now Clay goes to college in the same city in which I live. Lucky me!

Clay is quite different than my sister and I. Neither Ginger nor I went the sorority route in college. But Clay chose a different path, and is very involved with his fraternity. For some reason it tickles me to no end to hear Clay talk about his "brothers.” (WHY is that so funny to me??) My sister and I went to a Christian college. My parents literally couldn't pay Clay to go there. Ginger and I like a variety of foods. Clay....well, we'd better not even go down that road. Ginger and I don't care if we look goofy in public or in pictures, but we find this frequently mortifies Clay (and I'm not gonna lie...we kind of love embarassing him).

Here’s an example of something that Clay finds hysterical, starring his comedy idol Andy Samberg:

The dynamic between Clay and I and Ginger and I is very different. When we’re together, Ginger and I love to go walking and we talk and laugh a lot and go to church. When we’re together, Clay and I love to watch funny YouTube videos and we make fun of each other a lot and watch multiple episodes of a TV show. A text message from Ginger is an inside joke or a picture of her doing something weird. A text message from Clay is one word (or more often, one letter—“K”). Of course, Clay and Ginger have a different dynamic with each other than they do with me. Both of them enjoy sports and me? Not so much. They both keep up with current music, while I generally don't know about a new artist unless I get a mix cd from Ginger or Julie. Also, it should be noted that Clay and Ginger only see each other on Christmas Eve.

Of course, for as different as Clay and I are, we really have a lot of similarities. We both love television and movies, and Clay has an impressive amount of knowledge about old films. How many college-age guys have you met that have seen “Bringing Up Baby” or “To Be or Not To Be?” Exactly. We like a lot of the same TV shows-- I was delighted when I got him addicted to "Heroes," and even more so when I hooked him on “Freaks and Geeks.” You couldn’t call either of us “neat” people (an area where we differ greatly from Ginger). We can both be pretty nostalgic, and are very protective of family traditions, just because that's how we always do it!

In closing, Clay has graciously agreed (after only some berating) to add some thoughts of his own to this blog, so I’ll leave you with a few tidbits directly from the mind of my brother. And if we’re lucky, this could become a semi-regular feature. Keep your fingers crossed!

If you don’t like the Cowboys, there’s something wrong with you. And your team sucks.
Noodles rule.
I love fish even though I can’t eat it.
George Lopez is not funny.
Yes, I know I look young. Please don’t tell me it’s a good thing.
I can beat you at laser tag.

*A very old inside joke. You would not find it as hilarious as we do, trust me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Child in the hood.

And by hood I mean suburbia. I was recently taken down memory lane after discovering a disturbing article from EW. One of my childhood friends, Samantha Parkington, of American Girls fame is being murdered. The brand has just announce that they will be discontinuing all of their products related to Samantha.

For the uninitiated, American Girls is a mega book series that has caused thousands of young women across the world to desire an $80 doll. I began reading the books in first grade and fell in love with the likes of Samantha, Molly, Kirsten, Addy, and Felicity. Well, not really Molly. She was the ugly one. Set in a different time periods and full of colorful photos, these were great first reader books.

Samantha was my absolute favorite. Her clothes, the 1900’s, her fight to end child labor, it was as if someone had written these books just for me. So when the first catalogue came out announcing the dolls for purchase, I just about fainted from expectancy. I received my very own Samantha doll for my 8th birthday. (You know, now that I think about it - I'm pretty sure my parents made me pay $40 towards my doll. Ma and Pa were always teaching us to be responsible with money.)

Since receiving (or buying) Samantha, I’ve learned many important lessons.

1. When your mother offers to sew Samantha a dress instead of purchasing a $45 doll dress, accept the gift graciously. Even if you come home after school and discover that she has used a different pattern and fabric than agreed upon, just smile and hug your doll. Do not look your mother in the eye after she has been sewing for six hours and say, “This isn’t what I picked out.” You deserve all the screaming you have brought upon yourself.

2. Samantha’s lovely brown hair will not curl with a curling iron.

3. If you melt Samantha’s hair with a curling iron, cutting the hair will not help her to look better.

4. If you cut Samantha’s hair and enjoy doing so, do not cut the hair of your sister’s doll for fun, even if you think she looks way better.

5. Do not proceed to cut the hair off of almost every single Barbie that you and your sister own. It is not real hair. Plastic doesn’t take kindly to your scissors.

6. Even if you wish your Barbies looked different from each other, coloring their hair with a black magic marker is not the way to solve the problem. You will probably miss around the scalp and end up putting black dots on her face.

7. Don’t pay $80 for a doll.

Au revoir, dearest Samantha. I'll miss you and your orphanage escapes, near fatal boating accidents, and birthday shenanigans.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don't even talk to me about that NEBRASKA

Hummingbird thermometers, youth group presidents, and a secret loathing of Nebraska. If any of these sound intriguing, join me for another peek at a couple of old "stories" of mine as well as a special bonus feature!

Story #1 (7th grade? 8th?)

I was going to hate it. I just knew I wouldn't make any new friends at all. They would all think I was a snob. I just knew it. It was easy to think I was, but really I wasn't. If you had just met me, though, you'd think I was. A snob, I mean. Let me tell you why:
My name is Charlotte Amanda Jones. I have soft blue eyes and curly blonde hair.

Perhaps this is what Past Valerie wished she looked like?

At school I'm the captain of my basketball team, head cheerleader, captain of the drill team, class president, editor of the school newspaper, I play the percussion in band, I rank #1 in class, I'm president of my youth group at church,


and I my boyfriend is the quarterback of the football team. My father is a reporter for the most watched TV channel [Of course.] and my mother is a psychyatrist. I live in a, well, a mansion and a limosene. [She lives in a limo?] My much older sister is a fashion designer. I am a sophomore at Sunnyside Christian Academy in California.

I just want to slap this girl, I really do. Fortunately the "story" ends there. I think Miss Perfect was going to move to another state not quite as glamorous as California and learn to make new friends or something. Hopefully there would also be an incident involving a new friend's fist. But probably not.

Story #2 (Again, probably either 7th or 8th)

It was a warm day, and I am really stretching it to simply call it “warm.” It was so incredibly hot and humid that staying inside was the only real solution for such a day as this was. [Are we quoting Esther here? What is this?] As I woke up that morning, I was only semi-surprised after looking out my window to find my younger sister Julia outside. I was surprised since my hummingbird thermometer read 93 degrees at 9 o’clock in the morning and she was out there. [93 degrees! We’re talking Fahrenheit, you guys! I don’t know how Julia is still alive in that boiling heat. And apparently the narrator is 87 years old, what with her hummingbird thermometer and all.] On the other hand, I was not all that astonished because my sister is in love with anything and everything that has leaves.

Also known as….nature?

All of nature you could say.

Oh, well there you go!

On this particular morning she was planting some new flowers in her miniature garden in the front lawn. Daddy always says, “As long as she keeps the yard nice, that’s one less thing I have to do.” [Daddy sounds like kind of a bum!] I stumbled out of bed and made my way to the kitchen.
“Good morning, Samantha dear. I’m glad you woke up so I could see you before I left,” said my mother.
"Left?" I asked. "Where are you going?"
"Oh, Samantha. Just because you have summer vacation from school doesn't mean that I have vacation from the studio."
Oh yeah. Mom works for advertisement agency.

Are you guys ready for my idea of what someone who works for an ad agency does?

She thinks up ideas and makes primitive sketches on paper. [Caveman sketches???] She doesn't like to say "the office" because she thinks it says stiff and boring. So she calls it "the studio" which is perfectly fine with me.

I'm sure Mom is glad she has Samantha's approval on this one!

Unfortunately, that is where this little "story" ends. I have no idea where it was headed. Most likely Samantha and Julia were going to get into some crazy hot weather shenanigans in the miniature garden.

BONUS! Valerie's favorites! I know it's a huge surprise that I would have made a list, but here's a list of my favorite things from when I was probably about...12? Yeah, we'll go with 12.

Valerie Morby
Color- green - 2nd purple
Number- 13
Day- Fri.
animal- panther (...Why?)
car- mustang
B.ball team- Rockets & Bulls
state- Texas
book- And Condors Danced & Gone w/ the Wind
TV show- Step by Step (Wow.)
movie- Newsies & Grease & That T. Y. Do (Too cumbersome to actually write out the words "That Thing You Do?")
song- That Thing Y. Do & We go Together & Holy Cow (aka King of New York) & 409
LEAST Favorites-
color- Pink
number- 7 (Again....why?)
Day- Wed
animal- chicken
B.ball team- Mavericks (I know! Such a traitor.)
state- Nebraska (I find this hilarious because I have no idea why I would have said this.)
TV show- Power Rangers
movie- The Secret of Rone Inish (Horrible movie my grandma rented for me once.)
song- It's all coming back to me (Lol! Oh, Celine....)
group- Beatles

Maybe someday I'll get down to the bottom of my deep seated hatred for chickens and the number 7.... If I ever figure it out, I'll let you know!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Flight Plan

Did you know that water on a United Airlines flight will set you back $2.00? All I wanted was a cup of tap water, something to wet my parched throat. What a bunch of Scrooges. And no, I don’t carry cash on me. I made this lovely discovery on my most recent trek back to Texas.

Thankfully I was able to enjoy the window seat without having to worry about my elbows being crushed by my neighbors. By the time I boarded for the flight home I was ready to enjoy a relaxing few hours reading “Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.” But of course, I can’t relax on a flight – and not because of fear of flying. The whole experience is just dreadful for me. I hate having to lift my carry-on suitcase above my head and heave it into a bin, especially when I have to walk 15 rows back from my seat to do so, thus insuring that I will have to sit on the plane until most of the passengers have disembarked from the aircraft. I find my seat and then spend the next half hour hoping that the seat next to mine will somehow be empty. This was of course not the case on this most recent flight.

Let me set the scene for you. I was in row 6. Row 5 was the first row past first class. The woman in front of me had nowhere to store her carry-on bag, so she placed it below her seat – leaving me with nowhere to place my laptop bag. The mature response would have been to try and get her attention and simply ask her to move her bag. I also considered addressing the flight attendant, but she was clearly occupied elsewhere. So – wonderful person that I am – I place my laptop bag under the seat and ever so slowly begin to push with my legs hoping that either her bag would allow for the addition of my bag, or that she would my subtle message. But I realize this isn’t working. So I push harder. I’m even starting to get winded, but I’m trying not to let the people in my row notice. I’m starting to panic. I do not want to be parted with another of my bags. The last time someone took my bag it ended up in Indianapolis.

Finally the flight attendant comes by and suggests I put my bag in an overhead bin. No way. No in the heck way. I need my things next to me, I have rights. I begin my explanation calmly enough, but soon discover the pitch in my voice rising, the volume as well. Suddenly I’m 12 years old.

“It’s just that her bag is under the chair where my bag is supposed to fit and so I don’t have any leg room and I need to be able to do some work and I would try to get it to fit, but it won’t work and…”

Just then the woman in front of me apologizes profusely in a kind manner, removes her bag and quickly hands her possession to be packaged in the upper realm.

Whew. All good. Until an hour later I find myself calmly reading about the quirks of Amy Krouse Rosenthal when the gum I’ve been chewing drops from my mouth straight down my shirt – a la Nashvegas style. I begin going over my options to retrieve the foreign object. Do I ride the rest of the flight conscious of the problem? Do I make my way to the smallest lavatory in the world, hoping along the way that the gum does not lodge itself further and become stuck to my clothing? Or do I try and pull a Sydney Bristow, pull off the impossible while everyone else sits casually around me? I decide to take action, knowing all the while that this might one day make great material for a blog post…if I am brave enough to actually follow through with this. I slowly turn to gaze out the window at the passing clouds and pull my book up close to me. Perhaps I looked deep in thought, hopefully no one was watching.

Good news – I retrieved the gum – and of course I instinctively put it back in my mouth and begin chewing. Eat it, Sydney Bristow.

Photos by Booknero and Sierraromeo

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Waiting for my Pulitzer!

Y'all in for quite a treat today. I have delved deep into the folders and boxes of my past just for you. And Memory Lane has been pretty much hilarious for me to walk down. Won't you come along with me? All spelling and grammatical errors have been kept in tact....

First, let's start with a heartfelt letter from Ginger. This is a note I got from my dear sister while I was away at camp one summer.

Val- Hope you are having a great week at camp. enjoy all of the funnies. Oh and by the way you have a 7:00 VBS meeting Tuesday that is mandatory -G

Aww..... Isn't that sweet? And before you excuse her for being too young to write more, please know that she was a SENIOR in HIGH SCHOOL. Yeah. Oh, the love we have for each other....

Okay, enough sisterly nostalgia. Time for a story!

This is a story that I wrote for a school contest. In seventh grade. The theme of the contest was "Ready for Action." Apparently I took the idea of a theme and drove it into the ground. No, through the ground. The story is quite long and very boring, so I'll just give you a small sample.

Gladys Kanger --

Wait, WHAT? Gladys KANGER?? And the oddest name award goes to....

Gladys Kanger was always prepared. She wasn't a Boy Scout or anything. No, no of course not. One couldn't imagine the inconvenience of being a Boy Scout.

No, one couldn't, could one?

Or even a Girl Scout at that matter. The bugs, the flies, the tromping around to just nowhere in particular was out of the question. And above all, the uncleanliness. Yes, it was a fact. Gladys [really? Gladys?] absolutely hated camping, and especially, in a group such as with Boy or Girl Scouts.

This sentence makes no sense to me, not only because I am crazy comma happy, but also because I used to go camping ALL the TIME! I love camping! Also, it should be noted that I had quit the Girl Scouts the year before I wrote this. Coincidence?

She knew though also, that they did not just go camping. She knew that. Several years ago a flier had come in the mail about Girl Scouts.
"How about it Gladys?" her mother had asked. "You want to try it?"
Gladys, who loved her mother dearly and wanted to please her, replied sweetly, "Of course Mother. I'd love to. Sign me up right away!"

Mother dear, I think something's wrong with Gladys. Can we say BAD SEED? Creepy!

Two meetings later, she quit. It was terribly unorganized, she disliked the monotonous songs and recitations, and she hated the way they wasted their time on stupid little crafts only to be thrown away, or used as dust collectors by the unorganized that stubbornly refused to get rid of them.

Wow. Apparently I had a lot of Girl Scout aggression to take out! Let's skip ahead a bit....

Gladys loved oragnization, convenience, and structure. She had such qualities, and because of them many people said she was ready for action. Ready for a war, or kidnapping, or something of the sort to come along. She was ready.

Ready for WAR and KIDNAPPING??? My gosh, where does this child LIVE?

She never verbalized any unnatural or unkind feelings, never voiced them. That's why people liked her. She was organized, well kept, and always said nice and charming things.

Gladys is scaring me. Skipping ahead again....

Gladys had once almost fallen off a bridge in Connecticut [???], but she had been thinking, ready for action in her mind. [OF COURSE SHE WAS!] So when she tipped to one side in a split second she had the hard metal railing gripped in her hand.

You think this story is odd and insane? No. It is not. Keep reading.

When her younger brother was little she had ground this theory into his head. She'd pass by his door and whisper, 'ready for action!' into his bedroom [Creeptacular!!] and it was henceforth imbedded [Someone's been using their thesaurus!] on his little mind. On one occasion he was at the zoo running this saying through his mind [OF COURSE HE WAS!]. He stood in the rail by the gorilla cage, which is a good 10 feet down, and nearly fell in, but since ready for action was continually ringing around in his little head--

Time out! Why are there TWO references to how small the brother's head is? Is it abnormally small? Does he have a regular sized body and a tiny little skull? That's what I'm picturing here. Time in!

--he was prepared enough to throw himself backwards [oh whatEVer!] onto a grassy slope behind him which he had noticed before. [I hope that conveniently grassy slope was enough to cushion his little baby head!]

The rest of the story just as ridiculous and insane, and the climax of the "action" comes when Gladys suddenly comes to the realization that she has no life because all she does is think about being ready, but has nothing to be ready for. Last paragraph: Gladys discovered she loved sports. She still didn't think Girl Scouts was for her, but she became less critical of it and other things. Throughout her busy life, her motto stayed the same. I am ready for action!

Bet you never knew how much pleasure you could derive from gorillas and Girl Scouts and tiny heads and Connecticut, did you? You're amazed to hear I did NOT win the writing contest, I can tell.

Finally, let's take a look at an old writing exercise.

8th grade. The assignment was to write where we thought everyone in the class (there were only 16 of us) would end up in 20 years. I'll spare you the details of what happened to everyone else in the 8th grade, although it does involve an incident at a Hanson concert, a person missing in Africa, and a band called "The Horses." And yes, I came up with that name all by myself! If you need a band name, just get in touch with me. I have HUNDREDS of ideas like this. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy reading about where I saw myself in the year 2028! I'm halfway there, so let's see how I'm doing on my life goals.

I live in Galveston, Texas, and am married.

Strikes one and two. Also: Galveston? Really? Let's aim high in our future fantasies, shall we?

I have two children, twins.

Strike three!

9 years ago I began as a junior high school theatre teacher for 1 year.

Apparently this will happen next year! Score!

Since then, I have been directing.

One year of teaching middle school drama totally prepares you for being a director. Didn't you know?

I am working on my 4th movie. 2 of them I won best director Oscars for, and all three were nominated for best picture and 2 won.

Way to stay humble, Val! Can't win every award, now can we? Better leave some for the other junior high drama teachers!

I have a few more gems that I can't wait to share with you, but those will just have to wait for another day. Be sure to come back and read all about the most full-of-it character in the history of ever, Snobby McSnobberson, from Snobsville, California!

Until then, I am.... READY FOR ACTION!

[PS-- Check out my new favorite blog 30 is the new 13 for some hilarious stories of another former preteen "author." She's the inspiration for this entry, and her blog is amazing- you'll love it.]

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Anatomy of a Book List

“Woe be to him that reads but one book.” – George Herbert

Here’s a recent progression of reading (it’s like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.)

I wanted a new book to listen to on CD for my long rides in the car. Work is a ½ hour drive and not even NPR can hold my attention once the financial market comes on. I browsed over the titles on the shelves hoping for something to jump out and grab me. I ended up looking at the cart of recently returned titles and chose “Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading!” by Maureen Corrigan. Although I found several chapters on Catholic Secular Martyr books less than particularly interesting, I did enjoy the chapters on Female Adventure Heroes. She spoke of her own journey to adopt her daughter, Molly, from China.

Once I returned to the library, I decided to search for any other books by Corrigan. I found the book version of the “Leave Me Alone…” but nothing else. She was placed on the non-fiction shelves. As I began perusing I noticed a title, “The Russian Word for Snow.” I checked it out. The story was of a couple from the United States who ended up adopting their son unexpectedly through international adoption – he was found in an orphanage in Russia. I’ve decided I don’t have a desire to visit Russia. The picture painted was rather bleak. But I’ve also discovered that international adoption is beautiful, giving, trying, and full of endless paperwork.

Upon returning to the library I remembered Corrigan discussing a book that was her favorite about the adoption experience. She should know, she is the chief book critic for NPR’s “Fresh Air.” She remarked wishing that “The Lost Daughters of China” had been written before she was hoping to adopt. I found it to be a remarkably eye-opening read by Karin Evans, who had adopted her daughter from China.

The next book? Corrigan had spoken several times about Anne Lamott’s journal of her son's first years. I’m a fan of Lamott’s writing, but had never read this specific memoir. She tells of her story as a single woman managing through that first amazingly trying year. This then led to “Grace Eventually” and “Thoughts on Faith” by the same author.

A comment on my sister’s facebook wall led me to “The Time Traveller’s Wife” and some coaching from friends led me to purchase “No Other Gods” and “Humility”. My sister also handed me "Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life" the last time we saw each other.

But now I'm drawing to the end of my list. I’m in a fiction dry spell and am looking for the next books to pick up on CD or in print. I'm open to just about anything, although I do find Science Fiction to be a dreadful challenge for me. So please, comment and recommend away!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Commas and Apostrophes

It’s National Punctuation Day, everybody! This post is therefore dedicated to all things dotted, quoted, and slashed!

If you enjoy punctuation humor (and I do believe it has its own genre!), you'll want to check out these blogs:

Here are Five Lessons in Punctuation. No really, it's interesting! You can finally be sure of where to stick those darn quotation marks....

I recently listened to the radio series “Cutting a Dash” that inspired the book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.” It was completely fascinating, not to mention hilarious! And host Lynne Truss is British, making everything that more delightful to listen to. Instead of a plain old “sem-ee coal-uhn,” we are treated to the pronunciation “sem-eye coal-awn.” I was also delighted to hear the opinions of several young British schoolchildren, especially as they tried to describe punctuation such as commas (which they likened to a tiny boomerang).

“Cutting a Dash” is also where I first heard of the poem “Apostrophe” by Roger McGough. I find it absolutely charming, and hope to memorize it soon so I can spout it off during a lull of conversation and impress everyone around me with my ability to recall enchanting little poems off the top of my head, and also with my appreciation for things like funny poems, and also apostrophes. Without further ado, I give you “Apostrophe.”

twould be nice to be
an apostrophe
floating above an s
hovering like a paper kite
in between the its
eavesdropping, tiptoeing
high above the thats
an inky comet
the highest tossed of hats

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The culture is calling...

I work in the Children’s Ministry of a large church in Arizona as a writer and producer of video curriculum. My goal is to create relevant work that is eternally significant.

My specific audience are children, but my area of supposed expertise is the tween generation. I’ve had my fill of Hannah Montanna, The Jonas Brothers, and High School Musical. So the question I face on a weekly basis is how to respond to the culture and to my kids. My hope is that these cultural trends motivate me to reach kids in innovative ways.

Ephesians 2:9-10 says that we were created to do good works that God prepared for us in advance to do. We are God’s “poiema” – God’s work of art, and we’ve been created to create.

I feel and believe that we’ve all been called to play a part in the eternal story of God. As believers, we quite literally have the Master Creator, the divine, dwelling within us. Therefore, we are called to a higher level of creativity – for our purpose is greater than just entertainment alone. There’s more to reaching this generation than just re-packaging secular material. Why should the material we produce be merely a marked down version of popular culture? We must step up and take up the challenge this entertainment saturated generation presents us.

I don’t think I need to give specific examples, but I want to know how throwing the word Christian into a secular slogan does not constitute ripping off someone else’s creativity. Stealing the marketing ploys of the general culture does not make us relevant or remotely original.

How do we reach them when Ecclesiastes laments that there is “nothing new under the sun”?

Every generation is unique. Cultural historians can look back and define entire decades with a single word: hippie, punk, grunge. It can be overwhelming to consider that the generation we’re building now will be defined in a particular way in ten or twenty years because of the impact we are making in their lives today.

For this reason, I’m a part of a team that writes and produces its very own video curriculum. This is not a role we take likely, especially in a world that seeks to influence their every move. Why our own? It’s the same reason I sought a degree in Theatre Ministry. While the roads have been blazed in the past 30 years to open up the church to the arts, there is still a long way to go. My desire has always been to communicate Christ in effective and exciting ways. My desire is to take my cue from Christ – as the story-teller, and to change up the methods, but always hold to the message.

John Piper in his book “Don’t Waste Your Life” writes, “the word cool…it’s cheap. And it’s what millions of young people live for…Who takes them by the collar, so to speak, and loves them enough to show them a life so radical and so real and so costly and Christ-saturated that they feel the emptiness and triviality of their CD collection and their pointless conversations about passing celebrities? Who will awaken what lies latent in their souls, untapped – a longing not to waste their lives.”

Every weekend we strive to show our kids that Jesus did not ask us to be cool, but to be servants. He did not require us to be number one, but asked us instead to be humble. So, how do we challenge children to release the hunger for popularity and possessions? What if this next generation could be setting the culture rather than simply following it?

We start with what God has given us, the mighty power of his Word. In a fun and exiting format we promote scripture memorization and sharing with friends, provide tools for Bible reading, and build genuine community. Every piece of the service is carefully planned and purposed around the theme of the day. From the worship music to the videos, our ultimate aim is to see our kids mature spiritually and challenge the status quo. As ministers to this next generation, we have a calling to originality, relevance, and truth.

The culture calls, but we must be louder.