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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Don't Need Much

I've been a bit busy the last two days. Yesterday was spent in political endeavors. I'll post about that later, no doubt.

The mower has stopped working. Again. It's a new mower, bought it last summer. Shouldn't be a thing in the world wrong with it, yet it won't work. Don't know what I'm going to do about it, but I need to do something before the cops (or Elder Brother) show up to issue citations for illegal grass length.

The toilet has developed a slow leak. That toilet has had problems for some time now. The handle broke more than two years ago, and now you have to lift the tank lid and push the flapper down after you flush. So, while I'm at the hardware store finding flapper replacements, I will be looking for handle replacements.

The kitchen faucet leaks. Every six months or so, the leak goes from sporadic to constant, so off I go to buy four tiny replacement plugs that go inside the stem. They don't cost much. It's just a hassle to dismantle the faucet to replace them.

I have a ceiling fan to install in the kitchen. I've had it sitting in my basement over a year now. I walk around it or move it so it doesn't get wet when the basement floods. I know how to install a ceiling fan. It's just not a priority yet.

Some of you may be appalled. You're thinking, "I couldn't live like that."

I can. Fact is, nothing's been repaired not because I don't know how, but because I don't care. I can live with taking off the toilet tank lid. I can live with walking around the ceiling fan on the floor. I can even live with a leaky faucet for a while because I shut off the water when I'm not using it and the leak stops.

I learned many things from my dad, and this is one of them. Fixing things often leads to more problems than it solves. Even the This Old House boys agree with that. How many times have I watched them start into a simple job that turns ugly and only gets solved because they're professionals with professional resources? A lot.

So I'm perfectly content to live with my leaks and lids and fans on the floor.

At least I know how to deal with those.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Finding Your Passion

The trouble with inspiration is it rarely strikes when you can do anything about it. I had a great idea for a post topic and no time to write it. When I did find the time, the impetus was gone and I was left trying to recapture the shiny vision I remembered. This is my way of apologizing if this post goes awry.

Dave Ramsey says finding your passion leads to personal wealth (that's a paraphrase; take it with a grain of salt). When you work at what you love and value, it isn't work. It's fun. You get health benefits and generally financial benefits because your whole focus is on doing that thing you're passionate about.

It should be apparent by now writing is not my passion. I do it. I even flatter myself I do it rather well, but I am not consumed by it day and night (that's a good thing, for those of you who are wondering). I have a season for writing and seasons when I don't. That, to me, is not a passion.

Fact is, I've never found something I would consider a passion. FV comes close, but you can't make a living playing FV. I will admit, I've caught myself daydreaming about being a programmer for them. I have no idea how I would do that. I don't even know how to write a computer program, but my thoughts keep turning that way. What would it be like to create something like FV? Hmm.

I remember the first time I heard a radio commercial for Mercy Ships. These are privately-owned ships that travel the world offering free medical aide to people in third world countries. It's a mission ship, using physical assistance as a means of expressing Christ's love. Taking care of the body to reach the soul, as it were.

Oddly enough, I was fascinated. I thought, "That's something I would like to do."

Now, I have no idea if I'm cut out for medical assistance. I assume these missionaries experience some pretty horrific stuff as part of this ministry. Also, I have severe motion sickness. I nearly tossed french fries on the floating McDonalds in St. Louis, MO. I shudder to think what would happen to me on a ship. What would it be like to serve on a Mercy Ship? Hmm.

Gospel for Asia gives farm animals to members of the lowest caste in Asia, the dalits. These are the poorest of the poor, born into poverty and kept there by a religious and social system that worships karma and the status quo. These farm animals offer dalit families the chance to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. A pair of chickens provide eggs for food and a source of income. A water buffalo provides milk to drink and sell and the ability to farm more land and make more money.

I have daydreamed about working on one of those farms, breeding the animals that will help rescue a family from poverty, training people in caring for those animals. That to me seems a worthwhile and fascinating task in life. What would it be like to go to Asia as an animal missionary? Hmm.

So maybe it isn't that I don't have a passion. Maybe it's that I don't have enough passion.

See? When I was inspired I had a great ending for this. You'll have to make up your own. I'm going to work now.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Antidote to Worry

When Job gets the news he's been wiped out, he falls down and worships God. Whenever David gets upset, he writes a lament that turns to praise. Joshua and the Israelites praised God and the walls of Jericho crumbled.

I'm seeing a pattern.

In therapy school, I learned real change happens when you focus on replacing an inappropriate behavior with an appropriate one. Instead of sitting at home thinking about not eating, you go for a walk or bathe the dog or pull some weeds. You get your body doing the right thing and your mind will follow.

Long ago, I learned the trick of wiggling your toes while getting a shot. Your brain is more occupied with the toe-wiggling than keeping track of the pain. It still hurts, but not as much as just sitting there thinking "man, this hurts."

People often think of the Christ-follower's walk as a list of "don'ts." Fact is there are more "do's" than "don'ts" in the Bible. We just don't like to do the "do's." "Don'ts" are easier and make us feel superior about ourselves. Especially when one of the "do's" is "be humble." Heh.

It's beginning to occur to me that rather than "not worrying," I should be "praising God." If I'm doing the one, I have no energy left over for the other.

I tried it this Friday. In case you haven't figured it out, bad weather frightens me. It's not a phobia, but it's not rational, either. It's sort of like figuring that every time I survive something, the odds of it wiping me out the next time increase. Like one day, statistics will kill me.

Why this should bother me, I cannot say. "To live is Christ; to die is gain." I'm sure I would miss my critters, though, and I hate the thought of leaving them for someone else to protect. Welcome to my hell.

But this Friday, I did something different. Every time I started to worry, I changed to praise. I hummed, I sang, I recited praise songs. I focused on the good parts of God, the parts I know I can trust, and I let Him take care of the weather.

Odd thing. The weather disappeared. The storm that had built into something worse than anyone expected failed to show up for the party here in Kansas. The weathermen all seemed surprised (a few of them seemed disappointed, the fear-mongers).

But I was calm all day. I think, even if the storm had arrived, I would have been calm.

I'm not saying I've mastered anything. I'm not saying this is a trick like wiggling your toes. But I do think our Biblical ancestors knew something we've forgotten.

No matter what happens, God is always worthy of our praise.

Praise ye the Lord!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Too Tired

I was going to write an inspirational post about finding your passion, but it's late, I'm tired and I need to go praise God for His intervention in today's potential severe weather.

For a FV blog fix, check out Virtual Buttercups, and for a severe and possibly offensive lecture on Christians and politics, read Old Fashioned Thoughts in a New Age World.

See? I have posted, just not here.

Good night, sweet dreams, and stay dry.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Don't Worry

How often does the Bible tell us not to worry. "Fear not." "Do not worry." "Do not fear." I heard the number once, but I don't remember it. It was a lot. God says it. Angels say it. Jesus says it. Seems important.

I once complained if God didn't want us to worry so much, He shouldn't have given us the ability to anticipate future events. I mean, if we're supposed to emulate the birds and flowers, why did He give us bigger brains? Then I remembered we were the ones who wanted knowledge of good and evil, so we kind of brought it on ourselves. Sigh.

I did hear long ago that the part of the brain that comprehends morality comprises about 30% of the organ's size, and if it didn't exist, labor would be 30% less painful. I believe they call that "irony."

I'm a worrier. I don't mean to be, but I am. It's probably an inflated sense of responsibility. I'm the only human in the house. If some disaster strikes, I'm the one who has to deal with it and make sure all 8 of us survive intact.

I remember being a child without cares. I could sleep through anything because my parents were there to take care of me. It doesn't work that way anymore. The slightest noise can awaken me. I sleep with a fountain in my room because it helps a little, but not as much as you might think. This is one of the reasons I look forward to the hereditary deafness I know is coming (the other is not having to listen to liberals).

And I hate not knowing what to do in an emergency. This doesn't seem to bother other people, but maybe they have instincts to protect them. I have no instincts. I have no natural "response" to a new situation except to freeze and wait. This isn't always the best response. In a tornado, it can get you killed. So I worry about what I don't know and what I haven't considered and what I couldn't possibly anticipate that will end life as I know it.

I often recite Phil 3:5-6 as a mantra against worry. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus." Thank you, Paul, master of modifying phrases and run-on sentences.

But worry runs deep. It is not something that can be reasoned away. It creeps into your subconscious and requires you to wear a mouthpiece at night to prevent grinding your teeth down to the nerves. My Dear Friend once beat around the bush trying to ask if I was human enough to be affected by worry. I presented the mouthpiece as evidence of my humanity, which immediately relieved her worry at the time. Glad I could help. I wish mine would go away so easily.

I pray daily that God will convince me of His mercy. I'm quite familiar with His judgment and His omnipotence. That He is in control, I have no doubt. Doubt arises when I wonder whether that control includes sacrificing me as part of His vast, eternal plan. As a brat, I believe I am too important to risk. As a recovering brat, I know I'm not.

I expect worry is one of those things I will battle as long as I live. God must get tired of my weakness. He continues to demonstrate His compassion and I continue to doubt Him. That's evidence of compassion right there, if I would only trust it.

I'm going to try not to worry about it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The author of I Am Ocilla yesterday posed the question "Where does your inspiration come from?" Or something to that effect. Forgive me, Diane, I can't remember your exact words.

This is slightly different than the more common and somewhat annoying question found in author interviews "How do you get your ideas?" I don't think I've read or listened to an interview about a new book where the moderator didn't ask that.

I personally think it's a silly interview question, like asking "Why are your eyes green?" I don't know. They just are. I don't know where my ideas come from. They just come.

Upon further reflection, I must assume the question is asked because normal, non-author people don't think up stories. I don't know if the stories don't germinate or a non-author just ignores them and moves on. Maybe a little of both.

But the brain of a story-teller does seem to be a mystery to non-story-tellers. Well, your brains are mysteries to us, too. That's one of the reasons we write.

As I told Diane, my inspiration usually comes from seeing another story and realizing I could tell it differently (in my brain "differently" is spelled "better," but that's just my natural arrogance leaking out). Movies are my most common inspiration, but not entire movies. Often one tiny scene or look or gesture hits me just the right way and I find myself creating a story around that moment. The final product is rarely recognizable from its seed.

Every once in a while, a dream will provide a possible story thread. I have a few what I call "short stories" that started as a dream. I doubt very much I will ever try to publish those. Perhaps after my death.

I can trace every one of my potential novels, except for Star of Justice, to a movie moment. I don't know where Star of Justice came from. I am glad it came.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Individualism vs Nationalism

Do American Christians place too much emphasis on spiritual individualism?

The Old Testament is a story of nations rising and falling: the nations of Israel and later Judah. The history is told from the perspective of individuals, but it seems to be bigger than that. God raises up a nation, and God destroys nations for their collective wickedness, Sodom and Gomorrah being the first examples to spring to mind. Egypt and the Canaanites took their separate beatings, too.

God is a big God. It makes sense that He would deal with (relatively) large entities like nations when meting out blessings and curses.

Do today's Christians ignore the idea of group servitude in favor of individual relationship? Some do.
It does appear that Christ, by His incarnation, ushers in a new understanding of relationship with God. God promised the Israelites they would one day worship Him in spirit and in truth. And with His death on the cross, the temple veil was torn, opening the way for each person to approach God without the need for a human high priest. Jesus is now our high priest and available to every Christian through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

But in the New Testament, Acts in particular, we see people-groups coming to salvation. Not nations anymore, but households, like the Roman centurion's and Lydia's. Is this just a poetic way of saying when the leader of a house comes to salvation it is likely the other members will follow? Perhaps.

The New Testament is full of examples of individual salvation, as well - individual choices to follow Christ. That's something I don't see so clearly in the Old Testament. Maybe I'm not understanding, but it seems in the beginning God chooses whom He will and those people suck it up and go along. It's a little more complicated than that, I'm sure, but that's the broad version.

So did God change? Did people change? Was it God's plan all along to start big and narrow His focus?

God doesn't change, and I've noticed people continue to make the same mistakes, both individually and collectively, so I must assume God's plan includes individuals as well as nations.

We do see God continually saving out a remnant. He picked Noah and his family out of all the people of the earth to live and repopulate the planet. He picked Abram to demonstrate His faithfulness throughout time. He picked Joseph to save a nation from famine and destruction, and Moses to bring it out of slavery. That's a God of both individuals and nations.

Let's not forget the New Testament focus on the Church. Each Christian is part of the greater "body" of Christ, and is expected to gather together for group worship, fellowship and service. This is one of the ways we demonstrate and experience our faith. God is a Triune Being, knowing perfect harmony and fellowship within Himself. Our gathering together is an example and faithful striving for that same experience. Since we remain flawed humans until the Rapture, we will fail, but that doesn't excuse us from trying.

My conclusion is this is a "both/and" rather than an "either/or" debate. We are individuals in the faith, knowing Christ personally and following Him daily. But we also express our faith collectively and our influence on our nation can be felt on a much larger level as a group than as individuals.

So we the American Church must take care to follow Christ's example in both nationalism and individualism. He is our Leader, after all, the Author and Finisher of our faith. We should be Christians first, then Americans. (Which is not to say we should not seek to affect our nation as Americans, but that is not my point with this post).

I say all this to say, pray for your church and your fellow Christians. Support them as you are able. Do not withhold good when it is in your power to do it.

And pray for our nation. For lack of 10 righteous men, Sodom was destroyed. God does not change. Let us hope we will allow Him to change us, that His mercy may be demonstrated once more on a national level, for the sake of a few.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I meant to post this yesterday, as it may wander into FV territory, but it's about neighbors in general, so I'll go for it. I should say up front I consider "friends" different from "neighbors," much the same way I consider "friends" different from "family." And Friends are different from any of them, because I'll shut the rest out if Friends is on. Yea, Joey!

My family has a strange history of neighborship (is it a word? It is now). My father had a running feud his entire life with one of our next-door neighbors in the home of my childhood. To my knowledge, he had no problem with the other next-door neighbor.

He came by it naturally. I listened to a story of his father's about the delight he took in pestering a neighbor who annoyed him. I must confess, like Mr. Darcy, the Turtle side of the family tends toward "resentful tempers." It takes a lot to tick us off, but once you've done it, it's done.

Proverbs has some things to say about neighbors. Things like "better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away," or "only a fool disparages his neighbor." I would hope I am no fool.

I have some interesting neighbors myself in the real world. Not to be disparaging, but one set I simply do not understand. They're young, I suppose. This is the time to be incomprehensible. The other set might as well not exist at all. They installed a six foot privacy fence within weeks of moving in (no offense, I was assured) and have pretty much stayed behind it ever since. To be fair, both sets of neighbors seem to be nice people. Incomprehensible, but nice.

No worries. I'm of the "live and let live" variety of neighbor myself. Just don't wake me up at 2 AM arguing under my bedroom window and we'll get along. No, wait, already done that. Oh well.

Farmville neighbors are another ball of wax. Some neighbors are quite attentive and helpful. I suspect these are the ones who enjoy the social aspects of the game as much as the competitive aspects (you mostly compete with yourself, but it is possible to try to "out-level" someone else). I have about 10 of these, and I try to be equally useful to them.

Other neighbors are very much in it for themselves. I can get things from them by accident, but they do not seem to pay attention to my needs at all. That's fine, too. As one new neighbor -whose farm I cannot load- recently told me after I apologized for neglecting her, she gets lots of stuff off my wall.
The middle-ground neighbors are those engaged in other games who farm occasionally. They try to be helpful when they're paying attention, and they leave plowed plots for those of us still very much in the game. Most of my FV neighbors are of this variety.

As far as co-ops are concerned, it finally occurred to me the problem is communication. Duh! Why don't we talk to each other about the co-op we're all in? Why don't we co-ordinate our efforts and get the Gold? Why have I not thought of this before? I used to be a therapist, for heaven's sake.

I have decided I'm too competitive to lead a co-op. I would be one of those harassing micro-managers I hate so much. That's no fun for anyone. So, I'll jump onto open co-ops that have a chance of at least finishing, and just settle for the gold rewards instead of the Gold rewards (that's gold, XP and sheep for the non-FVers).

It's annoying, though. If I could find some neighbors like me, we'd have more colorful sheep than crops and gold and XP coming out our ears of corn.

I've always considered myself most like Chandler from Friends, but on some things, call me Monica.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Farmville Fridays

Between the heavy decision I had to make and the sluggish pace of planting/harvesting in FV, I have not posted in the mornings this week. For the last few months, I posted in the AM because I had the time and I thought some of my readers might like to start their day with my musings, a sort of morning paper of my thoughts.

No, I could not be more arrogant.

Originally, though, I posted at night because I wrote on my book afterwards. My days and nights have been so turned around lately, I have no idea when I'm coming home or going to work.

I am tending two farms, planting both mine and mom's. This used to be a quick procedure. Now it takes a very long time. I don't know if it is game-related, as in glitches or player overload, or computer-related, as in my computer doesn't have the memory capacity to handle FV at these levels. Whatever the reason, just accepting and returning gifts can take 15 minutes or more. Planting my 140 plots takes another 20 minutes and mom's farm has reduced speed since her last expansion. That's my blogging time - gone to FV. I haven't even been able to fertilize neighbors' farms. Any farm above level 30 takes 5 minutes to load and some of them won't load at all. I have one neighbor whose farm I've never seen. I send her mystery gifts to make up for it.

I did buy the puppy, and I adore her almost as much as my Sweetie (maybe more on some days). The puppy is designed to follow your avatar, so I've opened up plenty of space for her to do that, and she's always been right there when I sign on. Watching the tiny creature "stumble" over plowed ground is just plain adorable. She'll grow up soon. I should take more pictures.

Today's gaming was plagued with glitches. I couldn't even access my farm for 15 minutes this morning. Naturally, this glitch occurred during Beryl's feeding time. I may try to avoid "heavy traffic" times for farming. I wonder if other people "visiting" my farm while I'm on it could be causing some of my problems. And no, I will not get up at midnight to plant. Midnight here is 5 o'clock somewhere.

I read an article today on yahoo about symptoms of stress. Not sleeping, eye twitches (yes, those have appeared sporadically over the last month), stiff muscles and forgetfulness are all on there. In the words of Joy's mother on The Beautician and the Beast: "The doctor says it's stress. What have you got to be stressed about?"

I have no idea.

God willing, I'll get over it and move on with my life. A new computer would, no doubt, help considerably (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

See you on the farm. Well, some of you, anyway.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I had no happier memories yesterday.

I have been under some mental duress this week. As of yesterday noon, it's gone, and I'm glad. Glad, glad, glad, glad, glad. (Huh. I wonder if she's glad?) Where's it from, people?

I do not like pressure. I live my life as pressure-free as possible. Thanks to my past breakdown, I know exactly how much pressure I can handle before I crack.

I was nowhere near cracking this week, but I was uncomfortable. I couldn't sleep. I didn't want to post. I didn't want to eat (I understand why most of the fasting examples in the Bible are associated with repentance and national grieving). I even considered giving up Farmville. It was bad.
But, with the pressure off, I am back to normal.

What did I do? I made a choice to do something to relieve the pressure.

I've harped on this before, and I will no doubt harp on it again. Your characters must be so uncomfortable, they have to do something to relieve the pressure. A story must go somewhere, and the best way to get it moving is to put pressure on the main character. The greater the pressure, the greater the impact of the story.

Even a nervous breakdown can be interesting if you're reading about it.

When you're living it, not so much.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


A young co-worker interviewed me today for her psych class. Not because I am a psych case, which I have been, but because I have a degree in mental health (Marriage and Family Therapy, to be precise).

I have not worked in the field for 11 years. In training, I enjoyed couples' therapy the most (odd since I never intend to be part of a couple) but after my graduation I ended up working as a case manager in foster care.

That was a mistake.

Not only was I not trained in case management, I didn't actually know what case management was. Turns out it's scheduling. It's sort of taking over a person's life and connecting him with people and services that theoretically will improve something about him. That's a fairly simple definition and possibly not entirely accurate, but it's what case management means to me.

(Funny. As I write this, and think about that job, I feel my stomach clenching up and a strong desire to both vomit and hide under the bed in the fetal position.)

You would think I'd be very good at bossing other humans around. I used to do it constantly as a child. I have serious obsessive compulsive issues about my own life. But my MFT degree taught me a few things about boundaries and personal responsibility and cleaning up my own messes. Frankly, it left me quite without resources for case management for the kind of families that show up in foster care. I had a nervous breakdown.

Those were not good times. Being a trained therapist, once I stopped sobbing uncontrollably, I diagnosed myself as Adjustment Disorder with Depressed/Irritable Mood and decided the best way to deal with it was to quit my job. I improved immediately, much as the suicidal patient improves once she settles on a plan and a date for death, although it took two years of St. John's Wort and a job as far away from mental health as I could manage to bring me back to some semblance of normalcy.

(I should point out the floral industry is full of crazy people, but for the most part, they aren't involved in foster care)

I am sad to say, I am no longer what I was before the breakdown. Unlike a broken bone that heals stronger, a broken spirit will always have some weak spots. I'm more prone to melancholy now, and I tend to assume the worst will happen instead of the best, but I do what I can to keep the crying jags at home in the closet between me and God.

I don't know why I'm writing this, except that I spent a restless night kicking the dog of all people off my bed every 90 minutes, and the interview got me thinking about the direction my life has taken and why.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have some happy memories to share.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Crimes of the Heart, a Review

My Lamb is something of a drama queen. She has focused her natural inclinations toward the theater. Her father and mother, being sympathetic to thespians in general, have allowed this and thus I have attended two plays a year since sixth grade. I think that's when she started getting roles.

I'm almost certain her first play was The Princess and the Pea, and watching her flopping around on the six foot bed frame (built by her father and possibly anchored in concrete to assure safety) may be the funniest intentional thing I've ever seen her do. I've seen lots of unintentional funny, but I won't embarrass her without good reason. I'm Mean Aunt Robynn, not Cruel Aunt Robynn.

Of her high school plays, this is the second least offensive I've seen, the first being Disney's Beauty and the Beast in her freshman year where she played Chip. A lot of "face" time but not a lot of "exposure." Hehe!

This was a play about attempted manslaughter, adultery and high-risk behavior set in Mississippi in 1974. I don't know how they pick these plays. Level of drama, I suppose.

The good messages of the play were devotion to family, perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds and the benefits of learning the saxophone. My Lamb doesn't play the sax, so I'm doubly thankful we had only to listen to a few notes of that.

This was a play where the audience was seated on stage. Elder Brother scouted the best spots and we were up front and personal as a cousin changed pantyhose right in front of us. I haven't worn hose in 11 years and this reminded me why that is.

I forgot I was on stage as the story unfolded. At one point, I blurted out the next line in shock and dismay (it dealt with the composition of a box of chocolates, and I am excessively attentive to those sorts of things). They ignored me and moved on.

These are some talented actors and actresses, and the story ended well, which took me by surprise. Most such stories do not. The biggest issue was getting Kansas city kids to sound like deep-south Mississippians. Perhaps unknown to most people, Kansans do not generally have a southern drawl. We're more prone to bad grammar than unintelligible accents.

I had a moment of panic when I thought My Lamb was going to kiss someone. She bounces about in pigtails for all she's 16 now, and I was poised to jump up and slap her and the offending youth. Fortunately, it was not necessary.

In short, one of the more enjoyable evenings of theater. It wasn't Cats, but I did tear up during the monologue about why the yellow cat was hanged and not just for the cat's sake.

Well done, My Lamb.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Good Leaders, Poor Fathers

Samuel led Israel as an honest judge. His sons, we are told, did not follow his example, which led to Israel's demand for a king. (That makes no sense to me. The hereditary line of a judge is inadequate, so the people want to set up another hereditary line on the assumption it will turn out better? What's the definition of insanity again?) Samuel's mentor, Eli, also had terrible sons, so maybe Samuel's failings as a father came from poor modeling.

One book later, we read about King David's troubles with his offspring. Those issues follow the Davidic line until the split into Israel and Judah and afterwards.

If you go way back to the Patriarchs, you'll see all manner of poor fathering. Abraham tries to kill his son (okay, that doesn't count because God told him to, but you have to wonder what Isaac thought about it as he grew up). Isaac plays favorites with his boys, and the favoritism continues and expands with Jacob to the point that his favorite son, Joseph, gets two tribes -Ephraim and Manasseh- by the time they take the Promised Land.

The Bible often records history without moral commentary. For example, His design for marriage appears to be one man and one woman (Adam and Eve). Were polygamy acceptable, you would think He would have made several women. However, most of the OT folks had multiple wives and no judgment (other than the natural consequences of jealousy, bickering and unrest) seems to fall on those families.

Many times, it is the writers of the New Testament who provide the interpretation of God's opinion on some of the things flawed people did. Perhaps those insights were passed down verbally or given to the Apostles specifically as special revelation. I'm grateful for them. I have trouble understanding why people do the things they do when they obviously know better.

The Apostle Paul encourages the church to choose men whose children are God-fearing to be elders and deacons. Is this to provide examples of good boundaries? Is it that fathers with non-God-fearing children cannot lead effectively? Or should those fathers perhaps channel their energies into dealing with their own planks before helping others with that speck of sawdust?

So, while God used many men as powerful leaders, I suspect it is His intention for more of them to be leaders within their families, as well. It is a far harder job, but eternally rewarding.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In The Garden

All my bulbs are up and happy to see the sun. I must go out and snip the dead flowers off. I don't cut flowers to bring inside. The cats would make their own arrangements out of them, and I doubt I would enjoy the results. Besides, I hope by leaving the flowers outside, my real neighbors will forgive my lack of standard-issue surburban grass yard. I hate grass and have spent the last 10 years relegating it to the easement. The rest is mulch, flowers and shrubs.

It's chilly enough in the mornings to need a jacket, but afternoons are warm and bright these last few days.

I need to mow, but I have no idea whether the mower will start. The last time I tried to start it (sometime in October, I think), it would not. It's a cheap pull mower. It is entirely possible I don't have the arm strength needed to get the thing moving. Or perhaps it is designed to work for only one growing season, like a disposable grill. Either way, something must be done or I'll be out with the hand clippers.

I've seen a rabbit in the back yard eating dandelions. Best of luck to it. Our neighborhood is full of roaming cats and large dogs. My own Sweetie, I suspect, would be less than sweet to any bunny she caught. God willing, I will never find out.

Today brings a baby shower and a high school play. I must enjoy outside while I can.

Welcome, Spring!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Farmville Friday

I'm a bit late posting today. In truth, I can't believe I'm still up, but the dryer isn't finished.

Pet dogs have arrived on FV. Several higher level neighbors bought them immediately, getting the mutt version for 300K. There are three other kinds of puppies, but those cost Farmbucks, which means real money.

The puppies must be fed daily for 14 days or they will run away. I was extremely reluctant to add one more feeding to my day. I have the 7 real critters to deal with, after all. Do I need a virtual critter to worry about, as well? Apparently, they become dogs after 14 days, and who knows if or how often they must be fed after that.

Then I visited Ruth E.'s farm and her puppy Spot followed me around as I fertilized and barked at me. It was perhaps the cutest thing I've yet seen on FV, and my heart was softened toward the possibility of owning a dog.

However, while cruising the "news" section of farmville.com, I read numerous complaints about puppies disappearing, puppies not responding to feeding, puppies running away and having to be searched for, and even the gold being returned to banks after the puppies were purchased and vanished. Mostly I read a lot of complaints from people who might find better uses for their time than searching for virtual lost dogs. You would think they had spent 300K of real gold the way some of the posts read (realizing I am writing almost daily on the subject, I understand I must be careful in my glass house which stones I choose to throw).

I suspect some of these new owners have never dealt with real puppies or real farms. I was not surprised  that the creatures should run off or hide. That's what farm puppies do.

I have the gold, but it may be wise to wait a bit for all the glitches to get resolved before spending it.
Then, there were complaints about the dogs available for Farmbucks. I learned FV has 70 levels. You start with 4 Farmbucks, and only get 1 buck per level after that. At 65 Farmbucks, one "pure bred" dog is nearly impossible to buy without spending real money to get fake Farmbucks ($50 for 310 Farmbucks, and yes, I was curious enough to look it up). This fact has caused a lot of annoyance and some foul language to boot. It is both comforting and sad to learn people exist who are more addicted to FV than I am, and very sad that they should be so violent in their condemnation as money-hungry leeches of the people who created the game for them. It could be likened to the curses of the addict for his drug dealer.

While discussing the puppies briefly this morning with My Dear Friend, I pointed out that buying Farmbucks could be likened to spending money on movie night. If someone played FV continuously, enjoyed it, and budgeted for it, I cannot give grief to that person for spending money on it. It is the same as buying a video game, and people do that all the time.

I sound like I'm setting up my arguments for buying Farmbucks, but I don't think I am. I've always preferred mutts to pure breds, and I have the gold for the mutt.

I will name her Beryl.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cats the Musical

I saw this musical many years ago (I cannot remember with whom) at Topeka Civic Theatre. I had no idea what to expect. I was not entranced. The main question running through my mind (other than "they aren't going to get off the stage and pull me out of the audience, are they?") was "why would someone write a musical about the Old Man's dialogue from Logan's Run?"

Those of you who've seen both will understand. Those of you who haven't, well...ask your personal geek.

Turns out Cats is based on a book of poems by T.S. Elliot called Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber linked them together with music and created a very strange montage of ridiculous words like "jellicle" and "gumby" and loud, crashing music. He even worked in a little opera.

When invited to see it again, I was hesitant. But, I love the people going and I didn't have to pay, so I accepted with good graces, determined to make the best of the evening. (Allow me to offer a plug for Runza's restaurant in Lawrence. Fabulous food. Thanks for the intro, Elder Brother).

This time, I was entranced. I don't know what made the difference. Were the performers better? They were better than I remembered. Was the seating more comfortable? Since we were far enough from the stage to assure no spandex-clad actor would leap from the platform and drag me into a version of performance art, I would say "Yes." Was the story more poignant? Absolutely. I could not help but compare Grizzabella to my own little Mica, and the tears flowed at the last refrain of "Memories."

So even though I was very tired and fairly hot and a little sick to my stomach from the drive, I had a wonderful time at my second viewing of Cats. Thank you kindly, Elder Brother, for inviting me, and Bessie, for making him go.

One caveat. The annoying refrain for Magical Mr. Mistopheles has been running around my brain for the last 10 hours. I have no idea when it will subside, but I pray it is soon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Let Him Do What Is Good

I was reading 1 Samuel last night before bed. I know devotions are usually performed in the morning, but I remember better if I do them at night.

Eli, the high priest, has 2 wicked sons serving in the priesthood. God decides to punish Eli's household because of their sins and, I assume, Eli's lack of fatherly restraint. God tells the young Samuel His plan, and Samuel, at Eli's urging, tells the old priest everything.

After hearing what judgment will soon fall on his family, Eli says, "He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes." I can't tell if Eli is being sarcastic, but I think not. I think he knows his wicked sons deserve whatever happens to them.

David says much the same thing when he learns God will punish him for taking an unauthorized census. He decides to allow God to choose the penalty because even an angry God is better than no God at all.

I am trying to embrace this attitude toward God. I know I cannot control everything (hardly anything, really) but I keep trying. I worry about things I have no power to affect. I fret over circumstances, good and bad. It's part of my anal-retentive nature to rigidly organize my world into chunks over which I have absolute, if illusionary, rule.

But I think I should write this down and keep it close: He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.

It seems to apply to most everything.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Another busy week. Much of it was not planned by me. Haircut tonight, Cats tomorrow, Bosom Buddies (mom's breast cancer survivor dinner group) Thursday, political activism group Friday and a baby shower and my lamb's play on Saturday. I will barely have time to farm, let alone breathe.

Thankfully, I am taking two days of vacation this week. My dog will have a chance to stretch her legs.

Storm season has begun in Kansas. While cutting masks last night, I watched as tornado warnings were issued for a county to the north. (I don't know why anyone lives in Washington county; they've been in the thick of the warnings for five years running).

In Kansas, we have tornado sirens. These are supposed to warn anyone outside if a tornado has been spotted by a person or indicated by radar. People inside are expected to have their weather radios on. Sirens exist because most Kansans don't bother to look up anymore. When you live with the threat of tornadoes, you learn not to pay attention too much or you'd spend your entire spring and early summer huddled in the basement waiting for judgment to fall. I've spent some time down there on my knees myself.

I've heard they have sirens in Arizona that announce tee time. I can't imagine.

Of course, every place has its threats. Earthquakes in California, wildfires in Texas, liberals in Washington, D.C. (sorry, couldn't resist). I remember a hurricane warning in Hawaii we all ignored because "hurricanes never happen," even though they do. I suppose it all depends on what you're used to.

In writing, you the author must overcome this acclimation of characters to the unavoidable. The whole point of a story is to create a situation where the status quo becomes unbearable and something must be done to change it. This striving creates tension, tension creates interest, and interest gets the story read.

So, the next time your unavoidable, uncontrollable situation arises, make a few notes of your reactions. They may come in handy when you write that next scene.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Early in my blogging career, I wrote about some of Jeff the Publisher's rules for writing. This one about "circularity" was of interest. The basic idea is to start with an idea or sentence, write about it, and finish by referencing the idea at the end of the essay. You've heard it before: tell them what you're going to say, say it, then remind them of what you've said.

I've been practicing the concept since, attempting to always reference the opening of my post at the end. You may tell me how I'm doing if you wish.

Jeff the Publisher says this skill is useful even in fiction writing. It conveys the impression that the author knows where he's headed before he gets there. Interesting concept.

This weekend, while talking with My Dear Friend, we broached a subject we've apparently broached before. I was telling her about a subplot in a story which may never be written, and she said "I remember you telling me that."

Well, I didn't, although the more I thought about it, the more likely it became. There are only so many topics in my world, after all, and many of them revolve around writing.

Many years ago I wrote a short story about a vampire (shocking) who keeps running into another immortal through the ages. They end up having a 1000 year conversation about the same topic, because it keeps coming up whenever they meet. One, two, five hundred years may pass, but, "hello, how do you do, I thought about what you said and..." So it goes.

A concept in communication is that of completion. If you get interrupted while telling a story, you have a sense of incompleteness. You know you weren't done with your thought, and it bothers you until you can finish it. Healthy relationships will tolerate a lot of delay within a conversation, but if failure to complete is chronic, the relationship suffers.

As an author, it's important to finish your thoughts on paper. From writing the idea down initially to completing in it such a way that a reader will benefit, completion makes the process worthwhile for everyone. It's ironic that I should write a post about completion. I'm more of a starter than a finisher. But I'm practicing.

And I continue to practice circularity. It's good to know where you're going. That's how you know you've arrived.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fringe Is Back

In the best possible way. After a six week hiatus, the only show I regularly watch returned to the airwaves with a wonderfully suspenseful flashback episode. I even stopped playing Farmville and moved to a room without a computer to watch it.

I had seen the previews. I feared what would happen with John Noble's makeup. How on earth would they de-age him at least 17 years? But they did. I was amazed with the results. I don't know what horrible makeup process he had to endure, but it was worth it. I will admit his curly hairdo did remind me a bit of some characters from that other wonderful show he was in, The Return of the King, but I got past it.

We saw a pre-crazy Walter, brilliant and coherent, a loving father who grieved deeply at the loss of his son. We saw the enraged Walter, the man of science who damns God even as he denies His existence. And we saw the devil-may-care-but-I-don't Walter, who will try anything because it is theoretically possible. In short, a one hour ode to Walter, chock full of terrible choices and consequences.

Only one little snag threatens to unravel this quirky quilt of sci-fi and melodrama. I hope it will be answered later, if J.J. Abrams is paying attention. 

If the other Walter Bishop is just as brilliant as our Walter, and more technologically advanced, why didn't he build a dimensional portal and retrieve his son seventeen years ago?

Fairly large snag, wouldn't you agree?

Which begs the second question: if the underlying premise of the show is that multiple realities arise from every single choice and event that ever happens (or even only certain choices and events), why is there only one other universe that poses a threat? Shouldn't there be billions of possible threatening universes?

Well, here's hoping that gets answered by the head writer instead of a minion.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Farmville Friday

I am aware not all my readers care about Farmville. I did feel a twinge of concern at this disappointing thought. Then I remembered it's my blog, so you're stuck with my interest. This way, you can skip Fridays if you don't care and you don't have to read about it the rest of the week.

If you didn't read my post yesterday (and I posted it very late so maybe you didn't), my interview with Wordcrafter is up on The New Author's Fellowship. Feel free to cruise over there and read something that may interest you more than Farmville.

Mom has joined my list of neighbors. Like Delilah with Samson, I harried her to exhaustion. Actually, she saw a farm she liked (it looked like a farm) and it piqued her interest. She already wants a chicken coop, dairy barn and storage barn. If you notice a similarity between her farm and mine (as Elder Brother did), it's because I've been planting for her this week. We arranged that I would manage her crops because she hates following schedules, and she could manage buying, selling and everything else. We'll have a sit-down soon to decide how she wants her plots arranged and I'll follow that plan in the future. It will soon look more like her, have no fear.

My own farm has settled into a pleasant and manageable routine. I created a purple and mossy green vignette for my free black cottage that includes plum and peach trees and a broad green walk with topiaries. I plan to add a "kitchen garden" this weekend, and some hedgerows to increase the sense of English cottage garden.

I planted aloe for the first time, and I love the look of it. I will create an "alien landscape" vignette for it, and include gulmohar trees, Bov1ne calves (they're green, alien cows) and anything else that makes me think of other worlds. Maybe starfruit trees. Starfruits were used a lot in Star Trek Next Generation episodes.

I bought lemon, lime and peach trees. Some neighbors might scoff at buying trees, but I got tired of waiting for the egg-fest to end so I could get trees as gifts. The majority of my neighbors are higher levels than I am and already have more trees than they can harvest without help. It doesn't naturally occur to them that someone else might want trees.

Speaking of which, I am now Level 28. I am firmly in the middle of my neighbors. Many of them have been playing longer but with less enthusiasm. Some are newbies who may have joined because of my enthusiasm. That might be completely untrue and more than usually arrogant for me. For them, I send gifts (and the occasional game advice) that I would have found useful as I was beginning.

Anyway, the trees cost less gold than the limited-edition stone walls I stocked up on (they match my castle), and they actually produce gold every 3-5 days. They also have a more interesting shape and color than some of the other trees. I like all the trees, but I like colored trees the best: lemon, peach, plum, cherry, gulmohar. Anything non-green prior to fruiting. Except for the durian trees. Those are dark green but have an interesting shape that provides a foresty feel wherever they are planted.

Some neighbors are good neighbors who look for requests and answer them if they can. I asked for olive trees (I'm not high enough to buy them) and two people sent me some. I'm planting an olive hedgerow around my castle because olive trees are fragrant during flowering. Not in the game, of course, but real olive trees are and FV, for me, is about the illusion of what I would have if given the chance to have it.

Part of the trick of having good neighbors is being one. I spend my morning radio-listening time visiting other people's farms fertilizing their crops and feeding their chickens.

I learned last night The Flash is not the canny farmer I first thought. She doesn't publish her rewards (which keeps neighbors from benefiting), she doesn't fertilize other people's farms (which keeps neighbors from benefiting) and she doesn't return thank-you gifts (which keeps neighbors from benefiting) all because it takes too long. In short, she's a terrible neighbor. I warned you, my darling.

However, we had a session of mutual farming last night where I showed her how to collect bonuses and which rewards to publish and which to ignore, so maybe once she's enjoyed the benefits of practicing good neighbor-ly habits, she'll continue them. Now that Aunt Robynn knows the score, the tempo is going to change. Ooh, there's that control freak peeking out again. Down, demon!

April Fool's was a fun day on the farm. For 24 hours, you could plant nachos. They started as a spilled bag of chips and turned into a massive plate of nachos with all the trimmings. It was hilarious. I took pictures so my non-farming FB friends could see them. Oh, and you could toilet paper a neighbor's barn. That was fun. Reminded me of high school. We toilet-papered someone's house every weekend. We always went back in the morning to help clean up, though.

You know, I take more pictures of my farm than I've ever taken of anything else. I wonder why that is.

I planned poorly with my crops yesterday. It occurred to me after I'd planted that I could have had a field of blooming daffodils for Easter Sunday. Now I'll have half a field. Oh well.

So, that's probably enough for today. I have to leave early to take my car to the shop, so I must harvest and plant earlier than usual.

The pumpkins are ready, and daffodils won't plant themselves, you know.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Book Review...Mine!

To my surprise, fewer than 24 hours after giving him my material, Wordcrafter has posted the interview about Star of Justice at The New Authors' Fellowship. Find the link under "blogs I follow."
I began to read with the same leaden stomach I enjoyed while reading the voting results for the MLS contest. This time, however, the lead morphed into giant butterflies that soon filled my head and floated away with all sense of reality or proportion.

I am both surprised and humbled by Wordcrafter's kind words. It was not at all my intention to "write the interview." I thought I was following his directions. Apparently I over-functioned and made it harder than it had to be. No wonder I felt so frustrated.

I am thrilled with the results, however, and once again offer thanks to the Wordcrafter for the opportunity. For the record, I don't think he has anything to feel inadequate about (and I assume a bit of it was tongue in cheek for my sake, bless him). As I said in my comment, it was his interview style I was imitating. He has written wonderful articles for other new authors that I enjoyed very much. And his discussion of The Hero's Quest was brilliant. He is a very good writer. I just have trouble releasing control. 'Nuff said.

I intended to write about April Fool's Day this morning, but Mica chose to awaken me at 3:30 instead of 4, so I'm not running on all cylinders. At this rate, she'll be waking me up before I even go to sleep. Not a problem. More time to farm.

I have two favorite April Fool's Day pranks. The first was by my father when I was very young and The Incredible Hulk was a weekly T.V. show. Dad loved Lou Ferrigno. Anyway, I was called from my bed by my father yelling that The Hulk was running through the trails behind our house. I was young enough to believe him. Even though I couldn't see him, I was sure dad was telling the truth and The Hulk had visited our neighborhood.

The second was in college. I called my mother to tell her I'd crashed my car. She did not find it amusing, although I did.

I'm not a practical joker. I enjoy the thought of the joke more than the implementation. In my mind, people always react the right way. In reality, it is far too easy for jokes to go too far.

So those are my thoughts late at night on April Fool's 2010. It has been a good day.

But all days are good days.

Now go read my interview.