Book Tag!

I’m a tag expert. Get the ball? I’m on it! Fetch the stick! It’s mine! Grab the Frisbee? Oh yeah! So Mom says we’re getting the tail wagging for 2019 with a New Year’s Book Tag.

Ready to play? Aw, come on! It’ll be fun! Let’s jump on it! Ready? Set? Let’s go:

How Many Books Will You Read This Year?

Mom’s Goodreads goal was 365 books for 2018. She finished with 383. Can we get back to you on this year?

What are five books you didn’t get to in 2018 but will make a priority for 2019?

Hmmmm… Maybe Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series and Neal Shusterman’s Scythe series. You?

What genre do you want to read more of?

Creative non-fiction narrative. It’s non-fiction that reads like fiction, with a compelling plot. Mom wants to read more about Czar Nicholas II. I’m holding out for more Rin Tin Tin. Go figure.

Three non-bookish goals for 2019?

  • Mom: Walk 10 – 15 miles a week. Me: Walk 100 miles a week. (We may have to negotiate.)
  • Mom: Learn how to make tiramisu
  • “Teach the dog to let go of the ball” (What’s up with that?)

A book you’ve had forever that you still need to read?

Mom reads fast. I mean, Like. The. Wind. She also has a pretty good handle on what she is and isn’t interested in. So she doesn’t have much to say about this category. Other than she wants to finish the sequels to The Darkest Minds. You?

What word will define your 2019?

Just one? Are you kidding me?! Well, okay. If you insist. How ‘bout squirrel? No? Would you settle for pizza? (I like Hawaiian. Just sayin’.)

Now it’s your turn. Ready to do this? Consider yourself tagged.

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Ya Gotta Have the ‘Want To’

“383 books in one year?!” people suck in their breath. “How’d you do it?”

Well. I gotta be honest. It was me.

I mean, ‘cmon. Who do you think took Mom on all those walks to the library to grab the latest truckloadsof unread titles? Who do you think nosed through Mom’s book bag(s) until I settled on something worthy and trotted it out? Who do you think sat in her lap while she turned pages? And pages. And pages.

And. Pages.

You know how modest I am. But, hey. As they say, If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And I definitely Have. It.

Oh, sure. Mom says being a fast reader – somewhere between warp speed and 100 mph with your hair on fire – helps. Ditto audio books. Creative juggling. Prioritizing. Self-discipline.

Also reading and eating. Reading (audio) and driving. Reading and washing dishes, folding laundry, cleaning out the basement, mopping the floor, cooking (audio). Reading and walking (audio). Reading in the check out line. At red lights. In the doctor’s and dentist’s waiting room. Setting aside one day a week to read. Logging off the computer. Turning off the phone. Letting voice mail handle it.

Being a voracious reader and lifelong-bibliophile who’d rather get lost in a good book than eat doesn’t hurt, either.

But. If you really, really want to read 383 books in one year like Mom, here’s the key: Ya gotta have the want to.

It all comes down to commitment. Desire. Drive. Aka: the “want to.”

But we all know the real score here. Mom got all those books read because of me. After all, I’m a World Champion Want-To-er. I’m happiest when I’m with my peeps. Reading. Driving. Walking. At red lights. Waiting. Supervising (“Quiet! Mom’s reading!”). In Mom’s lap while she turns pages.

See? Told you it was me.

I love this job. Wait. Do I smell bacon?

Kimber the Magnificent (and modest, too!)

 

What’s your “gotta have the want to” for 2019?

20-ish Top Reads of 2018

“Clear the decks!” crows Mom. “It’s Best Books time!”

She may be a bit confused. Ever since my puppy days it’s been “deck the halls” this time of year. Well. You know how moms are. Especially when someone asks, “Which kid is your favorite?”

Okay, okay. So no one put it quite like that. But plenty have asked which books are her favorite. “It’s almost the same thing,” sniffs Mom.

Hah, bumhug! says I.

Arf you may know, Mom met her 2018 reading challenge last week: 365 books in one year. People keep asking which “kids” are her favorite from that long, long list. (For background, see: When They Tell You It’s “Impossible.” Also see: How I Read 100+ books in 90 days.)

I’m kinda curious myself. I gave her the puppy eyes look.

Works every time.

So ‘clear the decks’ for Mom’s Top Reads of 2018.

Warning: “That ‘top 20’ thing’s just not gonna happen,” says Mom.

Indeed, competition for a spot on Mom’s ‘totally subjective, 100% unscientific’ list was fierce. So bow-wow-ish, in fact, that Mom divided the list into four basic categories:

  1. Best Fiction
  2. Best Non-Fiction
  3. Best Series
  4. Favorite Authors.

Also Honorable Mentions.

Each book earned its respective spot based on quality of writing, creativity and poignancy, superior characterizations, outstanding, unique plots and overall excellence. And Just Plain Fun. (Note: No book that brainlessly, repeatedly deploys gratuitous profanity ever makes Mom’s “best” list. She calls that “sloppy-writing-lazy.” Hah, bumhug again.)

365 books in one year. And then some! November 27, 2018.

Anyway, Mom’s Top Books Read in 2018 are,in no particular order:

Best Fiction

  1. Hattie Big Sky – Kirby Larson
  2. Time for Andrew – Mary Downing Hahn
  3. A Dog Called Homeless – Sarah Lean
  4. Run Far, Run Fast – Walt Morey
  5. The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford
  6. There Come a Soldier Peggy Mercer
  7. Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin
  8. Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundin
  9. The Wood – Chelsea Bobulski
  10. Man O’War – Walter Farley
  11. The Journey Back – Priscilla Cummings
  12. Sarah Bishop, Thunder Rolling in the Mountains – Scott O’Dell
  13. The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary Pearson
  14. Ever the Hunted– Erin Summerill
  15. Hoot – Carl Hiassen
  16. Dividing Eden – Joelle Charbonneau
  17. The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
  18. Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Re-reading a seasonal favorite, “The Christmas Box,” by Richard Paul Evans.

Best Nonfiction

  1. A Prisoner and Yet – Corrie ten Boom
  2. The Kite Runner (historical fiction) – Khaled Hosseini
  3. The Black Dogs Project – Fred Levy
  4. Before Amen – Max Lucado
  5. My Family for the War (historical novel) – Anne Voorhoeve
  6. Great Lodges of the National Parks – Christine Barnes
  7. Hidden Child – Isaac Millman

Best Series

  1. The Misty of Chincoteague series – Marguerite Henry
  2. The Silver Brumby series – Elyne Mitchell
  3. Billy and Blaze books– C.W. Anderson
  4. The Jimmy Vega mystery series – Suzanne Chazin
  5. Black Stallion series– Walter Farley
  6. The Survivors series – Erin Hunter
  7. Fire and Thorns trilogy – Rae Carson

Favorite Authors

Honorable Mentions

Well, woof the deck! Or something. All this reading and book-ing makes me hungry. About that leftover pot roast… You gonna eat that?

 

When They Tell You It’s ‘Impossible’

No one came out and said it in so many words. But it was everywhere implied. The arched eyebrows. Dubious glances thinly camouflaged by polite nods. Watery half-smiles that didn’t quite reach the eyes.

It added up to: Good luck with that one, sis. As in, Nice pipe dream. Better chose a more reasonable, reachable goal. Aim lower. Because that’s impossible.

These were the wordless but emphatic rumblings I got when I occasionally mentioned my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal to select friends, Romans, and fellow countrymen: 250 books in one year, January 1 to December 31.

My internal response to the doubters? Watch me.

The author at age 1 year.

As you may know, I’ve been a voracious reader since early childhood. For me, a little slice of heaven includes settling in to a comfy chair in front of the fireplace with a big mug of hot whatever and a good book. Or even a mediocre one.

I incorporate reading into my daily schedule, setting aside at least an hour a day to read. I rarely turn on the TV. When I can swing it, I also set aside Sundays for reading.

Besides. I’ve never been a big fan of “aim lower.” So when people sort of rolled their eyes at my “250 books in one year” reading goal, I quietly revised my goal upwards. To 365 books in one year.

Well, guess what? I just cleared that benchmark, finishing my 365th book since January 1, 2018. (My 365th book was Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.)

Don’t believe me? You can check out several prior posts charting my reading progress over the past few months. (Like: Celebrating ~ 200 Books in 6 Months. Or: The Big Summer Stretch: 150+ in 90.; Rockin’ it This Summer With Reading, and Reading Challenge 2.0: Why I’m Going Back to Square One.) I’ve also got the Goodreads Reading Challenge log to prove it. A complete listing of every title I’ve read this year, including:

From November 14, 2018.

Cuz lemme tell ya, friends. There’s nothing that motivates me more than having someone insist or imply I can’t do something. That just revs me up to knuckle under. Dig deeper. Go farther, faster. Throttle up.

Incidentally, the 358th book I finished en route to title number 365 was The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader. By Jason “Red” Redman. (He goes by “Jay.”)

When you think of the word “courage,” multiply that by a factor of about one hundred. You’re still not close to this riveting read about one warrior’s journey to hell and back.

Redman was severely wounded in Iraq in 2007 – hit by machine gun fire at point-blank range. He endured thirty-seven surgeries over four years before retiring in 2013. He is the founder of Wounded Wear, which later evolved into the Combat Wounded Coalition, a non-profit organization which supports combat wounded warriors and families of the fallen. The Trident is his poignant, brutally honest memoir about the meaning of leadership, true grit, and triumph against all odds.

In the Epilogue, Redman writes:

“Tomorrow always will come. It may not be the tomorrow you wanted or hoped for, but it will come. It is up to you to be ready for it, to shape it and make it what it will be. You can’t change the past but you control your future as long as you’re willing to…”

OVERCOME

There is nothing in life that cannot be overcome if you’re genuinely willing to try and never quit.

LIVE GREATLY

Lift up those around you, always give back, climb a mountain, jump from a perfectly good airplane, and never pass up life’s opportunities.

LOVE DEEPLY

In the end the only thing you will have left are the relationships you forged and sustained in life.

STAY HUMBLE

Pride has destroyed more men than all wars combined.

LEAD ALWAYS

True leaders lead at all times regardless of the situation they are in and who’s watching.

Redman summited my favorite mountain, Mount Rainier, in 2010. He closes with: “If you follow these principles (see above-Ed), “when your hour is called, you can go, knowing you had…. NO REGRETS.”

Like finishing 365 books in one year when most everyone thought it was the stuff of pipe dreams. (It required focus, discipline, and prioritizing. I also read fast. That helps.) But the biggest factor in completing this year’s reading challenge? It came down to having the “want to.”

Additionally, the jet fuel that propelled me across the 2018 Reading Challenge finish line I set for myself back in January? It was the dubious looks and raised eyebrows from those who implied or otherwise indicated I couldn’t do it.

365 books in less than one year! And I’m not done yet!

So. Someone telling you your dream, goal, plans or (fill in the blank) are “impossible”? No way. No one can do that. Better chose a more reasonable, reachable goal. Aim lower. The next time you hear “that’s impossible” or someone rolls their eyes at a goal you’ve set for yourself, just smile sweetly and dig in.

You might also want to read Redman’s memoir. Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, know what? I’m not done yet. The clock is still running on 2018. So why stop at 365 books? Here I go… !

Book Bridges: When Moms Get Dewy-Eyed & Sparkly

It looked like this here yesterday. And like:

So Mom and I decided a soggy Saturday’s a good day to clean out the attic. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Now, you may not know this about me. But I’m a Great Attic Clean-Up Supervisor. I found a comfy rug. Laid down. Watched Mom cart stuff up and down the stairs. Dust. Categorize. Box. Un-box. Re-box.

Supervisin’s a tough job. But somebody’s gotta do it.

Anyway, Mom opened this one box. And sat down. “Oh my!” says she. “Kimmi, look at this!”

What? Did you unearth new doggie treats? A secret stash of gourmet dog food? The neighbor’s cat?

Lemme tell ya. I rolled over and I listened up right quick! Especially since she had The Look. The one Moms get when they’re remembering. All dewy-eyed and nostalgic. Looking all sparkly.

What kind of buried treasure did we just unearth?

Mom starts pulling books out of the box. Title after title. From when my brothers were little. Like:

And:

Some more:

“Does this ever take me back,” murmurs Mom. Twenty years of homeschooling. Preschool storytime at the library every Friday. Summer reading programs. Weekly trips to the library. Reading forts.

Mom was doing that sparkly, shimmery thing again. Maybe because my bros are all grown up now. But Mom says they used to spend hours reading aloud together every day. When my four bros were little. I don’t know why. But if remembering makes her do that dewy-sparkly-shimmery thing, it must be good.

Later, my 19 y.o big bro was looking at some of the books. He pulled one out. “I remember this!” he crows. “I got this for my birthday!” (A milk bone? Naw. Some other treasure.) Here it is:

 

Josiah was four years old. My bro is one amazing dude, eh?

Then Mom said something about good books. How they never get old.

“You never outgrow a good story” says she. “A good book lives forever. Is always waiting for you to come back. Pick up where you left off. A good book can create a lifetime of shared memories. Build bridges linking the past, present, and future. Diving into a book that’s an old favorite? It feels like coming home.”

Who’d a hunk one soggy Saturday could turn out to be so sparkly?

Ya gonna eat that? (Askin’ for a friend.)

‘Beyond Bob’: Why I’m Doing Christmas Music in August

Ever been ripped off by someone you trusted? Remember how it felt? How do you respond? What’s next?

I ran into that recently when working on a Friend-Of-A-Friend project. It’s a long story. I’ll spare you the gory details. Nutshell version: the project/client came highly recommended from long-time mutual friends. Let’s call him “Bob.”

FOAF Bob heard I was a freelance writer via mutual friends. “Would you be interested in writing my memoirs?” asked Bob.  “Depends,” I said. “What do you have in mind?” He outlined some ideas, possibilities. I said I’d take a look.

Bob has, shall we say, quite a story. I agreed to take on the project, noting that I might consider offering Bob the FOAF discount off my writing services. But “I don’t work for free” I wrote. As in, I expect to get paid. Kinda like most people who work.

Thought we had that settled. In writing.

Bob lives in another state. So conversations were by email or phone. Following some requisite preliminaries, I dove into the project with both feet. Interviewing. Researching. Basic legwork. Writing. Editing. A few months later, Draft I was born. I emailed the new arrival to Bob. After some corrections and updates, Draft II was en route via cyberspace stork shortly thereafter.

At this point I’d spent about six months on the project. Hadn’t yet seen a dime for my time and effort. So I contacted Bob by email, saying that X amount was due before proceeding to Draft III.

Long story short:

Continue reading

REAL DADS: Not Just One Sunday in June

Dad Naas Scan 2

It’s Father’s Day. Time for a card or two. A new tie. Maybe breakfast in bed or a nice dinner out. But have you noticed? There’s something off-kilter about a culture that spends 364 days a year belittling dear old dad, then turns around to “honor” him on one Sunday in June.

Sadly, we live in a time and place where dads are often viewed or portrayed as: 1) Bumbling oafs who can’t tie their shoes without written instructions; 2) Insensitive clods and boorish louts or; 3) Invisible and irrelevant. Like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter. Or jelly. Or bread.

What Does It Mean?

There’s a fair amount of confusion about what constitutes a “real dad.” Some equate dadness with volume, brute force, or beer bellies. They think the dude who sires a string of children and then disappears without a trace makes the yahoo a “father.” Or “dad” is the lunkhead who throws his weight around because there’s plenty of it. There’s a word for these kinds of guys. And it’s not “dad.” (Since this is a G-rated blog, you’ll have to fill in the blanks yourself.)

Real Dads

Real Dads can be hard to find these days. There are plenty of fakes. Just turn on the TV. But the Real Deal is still around. And often unsung.

A Real Dad is decent, hard-working, and upstanding. A Real Dad takes his family, job, and responsibilities seriously. He gets outside himself to benefit others. A Real Dad puts his family first. Even when it’s “inconvenient.” Sometimes especially when it’s inconvenient.

Faucets, Flicks and Foregoing

Real Dads fix leaky faucets. Hang pictures or wall paper (without killing anyone). Walk on the outside of the sidewalk, nearest the street. Endure chick flicks without complaint. A Real Dad may toil long hours in a thankless job to keep a roof over his family’s heads and put food on the table. Forego Monday Night Football to cheer a child’s Little League game. Put up a tent in the rain. Do dishes. Clean up dog barf. Teach junior how to slide into second without breaking anything. Stay home with the kids so Mom can have lunch out with the ladies.

Go Get Them

Real Dads take 1:00 a.m. phone calls in the middle of a sleep-over – come get me Daddy, I’m scared – and break every land-speed record on the books in the process. They attend daughter’s tea parties, scrunch their knees into their chins in those made-for-kindergartener chairs. Down gallons of pretend tea and wear those funny little party hats like they’re dining with royalty. Because they know they are.

Real Dads may not always know how to express themselves. They may have a hard time finding the words to tell the wife and kids how much they mean to him. So they do instead of say, speaking the language of self-sacrifice, service and grace.

Real Dads

  • Don coat and tie and conduct somber graveside services for dead gold fish and neon tetras.
  • Remove their hats, hold ’em over their heart and sing about rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air as their eyes mist.
  • Burn Christmas Eve and the wee hours of December 25 assembling brand new purple Schwinns.
  • Open those stupid pickle jar lids.
  • Spend an entire afternoon traipsing from store to store in the mall with the wife or kids, pretending they’re having a great time.
  • Say Yes when they can and No when they should.
  • Have arms that embrace, shield and protect. Their shoulders are big enough to ride, cry on, and hide behind.
  • Pray. And teach their kids to pray.
  • Are never quite thanked enough.

Real Dads cement a protective wall around the fam as no one else can. Real Dads stand on that wall, often alone, and patrol. Real Dads put any lurking menace or stalking evil on notice with, “Not on my watch. You’ll have to come through me first, and I’m here for keeps.”

With Dad at Neff

How do I know? Because my dad was a Real Dad. And not just on one Sunday in June.

***

This post was previously published on June 16, 2013.

Reading Challenge 2.0: Why I’m Going Back to Square One

If you’re on Goodreads, you probably know the average Reading Challenge for 2018 is about 51 books in 12 months. I read 136 books in 92 days for last summer’s adult reading program with the library. So what was a realistic but stretch-worthy goal for 12 months?

I set my goal at 200 books for the year. I was cruising along pretty well, picking up steam. The “brass ring” was in sight – six months early.

Until today.

Let me explain. First the not so good news. Followed by the good news and some reading highlights thus far.

The Not-so-Good News:

I was closing in on my target goal of 200 books. I went to my Goodreads account today to add a few more completed titles to bring my total to 181. Suddenly, my reading progress vanished. Gone. Poof!

Has this happened to you?

Because not a single title entered over the past five-plus months remains in my Reading Challenge. Zip. Zero. Nada. I know the site was having trouble cataloging dates and updates. But zeroing out 181 books just like that?!

Well I’ll be et fer a tater.

I can’t possibly recreate the entire list from memory. (Yes, I reported the matter to Goodreads. No solution yet.)

The Good News:

Of course I’m discouraged. Not to mention a wee bit miffed. But I’m still reading. And while it’s not exactly cheery to have five+ months of titles wiped out due to “technical difficulties,” I’m going to keep reading. In fact, I’m aiming for another target. Think of it as Reading Challenge 2.0:

200 additional titles by the end of the year.

How does that sound? (Good thing I took a few screen shots awhile back, eh?)

Meanwhile, from some prior notes I jotted down, here are some highlights from my Reading Challenge 2018 (before The Great Poofery struck):

Most Whimsical or Disarmingly Charming:

What-the-Dickens, by Gregory Maguire.

A natural disaster, three kids, a 21 y.o. Language Arts cousin/babysitter. Skibbereens and a flying thing nsmed “Pepper” with lots of sass. Teeth. What’s not to love?

The Faerieground series, by Beth Bracken and Kay Fraser.

Twelve quick, enchanting reads about BFFs Soli and Lucy. One is far more than she seems at first glance, esp, when soneone’s made a wish inside the Willow Forest!

Most Interesting Biogs or Autobiogs:

New York to Paris – Charles A. Lindbergh.

Flying by instruments-only through fog at 1,500nft. over the Mid-Atlantic? Ay! Yi! Yi! Also white caps, porpoises, and “Which way is Ireland?”, the London-Paris runway and the Eiffel Tower.

Man O’ War – Walter Farley

Gripping Historical fiction about one of the greatest Thoroughbred champions to ever set hooves on a race track.

Creepiest

Look For Me By Moonlight.

Forget the silver stakes and garlic. Find an artist friend with a cliffside workshop and a hot stove! And whatever you do, don’t fall for some sweet-talking “30 something” dude in black who comes to stay at your Dad’d rustic, isolated inn in thd dead of winter!

172 Hours on the Moon – Johan Harstad

After yeats of budget cuts and stalled space exploration, NASA is going back to the moon, this time with three teens aboard. Once they hit the lunar surface, everything goes sideways. And astronauts start dying. Will Mia, Midori or Antoine ever see earth again?

Most Intriguing or Surprising

The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson

Hauntingly poignant and powerful, this intriguing story explores family relationships, bio/medical ethics, how far a parent might go to save a loved one, and what it means to be “human.” Earned a rare five-star rating from me.

Fairest – Marissa Meyer

A taut, compelling tale dripping with palace intrigue, rivalry and jealousy, misplaced love, blind ambition and utter corruption. Masterfully crafted. Couldn’t put it down!

Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundlin.

Finally. A “romance”” novel that isn’t a romp through the local garbage dump.

This uplifting, engaging story offers solid characters who are both winsome and flawed. They’re wholesome without being sappy. The clever “whodunit” plot has perfect pacing while the love story deftly combines faith, hope, tenacity, and integrity. Superb historical fiction plus plenty of surprising plot twists to keep you guessing!

Old Faves:

Just about anything by Marguerite Henry, C.W. Anderson, and Scott O’Dell.

Note About My Reviews: I hold to the axiom: “The repeated use of profanity is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Hence, no book that uses same gets high marks from me. Ever. Far as I’m concerned, if an author can’t express him/herself without “turning the air blue,” then s/he is a lousy, lazy author. Period.

Now. Back to square one. And a new Reading Challenge.

How’s yours coming?

Holding Hands: What I’ve Learned in 35 Years of Marriage

Snuggle Bunny and I celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary this week. Where did the time go? More importantly, in an era in which a double nano-second constitutes a “long-term relationship,” how did we make it thirty-five years?

First off, we’re waaay too young to be that old.

Second, it hasn’t always been easy. Marriage is hard work. It’s the union of two imperfect, self-centered, hard-headed people with feet of clay. Throw in some job losses and “down-sizing.” Too much month at the end of the money. Four kids. Health issues. A couple cross-country moves. Misunderstandings, the untimely loss of loved ones (three parents in just over a year), and the usual trials and tribulations of life, and you’re in for some major stress.

How have we kept it together for 35 years? Here are some key ingredients, suggestions, and lessons learned over 35 years:

  • Make Jesus Christ the center of your heart, home, and marriage. Like this. Sung at our wedding in May 1983. It still rings true today:

  • Pray for your spouse daily. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve muffed this over 35 years. But I keep trying. You can, too. Incidentally, the person whose heart will be most changed when you pray for your spouse is yours. (Don’t ask how I know that.)
  • Cultivate a sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Develop your “funny bone” and exercise it often. Look for things to laugh about. If you can’t find any, I might lend you some of mine. If you ask real nice.
  • Be slow to anger and quick to forgive. Another thing you can’t do on your own. It takes Jesus. Trust me on this one.
  • Learn and use those three little words: “I was wrong.”
  • Give your spouse room to grow, stretch, and learn. Allow them the freedom to fail. When they do, be the first person to pick them up, dust them off, and cheer them on to the next endeavor or adventure. Be your spouse’s #1 fan.
  • Show an interest in and participate in your spouse’s hobbies and interests if at all possible. Is he a football, baseball, or basketball fan? Into NASCAR? Boating, hiking, fishing, camping? A history buff? What kind of books or music does she like? What’s her favorite cuisine, color, movie, style, or get-away spot? How does your spouse like to spend his or her down time?

Snuggle Bunny and I love the Great Outdoors. We’ve spent more time around a campfire singeing perfectly good marshmallows than I can shake a charred stick at. We’ve also hiked millions of miles over most of the western U.S. and quite a few Eastern Seaboard states, too. (Well, okay. Maybe not a million. It just feels that way.) The idea here is to adventure together. Savvy?

Also (throwin’ these in for free):

  • An ounce of Hershey’s is worth a pound of cure.
  • Flowers. Don’t ask me to explain this.
  • Honesty is the best policy. (Don’t confuse this with undue harshness or acting like a jerk. Tell the truth. In love.) Also, be trustworthy.
  • Love without commitment only goes so far. Like, around the block. Commitment lasts forever. Don’t confuse the two.

  • Snuggle Bunny and I have worked hard to implement and maintain what has been derisively dubbed The Pence Rule. By people who don’t get it. Like, whenever possible, we avoid being alone with someone else’s spouse or a member of the opposite sex. It’s called protecting our marriage pro-actively. It works. For 35 years. And counting.
  • Don’t take each other for granted. Ever.
  • Say “I love you” every day. Find creative ways to express your love and appreciation for your spouse in ways that’ll speak to their heart. (Did I mention Hershey’s?)
  • Realize that marriage vows are vows, not suggestions.

07 May 1983

On an eighty-degree evening in southern California in 1983, Snuggle Bunny and I promised to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health….” We’ve seen plenty of all of the above. But we made solemn vows “to have and to hold… until death do us part.”

Not just when things are going great. When it’s all moonlight and roses, champagne and fireworks. Because guess what? The last couple to “live happily ever after” was Snow White and Prince Charming. You’re neither. There will be times when your spouse seems as attractive as an overcooked cabbage. As prickly as a porcupine. Is galactically irritating. Selfish. An insensitive clod.

Well, guess what again? So are you. So get over it. Choose to honor your marriage commitment and hold fast to your vows. Even when you don’t “feel” like it. Maybe especially when you don’t feel like it.

If you need professional help, get it. Remember #2. Also remember that you have an Enemy. The Thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That includes your marriage. Be on guard. Be prepared to fight for your spouse and your marriage. Take the gloves off and do it!! Like this:

Finally:

  • I still have a lot to learn.
  • If I live a thousand years, it still won’t be enough to deserve the good man who gently won my heart so many years ago. And still has it. Hey, Babe. This one’s for you. Happy Anniversary!

One day, far away, you gently won my heart
And one night, by candlelight, we made a vow to never part
And then it seemed just like a dream
When wide eyed, side by side
We faced the future holding hands…

Everyone’s favorite pup, Kimber the Magnificent, returns next time. Stay tuned!

Thirty Years & a Tassel Toss: What One Non-Writing Prof Taught Me About Writing

Biola Sign 4

“I can’t believe it’s been over three decades!” she quipped, blue eyes dancing. “Didn’t we just graduate last year?”

Looking backwards quick enough to generate dual whiplash, my friend and I peeled back thirty+ years in a single bound, recalling cafeteria food, favorite chapels, best profs, dumbest assignments (yes, I confess), a championship basketball team, dorm life, concerts, and The Dreaded Finals Week like they were… well… last week.

Later, I thought about all the people I met during my college career. Those years generated countless friendships, fond memories and shining moments as well as a few “speed bumps” and disappointments. Funny, isn’t it, how the down times seem to fade into irrelevance and the good times loom large as time marches on?

Another Recollection

“You won’t remember much from the academic part of this class” I recall Dr. George Nishida, Sociology Prof Extraordinaire, saying one bright fall morning. “You won’t remember today’s lecture or this week’s assignment or Friday’s exam after you’re graduated and gone,” he smiled, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses. “What you’ll remember is the people. The best part about your college career will be the people you shared it with. What matters is the relationships.”

Only People Can Do That

This was before the Internet. Before Facebook. Smart phones. Or email. (I know, I know. I’m a dinosaur.)

But you know what? Technology can’t offer the kind of insight Dr. George did. The Internet doesn’t connect those dots. Social media can’t take the place of lunch in the cafeteria. Cramming with a classmate to pass Dr. Mitchell’s Old Testament 1 final. Or stringing popcorn garlands and sipping hot chocolate with “Dr. George” and his family at their annual Christmas open house.

Only people can do that.

Let Me Ask

So let me ask: if your web site, blog and social media accounts gave up the ghost tomorrow, would it matter? A fair amount of pulled-out hair would doubtless ensue, but would a technology crash – like a computer crash – totally destroy all of your relationships?

My blog and other outlets have given me the chance to meet and interact with some really cool people. I’ve gotten to know and learn from some awesome fellow travelers. I’ve grown to appreciate each one, especially those who are generous enough to leave a quick comment or respond with a sentence or two in response to my latest post.

But here’s the thing: although it may have helped establish those relationships, technology isn’t at the heart of those relationships. People are.

Bottom line: If you’re Facebooking or tweeting or blogging to ignite that kind of connection, great. Just don’t stop there. Kick it up a notch or two. Likewise, if you’re using social media just to boost your numbers, increase your stats or as a head trip, you’re pretty much missing the point.

Not Exactly

Long-term isolation isn’t exactly a writer’s best friend. You can’t spend all day, every day staring at a computer screen, checking your email every five minutes or logging status updates ten times a day and expect to develop as a writer. To do that, you need people. Other writers. Their creativity, energy, and yes, productive critiques and “utches.”

I get some of my best ideas by bouncing them off other people. I’m inspired, encouraged, challenged and uplifted by connecting with other writers. By “connecting” I mean face-to-face if possible. Grabbing a latte, a book review, writer’s group or a luscious slice of raspberry white chocolate anything together. When distance or other factors makes this impossible, how ’bout a personal phone call, card, letter or email – as opposed to the blanket list-y stuff?

Only Another Person

Technology is a great tool. But it will never take the place of a living, breathing human being. Because you can’t have a “relationship” with an electronic gadget. Only another person can offer that.

Dr. George’s words still ring true. I have no idea what the answer to question #10 was on my final exam for his class. But some thirty years down the road, I’m still in touch with many with whom I once shared a college campus. Shared experiences can become shared lives. And sometimes shared lives become lifetimes, lasting far beyond – and meaning much more – than final exams and a tassel toss.

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